Browsing Tag

Road Trip

0 In Destinations

Why Valparai will be your most loved hill station in South India

Let me begin this post with a confession. Prashanth and I have always called ourselves offbeat travellers, as we more often than not travel and stay at some really unique places. However, when it came to planning that perfect hill station getaway we’d always settle for Ooty, Coonoor, Kodaikanal, Munnar etc. We must admit that we too had fallen prey for ‘highly marketed’ destinations, which today are being over consumed by the masses of India. Not that they are any less beautiful than how they are being projected. It’s just that they have become way too overcrowded for our liking. We would rather go some place where all we hear are the sounds of nature; far away from the noise of man. Hence, we decided to take a dear friend- Aditi’s recommendation and head to Valparai – the hidden gem of Tamil Nadu!

Overview

Valparai is set amidst the Anamalai mountain range.Β At an altitude of 3500 feet above sea level it is home to some of India’s indigenous flora and fauna. Covered with tea plantations, dense forests, wild waterfalls and whispering streams;Β co-existing with barely any human settlement is what makes Valparai a charming hill station.

Always take the scenic route!

How to get there

The closet airport is Coimbatore airport that lies 120 kilometers away from Valparai. Thereafter, take a bus or drive to Valparai. This is a convenient and time saving option for those traveling from North India. If you are traveling from Cochin we recommend taking the Athirapally – Valparai route. You will pass through the gorgeous Athirapally waterfalls and reserve forests of Sholayar. And if you are traveling from Bangalore & Chennai then you must take the Pollachi – Valparai route. We’ve traveled to so many hill stations in South India, but amongst all the routes we’ve taken, this has by far been the most exhilarating and picturesque one! With 40 hairpin bends and hectares of plantation one can truly enjoy nature’s beauty and probably even sight a Nilgiri Tahr, like we did!

Nilgiri Tahr

Spotted these gorgeous Nilgiri Tahrs on our drive.

 

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Pitstops that call for hot lemon tea.

 

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Love road trips that lead to trying humble street side snacks such as this – sliced pineapple with chili, salt and lime (just for Rs. 10!)

Where to rest your head

From heritage bungalows to private estate houses, one can be spoilt for choice when considering a place to spend the night. We opted for the Wooden Chalets at Stanmore Bungalow, which is owned and managed by Briar Tea Bungalows. Today, going offline is the new luxury, and the art of doing nothing is exactly what we exercised at Stanmore Bungalow. We picked this place purely for the uninterrupted 360 degree views of the tea estates it offers from the porch of it’s wooden chalets. Whereas, the food and upkeep of the room was just above average.

Who wants to give up on society and live in a cabin? We sure do!

 

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Stanmore Bungalow

 

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Dinner room at Stanmore Bungalow.

Experiences

The range of nature and wildlife oriented activities they have on board is another reason to stay at Stanmore Bungalow. From trekking to tea tasting and from picnic luncheons to riverside walks, they have it all. Moreover, the resort Manager – Mr. Amar helped us in selecting an activity that suited our preference. He recommended the Injipara river and estate hike. Hiking through the tea estate and walking down the riverside sounded like the perfect thing to do on a gloomy afternoon. We will let ourΒ pictures do the talking πŸ™‚

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Hiking up the tea estate.

 

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Beautiful landscaped vistas on our way to the Injipara river.

 

Why we like it

3 words – untouched, unexplored and pristine. Valparai offers one the opportunity to get lost in your surroundings, making it the perfect well-earned break. Exploring the hills, stumbling upon waterfalls, tea plantations and toytown villages merely compliments the grandeur of Valparai.

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You’re my perfect cup of tea! Grateful for mornings like these.

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Scenic panoramas straight out of our cabin porch

 

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Soaking it all in with a smile.

Β Disclaimer: A wonderful collaborationΒ with the good folks at Pollachi Papyrus and Woodbriar Group is what made this possible. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own.Β 
Note: Room rates for the wooden chalets at Stanmore Bungalow starts at Rs. 10,000 per night during peak season which is also inclusive of all meals. For Bookings please contact Mr. Pravin Shanmughanandam – +91 8344330416
0 In Recommendations

Why you should Drive on your next International Trip

Like most people, travel for me was about sightseeing, food and completing a checklist of β€˜must do activities’. Most of my trips within or outside India have had the similar structure when I planned them. It was not until one of my trips to the US, that I realized that a trip can include so many more things which most people don’t really think about. This was the first time I decided to rent a car outside of India and drive to my final destination!

This was funnily not something I really planned on doing. I was partially forced into taking this decision because I did not have a flight from Bangalore to my final destination. This meant I had 2 choices:

  1. Take a 22 hour flight to Washington and then wait 6 hours for a connecting flight and reach my destination after a short 30+ hours!
  1. Take a 22 hour flight to New York, rent a car and drive 2 hours to my destination.

The traumatizing thought of spending more than 30 hours traveling, got me to take Option 2 seriously and I decided to do it. I have now rented a car 3 or 4 times on my travels over the last couple of years. Here is why I love renting a car wherever possible:

  1. Adventure – Driving in another country is definitely a β€˜not to be missed’ travel experience. If you are from India, driving on the other side of the road (in most cases) and being surrounded by drivers who stop and wait for you at junctions is another experience in itself! Whether it be driving through the Hilly Tuscan Countryside, the Chilly Scottish Highlands or the super fast German Autobahn, driving overseas is certainly a high adrenaline experience.
  1. Cheaper than you think – Contrary to what most people believe, renting a car is actually not that expensive. When traveling as a group of 3 to 4 people renting a car can actually work out CHEAPER than public transport. And you can take your picks from a simple hatch to a swanky 2 door sports car. We chose a Jeep Renegade for our Tuscan trip and boy was that an awesome drive!

 

jeep

 

  1. Less Touristy – Renting a car lets your explore destinations that public transport may not give you access to. For example, when Andrea and I were in Italy towards the middle of 2016, we were able to drive around and explore some of the quaint villages in the Tuscan region. Travel to places which don’t have access to convenient public transport and you get the chance to really experience the culture of the town or village.
  1. Flexibility – Having your own car on a trip gives you a huge amount of flexibility. When traveling to a place for the first time you never know what you will love and what you may not enjoy as much. Driving lets you increase the time spent at the places you love because you are no longer on a fixed schedule which has been decided by the trains or buses you have booked. Whether it was Italy, Scotland or the US, we are able to walk around the little towns we visited well after the peak tourists visiting hours. This is an amazing way to experience life as a local.

Here’s how you can prepare for you next International Road Trip:

  1. Do you need an International Driving Permit? – Whether you need an International Driving Permit or not depends on the country or region you travel to. This link should help you figure that out. For my trips to Europe, I was required to carry my International Driving Permit and was asked this before my car was given to me. Typically the United States of America doesn’t require you to have an International Driving Permit to rent a car. All you need is a Credit Card and Valid Driving License in English.
  1. Reserve your Car in advance – Make sure you make a reservation through Avis, Enterprise or Hertz well in advance. This will guarantee you get a car of your choice. You could also end up with some really cool upgrades or discounts. Accumulate points that can be redeemed for discounts and free rentals by creating an account and using the same rental company for all your rentals.
  1. Insurance – Do not ignore Insurance Coverage and Damage Waiver when renting a car abroad. Make sure you check the standard insurance and damage waiver which is included as a part of your rental package. If you didn’t know this already – read the fine print! There are plenty of additional insurance options that you can pay for, but make sure you understand them first. Remember, their goal is to sell you everything they have by instilling fear. So, spend some time on this one to ensure you get only what you really need!

Hope you have an awesome road trip! Do subscribe to our newsletter to receive more such insights πŸ™‚

Peace & Love,

Prashanth