Enjoy the breathtaking noctural vistas from Coorg or take a birding tour to Walong in Arunachal, here are some amazing vacation ideas
STARGAZE IN COORG
We all know that Coorg is beautiful. But those of us lucky enough to have visited will have been too busy taking in its verdant matutinal splendours to bother looking up. At the sky, which blankets the daytime beauty but opens up breathtaking nocturnal vistas. This time round, go prepared to be star-struck in Coorg. The most intimate way to do so is by camping out by the hillside, under the glow of the night sky covered with a glittering shroud of far-off celestial bodies. Honey Valley Homestay is situated at a height, offering a splendid view for stargazers (from ₹1,200; honeyvalleyindia.in). For camping, Thrillophilia offers several options, starting at ₹1,650; thrillophilia.com.
LISTEN TO FOLK MUSIC, IN RAJASTHAN
Been there, done that? Here’s a lovely new reason to repeat yourself. Take a folk music tour in Rajasthan. A travel agency associated with a music label offers an intimate tour that involves spending a day with a musical maestro—for instance, Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee and sarangi player, Lakha Khan. Get driven to the musician’s village home, lunch with the artist, watch him practise, understand his art, learn from him—and leave enchanted. A day tour costs approx. $500; sadhanatravels.com
VOLUNTEER IN LADAKH
For many, it’s cooler to get a tan from building solar plants than from sunbathing. Here’s your chance. A body called the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) offers volunteering opportunities for a minimum stay of three weeks. You can help the staff by teaching school droputs. They also look for Indians who can prepare Class 10 students for exams in April-May or October-November. There are also volunteering slots in January to teach ice skating. A volunteer needs to pay ₹500 per day; secmol.org
PLAY POLO IN RAJASTHAN
Looking for an upscale holiday that isn’t just about, say, lolling by the beach? Take a polo holiday. Polofactory offers two options in India: the ‘Royal India Polo Experience’ and ‘Taste of India—Day Experience’. The former, based in Jodhpur and Jaipur, will have you take polo lessons, experience stick and ball one-on-ones and chukkas, and play with other guests. The ‘day experience’ is good even for those who have never sat on a horse. The tour package costs $500 a day; the day tour ₹8,000. See polofactory.in.
GO BIRDING IN WALONG
Seen Vedanthangal, explored Chilika, had it with Bharatpur, and still hungry to train your binocs on more? Take thee to Walong. Located in Anjaw district, Arunachal Pradesh, and only 20km from the border with China, a birding tour here this November (5-13) promises sightings of some endemic Chinese bird species, including the black-browed bushtit, the Yunnan nuthatch and the Lord Derby Parakeet. The tour costs ₹55,000, inclusive of stay, meals, transportation and permits. See wayfarer.in/offers/Birding_Walong.html.
GO FISHING IN PANCHESHWAR
Angling hasn’t been the most popular of sports in India. But with new fishing retreats coming up, perhaps it’s time to rise to the bait. A new attraction is Pancheshwar, a village in Uttarakhand at the confluence of the Saryu and Mahakali. It’s home to the golden mahseer, which can grow to enormous sizes. The best season for fishing is February-May and October-December. Pancheshwar Fishing Retreat has 2-day and 10-night packages. ₹20,000 for 2D/₹1,99,000 for 10N, including a 150km river journey. See pancheshwarfishingretreat.com.
GO BIKING AROUND THE WORLD
Ever dreamt of riding a BMW F 700 GS from Johannesburg to Cape Town? Or, across Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria? Well, people can have odd dreams. And sometimes they can come true. Meet a company that organises such biking trips—complete with superbikes. The firm is Motoziel, an Indian tour operator which recently tied up with the Austrian company, Edelweiss Bike Travel. They have a full fleet of bikes—from a Royal Enfield for Indian terrain to the Harley Davidson Road King for international roads. You’ve just missed the Europe tour but there are other international road trips to look forward to (Joburg-Cape Town starts Oct 29; $7,240), and some on Indian terrain, such as to Leh and Pangong Tso (Aug 6; $1,649). See motoziel.com.
TAKE A SHOT OF THE RED PANDA, IN WEST BENGAL
In our tiger-obsessed nation, most other wild treasures tend to get ignored. The endangered red panda, for one. In India, its habitat stretches from North Bengal to Arunachal and Sikkim. If you’re interested in wildlife and photography, train your sights on expeditions held in the Singalila National Park. Led by photographer Shivang Mehta and naturalist Shantanu Prasad, a small group gets to photograph the elusive creatures. The participants are not only led to sightings, but also mentored in camera techniques. Tours are held in October-November and February-March. For a group of four, the cost is ₹1,30,000-1,50,000 per person, including accommodation; uniques.photography