Getting away from Bangalore
Bangalore, traditionally, has been home to those with severe travellers’ itch. The weather in the city makes it the envy of all other metropolis. Add to it the many places that are in the 500 km radius and Bangalore has among the best choices for weekends away. What we have here is a list of the most popular options. And we will bring you the more off-beat options soon as well.
The main shrine at Tirumala
Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh makes an ideal weekend winter getaway. And not just for religious rejuvenation. During summer, it’s crowded and the summer heat tires pilgrims who wait in the long queues for darshan. The crowds may not be significantly less in winter but the weather is definitely more conducive. For the uninitiated, Tirumala is the main temple town up in the hills while Tirupati is the bigger bustling city on the plains below. Tirupati, at best, serves as a launch pad to Tirumala and houses a few of the many temples in the region.
Accommodation is one of the biggest concerns in Tirumala, but Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, the trust that pretty much runs the town has a branch in Vyalikaval, in Bangalore, where you can book your stay. Tirupati, which is 250 km away, is reachable by road or train. You could either skillfully maneuver through the ghats section in your own vehicle or opt for a package through Andhra Pradesh tourism, KSTDC (Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation) or KSRTC (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation).
Sri Kalahasti, that is on enroute to Tirupati is a popular stopover, especially for worshippers of Lord Shiva.
Tirumala itself has much more to offer than the temple visit. You could choose to walk up from Tirupati instead of driving and make a picnic out of it. The path winds through the local forests and you can get a glimpse of chital and peacocks. In Tirumala, the Balaji temple is the nucleus of the town. Everyone’s life and routine revolves around the temple. The experience of visiting the temple itself is like none other. At varying distances from Tirumala are a natural waterfall called Kapila Teertham or Alwar Teertham and a natural rock garden that has Asia’s only naturally occurring rock arch.
The Mysore Palace
As the cultural capital of Karnataka, Mysore is home to opulent palaces, heritage buildings, horse carriages and boulevards, which give it an unmistakable old world charm. It is the more cultured cousin to Bangalore’s cosmopolitan air. While the Dasara crowd has disappeared, Mysore is still fresh with many infrastructural arrangements done for the Dasara festival. Mysore is a tourists’ ideal getaway. It is driving distance from Bangalore, has enough options to stay and has a veritable treat in terms of local sights.
The Mysore Palace or Ambavilas Palace is the official residence of the royal Wadiyar dynasty. Built in Indo-Saracenic style, it has been attracting around 2.5 lakh visitors every month, ever since its interactive 3D website was hosted in 2010. Another highlight is the 2,000-year-old Chamundeshwari temple, atop a hill. Legend has it that Chamundeshwari destroyed the demon Mahishasura here. While it offers an aerial view of Mysore, a 16-foot Nandi, halfway to the temple is arresting.
The Mysore Zoo is among the oldest and better zoos in the country. A Mysore holiday will be incomplete without a visit to Brindavan Gardens, known for its musical fountains illuminated at night.
En route to Mysore, tourists can visit Balmuri water falls. Srirangapatnam, the erstwhile capital of Tipu Sultan, still has his summer palace and fort.
Thadiyandamol peak in Coorg
Coorg, with its coffee estates and amazing cuisine, can win over first time travelers with ease. Home to the Kodavas, Coorg is identified through dense forests, oranges, honey and coffee plantations, many of which offer home stays.
Coorg is described as the Scotland of India and lives up to its name during winter. A combination of red tiled cottages, clean roads, undulating hills and streams enhances the charm.
You can brave the cold to watch the gushing water of Abbey Falls, which is picture perfect. You can also head to Bhagamandala, where three small rivers unite to form Cauvery. Talakaveri, the birthplace of river Cauvery, is atop a hill and houses a temple. A view of Coorg from the mountain peaks during this season is surreal. Another intersting stop would be Cauvery Nisargadhama, a small riverine island with walkways, formed by the river Cauvery.
Bylakuppe, en-route to Madikeri, is a Tibetan settlement town. It scores for its beautiful Golden Temple, which houses gigantic golden statues of Sakyamuni Buddha, Padmasambhava and Avalokitesvara.
Tea plantations in Ooty
Nestled in the Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, Ooty is 296 km from Bangalore. Ooty, with its charming cottages, morning mist and tea estates sloping on the hills send you into an instant vacation mode. Though the winter temperature ranges from 5°c to 21°c in this southern hill station, tourists navigate its narrow roads with occasional hairpin bends, without the fear of snowfall related disturbances in hill stations of the north.
Besides an educational session at a tea estate, a tour of the Botanical Gardens is enriching. Gaily coloured flowers peek through the green carpet their scent makes you run wild. A boating trip at the picturesque Ooty Lake is another attraction. As the highest peak of the Nilgiris Hills, the Dodabetta Peak offers a panoramic view. Another option is the Nilgiris Mountain Railway that runs from Ooty to Mettupalayam, the heritage train offers breathtaking views of Ooty.
Coonoor another hill station closeby is worth visiting as well for its organic cheese making farms.
Misty hills of Kodaikanal
Sought after for its homemade cheese, chocolates and cookies, Kodaikanal also called Kodai, is a photographer’s delight in the cold months. Situated in the folds of the Palani Hills in Tamil Nadu, at a height of 2133 metres above sea level, Kodaikanal is known for green mountains, waterfalls and lakes.
It is 405 km from Bangalore and the road journey is a scenic experience. Winter is the best time to explore some of its famous spots and take home misty images. By January, nightfall is marked by ice formations and temperatures may drop to freezing levels. Places like the pine forest can be explored through bicycles. The star-shaped Kodai Lake offers horse-riding options. A boat ride in the late afternoon is dreamy, as mist envelops the lake. You can shop for woolens at the Tibetan market near the lake and sample momos.
If you are a nature lover, head to Berijam Lake whose seclusion make it a perfect setting for bird watching. Coaker’s Walk is a picturesque 1.5 km walk by mountain edge. In case you set out later in the day, lensmen can capture the fog. It is a verdant oasis engulfed in pristine surroundings.
Goa’s inviting beaches
Goa is an obvious choice this time of the year. Thanks to its Portuguese influence and a Christian community, the Christmassy season and the New Year parties gives Goa a renewed spirit, whose fervour continues till February when the Goa Carnival festival is celebrated.
The Portuguese monuments of old Goa, along with their churches and chapels attract tourists. It’s also the season of rocking parties and live entertainment. If you don’t want to do a round of happenings clubs or even nameless shacks, you could go on a cruise on the Mandovi by night. Moving beyond late-night haunts,
Goa’s winter sun gently casts its rays on the tropical shores, making the beach balmy. Over 36 white sand beaches with crystal-clear water spread across a 100km coastline make Goa a throbbing tourist destination. The distance from Bangalore to Goa is about 567 km and can be reached by road and air.
Photos credit: Daimalu, Ananth BS, Shyamal, Rameshng, Jai Kumara Yesappa, Cprogrammer and Rsrikanth via Wikimedia Commons