This year may not have been ideal for your travel plans, but 2021 isn’t far away. And it packs in quite a few long weekends too! We have selected the best of the holidays and curated a list of destinations at driving distances from Bengaluru. So, take your pick and get planning on those vacations you missed out on. By Satarupa Paul
New Year’s Day
January 1 to January 3 (Friday to Sunday)
Where to go? Chikmagalur, Karnataka
Imagine waking up to the smell of freshly roasting coffee on the first day of a new year. Sounds pretty ordinary? Now imagine doing that in a lovely villa with a private plunge pool set amidst a sprawling plantation in the heart of the prime coffee country—Chikmagalur. Perched on the slopes of the Western Ghats, this sleepy town is where the first coffee seeds in India were planted by Sufi saint Baba Budan in 1600 CE. Today, a stay at one of its numerous plantation resorts comes with immersive experiences, such as plantation walks, harvest-time berry picking, guided tours of coffee processing from bean to cup, coffee appreciation, and more.
Distance from Bengaluru: 243 kilometres
Duration: Approximately four-and-a-half hours
Where to take a pitstop?: Murali Miltry Hotel, Nagatihalli
Where to stay?: The Serai Chikmagalur
What to do?: Visit Baba Budangiri hills with its sacred caves housing a shrine to the Sufi saint; hike up to Mullayyanagiri—the highest peak in Karnataka; sample the exquisite regional Malnad cuisine.
March 11 to March 14 (Thursday to Sunday; take a leave on Friday)
Where to go? Puducherry
Even the most seasoned traveller isn’t immune to the charms of Puducherry, such are the offerings of this erstwhile French colony that is still popularly known by its old name of Pondicherry, lovingly shortened as Pondy. Paved promenades front the rocky sea-face of the French quarter, whereas tree-lined cobbled lanes lead to mustard-coloured colonial villas, elegant boutiques and chic cafes. It’s delightful to simply walk through this quaint European-looking town, and idling at one of its cafes, reading a book and savouring continental dishes. Whereas, a visit to the serene Aurobindo Ashram and partaking in its simple community lunch — tops the surreal experience.
Distance from Bengaluru: 310 kilometres
Duration: Approximately six-and-a-half hours
Where to take a pitstop?: Hotel Mangalam, Krishnagiri; Adyan Ananda Bhavan, Arcot
Where to stay?: La Villa
What to do?: Spend a day in the experimental township of Auroville, about 20 minutes away, featuring the gold-domed Matrimandir, organic vegan cafes, gourmet coffee shops and bakeries.
Good Friday and Easter Sunday
April 2 to April 4 (Friday to Sunday)
Where to go? Wayanad, Kerala
The hottest month of the year in Bengaluru calls for a cool getaway. Adorning the lush Western Ghats in northern Kerala, Wayanad makes for the perfect pick. A protected forest district, with a small population engaged in farming and plantation activities, Wayanad remains secluded from the purview of urbanisation, making it an ideal retreat for quiet relaxation. Studded with waterfalls, lakes, birdwatching spots, caves, trekking trails and a general abundance of magnificent sites, Wayanad is also leading the charge on sustainable tourism initiatives. A stay in a colonial plantation bungalow set amidst tropical rainforests, complete with Ayurvedic massage therapies and delicious local food, comes highly recommended.
Distance from Bengaluru: 271 kilometres
Duration: Approximately five-and-a-half hours
Where to take a pitstop?: Hotel Ruchi Mane, Srirangapatna
Where to stay?: Pepper Trail
What to do?: Take a plantation tour and learn about traditional methods of cultivation; make the arduous climb to Chembra Peak or do a relaxed hike to Meenmutty Waterfalls.
Eid Ul Fitr
May 13 to May 16 (Thursday to Sunday; take a leave on Friday)
Where to go? Bandipur, Karnataka
Once a private hunting reserve for the Maharaja of Mysore, Bandipur was declared a National Park under Project Tiger in 1974. Spanning an area of 874 square kilometres, it is home to leopards, elephants, gaur, chital, sambar, sloth bears and more, along with a small population of tigers. A jungle safari is a highlight here, but guided nature walks by naturalists is a great way to experience the lay of the land at close quarters. Also recommended is a trip to the top of Gopalswamy Betta, a densely-wooded hill that lies in the core area and houses a beautiful old temple at the top from where you are afforded astounding views of the entire forest.
Distance from Bengaluru: 230 kilometres
Duration: Approximately five hours
Where to take a pitstop?: Ramgad Vegetarian Restaurant, Ramanagara; Kamat Madhuvan, Mysuru
Where to stay?: The Windflower Tusker Trails
What to do?: Take a day trip to the famous hill station of Ooty, just two-and-a-half hours away. Spend the day strolling through the Botanical Gardens, boating in the Ooty Lake, and riding a toy train.
July 17 to July 20 (Saturday to Tuesday; take a leave on Monday)
Where to go? Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu
Located in the Palani Hills, Kodaikanal is an enchanting hill retreat of lakes and dales where flowers and berries grow with wild abandonment. Surrounded by misty forests, colonial-era bungalows dot the landscape here, lending it a certain old-world charm. The centre-piece is Kodai Lake. Being a missionary town means there’s a quaint church at every corner—LaSalette Church, Lutheran Church, and Christ the King Church are must-visits. The untouched beauties of Berijam forest, Kookal Lake, and Mannavanur sheep farm that look straight out of a fairytale are short drives away. Kodaikanal is just the soothing balm your city soul needs in the midst of a busy year.
Distance from Bengaluru: 467 kilometres
Duration: Approximately nine hours
Where to take a pitstop?: Adyar Ananda Bhavan, Thoppur; RK Mess & Restaurant, Karur; KDFC’s Filter Coffee, Pithalaipatti
Where to stay?: The Tamara Kodai
What to do?: Buy local cheese (Kodai cheese and Caroselle) and homemade dark chocolate from artisanal shops in the market; take a guided walk of the landmark bungalows in town.
August 28 to August 30 (Saturday to Monday)
Where to go? Coorg, Karnataka
Framed by the green hills of the Western Ghats, with acres of coffee and spice plantations intermingling with thick forests, Coorg (or Kodagu) paints a striking picture of wanderlust. Contrary to popular advice, travelling here during the monsoon is especially rewarding—for, this is when you can witness it in all its glory. A mysterious mist blankets the landscape at all times, trickling streams become roaring waterfalls, and the scenery is awash in myriad hues of green. The rain alters between torrential and dreamy drizzle, clearing often to let you enjoy a plantation walk, a hike to a waterfall, or indulge in some rejuvenating forest therapy. Then there’s delicious spicy Coorgi food and relaxing spa sessions to go back to!
Distance from Bengaluru: 250 kilometres
Duration: Approximately five-and-a-half hours
Where to take a pitstop?: Right-O-Food Court, Uramarkasalagere
What to do?: Visit the gentle giants of Dubare Elephant Camp; explore the 17th century Madikeri Fort and the nearby Omkareshwar Temple; discover the Buddhist settlement of Bylakuppe, just an hour away.
Mahanavami, Dussehra, and Eid-e-Milad
October 14 to October 19 (Saturday to Monday; take a leave on Monday)
Where to go? Gokarna, Karnataka
This extra-long weekend makes for a great time to set off on a long road trip that ends with days of R&R in the enchanting seaside town of Gokarna. For ages, it’s been a popular Hindu pilgrimage owing to sacred sites of Mahabaleshwar Temple and Koti Teertha temple tank. In recent years though, Gokarna has been attracting thrill-seekers who come looking for its unspoiled beaches that make for arduous treks to reach, as well as those who simply wish to unwind with good food, drinks and music at its many beach shacks. Lately, even wellness enthusiasts have been flocking here, courtesy the yoga centres and spas that are mushrooming all over. Gokarna thus makes for an ideal holiday for a variety of interests.
Distance from Bengaluru: 483 kilometres
Duration: Approximately nine-and-a-half hours
Where to take a pitstop?: Kamat Upachar, Sira; Café Coffee Day, Davanagere
Where to stay?: SwaSwara by CGH Earth
What to do?: Go on a trek to its popular beaches—Om, Kudle, Half Moon, and Paradise; enjoy a night stroll and bonfire at Nirvana beach; explore the flea markets; drive to the beautiful palm-fringed town of Murdeshwar (one-and-a-half hours away), known for the second tallest Shiva statue in the world.
November 5 to November 7 (Friday to Sunday)
Where to go? Hampi, Karnataka
Once the centre of the great Vijayanagara Empire of southern India, today, Hampi is one of the best-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. Over 1,600 ruins lie across 4,100 hectares here, which include forts, palaces, temples, shrines, pillared halls, mandapas, water structures and more. Insta-famous ruins include the Badavilanga Temple, Narasimha statue and Vittala Temple whose stone chariot features on the new INR 50 notes. The landscape is further accentuated by the natural topography of boulders—with sizes ranging from skipping stones to mammoth hillocks dating back to 2,500 million years—which attract bouldering enthusiasts as well.
Distance from Bengaluru: 343 kilometres
Duration: Approximately six hours
Where to take a pitstop?: Danish Restaurant, Chitradurga; Kamat Upachar, Sira
Where to stay?: Evolve Back, Hampi
What to do?: Take a ride in the bowl-shaped coracle boats or dongis that ply on the Tungabhadra River to the bohemian Hippy Island.
December 24 to December 26 (Friday to Sunday)
Where to go? Kabini, Karnataka
Recently, a set of viral photos of the elusive black panther Saya shot Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary to instant stardom. But besides the handsome fella, the vast wilderness here is also home to a healthy population of tigers, leopards, elephants, bison, sloth bears, cheetahs, antelopes, crocodiles and around 250 species of birds. Located on the banks of the Kabini river, with thick forests, deep valleys and quaint backwaters, it makes for one of the finest wildlife sanctuaries in southern India. Stay in a rustic luxury tent and enjoy a bush dinner or a sundowner by a beautiful backwater. If that isn’t the perfect way to wind up a year, then a big cat sighting sure is!
Distance from Bengaluru: 162 kilometres
Duration: Approximately four hours
Where to take a pitstop?: Empire Restaurant, Maddur
Where to stay?: The Bison Resort
What to do?: Go on jungle safaris, trek to local tribal villages, take a boat ride on the backwaters, embark on a thrilling night trek with a naturalist, do some birdwatching.