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Hills and fresh air for slim wallets

While the fortunate few might escape to Switzerland or Paris, getaways at cheaper rates are not exactly easy at home. Summertime rushes in well-known hill stations can drain out your energies or wallets – or both. Ruchi Hajela recommends some mountain retreats.

business Updated: May 02, 2008 23:47 IST
Ruchi Hajela

Looking at the huge ads in newspapers, one would think India is abounding with people with lakhs of rupees to spend on overseas holidays. While the fortunate few might escape to Switzerland or Paris, getaways at cheaper rates are not exactly easy at home.

There are places galore, but summertime rushes in well-known hill stations can drain out your energies or wallets – or both. Unless cooped-up hotels and milling city crowds is what you are looking for in a summer vacation. We went looking for mountain holidays that would cost no more than Rs. 50,000 for a family of two adults and two kids for say, a week’s getaway. That would mean about Rs. 7,000 per head per day. In many places, the kids can stay free, or the extra beds come cheap.

But holidays also involve to and fro travel to the spots, charges for sightseeing, eating out etc. We settled for adventure holidays, because they often involve rustic surroundings at lower costs and offer children some things they can connect with. Or we recommend offbeat mountain retreats, if you are in a mood for unwinding from the hustle and bustle of the city. As we see it, the best options are those away from the known hill stations, but some not far away from brand-name towns could give a nice touch.

Why, you could even take a ride if you find your spot boring or limited, and hence enjoy some solace. “The Caravan,” a Delhi-based vacation boutique founded by a travel-loving couple, says it offers packages at Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 6,000 per day per person in hotels across the country. We recommend for Delhi-ites Shogi, a relatively unspoilt spot 18 km ahead of Shimla, where a couple can stay in a Bamboo Hut for Rs. 6,777 for a two-night-three-day stay. That would include complimentary activities like climbing a rope ladder or crossing a valley. For extra charges, you can do rock-climbing.

If you have a higher budget and a more luxurious mood, try The Chalets at Naldehra, 22 km away from Shimla, in a spot where colonial-era elite played golf. A deluxe pinewood cottage here for a couple would cost about Rs. 18,000 for two nights and for a family, Rs. 22,000 (Details at www. Caravantraveltalk.com)

Treks ‘n’ Rapids, a company that offers environmentally friendly eco tourism, offers camping, snow sports, rock climbing and wildlife safaris. Customised to suit groups, these holidays can cost anywhere between Rs. 3,000 to 5,000 per person per day.

Looking for something still cheaper? You can go parasailing close to Delhi at less than Rs. 1,000 per day or go rafting at twice the cost. Himalayan camping is on offer at Rs. 1,500 per day.

“A family of four can go camping, or visit a place called Bhattafall in Mussorie, another place called Whispering Pines close to Dehradun – all for a budget of less than Rs 10,000 a night including travel arranged by the company,” said Pranav Kukreti, Co-Founder of Treks ‘n’ Rapids. The company (www.treksnrapids.com) also offers a camping holiday at Dhanaulti, 25 km from Mussoorie, at between Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 22,500 per couple for a three-to-five day vacation. The cost includes buffet meals and moonlight trails.

Mukteshwar district in Nainital, located about 395 km away from Delhi can be refreshing break. It costs a couple Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 4,000 per night here, with kids accommodated at reasonable add-on charges.

If you are in a mood for a longer swing through Uttaranchal, Mountain Trail Holidays Private Limited offers a six-day tour Mukteshwar, Ranikhet, Nainital and Corbett for a little less than Rs. 24,000 for a couple, with meals thrown in.
Similarly, at about Rs. 11,650 per head from Delhi, you can have a six-night, seven-day tour of the North-East hills, touching Darjeeling, Gangtok and Kalimpong. Check out the website www.myvaluetravel.com for details. This is not exactly offbeat, but seems great value for money.

At The Sirmour Retreat, about 100 km from Shimla and not far from Chandigarh either, you can check out good, clean camping (www.resortinhimachal.com) with a couple being hosted for less than Rs. 7,500 for two nights. That includes a kid being accommodated free, and breakfast and dinner. Add-on options include parasailing, biking, river rafting, fishing etc.

Travel portal MakeMyTrip (www.makemytrip.com) is offering packages starting at about Rs 11,000 onwards for a couple for two nights. The package is for Bison river resort at Dandeli, located about 125 km from Goa – and is only a short drive from Dandeli Wildlife sanctuary. The resort lies along river Kali that originates from the Western Ghats and ends in Arabian Sea, has a multi-cuisine restaurant and even a library on wildlife. The package costs Rs 11,600 for a couple and includes activities such as jungle safari, water rafting and nature treks followed by bonfire nights and barbecues.