Romancing the Stones

Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was the capital city of the famous 14th Century Vijayanagara Empire. Located on the Tungabhadra river in Karnataka, Hampi is historically famous as the seat of South India’s largest, wealthiest and most powerful empire. Its magnificent ruins, remarkable landscape and religious and mythological associations make it an outstanding destination of international significance. Our road trip to the historical town of Hampi was made comfortable by Arjun Tours & Travels. Our chauffeur Shadakshari hails from a team that’s driven by passion and excellence that ensured that our holiday was perfect in every way.

On our recent visit to this historical town, we stayed at the Evolve Back Kamalapura Palace, Hampi. This sprawling resort finds its inspiration from the architecture of the famous 14th century Vijayanagara Empire. Located in typical Hampi landscape, with stunning scrub forests and rugged boulders forming its backdrop, Evolve Back Kamalapura Palace, Hampi blends seamlessly into the past. The moment we set foot here we felt as if we were time travelling to a bygone era of the magnificent Vijayanagara Empire.

There are many types of room categories to choose from. Nivasa is a Deluxe Suite located within the main palace. It is spacious and houses a separate living, dining and sleeping areas, a bath and a balcony with a private Jacuzzi. Nilaya is a Terrace Suite again within the main palace. These are again spacious rooms with separate living, dining and sleeping areas, a bath with a bathtub, a private Jacuzzi and a large private balcony or terrace. Zenana is a Palace Suite within the main palace that features a spacious room with a separate living, dining and sleeping areas, a bath with a bathtub, a private Jacuzzi and a large private balcony. The best part of the resort is the Jal Mahal Private Pool Villa located adjacent to the main palace. These are individual villas that feature a separate living and dining area, a spacious sleeping area, a bath with a bathtub, a private pool with a jacuzzi, a romantic gazebo and courtyards where you can rekindle your romance.

The two Restaurants, Tuluva, a Multi-cuisine restaurant and Bahmani, a Nawabi restaurant serve some of the most delicious food this side of the city.

The resort also offers many interesting activities like the RAYA TRAIL that takes you back 500 years to the life and times of the Rayas or Kings of the Vijayanagara Empire. Learn about their lifestyle, culture, social and political lives while you gaze upon the royal city’s magnificent architecture.

VITHALAPURA WALK: Walk through the ancient market and temples of Vithalapura – a Hampi suburb known for the famous Vijaya Vithala temple that houses the renowned Stone Chariot and musical pillared mantapa. Many movies have been shot here. Keep an entire day free only to explore the beauty of these magical stones that almost speak to you.
TUNGABHADRA TREK: A gentle hike by the Tungabhadra river takes you over gently sloping paths and boulders to explore magnificent ruins, including the Achyutaraya Temple and its famed ‘Courtesan Bazaar’.

VIRUPAKSHA TRAIL: A leisurely but enlivening walk up the Hemakuta hill – home to many temples built across centuries and culminating at the Virupaksha Temple, sacred to the Rayas of Vijayanagara.

Getting there – Airports: Some of the airports close by are Vidyanagar (VDY) – 27 Km (40 min), Hubli (HBX) – 205 Km (4 hrs 30 min), Bangalore (BLR)- 370 Km (6 hrs), Goa (GOI) – 380 Km (6 hrs) and Hyderabad (HYD) – 400 Km (7 hrs 30 min).

Railway Stations: Some of the closest railway stations include Hospet – 16 Km (30 min), Bellary – 50 Km (1 hr), Chitradurga – 150 Km (3 hrs), Hubli – 190 Km (4 hrs) and Hyderabad – 400 Km (7 hrs).

It is accessible by road from Bangalore. Arjun Tours and Travels made our road trip to Hampi extremely smooth and comfortable. Their chauffeur driven Innova cars are highly recommended if you’re planning to make this trek anytime soon. December to March is a perfect time as the weather is very pleasant here.

Our trip to Hampi was organised and hosted by Karnataka Tourism Forum. Karnataka Tourism Forum (KTF) is a registered non-profit organisation comprising tourism professionals and companies that are dedicated to make a meaningful contribution to improve tourism in Karnataka. KTF was founded by a few keen stakeholders in tourism that were eager to collectively take initiatives to improve tourism in the State. Now, in its rejuvenated avatar, KTF is a structured and proactive force that has taken upon itself to bring a radical change to tourism at large by way of global approach and dynamic endeavours.
Pro tip: You must visit the world heritage sites of Badami, Pattadakal, and Aihole that are located at driving distance from Hampi.

Explore the breathtaking natural splendour and glorious history of the Scotland of India at Coorg Marriott Spa and Resort & Spa

Nestled amidst misty hills and rich coffee plantations, this dreamy hideaway is for those times when you want a thoughtful connection with you mind, body and soul in the midst of lush landscapes, culture and cuisines of Coorg. Coorg is a unique blend of serene landscapes, vibrant traditions, and outdoor adventure and the best way to experience these is through the resort’s exceptional facilities, curated local experiences, and warm hospitality.

Find serenity in the midst of lush expanse of the Makandur forest at this contemporary retreat that provides a gateway to enriching local experiences, within the tranquility of a natural botanical haven. Our check in was smooth as we were taken to our plunge pool cottage on one the resort’s carts. Personalised photographs on chocolates welcomed us in our cottage alongside some very adorable towel art. We were soon ready for a sit down lunch at Grills by the Valley. As the name suggests, the dining tables overlook the green valley all around and each of the dishes curated by Chef Amit were a sheer delight for our taste buds. It was literally fine dining in the wilderness.

After a siesta we soaked in the comfort our plunge pool inside our villa. The temperature controlled pool was very comforting and made us completely relaxed. The pool overlooks a dense forest and is just the perfect escape for us big city dwellers. We headed to the Quan Spa for a very rejuvenating and relaxing spa session post our dip in the pool. The spa embraces the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda and contemporary wellness practices. Our dinner that evening was curated in our private lawn right outside our cottage. The grills were cooked to perfection. You can also savour diverse culinary delights at their all-day dining restaurant Madikeri Kitchen, where we had our breakfast.

The next morning we were up for a lavish breakfast followed by a leisurely nature walk with naturalist Yesudas who took us around the coffee and pepper plantations. Our coffee quotient went a few notches higher as we sat down for a shot of espresso at their picturesque coffee bar called the Coco Lab. It was a wonderful way to immerse ourselves in the vibrant coffee culture of Coorg. Coco Lab with its rich blend of fresh, locally sourced coffees provides a deeply satisfying experience for coffee enthusiasts. The rich history and culture of the land comes alive at every twist and turn with guided village tours that offer a deep dive into the heritage of the local Kodava community. Coorg, rated as one of the top hill station destinations in Southern India, is an enchanting region known for its lush landscapes and mist-covered hills, offering a picturesque backdrop.

What makes this destination unique is not only its stunning natural beauty but also the opportunity it provides for a range of exciting activities such as adventurous treks, exploring coffee plantations and enjoying mesmerising waterfalls. Take part in other immersive resort and destination experiences like Picnic in the Forest, Breakfast by The Fountain or ‘Bloom to Brew’ coffee experiences and more. We also visited a local ainmane. We drove out of our hotel to visit a traditional house owned by a friendly Kodava family who live right next to their ainmane. They celebrate all their festivals and family gatherings at their ainmane. It is a joint patrilineal clan with males of common ancestry who share an okka name. Presently there are more than 1000 okka names and families in Kodagu. We loved the delicious Kodava cuisine delights prepared so lovingly by the family at their home.

After a swim and a little walk, it was time for drinks at Mercara Outpost, a dynamic space designed to unwind with a delightful selection of light snacks and innovative cocktails and another special dinner, a five-course memorable meal curated by the pool. It was time to sleep and we headed straight to our comfortable plush beds. Coorg Marriott Resort & Spa features 108 well-appointed, elegantly furnished villas and cottages, offering breath-taking views of emerald landscapes and hectares of plantations. Each villa offers a spacious abode with natural sunlight and plush comfortable beds. The resort is pet-friendly, where guests have the added pleasure of holidaying with their furry friends.

Getting there: Coorg is accessible by road and well connected to leading metro cities in South India. Coorg is 150 kms from Mangalore International Airport and 280 kms from Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru.


A perfect weekend getaway for nature lovers

I will never forget my coracle boat ride in the revered Cauvery River at Bheemeshwari. The picture-perfect and stunning quaint surroundings, when the sun was about to set, made the sky even more dramatic than usual. The grey clouds filled with rain were playing hide and seek with the sun, making the whole ambience dreamy. The hot tea with pakoras was waiting for us but we were in no mood to come back to the shore.

I was at Bheemeshwari in Karnataka’s beautiful jungle retreat. We in Karnataka are blessed to have many such ideal locations to spend the weekend in the lap of nature. Just 100 km away from Bangalore, Bheemeshwari is the most sought holiday destination for its tranquillity and immaculate location yet exciting. You cannot get enough of the dazzling lush green landscape, several species of migratory and resident birds, deer, elephants, and crocodiles of course. The forests of Bheemeshwari give you good sightings of deer, wild boars, and elephants; you just got to be lucky, Bheemeshwari is home to many such birds and animals.
Things to do: Bheemeshwari was popularly known as a fishing camp a decade ago but has still not lost its charm. Although fishing is not permitted any longer there are numerous activities which will not only keep you occupied all through your stay but also makes sure that you have the best time. Indulge in water-based adventure sports like a coracle ride, kayaking, or just soaking up your feet on the banks of a Cauvery appreciating nature. Admiring the hills, or just sitting on the rocks and hearing the sound of the gushing river was my favourite activity while I stayed at Bheemeshwari. During the monsoon or just after, the roar of gushing water and white-water rafting is good enough to give you that adrenaline rush that you must have been craving.

Trekking – Trekking up to Basava Betta is an easy one that even beginners can do it comfortably. Well if you do not want to trek, the jeep ride is also available at the resort that takes you to the viewpoint of river Cauvery and Basava Betta. Driving through or trekking through the forest on a misty morning, admiring the bright sunrise and chirping of birds like koel and peacocks took us to the viewpoint of Basava Betta. The splendid views of River Cauvery and the adjoining hills from the Basava Betta were worth the hike and waking up early. The intensifying sun with a little mist was making the whole landscape very gorgeous. We chose to descend by walk instead of the jeep and witnessed the marks and the fresh poop of a tusker.

Coracle Ride – One of the best boat rides available in south India is the Coracle boat ride. A round boat that can carry up to 5 people is a must-to-do activity while you are in Bheemeshwari. We took a ride in the evening and the twilight or the beauty of the golden hour was overwhelming. The colourful red-orange play of the sky, the chirping of the birds heading towards their nests, and the golden reflection of the sun in River Cauvery made the whole setting look like a painting. While we were enjoying the calmness, we spotted a crocodile speeding in the opposite direction. We wanted to get closer and take some videos and pictures for the gram, but alas our man didn’t allow us to go closer. Nonetheless, the sight was something to behold.

Kayaking – Flaunt the power of your biceps and triceps while you enjoy Kayaking at Bheemeshwari. A relaxing and taxing “Do it yourself’ water sports activity you can indulge in. Sail at your pace, rowing the kayak amidst gorgeous landscapes and sunset at the backdrop of river Cauvery.

Wildlife at Bheemeshwari – Bheemeshwari is the place for spotting friendly wildlife in the neighbourhood. Keep your eyes and senses open and you will be able to spot elephants, deer, crocodiles, rabbits, and many other reptiles’ right there in the human habitat. The resident and migratory birds will wake you up with their melodious chirping and you do not need any alarm to wake up. The presence of birds we relished seeing or hearing was a peacock, bulbul, woodpecker, kingfisher, and eagle to name a few.

Express Info: Unwind yourself in the lap of the serenity of forests. The stay in Bheemeshwari, away from the hustle-bustle of city life revives you till your next outing.

Pro tip: Ensure not to play loud music that disturbs the wildlife. The basic jungle rule -Do Not Litter or leave any plastic behind. In most of the places in Bheemeshwari, mobile networks don’t work. However, in some places the resort’s wifi works. Do not wear bright colours. Ensure your clothing colours camouflage with jungle colours like dark green, beige, brown etc. Carry comfortable footwear as there is a lot of walking. Of course carry your binoculars, sunscreen lotions, hat, torch, and sunglasses as you would be spending a lot of time outdoors.

  • By Meenakshi Gupta