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5 Fascinating Experiential Stays In India

Let’s be honest; being on the road can be exhausting! The thrill of monument hopping and traversing cities can fade out soon, if you aren’t well-rested for your next adventure. This cooling-off period can be as simple as a good night’s sleep. Choosing the right stay, where you can relax, not just your body but also your soul then becomes essential.

For a lot of people, picking accommodation during their travels is either dependent on a convenient location and/or affordability. Many consider it just as a place to put their heads down, before heading for the next set of excursions.

In my travels, however, I have realized that selecting a worthy stay can enhance my experience by giving me an entirely new perspective of the destination. In fact, there have been times when I have tweaked my plans to accommodate a unique stay experience.

Here are 5 amazing stays in India that promise an experience like no other. At each one, I found not only a beautiful place to rest, but also heaps of personality, history, and culture, that in the end made these experiential stays in India bona fide destinations in their own rights, worth taking a detour.

Chera Rocks, Kannur, Kerala

Located in a quiet corner of Northern Kerala, Chera Rocks is a beachside getaway is an ideal place to relax and watch beautiful sunsets. Dotted with coconut trees and hammocks tied between them, it oozes a rural charm with a touch of contemporary appeal.

A hidden gem of a stay, Chera Rocks is peppered with traditional cottages built using laterite flooring and thatched roofs. The cabins are clean and spacious, though Wi-Fi and AC are notably absent, and for a good reason, as it encourages you to explore the surrounding areas. The food here consists of local Kerala specialities served in huge portions and with a warm smile.

Located about 30min from Kannur, a steep climb downhill is required to get to the stay. This is the only downside for those with limited mobility. They have porters who can help you with the luggage, but you do have to carry yourself up and down those steep stairs when required.

Pro-tip: Choose the standard rooms, which are closest to the beach and away from the main area.

Mantra Koodam, near Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu

Styled like a traditional Tamil village, complete with minute details like a tea stall, temple and pathways with local names, Mantra Koodam is an ode to the region’s rich legacy. Located a short drive from the temple town of Kumbakonam, it effortlessly combines tradition and luxury.

The rooms (called Illams) with their Athangudi tiles, Burma teak doors, cozy sit-out and open to air bathrooms offer a quirky yet warm setting. The pool, on the other hand, is a welcome relief during the hotter months.

For the artistically and culturally inclined, this is a great base to explore the temples of Kumbakonam and Darasuram; learn the art of bronze casting in Swamimalai or visit the handlooms of Pattu Silk weavers near Kumbakonam.

You can, of course, choose to do nothing and simply soak in the sublime tranquillity of the region. After all, a little indulgence never hurts.

Pro-tip: Do not miss the evening/morning tea/coffee session. The snacks are lip-smacking.

Bungalow on the Beach - Tranquebar

The Bungalow on the Beach, Tharangambadi (formerly Traquebar), Tamil Nadu

Take an 18th-century grand stately mansion, and place it next to the waters of Bay of Bengal; between the ruins of a 17th-century Danish Fort and a 14th century Pandya Temple. Now imagine being able to stay in such a mansion!

A beautifully restored small hotel. The Bungalow on the Beach is a stately mansion that allures you with its location. The rooms, done up in soothing colors, come with all modern amenities, including Wi-Fi and AC, while maintaining the colonial architecture. The pool offers a pleasant respite from the heat and humidity in this corner of the world.

The breathtaking views of the sea, which is literally at your doorstep, however, takes the cake. Waking up to the sun rising in the Bay of Bengal is an unparalleled experience worth treasuring. Coupled with a heritage town surrounding it, a stay at the Bungalow on the Beach is for lovers of history who are romantics at heart.

Pro-tip: Choose a room on the first floor for an unobstructed view of the sea and the fort.

Rawla Narlai.jpg

Rawla Narlai, Narlai, Rajasthan

Tucked away in the tiny village of Narlai in the Aravalli hills, close to the temples of Ranakpur, this restored 17th-century heritage stay was a former hunting manor of the Jodhpur Royals. Now, we mortals can hunt blissful tranquillity amidst its colorful courtyards and secluded pool.

Located at a comfortable 2-hour drive from both Jodhpur and Udaipur, the erstwhile kingdoms of Marwar and Mewar respectively, it is a perfect stop offering an oasis of calm after the frenzy of these touristic hotspots. It offers a unique peek into the countryside with leopard spotting safaris, treks up a massive granite monolith and romantic step-well dinners.

Each room in the heritage part is unique in its design and layout. Some with beautiful arches framing the beds or with original murals of royal processions, they exude subtle luxury. For those wanting more space and modern conveniences, the new wing offers this with equal splendor.

The food served is traditional with mouth-watering local delicacies and both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. The stepwell dinner is an exclusive experience for special occasions. A four-course meal served besides hundreds of candles lighting up the site and accompanied by a local musician.

Pro-tip: Choose rooms in the Heritage section for an authentic taste of this heritage stay in Rajasthan.

Freddy's at Bhimtal

Freddy’s Bungalow, Bhimtal, Uttarakhand

A colonial legacy of a different kind awaits you at this homestead snuggled among a peaceful wooded hillside scattered with cypress and deodar trees. Located far away from the bustle of Nainital, this little charmer is a cozy 4-bedroom mountain retreat.

The original owner of the property, Fredrick Smetacek, had a special love for butterflies, and the current owners have preserved his collection at this home as a Butterfly Museum. It is a welcoming homestay that is a perfect setting for those chatty evenings by the fireplace or sunny winter afternoons curled up with your favorite book.

The local Kumaoni food adds just enough local flavors to give you a taste of the region. Whereas, the elegantly furnished rooms add to the colonial charm that has influenced the architecture of this Bungalow. The drive up via the dirt road is a little tiresome, but the quietude that follows more than makes up for it.

Pro-tip: If you are up for it, the hike from the stay down to Sattal is worth it.

Freddy's - Bhimtal Experiential Stay

These amazing homestays and boutique residences in India that you can call home, albeit for a few days, are in many ways unique experiences that stay with you long after the holidays are over.

Photos: Author and Raghav Modi

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