Planning an Xmas vacation is no joke, with skyrocketing prices for both flights and hotels. A road trip to the ‘Coffee land’ was a near last minute plan. At a driving distance of four and a half hours from Bengaluru, Chikmagalur has been a goodie bag filled with surprises, and has so much more to offer than just hills and coffee. When picking a vacation in the western ghats or Nilgiris, it’s vital to ensure you pick a resort that allows you to quickly escape to the nearby places of interest with ease.
The Gateway Chikmagalur was indeed the chosen one for its location, great hospitality feedback and ratings and of course the exceptional prices for Xmas. And I am so glad I picked this one! I shall elaborate on their hospitality a bit here. From check-in to food, travel itinerary assistance, kid and family friendly staff everything was more than perfect!
With so many choices for homestays, hotels and resorts, you may often find yourself in a dilemma whether to pick a hotel vs a homestay. You may pick a homestay:
1. When travelling in groups, with friends and family. Quite a few homestays let out entire villas hence when travelling in groups, this may seem a more economical option as well.
2. When you are open to experiments with local cuisines and foods and/or prefer home-cooked food over buffets and set menus.
3. When bed and breakfast is all you need and aren’t looking for in-house entertainment. Unlike most resorts and hotels, home-stays are basic and rarely offer entertainment.
4. Home stays locations are often more scenic and amidst nature than resorts and hotels. It is often an excellent choice for experiences the life and pulse like a local.
Airbnb and some local connections help a great deal in making a choice for a homestay. Getting back to the amazing hospitality the IHCL gateway exhibited on our recent stay, the check-in was as smooth and hassle-free as it could be and a room was assigned with minutes of arrival. The rooms were decently sized and equipped with all basic needs. We were upgraded to a cottage without asking, and this was indeed a pleasant surprise.
While the property is strategically located, I must admit that the views aren’t the best, yet the in-house entertainment, evening entertainments like tambola and magic shows, well curated Christmas gala dinner and some unmatched hospitality add way too many positives to it. The travel desk was handy and more than happy to assist us with our itinerary.
Chikmagalur: Places of Interest
1. Muthodi forest reserve:
A unique quality of Chikmagalur happens to be that most attractions are within an hour’s drive from the city centre. The Muthodi forest reserve is home to tigers, leopards, langurs, elephants to name a few. Enroute the forest, you will come across a number of coffee and spice estates and a tour through one of these is often a good idea. We stopped by the Estate cafe for a tour and some authentic Malnad food and it is a indeed a good choice if you wish to acquaint yourself with local food and culture and some of best blends of Filter coffee.
Once you’re done with the coffee tour and a quick meal, it is best to head for the forest safari and be there before 3pm. It’s hardly a twenty minute drive from the cafe. The safari is an hour’s expedition and you may spot the langurs, peacock, leopards. Tiger spotting in the winters is rare.
2. Hirekolale lake
Chikmagalur is home to some of most scenic and picturesque lakes in The state and while on your way back from Muthodi, it’s a good idea to stop by to watch the sunset at Hirekolale lake.
3. Mullayangiri peak:
No network zones are often a blessing in disguise, some digital detox in store for you when you head for this peak. This place is a haven for nature lovers, hikers and photography enthusiasts- Mullyangiri happens to be the highest peak of Karnataka, standing tall at circa 6000 feet. An early morning drive will land you here in less than an hour. There’s a bit of trek involved once you reach the parking lot. However, it’s an easy one, well tolerated by both kids and adults. The peak offers some spell binding and sublime views of the western ghats with lush green mountains and some marvellous shooting spots.
Top 3 must visit cafes and eateries
1. The Estate Cafe
This is a must-do when in or around Chikmagalur. This quaint cafe is perched precariously amidst coffee plantations overlooking the western ghats, enroute the Muthodi Forest Safari, which is a quick 30 minute ride from here. The cafe offers a range of coffee picks and food choices, but you must try their Akki roti and chicken curry, one of the best and most authentic Malnad cuisine are served here. The fragrance and taste of freshly harvested spices with a dash of local tastes is indeed something you wouldn’t like to miss.
2. Siri Cafe
This ain’t the iPhone Siri! It is a bustling cafe and eatery which is home to the iconic Mother Nature sculpture while on the way to Mullyangiri peak.This is a perfect lunch/coffee stopover to recharge your batteries. Besides, you could shop for some filter coffee from Siri as well.
This was a good find while we were looking for another cafe which happened to be shut on Christmas Eve. The places serves good Hyderabadi cuisines and is located in the heart of Chikmagalur.
A mandate when you’re in the land of coffee- a tour of the coffee plantations is a not to miss, regardless of the fact that you’ve done one of them in Coorg or elsewhere. The Estate Cafe offers a quick one hour tour of their estate- upon request at some nominal charges. There a quite a coffee plantation tours available on tripadvisor and are worth a couple of hours.
Planning a vacation is never a task as simple as it sounds, especially when it happens to be Xmas break when all and sundry head for the holidays. However, with my experience over the years, here are some forethoughts you may want to consider:
1. Last minute vacations, especially for Xmas can burn a hole in your pocket and almost always turn out to be much more expensive and you may end up paying 1.5 times the usual. If you wish to save bucks on flight deals and hotel prices, make sure you block that least 2 to 3 months in advance.
2. Nevertheless, if you do plan a vacation at the last hour, try to pick a road trip. This will surely help save a great deal on flights. Flight prices are usually double their usual rate around Xmas and new year.
3. While third party booking may turn out to be cheaper at times, in case you need to cancel the hotel bookings at the last hour due to unforeseen circumstances, you may lose more money if you didn’t directly book through hotels.
4. Pick dates which are close to Xmas yet not the Xmas or new day itself, this will help save a lot more money yet allow you to enjoy the holiday season.