Weekend Getaways in Vagamon, Alibaug and Amritsar

Vagamon, Kerala
Photographer: Aparna Nori

Ditch the big-city life (for a bit)
Weekend getaways, journeys of discovery, chill-out breaks. Take your pick!

Enjoy the bucolic pleasures of Vagamon, Kerala
Out of Kochi (103 km)

Idyllic, unassuming and teeming with deep-fried snacks, Vagamon, located on the Idukki-Kottayam border of Kerala’s Western Ghats, is what vacations were like in the 1990s. There’s a standard bouquet of sights to see, and the chance to chomp on too many too-sweet banana fritters. It’s the perfect place to just be. If you do decide to hit the tourist spots, start at the Vagamon Orchidarium and Floriculture Project. A picturesque undertaking by the Kerala Forest Development Corporation, the nearly 40-acre property, full of meadows and hills, is perfect for a little picnic. Head next to the popular cliff-top pine forest that leans into a yawning gorge – enjoy the views for a while before heading out to see the Palozhugumpara waterfall, milky, thunderous and mesmerising. Drive up to Kurisumala Ashram next, a Christian monastery founded in the ’50s by a Belgian missionary. You’ll find yourself pensive but only until you reach Vagamon Meadows. The bright-green swath of rolling meadows will make you feel a slight ache of nostalgia, but only for a while.

Go on the perfect do-nothing holiday in Alibaug, Maharashtra
Out of Mumbai (95 Km)

In Alibaug, there’s plenty of nothing to do. Whether you’re hanging out with friends or just looking for quiet time with the family or without, it’s perfect

for a languorous weekend getaway. Alibaug’s caramel-brown to black beaches might not be spotless, but more than a couple are good for a bit of old-fashioned fun and games. If you’ve managed to snag a room at the hip Mango Beach House, grab one of the bicycles and pedal down to Kihim Beach (10km away). Akshi Beach and Nagaon Beach to the south are more popular with locals, and great for early-morning strolls. Just grab a ball, kick your shoes off and play some football on the beaches; they do get their share of trash lining the sides though. Kashid Beach (35km away) reigns supreme, and there’s something to be said for its clear waters. Walk along the beach or sink down on the sand until the sun sets. Back in Alibaug, there are plenty of great local eateries at which to tuck into some hearty Malvani food. Mostly though, you’ll just want to relax and do absolutely nothing. And no one will judge you for it.

Embark on a street-food tour in Amritsar, Punjab
Out of Delhi (500 km)

If you’re looking for a crash course in Punjabi cuisine, Amritsar’s perfect. You’ll find the expected: breakfasts of crumbly, spicy chhole-bature, hearty kadhi-rice for lunch, and decadent gaajar ka halwa to mark the end of meals. But, leave all that behind and set out instead on a street-food tour. Begin with the catfish tikka at Jagir Singh Fish Wala that dates back to 1958 – the delicately-seasoned besan coating goes really well with the fresh fish. If you’re lucky, you might get to watch people fight over Billa’s Chicken Corner’s sole offering: limited-edition twice-done tandoori chicken in an irresistible pool of butter and lemon juice. Committed non-vegetarians should head next to Mohan Meat Shop. Call for the gravelly brain masala and the tender mutton tikkas. But, if there’s one thing you must try before heading back home, it’s the malai chaap at Wah Ji Wah. Doused in full-fat cream, it could compete with a galauti kebab. For dessert, make your way to Ramesh Sharma Sweet Shop, and pick up a few baby gulab jamuns – they’re the only things you’ll have room for anyway.

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