Travel: Planning a winter trip? Here's all you need to know
Winter has set in, making it the perfect time of the year to get on your bike (or a car) and escape the city. Here's a guide to where you can go, with three fun itineraries, each suited to a unique taste
Road trips can be spontaneous and fun, but they can also quickly get tiring if you don't take at least a little time planning them. Making things easier for wanderlust-filled travellers is a new website called ScoutMyTrip, which aims to simplify road trip planning in India. All you have to do is enter your start point and destination, and the site takes care of the rest, giving you not only refuelling stops, but also washrooms and eateries along the way.
If you're thinking about setting off on your very own road trip but are unclear about where to go, here are three itineraries we have created — based on what you might be looking for — to help you along.
FOR A CULINARY INDULGENCE
Destination: Udvada (190 km; 4 hrs)
A mere 200 km north of Mumbai lies Udvada, a sleepy coastal town in Gujarat that is home to a predominantly Zoroastrian population. Most visitors come here to marvel at the Iran Shah Atash Behram, a fire temple that bears the sacred flame that has been burning for over a thousand years. However, not being too far away from Mumbai makes Udvada perfect for a weekend getaway filled with delicious Parsi delicacies.
Tuck into authentic Dhansak while you're in Udvada
Begin your culinary pilgrimage right on the NH8 at Ahura, where you can indulge in a hearty breakfast. Here, you must try the akuri, a scrambled egg dish similar to yet runnier than a bhurji.
Once in Udvada, hop over to Globe Hotel, which claims to be the town's oldest hotel, having been established in 1924. If you're spending the night here, tuck into the mutton pulao dar at the hotel for dinner. The aromatic rice-and-meat preparation is served alongside a rich, creamy dhansak.
Early next morning, ask locals where you can try some freshly made doodh na puff — chilled milk froth with nutmeg and cardamom sprinkled on top.
When you're heading back, stop by at Parsi da Dhaba and dig into their kaleji papeto (chicken liver with potatoes) or kheema ghotala (mince with eggs).
FOR A NATURE GETAWAY
Destination: Amboli (490 km; 8.5 hrs)
Throughout the year, you will find a carpet of lush green cloaking Amboli, a small town in the verdant forests of Maharashtra's Sindhudurg district.
Owing to this abundance of natural beauty, Amboli is one of the biodiversity hotspots in the Western Ghats. During monsoon, the area comes to life with vividly coloured frogs, snakes and bioluminescent fungi. However, this doesn't mean this is a bad time to visit.
Common Jezebel can be spotted in Amboli
Once winter sets in, Amboli transforms into a land filled with hundreds of fluttering wings. Among the butterfly species you will spot here are the Common Jezebel and the striking South Indian Blue Oakleaf.
The Western Ghats are also home to a variety of avian species, and if you're lucky, you might just spot the Malabar Pied Hornbill on your visit.
FOR A CULTURE BREAK
Destination: Aurangabad (430 km; 8 hrs)
The district of Aurangabad is home to the ancient Ajanta and Ellora cave-temple complexes, both of which warrant a visit.
Since the distance from Mumbai to Aurangabad is fairly large, this trip is best taken when you have a few days to spare. Spend a day or two in Nashik (180km from Mumbai), which is a religious centre. Explore the intricately designed Naroshankar Temple here, and wander through the ancient city's bylanes, home to many a crumbling structure.
Kailasa Temple at Ellora Caves
Nashik also houses a number of wineries, popular among which is Sula Vineyards. Swirl some wine and stay the night at one of the resorts in the area, and set out for Ellora (177 km from Nashik) early the following day.
It is here that you will find the Kailasa Temple, an architectural wonder that was hewn out of a rocky hill, possibly back in the 8th century AD.
Although their names are usually clubbed together, it is important to note that Ellora and Ajanta are, in fact, around 100 km apart. Moreover, the Ajanta caves are much older, and comprise shrines dedicated to Lord Buddha, as well as murals and sculptures depicting incidents from his life. The caves are situated along an ancient trade route, and used to provide shelter to wandering monks. The monasteries here continued functioning till around the 8th century, and the site was then forgotten until its rediscovery in 1819.
- Carry snacks. Make sure these are non-greasy and non-gooey finger foods.
- If you’re travelling by car, pack in a couple of pillows and blankets.
- Don’t litter; carry a garbage bag along. Keep tissues and wet wipes handy.
- Put together a first-aid kit with anti-bacterial cream, pain relievers, bandages and motion sickness medicine.
- Ensure that your breakdown supplies are in place.
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