Kerala: The Great Escape

Vythiri Resort

Kerala; a land that has gained fame as ‘God’s Own Country’ is a chili shaped strip of land that is sandwiched between the lofty mountain chain of the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea in India. Tucked away at an altitude of 700-2100 meters above sea level in a particularly beautiful corner of Kerala is Wayanad. The latter which happens to be one of the better kept secrets of Kerala is about 150 miles from Cochin.

Vythiri Resort is a romantic hideaway cocooned in the lap of the rainforests of Wayanad. The Vythiri Resort which sprawls over a whopping 150 acres boasts of 18 thoughtfully designed cottages, a multi-cuisine restaurant and a spa. Since the time it opened its doors to the discerning traveler it has been winning the hearts of people from across the globe. Not surprising then that it was conferred the prestigious International Quality Crown Award by the Madrid based Business Initiative Directions (BID), a few years back. For a truly out-of-this-world experience you should stay in one of the dizzy tree houses that are perched some 100 feet above ground level at the Vythiri Resort. These luxurious tree houses come with a bath attached bedroom.

www.vythiriresort.com

Wayanad also enjoys a salubrious climate all through the year with the monsoon coming from late Jun until early September (But Wayanad truly comes alive during the monsoons).

Sanjay Sivadas is a travel writer based in Bangalore, India. He may be reached at sanjaysivadas@yahoo.com

Little Tibet

Shakti Ladakh View from Likhir house

They call it, “Ladakhi Love,” because this high-altitude desert is a breathtaking escape where remote wilderness overlooks the Himalayas. Here, one is brought closer to the love in their heart and the SO in their soul.

Ladakh, better known as little Tibet, is in India’s northernmost region. Only comfortably accessible to travelers during the summer and fall months, this time of year, the weather is gorgeous and humidity-free, making it the perfect alternative to the sticky heat that envelopes the rest of India.  We’re highlighting Shakti, operator of bespoke walking tours and homestays, because they’re a small sweet little outfit offering customized, private itineraries for guests to experience the breathtaking beauty of this remote wilderness with a full range of activities including village-to-village walks, treks, visits to monasteries, camping, and rafting along the Shayok and Indus Rivers.

Shakti Ladakh Taru Bedroom

For the 2011 Shakti Ladakh season (May 1 – October 31) there are three new village houses as well as new treks and camping options in and around the Indus Valley.  The village houses have been gently spruced up to meet Western standards and yet maintain their authenticity as British interior designer Ellie Stanton has created a stylish and comfortable décor for each, including all new fittings in the bathrooms that give them a stylish functionality.  All houses feature solar power and grey water recycling facilities; locally-source wood and mud bricks were used in the construction along with sustainably-harvested willow for the interior roofing in the traditional Ladakhi style.

About the new village houses and treks:

Shey: This century-old home offers views from its roof terrace of the nearby Shey Palace and the Tibetan-Buddhist Thiksey monastery. It has three bedrooms, an en suite bath, large sitting room, and traditional kitchen.  Many of the rooms are painted in a traditional style with decades-old motifs.  The village house at Shey provides a great location for walking, trekking, and biking.

Eego: The village of Eego is one of the few locations where guests can enter and exit the valley on foot. This 150-year-old stone baronial mansion, three stories high, is situated above the village near a glacier and some of the oldest Ladakhi dwellings.  It boasts three bedrooms, a sitting room, a dining room, and an open terrace with stunning views of snowcapped peaks.  Eego provides a superb setting for walks and treks.

Likhir: Sitting above the renowned Likhir monastery and just below the glacier that bears its name, the village house at Likhir provides jaw-dropping, alpine-like sights of the valley and snowcapped peaks. It has two bedrooms, en suite bath, and is within easy reach of Alchi village and the famous Alchi monastery, one of the oldest in Ladakh, with its beautifully preserved 11th century wall paintings.

Stakmo to Eego Four-Day Trek: This three-night/four-day trek through the unexplored valleys and villages on the north side of the Indus Valley can be added on to any Shakti Ladakh itinerary.  On daily treks 5-6 hours in length, guests will experience trekking along some of the highest ridgelines as they traverse from west to east across the northern side of the Indus Valley, passing by villages, forgotten valleys, and high-altitude flora and fauna such as the ibex, yaks, and marmots.  Enjoy daily picnics in some of the most stunning valleys and picturesque river settings the Ladakh region has to offer, while evenings are left to explore villages and camp out under the stars in comfortable, domed canvas tents.

Shakti Ladakh Courtyard at Shey

For Shakti Ladakh’s seven-night itinerary, rates start at $890 per night for one person traveling, $530 per night per person for two to three persons, and $461 per night per person for parties of four to six. Included in the rate: private accommodations for group, all meals, drinks, activities, two rafting trips (weather dependent), English-speaking guide, cook, porters, car at disposal, all taxes, 5% service charge, and round-trip transfers between Leh Airport and Shakti Ladakh.  Minimum stay of five nights required; children ages three and older allowed.

For Stakmo and Eego three-night, four-day trek, rates begin at $1,499 per person on a twin/double share basis.  Included in this rate: accommodation in dome tent, all meals and drinks, English-speaking guide, porters, transfers between Stakmo and Eego at the beginning and end of trek.  Children 16 and older are allowed.

www.shaktihimalaya.com

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On

Sarah Ivens - Jaunt Magazine Contributor

Sarah Ivens, resident Jaunt Magazine Contributor, is the founding Editor-in-Chief of OK! Weekly in the US and the best-selling author of ‘The Modern Girl’s Guide to Etiquette.’  Originally from London, she now lives in the beautiful Bluegrass state of Kentucky. This week, she fills us in on just what’s shakin’ in her beloved adopted state.  You can also follow Sarah’s new adventures in Mommyland on her Daily Mail blog at: http://ivensbabyblog.dailymail.co.uk

When people think of Kentucky they undoubtedly think of the Derby – the most exciting two minutes in sport – and a bucket of fried chicken being clutched to the chest of a jaunty looking man in a white suit. But these two enduring images don’t even scratch the surface of the historical and cultural reasons to visit the Bluegrass state (and yes, the grass really is blue!)

Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill - Kentucky

Nestled amongst the Bourbon distilleries and horse farms for which this Southern state is internationally renowned is a little piece of the past that is quite unique – and worth a weekend of exploring. Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill is a non-profit National Historic Landmark, a remarkable place inhabited by the Shakers between 1805 and 1910, which today is the world’s largest restored Shaker community. The Shakers played an important role in American religious history, developing the longest lasting communal society. Their legacy is found not only in the furniture and architecture that remain, but also in their ideals of equality, peace and love. They were pacifists who believed men and women should share power equally, as this is what God would have wanted. Unfortunately, they also believed in celibacy, which is why this sect has collapsed to the point there are now only three Shakers left on the planet, in Maine.

Shaker Chic

One of the most wonderful things about Pleasant Hill is that history and hospitality combine so seamlessly, and visitors are welcome to sleep, dine and relax in the authentic buildings, which are filled with Shaker furniture and linens. Surrounded by stacked rock walls and lantern-lit paths, this resting spot acts as a perfect retreat with a delicate dose of learning thrown in. As you saunter along beside the white picket fences picking wild flowers, munching apples from the orchard or stroking the animals at the farm, costumed interpreters, artisans, singers and gardeners will stop to fill you in on the simple life that Shakers enjoyed here. A place they considered their Garden of Eden. You really do feel like you’ve stepped back to a time where nobody watched the clock or checked their Blackberry every two minutes. The tranquility is charming.

Inn at Shaker Village

Those looking for more than a nostalgic chill-out can entertain themselves by riding the Dixie Belle Riverboat up and down the Kentucky River, a one hour ride through high limestone cliffs with a narrator explaining the area’s abundant ecosystem. Or you can take charge of your own destination and head to the village’s stables for a spot of horse riding. The trails that meander through the countryside around the village are breathtaking and peaceful. There are also hiking trails for those on foot or wagon rides for tired souls.

Alongside their trademark designs, the Shakers were famous for their good food, and dining here is an experience not to be missed. The Inn at Shaker Village takes the seed to table concept very seriously, with the kitchen serving traditional favorites and seasonal Kentucky dishes inspired by ingredients grown in the gardens and from nearby farms. Flavors burst on the tongue as Southern mainstays such as that infamous fried chicken mingle in the dining room with artisanal cheeses, watermelon salad and a lemon pie so tart you’ll feel as refreshed as if you had just jumped into one of the cooling streams that bubble around the village’s 3,000 acres. A one-of-a-kind adventure, taking history lessons never tasted so good.

Rooms are $89-225 per night. For reservations call 800 734 5611 ext 211 or visit www.shakervillageky.org

Last Minute Fall Getaways

Rajasthan, India

Looking for some last minute fall getaways? Who isn’t? If you’re anything like me, you’re a workaholic often being told by your colleagues to just ‘get some rest already!’ So, as it’s just around the corner, fall is the ideal time to discover the world, with many destinations around the globe featuring cooler temperatures, colorful panoramas, abundant wildlife and a kaleidoscope of festivals. India, already a vibrant country, explodes in a riot of colors in the fall, when many festivals take place, including Diwali and Pushkar Fair.

Budapest by Night

Budapest, Vienna and Prague are also beautiful during the Fall, along with Berlin, China, and Tanzania.  So, when Abercrombie & Kent sent us a list of their special fall journeys (with added discounts and deals), we wanted to spread the word so that you, too, could experience your dream destination at its best. Solo travellers take note: you can also save up to 96% on the single supplement on: Treasures of Northern India from Oct 7 and Nov 11 and Essence of India from Oct 13 and Nov 17. Remember, Abercrombie & Kent is high-end so you won’t be skimping. This is 5 star all the way with guides that are some of the best in the world. We’re talking life changing travels, baby, and you could use a shift in your continuum, right?

Right.

Though I tend to be more of a fly by the seat of my pants kinda traveller, as I get older and wiser I find that sometimes it’s just easier to have someone in the know do all the legwork for you. At Abercrombie & Kent, the nice thing is that you can also search for tour options like the following:

August through November departures are filling fast so click the link below to see last-minute destinations for fall travel, and reserve a fall getaway now!

Abercrombie & Kent Last Minute Fall Getaways

A Chic Affordable African Safari?!

Meerkats in the Bush

I just can’t get enough of safari trips. I guess I just ought to live in the bush for awhile. It may be the only thing that quenches my African thirst. To that end, when I came across Lion World Tours’ nine-day itinerary “Madikwe In Style”, I wanted to pick up the package to spend four nights experiencing the beauty and opulence of The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa while exploring Cape Town and two nights basking in the tranquility of the African bush while staying at the luxurious Madikwe Safari Lodge and viewing the wildlife.

This nine-day package, which includes international airfare from New York (JFK) or Washington DC (Dulles) on South African Airways, domestic flights within South Africa, fuel surcharges, as well as luxury accommodation in Cape Town and the Madikwe Game Reserve, also includes most meals, transfers, and more – all for just USD $3,199* per person.

This price is valid for departures on August 24th, August 28th, and September 1st, 2011, as well as various dates in October and November of 2011. An unbelievable value for money.

The luxurious Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa lies where earth, sea and sky meet poised above Atlantic rollers and flanked by the majestic Table Mountain and her Twelve Apostles mountain range in glorious Cape Town. This intimate five-star Hotel fully lives up to its stunning location, with exceptional standards of service and relaxed Cape hospitality, providing the perfect counterpoint to its dramatic backdrop.  Enjoy deluxe guest rooms, two breathtaking pool gardens magically perched above the ocean, the glorious Azure restaurant and its exquisite cuisine, wonderful friendly service and endlessly seductive sea views.

A Cub Chewing on a Stick

Madikwe Safari Lodge is situated in the heart of the malaria-free and richly diverse Madikwe Game Reserve. The Lodge offers exclusive accommodation in luxury suites and boasts French doors that open up onto wooden decking. From the deck, you can take a refreshing dip in a sparkling plunge pool. The bedrooms are fitted with circular fireplaces, a dressing area, and both indoor and outdoor showers. Each suite features an elegant interior inspired by traditional African designs and nature.

To make a booking or for questions, call Lion World Tours at 1-800-387-2706 from the USA or 1-800-668-9968 from Canada, or visithttp://lionworldtravel.com/ to view the full itinerary.

“Madikwe In Style” at USD $3,199* per person is a nine-day trip which includes:

  • Round trip international Economy Class airfare from New York (JFK) or Washington, DC (Dulles) to Cape Town, South Africa, on South African Airways
  • Domestic flights within South Africa in accordance with the itinerary
  • Four nights accommodation at The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa
  • Two nights accommodation at Madikwe Safari Lodge
  • Six Breakfasts/two Lunches/three Dinners
  • Transfers as specified in the itinerary
  • Lion World Tours representative Meet and Greet upon arrival

Lion World Tours specializes in group and individual tours to Southern and East Africa, and is a member of The Travel Corporation, which also includes Trafalgar, Contiki, Brendan Vacations, Red Carnation Boutique Hotel Collection, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection and Insight Vacations. In its fifth decade, clients continue to benefit from Lion World Tours’ destination knowledge, expertise, and emphasis on customer service. With their safari specialists all having first-hand knowledge of Africa, Lion World Tours can confidently assist clients in creating an African adventure that fits their specific interests as well as their budget. Affordable luxury and value for money are what keep clients coming back to Lion World Tours.

http://www.lionworldtours.com/

* Prices are in US Dollars and are per person based on double occupancy accommodation and include fuel surcharges. Government taxes, departure fees and September 11th Security Fee of $190 are additional and payable prior to departure. Low add-on fares from 26 cities in the USA are available. This package is valid at this price for departures in 2011 on August 24, 28, September 1, October 17, 21, 25, 29, and November 2, 12, 16, 20, 24.

Tuscany on a Budget

Tuscany in the Spring

There’s no better time to visit Tuscany than springtime.  But then again… there’s no bad time to visit Tuscany. After all, it is Tuscany. That said, Springtime is when the days turn sunny, vineyards sprout their first green, markets display their gorgeous produce and sidewalk cafés and restaurants come to life.

And—difficult as it is to believe—spring is coming. TourCrafters, a tour company specializing in affordable European vacations, has made a spring trip even more appealing with their one-week Florence and Tuscany Countryside package, which starts at $739 from New York and includes round-trip air from New York, three nights at the 4-star Hotel Roma in Florence, three nights at the 4-star Villa Aurea in Cortona, daily buffet breakfast, three days’ car rental, a free spa course (with sauna, Turkish bath and tea) at the Villa Aurea, a free gelato at Florence’s famous Vivoli, service charges and taxes.

Florence, as everyone knows, is the world’s greatest repository of Renaissance art, but it also boasts great restaurants and fabulous shopping (everything from designer shops on via Tornabuoni to the San Lorenzo Market).  Cortona, a hilltop town of steep, narrow streets and the setting for the popular memoir, Under the Tuscan Sun, also has its art and architecture.  Between the two lies the Chianti region with its hillside vineyards, olive groves, medieval towns and picturesque castles—easy enough to explore with a three-day car rental.

All prices are per person, double occupancy, are subject to availability and do not include airport taxes of approximately $115 and a fuel surcharge of approximately $360.  Reservations must be paid for within 72 hours of booking. Add-on air fares are $40 from Boston and Washington, D.C., $135 from Miami and Chicago,  and $250 from Los Angeles.

For additional information about this and other Hot Deals of the Week, visit www.tourcrafters.it

 

Rwanda’s Hidden Travel Gem

Rwanda's Nyungwe Forest Lodge

This week, our travel radar has picked up a gem of a deal in an exotic, interesting locale.  We’re all about Rwanda, a country that suffered unspeakable tragedy or to become reborn like a Phoenix as one of the safest travel destinations in Africa.

We love the country and her people for so many reasons – namely because they made a conscious effort to remember their past and heal their wounds by coming to terms with it. They also outlawed the evil plastic bag. Rwanda… here’s to you!

So check out the Nyungwe Forest Lodge in Nyungwe, Rwanda, a 5 star property in the heart of Africa.   How sexy is this spot?

Nestled within a tea plantation in Rwanda’s mountainous southwest, the Nyungwe Spa draws on its natural surroundings to create spa treatments that relax and reenergize guests.  Embarking on a holistic journey ripe with sounds of the rain forest and views of Nyungwe National Park, you can enjoy a variety of treatments using Ancient African techniques and local ingredients.  Think healing earth face treatments such as Marula and Rose Hydrate, Jasmin and Baobab Nourish, and Neroli and Rose Balance.  There is also the anti-oxidant and highly-mineralized African Ginger Firming body treatment, a Mongongo Detox that helps eliminate toxin build up in the body, and a Coffee Cinnamon and Orange Cellu that improves circulation and the breakdown of cellulite. For those who are overstressed, the African Potato Repair is the ultimate relaxation treatment, followed by a Footprint Pedicure during which feet are immersed in an energizing salt and tea leaf soak, scrubbed and smoothed, and then moisturized with rich African butter.

And that’s just the spa part!

Did we also mention… you can spot cute little monkeys and unearth the Nubian Goddess in all of us?

www.mantiscollection.com