Stepping out on to a wooden-floored balcony I was greeted by a landscape of towering silver oaks. At Gorukana, in the Biligiriranga Hills at the northern tip of the Nilgiris, a cup of tea and a book were my companions, and my only conversation was with birds. It was difficult to imagine that I was only 170 kilometres outside Bengaluru.
Every few months I like to shut out the city, but I don’t always look forward to an adventure. Mercifully, Bengaluru where I live has the locational advantage of several retreats that neither require you to rough it out, nor spend the weekend in decadence. Ride a bullock cart through windswept grassy fields, or reconnect with your memories of growing up in a traditional Indian home: These family-friendly resorts have singular hooks.
A wave of nostalgia washed over me as I struggled to yank down the bulky black electrical switch. An antique fan lumbered to life and whipped up a gust of cool air, instantly offering respite from the warmth. As my eyes grew accustomed to the dark room, I noticed the vintage wooden switchboard, a four-poster bed, and a pedal sewing machine, which now serves as a table. Childhood relics like copper vessels, brown-topped ceramic pickle jars, and indigenous board games like chauka bara, kept popping up across the house.
In the breezy courtyard, the matting of a charpoy hung low with overuse, but made the most comfortable seat in the house. All the rooms, their entrances lined with bright cloth garlands (torans), opened into a central courtyard. Most evenings the guests turn the veranda into a “chat room”, while families linger at the Kalyani-style, stepped swimming pool at the edge of the garden.
Located 25 kilometres outside of Bengaluru, Angana—The Country Inn encourages visitors to plug out of appliances (you won’t miss TV or air-conditioning here), and connect instead with long-forgotten objects you probably grew up with. Initially an extension of a farmhouse, the property took shape as a home-run country inn, nearly 13 years ago. The building material was upcycled from the broken-down Labour Colony School nearby. This traditional themed house borrows architectural and aesthetic attributes from across India: low wooden doors, earthy motifs on walls, and clay sculptures. The resort has six standard rooms and two cottages and the manager suggests a room only after gauging the kind of experience you expect.
A large pavilion doubles up as the dining area where local specialities like kadlebele usli (chickpea salad), bendekai palya (sautéed okra), and mint rice make for an unusual but delicious spread. Most meals are made with fresh produce from the resort’s garden.
The Vitals Angana—The Country Inn is 25km/40min from Bengaluru on Kanakapura Road. Look out for the Kaggalipura bus stop on your right and follow the directions inside (No. 55 Pattareddy Palya, Kaggalipura, Kanakapura Road; 080-2843 2888; doubles from ₹6,442).
To hear the sound of silence, turn to Our Native Village in Hessarghatta. One sunny October afternoon, in a bid to detox from city life, my dog and I headed there. I was happy I wouldn’t have to return from another trip to a sulking face and howling complaints. We reached just in time for a fresh lunch made with organic veggies. Friends and their children, who had reached there earlier, had picked them by hand. Our Native Village’s healthy food is just one of the attractions for those with a taste for offbeat experiences.
At the 12-acre property, there are grasslands to explore, local village games to participate in, and when you want to soak, a natural pool to lounge in. Those looking for a more relaxing time can sign up for an Ayurvedic package. But the highlight remains the tranquil ambience, which to my surprise, went down very well with the children—and my dog. Especially because their day is packed with bullock-cart rides, kite flying, and getting a flavour of farm life.
The Vitals Hessarghatta is 33km/50min north of Bengaluru (Kodihalli Village, Hessarghatta Road; 080-41140909; www.ournativevillage.com; doubles from ₹9,900)
Tigers, elephants, and Indian bison guard the slopes of the BRT Tiger Reserve. I missed seeing these wild beauties during my weekend at Gorukana, but there’s something I didn’t miss: the sight of concrete buildings. The resort is scattered with thatch-roofed cottages and a tree house, but as far as the eye can see, there are acres of lofty silver oaks.
The quiet was broken by a crackling sound. I sank lower into my chair until it turned to low, thumping beats, and I could ignore it no further. I sauntered in to the resort’s cosy amphitheatre and watched a group of Soligas, the original inhabitants of these hills, singing a folk song. The resort is well integrated with the local population: Gorukana helps generate livelihoods for them, and a percentage of the profits are ploughed back into sustainable development of the area.
The resort’s decor pays homage to the area’s other residents. Each cottage has a local animal as a mascot and walls bear images of the Indian bison, langur, and sloth bear, a hat tip to the nearby sanctuary. The mild aesthetics, no loud-sounds policy, an endless supply of fresh air, and delicious local specialities like tondekayi palya (ivy gourd) and kosambari, a salad made with pulses and mustard seeds, is just what I needed on a weekend away.
The Vitals Gorukana is 170km/3hr southwest of Bengaluru. The best way to reach is to drive—the journey is not taxing. Take NH209 from Kanakapura Road towards Kollegal. From here, cross the forest checkpost on your left (closed from 6p.m. to 6a.m.) and follow the signage until the resort. Avoid taking the heavily congested Mysore Road (B.R. Hills, Chamrajnagar; 8722003456; www.gorukana.org; ₹3,500 to ₹4,000 per person).
Appeared in the March 2014 issue as “Past City Limits”. Updated in January 2017.