Take a slow holiday this New Year with Nature trails and village stays
A quick Google search on travel trends for 2023 indicates several holiday patterns that are bound to see a rise — solo trips, vacations influenced by films and social media, and tours to the metaverse. But one trend that seems to be on almost every survey’s list is the rise of slow travel.
As compared to mainstream itineraries, a typical ‘slow’ holiday plan involves travellers getting an immersive experience of a region’s local culture, art, culinary history, and even farming practices. In the 2022 Global Travel Trends study conducted by American Express Travel, 81% respondents are looking to travel to destinations where they can immerse themselves in the local culture, and 62% want to be more thoughtful about where and how they travel.
As you get started on your year-ender vacation plans, here are our top picks for a slow travel holiday: a craft tour in Tamil Nadu, a forage walk in Mumbai, e-cycling across the NorthEast… the choices are endless, as are the possibilities of experiencing a new way of travelling.
The Farm and Forest Forage: Jack and Hill Adventures, Mumbai
Through this experience, co-founder Johann Daniels tries to connect back to our farms and forests and learn how to eat healthy by sustainably foraging meals. A typical day on the farm starts at 7am with breakfast, introductions and a conversation about the experience. “We educate people about the tribals and their sustainable ways of acquiring food. We then move on to a farm walk where we introduce all the wild plants that grow on the farm, are edible and are great substitutes to popular vegetables. We then begin harvesting wild plants from the farm for lunch and then move into activities to process the plants that are cooked for the meal,” says Johann, about the walk hosted by co-founder Shardul Patil and his wife, Anuradha.
With every change in season, there is a change in the availability of wild plants on the farm and in the forest, which is why every batch works with a different set of wild plants and activities. Apart from the TFFF, the outfit also hosts outdoor experiences in and around Mumbai such as hikes, mountain biking trips, rock climbing, birding and wildlife trails, etc, and custom tours that can also be designed.
However, Johann urges travellers not to geotag lesser-known destinations. This, he says, is due to the destruction of many pristine natural landscapes post the social media boom over the years. “With media houses and influencers utilising pictures and videos of natural locations to get a wide reach online, the reaction is offline. This translates into sending an estimated 1,000 to 4,000 people a day to a waterfall hidden/Nature spot in the forest that has no authority to protect it,” says Johann.
Approximately ₹2,500 per head. jackandhilladventures.com
Nature trail at Chorao: Soul Travelling, Goa
The four-year-old enterprise was kickstarted to break the stereotypes associated with a typical Goan holiday: starting your day with a beer being the most common, says co-founder Varun Hegde. With categories of village excursions, culinary experiences, history and culture, among others, each includes multiple experiences under it. For instance, the Nature and wildlife category features a trail that includes bird spotting on an island, a beautiful boat ride through the mangroves along with various other inclusions, and also an immersive fishing experience at Assolna in South Goa.
One of their most popular experiences at present is a Nature trail at Chorao, says Varun. “We explore the island and spot some beautiful migratory birds.” The Divar Island Exploration is another such experience wherein guests meet locals to hear interesting stories about the island. “Our city walks such as the Latin Quarter Walk and the Cultural Walk at Margao have also been in our top five trails,” he says.
For 2023, Varun is looking forward to their Tribal Food Trail in Canacona which is making a comeback after the pandemic hit. “We also have multiple festivals planned like the SoGo festival in South Goa, Games of Goa festival around traditional Goan games, etc. and even local Goan festivals such as Mussol Khel, Chikhal Kalo, and Makhar.”
₹599 + GST per person for an experience that lasts for a minimum of 2.5 hours. soultravelling.in.
A weaving tour: The Papyrus Itineraries, Tamil Nadu
Be it watching handloom weavers making Negamam sarees; potters crafting terracotta dolls and clay figurines, native tribes leading treks, or a palm leaf artist designing colourful parrots and thorans, the experiential tour company has a lot to offer. “We ensure the livelihood of native people, who are extremely crucial in adding value to the tours we offer, is enhanced and cared for,” says founder Pravin Shanmughanandam.
Addressing how he makes the local communities a pivotal part of each tour, Pravin explains that “we let them share their personal experiences, connect with the guests, and reveal their identity. This makes them inclusive rather than just getting paid for their time and services”.
Upwards of ₹750 per head. thepapyrusitineraries.in
Stay at a permaculture farm: Vaksana Farm Stay, Tamil Nadu
Guests can experience living at a 13-acre “active, integrated, organic, natural and pet-friendly” farm with just two cottages. “We have cows, calves, ponies, goats, sheep, rabbits, dogs and puppies. Soon, we will be adding chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, ducks and swans,” says host Kiruba Shankar, adding that they also have two large Olympic-sized ponds (not swimming pools) filled with natural rainwater that are “excellent to swim in”. A guided walk through their fruit orchard with over 20 varieties of fruits, a special mango orchard, space for growing millets and paddy, etc can also be organised. “Every family gets to plant a tree sapling as a way to celebrate their stay at the farm.”
As for the food, all meals — authentic vegetarian, village fare, are lovingly made by Lakshmi Paati, 90, the farm’s matriarch, and her 71-year-old daughter, Lakshmi Ammal. Geared up for 2023, Kiruba is now planning to construct a third farm cottage meant for large families. ₹8,000 per night on weekends and ₹6,000 a night on weekdays. vaksanafarms.in
Tour a cardamom plantation: Kalarickal Heritage plantation, Kerala
At this 65 -acre cardamom plantation, guests have the opportunity to see how cardamom is processed right from the picking until the final stage. “We provide guided plantation walks to understand how spices are grown. Guests can even have a look at the processing of these spices which involves washing, drying, grading and packing at the factory which is situated in the property,” says owner Merin Sam, adding that the heritage bungalow was built by her grandfather.
The fresh spices (cardamom and pepper) are branded under the label Kalarickal Fresh spices. “One can trek uphill through the plantation and stop by the waterbody. We also have some lovely birds that frequent the property like the Malabar whistling thrush, sunbirds, hornbilletc,” she adds. The eight rooms aside, the property also houses a basketball court, conference room and dining hall. ₹3,000 per room on a twin share basis. khplantation.com
NORTH and CENTRAL
E-cycle across the North- East: Offbeat Tracks, Telangana
Supporting local micro entrepreneurs is key to every experience here, says founder Vandana Vijay, who operates across the Himalayas and other parts of India. For the year-end, she is launching an e-cycling tour in December across the North- East. In the summer of 2023, similar e-bicycling tours to explore remote Ladakh, the Siachen glacier, and Manali will be launched.
As for the popular trails, offbeat tours to Kashmir are in demand, and with Bhutan finally reopening for tourism after two years, the team is excited to bring back their popular trails in the region. “Our food experiences are a hit too. We have a Ladakhi meal at the home of a Ladakhi family, a Himachali meal, Naga meal and the famous Kashmiri Wazwan,” adds Vandana.
Some of their key trips have included the solar electrification of a remote village in Ladakh (2017) with a group of 14 participants from the US, and hosting the Nadav family from Israel. “This was an interesting group ranging from the oldest being 72 and the youngest being 6. They spent four weeks with us this October trekking across Himachal and Ladakh,” says Vandana.
A Nomad trail: Tons Trails, Uttarakhand
Founder Anand Sankar says one of their popular experiences is the Nomad Trail, where “we take you on shepherd paths and make you learn the pastoral life of shepherds in the Himalayas”. Explaining how this trail came to be, Anand says he had been documenting the lives and practices of shepherds for many years. “ I realised this is a story that must be experienced by all. It’s a dying form of life and livelihood in some of the harshest terrain in the world,” he says.
While there isn’t much planned for the year-end as it’s the peak of winter, Anand is planning a “full summer trip calendar”, a first post-lockdown. Experiences typically cost between ₹2,000 and ₹3,500 per day. tons.travel.
A village tour in Binsar: Villageways, Uttarakhand
“On our holidays, you are not the guest of one family, but the guest of the village,” says founder Manisha Pande who curates tours in partnership with their network of villages across the country. The team works in different States and offers a variety of options: right from walking in the Himalayas and spending time in the desert village of Rajasthan to wildlife experiences in Madhya Pradesh and slow holidays in Karnataka and Kerala.
Their village tour in Binsar remains on the top of the list as it is an introduction to mild walking between villages and staying in village guest houses. “You visit and stay in each of the six Binsar villages. Guests watch or help harvest the fruit, tend the buffalo or work in the fields, or help prepare traditional dishes using the day’s harvest. There is a wonderful diversity of produce; from coriander, buck wheat and rice, to cocoa yams, sweet lemons and pomegranates.”
Upcoming holidays include: a Christmas and New Year special at Hulgol, Karnataka, followed by a visit to the women committee-led village of Mothakkara in Wayanad, and then to the lesser visited part of the backwaters of Kerala; and trips to Binsar in March for Holi and the birding season. villageways.com