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Sift through the following places to find the weekend holiday haunt that suits your mood and money power -----Set off on the trail of the Big Cat in the country’s best tiger reserves,says Deepesh Das--

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DESTINATIONS -----

PARADISE FOR EVERY POCKET ---

PURI ---

Travel :Rs.900(up-down).Hop onto the Puri towards train.You can also drive down ,which will cost you more if you are renting a car.

Stay & Food : Rs.2400 for three days.The New Marine Drive area(towards the lighthouse)is a good place to put up if you are eyeing a budget holiday and decent rooms are available for Rs.800 a day.

Food : Rs.1000.A trip to Puri is incomplete without a bite of delicious goja.Pack some up and savour it on yourway back to home.Also try chhnapora.

Sight-seeing : Rs.700.Some of the top picks are the Jagannath Temple,Sakhi Gopal,Konark Temple,Chandrabhaga Beach,Dhabalgiri,Udaygiri and Khandagiri.When In Puri,shop for seashell handicrafts or saris.Splash about during the day and take a walk along the beach in the evening.

GANGTOK ----

Travel :Rs.1200(AC 3-tier).From Kolkata - The Darjeeling Mail,Uttar Banga Express,Kanchenjunga Express and Kanchan Kanya are some of the options.Volvo buses(A.C.sleeper bus; Rs.500)and the state-run buses are also available.

Stay & Food : Put up at a hotel for as little as Rs300 per night.And there are a range of more splush options for all budgets.Add another Rs100 per meal ,if not less.

Sight-seeing and shopping : The scenic Gangtok has a lot on offer.There are stupas,monasteries and waterfalls.Check out the Rumtek monastery and Enchey monastery. Woolens,bamboo art and stone-studded wristlets are some of the must-buys.Make a day trip to Chhangu Lake,with cash to spare.

GOPALPUR ----

Travel : Rs.600(up-down from Kolkata).Board a train to Behrampur,16 km from Gopalpur.You can also fly to Bhubaneswar and then travel by road

Stay & food : Rs.2400 for four days.You can put up at one of the sea-facing hotels.Charges vary between Rs.300 and Rs.800 per night.Try the fresh seafood.

Sight-seeing : Rs.500.The beach is the main attraction at Gopalpur.Frequent visitors say boat rides are a must.Also do make

it a point to visit the lighthouse for a bird's eye view.Don't expect to find much else to do - except relax.

MANDARMANI ----

Travel : Expect to pay about Rs.120(up-down by train from Kolkata).Catch the Shalimar Digha Express.If you are renting a car or driving your own vehicle,costs will be higher and it will take you around four-and --half-hours.Buses also ply from Esplanade.Charges vary between Rs.76 and Rs.160

Stay & food : Hotel rooms come as cheap as Rs.300 and go up to around Rs.2800

Sight-seeing : The beach is the main attraction.Try your hand at beach volleyball,cricket,football and complete relax

VISAKHAPATNAM ----

Travel : Rs.1800 (up-down from Kolkata;AC 3-tier,overnight).Flights (Rs.9000 approximately,return)are also an option,but won't leave you with much to spend.

Stay : Rs.5000 for four days.In Rushikonda,which is the quieter side of Bisakhapatnam,there are plenty of guest-houses and hotels.A stay at the AP Tourism lodge overlooking the sea at Rushikonda is a good option if booked in advance.Hotels and cottages are available for Rs.500 a night to Rs.2000.

Sight-seeing : Rs.2000.Hire a car(Rs.1000) to take you to the Borra caves with stalactite and stalagmite formations,and hill station Araku valley.Visit the different beaches like Lawson's Bay Beach,Ramakrishna beach and take a tour of the submarine museum.

Food :Rs.2000.Food is a little expensive.A meal at a restaurant (for one) would cost Rs.200-Rs.250,while street food is cheaper but not always available.The spicy Andhra curries are a must.

JAIPUR -----

Travel : Rs.3200(train) + Rs.800(bus) from Kolkata.Since there are no direct trains from Kolkata,a break journey via either Jodhpur or Delhi are the best choices.Hop on to

the Jodhpur-Howrah Express or take the Rajdhani to the capital and then a Volvo bus.Delhi is just 259kms from the Pink City and is connected by the NH8.

Stay : To get a feel of the royal life,stay at a palace hotel(not less than Rs.3000).But for the budget-minded ,comfortable accommodation fopr around Rs.800 is also available.

Food :Rs.1500.Rajasthani and Marwari food are scrumptious,with delicacies like gatte ki sabzi and dal bati churma in addition to sweets like moong dal ka halwa and ghewar.For foodies,a trip to the village resort of Chokhi Dhani is a must.Here,a hearty Rajasthani meal served desi-style costs Rs.245 and the hospitality will keep smiling for days.

Sight-seeing : Rs.1500.The city comes with a historical buffet as well,including Amer Palace and Jaigarh,Nahargarh and Amber Forts.Raj Mandir is rare pre-independence

palatial movie hall,with nominal entry charges of Rs.20 to Rs.40.For shopaholics,the meenakari and jadau trinkets at Johri bazaar are great bargain buys and the rainbow-coloured Rajasthani skirts at Babubazaar are pop picks.

AGRA-DELHI ----

Travel : Rs.1000(up-down from Kolkata;sleeper class);Rs.3000 plus (Rajdhani Express).

Stay & food :Rs.6000 for three days.Expect to pay Rs.2000 a day at a decent guest-house at Karol Bagh.You will find plenty of hotels for less in R.K.Puram or near the airport yhrough Gurgaon.Take a conducted day-trip to Agra and Fatehpur Sikri(Rs.800-Rs.900) which leaves in the morning and brings you back late evening.

Food :As little as Rs.1000 for your entire trip.Or as much as you would like to spend.You will find food from every corner of the country and many corners of the world here.

Sight-seeing : Rs.2000.Tour buses take you around the city to tourist spots like Qutub Minar,Red Fort and India Gate for as little as Rs.200

ANDAMAN AND NICOBER ISLANDS ----

Travel :Rs.15000return (by air) from Kolkata.Rs.3000-Rs.6000 one-way (by ship) from Kolkata.

Stay :Rs.20000.Two days at Port Blair(Rs.2000-Rs.3000 a night at government lodges) and three days at Havelock.Accommodation at Havelock is more expensive and a room could easily costs you Rs.4000-Rs.5000 a night in a four star hotel like Wild Orchid.Take a ferry (Rs.300-Rs.400) from Port Blair to Havelock Island.Be prepared for ferry cancellation without notice in case of bad weather conditions.

Sight-seeing : Rs.2000.At Port Blair ,visit the museum(Rs.50) and Cellular Jail.At Havelock,The Radhanagar beach is exquisite.Check out the active volcano on Barren Island.Many islands have hostile tribes and visitors are not allowed.

Activities :Rs.7000.A speedboat from Havelock will take you to smaller islands for snorkelling (Rs.2000-Rs.2500),including gear.Start early at 6a.m. and finish off by 11.30 a.m.Carry your own food and plenty of sunblock.Adventure buffs can also try out scuba diving,trekking (try the nature trail from Mt.Harriet to Madhuban) or island camping.

Food : Rs.6000 for five days.

KERALA ---

Travel :Rs.15000 return from Kolkata.

Stay : Rs.25000 for a five-day stay.Try to include at least one night on a houseboat.

Sight-seeing : Rs.7000.Visit the verdant backwaters as well as Varkala,Kovalam and Munnar.Don't miss the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary,the Jewish Synagogue in Kochi and the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.Keep your binoculars ready,in case you get see a Nilgiri tahr(a goat).Kerala is also famous for its Ayurvedic massages,so do pamper yourself when there.A massage costs Rs.1500(per session).

Food :Rs.3000.Meen Moily(fish curry) is a classic.

THE SUMMER CALL ---

Her are some domestic summer specials that are being offered on popular travel websites :--

www.makemytrip.com

The Shimla Mall :A great getaway when the sun burns down

Himachal : A six-night/seven-day stay in Himachal Pradesh (Shimla-Manali-Chandigarh)with breakfast and dinner.

Price : Rs.12,999 per person on twin sharing basis

Extra child :will set you back by Rs.5,830

Kerala : A six-night/seven-day vacation to the south (Cochin-Kumarakom-Thekkady-Munnar).Tour highlights are backwaters at Kumarakom and a hill station experience at Munnar,with breakfast and dinner.

Price :Rs.12,999 per person on twin sharing basis with an air-conditioned car for sightseeing

Extra child :Rs.5,830

Kashmir/Uttaranchal : A 6 night/7 day stay at Kashmir(Srinagar--Pahalgam-Sonmarg-Gulmarg)or Uttaranchal (Corbett-Ranikhet-Nainital)with daily buffet breakfast and buffet dinner

Price :Rs.12,999 per person on twin sharing basis

Extra child :Rs.5,830

www.yatra.com

Mahabaleshwar : Weekday hotel package includes accommodation in a non-A/C deluxe room,breakfast,lunch and dinner for Rs.1,166 per person per night.While you're there,visit the Krishna Valley,Venna Lake,Lingmala waterfall,Tapola Lake and Arthur's Seat.

www.indiadekho.com

Darjeeling: A three-night stay at this popular hill station.Costs include three night's accommodation on twin sharing basis,sightseeing trips of Darjeeling by non-A/C  vehicle ,a trip to Rock Garden and Ganga Maya Park and complimentary accommodation for one child (below 5 years) without extra bed.

Price :Rs.5,735 per person rates on twin sharing basis.

                  A JUNGLE QUEST

It’s the season to keep your date with the tiger.Since most wildlife parks are open during winter and right through summer; it’s time to make your plans.In peak winter months the forests get very cold,so come spring and the visitors from India and abroad begin to pour in.

You can go looking for the tiger in a many parks across the country.But the ones we recommend are those where tiger sightings are a distinct possibility.And if by chance the tiger eludes you,feast your eyes on rare birds and other fauna.Alongwith comfortable accommodation and everything from permits to jungle safaris are taken care of by the resorts.So all you need to carry along are your binoculars.

 

The Sunderbans –

A Unesco World Heritage Site,the Sunderbans is home to the famous Royal Bengal Tiger as well as myriad birds and reptiles that inhabit its thick mangrove forests.Open year-round,the Sundarbans offers an experience like no other with its miles of dense forests,the experience of cruising along the waterways in search of the Big Cats –and very little human habitation.

Reaching the Sundarbans is easy.Just hop on to a direct bus from Calcutta to the Sundarbans Tiger Camp(the resort).If you are not staying at thye camp and prefer a riverine cruise for your tiger-hunting expedition,then travel by bus to Sajnekhali and get on to one of the luxury launches run by the West Bengal government.You can stay on-board and have your meals on the launch for a price.

Hot Ticket :

The eight-year-old Sundarbans Tiger Camp provides comfortable accommodation in all price categories –ranging from tents and huts to ultra-luxurious cottages.A 1-night and 2-day package in an air-conditioned cottage will cost Rs.4050/- and will include meals,accommodation and transportation to and from Calcutta in a non-air-conditioned bus(for two adults).The same package will cost Rs.4650/- for an executive cottage.A 2-night and 3-day package in an air-conditioned cottage will cost Rs.7450 and Rs.8500 for the executive cottage.Transportation is by non-air-conditioned bus.Sight-seeing expeditions via boat in the mangrove forest come free along with all the packages.

 

Manas National park-

Try catching glimpses of tigers,rhinos,elephants and birds in the Himalayan foothills at Manas National Park.Accessible by bus from Guwahati (176 km) and a short drive from Barpeta (it’s the nearest railway station),Manas is a World Heritage Site for being home to rare animal species like the clouded leopard,one-horned rhinos,langur,hispid hare,pygmy hog and red panda.

You can hire a jeep or take an elephant ride through the park.The best time to visit is between October and May.The park remains closed for three months between June and August.

 

Hot Ticket :

Perched on the edge of the national park,The Bansbari Lodge is a four-hour drive from Guwahati.The lodge offers 16 double bedrooms which cost Rs.1500 (plus tax)per night.All meals cost an extra Rs.550 per person,per day.A half-day jeep safari costs Rs.1500 and Rs.1800 for the full day and elephant rides cost Rs.300 per person per ride(one hour).

 

Jim Corbett National Park –

Considered amongst India’s best loved national parks,it is named after the legendary Jim Corbett who spent the better part of his life hunting down man-eating tigers.The chances of spotting a tiger here are high as there’s reportedly one tiger lurking in every five acres of forest.The best time to visit the park is between November and April,while the park shuts down between June 30 and September 1.

 Hot Ticket :

A 2-night and 3-day package at The Corbett Hideaway costs Rs.12,600 (plus seven percent taxes) for an executive room and this includes accommodation on twin sharing basis and breakfast.The resort also offers 52 air-conditioned cottages and a 2-night package costs Rs.20000 for a family suite (2 adults,2 kids)which also throws in breakfast.The resort can organize jeep safaris into the forest which cost an additional Rs.2400 for a four –hour drive  and Rs.30 as entry fees per person.

 

Kanha Tiger Reserve –

Besides the Big Cat,Kanha is home to 43 species of mammals and more than 300 species of birds.If the tiger eludes you.you might spot the rare barasingha,the Indian fox,the sloth bear,the striped hyena,the leopard and other animals.You can reach Kanha via train/air.The best time for tiger-sighting is between October and April .The park remains closed for three months between July 1 and September 30.

 Hot Ticket :

The Royal Tiger Resort offers two packages –the Jungle Plan and the American Plan.The Jungle Plan costs Rs.10,900 per night for twoin a cottage room with all meals ,a visit to the local villageand a five-hour jeep safari(to the park with a guide).The American Plan costs Rs.8500 for mtwo and includes all meals and morning tea.The safari to the park costs Rs.4000 the whole day while videography charges are Rs.10,000.The resort also arranges for pick up and drop to and fro Jabalpur airport in an air-conditioned car at a two-way charge of Rs.9,000.