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IANS

With a lengthy Independence Day weekend coming up, make plans to honour India's history while enjoying some downtime. Take some time out to explore India's vast cultural and geographic variety up close and personal and to feel proud of our country's accomplishments.

The largest exhibition of the world's countless cultural ideas, each with its own customs, traditions, language, and cuisine, can be found in India. And we don't even need visas to travel to explore and enjoy this mind-blowing legacy-literally it's only a short drive or flight away! Celebrate India this year by travelling to one of these locations for a glimpse into some seductive, some ancient, and some eclectic cultural and natural history while you indulge yourself, soak up traditional hospitality, and have a well-earned, mindfully opulent vacation.

Check in at these beautiful properties to savour the best of India:

Visalam, Kanadukathan, Tamil Nadu

Explore 19th century Chettiar way of life with this exquisite 15-roomed heritage-boutique property in the Chettinad village of Kanadukathan.

Visalam is a 100-year-old labour of love, a gift from a father to his eldest daughter - a progressive and rare occurrence in those times. A veritable museum, Visalam is one of the finest examples of a typical Chettiar home, Burmese teak woodwork and ornate ceilings, chandeliers from Europe and the Far East, Belgian glasswork, Italian marble, and beautiful handmade tiles, as well as a beautiful heritage pool, all lay testament to the travels, explorations, global design and aesthetic sensibilities of the otherwise traditional Chettinadu traders.

Visalam is authentic through its entire fabric of offerings and serves as a perfect base to explore the Chettiand landscape of local traditions and rich heritage of arts - cycle/walking tours of luxurious architecture and interiors of Chettinad homes, meet the cotton weavers in action, learn the process of making the traditional, vibrant Athangudi tiles, observe the local village life. Hyperlocal experiences have been crafted within the property, including the fiery, nutritious and distinctive Chettinad cuisine cooked by the local village women.

Samode Haveli, Jaipur:

A visit to Rajasthan isn't complete without a taste of the much-spoken-about Rajasthan's royalty. What better way to experience this than to stay at one of the truest reflection of Rajputana hospitality located just within the Old city of Jaipur, the 200-year old Samode Haveli. With gorgeously intricate walls murals, some 100s of years old, art and furnishings of colourful flowing fabrics, and elegant rooms and suites spread across bougenvilla fringed courtyards, terraces and alcoves, the Haveli is what fairytales are made of. Indulge in local Rajasthani cuisine, there's much to explore for plant and meat lovers, as well as other International cuisines and don't miss the morning guided walks around the old-city curated by the hotel; step outside the gates to revel in the city markets, museums and art centres, Samode Haveli is perfect for a whole-some flavour of sophisticated royalty, binge-eating, Jaipur experiences and instagrammable holiday!

Jehan Numa Palace, Bhopal:

It is easy to see why the Bhopal city and the surrounding regions are so well-planned, clean roads, elegant architecture (Taj-ul-Masjid and others), well-placed administration, thoughtfully laid of greens and water bodies, with a legacy in enriching literature and arts. Respect for the local tribes, the natural environment and Bhopal's history is evident on the streets, in their civic sense, their museums (Tribal museum and Museum of Man) and their demeanor.

After all, Bhopal was ruled by the powerful women of the royal family for over 400 years, and is popularly known as 'The land of the Begums'. Carrying the Bsgums' philosophy of preserving the environmental and cultural heritage forward are the Jehan Numa Palace and the Jehan Numa Retreat, and the people behind them, the direct descendents of the Begums.

Jehan Numa Palace stands at the foot of Shyamla Hills with sweeping views of the city. Built by the last son of the Begum, General Obaidullah Khan in the early 19th century, the Palace beautifully captures the family's legacy and history of Bhopal and the royal's way of life. The royal Bhopali cuisine with a treasure trove of dishes created using centuries-old recipes are served along with the global, modern cuisines, heritage rooms open onto balconies with views of the pool of the royal stables and racecourse - undeterred love for horses has been a significant legacy in the family.

The Jehan Numa Museum located in the central courtyard embodies the unique story of Bhopal and the Royal Family, tracing their engagements and efforts. Jehan Numa Palace is synonymous with an understanding of Bhopal's history, so much so that all walking tours begin at its door.

Chittoor Kottaram, Kochi, Kerala:

Earthy Kerala luxuries and elegance mark every inch of this 200 year old King's abode, a royal mansion of devotion by the picturesque backwaters. Built by the Rajah of Cochin as a getaway from his routine and to pay homage to the family deity temple closeby, Chittoor Kottaram is a destination by itself.

Entering the single-key heritage palace with a mystical boat ride through the Kerala waters and one is already transported to a fantastical bygone era. Carefully and meticulously restored by Lady Halyn's Trust, this true-blooded legacy lies in an embrace of mystical gardens and the stunning backwaters with swaying palms and flowering creepers. Airy, well-lit and most aesthetically decorated, 3 bedrooms and living quarters are dotted with wooden windows, a beautiful verandah and backyard to sit back, relax and enjoy the most gorgeous greens and waters.

Enjoy dishes that are Kerala's best-kept secrets, as carefully planned and personalised to suit tastes and dietary needs, and let Mervin, the traditional karyasthan (royal caretaker) regale with you anecdotes and stories of the Palace. Do keep a day to explore the UNESCO protected town of Fort Kochi, for its eclectic history and food! The history lovers can also visit the Muziris archaeological museum for a dose of the latest findings on the legendary community.

Spice Coast Cruises:

Explore Kerala differently! Kettuvallams were once used to carry cargoes of rice and spices up and down these Kerala waterways for centuries. CGH Earth Spice Coast Cruises dress these traditional houseboats as gorgeous floating hotels for authentic experiences of Kerala's backwaters cultural and natural heritage.

Offering single and twin cabins, the bedrooms are private and traditionally luxurious with serene water views; the houseboats also comprise a living space and front deck. Charming local fisherfolk form your personal entourage, serving cuisine and crafting activities that truly capture the story and lifestyles of the people for whom the waterways serve as a source of life. CGH offers some extraordinary itineraries on these exquisite houseboats. However, even a weekend getaway on these boats is a unique experience in serendipity and cultural insights. And one that you can pack with water activities such as standup paddling and canoeing for that extra zing to the fun!

Fazlani Natures Nest, Lonavla, Maharashtra:

Overlooking the majestic mountains of the Western Ghats and surrounded by dense green lands with a plethora of flora and fauna, Fazlani Natures Nest resort offers a breath-taking display of lush green lawns beside azure lake waters in a tranquil hamlet called Takwe near Lonavala in Maharashtra.

The visual delight is therapeutic. Conveniently located between Mumbai and Pune, the resort focuses on integrated healing treatments from recognized alternative healthcare principles. Every guest is provided with genuine and authentic therapies to align their lifestyle towards a balanced state of wellness. Some of the therapies offered at Fazlani Natures Nest are unique and one-of-its-kind available in the country. The resort offers unique experiences such as "Equine therapy" - a powerful method of treatment that incorporates horses in a collaborative effort with incredible results to treat individuals with specific needs. You can Indulge in a hearty dining experience from a variety of international best-sellers and local delicacies and immerse yourself in a holistic living sphere.

A personalised healthcare itinerary is created for each guest which encompasses a range of procedures using a combination of Ayurveda and Naturopathy to offer the best of rebalancing and rejuvenating experiences as per their body constitution. The multitude of treatments available center around the healing process through natural healing methodologies. Besides Ayurveda, Naturopathy, a variety of yoga practices are also offered to guests to try and improve any health condition that exists.

Mansion Haus, Goa

Mansion Haus is a heritage property turned boutique hotel. This 18th Century family residence restored by Kezya De Braganca is an ideal place to enjoy the magical transformation of this picturesque former Portuguese colony. Guests will be charmed its timeless architecture, curated gastronomic journeys and luxurious stay at Goa's most effervescent neighbourhood, Anjuna.

The former private mansion has been transformed into a luxury boutique hotel. It is proud of its characteristic Goan architecture and neo-classical decor, which gently strike a balance between hotel comforts and environmental concerns. Every meal is guaranteed to be an epicurean adventure to remember when it is prepared using gourmet, organic, and local ingredients.

The fact that the venture is being led by a local woman entrepreneur, whose family has been deeply ingrained in the city's rich culture for centuries, gives it authenticity. The property is designed to be a quiet retreat for the discerning traveller, offering all the conveniences, solitude, and familiarity of a home while being rich in history, art, and culture. world-class hospitality to offer a warm human connection and immersive experiential hospitality.
 

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