Sunday, May 15 2022

Dive In

It’s in those quiet little towns, at the edge of the world, that you will find the salt of the earth people who make you feel right at home.

That’s Aaron Lauritsen in ‘100 Days Drive: The Great American Road Trip.’ We’ll save you our philosophical ponderings about travel’s regenerative powers—especially when you explore the many off-radar, out-of-the-way locations that India offers. But we will say that the locals who live in the remote mountains of India possess the elixir of life—and they’re happy to share it with you, if you choose to accept. 


Editor’s note: There is so much travel content everywhere—websites, blogs, reviews… and yet it is almost impossible to find trustworthy recommendations except from friends or fam. We partnered with Urbanaut—founded and run by the amazing Samyukta Ranganathan—precisely to help you rediscover India. You’ll get their travel recommendation once a month. We love the integrity and passion that Samyukta and her team bring to everything they do. And no, we’re not making a dime out of this. As with all our weekend newsletters, this is about supporting the work of talented, committed founders and journalists. That’s the splainer way:)


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Experiences we love

Offbeat and under the radar in Manali

The TLDR:  We get it—everyone’s back to working from the office (although our good friend Covid seems to be back for Season 4 as well) and it’s too hot to think about the beach. But if you find yourself dreaming about the mountains for a summer getaway, look no further. Might we tempt you to ‘re-discover’ the well-trodden destination of Manali? Take a look at some of these delightful, hand-picked experiences in the popular region and change your perspective—because that’s what we’re all about.


Sometime after the first lockdown was lifted, images of Manali’s Mall Road went viral (there’s a Covid joke somewhere here) for being nauseatingly crowded. It’s true, Manali has the reputation of being the go-to place for the masses and so this stunning but fragile region has now been relegated to mindless reels and cringey Instagram posts. 


We invite you to delve deeper and explore the area meaningfully—and our experiences are intended to help you do just that. We’ve got something for the leisure-seeker, the local adventurer or the culinary enthusiast—all responsibly curated with world-class partners who value safety and deliver the highest quality experiences. Peruse at your own risk—of rushing off and booking a holiday, of course.


Raison Riverside Feast: A truly magical property located right on the gushing river Beas. Raison is a little paradise about one-hour from Manali. You’ll be surrounded by numerous fruit trees, natural alcoves and breathtakingly scenic views of the Himalayas and the river. The food at this experience is freshly cooked using organic vegetables and poultry raised within the property. The recipes favour simple home-style cooking using natural spices and local ingredients. This is a wonderful experience to ease into your holiday with. 


Quad Biking: An adrenaline rush speeding through dirt tracks. This is a private lush green forest reserve offering a number of challenges and suitable for all types of thrill-seekers. And like all things Manali, you’ll be treated to fantastic views throughout. Again, located about 45 minutes from Manali, you’ll gear up (and look very cool) and complete a short training course before you set off on this fun experience. The team ensures the highest safety standards on world-class All-Terrain vehicles as you follow the guide. Definitely an experience for those who like to say “I did the coolest thing in…” and who doesn’t? 


Glacier View Hike in Lahaul Valley: If you’re even moderately fit, I implore you to trust me and go on this hike. Never before have I wanted time to stand still in this way. A one-hour drive from Manali and you enter Lahaul—thanks to the tunnel which shaves 3-4 hours off this journey. Grey skies and wet terrain give way to the start of the cold desert vegetation. Think bright blue skies, jagged peaks, river valleys with gushing glacier waters and the clearest air.


You’ll start the hike from a broad flat area along the Chandra river and for the most part it’s a gentle, undulating walk until the glacier makes its appearance and the river valley opens up before you. The likelihood of meeting a shepherd (these guys are true bad-a**es, braving frigid water and wind with not so much as a jacket for protection) is high, as is the desire to never, ever leave. Hikes with vistas like these usually take longer than 2 days, but this day hike is a rare opportunity to experience so much in just a few hours. The partners are truly world-class, and you’ll return forever changed. 


The Binsar Walking Trail: Now for those of you who still have no desire to go to Manali (tough crowd!), we do have another soulful mountain getaway. The Binsar Walking Trail, in partnership with our incredible friends at Knowhere Travel (who have carefully curated this experience with local partners) is a truly life-altering holiday in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. 


You’ll walk from one remote village to the next (don’t worry, sprightly porters carry your bags) through dense forests of Oak, Rhododendron and Pine. The call of the leopard, or the bark of a deer might be the only sounds you’ll hear and you’ll witness the occasional Himalayan peak peeking out at you every now and then. Accommodation is in clean village homes built by the local community, and your guides are incredibly hospitable and well-trained locals. If you’re looking to not only connect with nature but truly immerse yourself in a different way of life, this holiday is meant for you.  


We’ll be back with more exciting recommendations next month—rumour has it that we may be scouting for experiences in Ladakh and Kashmir. You’ll hear it here first!

What's up urbanaut

Ok, it’s time for introductions—so you know who we are. Urbanaut curates authentic recommendations from those who know best—creative, discerning locals in different cities. We often joke that even if no one else ever uses Urbanaut, we have a treasure trove of places that we would have never heard of without this job. So win-win for us! But 20k+ travellers do use our app just in case you were wondering!


We’re an early-stage travel tech startup (fancy lingo for the win!), female-founded, and with dreams of being in cities and countries around the world. The discerning traveller is having her/his moment, and we’re here for it—and we sure as hell plan to be a part of it!


We’ve got recommendations in 25+ cities and bookable experiences that you’ve never heard of, but definitely want to try in Goa, Mumbai, Alibag, Manali and Dharamshala—and we’ll be launching soon in plenty of exciting new destinations in India and abroad.


Download Urbanaut on the App Store or Play Store and get started. 

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