Aalaya by Happy Retreats – A Getaway Destination Amidst the Concrete Jungle

Ever been someplace that makes you think of doing something uncharacteristic? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me a couple months ago, during a staycation at Aalaya by Happy Retreats, a charming property with lush greenery and enthusiastic, well-trained, attentive staff, located off Tumkur Road. Pegged as a venue for weddings and special events, we were invited to experience the property over a weekend, and were lucky enough to have the place to ourselves. After a leisurely walk through the property, with its bountiful fruit (mango, jackfruit, chickoo, papaya), sandalwood and rudraksha trees and multitude of bushes and shrubs, not to mention a darling little gazebo and a stately set of stairs connecting the 1st floor to a wraparound balcony that ran the length of the house, I found myself thinking I could (almost) get married just to be able to celebrate the occasion here!

The very entrance to the property, the car parking area, and the grounds are testament to the love and attention shown to the space to keep it looking verdant, pretty, and event ready, not to mention providing the perfect escape from the concrete jungle, without needing to travel far at all! I am quietly plotting a reason to head back – and no you don’t have to have an event like wedding/birthday/anniversary/bachelorette/team outing/etc to book – they do accept bookings for a little vacation away from home too. Whether you are a group of colleagues, friends, a family with kids, or a couple looking for a romantic spot, Aalaya will be able to cater to your needs.There are, at present, four well appointed bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, two on the ground floor and two on the first, and with additional bedding and spaces across the two floors and a loft space as well, they can actually house 15 plus people comfortably. There is a full dining table and bar, ample living room seating on both floors, and one can’t help but feel like they are visiting a posh but still cozy and welcoming home. With so many knickknacks and objects d’art all over, it was also tempting to keep clicking away at every nook!

During the course of our 24 hours there, we were treated to home style cooking and simple but delicious food, with the spread featuring both veg and non-veg items, served by the ever-smiling and helpful staff. Oh and a shout-out to the excellent masala chai! In the afternoon, we did a little pottery making and for the evening, they really went all out, setting up a space under a canopy of lights, and even speakers so we could enjoy music as we ate and drank and enjoyed the gurgling of the little waterfall (another brilliant touch). I don’t think I have felt more at peace and been in a more chill atmosphere just minutes from the hulaboo of Bangalore city life! And if you are there to party, well, the space is made for that, after all! We all took turns sitting out on the swing on the grounds, a grand old wooden affair, and I also went and sat in the gazebo (which works beautifully as a mandap or central highlight spot) once it had been lit, spending a half hour musing about life and enjoying the absolute serenity and beauty of the place, and counting my blessings!

Details: Pricing and booking details available on their website

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Mugilu – An Escape from the city in the hills of Sakleshpur

A large part of wellness, for me, is maintaining my equilibrium and mental peace. When I am frazzled, my sleep, my eating habits, and motivation for exercise – it all goes for a toss. I have realized that a small vacation, just even an escape for one night from the usual scene, getting away to the hills or a lake or wherever, has immense powers of rejuvenation. I come back and can get back to the plodding daily grind for a few more months. And then it will be rinse and repeat time again.

One such place I discovered by word of mouth, having heard about it over and again from friends, is this peaceful, serene, and eco-friendly homestay in Sakleshpur, called Mugilu. About a four hour drive from Bangalore, and with decent highways and roads for a good part of the distance, it is only the last 10-15 kms that are on rough terrain and uneven roads. Mugilu is the last estate in a row of places, and you will be welcomed, first and foremost, by Shunti, one of the resident canines, who is incredibly friendly and will play tour guide when you walk around the estate or head to nearby fields. You can also take your own dog(s) along.

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Unlike a traditional homestay where everyone is in one building, there are four individual and very private cottages set across a verdant coffee and pepper plantation. The place has been designed and set up to go with the ecology – nothing jarring or post modern here, just stone and wood and earthy tones. Each cottage has its very own balcony that affords a fantastic view and the sounds of bird song as well as tiny visitors by way of flying insects and the like. Each cottage boasts a different colored theme, basic rustic furniture – rough wooden bed and chairs and table in the balcony, and stone floored bathrooms with big glass windows so you can commune with nature even while bathing. You will surely forget about your troubles here!

With no television or air conditioning, (forget WiFi), and limited phone signal, this place is all about getting in touch with nature and leaving gadgets, technology, and modernity behind. Even the hot water for bathing is heated on a fire and then piped into the rooms, for a limited period of time each day. The package per night includes three meals, with tea and snacks available for a little extra, that will even be brought to you room. But breakfast, lunch, and dinner are taken in the common dining and leisure area, and honestly, it’s so pretty and peaceful there, you will probably want to hang out late into the night, like we did, before taking the short walk back to your cottage.

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The food is hearty, local Kannadiga fare, and a real spread, with a good number of dishes and specialty items like Akki Roti served. The staff are really sweet, hospitable, and keep the place running smoothly, even with the owner-couple, Sapna and Chandan, who are major travelers, are not around. But when they’re around, you will be in for a treat in the form of conversation and stories around life, travel, adventure sports, and wellness. And of course you will learn more about the philosophy behind the way they run the place, and try to maintain balance with nature.

Don’t miss taking an early morning walk on the hillside behind the estate, and it also makes for a perfect spot to view the gorgeous sunsets. Of course, if you’re feeling too lazy or just not up to leaving Mugilu, you can hang out on your private balcony and enjoy the views, silence, sounds of nature, and find your center once more.

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For months of operation (they close during the rainy season because of flooding and the roads becoming inaccessible), tariff and booking information, go to their website: http://mugilu.com

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Note: This piece first appeared on the wellness blog I write for, Bindi & Beard