Tired of air-kissing buddies at run-of-the-mill New Year Eve parties? The predictable wind-down to midnight on television shows? The odd invite from hotels offering the usual suspects: booze, bonfires & Bollywood? This year, wake up and smell the New Year at any one of these delightful properties.
Citrus County, Hoshiarpur (Punjab): A slice of celebrated Punjabi hospitality, you do well to wind your way through acres of kinnow orchards for an effusive welcome by Citrus County’s indulged canine residents. It is a modern European-style house surrounded by manicured lawns, with three spacious and cheery rooms. And a massive back lawn lined by old mango trees; beneath their luxuriant boughs await plush tents. The owners, Jasveen and Harkirat Ahluwalia are a mere kinnow’s throw away were you to require their presence. Jasveen’s traditional menu and delicious meals are one of many reasons you will return through the New Year.
Chambal Safari Lodge, Jarar (UP): Set amidst 120 acres of woodland and pasture, it once served as a camp office for bi-annual cattle fairs. Decades of neglect later, the owners Ram Pratap Singh and Anu gave up their professional careers to meticulously restore and rechristen it the Chambal Safari Lodge. This bougainvillea-engulfed Lodge, twenty minutes from the National Chambal Sanctuary–teeming with avian life and aqua-fauna–located within a 35-acre plantation of the original woodland includes clusters of well-appointed cottages. An hour and a half’s drive from Agra, this is the perfect antidote to that metro madness you seek to escape in the New Year.
Neeralaya, Raison (HP): Recycled timber, stone and slates define Neeralaya. Hemmed in by the Beas on one side and forest and orchards on the remainder, it is the ideal setting to keep your date with the New Year amidst nature. Cleverly designed and landscaped for visitors to fall in love with it at first sight, riverside cottages and villas, generously spaced, include tastefully and luxuriously furnished bedrooms, en suite bathrooms, a sitting-room, dining, kitchen and a veranda with a private garden. Meals are cooked home style with produce from their farm, free range poultry and fresh trout from the river.
Ballyhack Cottage, Shimla (HP): Best located property on Shimla’s famed Ridge; adjoining the Christ Church and minutes from its buzzing promenade, the Mall. This characterful heritage home has managed to retain the patina that history & age accord. It is the oldest surviving house built by the British, and is said to have been commissioned for then Governor General, Lord Amerherst in 1826. It makes a worthy start to that heritage rich walk that takes you to the Viceregal Lodge past the Cecil Hotel, Telegraph Building, Gorton’s Castle, Vidhan Sabha, and Peterhof. Who knows, you may well catch that first snowfall of the New Year right here. Phone: +91 9815600076.
Darang Tea Estate, Palampur (HP): Privately-held, the Darang Tea Estate, is synonymous with warmth, hospitality and heavenly home-grown, home-cooked organic food. The 70-acre estate includes two rustic albeit quaint cottages and a room in the main house that justifiably claims heritage status. The foliage-enveloped cottages are conveniently distanced from the main house, and ensure maximum privacy for guests. A tiny old-fashioned factory, woodlands, forested hillsides, tea-gardens, and a mountain stream dot this 150 year old plantation. It would be justified, wouldn’t it, to ring in its 151st?
Note: Published earlier at Lonely Planet India.