Those living in India’s vast inland territory often desire a glimpse of the sea or bay on either coastline, craving that salty scent in the air and that damp breeze on the seaside. While travelling to the beaches on either side of the peninsular might be a trip too far for some, India’s natural diversity of lakes, rivers and inlets is the next best thing. Or sometimes, even better.
Serenity spreads over Kerala’s calm lagoons, palm trees stand tall alongside Puducherry’s lakes and the gushing of the Brahmaputra echoes across Assam’s hills. These beautiful natural inland water treasures are worth celebrating, appreciating and even escaping to. And when the scorching heat of the summer hits, it’s all the more reason to pack your bags and flee to the nearest water body in your radius. So scroll on for a list of 15 gorgeous waterside escapes across the country perfect for summertime vacationing. The costs of these getaways come at some pretty great extremes, so don’t get scared if a few too many seem out of your budget, there’s something in here for everyone.
I. Chhatra Sagar, Pali-Marwar, Rajasthan
Chhatra Sagar sits atop a dam built in the 19th century by Thakur Chhatra Singh of Nimaj. Thanks to his efforts, the once arid region became lush, and Singh entertained many guests here, erecting temporary camps for them to stay in. In his memory, his great grandchildren started Chattra Sagar as a tented luxury boutique resort, continuing Singh’s tradition of welcoming guests with a more modern, entrepreneurial touch. With views of the lake and swoon-worthy sunsets, a stay here can turn even the greatest cynic into a die-hard romantic.
Each tent at Chhatra Sagar is hand-stitched and embossed with traditional block printed floral motifs. There are thirteen in total—11 on the dam itself and two ultra-private ones on the hill. No bets for guessing which we prefer. The best time of day is sunrise. As the camp faces east, the reservoir turns a beautiful pink as the sun rises. Wake up early and take it in with a cup of steaming tea on your private veranda. The meals here may be simple, but the regional vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes they serve are delicious—and the ingredients are picked from the resort’s own fields. Tempting as it might be to do nothing but soak in the view, go visit a neighbouring village to get a peek into local life, or teach yourself a new skill at the on-site cooking class. Additionally, if you’re a bird watcher, you’ll be pleased to know that the region attracts almost 200 species of birds. Chhatra Sagar might be a little tricky to find, so we suggest you carry a printout of the map given on the website. Of course, the price isn’t for the faint-hearted.
Cost: Starts at Rs. 33,000 per night
II. Cherai Beach Resorts, Muziris, Kerala
Cherai Beach Resorts sits at the gateway to Muziris, Kerala’s heritage capital, amongst lush backwaters and calm coconut lagoons. Choose between heritage and modern cottages that dot the meandering backwaters. The property has been landscaped beautifully and backwaters mix with canals, lagoons and bridges creating a beautiful backdrop for rich south Indian sunset.
Cost: Starts at Rs. 2,750 per night
III. Coconut Lagoon, Kuttanad, Kerala
Coconut Lagoon in Kumarakom faces the great expanse of Vambanad Lake and its shimmering canals. Many of the ancient tharawads (grand former homes) have been reconstructed with painstaking accuracy and sport the same intricate detailing they would have hundreds of years ago, such as the traditional Keralan door locks known as manichithrathazhu. Moreover, almost each piece of furniture in the bedroom, from the teakwood bed to the gorgeous cupboards, has been sourced from traditional homes and craftsmen.
Cost: Rs. Starts at Rs. 9,500 per night
IV. Diphlu River Lodge, Kaziranga, Assam
Kaziranga National Park is situated partly in the Nagaon district and partly in the Golaghat district of Assam and covers an area of 430 sq. km with the Karbi Anglong hills to the south and Brahmaputra to the north. The park is famous for the great one-horned rhino, but it’s also home to elephants, tigers, bears, panthers, and thousands of birds.
At a short distance from this park is the Diphlu River Lodge. Because it’s located on the fringes of the park, it’s a great spot to soak in the sounds of the jungle and sip a cocktail as you watch rhinos bathe in the river. Paddy fields surround the 12 bamboo and wooden huts at Diphlu that are built on stilts in the style of the local Mising tribe and are connected by walkways. A variety of birds fly through the property, and the absence of fences make it possible for small animals from the park to saunter through the property at dusk. With the full intention to protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and manage waste, the resort works tirelessly towards reforesting the areas around the property. Grey water is recycled at the in-house filtering pond and used to irrigate the fields where organic rice, a variety of vegetables, and mustard are grown.
You can explore the park with elephant and jeep safaris, watch local craftsmen and weavers in action, and visit rubber and tea plantations. You can also stroll along the banks of the Brahmaputra and try and spot the elusive dolphins that live in it.
Cost: Starts at Rs. 10,000 per night
V. Glasshouse on the Ganges, Rishikesh
Neemrana’s Glasshouse on the Ganges in Rishikesh is surrounded by wild, natural beauty. It’s set in lychee and mango orchards, which belonged to the maharajas of Tehri Garhwal, and a garden full of tropical plants, full of rare birds and butterflies. The cincher, however, is the fact that his property has its own private sand bank (a beach of sorts) from where you can watch the mighty Ganga surge. The room to book is the Rishi Ganga, which has a private terrace overlooking the garden and the holy river.
Cost: Starts at Rs. 15,000 per night
VI. Kayal Island Retreat, Kochi
Kayal Island Retreat is a beautiful property located on an island on Vembanad Lake, India’s largest lagoon. The island itself is called Kakkathuruthu, which means the island of crows, and this is where Maneesha Panicker decided to build this luxe escape. The idea behind it was to have a place untouched by the manic march of modernity—a place where time moved slowly and one could live a slower, simpler life. All of Kayal’s cottages are built using reclaimed and recycled materials, and produce is only sourced from local fisherman and farmers—think local pokkali rice, clams, crabs, pomfret and prawns caught right off the island, and traditional Kerlan food served on a banana leaf, giving this resort a big plus for sustainability and responsible tourism.
Kayal only has two cottages, so it’s pretty much as exclusive as it gets. With yoga, Ayurveda, cycling, and experiences where you can go out fishing with fishermen or go out into the fields with the farmers, Kayal Island Retreat is a self-contained wonder and definitely a place you need to strike off your bucket list.
Cost: Starts at Rs. 10,000 per room per night
VII. Kumarakom Lake Resort, Kerala
Kumarakom Lake Resort blends Kerala’s rich tradition and culture with luxurious modern comforts. Its client list is amongst the most enviable in the country—Prince Charles, a frequent visitor, celebrated his 65th birthday here. The villas are all reconstructed versions of traditional Keralan homes known as manas, and each has been painstakingly restored. Some of the detailing and woodwork actually dates back to the 16th century. The room to book at this resort is one of the Heritage Lake View Villas. They come with a private pool and courtyard, and a stunning view of Vembanad Lake. And oh, the pool has a Jacuzzi too. In case you needed something to tip the scales.
Cost: Starts at Rs. 14,850 per night
VIII. Ocean’s Spray, Puducherry
Ocean’s Spray in Puducherry sprawls out over 23 acres and is built around a giant, five-acre manmade lake. It has three types of guestrooms and three opulent villas. Our favourite are The Guadeloupe villas, which are set on the lake and come with their own Jacuzzis. The hotel also has a giant island pool, incase you’d prefer a tiled pool to swimming in the lake.
Cost: Starts at Rs. 6,000 per night
Pangarh Lake Resort in Rajasthan offers tented lakeside accommodation on the shores of Pangarh Lake. Ten well appointed shikhar style tents overlook the water along with a little island in the centre that houses an old fort and a temple. Plenty of Instagram worthy moments to be found here.
Cost: Starts at Rs. 5,000 per night
Punnamada Resort overlooks the calm waters of Punnamada Lake Alappuzha in Kerala’s Alleppey district. All the villas here have been built using traditional Keralan architecture as a base. You can see it in the details: the slope of the roof; the woodwork; the heavy wooden doors and windows; the large, airy open-air bathrooms. The Lake Villas face the water and there’s always a breeze and ample sunlight making its way through the villa.
Cost: Starts at Rs. 5,900 per night
XI. Raga on the Ganges, Rishikesh
Can’t decide between a spa vacation and an action packed adventure? Not to fret, Raga by the Ganges, Rishikesh offers both. A stay here satisfies the mind, body and soul, with an extra shot of adrenalin. Each room here has a view of the emerald Ganga and the Shivalik range. If you don’t want a standard room, stay in one of their log cottages instead. Spend your day rafting down the river before coming back and heading straight to Teertha, the in-house spa that offers a host of ayurvedic treatments. Wrap up your evening with a meal at Tarana and hit the sack so that you can be up bright and early to catch the sunrise. After all, a sunrise on the Ganga is unlike a sunrise anywhere else.
Cost: Starts at Rs. 7,500 per night
XII. Red Earth, Kabini
Red Earth in Kabini is a gorgeous owner-run property helmed by coffee planter-filmmaker duo Ravi and Rachel, who have had no prior experience in the hospitality industry but sure don’t make it seem that way. This beautiful property is a peninsula on the backwaters of the Kabini dam and it straddles two of the region’s most famous parks—Bandipur and Nagarhole. It has 20 mud cottages spread out over 10 acres and, of course, a rich biodiversity. The cottages come with open-air Jacuzzis and views of the backwaters. The cottages are set in clusters of 10, each with a lake at the centre.
Cost: Rs. Starts at Rs. 8,900 per night
XIII. Ri Kynjai – Serenity By The Lake, Meghalaya
This boutique property is big on preserving local tradition. Not only is its architecture inspired by local dwellings, its name itself is derived from the local Khasi language—ri kynjai means ‘serenity by the lake.’ All through the resort you’ll see local influences, whether it’s in the upturned boat roofs, the food served or the spa treatments offered. The resort has Supreme Rooms, Superior Rooms and Cottages. Our pick is the cottages—when you see that view, you’ll understand why. This area receives severe rainfall—the Cherrapunjee-Mawsynram belt is known as the world’s wettest area, and it lies on the nearby slopes. As such, you can see why we picked this moment to send you packing, perhaps even set you out on a trek or jungle walk. And though this is highly unlikely, if the rain lets up a bit, tee off at the Shillong Golf Course.
Cost: Starts at Rs. 8,000 per night
XIV. The Bison Resort, Kabini
The Bison Resort in Kabini is located at the confluence of the Bandipur and Nagarhole national parks in Karnataka. Designed as a mix between a rustic African tented camp and the hunting lodges of the British Raj, this resort offers unrivalled luxury in an unparalleled location. Opt for a Deluxe Luxury Tent as this places you right by the water’s edge. It’s summer and that’s where all the action takes place, the animals come to drink to make the scorching temperature bearable. Each luxuriously appointed tent holds a four-poster bed and gorgeous old-world furniture. If it wasn’t for the canvas covering, you’d think you were in a five-star hotel room.
Cost: Starts at Rs. 7,160
XV. Wayanad Silver Woods, Wayanad, Kerala
Wayanad Silver Woods is a picturesque lakeside retreat overlooking Banasura Sagar in Kerala’s Wayanad district. Spread out over 116 acres, this eco-friendly resort is nestled between lush forests and organic farms on one side and the lake on the other. With six categories of villas to choose from it can be quite a task. However, we recommend the Sky Romantico Villas, which has a Jacuzzi on its terrace with panoramic views.
Cost: Starts at Rs. 13,300 per night
Words: Neville Bhandara
Research by Karan Khosla