Off the beaten track

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Do you remember what your doctor ordered you to do, to keep your body happy and healthy? Err, do apples ring a bell?

Great! So if I ask you what it is that you should do to keep your soul happy? What would you say?

Well in my opinion it has to be travelling.

Wouldn’t it be a perfect world if every couple of months, we would be able  to take short weekend getaways, far away from the hustle and bustle of the daily life.

A chance to stay in a fancy hotel, eat delicious food prepared by top chefs, lie on the beach drinking cocktails and going shopping sounds like the ideal way to de-stress away the daily grind.

Of course there is no doubt that indulging in luxe travel is absolutely fabulous, but sometimes let’s make that adventure junkie in us take over and have us explore new places as they are meant to be seen.

So how about getting off the beaten path and away from sponsored tourism?

If you really want to ‘see’ the place and ‘feel’ the experience rather than just taking a vacation, then here are some ways you can go about it.

Try backpacking

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Rather than staying at five-star hotels or dining in Michelin star restaurants, go away from the glitz and glamour of tourist hot spots. Try Backpacking. It allows you to see a destination in a completely different way. It’s a much more humble way to get around and appreciate a destination for what it really is beyond the conventional tourism.

Of course you’ll mainly be traveling on foot and or by public transport which will enable you to really immerse yourself in the place you’re in, allowing you to see it as the locals would and not simply as a tourist. You’ll be discovering places that you simply wouldn’t come across if you were on package tour. Not only is it an inexpensive way to travel, but it can give you really meaningful experiences. You will leave a place feeling as though you know it, rather than just skimming the surface like you would as a tourist.

Stay somewhere different

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PC:Kerela Tourism

Instead of staying in a hotel, why not look into different accommodation options when you travel? For instance if you are in Kerela, try staying in a houseboat. The experience you will have will be like no other. Or you could choose an AIRBNB rather than an upscale hotel. It’s a lot cheaper and can completely change the feel of your trip. There are plenty of websites which offer home stays and vacation rentals with the entire house if needed.

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I have personally had some amazing stays at Washington DC and Montreal at comfortable and well maintained AIRBNB’s .  Although these were a little further out from the main tourist destinations, it allowed me to stay in a location that I may have never found, had I stayed at a hotel. Or if you are solo traveller you could look into travel hostels, these are cheap and cheerful and can be a great way to meet other travelers.

Once you’ve decided on your destination, do your research and consider different options for where you could stay. Going with something a bit more unique such as Houseboats, or Swiss Tents could add another dimension to your trip and make it extra memorable.

Speak to the locals

Speaking to the locals is one of the best ways to find places that are off the beaten path. There are certain streets that bring out the vibe of a place. And speaking to locals would certainly help in exploring it.

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On my recent trip to Singapore, walking through the streets in Kampong Glam, I was pleasantly surprised to find Haji Lane. It’s fabled to be one of the narrowest streets in Singapore. The street had some quirky and vintage boutiques, funky graffiti on its walls and quaint cafes.

Neal’s Yard in London was another such gems I found on my travels.

Google and travel guides will, of course, tell you all about popular places and the things that you want to see, but there will be so many additional things that you’ll be able to discover by chatting to the people that live there.

Travel off season

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Most destinations will have a peak season and an off season, mainly dictated by the weather. Ideally try going during either on an off peak or shoulder season. Not only will it be less expensive but it will be less busy. Sure, there won’t be as many shops, eateries, clubs and other hot spots open but as a traveler, this won’t be the kind of thing you’re looking for anyway.

On the downside, there might be not so ideal weather conditions during the off season depending on where you go, so do your research and go prepared. For example, many hotels in Goa have excellent packages during the monsoon season between June-September.

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Travel, should not be a break from everyday life. Travel should be the time when you feel the most normal, centered, and at home.

There is no high more intense than being someplace new, and feeling like just a little piece of a vast, vast world.

 

Happy Exploring!!

madhavi

A photo walk through the charming lanes of Old Delhi

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Old Delhi, the former walled capital of the Mughal Empire, and one of the world’s most distinctive historic quarters, never fails to attract tourists for its captivating energy and heritage walks.

Being one of the city’s most crowded and chaotic areas the sights, smells, and sounds fill you up with a sensory overload. The lively bazaars, ancient shrines,  monuments, tombs and forts, bustling bazaars, centuries-old heritage sites, and winding back alleys make you forget about the chaos , the dusty lanes and the innumerable people around to relive the rich history and the lost glory of the Mughal era.

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UNESCO World Heritage the Jama Masjid-the largest mosque in India and one of Asia’s largest ,houses sacred relics of the Prophet Mohammad and an ancient transcript of the Quran. Built in a Mughal style of architecture with its Islamic, Indian and Persian influences, the mosque is known as “ Masjid e Jahan Numa”, meaning “a mosque that commands a view of the world.

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One of the most unexplored monuments of Delhi, spread Across 256 Acres Of land, The Red Fort, an icon in India’s struggle for freedom, has two primary entrances – Delhi Gate and Lahore Gate. Red Fort used to house the legendary Kohinoor Diamond in the Diwan-i-Khas.

 

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The fort’s entrance through Lahore Gate opens out onto Chhatta Chowk, aka Meena Bazaar once the shopping centre for the ladies of Mughals, has a long arched passageway that used to house the most exclusive royal tailors and merchants. It’s now a market area with many shops selling souvenirs and handcrafts.

 

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Gauri Shankar Temple built in honor of Lord Shiva, has a lingam believed to be around 800 years old, as well as statues of Shiva, Parvati (Shiva’s wife), and their sons, Ganesh and Kartik.

 

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Digambar Jain Temple-The focal devotional room (first floor) has images and statues of revered Jain figures such as Lord Mahavira and Lord Parasnath. There’s a bird hospital on the temple compound.

 

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Sisganj Gurdwara, a Sikh temple built at the place where, in 1675, the Mughals killed Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh Guru.

Cycle-rickshaws

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Old Delhi’s main strip, Chandni Chowk-is in fact the heart of Old Delhi. It’s said that Chandni Chowk, meaning Moonlight Square, got its evocative name from the moon’s reflection in a large pond of water. Apparently, the pond existed in the square in front of the present-day Town Hall but the British built a clock tower over it (the clock tower collapsed in 1951). Gradually, the whole street and adjoining area became known as Chandni Chowk.

 

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Khari Baoli, is home to the largest wholesale spice market in Asia. Spices connected India to the West, and the market at Khari Baoli Road has been in business since the 17th century. You’ll get to see huge sacks of spices being transported and sold.

 

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Naugarha– In Hindi, naughara means nine houses and gali is alley. Naughara Gali is an alley where nine colorful Jain havelis were built in the 18th century. This little hamlet is complete with an exquisitely carved white marble Jain temple at the end of the lane. Its interiors have some magnificent murals and paintings.

 

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Walk into a bylane and you enter Kinari Bazaar which specializes in wedding paraphernalia, such as glittering tinsel decorations and ornate bridal accessories and mainly jewelry.

 

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Ballimaran has wholesale shops selling a choice of specs, stylish sun glasses and lenses. Down a quiet lane stands an old dilapidated structure which was once a Haveli. This mansion was once home to Mirza Asadullah Khan, better known as Mirza Ghalib; one of India’s most celebrated and quoted Urdu poets. Now a heritage site under the aegis of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the memorial museum displays the objects and other things used during those times to make it look like the actual dwelling of the poet.

 

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Delhi’s largest books market Nai Sarak has thrived for decades by buying and selling old text books. Nai Sarak also has everything from fourth hand college books to textbooks for competitive exams, from brand new fiction to first edition Hindi non-fiction. In the midst of all this happy chaos, this road also serves writers, artists, scrap bookers and crafters. Writing and art material from foreign brands abound if you know where to look.

 

 Half the fun of visiting Old Delhi is getting there; the other half is its food.

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Jalebiwala, This jalebi shop aptly named, ‘Old Famous Jalebi Wala, has been around since 1884; having been in operation for the past four generations of the family now. A 140 year old sweet shop enormously famous for the piping hot, thick and juicy, freshly made jalebis that they offer.

 

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Amidst Old Delhi’s architectural marvels, rests the Paranthe Wali Gali- an enigmatic emblem of India’s culinary heritage serving a variety of the city’s classic street dishes paratha, a stuffed Indian flatbread.

 

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Known for the magical flavours, Old Delhi is known for the delicacies that one cannot forget for life. And, one of those dishes is ‘Daulat ki Chaat’-the dessert that melts-in-your-mouth and can warm-up-your-heart. Available only during the winter season (November-January). The special chaat uses milk as the main ingredient and the end result is a foam like heavenly soufflé.

 

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Right close to Chandni Chowk metro station lies Natraj Dahi Bhalla a perpetually mobbed corner stand. It offers just two items- Dahi Bhalla and Aloo Tikki. Both of these are worth a taste.

 

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If you hate summer then a refreshing lassi  is the best solution to cool you instantly. This creamy and refreshing Yogurt based drink is just out of the world. Served in one of the oldest shops Amritsari Lassi wala in Chandni Chowk there is a reason for you to put it on your “must try” lists.

 

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Where there’s smoke, there’s flavor – Matia Mahal street just opposite Jama Masjid Gate No. 1, has a number of street vendors selling Nalli Nihari, kababs and various non veg curries which will surely satiate your meat cravings.

 

 

If your world revolves around food, and you also like to spend time exploring heritage, culture and different cuisines then Old Delhi is one of the best places in the world to fulfill that desire.

 

🙂

Madhavi

 

 

 

 

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Talking Walls

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Who needs a canvas when you have walls?

Street art have been transforming neighbourhoods and how!! Once considered destructive, street graffiti is taking the world by storm and is now recognized as a way to breathe life into dilapidated walls, by transforming entire buildings into works of art.

Created on surfaces in public places like exterior building walls, highway overpasses, and sidewalks, Street art in urban areas, convey a message of either political ideas or social commentaries.

Originating thousands of years ago, contemporary street art, can be traced back to the late 1960s.

Street art, which was initially illegal and seen as vandalism, has turned into a legitimate form of presenting artistic contents, and has a great potential to increase tourism related activities.

Murals have become the visiting cards of many cities and an important part of their tourism.

Walking tours, street art festivals and culture tours increase footfalls and generate revenue in such places that are offbeat and boast of further growth of the place through the local community engagement.

Philadelphia has become recognizable as a ‘City of Murals’ and the world’s largest outdoor art gallery.

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Internationally renowned, Melbourne has become an attraction for local and overseas visitors experiencing its creative ambience with its murals.

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Cape Town, South Africa  is one of the best cities in the world for street art. The murals can be found just about anywhere.

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Montpellier, France is famed for being one of the most popular student towns in France and this incredible city is home to a plethora of amazing street art.

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Toronto, Canada known as the most culturally diverse city in the world and this diversity can be clearly seen through the street art scattered across the city.

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Malaysia’s UNESCO world heritage city of Georgetown is home to one of Asia’s most distinguishable and unique collection of hand painted murals and wrought-iron cartoons.

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London, Montreal, Mexico are just some more cities that have some of the biggest set of un-commissioned street art in the world.

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Here in New Delhi too, St+Art India Foundation  a Non Profit organisation aims to embed art in streets. It hosted its first-ever Public Art District in India, with as many as 25 street artists from India and around the world who came together to paint the walls of the iconic Lodhi Colony of Delhi,  reclaiming the cities’ civic spaces and simultaneously transforming its urban fabric.

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lo1PC: ThebetterIndia; St+art

The next time if you are visiting New Delhi or even if you are a resident, do walk or drive around Lodhi colony’s leafy lanes to admire these beautiful “talking walls” in all its vibrant glory.  You are sure to find something happening on the streets all the time, whether it’s a photo shoot, or a music video, or just the neighbours having a jolly time.

 

🙂 Madhavi

#TravelGoals

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Younger consumers today inspire the future of almost every tech dominated industry, and it’s no different in travel either.

Where they often demonstrate their love for Avocado on Toast, the millennial and ever so often their parents too, are currently driving the concept of the aspirational travel.

Today the focus of travelling for them is not just about choosing the destination anymore. It is more about creating memories and awe-inspiring experiences. They turn to their friends, co-workers, and influencers within the growing social media world to find travel and vacation insights, and deals to support their newly discovered destination.

More often than not ,it is all about going to a place your friends have visited and clicking photos that are of the same place but different than theirs. It’s like an obsession, almost bordering on showing off!

Today the focus has shifted with splurging on food and drink experiences, followed by events and festivals and not to forget extreme or adrenaline sports. Culinary experiences for example are a major draw for younger generations. Infact there is actually a huge demand for such travel experiences.

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Foodcations aka food vacations are the best way to experience a destination and are becoming more and more popular among travellers. Tasting your way through local cuisines and dining with locals are culinary experiences that can easily become a travel highlight.

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Travellers are forever searching for unique experiences such as undersea accommodations, or culturally enriching activities. And how can we leave out Destination Weddings.

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Taking a big bite of the MICE segment, destination weddings are literally eating the cake, and are considered a major travel induced experience. For instance in the context of the Indian tourism segment, it’s not rare today to see a family from the southern states of India selecting a location either in the Northern states or particularly in Rajasthan for hosting a destination wedding. In fact the fad is so contagious that many event planners are constructing replicas of Rajasthan palaces in the southern states hometowns/villages of the brides/grooms.

Innovations in transport, more flight routes, easy on-demand car rentals, as well as real-time public transport insights, the holidays are getting more varied and curated making vacations and other trips more personal and rewarding.

Social media use by the millennial has provided a significant boost in the travel and hospitality industry.  High end travel companies are curating a destination and providing a unique rooted in “something real”  travel experience for the millennial.

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Travel makes us wealthier. When we see new places, meet new people and indulge in new activities, the experiences make us a different person. Travelling isn’t merely about stepping foot on a landmark, but also inhaling the essence, the culture and beauty of the place.

Have you ever had a unique travel experience?  Or have some unusual travel goals? Do share in the comments.

Madhavi

 

 

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Going SOLO

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Everyone remembers their first solo journey. For some women it was a long time ago, and there have been many more trips since. For others, the memory is still quite fresh.  I know mine is. It was the year 2009. Taking the leap of faith I plunged into a 2 night trip. Things had come to a head on the personal front and I wanted to break out of the rut of work and home and head out to the safest place I knew . Goa!

I know. I know. Who in their right mind takes off to Goa alone? But that’s me. Never following the herd, I have made my own rules.

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Coming back to the solo trip, it’s true almost everyone has some anxiety before setting out. But there is not a single woman out there who has regretted doing so.

Solo travelling is becoming more important and more popular for women today .It’s an opportunity to discover more about themselves and the world around them.

Although I have to say that the Indian woman is still a little conservative when compared to her western counterpart.  India is an old school country, and where women’s safety is often a massive concern. Many women aren’t allowed to or are afraid to be travelling alone. However, things are changing. More and more strong, independent women are choosing to travel alone and do not let the patriarchy hold them down. Right from backpacking across India to hitch-hiking in another country altogether, these women are inspiring others to give up their fears and have major travel goals.

However there are a few Travel Tips I would recommend for Women Travelling Alone.

  1. Do Your Research! Choose your destination with Intent.

Preparation is the key to success! Or safety in this case. I cannot emphasis enough how important the research you undertake before or during your trip is. User review sites are really useful when looking for advice on where to stay (hotel/hostel/Airbnb) but usually you’ll get some insight into the surrounding areas from people who have been there. This can mean the difference between staying in a shady area where you’re afraid to go outside or a comfortable place full of like-minded travellers and friendly staff.

For example Scandinavia, Ireland and New Zealand,Verona (Italy), Hilo or Oahu (Hawaii) and Amsterdam (Netherlands), just to name a few countries/cities that are safe for women travellers.

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  1. Frequently Update Someone on Your Whereabouts.

Whether it is your mum, dad, brother, sister, friend etc. always keep someone informed of your movements. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Regularly call a friend or family member, where you can check-in and they can rest assured!

  1. Be Smart with Your Smartphone.

We’re lucky that these days everything we need for getting around is in the palm of our hands. So be smart and download the apps on your Smartphone before you take off. From navigation to interacting with locals who have shared interests it’s essential for every woman traveller. Apps like Uber, Google Maps, Toilet finder etc are smart applications that will keep you covered.

Additionally do invest in your phones data plan before you leave so that you can use the data for your maps/Uber etc, without it pinching your pocket on buying a local sim card.

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  1. Make Copies of Important Documents. 

Make copies and additionally take pictures of your travel docs and store them on a secure online server, such as Dropbox, that can be accessed from any computer. If any of your documents are stolen or get lost, this is a sure way of helping your Embassy allocate new ones for you so that you are able to continue on your travels and/or get home.

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  1. Don’t be a fool. 

You’ve made the super-smart decision to explore the world, now just make sure that intelligence extends to your everyday life during your travels. Just general common-sense including, not going down dark alleys on your own or talking to strangers, securing the locks on your purse or locking away your things are few things you need to keep in mind. Just be observant to the world and goings-on around you.

  1. Don’t flaunt your cash. 

If you’re travelling alone, be careful of where and how you keep your cash/credit card. Make sure your purse/bag has a hidden pocket for your wallet. Pack light. Protect your documents, cards and cash

  1. Don’t Trust People Too Quickly.

There are a lot of like-minded solo travellers and friendly locals out there, but not all of their intentions are as fun-filled and honest as yours. Women travelling alone should try to avoid going down anywhere too remote or hidden or when it gets too dark and you are far away from your hotel. Trust your gut, if something seems peculiar, strange or weird about someone, you can walk away. Always remove yourself from uncomfortable situations as quickly and quietly as possible.

  1. Blend In.

 This seems quite obvious, just try and blend in as much as you can. Do not wear too revealing outfits and pay attention to your surroundings; do not walk around with your camera around your neck and your nose pressed into a map.

 

The first step is taking the first step. Yes, it’s scary and I’ve found that feeling doesn’t necessarily go away, but if you don’t do it you’ll always regret it. The bigger question is what if I don’t do it? You will be amazed where your strength will come from.

It’s no doubt wonderful to travel with your bunch of friends or your family, but I feel travelling solo once in a while nourishes your soul. I have taken many a solo trips since that day in 2009 and believe me I just can’t get enough.

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Good luck with your life’s experiences!

Madhavi

 

 

 

PC: Personal; Getty Images

Lazy Much? Chill with a “Horizontal Holiday” with my pick of India’s best places to do nothing!

There are times when you feel like packing your bags and taking off somewhere, and do absolutely nothing at all. All you want to do is, laze, sip a beer or a coffee while watching the sunset, read a book or lie around in a comfortable bed with room service only a call away

Check out some of these places in India that will get you out of the hustle and bustle of city life to unwind in nature and calm your nerves, and not worry about the never ending to-do-list, the time, work or anything at all.

Goa

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While Goa is considered as the party capital of India, its tranquility is hidden in few of its non-commercial beaches. Agonda Beach in Goa is one such beach with its long and desolate shoreline, bordered with palms and casuarinas. It’s not unusual to see some tourists to bring a tent and set an overnight camp for getting a real thrill of living by the sea. If you are seafood lover you will be able to enjoy some mouth watering dishes available at nearby restaurants. However, strong undercurrents, can abstain you from indulging in swimming at Agonda Beach. During the month of September, the beach serves as a nesting ground for Olive Ridley sea turtles. With some water sports like Surfing, Water Skiing, to add some excitement to an otherwise dull day this beach which is apprx 70 km from Panaji, is picturesque and calm.

Kalimpong

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The first thing that strikes the traveller visiting Kalimpong is its quiet atmosphere. A modest hill-station for a relaxing break with its tea plantations and scenery filled with old churches and monasteries, and with little ambition, gives you full freedom to choose the way you want to unwind yourself. Yes, there are some bustling bazaars selling traditional handicrafts if it gets too dull for you. On a very clear day you can view the majestic Kanchenjunga peaks at sunrise.

Rishikesh

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Ever since the Beatles visited the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late ’60s, Rishikesh has been a magnet for spiritual seekers, and today is the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’. Rishikesh becomes what you want it to be. It could be your spiritual nirvana, a wisp of adventure, chilled out cafes or relaxed time off in yoga ashrams. With its so many faces, you choose which one you want to lose yourself in. Rishikesh is not all spirituality and Yoga, it’s also a popular white-water rafting centre, backpacker hang-out and Himalayan-trekking gateway.

Dhanaulti

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Dhanaulti is a small town near Mussoorie, beautifully nestled amid the lofty Himalayan peaks. It can be a destination in itself, but it’s more of a serene pit stop for travellers heading for longer journeys or leisure Uttarakhand holiday. Thus, places to visit in Dhanaulti are not any grand attractions, but small and beautiful places that offer solitude and peace, close to nature.  Devoid of fancy hotels and modern cafe-style eateries, this is the place if you are seeking a weekend of privacy in the hills.

Munnar

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The idyllic hill station Munnar once the summer resort of the erstwhile British Government in South India is famous for its sprawling tea plantations, picturesque towns, winding lanes and exotic lush greenery, is located in the Western Ghats, in the state of Kerala. It has a host of well-maintained trekking trails and picnic spots . Munnar also has many protected areas which are home to endemic and highly endangered species like the Nilgiri Tahr-an ungulate that is endemic to the Nilgiri Hills and the special Neelakurinji flower that blooms here once every 12 years. The hills turn blue and nature lovers come in large numbers to view this natural phenomenon in person.

Coorg

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Proudly called the Scotland of India, Coorg is situated on the Western Ghats in the state of Karnataka in India.  Coorg is the largest producer of coffee in India. With its Lush green vegetation and forests covering up the hills, Coorg has some famous trekking and scenic wonders like waterfalls and viewpoints.  Resorts in Coorg have their own charm, having multiple choices for homestays in Coorg provides for the homely feeling and an unmatched hospitality by the locals, the one that always ends up attracting people to spend in the lap of nature an wake up to the smell of fresh coffee coaxing them out of sleep.

Pondicherry

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History just doesn’t leave this town called Pondicherry, where time stopped a bit when its streets, shops, food, styles, and architecture borrowed inspiration from the French. The French know the art of doing nothing better than anyone in the world and Pondi has preserved the art of living a laid back life. There are more than one ways to relax here from its beaches, ashrams to yoga and meditation.

Havelock Island 

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Havelock Island is one of the most pristine and scenic islands of the Andaman and Nicobar group. Its sparkling white sand beaches, transparent sea water, plush greenery, and serene surroundings are tempting and fascinating. And is an ideal nirvana for peace loving travellers. Popular as a backpacker’s heaven, this splendid island can be a perfect destination for a super romantic honeymoon or a lovely family holiday

Awarded as the best beach in India and world’s 7th most beautiful beach by the Time Magazine, Radha nagar Beach is the showstopper of Havelock Island in Andaman. The beach is adorned with snow white sands, sizzling shores, crystal blue water, and pristine forests.

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PC: Pinterest

The untarnished beauty of the Kalapather Beach or Kaala Pathar Beach makes it one of the most scenic splendours of Havelock Island. The sizzling coastline is dotted with black rocks, sparkling silver sand, and aqua green waters that create a surreal contrast.

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PC: TripAdvisor

A moderately calm and gentle retreat, the Elephant Beach is a perfect escape for honeymoon couples and solo travellers. Tourists love to explore this place that is known for its navy colour clear water and tranquil surroundings. Travellers can indulge in swimming, scuba diving and coral spotting or merely relaxing on the beautiful beach.

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Have a chilled out break doing nothing !

🙂

Madhavi

 

Unheard travel tales of India to fuel your wanderlust.

Bustling cities, dusty remote villages, exquisite temples, lush tea plantations and fragrant markets , rich culture, traditions, religions and ethnicities, India is a unique mixture of eastern values and western freedom.

You might have travelled a lot of India, but do you know that there are some intriguing facts that make travelling in this country even more interesting.

 

  1. Varanasi – One of the Oldest Inhabited Places of the World.

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Situated on the banks of river Ganges, the holy city of Benares (aka Varanasi) is at least 3000 years old. According to Hindu Mythology, Lord Shiva founded Benaras or Kashi 5000 years ago and is a major religious hub of India and one of its holiest cities.

Did you know : Varanasi has a hostel where people come to die- Terminally ill people check-in  themselves in to ‘Mukti Bhavan‘ , to breath their last, which they believe frees them from the cycle of life and death (“Moksha“). All they have is two weeks to die or they’re asked to move on to make way for others.

 

  1. Shani Shingnapur – A Village without Doors.

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Attracting over 40,000 devotees each day due to a 300-yr old legend, Shani Shingnapur is a village in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The village is known for its popular temple of Lord Shani (Planet Saturn).

Did you Know: Its residents sleep soundly as they believe Lord Shani to be the guardian of the village and none of the structures, be it dwelling houses, huts, shops, etc. situated within one kilometre radius of this Lord Shani temple have neither doors nor locks. The villagers believe that thieves will immediately be punished with blindness, and anyone dishonest will face seven-and-a-half years of bad luck.

 

  1. Kumbh Mela Gathering.

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Crazy and chaotic are the words that best define the Kumbh Mela (or Grand Pitcher  Festival) .It is a spiritual event held once in 12 years in India Amidst the intermittent chanting of mantras, the heart rendering dance of the Aghoris and the holy ghats lit up with fiery diyas, the Kumbh Mela, will not just lend you with a day’s feeling but a mind boggling experience of a lifetime.

As per the Hindu mythology Kumbh derived from the Sanskrit word ‘pitcher’ had the ‘Amrita’ or the immortal nectar that had appeared during the churning of the seas (Samudramanthan). It is believed that the Gods and the demons had churned the milky ocean to obtain the nectar.

This year it attracted approximately 150 million people, breaking the record for the world’s biggest gathering. It has been inscribed on the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Did you know: The festival is over 2000 years old! The first written evidence of the Kumbh mela can be found in the accounts of the Chinese traveller Xuanzang, who visited India during the reign of King Harshavardhana.

 

  1. The most visited place in the World.

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Awarded by the World Book of Records, the Golden Temple in Amritsar is the most visited place in the world with more than a hundred thousand devotees flocking at the shrine every single day. The largest langar (community meal) typically feeds roughly 40,000 people a day for free. On religious holidays and weekends, the langar can feed upwards of 100,000 people a day. All the diners have to sit on the floor, irrespective of caste, status, wealth or creed, symbolizing the central Sikh doctrine of the equality of all people.

Did you know: The dome of the temple is gilded with 750 kilograms (1653 pounds) of gold. The ceiling inside the main sanctum is made with gold and precious stones. The main hall of the Golden Temple houses the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scripture of the Sikh religion. It is placed on a raised platform under a canopy studded with precious jewels.

 

  1. The Highest Motorable Road in the World.

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The world’s highest motorable road Umling La or Umling La Pass greets you at Ladakh. The road passes through Umling La Top at an elevation of 19,300 ft. Bike enthusiasts, take note because little fact about India could bring about a new adrenaline filled adventure for you.

Did you know: 235 Kms from Leh, all civilians will need a permit from the Army and administration to travel through the pass.

 

  1. Lonar Lake in Maharashtra – Formed by a Meteor.

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A 4-hour drive from Aurangabad and doubling as Maharashtra’s best-kept secret, this lake was formed by a plummeting meteor about 50,000 years ago. Travel enthusiasts must not miss this astronomical marvel and the temples around it.

Did you know: Also known as Lonar crater ,the lake is notified as the National Geo Heritage Monument and is home to thousands of  migratory birds.

 

  1. Mysterious Anti-Gravity Hills In Ladakh, Magnetic Hill.

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Located on the Leh Kargil Highway a small stretch of road defies gravity.Landmarked by a yellow notice board that spells out instructions and asks you place your car on neutral gear right on the spot marked by white paint, this one will leave you in awe as your car will begin to move uphill on its own.

Did you know: The magnetic force is so strong here that airplanes increase their altitude while flying over this region.

 

  1. Auroville an experimental township belongs to nobody, but everybody.

auroville

Auroville, an international township in Tamil Nadu and in some parts of Pondicherry, contributes in the progress of humanity irrespective of caste, creed, color and religion. Everyone is equal here and people live united. Once you visit this place, you will never wish to come back.

Did you know: The township runs on a concept of sharing, giving and exchanging , a cashless economy, much like the barter system.

 

  1. Ancient Hindu temple that was carved from a single rock.

ellora

The  Kailasa temple in Aurangabad is over 1200 years old and was carved from a single rock in Ellora. An estimated 400,000 tons of rocks were used to construct this monolithic structure. With bare hands and few hand tools, it is hard to imagine someone carving such an astonishing sculpture.

Did you know: The temple is double the size of Parthenon in Athens.

 

  1. A floating post office in Dal Lake, Srinagar.

floating

With the world’s largest postal system, India has post offices in some pretty unusual places. Inaugurated in 2011, in the Dal Lake, Srinagar, set in a huge houseboat is India’s first and only floating post office, believed to be the only one of its kind in the world!

Did you know: This heritage post office is a tribute to the already beautiful Dal Lake and houses the philately museum showcasing the fascinating history and stamp collection  and a souvenir shop that sells stamps, postcards, greeting cards and books on Kashmir.

 

  1. Step wells that take you to another world.

Chand-Baori-India

Baori or ‘Step wells’ are the wonder of ancient architecture which can be found all around India. There were around 3000 step wells built in North India, many of them in the arid states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. These baoris’ narrate the beauty of their era with their marvellous sculptors and artwork. These elaborately carved step wells all over the desert were used to store water. Rani Ka Vav, Gujarat is enlisted in the UNESCO world’s heritage sites. Chand Baori, Jaipur is one of the oldest ,largest and the most astonishing Baoris of India in terms of its architecture While most are now abandoned and some have fallen into disrepair, many are well-kept and incredible to look at.

Did you know: Many of these step wells were meeting places, especially for women, for many centuries, and the oldest date back to around 500 CE.

 

  1. The Living Bridges.

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The ‘War-Khasis’ a tribe in Meghalaya, make the bridges entirely out of living trees, by training roots and vines of rubber trees, to grow across canyons and streams. Some of them estimated to be 500 years old. The beautiful thing about these bridges is, unlike the traditional bridges, these get stronger, as they get older. Although they take several years to create, but when finished they’re much more durable than wooden bridges, which would quickly rot in Meghalaya’s incredibly wet climate.

Did you know: It takes about 15 years for a new bridge to become strong enough to bear the weight of people.

 

  1. Delhi’s Khari Baoli is Asia’s biggest spice market.

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Asia’s biggest century old spice-den is located in Delhi, very close to the Red Fort. This market has local, as well as exotic spices. It’s a unique experience for anyone to see large quantities of spices and traders accumulate in a bazaar and through shops which are located in small alleys and bylanes hardly a meter wide. Trade worth millions are carried out in a highly organized and strict orderly system.With the spice filled aroma in the air, you can practically taste it once you enter the market.

Did you know: This spice market was started in the 17th century and today is run by the 8th or 9th generation of traders since their first set up.

 

  1. Spa for elephants.

elephant

Every year a group of pampered elephants at the Punnathoor Cotta Elephant Yard Rejuvenation Centre receive elaborate spa treatments. The elephant yard is attached to the Guruvayurappan Hindu temple in Kerala, India. The elephants play a key role in Kerala’s legendary temple processions and with July considered a month of rejuvenation for humans and animals alike these ellies are certainly not complaining.

Did you know: The Punnathoor Cotta Elephant Yard was a former palace, which was converted into a sanctuary and renamed to Anakottaor Elephant fort.

 

  1. The Ghosts of Bhangarh Fort

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Located at the borders of the Sariska Tiger Reserve in the Alwar district of Rajasthan, the Bhangarh Fort is not for the faint-hearted. Widely known as one of the spookiest places, this fort resides in a deserted area and has many legends behind the paranormal activities experienced here. Although it is open to the public for visit, however, many tourists have admitted that a creepy heavy feeling prevails in its atmosphere. According to local tales the fort is cursed into desolation by a tantric priest who wanted to marry the princess and couldn’t. Apparently if any villager tries to build a roof it mysteriously collapses.

Did you know: the Archaeological Survey of India has installed a board which mentions that it is prohibited to roam around the Bhangarh Fort between 6 pm- 6 am.

Love it or hate it! But when you explore this beautiful and exotic country India, she will change the way you see things.

 

Safe travels

Madhavi

 

 

 

 

PC: Lonely Planet; Travel triangle: BBC : Getty Images :NDTV: Conde Nest