Overtourism – Coping with the Crowds.

mt everest

Come to think of it, we are more than responsible in bringing about a lot of damage on the planet by travelling.

In this age of everybody wanting to travel someplace, overcrowding is inevitable. And it hits you the moment you reach the airport which seems packed to the brim. Mass tourism affects popular cities that are being overrun with short-term visitors, or  beautiful sites that are becoming polluted, or when the pristine landscape of a hill station is being cleared of its natural fauna to find land for hotels, or even when ancient ruins are being pounded by never ending footfalls. You realize then that somewhere we need to stand up and say NO!

What shocked me more than all of these reasons was the fact that even the Mt Everest was not spared.  When you imagine the summit of Mount Everest, you picture a quiet, snowy peak far from civilisation. But a striking photo, taken by mountaineer Nirmal Purja, in May’19 shows how the reality is a lot more crowded.

Experts say crowds at Everest have also increased in recent years because expeditions have become more popular. Many “traffic jams” are caused by unprepared climbers who “do not have the physical condition” for the journey which risks not only their lives, but the lives of the Sherpa’s taking them up the mountain.

But regardless of how often we tell ourselves that we’re “travellers” and not tourists, good intentions don’t change the fact, that we’re all just a part of the huge number. And we are destroying the world by loving it to death.

The question is though: what can you do? I mean I love to travel I gain too much from seeing the world, as I’m sure so many other travellers do. So how do we find a balance of loving the world without destroying it?

MAYA-BAY-678x381
The crowded beach of Maya Bay,Thailand

The government is doing its fair share in controlling overcrowding by  implementing entry and exit timings with managing  footfalls around the world heritage sites and some more listed below;

  • In Italy’s hugely popular Cinque Terre, a phone app is being trialed that shows visitors real time congestion on the trails, and points them in the direction of alternatives.
  • For some places though, like Maya Bay in Thailand, and Boracay Island in the Philippines, the strain of overwhelming visitation has led to the extreme measure of closing the destinations to tourist’s altogether: an enforced time out for clean-up and recovery.
  • In one of the world’s most remote destinations, Easter Island, has recently changed the length of stay for tourist visas from 90 days to 30; an effort to curb the impacts of rising tourism on the tiny Pacific isle.
  • Even though there’s stringent management that includes a pollution-free perimeter zone, and capping the number of tourists visiting the Taj Mahal, there’s no improvement outside the tourist attraction itself. With an enormous number of tourists visiting the monument on a daily basis it is slowly falling to the victim of pollution.

taj-mahal

However as an individual, the choices you make about where you go and what you do as a responsible traveller, can actually go a long way to helping ease the pressures of over tourism.

1. Search out Regional Alternatives

How about getting off the tourist trail and visiting destinations with lesser known sights and experiences?

Take the island of Bali. With attracting close to 6 million tourists in 2018, visitors tend to congregate around the island’s south, in heaving tourist centers like Seminyak and Kuta. But outside of Bali’s places such as Munduk, Padang Padang, Amed with some eco lodges in Munduk and Amed is where you can still find paradise, mingle with locals, and experience Bali’s distinctive island culture.

munduk

2. Visit during Off-Peak Periods

When you visit a popular place outside of peak times, you’ll be contending with fewer tourists, and you’ll often be able to take advantage of cheaper flights, accommodation and experiences. For instance, in Croatia, Dubrovnik’s Old Town turns into a tourist crush during the hot daylight hours of the cruise ship season. But a morning stroll along the city walls before the crowds arrive, or an evening wander through its lantern-lit streets after they’ve shipped out? Magic.

off peak

3. Support the Local Community with Your Time and Money

While tourism can bring a much-needed boost to a local community, by staying longer, sleeping in locally owned accommodations, eating at smaller, locally owned restaurants, and joining tours or experiences run by responsible local operators, you can feel more confident that your valuable dollar is going directly into that community.

Safareya local

4. Explore Beyond the Hotspots with a Local Guide

For many of our over-loved destinations, crowds are often concentrated around a handful of hotspots. Exploring a destination with a responsible local guide who will often take you to places most tourists never get to see, can reveal an entirely different side to the place you’re visiting, and get you away from the over-touristed mainstream.

guides

5. Be an Eco-friendly, Responsible Traveller

‘Leave no trace’ that’s all there is to it!

By taking steps to minimise the waste you produce on your travels, and encouraging others to do the same, you can do your bit in helping to ease the pressures on this front. A cloth shopping bag, or a reusable water bottle, will immediately reduce your environmental footprint as you travel.

Untitled

What we need to do is to develop the idea of conscious travel and start to imagine a better alternative. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand or silver bullet; change will need to occur at the grassroots level, one destination at a time.

 What about you? Have you ever attempted to give back to the places you visit? Post a comment below.

Madhavi

 

 

 

PC:Thebeautyoftravel:Asean Travel:Agoda:Safareya:VisitBritain:Tripadvisor:Pinterest:IndiaToday

A photo walk through the TWA flight center

 

image

The last time the Trans World Airlines (TWA) terminal at Kennedy International Airport saw a weary traveler was in 2001.

IMG_7018

The flight centre has since been closed until May 2019 , when it reopened and transformed into the lobby of the new TWA hotel , the only on site airport hotel.
Offering an homage to a past era of aviation, today the terminal’s twin corridors lead you to the TWA hotel with 512 rooms.

IMG_7010

What was once an ‘Arrivals hall’ , is now the reception area of the hotel . The check in desks of the terminal serve as the reception desk .

IMG_7011

IMG_7012

Lining the walls are the many pictures of the cities TWA  once flew to.

IMG_7013

IMG_7014
Hotel guests will feel like they’re stepping back in history — with the old flight board on display, model cars in what will be a restaurant, rotary pay phones and red plush furniture. There are more than 500 guest rooms, dozens of meeting rooms and even an infinity pool on the roof.

TWA-Hotel-Model-Room

Walking into the Flight Center, you are greeted first by a vintage Lincoln in the porch. As you enter you see a ticking departures board and a hostess dressed in a purple polyester TWA uniform. Moving on the graceful staircase, the Sunken Lounge, huge window panes, and a view of a restored TWA plane on the long-abandoned runway..

PHOTO-2019-06-22-08-58-52

 

IMG_7008

 

image
A cocktail lounge in a repurposed Lockheed Constellation L-1649A from the 1950s stands outside the new hotel. Four large sofas and eight vintage airplane seats reupholstered with a retro pink and orange plaid seat the guests .

 

PHOTO-2019-06-22-08-59-46

lounge

The display of TWA uniforms and luggage through the decades is just one taste of history in the brand new hotel.

PHOTO-2019-06-22-08-59-07

IMG_6989

IMG_7006

 

IMG_7003

 

There are multiple places to eat throughout the TWA Hotel, such as the Paris Cafe, located on the mezzanine level of the historic building. The 200-seat restaurant is now open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and serves food inspired by in-flight menus from TWA.

image

For quick meals, what was once the ‘Departures Hall ‘ now has a mini food-court style offerings and coffee carts.

IMG_7009

 

Located through the terminal are the multiple memorabilia reminding you of the aviation era gone by.

IMG_7007IMG_7005IMG_7004IMG_7002IMG_6995

Whether you’re an avid plane spotter or just love rooftop bars , the Pool Bar at the TWA Hotel is worth visiting . Looking out over JFK’s Runway 4, you can watch JetBlue and Delta planes take off while sipping a cocktail at the bar or while swimming in the infinity edge pool.

image

IMG_7017

The TWA hotel at JFK Terminal 5 takes you down memory lane with a marketable “story” and some absolutely wonderful ‘Instagrammable’ photos.

 

Madhavi

 

 

PC: Personal;TWA Hotel;

 

 

 

Your place or mine?

exchn

The first time I heard about Home swapping or Home exchange was via the Hollywood flick ‘The Holiday’ starring Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz, the story about two lovelorn women from opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, who arrange a home exchange to escape heartbreak during the Christmas and holiday season.

What a brilliant idea this was!

Swapping homes could be the perfect way to expand your horizons and holiday for free in exotic locations.

Home-Swap-300x161

Jetting off and arriving at your own ‘home away from home’ is an appealing thought. But since most of us can’t afford a foreign holiday home, the trend for house swapping, where holidaymakers move into one another’s homes – saving the expense of paying for commercial accommodation – is becoming increasingly popular. Home exchanges make an ideal base for one-day or weekend excursions.

People who have gone in for home swapping have made good friends along the way. You get to live as they live, shop where they shop since the exchange partner will often leave insider information about the area. What’s so fabulous about home swapping is it’s not just a holiday, it’s a lifestyle. And you get the most out of an intercultural experience.

home1

But home swapping is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some folks love to swap and do it several times a year because it allows them to experience new places without paying for hotels, restaurants or, in many cases, transportation (the use of the family car is included in many home exchanges). However, some travellers are turned off by having to cook and clean on their vacation, while others feel uneasy about having strangers living in their own homes.

home2

However there’s more than one way to do a home swap:

  • You can stay in your exchange-partner’s home while they stay in yours (a “simultaneous exchange”).
  • You can stay at a home-swapper’s second home or vacation home (a “non-simultaneous exchange”).
  • Or you can stay as a guest in a home-swapper’s abode while they’re also in the house (a “hospitality exchange”).

link home1

There are various home-exchange sites online that cater to different types of exchanges. Usually with the companies listed on a home exchange program  buying a membership is mandatory.

A lot of footwork is necessary. Both the owner and the holiday maker have to do their homework well before getting into such agreement. Check references, find them on social media or /and ask your home-exchange company for more information about prospective home exchange partners.

Home swapping is more or less a safe way to arrange a stay, with none or few cases of reported theft or vandalism. In the end, when it’s a simultaneous exchange, mutual trust is fundamental.

Here’s some pointers on how home swapping works.

  • By joining a reputable company via an annual membership. You’ll be able to list your property on their website and make contact with other owners to arrange your exchange.
  • Most house-swap firms don’t visit properties, so it’s imperative to study photos carefully, and look at feedback and definitely ask the owner questions.
  • Most of the companies have a guest points system where you earn guest points when you host and spend guest points when you stay as a guest.

home 5

For many travellers, a home exchange /home swapping is an economical, comfortable and fascinating way to vacation far from home. The possibilities for home exchanges could be endless.

Madhavi

 

 

 

OS: Daily Mail UK /  PC:Shespeaks;Readers Digest;Hitster;Froodee;TripSavvy;

Continue reading “Your place or mine?”

Wellness holidays to rejuvenate your Mind, Body & Soul.

wellness

Giving your body a wellness holiday is the ideal gift of happiness and rejuvenation you can do to yourself. And when it comes to picking a place where you could unwind, India most definitely tops the charts.

Imagine yourself being pampered amidst the arms of nature, feels great right?

Wellness tourism is experiencing a huge spike in recent times with people swapping their cocktail-fuelled beach vacations for detox and other aspects of mental and emotional well-being. Most Spa resorts have incorporated Yoga Nidra, Acupuncture, Meditation and complemented them with specially-curated diet plans.

Ayurveda, Yoga, Meditation, Rejuvenation-the options are endless.

Ayurveda, is the oldest system of medicine on Earth and practised from as long as 5000 years back, is known as the ‘Science of Life’ and is a great way to naturally heal and restore not just the body but the mind as well.

kerela (hindu)

Kerala is where it all started. Kerala has stood tall against time and has kept its age-old traditions alive not only with the natives but travellers from across the globe, who come here for seeking positivity, solitude, detox and natural treatments.

rishikesh

Bringing absolute peace to mind, YOGA stands as one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophical traditions. The ancient form aids in attaining good health through mental, spiritual, and physical practices. Indian and international travellers crash into yoga and rejuvenation retreats in India to relish a Saatvik diet (vegetarian proteins grown naturally by not harming nature and all its living beings) and meditate till they feel good. Yoga helps in bringing positivity to your thinking, pain relief, sound sleep, younger looking DNA along with helping in having healthy joints, controlling blood pressure, and boosting immunity.

Rishikes yoga

Rishikesh is the yoga capital of the world. The serenity and tranquility of nature have been very important to retreats in Rishikesh. The treatment or a yoga experience here is a blissful journey as it is housed in the lap of the Himalayas and it is located right next to the river Ganges. Yoga pavilions, landscaped gardens and the breathtaking Himalayan valleys are enough to lure people to get the best out of the retreats in Rishikesh.

dharamshala (shutterstock)

Whenever the dark clouds of stress and tension circle around, Meditation comes in like a savior. Meditation has been with us for thousands of years. This technique of connecting with your inner self in a peaceful environment aids in calming your blood pressure and heart rate. Meditation can fight anxiety, pain, and depression and brings ultimate peace to mind. ‘Vipassana’ a 10 day course and observes “noble silence” — that is, silence of body, speech and mind and which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was taught in India more than 2500 years ago as a universal remedy for universal ills.

meditation1 tushita

Dharamshala is literally regarded as the paradise on earth for meditation. The natural beauty of that place with a very serene backdrop is in itself one of the very prime reasons why people flock to Dharamshala.

bangalore

Spread in a 65 acre Greenland campus, on top of the Panchagiri Hills, The Art of Living Ashram in Bengaluru is another place where not only can you simply meditate, but also practice yoga and other forms of art which gives you the complete freedom to be yourself no matter how the world is outside.

ayurveda

In simple words, rejuvenation is the art of injecting happiness and positive energies in someone. Getting a rejuvenating therapy helps in bringing calmness to your mind, improving your skin and even increase in memory. So whether it’s practicing yoga, or getting an Ayurvedic treatment, or just feeling good by the coastline or simply breathing along in nature, there are ways which you can feel rejuvenated.

Isha

Isha Rejuvenation Center, Coimbatore established by Sadhguru allows an individual to experience inner peace and the joy of a healthy body through a unique and powerful set of offerings. These include residential programs, walk-in medical consultations and Ayurvedic therapies. The Rejuvenation Center is located at the foothills of the Velliangiri Mountains, referred to as the Kailash of the South. The Isha Yoga Center is home to the Dhyanalinga, a unique meditative space that embodies the distilled essence of yogic sciences. The energies of the Dhyanalinga create an atmosphere that supports and catalyzes the rejuvenation process in the human system.

ananda

Ananda in the Himalayas, Rishikesh is the luxury spa which specializes in more than 80 varieties of spa therapies which are the mixture of traditional Ayurveda with modern spa. It also offers a range of Ayurvedic treatments- Abhyanga, Shirodhara, Shloka, Takradhara, Mukh lepa. Besides, the resort is also famous for Yoga & Meditation therapy, healing treatments, physiotherapy, and Vedanta talk.

shirodhara

Besides having places that are specially earmarked for wellness tourism, such as Kerala or the Rishikesh, it’s not unusual to see some of the major hotel chains at touristy destinations such as Agra, Goa, Bangalore or Udaipur and even cosmopolitan cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata having their own in-house spa therapies which are the mixture of traditional Ayurveda with modern spa.

Some of them offer a range of Ayurvedic treatments such as Abhyanga, Shirodhara, Shloka, Takradhara, Mukh Lepa and more which help in purifying the blood by using herbal oils and medicines.

ITCMughal

Most of these places offer some attractive tailor-made packages for a healthier and sustainable lifestyle, as per guests’ needs which are determined by a doctor and their team of experts, skilled therapist, nutritionist, yogis, and chefs.

With rising demand for traditional healthcare practices and a growing emphasis on preventive health care methods, medical and wellness tourism is gaining immense popularity and attention among people.  And so today the need of the hour is to provide an easy, transparent and organized way to travel and experience wellness with better classification and a more effective rating-system for these wellness centres is crucial.

 

Madhavi

 

 

 

 

 

 

PC: Little India;Shutterstock;Isha ;Hindu;Ananda Spa; Tushita info;Tour My India;Rediff

Technology Trends that facilitate Smart Travel Experiences

cockpit

Technology is much like the Joneses- always up to something new. Frankly you just can’t keep up with it however much you try.

But the usage of technology is not new to Aviation. Back in the late 20’s a variety of technological navigation aids such as rotating lights or radio navigation aids would help pilots achieve a smooth and safe landing. Then towards the 40’s Instrument landing systems (ILS) used the best features of both approach lighting and radio beacons with higher frequency transmissions. Over the past few years many airports/pilots are using global positioning system (GPS) in addition to ILS. The GPS has become a primary method for navigation between airports and is exceedingly precise.

It is critical for the aviation, travel and hospitality industry to keep up-to-date with the emerging technology trends so as to nail the (CSQ) customer satisfaction quotient. Nonetheless, with such major breakthroughs in technology, it is playing a very vital role with its capability to increase the effectiveness of business operations and improve the customer experience.

 

Internet of Things (IoT)

IOT

The internet of things, or IoT, is a system of interrelated computing devices, have the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. (IoT) involves internet-based inter-connectivity between everyday devices, allowing them to both send and receive data.

To explain simply; Smart homes that are equipped with thermostats,  appliances, heating, lighting and other electronic devices can be controlled remotely via computers, Smart phones or other mobile devices, is a example of IoT.

Similarly IoT technology is being used in hotel rooms to provide customers with a device that connects to everything from the lights, to the heaters and air conditioning, allowing all to be controlled from one place. At airports, this may mean using sensors and sending information to passengers Smartphone’s, alerting them when their baggage is nearby and allowing them to locate it faster.

 Recognition Technology

biometrics

The technology includes finger print recognition, facial recognition, retina scanning and various other biometric identifiers. Such technology is already being used in some hotels to allow access to rooms via finger prints, or to allow for semi-contactless check-outs.

As the number of travellers grows, airports have started to turn to biometric technology. This speeds up various airport processes by allowing passengers to complete check-in and go through security or passport control without having to deal with a human agent.

 Robots

robot

One of the most exciting technological developments in recent years has been the increased prevalence of robots in hotels, right from text-based chatbots and robotic assistants, to security robots, being used on the front desk as customer information points. The main benefits are their ability to function 24/7, without needing breaks or motivation, providing greater consistency than humans would be capable of.

With a constant need to improve airport security, robots are being deployed in some locations to assist human security staff, for the purpose of detecting concealed weapons and other hidden items that are not permitted on flights.

Chatbots are used to guide customers through the online booking process, asking intelligent questions along the way for seamless travel bookings 24/7.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI-in-Airport

Perhaps the most obvious use is with chatbots possessing the ability to deliver rapid response times to problems or queries.

In fact, one of its most popular and effective uses is for gathering and interpreting huge amounts of data quickly and accurately, in order to draw conclusions about pricing strategies, revenue management, customer feedback from surveys, reviews and online polls, and even intelligently manage inventories, in order to build a clearer picture of current opinion, in real-time.

Blockchain

Blockchain

Although blockchain technology can sound confusing at first, it is actually pretty simple. Ultimately, it is a list of public records, where transactions between parties are listed or stored.

Despite automation, payments and settlements in the travel industry continue to be challenging and time-consuming. A complex distribution system, frequent cancellations and refunds, add to the operational challenges. Blockchain can bring in the seamless integration, agility and speed required between multiple players.

One of the most crucial aspects of blockchain technology is that data is decentralized and is more secure, traceable and transparent along with being resistant to modification and unwanted tampering. The decentralised nature of the blockchain means that information can never go ‘offline’ or be lost through accidental deletion or a malicious cyber attack, ensuring transactions are always traceable.

The travel industry relies upon different companies passing information between one another. For example, travel agents pass on customer details on to flight companies and hotels by way of overseas payment or loyalty programs. Blockchain makes accessing and storing important information securely and more reliably.

Airports use blockchain technology for tracking the movements of luggage, especially when dealing with international travel especially when the passenger uses multiple carriers and journeys to arrive at a destination. Using a decentralised database makes sharing tracking data between companies a lot easier.

online

For companies operating in the travel industry, it is essential to keep up with the latest technology trends. Understanding and adopting the trends allows the businesses within the travel industry to provide a better experience for the customers as well as aid in optimizing revenue management and overall business performance.

 

-Madhavi

 

PC-Future Customer; Airport Show; Hotel Technology; Digital Trends.

 

Off the beaten track

pexels
PC:Pexel

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

bckpck
PC:Unsplash

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

houseboat-kerala
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.

montrealairbnb

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.

image1 (1)

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

Vacation time
 PC:LonelyPlanet

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.

scuba
PC:LonelyPlanet

 

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

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.

varanasi

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.

shani-shingnapur

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.

maha-kumbh-mela

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.

golden

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.

Ladakhmotorable-road
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.

lonar

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.

Magnetic-hill-4

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.

india-root-bridge

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.

indian-food-tours-in

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

bhangarh

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