November 16, 2017

4 Surprising Coastal Getaways In Europe

When we think of Europe and the coast, there are a few destinations that usually come to mind first. We might think of the French Riviera, the Greek islands, the gorgeous seaside towns of Spain and Italy. All of these are iconic destinations for travelers from all over the world. And yet, to limit our fascination with Europe's coastal getaways to the headline-snatching paradises is to do this wonderfully versatile continent a disservice. Here are four more fascinating coastal spots in Europe that might surprise you, or which you simply might not consider ordinarily.

Zadar, Croatia 
It is certainly no secret anymore that Croatia has some of the most gorgeous coastal spots in the world. A bit of a hidden gem just a few years ago, the country has exploded in popularity, and it's for the reason you might expect: Game Of Thrones, which does a lot of shooting there, is making an impact. Indeed, the numbers have shown that the show is turbo boosting Croatia's economy almost too much, with the city of Dubrovnik having to restrict tourism to prevent overcrowding. The city of Zadar, however, receives far less attention and is equally intriguing. Featuring a Venetian-style old town that juts out into the Adriatic Sea as its own peninsula, it's a striking visual city built for world-class relaxation.
Image source: Wikimedia commons
Gibraltar, Great Britain

Gibraltar is a very bizarre destination, at least so far as geography and politics are concerned. Though technically a part of Great Britain, it's actually a Mediterranean peninsula attached to mainland Spain. Said to be one of Europe's most hotly contested areas in terms of territory (current prime minister Theresa May has vehemently vowed to keep it under British control), it seems to be the subject of dispute every few years. But don't let that eclipse its allure. This is a unique seaside spot, marked above all else by the famed Rock of Gibraltar, which is a paradise for travelers who love history and nature. Featuring everything from Europe's only native apes to ancient tunnels carved out as wartime hideaways, the rock which is really more of a mountain is absolutely fascinating. 
Image source: Wikimedia commons
Kotor, Montenegro
Many of us have it in our heads that Montenegro is a beautiful place, but that perception tends to be light on specifics. Unlike other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, Montenegro does not necessarily possess a given city or beach that is known the world over as a specific destination. But perhaps Kotor should be on that list of places. It's actually not technically on the sea, but rather slightly insulated, positioned on the Bay of Kotor (which does ultimately spill into the Adriatic). It is perhaps a bit unoriginal to describe a place this way in an article like this, but the simple truth is that Kotor is an almost uniquely beautiful old town, nestled at the base of a mountain on one of the most picturesque bays in the world. If you are into tranquil relaxation, you can't do better.
Image source: Wikimedia commons
Lanzarote, Spain
This is a different kind of coastal getaway as it's actually on the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain (rather than attached to the European mainland). Nevertheless, it is another overlooked spot that's absolutely sensational to visit. With beautiful beach stretches known for walking and cycling routes, and eco-friendly accommodations, it's a great place to get in touch with nature for a few days. The Telegraph even ranked it among the best summer holiday islands in Europe, which could put it on the map a little bit more. But for now it remains something of a hidden gem. 
Image source: Wikimedia commons

November 15, 2017

Five Bucket List Holidays That Your Family Will Enjoy Together

If you’re thinking of touring India with your family but don’t quite know where to begin, here’s a bucket list of holiday destinations in India that your family can enjoy together.

1. Goa
Looking for some sun, sand, and surf along with a dollop of history and culture? Look no further than India’s sunshine state, Goa! With gorgeous beaches lined with fun cafes and adventure sports outlets aplenty, this tiny state in western India is one of the most fun holiday destinations in the country. From March to May, the weather is hit; during the winter months from October to February, the state takes on a misty charm; while the monsoons make it the perfect trekking destination, making Goa an evergreen place to visit. When you are done enjoying the beach, take a tour of the UNESCO-listed churches in south Goa to learn about the culture and traditions of the Goans. The destination is well connected to several major metros like Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, and New Delhi by airplane, train, and bus.

2. Kerala
When you are looking for peace on your family holidays, few things compare to God’s Own Country, Kerala. Whether you want to take in the art and eclectic markets of Kochi, drive through the misty, winding lanes of Wayanad, unwind by the backwaters in Alleppey, or head to the tea haven of Munnar, this destination has got all it takes. While the backwaters can be humid, the hill stations of Thekkady and Munnar provide relief in the warm months. It’s easy to reach Kochi and Trivandrum from cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Chennai.

3. Rajasthan
For family vacations with a royal touch, Rajasthan fits the bill. Head to Udaipur in the monsoons to visit the palaces on the lakes in all their glory while the desert with all its rugged splendor awaits you in Jaisalmer. Don’t forget to watch a cultural show in the evenings here. The Hawa Mahal and Amer Fort teach you about Jaipur’s history while its Johari Bazaar will spoil you with its vibrant shops. Rajasthan is best visited in winter. Jaipur and Udaipur are connected to major Indian cities by flight and cities like Jaisalmer and Jodhpur can be reached easily via road.

4. North- East
For a slightly off-beat take on family holidays, visit the gorgeous North-east India. Here you will get to experience India differently. Avoid the entire region in monsoons; the best time to visit is from November to April. For tea plantations and history, you can head to Assam while Shillong is a fun party place with amazing natural surroundings. Besides, Arunachal Pradesh beckons those who crave adventure and Sikkim is a beautiful Buddhist state to visit.

5. Himalayan region
The final place on our list is the beautiful Himalayan region—whether you choose Himachal Pradesh or Uttarakhand, its pristine spirituality mixed with adrenaline- boosting adventures is a sure-shot contender for blockbuster family holidays.


Should you choose to go to the north, south, east, or west of India, Club Mahindra has you covered. With state-of-the-art hospitality, enjoyable fun filled resort activities, and modern well-done rooms at India’s favorite resort chain, you cannot ask for a better partner to make memorable holiday moments with family!

November 14, 2017

Weekend getaways from Coimbatore

Coimbatore is a major city in the state of Tamil Nadu apart from being a popular tourist and business destination.  It is close to many other places of tourist’s interest too such as hill stations, trekking spots, beach destinations and wildlife sanctuaries. The wonderful natural beauty of the entire region offers an unforgettable travel experience. You can directly visit any of the nearby places by taking a car on rent in Coimbatore. Here is a list of must visit places around Coimbatore.

Mudumalai: It is a serene hill station perched on top of Nilgiri hills. It is famous for its national park that houses some of the most amazing varieties of flora and fauna and also offer breathtaking views of scenic landscapes. Mudumalai National Park is the habitat for some of the rare fauna found in India such as leopards, dholes, golden jackals etc. The two primates of the area, grey langur and bonnet macaque draw large number of wildlife enthusiasts. Families can engage in interesting activities such as bird watching too.


Mudumalai tiger reserve (Image source- Wikimedia commons)

Ooty: Often called as “the queen of hills”, Ooty is the most popular hill station in Tamil Nadu and is the capital of Nilgiris district. It is located at an altitude of 2240 meters above sea level and is very popular among honeymoon couples as it observes pleasant weather throughout the year. The region in and around Ooty is blessed with beautiful mountains, dense forests, sprawling grasslands and lush tea gardens that delight the visitors. If you are planning to visit from Coimbatore, it is best to hire one of the reliable Coimbatore to Ooty cabs for a safe and comfortable journey.


Botanical gardens (Image source- Wikimedia commons)

Wayanad: Wayanad is an ideal destination for a wholesome vacation as it offers cascading waterfalls, historical caves, beautiful hills, adventure activities and plush resorts. It is also renowned for its spice plantations and wildlife. Wayanad is located at the border of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and a large portion of its area comprises of forest reserves. The entire region brims with green hilly ranges and wildlife. It's a lovely experience to take long walks through the sprawling spice plantations and trek to the pre- historic Edakkal caves. Wayanad is an ideal destination for a memorable family holiday.


Thamarasseri ghats (Image source- Wikimedia commons)

Munnar: A picturesque hill station located in the state of Kerala, Munnar is famous for its tea estates, exotic landscapes, rolling hills and rich flora and fauna. It is situated on the banks of three rivers and has one of the biggest tea plantations in South India. The major attractions of Munnar are Eravikulam National Park, Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary and tea plantations.


Tea plantations (Image source- Wikimedia commons)

Kodaikanal: A popular honeymoon destination in Tamil Nadu, Kodaikanal is famous for its scenic beauty. What brings the touriss here are dense forests, enchanting waterfalls and the lovely weather. Kodaikanal is located in the picturesque Palani Hills in Western Ghats and presents the most enchanting surroundings to the visitors. You can make your trip more exciting by taking part in activities like trekking, boating, horse riding etc.


Upper lake view (Image source- Wikimedia commons)

Chennai: Despite being a metropolitan city, the capital of Tamil Nadu state is the hub of commercial and political activities and also a popular tourist place. Chennai has an amazing mix of modern and traditional culture, and is famous for its beaches, heritage temples and churches. Major attractions in Chennai include the Marina beach, Kapaleeshwarar temple, VallurKotum, Queens land and many more. One can hire a Coimbatore to Chennai taxi for a convenient travel experience.



P.S.: This is a sponsored post.

November 3, 2017

Kinnaur- The Surreal Land


As I entered Kinnaur, it drizzled a bit and then a large rainbow showed up. Was that a welcome gesture? Soon it turned colder as the evening sky set in while I gleefully rode through NH-22, the old Hindustan- Tibet road, considered by many as one of the most dangerous rods in the world. With roads cut through mountains, rocks protruding as covers, deep valleys and endless mountain stretches, all that I did was enjoy the ride and take in the fresh mountain air. Darkness engulfed by the time I took the diversion at Karcham Dam. From then on it was just the rumble of the royal enfield, silhouettes of the giant mountains and the gurgling of a river way below that gave me company till Sangla, 18 Kms away. The road was narrow, occasionally a vehicle passed by and I had no clue what I was riding through. When I reached Roojoom Backpackers Guesthouse in Sangla, Joey, the owner told me that the road from Karcham to Sangla has spectacular views and is also pretty dangerous at night. The long ride from Chandigarh to Sangla took me 12 hours and all that I wanted at that point was a quick shower and warm food which the guest house provided. As I went off to sleep, Joey mentioned that I would be able to see some magnificent views when I wake up the next day.



As I opened the door next morning, I was flabbergasted with the view from my room. Mountains stood tall and intimidating staring down at me and the valley below had Baspa river languorously flowing. While clouds covered a few peaks, others had ice caps on its summit. Probably this is what it means to say- 'Wake up to the mountains'. It seemed like I had woken up in a surreal land. How true was Joey with his words the previous night.


Sangla is probably the prettiest region in Kinnaur with encapsulating mountains, gorgeous valleys, endless vistas, winding roads, apple orchards and friendly people. River Baspa has Sangla valley on its one bank and Baspa valley on the other. Post the monsoons, Sangla valley blooms with ogla fields (a locally grown grain), flowers and apples spreading an array of colours. With the snow capped mountains in the backdrop, Sangla valley definitely seems like God’s own valley.



A quick breakfast later, I was riding through the winding road that led further to Rakcham village. Endless stretch of mountains and the beautiful Sangla valley were the constant views with herds of mountain goats creating traffic jams.  The vistas are so luring that they make you stop frequently and gaze at them in oblivion. Rakcham which lies enroute Chitkul is the prettiest village I have ever visited. Wooden houses in typical Kinnauri architecture adorn this village. A stroll through the meandering pathway took me past many lovely houses and villagers to the beautiful temple. The wooden temple has intricate carvings all over. I strolled ahead and the path led me to a bed of pink flowers which looked picturesque against the serene surroundings.  After loitering for a while, I headed back to the road, crossed over and went down to the bank of Baspa river. The river was quite ferocious, a stark difference from what I gauged of it earlier.  The bridge here that connects Rakcham village with the Baspa valley offers nice views of the Baspa river.









As I rode ahead, spotted numerous camps by the bank of the river, which I was told offered many adventure activities too. However, the magnanimity of the landscapes ahead was too luring and I just couldn’t take my eyes off them as I headed to Chitkul. There were numerous stream crossings, most of which have bridges over them and one check post, a few kilometers before Chitkul where I had to enter my details and show an identity proof. Considered to be the last Indian village before the forbidden lands of Tibet, Chitkul is also the highest village in this valley. With vast mountains surrounding it, the tiny hamlet of Chitkul seems like the last point were civilization exists. The road leads further to Nagasthi village where the border outpost stopped me from going further ahead. Chitkul lies on the Indo Tibetan trade route that once existed and all that I could do was glance at the mountains and envisage the golden times of a borderless world.



Back in Sangla, a short but incessant drizzle greeted me as I headed to Kamru fort. The climb up to the fort goes past numerous houses of Kamru village, apple trees and temples.  The intricate carvings on the front door of Kamru fort are quite an attraction. As per customs, all visitors are requested to wear the Himachali cap and a tie a thread around their waist before entering the premises. The fort is more of a vantage point with gorgeous vistas all around. Apart from a temple, the fort also houses a mahal which was used by the Kings of Rampur Bushehr state earlier. Enroute the fort, I also visited a small Buddhist monastery, where a young monk was quite keen to open the prayer room and showed me around.



Next day early I left for Reckong Peo and it was only then that I realized what I had rode through two nights before. The road from Sangla to Karcham is definitely an adventurous stretch with terrifying gorges, spectacular mountain stretches and the narrow road snaking along the slopes which is sure to bring out the intrepid traveller in you. Karcham has a huge hydroelectric project built over river Sutlej, which also has resulted in numerous trucks plying on the gravel road. Not sure what the reason is, but Sutlej definitely doesn’t look like a river and seems more like a huge canal with grey waters. Beyond Powari which has a strong army presence, the road turned better and a deviation to the left took me up to Reckong Peo.  


Reckong Peo is a fairly large town and is the administrative capital of Kinnaur. Though the town as such doesn’t have any major places of interest, Chandika Devi temple at Kothi has magnificent architecture and a lovely backdrop of the snow clad mountains. Brelengi gompa nearby is another attraction. However, the monasteries were closed when I visited as there were major ground works happening near it.



Most people see Reckong Peo as a pit stop on their way up to Kalpa, and I was no exception. As I rode up, the snow clad Kinner Kailash slowly loomed in front with the views getting better as the winding steep roads took me to Kalpa. Believed to be the winter home of Shiva, Kinner Kailash is often referred to as one of the most beautiful peaks in the Himalayas and I couldn’t differ much.  The view of this mountain stretch is probably the most beautiful of all the peaks in Kinnaur. All I did was to stop intermittently and gaze at the spectacular natural formations covered in snow and engulfed by clouds. Kalpa is a striking mountain hamlet lined with apple orchards, a few houses, a small market, temples and a monastery. I was surprised that within a few humdred meters, I exited the village.


Narayan Nagini temple complex is a prominent place to visit. With a mix of both traditional Tibetan Pagoda style of architecture and Kinnauri architecture, this temple is a magnificent creation. Just behind the temple is the Chandika Devi fort which houses a primary school and a beautiful temple with intricate carvings and works. The premises also offer views of the Kinner Kailash peak and the surrounding mountain ranges. Am not sure how the students in the school can concentrate with such alluring views behind them.  The thousand year old Lochawa La-Khang monastery nearby is another important attraction. With fluttering prayer flags, numerous prayer wheels and a chorten, the monastery stands beautiful against the lovely backdrop.




The biggest attraction of Kalpa after the Kinner Kailash view is the suicide point. I rode past Kalpa towards Roghi village, enroute which lies the suicide point.  This point has a sheer drop and stares down the gorge. This is best captured from a few meters down the road as it also offers the views of the mountains behind.


There was no end to the views of Kinner Kailash as the restaurant where I had my lunch too offered lovely views of the same. Post lunch, it was a long ride back to Sangla with beautiful vistas for company all through.

The last day of my sojourn in Kinnaur began with a ride early morning to Nako, more than 100 Kms away. The roads were absolutely pathetic all the way till Pooh with road widening, rock drilling and many other works that have made sure that road remains a dirt track with stones. The mountains are so craggy that it seemed like I was on another planet. Amidst all this, Satluj runs parallel to the track for almost the whole stretch. After a quick breakfast at Ribba and after providing my details at Akpa check post, it was more winding roads through the barren mountains until Pooh, from where the roads were well laid with tarmac. However, the landscapes remained the same, but the confluence of Satluj and Spiti rivers with Mt. Leo Prugyal in the backdrop at Khab was a beautiful sight.  More vistas and views of winding roads way below were a delight.

Landscape showed colours as I neared Nako as green and yellow trees sporadically appeared. Nako is a very pretty village popular for its monastery and lake. Though geographically located in Kinnaur, the influence of the Spiti culture and lifestyle is very evident in Nako. So are the landscapes which seemed much less greener than Sangla and surroundings. Riding through the narrow mud road of the village, I reached Nako monastery, perched at a height overlooking the high mountains and the deep valleys. Though the monastery remained closed, the outer facade was itself an attraction with beautiful works and colours.  A short distance away from the monastery is the pretty Nako lake surrounded by trees and the village in the background.







From Nako the roads meandered its way down and took me to Chango, another small village known for its monastery. The monastery is a couple of kilometers away from the main village and is located high up on a mountain with apple orchards surrounding it. Facing the mountains, this monastery seemed cut away from the village below. Only a couple of young monks were around as I walked into the inner sanctum. Amidst the colourful interiors, a statue of Buddha looked out facing the gorgeous mountains. I walked around for a while and then rode back to Sangla, the picturesque region of Kinnaur.




Travel Tips:


  • You can stay in Sangla or Kalpa, and visit all the above mentioned places.
  • Kinnaur requires a minimum of 3-4 days to explore.
  • Though summer is the preferred season to visit, Kinnaur looks gorgeous after the monsoons. Winters are pretty cold in Kinnaur.
  • Nako is far from the other locations and requires a full day to visit.
  • The views are breathtakingly beautiful and the roads are pretty narrow on NH-22 and further to Sangla. Do make sure to concentrate on the road while riding your steed.

Location:

Located in Himachal Pradesh, the villages of Kinnaur remain pretty much secluded. The nearest airport is at Shimla (237 Kms) and the closest rail head is at Kalka (302 Kms). There are buses connecting all the regions of Kinnaur but aren't frequent. It is recommended to travel in your own vehicle or hire a taxi.

Food and Accommodation:

There are numerous stay options in Sangla, Kalpa and Reckong Peo. Chitkul, Rakcham and Nako too have a few home stays. I stayed at Roojoom Backpackers guesthouse in Sangla. Sangla also has many adventure camps located by the Baspa river. A mix of both Indian and Tibetan food is available at all these places.

October 30, 2017

The 5 Jyotirlingas in Maharashtra

In today's world of unforgiving rush and mental exhaustion, we are constantly in search of peace and relaxation. While these  two could mean a plethora of different things to different people, but for many they refer to landing themselves in a soulful and serene environment where one can let go of the daily hassles and experience oneness with the supreme being. If you are fond of travelling, you have virtually a limitless world of aesthetically appeasing and spiritually fulfilling temples to explore.

Some of the most revered of those temples are the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva in India. Out of the 12, there are 5 Jyotirlangas in Maharashtra. Interestingly, these temples worship the same lord, but address him by different names and forms.

For instance, Lord Shiva is referred as 'Ardhanareeshwara' in Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga, and with the river Bhima originating for this location, it is considered to be Siva's perspiration! On the other hand, Shiva is 'Vaidyanath' in Parli Vaijnath temple. This is due to the location of the temple among medicinal plants, and hence the belief of devotees in its healing properties. While Trimbakeshwar temple is considered one of the holiest place in Hndu mythology, Aundha Nagnath temple is believed to be the one where Lord Shiva was worshiped  first. It is believed that the pilgrimage is incomplete  without paying a visit to Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga. The uniqueness of these temples are evident from the fact that each one of them has its own significance in the spiritual journey.

Apart from serving as special connections between the Lord and his devotees, the Jyotirlingas of Shiva are known for their beautiful architecture and splendid natural locations making them a confluence of god, nature and man. This leads to the cleansing of the soul and mind of all worries, anxieties and apprehensions that we have become accustomed to in the modern world.


P.S.: This is a sponsored post.

October 25, 2017

Zostel Spiti- Review


With open fields beside it and mountains in the backdrop, Zostel Spiti is an ideal place to enjoy the scenery and meet likeminded travelling souls. From backpackers to riders, Zostel is a favourite, and the one in Spiti is special for its location and delicious food. It’s located just before the town of Kaza while coming from Kalpa/ Reckong Peo and is a short walk away from the market. The vibrant common hangout area is best enjoyed with other travellers sharing the day’s stories in the evening. Zostel Spiti also offers many activities such as star gazing at night. Apart from dormitories, the hostel also offers private rooms, outdoor tents and alpine tents. The prices start from Rs.499.



What I loved:

Location: It has an excellent location with a magnificent backdrop.

Rooms and Baths: The dormitories and bathrooms are well kept and neat. They do up the beds daily.

Food: The options for food are many and it’s quite delicious.

The staff: The guys out there are quite pro-active and help with your travel plans.


What I did not like:

Wifi: The connection is pretty weak. (Only BSNL phone network functions in Kaza).


Verdict: The place to stay in Spiti!


 Address:

Leo Village Road, Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, India- 172114

https://www.zostel.com/zostel/spiti

P.S. : This is not a sponsored post

October 18, 2017

Hikkim- Home to the World’s Highest Post Office

There is a charm to things that are getting obsolete and redundant in the world. In the modern age where the biggest scares are weak network, low battery and no data, writing letters to your loved ones seem like walking back a few decades. While telephones over the years reduced the number of letters sent, mobile phones have made postal letters and post offices almost obsolete. Many post offices in India still function as they do provide other services apart from sending letters.

I love post offices and take a picture every time I find one. Many villages and small towns in India still have post offices and the most fascinating one I found is in Hikkim. Up in the mountains of Spiti in Himachal Pradesh, Hikkim has claims of being home to the highest post office in the world at 14,567 feet above sea level. Wedged between the villages of Langza and Komic which are known for their monasteries, Hikkim gets a few visitors who come here to send home a couple of postcards. Though it may sound touristy for some, I am glad that the concept of sending letters is still alive in such tiny villages in the country.


The village also has credits of being the highest polling station in the world. Apart from the post office that has made Hikkim popular among travellers, all that you can find here are a few houses, kids playing and people working in the fields.



Hikkim is about 16 Kms from Kaza and there is a bus which leaves from Kaza to Komic and Langza (and connects Hikkim) once or twice in a week.

October 12, 2017

Friends Forever!


Two young monks enjoying their camaraderie near Komic monastery in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. September 2017. 

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