Rarely a country can evoke as many feelings as India does and legends after legends have made this country a must visit, must explore, must experience and must see place in the world. It brings in platter a human history which is many thousands of years old and tells a story of heritage, culture, tradition, religion and spirituality. It’s a depository and treasurer of most remarkable material on human history.
In last thousands of centuries, it has earned many sobriquets; each one defines one fabric of this land of unique proposition. India is the Land of Yogis, Land of Religion for it gave birth to four religions and many sects, Land of Kohinoor, Land of Gods for here 330 million Goddess and Gods are worshiped, Land of Festivals for everyday is a celebration here, Land of Taj Mahal, Land of Snake Charmers, Land of Golden Sparrow for once it was the most prosperous land on the earth, Land of Billion Souls, Land of Spirituality, Land of Recipes, Land of dialects for it has more than 1500 dialects etc etc.
Finally, it is the land where Holy books have mandated us to treat Guests as God.
India, the land amassed between Himalaya and Indian Ocean, was given this name by Greeks who derived it from River Indus which is originally known as River Sindhu. However, being the most prosperous nation for most of the human history, it has acquired many names due to its interaction with multiple civilizations and kingdoms and cultures. As per old Vedic scriptures, it is Bharatvarsha where the Great king Bharat and his lineage rules for many many centuries; in Jainism it is Nabhivarsha ruled by King Nabhi; in Manu Smriti, it is Aryavarta which means abode of Aryans; in Sanskrit literature, it is also mentioned as Jambudweep which means land of Jambu Tree described as land that lies between River Brahmaputra, River Indus and Indian Ocean. Arabs called it Al-Hind, Persians called it Hind which later became Hindustan. Greek Scholar Magasthenese also called it Indika and in Biblical literature it is mentioned as Hodu.
Greatness and importance of India in human History can be gauged with one mere fact that it is the only country in the world which has an entire ocean named after it – The Indian Ocean.
India is the definite digest of Humanity which allured all strata of people, generations after generation; Alexander wanted to conquer India to be pronounced as the ruler of world; Marco Polo thought his journey around the world is not complete without experiencing India; Scholars like Chinese Fa-Hien, Hiuen Tsang wanted to learn from its scriptures; Hitler borrowed its symbol from Vedas to establish his vile purity; Mother Teresa came to seek and settled here; Dalai Lama came here seeking refuge from intolerant Chinese system; Beetles and Steve Jobs came in search of spirituality.
India gave shelter, acceptance, and freedom to all.
Come what may, India always fascinated people with its mystic charm and attracts them into its mosaic dotted with culture, spirituality, heritage and history. When you stop for a moment to observe and absorb the place, suddenly you feel overloaded with sensory perceptions of multitude of colors, smells, tastes and sounds; all this keep reverberating in mind for a long time beyond imagination. Life is not in black and white here but a frequent experiment in psychedelic Technicolor.
Every moment spent here is an experience that takes you close to yourself and evokes mélange of emotions.
Being a traveler and a travel blogger, I find it as my responsibility to bring forth best of the reasons for other to explore India. In the quest to unfold stories from Incredible India, last year we talked about 37 fascinating destinations in India in collaboration with Top Bloggers and this year we are glad to list down top 45 unique things to do, experiences to witness and activities to take part when in India. Each of these experiences and activities are definite reasons to motivate you to come and visit this vast country.
We have categorized these unique things or experiences in three broad categories –
- History, Heritage & Food – which bring forth the India’s true soul
- Cultural experiences which wave the colorful fabric India is made of
- Natural escapes which includes wildlife experiences and adventures
Things to do in India – Fort Trail in Delhi
If you want to experience the soul of any place, visit its old places.
The sun smiled through the clouds and had hidden again playfully. Outside the Red Fort (Lal Quila), people huddled, some to witness the masterpiece of Mughal history and some to just spend their weekend. Vehicles clogged the road and calls of street hawkers filled the air. Capital city’s day had begun and with that my journey through Delhi’s historical forts.
Mughal Dynasty, that made Delhi (then Shahjahanabad) its capital in the 17th century, ruled over it until the 19th century. Built by Shah Jahan, this red sandstone structure is a best-preserved example of Mughal architecture. Rang Mahal (Palace of Colors), Khas Mahal (King’s Private Room) and Hayat-Baksh- Bagh (Garden that gives life) echo the luxurious and royal lifestyle of Mughals.
Red Fort was my first halt on the trail of forts that seemed like a trailthrough Delhi’s soul. The Red Fort Complex, apart from Shah Jahan’s Palace, also houses Salimgarh Fort which was built by Sher Shah Suri’s son, Salim Shah Suri in the 16th century. It’s not as impressive as Red Fort, but historically and culturally more significant. Mughal rulers used the fort as a campground before the construction of Shahjahanabad and also, the fort is said to be haunted because the British used it as a death prison for freedom fighters. Whisperings and laughs can still be heard at night, claim some.
Purana Qila, as the name suggests, is the oldest fort in Delhi. Built by Afghan ruler, Sher Shah Suri and Mughal ruler, Humayun; Old fort’s most striking attraction is Qila-i- Kuhna Mosque. “Ishq-e.Dilli” light and sound show at Purana Qila is a must do thing.
The Tughlaqabad Fort gives completely abandoned and haunted look especially at night but lovers have turned this defensive structure into a lovers point. You’ll encounter many in the hush corners while traversing the huge fort. Quite close to Tughlaqabad Fort, lies Adilabad fort, neglected and almost forgotten. The deserted, rugged and dusty fort still looks imposing in all its ruins.
Known as the first Red Fort (first fort to be built of red sandstone in Delhi), Qila Rai Pithora or Lal Kot was built by the Rajput ruler, Prithavi Raj Chauhan in the 12 th century. Nearly in crumbles, it still displays splendor of the olden times.
At my journey’s end, I recollected William Dalrymple’s words –
“Delhi was once a paradise, Where Love held sway and reigned; But its charm lies ravished now And only ruins remain. No”
Having stood the test of time; these colossal forts echo the stories of their glorious battles and victories. Discovering them is like walking back in time. Delhi is at its best during the winter season. Heritage walks and cultural tours are best ways to discover the culture and heritage of Delhi.
Recommended by Anjali Chawla
Things to do in India – Meet The Djinns of Delhi
It has been quite a while that I spent an evening with the Djinns of Delhi. No, they are not physical beings, but invisible ones coming from another realm to help those in need. And I was introduced to them by Asif Khan Dehlvi of Delhi Karavan at Feroze Shah Kotla fort on a walk. As we walked through the ruins of this ancient fort, Asif regaled us with tales from history, origins of Delhi and finally the mysterious life of Djinns. The roots of India’s capital go back to the times of the Mahabharata, almost 3,000 years back. Then a gateway city, built on the plains near a fording point on the Yamuna River and on the route between western and central Asia and Southeast Asia, Delhi sprung up first around the Qutub Minar area.
When walking through the fort, some things need to be kept in mind. Women shouldn’t let their hair remain open, not wear fragrance and not step on religious objects that people leave behind. The fort has a practicing masjid, a baoli (step-well), a pyramid and the famed Ashoka Pillar. Asif informed, “This is Asia’s largest residence of djinns.” Djinns are said to have been created from fire, like beautiful women and fragrances. Djinns can answer a distress call in many ways—through animals and other people or sudden unexpected happenings. We found a few people praying, offering flowers and fruits and lighting incense sticks. It is said that the Djinns came here with a Sufi saint and are powerful guardians. But there are troublemakers too. So tread carefully, for they can also be found in Mehrauli Archaeological Park, as the famous saints Jamali Kamali reside in their tomb there.
Recommended by Ambica Gulati
Things to do in India – History Trail in Gujarat
In popular imagination, more often than not, Gujarat loses to its neighbouring Rajasthan when it comes to places of historic significance. Junagadh (literally meaning Old Fort) and Champaner-Pavagadh archaeological park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) are two of the under-appreciated places on the tourist circuit. These two places, however, are a must for those seeking to unravel the mystery of Indian history.
Junagadh, located at the foothills of Girnar, deserves the title of ‘The Prague of the East’ for the sheer diversity of historic monuments present in the city. History dating back to 319 BC is still alive in its by-lanes and markets. The seventh largest city in Gujarat, Junagadh has been under the rule of Mauryan dynasty, Solanki Dynasty, Chudasamas, Nawabs of Junagadh (who hailed from present day Afghanistan) and in the end Britishers, before being acceded to the Union of India after independence in 1947.
Junagadh first finds mention in the history during the dynasty of Chandragupta Maurya (322 BC to 298 BC). This could be ascertained from the inscription of Ashoka in Girnar. The citadel of the city Uperkot – literally meaning the Fort which is situated on the above side of the mountain – was built in this period. The fort is replete with step-wells. Adikadi Vav is situated in the northwest side of Uparkot is a spectacular place owing to its depth.
The city has monuments belonging to four main religions of India, namely – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam. Hyu-en-Tsang, the Chinese traveler, visited this place in 645 AD and has chronicled existence of around 50 monasteries in and around Junagadh inhabited by 3,000 monks.
The monasteries mentioned in Hyu-en-Tsang’s travelogues might have withered away with time, but there still exists “Buddhist caves” giving testimony of bygone era. The caves are estimated to have been carved out over first and second centuries.
Junagadh was once part of Mauryan Emperor Ashoka’s Empire. The city also has a stone inscription that was ordered by Ashoka after 12 years of his accession. The inscription was put up at the south bank of Sudarshan pond in Junagadh.
The city was taken over by Mohamad Begda in 1452 during his third invasion. He undertook many a changes in the fort. Uparkot’s Jumma Mosque is example of one such change. Just opposite the mosque are two medieval cannons – Neelam and Manek – forged in Cairo and brought over by the Turks.
Another splendid architectural marvel is Mahabat Khan’s Mausoleum. But, sadly the present occupant did not live long enough to see its completion. He died and was buried here before the Mausoleum, bearing European and Mughal influence, was completed.
Spend sometime in the Jain temples of the city or roam around in its by-lanes while indulging in local cuisine.
Located at a distance of 50 km from Baroda, Pavagadh-Champaner located at the foothill of Pavagadh hill, was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage in 2004. The archaeological complex can rival the grandeur of ruins of Chittorgarh any day.
Champaner and Junagadh history has been connected through Gujarat Sultan Mohammad Begada, who took possession of the fort here in 1484 AD and renamed it as Muhammadabad. The oldest temple in the precinct is dating back to 10th-11th century and other temples belong to Hindu and Jain sect and belong to 13th and 15th centuries. Besides temples, the complex also has several important monuments of medieval Islamic architecture. The Muslim rulers’ penchant for mosques also got manifested in the number of mosques built in the complex.
Champaner, which is spread on and around the hill of Pavagadh, started out as a part of Chavda kingdom in the 8th century and later became the Rajput capital around 1300 AD. It then passed into the hands of Gujarat Sultan Mohammad Begada, who is known to have spent nearly 23 years renovating and improving the fortifications of Champaner, now renamed Muhammadabad. However, it was of no use as the fort was soon annexed by the Mughal in 1535.
Things to do in India – Mumbai Heritage Walk
Mumbai is a busy city in the Maharashtra state of India which is always referred to the dream city as it holds within it ample of opportunities. But only a few know about the rich colonial history of the city. Mumbai was gifted to the East India company by the Portuguese who reigned the city until 1661. The British rule left behind ample of remarkable architectural buildings and monuments. Though you can explore the city on your own joining one of the heritage tours would be one of the best option to explore the hidden city gems backed by some information on history and architecture.
The most important and magnificent building of Mumbai heritage which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site is the historic railway station Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway Station (CST). The imposing building built in Gothic Revival architecture features domes, turrets and striking stained glass windows. Also worth a visit is the Ballard Estate and the neighborhood of Horniman Circle Gardens which is surrounded by some of the splendid 19th-century buildings which are reminiscent of the buildings in Europe. The 300-year-old Gothic style St. Thomas Cathedral across the street of Horniman Circle Gardens is truly a hidden gem of Mumbai which cannot be missed on the Mumbai heritage trail. There are ample of buildings along these streets which are a testimony to the colonial rule but the most popular and also the most touristy part of the heritage walk is the Taj Mahal Palace and the historic Gateway of India. While the Taj Mahal Palace today is a 5-star hotel part of the Tata group of hotels with more than 500 rooms the 20th-century historic monument opposite the Taj Mahal Palace was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary overlooks the Arabian Sea.
Recommended by Rashmi & Chalukya
Things to do in India – Terracotta Temple Tour in Bishnupur, West Bengal
As a traveller it would be a sin if you are visiting Kolkata in India and give Terracotta temples of Bishnupur a miss!
Bishnupur, a small peaceful town in Bankura district, 132kms west of Kolkata, is a treasure trove of terracotta temples. It is in the tentative list of UNESCO WHS since 3rd July 1998. The word Bishnupur translates to “the city of Lord Vishnu”. Most temples here are dedicated to Lord Krishna who is worshiped as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, Malla dynasty flourished in parts of West Bengal. They were politically stable and popular and encouraged religious activities, provided support to craftsmen, weavers, and potters. King Bir Hambir, whose reign is considered as the golden age of Mallas, introduced the worship of Madan Mohan (Krishna) and built the impressive Ras-Manch Temple in 1587 AD. After that a series of temples were built by succeeding kings.
There are 30 temples scattered in Bishnupur. It can easily take 3 hours to cover them in a quick pace. Photography enthusiasts and sunset collectors can linger on for a couple of days. Guides there know the best angles of frames.
When to visit: If you can brave the crowds visit this temple town during the festival Krishna Janmashtami. The festival is celebrated on the eighth day of the dark fortnight of the month of August–September in Hindu calendar. And yes, by all means try and avoid the peak summer season, since most temples are scattered over large plains, the heat becomes unbearable.
How to get there: Nearest airport is in Kolkata. From Kolkata many options are available. Take trains to Bishnupur station and hire a rickshaw from there to your hotel. Plenty of state transport or private transport bus service too. Alternately you can hire a taxi from airport to Bishnupur hotel.
Where to stay: Bishnupur Tourist Lodge run by West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation is an excellent place. Food is good too. Yet another one is Municipal Guest House run by the Bishnupur Municipality.
Recommended by Indrani Ghose
Things to do in India – A visit to Godmakers of Kumartuli in Kolkata
Come Durga puja and Kolkata gets draped up in an excitement that’s beyond words. But the season of festivity arrives Kumartuli much before. It’s that hub where the clay idols taking shape for the big day. The skilled hands gives life to Dashabhuja Durga, at this more than three centuries potters hub. These potters who once came to the city to make Durga idol for Raja Naba Krishna Deb of Sovabazar decided to stay back and make this their base. From then till now
Located in located at SovaBazar in North Kolkata, from then till now Kumartuli is the traditional potter’s of the city for centuries. Artistic productions of idols travel all across the globe. It is from here that idols of Goddess Durga and other deities make their way. As the artisans prepare the clay (path mati) by mixing some jute with ‘atel mati’ from the Ganges, one can see the whole process starting with the making of ‘kathamo’ or the bamboo structure to support the idol. Mere clay taking that shape is nothing less than magic.
As one walks down the narrow mud cluttered bylanes of Kumartuli, you can spot the artisans craft such intricate beauties and this small little locality in Kolkata is a world of its own that will enchant you. One would simply be left marveled over the intricate detailing and the hard work that goes in, in creating such a beauty – the idols of Goddess Durga. Everyone is busy working on their masterpieces. There are also workers who are hired months before the peak season so that the demands can be met.
These artisans work day in and day out burning the midnight lamp and one can see distinct style curated by each artist. Every family of artisans sees different and distinct style of making these idols. It’s estimated that they make 15000+ idols are made every year and that’s still increasing. Traditionally it always used to be made in “ekchala” (single frame) but slowly it has seen much transformation and today these idols come as huge as 8o feet to few artistic ones using ecofriendly stuff to create these idols.
Come what may the charm of this locality has still not faded and it’s a photographer’s delight. Experience this chaos to feel the pulse of the city.
Recommended by Ayandrali Dutta
Unique Culture to witness when in India – Ceremonies in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Blessed by the water of the great Ganges River, Varanasi is one of the most sacred cities in India for Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. Most people don’t know that it’s also one of the oldest cities in the world. Some archaeologists believe the city is 4,000 years old, and while some neighborhoods have adapted to modernity, the old town alleys and the ghats along the river look like no time has passed at all.
The city is full of spirituality, religion and mysticism, and you’ll feel that energy right away. Several sacred festivals take place in Varanasi every year, so if you are lucky, you might see one. I was fortunate enough to watch the Dev Diwali, a colorful festival during which all the steps are decorated with thousands of candles. Gods descend that day to bathe in the waters of the Ganges.
However, Varanasi’s most famous ceremony by far is the cremation. According to Hinduism, anyone who dies in Varanasi (or less than 60 miles from the city) will be free from another cycle of reincarnation, going straight to Nirvana. That’s why all Hindus with enough money try to die in Varanasi and be cremated there. The baths in the Ganges River are also considered purifiers of sins.
For a tourist, this is one of the most interesting and intense destinations in India. It’s a great getaway for two or three days, during which you can stroll its alleys or just sit on the ghats and watch the world go by.
Recommended by Miguel
Unique Culture to witness when in India – Ceremonies in Haridwar, Uttarakhand
At the point where the River Ganges exits the foothills of the Himalayas, lies one of the most important Hindu pilgrimage sites in India – Haridwar. Lesser known than neighbouring Rishikesh, which is just one hour auto drive away, this is where intrepid travellers are rewarded with perhaps a more authentic experience. Witnessing the sheer devotion of worshippers bathing in the fast-flowing Ganges and the elaborate spiritual ceremonies will overwhelm the sense and strike a powerful chord of emotion. Amongst the natural bustle and chaos experienced in any Indian city, Haridwar echoes a powerful serenity, which is fascinating to witness.
Spend an afternoon walking from temple to temple along the river banks and ghats, or visit an ashram or yoga centre for spiritual contemplation. Head to one of the ghats just before sunset (Hari Ki Pauri being the most popular) and after watching the flamboyant choreography of fire and fervent prayer to chanting mantras, light a candle in a wreath of flowers, place it in the river, and watch your prayer join the chatter of flickering flames and drift downstream.
We also recommend an early start to beat the crowds and take the cable car up to Mansa Devi Temple, which celebrates the folk goddess of snakes. Shuffle along shoulder-to-shoulder with devout pilgrims desperate for a glimpse of the sacred shrines.
Haridwar can get extremely busy during religious festivals, so check the Hindu calendar beforehand, as accommodation can get booked up quickly. The easiest way to get to Haridwar is by train; there are direct connections from Delhi, Agra and Varanasi.
Recommended by Jenny Lynn
Unique Culture festivity to witness when in India – Holi Festivity in Hampi, Karnataka
The city of Hampi is located on the south bank of the Tungabhadra River, twelve kilometers northeast of the city of Hospet in the district of Bellary in eastern central Karnataka. From about 1343 to 1565, Hampi was the capital of the kingdom of Vijayanagar and, accordingly, has a lot to offer today.
The ruins of the city are well worth a visit. They are scattered over 26 square kilometres in a once well-defended area south of the Tungabhadra River. The highlight of the year, however, is Holi, the most colourful Hindu custom, where people throw mutually collared powder over each other to welcome springtime. Everywhere kids run around with water pistols and bags of paint powder. Even foreigners and visitors are greeted with colour and attacked with water and paint. An early warning is rare, to be honest.
The originally religious festival originates from India and Nepal, symbolizes the victory of the good over the evil and the beginning of spring – and at least by name in recent years has begun its triumphal procession around the world. At big events from Paris to Berlin to New York and Cape Town, young people dance to electronic beats and throw colourful cornstarch powder. In New Delhi, in recent years, a parallel world has emerged from street parties and organized events.
On the other hand, many families like in Hampi still celebrate the festival in their neighbourhood – with shared food, water and colour battles under the open sky. Even in temples, the festival is celebrated often with divine statues as a trigger of colour explosions. Nevertheless, there is still more anarchy away from the streets of Hampi and other cities than at the international events. Everyone is allowed to bring his or her own colours, which can be bought at every corner in the day of Holi. Again and again you see water bombs flying in the air. At this time of the year, the bars and food stands are notoriously overloaded. Isn’t it interesting to see that sometimes a little bit of colour powder is enough to connect people?
Recommended by Clemens Sehi
Unique Culture festivity to witness when in India – Holi Festivity in Barsana, Uttar Pradesh
After the months long winter season, spring brings lot of happiness and relief in the life of everyone. Everything in the nature become active and feels new life on the earth. The colourful flowers again started attracting butterflies. The whole environment looks like enliven & colourful. People started playing with colours and much awaited festival of Indians Holi started.
A festival of joy and happiness which spread real colour and pleasure in the life. People sprinkle real colours or coloured powder (Gulal) to each other and break all the barriers of discrimination between them. Children come out of their homes in the early morning with colours and Pitchkari to enjoy with friends.
But the people of Brajbhoomi- Land of Radha & Krishna, celebrates this festival of colours – Holi with traditional gaiety and fervour, a week ahead of the rest of the country in totally different way. From all around the world travellers come here to witness and frame the phenomenal style of their Holi known as Lathmaar Holi, which is played in the village of Barsana & Nandgaon, near Mathura in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Legend has it that, one day Lord Krishna of Nandgaon was playfully teasing Radha and her friends gopis of Barsana. The women of Barsana took offence and chased Lord Krishna and his friends away by running after them with lathis. Since then, the tradition is being followed in Barsana where men come from the neighbouring village of Nandgaon to apply colour to women of Barsana and are chased away.
On the first day of Lathmaar Holi, gops from Nandgaon come to play Holi with the gopis of Barsana. The festival begins with a ceremony at the sprawling campus of the Radha-Rani or Ladli temple, which is said to be the only temple in the country that is dedicated to Radha. After this ceremony gops than march out of the temple on the Rangeeli gali where they stop to play lathmaar holi with the gopis, who stand in groups along the street.
The next day men from Barsana go to Nandgaon to drench the women of Nandgaon with kesudo (orange colour flower) water and palaash. The Nand Baba temple looks like bathed in orange/red by kesudo or palaash flowers. The transgender dancing in full swing under the devotion of Lord Krishna. The people reading the Samaaj Doha inside the temple. The festivities unfurl in full swing with colours and water being thrown around. These all scenes were so alluring that one can’t forget it in his/her lifetime.
The air itself becomes coloured and songs lauding Lord Krishna and Radha can be heard at every corner of the village. Revelers sang folk songs and danced in groups as part of the Rasleela celebrations, recalling the romance of Lord Krishna and Radha, his consort.
It was really an awesome show of love & spirituality, the whole Barsana and Nandgaon bouncing around chanting Radhe-Krishna. The complete environment became pure and it is believed that even the gods descend to witness.
Recommended by Gargi & Manish of 2Ghumakkar
Things to witness when in India – Unique Barter System at Jonbeel Fair, Assam
Do you know that the age old barter system still exists in India? The rare social practice comes alive during a unique festival in Assam known as Jonbeel Mela. During the three day long festival, tribal people of the hills come down to the plains with their goods and trade with the people from the plains. The most fascinating part of the festival is that people don’t use currency while trading.They exchange agricultural products like fresh ginger, wild potatoes, fresh vegetables, turmeric, arum, sesame, chillies, herbs, fruits, rice cakes, dried fish, fresh fish, poultry, different types of aromatic rice, etc.People from different ethnic groups like Tiwas, Khasis, Jaintias and Karbis participate in the barter system.
Each year, on the weekend of Magh Bihu (Assamese festival), the festival is celebrated in a place called Dayang Belguri in Morigaon District of Assam. The name of the festival also has a significance.The word Jon means Moon and Beel means Wetland in Assamese language. The wetland is called ‘Jonbeel’ because this large natural water body is shaped like a crescent moon. The festival starts off with Agni Puja where the locals pay homage to the ‘God of Fire’. Later, people from different communities get together for community fishing in Jonbeel (Wetland). During the community fishing, people not only indulge in fishing, rather enjoy the rituals by singing traditional Bihu songs, teasing each other, exchanging dialogues amongst various ethnic groups, expressing happiness and also competing with each other. The environment suddenly becomes joyous. This is the perfect way to celebrate brotherhood, love and harmony.
If you trace back the origin of the festival, we have to go back to the 15th century, when Gobha Raja, the King of Tewa Lalung tribe, held political meetings with the Ahom King near Jonbeel. It was during those meetings, people from different communities used to trade through barter system. Interestingly, the same tradition has been carried on by the people of these different communities for centuries with an equal amount of enthusiasm and it is still celebrated on the bank of Jonbeel every year.
Recommended by Parnashree Devi
Things to witness when in India – Astonishing Co-existence between the Humanity and the Wild at Masinagudi
Nestled in the foothills of the Madhumalai National Park, a soon-to-be one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is a small village called Masinagudi. Masinagudi derives its name from Goddess Masini, a local deity worshipped in a temple that is around 800 years old! “Gudi” means shrine or a place of worship, roughly translating “Masinagudi” to Goddess Masini’s shrine.
Barely a 6 hours drive from Bangalore and being so close to the famous Mettupalyam railway station (around 46kms), Masinagudi has a geographical advantage too.
After driving through the commercial counterparts such as Bandipur and Nagarhole, Madhumalai National Park provides its visitor with a crude connection to the wilderness. You don’t have to take a safari to see a bunch of elephants lazing on the road or a sloth bear grazing on the green grasslands, you just have to drive around the village (but do so with caution). We had stayed at a resort called The Jungle Retreat, that has developed from a barren land to a thick forest resort. Here, you will encounter more wildlife than humanity. Deers, Wild elephants, Malabar squirrels and even Snakes are left on their own. On the contrary, we were asked to retreat to our rooms by 6pm! It takes time to get used to observing wilderness from the other side of the bars but that also incites a sense of respect and responsibility towards the wildlife around.
There are multitude of other touristy things to do as well:
- Visiting the Elephant camp
- Bandipur/Madhumalai Safari
- Visiting Maravankady Dam
An extended or a long weekend (3 days) should satiate and relax any soul that decides to visit Masinagudi. The hardest thing after this road trip would be to adjust to the hustle and bustle of the city’s life.
Recommended by Anuradha Rao
Unique cultural celebration in India – Diwali at Golden Temple, Amritsar
Amritsar is a mystical peaceful city in the Punjab region of India, right by the border with Pakistan. As the host city to the Sikh’s holiest shrine, The Golden Temple, Amritsar is a spiritual pilgrimage place where even the busiest most stressed visitor will find tranquility. Wander the temple’s grounds and the many buildings around it and get lost in the quiet noise of thousands of visitors circumambulating around the Golden Temple and pond.
Experience royalty when in India – Dine with Nizams of Hyderabad
The Nizams, the historic Mughal rulers of Hyderabad, once called Falaknuma Palace home. Today, Falaknuma is a 5 star hotel with a world-class restaurant to match and is an oasis situated above the hustle and bustle of Hyderabad.
Upon arrival, drivers must stop at the gatehouse where you’ll be chauffeured to the palace itself in either a golf cart (free!) or you can ride in style in a horse-drawn carriage (for a price in rupees that converts to more than $200 USD!). We opted to take the free ride in the golf cart.
Falaknuma Palace features a small museum decked out in historical furnishings and large dramatic painted portraits of the Nizams. We enjoyed pretending to be special royal guests as we strolled the terraced European-style gardens surrounding the palace. We looked out past the antique cannons to the city below with Charminar and the heart of Mughal Hyderabad clearly visible in the distance.
A Victorian gazeboed terrace with a dome of antique stained glass led into the restaurant. Of course, the main reason to visit Falaknuma Palace is the food. We opted for a 6 course lunch accompanied by cocktails made with local fruits including the sweetest of mangoes. I opted for the vegetarian menu. Pan-fried corn cake, and a trio of vegetarian appetizers kicked off our culinary experience. We cleansed our palates with an exquisite tamarind sorbet before tucking into veg curry, paneer makhni, black lentils, and a creamy spinach dish. Dessert included five mini-dishes: a creamy yogurt, spiced apples, apricots stuffed with a sweet cheese, and beetroot pudding. The entire menu was fragrant with Indian spices and the mains packed a heat level that was through the roof. Hyderabad is love their food spicy! All along, the staff at Falaknuma Palace made us feel like kings and queens for a day as we enjoyed the best meal I’ve ever had in all my travels through India.
Recommended by Jennifer aka Dr. J
Witness a unique dance form when in India – Kathakali Dance from Kerala
The name ‘Kathakali’ usually unfolds an imagery of vibrancy, opulence, flamboyant costume and expressive dance. But for me, it had always rekindled old memories of my school days when in one of the projects, we had to stick a chart on Classical Dance forms of India and I was captivated by the very colourful mask and costume of the Kathakali dancer. For as long as I remember, I had concluded that the dancers of Kathakali wore a mask for their performances until one fine evening in the bylanes of Cochin/Ernakulam, at the Cochin cultural Centre, this myth was demystified.
I learnt that Kathakali is all about colourful costumes, expressions and make-up!
Kathakali as a dance-drama is practised, performed and widely associated with God’s Own Country –Kerala in India. It has its origins in the 2000-year-old classical dance form of Kuttiyatam that used to be performed in temples.
Kathakali makes use of nritya (dance) in combination with abhinaya (expressions) that forms the crux and the USP of this dance form. Most of the Classical Indian dance forms make ample use of the Navarasa and Kathakali is no different. Navarasa are the nine emotions that are emoted throughout the performance. A dance with no mask gives ample scope to express the emotions beautifully without words. This, combined with the mudras (gestures) form the basis of this colourful dance drama.
Both masculine and feminine characters in this dance form are performed by only men. The female character is known as Minukku.
Students of Kathakali undergo rigorous training that includes oil massages and separate exercises for eyes, lips, cheeks, mouth and neck. The eye-catching make-up is an elaborate 2-3 hours process with many stages. The colours used in the Kathakali makeup are eco-friendly, natural sans chemicals.
The dancers put their heart and soul into the performance we witnessed. So much so, that, they lived and emoted the characters. It never looked superficial and this dedication is what makes the classical art- forms, a class apart and grounded in reality.
Finally, I not only got to know that Kathakali is performed without a mask but also learnt the intricacies and hard work that goes behind the scenes too. My kiddo too learnt these facts quite earlier in life than his mom !!
Do pay a visit to the Cultural Centres in Kerala when you travel there and watch this opulent and colourful dance form called Kathakali in action.
Recommended by Meenakshi J
Witness the grand display of Indian Culture – Indian Wedding
Local experiences are the most memorable parts of traveling and living abroad. One of the most desired and spectacular experiences of a visitor in India is attending an Indian wedding.
Weddings in India do look like a Bollywood movie in one way or another – many colors around, festive attires, everyone is dancing as if they’ve been rehearsing the program several months and, of course, huge buffet of food that reminds a festival. The event is filmed by several professional photographers and videographers as well as “instagrammed” and “facebooked” by all the guests. Wedding is an important step and a big deal in India! Take it as a chance to learn about local culture and wear the brightest traditional suit!
Beyond the grand show, wedding is a chance to know more about Indian family and relationships. On the main wedding event you will meet many relatives of the bride and groom. They will talk a lot about the family and you will most probably get many personal questions about your life as well. Don’t get offended! Personal matters often mean the family matters in India.
As a rule, Indian wedding takes place for 3-4 days. It starts with an engagement, then Mehendi ceremony, haldi, Pooja and a grand wedding itself. If you are in close relationship with the bride/groom, you will have chance to witness all the main functions.
If you are a foreigner, I truly recommend this experience when visiting India! It will be better if you attend a wedding of a known person/friend, so you can find out more about the traditions and what’s going on beyond the “grand party”, though don’t be surprised if you are invited to the neighbor’s wedding if you choose to stay in a host family over the hotel.
Also, don’t forget – India is a land of diversity! Each state and religion in India has different dresses, customs and traditions for organizing the ceremony. Attend different weddings to get a better understanding of the local culture.
Recommended by Natalia Shipkova
Must have spiritual experience when in India – Visit Auroville, South India
Not far from Pondicherry in Southern India is the amazing town of Auroville. Set up in the 1960’s, the ideals of Auroville is that it is a community made up of a universal town from nations across the world.
Auroville was founded by Mirra Alfassa who is known as the ‘Mother’, and Sri Aurobindo her spiritual collaborator. Their vision was that people could live together in harmony regardless of ethnicity or religion. Their work in setting up Auroville was recognized by UNESCO who commended it as a project of importance to the future of humanity.
Today approximately 2,500 people from around 49 countries reside at Auroville both as permanent residents and long-term volunteers. Auroville is very self-sufficient having it’s own schools and healthcare facilities.
Auroville is a fascinating place to visit, and upon entry through the visitors centre you can watch a short introductory film explaining the origins and ethos behind the community. You’re then free to explore the beautiful grounds all planted and maintained by volunteers.
A highlight of visiting Auroville is a visit to view the Matrimander – a huge golden globe where community members participate in concentration and meditation sessions. Although entry isn’t permitted to the inner chamber for casual visitors (you can obtain a ticket to visit by contacting guest services at least a day in advance), the Matrimander can be observed from a purpose built viewing point.
The Visitor Centre is very well organised and includes cafes selling beautiful fresh (mostly organic) food grown on site where possible and great coffee! There’s also some gorgeous shops and boutiques selling clothing, jewellery, soaps and incense, many of it handmade in Auroville.
If you want to visit for longer, options include volunteering, taking part in workshops and yoga programmes, visit the on-site healing centre or browse through one of the many libraries.
Auroville is a truly unique place to visit in India and if you’re near Pondicherry or in nearby Tamil Nadu it’s really worth adding it to your itinerary.
Recommended by Kylie Gibbon
Must have spiritual experience when in India – Visit Namdroling Monastery
Established in 1961 and located just 85 kilometers outside of Mysore, the town of Bylakuppe is India’s first Tibetan exile settlement. The area was provided by the Indian government to Tibetans fleeing instability in their homeland. Bylakuppe has since grown to include over 70,000 Tibetans, a police station, post office, hospital, college, and 6 monasteries one of which is the Golden Temple or Namdroling Monastery.
The monastery is home to over 5,000 monks and nuns and teaches Nyingma, one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. I visited Bylakuppe for the first time in 2015 after hearing about it from a friend in Mysore. While Indian nationals can freely enter the town, it is mandatory for foreigners to obtain a Protect Area Permit (http://tibetbureau.in/protected-area-permit-pap/) in order to visit any Tibetan settlement in India. The best way is to apply for the permit while applying for an Indian tourist visa as they can sometimes take up to 90 days to be issued.
The wait is worth it though because as soon as you enter the grounds a wave of peacefulness washes over you. The walls inside the Golden Temple are covered in traditional Tibetan paintings and carvings that elaborate the life of Buddha and his teachings. The artwork leads you inside where you’re greeted by three gigantic golden statues of Buddha Shakyamuni, Guru Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche), and Buddha Amitayus on the right. They are made of copper and plated with gold. Inside the statues are scriptures, relics of great beings, small clay mould stupas, and small statues, which symbolize the body, speech, and mind of the Buddhas.
For anyone that lives or travels through India, you know the street hustle and traffic can sometimes be overwhelming. Spending a day in Bylakuppe meditating inside the Golden Temple or listening to the monks reciting their lessons is enough to calm oneself.
Must have spiritual experience when in India – Monastery hopping in Ladakh
Leh Ladakh is well known among the travelers and tourist for its rugged yet mesmerizing terrains but do you know it too is dotted with innumerable ancient Buddhist Monasteries. Yes! While driving, you will find several centuries old Monasteries. Each monastery here is an architectural marvel perching on the mountain face or top and has deep rooted Buddhist & Tibetan religious associations. So, these Gompas are not just architectural delights but are culturally significant too. Today, many of these royal pieces have turned into ruins whereas other are inhabited and work as religious and cultural educational centres. The monastery hopping circuit in Leh Ladakh forms an important part of Ladakh Tourism.
Over centuries the valley had been ruled by various dynasties and each left its own religion, traditions, and culture. But today Tibetan Buddhism predominates all. These Leh Ladakh Monasteries belong to various sects of Tibetan Buddhism and have their own difference and similarities. The edifice of these sacred monasteries is their vibrant colours, paintings, imposed chortens and Mani Stone walls.
Starting with Leh, the Tsemo Namgyal Monastery is situated on hilltop behind Leh Palace and it offers the panoramic breathtaking view of Leh City. The Lamayuru Monastery, storehouse of Buddhist artefacts is oldest of all and currently works as a home educational centre to several Lamas. Similarly Likir and Pyang Monastery houses centuries old Buddhist artefacts. The Thiksey Monastery, in deep red and white colour captures the whole mountain face and has the most impressive structure. Hemis Monastery hidden behind the gorge is world famous for Hemis festival. Spituk monastery has major religious significance and controls Stok, Sankar and Sabu Gompas. Stakna or Tiger Nose Monastery offers the magnificent views of Zanskar range. Diskit Monastery looking above the Nubra River in Nubra Valley houses the highest Maitreya Buddha statue. Other famous shrines are Alchi, Phugtal, Rizong, Wanla, Zongkhul etc.
All these Leh Ladakh Monasteries, operate on all days for fixed hours and have an entrance fee ranging from Rs 10 to Rs 50/- . In short, apart from being architectural and cultural wonders, these too are photographers delight.
Recommended by Suruchi Mittal
Great India Food Trail – Mango Trail in North India
Its sweet fragrance is carried in the sacred texts of Sanskrit scriptures and the verses of Ghalib, Iqbal and Nagarjun. Its taste lingers in the mouths of anticipating lovers, who wait with impatience the arrival of the summer season. For it brings with it the cruel heatwave, but along with it a promise of a giant feast which will last all the way till the end of the long, hot months. From the gnarled, ancient trunks standing in the orchards of Rataul, Uttar Pradesh, whose stories have traveled to Lahore and Islamabad in Pakistan, to the gloriously laden carts in the markets of Banganapalle, Andhra Pradesh, there has been no other fruit that has captured the imagination and palettes of Indians in a similar manner.
When the temperatures reach their zenith between the months of March to August, the mangoes in India are the tastiest. So even though summer is not an ideal season for travel in this hot, tropical country, there is also no better time to enjoy the 30 different types of juicy, yellow mangoes whose cultivation spans the breadth of almost the entire country. If you find yourself in the capital, New Delhi, or its neighbouring cities, you could learn just how deep the roots of this legendary fruit go in the region’s history by going on a mango trail with the “interpreter” of Indian cultural heritage, Dr. Navina Jafa (www.navinajafa.com). Sometimes, Navina’s stories transform the mango into a 4000-year fossil, whose discovery proved that India is indeed the birthplace of the king of fruits. And in the next tale, its pulpy, fibrous form brings out the flavours in the kajri, thumri, and jhoola ras of the Benaras gharana.
A peek through these historic orchards with Navina brings alive hundreds of stories associated with mango, each one enjoyed while you devour the fruit sitting in the lush cultivation growing around the havelis of Shajahanpur in Kithor. You learn how this fruit, first called amra phal in Sanskrit and then aamke in Tamil, ended up with the name “mango”, as christened by the Portuguese. How its diverse shape and size has adorned the motifs of Indian art and architecture. That despite being grown worldwide in millions of tonnes of quantities, it still grows its most luscious and splendid specimens in the hot, humid fields of India.
Delhi – Kithore – 102 Kms | For mango trails – Dr. Navina Jafa (www.navinajafa.com)
Recommended by Alka Kaushik
Great India Food Trail – Food Trail in Agra
“There is no love sincerer than the love of food” – G.B.Shaw wrote that. You know how true it is once you join the most scintillating tour of your taste buds as you explore Agra by mouth. This Agra Food Walking tour is run by travel bloggers Dr. Rituraj and Shreya. Here they take you to the local eateries full of life, laughter and mouth watering aromas where the heart and soul of India (more specifically Agra) resides.
This is a completely exclusive three course dinner food walk to experience Agra through your taste buds. With a mix of both vegetarian & non-vegetarian food samples, see the city unfold as you stroll on the posh market lanes of Agra. All you need to bring is an empty stomach and an open mind. Rest assured they provide high emphasis on taste as well as safety and hygiene. Every location they visit is hand-picked, completely hygienic, clean, and safe with NO “Agra-Belly” here!
Duration of the walk depends on your appetite. Usually it takes 3 hours to finish the tour with moderate walking. There is free flow of the food and local non-alcoholic drinks at each place and best part is they will not end the tour unless you yourself refuse to eat anymore.
All together it is a great experience discovering Agra’s local cuisine ranging from the street chat, local snacks, the Mama Franky stall by the market for some great kebabs and delicacies to the famous sweets including Petha but the best part is to have a very Indian Pasta made right in-front of you by Masterchef India finalist with secret rich flavors in the mouth. The end of the tour is a surprise for many where they make you eat a big Mint Paan – of course without the tobacco and nuts which often makes you hungry again.
The cost of tour includes everything with no hidden fees for transport and food and you don’t have to pay a single extra cent for anything. Also each tour is completely customized to meet your diet preference, spice-tolerance, food tastes, and level of adventurism. They will ask you beforehand about any specific food items you wish to must have or any food allergies so that such food can be avoided.
Price: INR 1500
Recommended by Dr. Rituraj
Great India Food Trail – Unique Tribal Food
Discovering the culture of a country has always mean for me trying its food, even the most curious one. In Cambodia, my first breakfast has been grilled tarentulas and I have tried a lot of strange insects and hatched eggs there. In Northern Vietnam, I was always invited by the locals… and they were always eating dog meat. As a foreigner, I didn’t dare refusing their invitation.
When I’ve decided to visit Bastar for the first time in 2012, my guidebook only talked about the local haats, the Tribal markets, where people sell alive red ants. The place seemed so mysterious that I had to discover it and try this strange delicacy!
Yes, I’m so brave… or maybe not…
When I saw a red ant seller for the first time, I turned around her for a long time. I wanted to ask if I could try but was terrified: alive? Really I couldn’t. I walked to another part of the market, came back, looking at this swarming basket, left again. I think my little game lasts for hours and I eventually quit the market without trying. Once in the bus I already regretted I wasn’t brave enough.
A few days later, I was in Jagdalpur market. Again, I met a few Tribal ladies selling red ants. This time, I swear I couldn’t leave Bastar without trying the food that made me come here! After going back and forth like the first time, I approached a lady and asked for a few ants. She put a few ones in her hand and I chose the dead ones. The taste really surprised me. It was like one of my favourite Asian fruits: tamarind! Unfortunately, it didn’t last for long and a bitter taste invades my mouth. I made an awful grimace and the ladies burst into laughter. Never mind: I had tried it and was quite proud I did it.
In 2015, I was in Lohandiguda market with a local friend who defied me. He thought I wasn’t able to eat the red ants. Equipped with my video camera, he started shooting me. This time, I had no hesitation and directly put the ants in my mouth. Surprisingly, there was no bitter taste, only the tamarind one. It was my turn to defy my friend: “Okay not it’s your turn. I’m a foreigner and I did it. You can’t refuse it now!” But he never dares and I spent my time teasing him for his lack of bravery. Of course, it was so funny that I didn’t tell him I did the same on my first time!
What about you? Have you already eat alive red ants? Do you think you would be brave enough? If you don’t dare, you can first try “chapura”, a delicious chutney prepared with red ants and a lot of chilli, served with rice. Both chapura and alive ants are excellent for health and a perfect remedy against cold and flu.
Recommended by Stephanie Langlet
Great India Food Trail – Unique Sarafa Bazaar of Indore
Indore the business capital city of Madhya Pradesh is known of its unconditional love for food. Sarafa Bazaar Market is one of the key places to be at if one wants to explore this food loving city in its full essence.
As the night sets its pace each day, this jewellery market of Indore that is generally packed with buyers and sellers of Gold & Silver Jewellery transforms itself into a foodies paradise. Typically the Sarafa Bazar food market of Indore starts around 9 P.M. and continues till late midnight.
Talking about food, traditionally only Indian snacks & sweets were available here but with changing food preferences delicacies from all over India have also made their mark here. Few popular international cuisines like Chinese Noodle and Momo too can be found here.
Some of the must haves when at Sarafa Bazaar of Indore are Deep Fried Garadu Chaat (a type of Yam found mainly in Indore and nearby area), Aloo Tikki, Gol-Gappe & Dahi Bhalle chaat, Bhutte ka Kees, Indian Sweets & Shikanji.
The speciality of this night food market is that not only it is one of the very old night markets of India but also for the fact that it serves all vegetarian dishes!
There are many vendors selling Dahi Bhalle and many more finger-licking chaat out of which Joshi Wadewaale is a widely acclaimed shop not just for the tasty chaat prepared by them but the dramatic way of presenting it.
Any food escapade isn’t complete till sweets are tasted. Sarafa Bazaar of Indore offers Malpua, Gulaab Jamun, Rasgulla, Rabri, Basundi, Shrikhand, Jalebi, Kulfi, Falooda, and much more.
Apart from these traditional savoury dishes & sweets, snack items like Pav Bhaaji, Masala Dosa, Idli, Vada Sambhar, Pizza, sandwiches etc. are the latest additions.
The Shikanji drink available here is quite different from the usual lemon shikanji found in North India. It is a special drink that is a combination of thickened milk with dry fruits and a little yogurt.
Sarafa Food Bazaar of Indore is located only 2.2 km. from Indore Railway Station. By riding a public transport like auto-rickshaw, bus, cab or a four wheeler one can easily reach Rajwada (the nearest destination up till where four-wheelers’ are allowed). Post Rajwada, the fastest way to reach the Sarafa Bazaar Chopati area is by walking. The market per say is safe for women travellers too. But it is always good to be cautious of pickpockets’ as the narrow lanes of this market are usually packed.
Recommended by Judy Morris
You may also read Everything Candid’s coverage of Sarafa Bazaar.
Great India Food Trail – Street Food Tasting In Mumbai
Sometimes finding street food that is delicious and also safe to eat can be tough. This is even more difficult in Mumbai, where the sheer number and variety of options can be overwhelming. A street food tour was my solution to get to know what all these amazing things were with a guide to help me along the way.
The very first stop was at sunset looking across Mumbai’s most famous beach, Juhu Chowpatty. I got to try dahi puri, pani puri, sev puri, and pav bhaji. Pav bhaji turned out to be a personal favourite which I tried to eat all the way through India. It’s a thick vegetable curry, fried and served with a soft, buttery bread roll. Sounds simple but the extra cooking step makes all the flavours a concentrated plate of goodness.
Chowpatty was followed by the Mohommad Ali Road area, a mostly Muslim neighbourhood. You can easily see the difference in cuisines just a few minutes apart. Chowpatty had a predominantly vegetarian menu in the street food stalls, where Mohommad Ali Road had chota kebabs and chicken tikka. The Ali Khao Gallis or eating lanes are an overload of the senses. There are people everywhere, riding scooters and bikes, or walking in groups, and vendors selling impossibly coloured meats.
The tour ended with some testing of traditional sweets, including the national sweet of India, the bright orange Jalebi, and ice cream from a 120-year old shop. I’m so glad that I got to eat my way around Mumbai at the start of my trip because it turned out to be my favourite place to eat.
Recommended by Cristal Dyer
Great India Food Trail – Old Delhi Food Trail
Delhi and its food go hand in hand.
Your journey to the national capital remains incomplete unless and until you have had a romance with its food. The food capital offers you a variety of cuisines – from posh restaurants to the ‘Thelawaalaas’, every one has something to offer which is more than enough to satisfy your taste buds.
If you have to get the taste of authentic Delhi’s street food then Old Delhi is the place for you.
The Mughals brought people from all over India and were settled here in Old Delhi. With them came variety of food. Narrow lanes of Old Delhi will mesmerize you with mouth watering and delicious delicacy. One of them being the famous Jalebi shop near Sheeh Ganj Gurdwara. The long queues right from the morning is clearly an example of how memorable the taste of its food is..
Once you have had your appetiser, its time to get some proper food. You can begin with the Parathawaali gali, where you can get number of stuffed deep fired parathas like aalo, gobi, rabri, etc.
The real flavour of the Delhi street food lies in the chaat.
Just opposite the Parathewaali gali, you will come across the ‘Natraj Bhalla’ shop which is known for is tasty bhalla and tikki chaat. This chaat is a mixture of potatoes, Bhallas, curd, sweet chuttney , topped with some hot Indian spices.
Moving towards the Fatehpur Mosque, one can find the Gyani’s kulfi faludaa shop which is a very liked and preferred sweet item by the locals, specially during the summer time.
Another well known shop for chat is in nearby Chawadi Bazar area which I unknowingly encountered. It is in front of the metro station of Chawadi market. To my surprise, this shop is over 70 years old which serves different kinds of ‘Golgappa’, another very famous street food.
Matia Mahal area near the Jama Masjid famous for non-vegetarian food.. Karim is known for its Mughlai flavor. People come from far away to eat here.
It is not possible to talk about Delhi’s food in a restricted word limited. You can find the true flavour only when you come here.. wander in the narrow lanes and try different kind of food yourself.
Recommended by Dipanshu Goyal
To read more on Old Delhi you may read Everything Candid’s post on Heritage Walk in Walled City of Delhi
Must have natural escapes in India – Trekking in Nagaland
Situated 2452 m above sea level, the picturesque valley lies at the border of Manipur and Nagaland. One can trek to the base camp from both sides, there are two routes to reach the valley from Nagaland through Visema and Jakhama, and from Manipur side one can go through Mt.Isu from Senapati. First timers prefer Visema route as its easy expect for the first 1 hour where you need to climb on steep trail, rest of the trek is almost straight and takes around 2.30 hours to reach the base camp. If you are starting from Visema then I suggest take a cab till the starting point of the trek, the road is motorable for 7 kms. The distance of the trek is another 6 kms from the starting point.
As you brave through thigh high bamboo grass, crossing streams and controlling your thumping heart, the valley opens up once you reach the base camp. There is a rest house where you can find accommodation and basic meals. You can choose to stay in a dorm for Rs.100 or take a private room for Rs. 300 with attached bathroom. Don’t except anything fancy, everything is very basic, you can also take blankets, pillows, mats for rent, each will cost you Rs.50. The adventurous souls can go down from the rest house and take shelter in the natural hillock caves in the valley. Carry your tents, mats, sleeping bags and other camping gear if natural caves are your choice of accommodation.
The best season to visit is June, when the famous Dzokou Lily is in its full bloom with a window period of around 45-60 days. The season is open till September and there are other seasonal flowers like rhododendrons, orchids which can be found during that time.
There are many legends associated with the valley, our guide Nicholas told us that deep inside the valley there are spirits who don’t let men enter and many get sick while trekking because of this. In Angami `Dzukou means `Soul-less and dull`, according to locals some ancestors of Visema tried cultivating the valley but weather conditions were so unfavorable that they could not grow anything, dejected they referred to the valley as beautiful but dull.
Recommended by Suman Doogar
Must have natural escapes in India – Kashmir Great Lakes Trek
There are gorgeously green meadows with herds of sheep grazing, glacial streams winding through wide passes and pristine lakes located in the shadow of huge mountains are what one can see every day on the trek. Night skies are excellent on the trek and one can spot a plethora of shooting stars.
The trek starts in Sitkadi village near Sonamarg and the day wise stops are usually : Nichnai, Vishnusar & Kishansar Lake, Gadsar, Gangabal and finally Naranag. The highest point of the trek is approx. 4300 m.
Recommended by Shubham Mansingka
Unique natural experience in India – Walking on Natural Root Bridge in Meghalaya
Man is a part of nature and yet is bent on destructing the very thing that sustains him. Result? Tsunamis, landslides, droughts, famines…
Humans and natural elements are supposed to work in tandem. And when man joins hand with natural sources without abusing it, the natural forces are easy to brave against.
Nothing emphasizes this more than the living root bridges of the forests in Meghalaya.
Meghalaya, the ‘Abode of Clouds’ sees a heavy rainfall for most part of the year. The rivers gush on with dangerous levels of water and are next to impossible to cross and for boat rides. The villages all around are cut off from mainland making it difficult for villagers to procure daily needs.
The villages of Mawsynram and Sohra as Cherrapunji is better known in local language get a heavy rainfall and It is here that most of the root bridges are found, some even in two levels known as double-decker bridges.
Made by intertwining the roots of living and breathing ficus trees, these bridges get strengthened day by day as they age and thicken. Hanging over the tumultuous waters of rivers, these bridges are but lifeline for the villagers during the heavy rains that ravage.
The Khasi people call the bridges ‘jhinken jhri’. Some of the root bridges are as old as 100 years with thick elephantine sturdiness and thickness with their gnarly extensions making such an intricate web that it becomes difficult to identify the origin of each root.
If you are making a trip to Meghalaya, you wouldn’t want to miss a trek to these root bridges which are not only nature’s gift but also an example of ingenious engineering skill of human brain without destroying the nature. The treks may leave you breathless or bring you on the edge of furious river but the effort is all worthwhile when you walk down the living root bridges of Meghalaya.
Recommended by Shoma Abhyankar
Must have natural escapes in India – Night Stay in a Houseboat in Kerala
Kerala is one of India’s most beautiful states. Not quite the quintessential India that visitors might expect. Instead of barren dusty desert scenes filled with flowing orange and red saris, you will find yourself nestled high in the mountains among tea plantations, walking in dense jungle with tigers or perched on high sea side cliffs overlooking beautiful beaches.
In Fort Cochin, one of the most popular towns for visitors, you can learn about old school fishing at the Chinese fishing nets, the Jewish heritages of this fascinating town or dive into the culture with a Kathakali performance before heading off into the backwaters of the state by overnight boat. A backwater trip is a must do while in Kerala. Take time off the bigger boats to cruise down the tiny canals, getting an up close picture of what day to day life is like for those living on the waterways.
Want more nature? Head to Munnar to hike among the tea plantations learning about the industry and other medicinal plants grown in the region. From here stay inland, but down in the jungle areas outside of Periyar. This is a fascinating place where you can take a boat to check out the wildlife or hike among the reserve.
Our favorite hotel group in the state is Malabar Estates. Their house like property Serenity at Kanam Estates is perfect for a family retreat set amongst rubber tree and spice plantations. You can even schedule a visit from Lakshmi the elephant.
End your Kerala trip with some time at one of the states many beautiful beaches. Varkala is our choice, with it’s picturesque views and soft sand.
Not quite the Indian experience you might visualize, but it’s a perfect introduction to India and its natural beauty without the hustle and bustle of the north.
Recommended by Karilyn Owen
Must have natural escapes in India – Trekking in Munnar, Kerala
They say about Kerala that is God’s own country. And once you get there you pretty much start to understand why. Your eyes will start to hurt from so much greener and so many wonderful views. And if you are a mountain lover, you will get to trek some small peaks that offer incredible panoramas. For this particular reason, we chose Munnar. A small hillside station that offers you the possibility to explore the Western Ghats and enjoy the numerous tea plantations.
We chose to do a longer trek, to Pothemedu mountain, which is around 2,100m high. We started very early in the morning so that we could catch the sunrise on top. It is not a very difficult trek, and you get enough time to enjoy the views. The silence before the sun rose was hard to describe in words. It was proof for us that India can be so calm and gentle with your spirit.
As we were getting higher, the sun started the rise. And we were spoiled with an amazing blanket of mist and fog. The sun soon melted it but we enjoyed watching it playing and curling among the tea plantations. After the sun was up and active, we started to see better the paradise around us. We had always known that India is an absolutely breathtaking country. But we had never seen it as green as in that day, sitting on top of the Western Ghats.
On our way back from the top we took our time strolling through the tea plantations. It was a national holiday so there were no workers picking the leaves. But the walk between the tea bushes was simply reviving. Our guide told us facts about tea and how it is made and we ended the trek with huge smiles on our faces.
Some people associate mountains with snow, cliffs and rough terrain. Munnar can prove that there are also green mountains, covered with tall grass and tea plantations. Mountains that can fill your soul with peace and calm.
Recommended by Andra Padureanu
Must have natural escapes in India – Vineyard visit around Bangalore, Karnataka
When work hadn’t allowed me to travel for more than a month, I was desparate to get away from the chaotic traffic and the noise of a big city and found an interesting day trip from Bangalore – a vineyard tour. 60 minutes of driving through scenic semi country roads, lined by farms and farmers at work, brought me to one of the 2 to 3 vineyards that offer these tours around Bangalore. The tour started at 10:30 am and It felt like I was attending a wine making Master Class as the guide took us through the various steps of wine making in detail – processes used for whites, reds & rosé, separation, fermentation, the temperatures of fermentation, the tanks & barrels used, etc.
Post the factory tour, we had a tasting session in the cellar where the oak barrels and fermenting sparkling wines were stored. There were 2 whites, 2 reds and 1 rosé along with some cheese & crackers. He also talked about the various blends they sell. The tour ended with an enjoyable grape stomping session and a simple lunch served at the factory lawns. I then headed to the vineyards that were a km away. I probably spent more time walking around the vineyards owing to the pleasant cloudy weather. Since the harvest is in Feb/ March there were no grapes on the vines, but I loved the cool breeze and the soothing effect of the foliage. Not only was the tour informative and of interest if you like or drink wines, it’s also a fun offbeat getaway from Bangalore for a solo traveler or a large group.
Recommended by Shilpa K Swami
Must have natural escapes in India – Explore Satpura National Park in Central India
While MP has many well-known tiger sanctuaries, Satpura stands out as a more personal and immersive experience simply because it has not been completely commercialized yet. My 4-day-3-night trip covered a whole gamut of experiences including spotting a tiger and a leopard apart from scores of other birds and animals. The trip also included a night safari as well as a river safari where one can easily spot Indian skimmers, terns, and scores of other water birds. It was also a great experience to visit it during the Mahua season when the trees bloom and paint the jungle with surreal colors and they make local liquor out of the flowers.
Recommended by Jitaditya Nazary
Must have natural escapes in India – Slow Travel on Toy Train to Shimla
Today, we chug back in time on the narrow-gauge Kalka Shimla Toy Train, one of three Indian lines on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Sit back, take in the view and enjoy the ride!
First let’s get some historical facts. Kalka Shimla Toy Train made its maiden journey with the Viceroy Lord Curzon on board. It takes about 5.5 hours to cover 96 kilometres to reach Shimla, climbing 4660 ft, crossing 102 tunnels, 864 bridges, 919 curves and crossing 20 railway stations. It was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site Mountain Railways of India in 2008.
As the train chugs up the hill from the Kalka Railway station, you will feel the child in you inadvertently excited. As the town gives way to the charm of the Shivalik ranges, the view quickly changes from civilization to the dense forests of pine and deodar. The whistle of the train, the numerous curves and bridges, the darkness of the tunnels and the joyful shrieks within its darkness, the riot of colors of flowers growing in the wild, the stopping at various railway stations all takes you back to the old-world charm of unhurried life. Some of these stations along the route are located next to bridges, rising like Roman aqueducts from deep ravines.
Among the many tunnels you will cross, Tunnel 33 will stay with you for ever. For the story behind it and the station it connects to – The Barog Station. This picturesque old-worldly blue and white gothic station with its red roofs and wooden porches will take your breath away. Tunnel no 33 (The Barog Tunnel), is the straightest tunnel in the world. At a length of 1143.61 m, it is also the longest tunnel on this route. Legend has it, that Colonel Barog, a British railway engineer in-charge of Tunnel No 33, miscalculated the boring of the mountain from opposite ends. He was fined Rs 1/- by the British govt and amounted to him ending life with a shot gun. His friendly ghost has been seen near the abandoned tunnel and is known to chat up visitors!
Local Contribution – This tunnel could not be completed without the guidance of Baba Bhalku, a local saint from near Chail. After Colonel Barog death, the engineer assigned faced similar problems. On Baba Bhalku’s advice, he started work about a kilometre away. Baba possessed natural engineering skills and helped the British railway engineers to bore other tunnels on the Shimla-Kalka railway track. A railway museum known as Baba Bhalku Rail Museum is present near Shimla Old Bus Stand !
Recommended by Swati Sinha
Must have natural escapes in India – Experience Himalaya in Palampur
Palampur is a small town nestled in the lap of Dhauladhar mountain ranges in Himalayas. While the neighboring town of Dharamshala, which is just 30km away, is quite famous, Palampur is still offbeat and equally unique are it’s offerings. We visited here in February 2017. And not to mention, we were totally bowled over by the beauty of the place as well as what it had to offer. To start with, on the outskirts of Palampur lies the Bir Billing – the top paragliding site in India – to satisfy the adventurous souls. However, if one is rather an artistic persona than an adventurer, there is again great news. Palampur is also home to the Andretta Pottery Studio that offers proper courses in pottery. The courses span from few weeks to 3 months full specialization to satisfy the artistic souls and help them reach a different level of creativity. If someone is looking for some religious solace in the next destination – again, Palampur has got beautiful ancient temple and monasteries. But if someone is looking forward to doing nothing in particular, and just relaxing, again Palampur would make for a perfect destination for the same. As it is not at all crowded, and houses some of the best boutique homestay of India, amidst apple orchards and organic green tea plantations. The hospitality is heartwarming and the food mouthwatering. One can just sit with a book on a window seat overlooking the snow covered Dhauladhar mountains or can write a whole story sipping the green tea fresh from the nearby farm.
So, basically Palampur is one offbeat destination that has got something to offer for every visitor. Yet it remains quiet unexplored compared to many other infamous places of India that are highly advertised by the travel agencies. We went to Palampur for just 3 days but we came back with such wonderful memories of the place that Palampur is going to remain afresh in our minds forever.
Recommended by Neha & Abhishek
An Unique Experience in India – Be a Horse Whisperer in Goa
In the sleepy village of Tilamol, near Quepem in South Goa, there exists a haven which is very much secluded from the maddening touristy crowd of Goa. Ideally suited for nature and animal lovers, it is a farm which has all that your heart needs to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. Think endless tropical greenery, swaying coconut fronds, and a gentle stream which gurgles past your hammock. This is the lovely Pala Farms, one of Goa‘s best-kept secrets. Lovingly nurtured by the owners Monique and her husband Nazir, the farm is basic, rustic, and cut off from the adrenaline pumping party craze of mainstream Goa. Expect a simple room with an attached outdoor bathroom, a group of romping friendly dogs and graceful horses. The farm is also quite popular with families with kids who love horse riding and your evenings may sometimes get filled with excited little voices. But when you have a sweet air which smells of the sea and greenery, a sky full of stars and blissful “shanti” in the midst of nature, a couple of excited squeals do not really bother you. Goa is much more than just the beaches and the vitamin sea. Explore this gem of a little coastal state and discover many such soul soothing experiences.
Recommended by Svetlana
Experience Wildlife of India – Tadoba National Park Sanctuary, Maharashtra
It was the beginning of March and the temperature was already soaring at 40 degree Celsius. I was at the Tadoba Andheri National park in Maharashtra, eager to sight a tiger. My Tiger sightings in national parks has not been successful so far and I had high hopes on Tadoba as the forest was teeming with wildlife. Tiger sighting is purely based on your luck to be at the right place at the right moment. There is a saying of the jungle, “Often the wildlife is watching you, it is you who cannot spot them!” This is so true. Sometimes they are amidst thick forest bushes or on top of trees that you tend to miss them. I wished that was not the case this time on my safari. Our safari was through the buffer zone fringing around the core forest! We were in the territory of Tigress Maya and Sharmili and they had a litter recently. Buffer zone was amazing to ride through. Thick bamboo trees leaning on the way; bushes and trees and branches bending down to say hello to your face. If at all we have to spot the tiger in this zone, it has to come directly on our way, out of the thick jungle. Otherwise it is pretty difficult to spot. “Sharmili means a shy girl, She is one and hence we named her so”, the guide added as we stopped near a lake. The Pink legged stork spread out it’s wings to get it sun dried. We stood in silence among the tall dried summer grass waiting for her. She was spotted at the same place yesterday and she might visit today as well to quench her thirst. I pulled out my binoculars and looked at the opposite bank of the lake wondering if she will come down for a drink. “Sshhh.. silently look there!” whispered my jeep driver. I was still straining to find her at the other end of lake through the binoculars when the driver exclaimed, “here, right here!” I looked at closer vicinity and there she was right there, just few meters away, walking cautiously, looked up just for a moment and then walked into the bushes. True to her name she shied away from the onlookers. It was theee moment! Theee moment! The tiger so close for just a minute that only we could see her and other jeeps were not even able to spot her. And that, that made my moment!!
The nearest airport to Tadoba is at Nagpur from where you can hire a cab or take a bus to Chandrapur. Tadoba has two zones, the core zone and the buffer zone. The Tiger sighting and population is good at both the zones, hence one need not be apprehensive of taking a safari through buffer zone. I had Tiger sighting twice at core zone and once at buffer zone. Patience is the key to get a sighting. And enjoying the sighting numerous birds and other wildlife animals is the way to experience Wildlife Safaris.. Happy traveling.
Recommended by Chittra M
Experience Wildlife of India – Bird watching and Crocodile spotting at Ranganthittu, Karnataka
Ranganathitu Bird Sanctuary is probably one of the most underrated bird sanctuaries I have visited. While coming back from Coorg once, I had some time before heading to Bangalore. So, I decided to take a detour and include Ranganathitu in the day’s plan.
I was glad we made the stop as there were way more birds than what I expected. The birds mostly belonged to the Ibis or Stork family along with some kingfishers as well. But, the most exciting part of visiting Ranganthitu was the proximity to crocodiles! You need to opt for a boat ride which takes you for a 45 minute joy trip. If luck favors you, a crocodile can be spotted a mere 3 feet away.
I have been to Ranganathitu twice. The 2nd time, our boat almost brushed a crocodile’s tail! I would really recommend you to maintain silence if you don’t want the crocodile to escape in the waters while you are admiring it. It’s almost guaranteed to see a crocodile closely as there is a good density.
Ranganthitu Bird Sanctuary is only 20 KM away from Mysore, making it a perfect day trip destination from Bangalore as well. The sanctuary, lake and park is well maintained and clean with a much lesser crowd if compared to the more popular destinations. The best season to visit Ranganthitu would be Winters.
Experience Wildlife of India – Bird watching at Nal Sarovar, Gujarat
Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary in Gujarat is easily the most under rated bird sanctuaries in India. Located just a few kilometers away from Ahmedabad, it is a paradise for avid birdwatchers. The route from Ahmedabad to Nal Sarovar passes through villages and dense forest. The main entrance is a short drive away from the spot from where you can book a boat which will take your around the lake for bird spotting. The lake is shallow and attracts flamingoes as they prefer feeding in shallow water. No wonder, Nal Sarovar attracts many migratory birds from across the border. Some of the birds which can be easily spotted here are- white pelicans, waterfowls, rosy pelicans, brahminy ducks etc.
The largest wetland bird sanctuary of Gujarat is also home to mammals like the endangered wild ass and black bucks. The sun set here is one the best you will see in India. The boat ride will take you through the 121 square kilometer lake, acquainting you with the exotic flora and fauna of the region. The best time for the boat ride is sunrise or sunset because that is the time when you can spot maximum number of birds. The boat ride can last as per your wish. Negotiating hard with the boatwallahs is advised.
Traveling through public transport is not advised here as it is not frequent and is available only at certain time of the day. Self drive on a private vehicle is perfect. Taxi can be hired from Ahmebabad too for a day trip. The equipment you must carry are Zoom lens and binoculars. The best time to visit Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary is in winters, i.e., November to February. This is the time when the migratory birds make Nal Sarovar their temporary home. A quick trip to Little Rann Of Kutch can also be included in the same trip. It is the abode of wild ass and other wild animals.
Recommended by Abhinav Singh
Adventurous Things to do in India – Hot Balloon ride in Jaipur
For me the hot air balloon ride outside Jaipur, offered as an optional extra on an Indian tour, was not at all optional. It was a “must do”, and an opportunity to fulfil a long-held dream.
It turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life. We arrived at the launch site well before sunrise and watched in wonder as the crew inflated the colourful craft by blasting hot air into the balloon. Once the balloon was fully inflated we climbed into our allocated places in the basket and were given a quick briefing.
With a roar of hot air, the balloon slowly rose into the air. It glided along gradually gaining height until our pilot, levelled and switched off the burners. Silence reigned as we floated along, just clipping the tops of trees. Every now and a roar punctuated the silence as hot air was blasted into the balloon. The view of the countryside was incredible as we drifted over fields and houses. We flew low to the ground making the experience all the more special.
The word quickly got out amongst locals on the ground that a bright yellow and orange object was floating over their homes and people of all ages came out to watch in awe. Children ran along below us, calling and reaching out, trying to touch the basket. Others stood looking out from the flat roofs of their houses, some just staring in wonder up at the scene above them, others waving and one or two taking photos with their cell phones. We in turn waved back and I was overcome with emotion at the scenes below us.
All too soon it was time to land. The balloon descended rapidly, the basket hit the ground with a bump, leaned over to a 45-degree angle and then righted itself. Somehow our skilled pilot had managed to land in a small area between a couple of houses and a ditch. Villagers came running and looked on in amazement as the land crew worked to control the balloon which was being lifted by a gust of wind.
For me, my first ever balloon ride more than met my hopes and dreams. I doubt any future balloon ride will come close to this magic experience.
Recommended by Joanne Karcz
Adventurous Things to do in India – Water Rafting & Bungee Jumping in Rishikesh
So after 3 weeks of a group tour in India, I headed solo to Rishikesh feeling a little nervous but excited. I’d heard it’s a great place to do some yoga, learn to meditate properly and generally try to be spiritual and relax. You can definitely do all those things there. However, I met amazing people at my hostel and ended up not doing ANY of those relaxing things and instead had one of the most active weeks of my life.
On day two we went white water rafting on the cold turquoise blue Ganga river which was exhilarating and freezing at the same time, then I got persuaded to jump off an 83m bridge as part of a giant swing/bungee jump experience which was probably one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve ever done and then I spent the remainder of the week riding around the Himalayas on motorbikes, catching sunrises and building bonfires on the beaches of the Ganga river. I couldn’t recommend Rishikesh more!
Recommended by Steffi Smith
Adventurous Things to do in India – Camel Trekking in Thar Desert, Rajasthan
Sunsets and sunrises are always magical. No doubt about that. But watch these incredible events in a remote part of the Thar Desert and be ready to experience genuinely unique moments. As my husband, our guide, and I reached our camp for the night, the Khaba dunes, we knew we were in for a treat.
Our 3-day camel trek took us deep in the Thar Desert, with no village or light in sight. As we settled for the evening, our guide Punja discharged our camels and prepared for the traditional chai. While we sipped our hot drinks, we watched a few cattle roaming the open fields nearby, searching for the odd edible plants. The sun slowly set down, warming the sky of varying orange, red, pink and yellow hues. As the two of us sat on the soft sand, Punja suddenly pointed out a small group of wild camels, three females accompanied by two young calves barely ten days old. One black, the other white, played together, running around, but never faring far from their mothers. Slowly they waded into the sunset, literally disappearing under the dying rays of light. The sun turned into a glowing ball of intense red, while our camels stepped into view, creating the perfect shadow. A desert sunset of a lifetime. As the evening turned into night, we slept with millions of stars for roof and sand for mattress.
The sunrise was a glorious as the sunset, waking us slowly to yet another show of colors. Nestled under the warmth of our blankets, wrapped in our sleeping bags and beanies, we enjoyed the silence of the early morning hours. Just a few birds singing, the soft rustling in the bushes from a grazing camel. Alone in the Thar desert, stunning and one-of-a-kind.
Recommended by Patricia Pagenel
Adventurous Things to do in India – Scuba Diving in Andaman & Nikobar Island
India is rich with its diversity not just on the land, but even underwater. Lucky are those who have had a chance to witness an entirely different world that exists beneath those waves in the oceans. Andaman and Nicobar Islands, one of the seven union territories of India are a group of islands with Bay of Bengal on its west and Andaman Sea on the east.
Andaman Sea is extremely sought after by the Scuba Divers for its rich marine life and many pristine dive sites. Many tourists who visit Andaman Islands try their hands on Discover Scuba Diving where they are given an introductory session on scuba diving followed by a guided dive in shallow water. Discover Scuba Diving is popular on the Port Blair, Chidiya Tapu and Havelock Islands. However, the serious divers head to Havelock Island to get themselves certified as Open Water Divers and Advanced Open Water Divers. There are variety of dive sites that are easily accessible from the shores of Havelock Island. The diverse topography underwater around the island gives unique diving experience to all kinds of divers.
The Andaman Sea is home to incredible marine life including Giant Groupers, Snappers, Sweet Lips, Trevally, Red tooth Triggerfish, Clown Triggerfish, Longfin Bannerfish, Emperor Angelfish, Yellow masked Angelfish, Barracuda, Scorpion Fish, Leopard Sharks,White Tip Sharks, Manta Rays. Many dive sites have colourful range of soft corals and big barrel sponges which make the divers want them more. The pristine waters near Barren Island (home to the only active volcano of India) offers deep diving expeditions with visibility of up to 100m. Diving at Barren Island is a bucket list for most advanced divers.
Once you have experienced diving in the Andaman Sea, you are spoilt for your life!
Best time to dive in the Andamans – December to May
How to reach Havelock Island – There are frequent flights to Port Blair. Government ferries and private cruises sail from Phoenix Jetty in Port Blair everyday.
Dive centres at Havelock Island – There are many well-known dive centres offering PADI and SSI courses in Havelock Island.
Accommodation in Havelock Islands – Budget to splurge range of accommodation is available at Havelock Island.
Recommended by Medhavi Davda
Unique Experience in India – Get Adventurous in Gandikota, India’s Grand Canyon
Gandikota located just 15 kilometers away from the revenue division of Kadapa district called Jammalamadugu, is popular as India’s own Grand Canyon. Gandikota has recently gained a lot of popularity as a weekend destination from Telangana and Karnataka. The place not only offers breathtaking view and plethora of historical trivia, it is also popular for quenching your thirst for adventures. Gandikota is a perfect escape to connect to the nature’s marvel and rejuvenate your mind and body. Along with various ruins and still dilapidated structure one thing that one shouldn’t miss is its extremely gorgeous gorge. The gorge guards the peacefully flowing Pennar river and the view is nothing but spectacular. Make the most of your Gandikota visit by clubbing it with few adventure activities. I did the same and till date I cannot stop talking about my wonderful experience in Gandikota.
Recommended by Ruby Singh
Special mention for these two bloggers Alice Teacake & Patrick Muntzinger who have put in their mind and soul in slums of Mumbai, Delhi & Jaipur. They are sharing their experience for us to take the clue and understand our social responsibilities.
Unique Experience in India – Work in Slums Empowering Indian Women
The one side of India many tourists do not delve into but should really see is the upside down: the true underworld of India’s slums.
More so than ever, responsible tourism and voluntourism are beginning to become a priority on travellers’ agendas. It can be difficult to know who to work with however and whether your efforts, time and money are really going to make a change. Say hello to empowerment tourism! I have been working on empowerment projects in the slums of Delhi and Jaipur: empowering women to become their own girl bosses and create life changing businesses for themselves and their families.
Working on these projects is a chance to spend time with local Indian women in hidden environments that even the Indian government and Google Maps do not even recognise. You will discover an amazing group of determined, colourful, creative and strong women who have many stories to tell and an undeniable drive to succeed.
In the Jaipur slums, we have been setting up a cooking school with the local women. If you visit, you will learn how to cook the most delectable curries and spend genuine time with these kind-hearted women. This cooking school is helping these ladies create a sustainable living for themselves and send their children to school.
In the Delhi slums, we are helping the women set up their own online business to sell the stunning artisan handicrafts they are creating. Their products are intricately beautiful, but were being completely undersold as the ladies were passing them on to foreign middlemen. We’re teaching them how to use iPads to set up their own eBay shop. They’re cutting out the middleman and now making a well-deserved profit.
Through these empowerment projects in India, these women are transforming from depressed, suppressed and stifled women to thriving, successful entrepreneurs. It’s a pure joy to be a part of this process and see local communities begin to gain access to employment, education and a much better life…for the long run.
To find out how you can be a part of empowerment tourism, check out Hands on Journeys by Alice Teacake.
Unique Experience in India – Slum Tour in Dharavi, Mumbai
When I first heard about the possibility to do a slum tour in Mumbai, I was rather skeptical. I imagined these tours to be all about showing extreme poverty to rich Western tourists, with locals being photographed and watched like animals in the zoo. However, when I did some more research, I realized that these tours would actually be quite different to what I expected. Therefore, I signed up for a guided tour into the Dharavi slum – one of the biggest slums in the world.
My local guide was born and raised in the slum, but spoke perfectly English and started a travel agency together with his brother – impressive! We took the train and shortly arrived at the gateway to Dharavi in the heart of Mumbai. After taking one last picture from a bridge overlooking Dharavi, I had to put away my camera, since taking pictures inside the slum was not allowed.
In the next hours, I walked around the slum with my guide and got unique insights into the life of the people in Dharavi. The area is one of the densest populated areas in the world. However, I was amazed about the unique ecosystem taking place in Dharavi. I didn’t see a single person begging on the streets – everyone was working! I visited several small businesses, where clothes and craft got produced and I’ve learned that Dharavi is actually a huge recycling center, turning tons of waste and trash into products! Dharavi is not an area of pure poverty, it is its own community, including schools and hospitals. People were super friendly towards visitors, greeted me and were happy to provide an insight into their lives. Visiting the Dharavi slum was so different than expected and I was very impressed about the people’s way of life.
A tour at the Dharavi slum is certainly a unique experience and a must-do on your visit in India!
Recommended by Patrick Muntzinger
India, truly, is a land of a million journeys and you must consider this article as an invitation to discover India. For every experience or to-dos mentioned here, hundred more waiting in the wings. So come and visit India because once you are here, you will have your own reasons and inspiring stories to tell which will change your perspective of life.
We strongly recommend you to juxtapose this article with last year’s article on Fascinating Indian Destinations and then plan your real itinerary for India.
We would like to convey our sincere thanks to all the bloggers for their contribution. Look forward to more collaborative work in future.
Please comment with your unique experiences in India and give us more reason to celebrate India.