Best Holi Parties in 2019: Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad

Colours, sweets, music, dancing, and water-showers is what makes Holi perfect for us. This festival of love and colours is celebrated every year with immense enthusiasm and spirit throughout our country. All kinds of Holi celebrations are organised in metros and various cities, and people go all out to enjoy these to the hilt. People often plan holi parties at their home and invite others to come over. Over the years private Holi parties hosted by different people and clubs have become the highlight of this festival – especially among the young.

Holi festival is on the next day of the full moon night in the month of Falgun (Feb-March) as per the Indian calendar. This year’s Holi date 2019 is March 21 (a Thursday), and we are giving you a round-up on Holi Parties in India you could be a part of.

Here is a round-up of some of the top Holi Parties in Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad, that promise you the best of Holi festivities.

1. Holi Parties in Delhi and NCR

Delhi people celebrating holi
Holi Party in Delhi

The capital city of India, Delhi celebrates Holi with sheer exuberance. Delhi is India’s capital city for the reason that it is home to various cultures, religion and traditions. Holi is celebrated as the perfect blend of traditional as well as the modern ways in Delhi. People hang out in the groups and visit the homes of their friends and families apply colours on each other and enjoy the amazing home cooked food. There is no specific type of Holi celebrated here in Delhi, but mostly it is all about coloured water, dry colours and water balloons. But lately, Holi Parties have been the central streak for the city. Some of the top Holi Parties in Delhi and the NCR this year are:

Holi Sangria 2019: If you are looking to party along with your whole gang, then Holi Sangria is the place to be at. This party will be hosting some of the top DJ’s who will astonish you with some fantastic music.
Venue: The GameForest Club, Archview Drive, Sector-58, Gurugram
Ticket Price Per Person: INR 1000

Holi Moo Festival: Perfect place to have a Holi party for artists, musicians and music lovers. They strictly use herbal colours and offer some delicious food.
Venue: Jhankar Lawns, Asiad Tower, Asiad Village
Ticket Price Per Person: INR 2,500 onwards

Rang Barse – Open Air Holi Party: Unlimited drinks, food, sheesha, colours and your best friends, what else does one want from a Holi party. Rang Barse is said to be Delhi/NCR biggest open-air Holi party along with a huge swimming pool and mud pool. There will also be a professional photographer taking your whole gangs pictures while you will be making memories.
Venue: Eco Farms, Noida
Ticket Price: Per Person- INR 2242, Couple Entry- INR 3776, Group of five- INR 10,030.

There are other famous Delhi Holi Party Venues like Balam Pichkari and Rang Leela whose venue and ticket price are yet to be announced.

2.Holi Parties in Mumbai

People dancing and celebrating Holi in Mumbai
Holi Celebration in Mumbai

Mumbai is the one city in India which has an undying festive spirit throughout the year. You will witness people celebrating the festival of colour with full enthusiasm even with strangers. They call it the festival of love when even enemies forget everything and celebrate together. Holi in Mumbai is a must experience for those willing to experience the Marathi style Holi. Mumbai has a different way of hosting Holi parties, and they enjoy these parties more than anyone else. Some of the top Holi parties in Mumbai are:

Sunburn with DJ Snake: Yes, you heard it right. DJ Snake will be touring India around the festival of Holi and will be playing at the Sun Burn in Mumbai on the day of Holi. Sunburn indeed is one of the most famous and talked about the electronic festival and what’s better than playing with colours along with it?
Venue: MMRDA Grounds, Bandra-Kurla Complex, Mumbai
Ticket Price Per Person: GE Entry- INR 1500, VIP- INR 2000.

Holi Beach Party: One of the unique experiences offered by Mumbai is the Holi Beach Party which is all about good music, organic colours, rain dance, unlimited food and thandai along with the best security arrangements. Celebrating Holi on a beach along with your friends equals to memories for life.
Venue: Kingfisher Seven Star Villa, Gorai Beach, Borivali West
Ticket Price Per Person: INR 1299

Rang De Holi: Hosting India’s one of the most famous DJ’s, DJ Chetas is said to be performing at the stage of Rang De Holi Party in Mumbai. There will also be around 12 more artists performing live there. You can expect a lot of fun, free colours and rain dance at the Rang De Holi Party.
Venue: Lower Parel, Friends Colony, Babhai Naka, Borivali West,
Ticket Price Per Person: General Access Pass- INR 500 and VIP Pass- INR 1000.

3. Holi Parties in Hyderabad

People celebrating Holi with family
Holi Celebration in Hyderabad

Known for its traditions and customs, the City of Nawabs celebrates Holi whole heartedly. People from all walks of life come to the streets and make the most of this festival of colours. From every market to every club, the city reflects not only colours but also happiness. Though the people of the town still believe in customs and traditions, it has now become the city of millennials who look out for happening parties on the day of Holi. Here are some of the top Holi parties in Hyderabad:

Rangbarse Holi Bash 2019: This Holi party has been hosted in Hyderabad for the past four years, and this is the 5th year. It is one of the best Holi Parties in Hyderabad. Rangbarse Holi Bash calls out for Live dhol performance, organic colours, great music, rain dance and mouth-watering delicacies.
Venue: Rendezvous, ISB Road, Nanakram Guda, Financial District
Ticket Price Per Person: INR 499

Holify 2019: Being held at one of the most elite and stunning locations of Hyderabad, Holify 2019 is the second edition of the event. DJ Kim is supposed to play at the party and promises to make you go gaga over the music played. Rain dance, organic colours, dhol fusion, photo booth, good food and surprise gifts are what you can expect at this party.
Venue: The Fisherman’s Wharf Hyderabad, Gachibowli, Financial District
Ticket Price Per Person: INR 599(early bird)

Gabbar Ki Holi: As the name suggests, this party is entirely desi and Bollywood styled. DJ Mark and DJ Piyush Bajaj are performing live at the party. You can enjoy good food here along with bhang. You can also dance on the dhol beats here, enjoy the rain dance and celebrate not only with the colours and water but with mud and tomatoes too.
Venue: Summer Green Resort, Tumkunta Village, Shamirpet
Ticket Price Per Person: INR 599 onwards

So, get ready to scream “Holi Hai” and choose the holi party in India, you wish you be a part. Hope you all have a very Happy Holi!

 

12 Things To Do In New Zealand For An Amazing Holiday Experience

With pristine beauty that looks like a picture coming to life, New Zealand is a dream destination for hundreds of tourists. A country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, the beauty of this Kiwiland is marked by glaciers, volcanoes, exquisite wildlife, ancient Maori culture, and escapades of a lifetime.

If you are planning a trip to New Zealand and are yet to figure out the activities to do, here is your perfect guide. From adventure to nature, wildlife, and entertainment, we have collated a list of things you must experience in New Zealand. The options are plenty so pick the ones that suit your personality and interest.

For Adventure Lovers

1. Do Sky Diving in Queenstown

A man ready to sky dive from top
Sky Diving in New Zealand

If sky diving is on your bucket list, then there can’t be a better place to do it than Queenstown. The city is known for tandem skydiving, where beginners can experience the thrill of this adventure sport with a professional diver from a height of over 9,000 feet. Experienced divers can go up to 12,000 to 16,000 feet also. Shooting towards the ground at 200 kph over Mt Aspiring and Fiordland National Park is an experience to cherish for lifetime.
Other places to do skydiving in New Zealand include Bay of Islands, Abel Tasman, Auckland, Wanaka, Taupo, and Fox Glacier.

2. Sky Walk/Jump in Auckland

Located in the center of Auckland is New Zealand’s tallest structure – the Sky Tower. An icon of Auckland’s skyline, it stands at a height of 328 meters. Head to this impressive building for an adrenaline pumping Sky Walk experience. Walk on the outside ring of this tower, without any handrails and harnessed with just a rope, at the height of 192 meters. The 360 degree views of the city coupled with your pulsating heartbeat makes for an exciting adventure. To take the thrill one notch higher, you can also opt to Sky Jump from here. In mere 11 seconds, you plunge 53 floors with nothing but a wire between you and the ground.

3. Bungy Jump in Queenstown

A woman doing Bungy jumping from top
Bungy Jumping in New Zealand

Did you know that Queenstown is the home of bungy with the first commercial site in the world set up at Kawarau bridge? So, what better place than Queenstown to try out this adrenaline pumping activity. There are commercial bungy jumping operators that offer a jump from as high as 134 meters, while others let you bungy jump off a bridge from a height of 47 meters or 43 meters. As you jump, the green mountains seem to surround you, while the beautiful river below sets your heart racing.
You can also try river rafting, biking or jet boat rides here. The mountain terrain of The Remarkables along with crystal clear Lake Wakatipu guarantee to get your blood pumping!

4. Fly A Stunt Plane in Wanaka

Two people parasailing
Stunt Plane in Wanaka New Zealand

Here’s your chance to pilot a plane! Take a 50-minute lesson at U-Fly in Wanaka, and then take off in your stunt plane for a 20-minute flight. You can flip the plane upside down or move it in the direction of your choice as a professional talks you through the flight from the cockpit. It is definitely one of the unique experiences to have in New Zealand.

5. Hot Air Ballooning in Christchurch

Two colorful hot balloons in the area above a farm
Hot Air Ballooning in Christchurch New Zealand

There can’t be a better way to sightsee than having a panoramic aerial view of the city! In the quiet of the morning, you can fly over Canterbury plains in Christchurch to enjoy this marvellous ride. Witness the sky in various hues as you fly over the tranquil city. There is no upper age limit to do this activity in New Zealand. However, it is advised that you should be agile enough. If you are on a honeymoon, you can even book a personal flight with breakfast in the air. Indeed, it is one of the most romantic things to do in New Zealand.

For Nature Lovers

6. Visit the Glow-Worm Caves in Waitomo

Blue water inside the cave
Glow-Worm Caves in Waitomo

A world-renowned attraction for both local and overseas visitors, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves is one of the must-visit places in New Zealand. Located a few hours away from Auckland, Waitomo is a pretty town set against the green hills where you get to discover the mystical caverns lit by glow-worms. It also presents a perfect opportunity for activities like kayaking, canyoning, and tubing. When here, don’t miss taking the famous boat ride under the light of thousands of magical glowworms. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you will cherish forever.

7. Dig In A Natural Spa at Hot Water Beach in Coromandel

Tourists lazing around and digging hot water spa pool on the beach
Natural Thermal Spa on the beach in New Zealand

A unique thing to do in New Zealand is grabbing a spade and digging your own hot water pool. Yes! You read it right. In Coromandel, very close to the Cathedral Cove lies a Hot Water Beach. Here, you find couples, families, and groups of friends digging their spa pool, 2 hours before and after the hide tide hits the shore. Time your visit well to the beach, take your tools, and relax in the natural hot water pool enjoying the stunning scenery around you.

8. Swim with the Dolphins at Akaroa

Hector’s Dolphin is an endangered dolphin species known to be the smallest in size. These are found in the South Island of New Zealand specifically near the marine reserve of Akaroa Harbour. You can take an excursion with any of the tour operators here, which promise you the chance to have a closer look at these little dolphins. Also, you can opt to explore the waters and swim along Hector’s dolphins for an unforgettable experience in New Zealand!

9. Witness Geothermal Wonders in Rotorua

A thermal pond with greenery surrounding it
Geothermal in Rotorua

Hell’s Gate ranks on the top of Rotorua’s famed geothermal attractions list. It not only boasts 50 acres of geysers, mud pools, and hot springs but also is home to the Southern Hemisphere’s largest hot-water waterfall. Whakarewarewa in Rotorua is also an excellent site with approximately 500 hot springs to awe you. A thermal wonderland can also be seen near Rotorua, at The Wai-O-Tapu, which is home to the famous Lady Knox Geyser an Champagne Pool.

10. Star Gazing at Mount Cook

The night view of Mount Cook with stars
Srar watching at Mount Cook

Far from the city lights, in the Dark Sky Reserve, lies Mount Cook region with some of the darkest skies in New Zealand – perfect for viewing the night sky. Head to the foot of Mount Cook where an experienced guide introduces you to the southern night sky using astro-binoculars and state-of-the-art telescopes. Unleash your imagination as you discover star clusters, ecliptic objects, and distant galaxies.

For Wine Aficionados

11. Visit A Winery & Sip The Finest of Wines

Te Mata Estate in Hawke’s Bay, Brancott Estate in Marlborough, Rippon Vineyard in Central Otago, Pegasus Bay in Canterbury, and Stonyridge Vineyard in Waiheke Island are some of the finest wineries you can visit in New Zealand. Take wine tasting tours in New Zealand at any of these wineries for a splendid experience. The group tours take you through the terrains where you can trace the making of wine from pre-production stage. Some of the wineries such as Te Mata also conduct private tasting tours for wine connoisseurs that focus on the heritage and history of the wines. Please note that these tours need to be booked in advance for a hassle-free experience.

For Movie Buffs

12. Take The Lord of The Rings Tour in Hobbiton
Hobbiton the place where Hobbits lived in the movie The Lord of Rings
Hobbiton in New Zealand

After the release of first Lord of the Rings movie in 2001, New Zealand became synonymous with the Middle-earth. Visitors from all corners of the world came to New Zealand to witness the town where the Hobbits lived. Today, there are special tours to the Hobbiton, which is located in the hilly region of Matamata. You can see the movie set that boasts of 44 Hobbit holes here. Also, if you are in Wellington, your visit is incomplete without a visit to Weta Caves – the workshop where all the costumes and special effects for the movie series were created.

The choice of picking a few of the above-mentioned activities can be tough. We hope you pick the best and have a wonderful trip to !

 

Your New Zealand Travel Guide is Here. Plan Your Holiday

New Zealand has stunning natural beauty and amazing diversity. This archipelago afloat in the South Pacific Ocean, has long been known as the “Paradise of the Pacific”. From active volcanoes to extensive glaciers, from steep fiords to raging rivers, from delightful beaches to trout-filled lakes every step leaves you enchanted.

Divided into South Island and North Island, even remote places in New Zealand are well-connected with smooth roads and a range of transport options, making getting around the country easy. The modern facilities and gleaming cities only add to the allure of this land. Also, an adventure lover’s paradise, New Zealand offers scenic road-trips, jet-boating, bungy jumping, canyoning, caving and sky-diving experiences, not to mention amazing water sports from rafting to snorkelling and more. New Zealand will charm you with its beauty and surprise you with its many facets.

However, before you head out, here are the basics of the when and how to get to New Zealand.

Flights to New Zealand

Though there are no direct flights from India to New Zealand, there is a range of one-stop flight options to choose from. You can get flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata Ahmedabad, Coimbatore, Kochi, Vishakapatnam and Thiruvananthapuram for New Zealand. Many of these are operated by airlines as Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, Silk Air, Thai Airways and Malaysia Airlines among others. These flights generally have a stopover at Bangkok, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.

There are regular Mumbai and Delhi flights to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, the key cities of New Zealand. The lowest round fares can start from as low as Rs 40,000, however, to get the low fares you need to book well in advance. Else prices generally range from Rs 55,000 to 80,000 and higher.

New Zealand Visitor Visa For Indians

If you are an Indian passport holder, you will need to apply for the New Zealand Visitor Visa prior to your visit. You can apply for the visa online at www.immigration.govt.nz, which is the fastest and easiest way to apply. You can also keep track of your visa updates if you have applied online.

It is good to apply for the visa well in advance of your intended departure date and you can apply as much as 6 months in advance. Ensure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months post your departure date.

New Zealand Weather and Seasons

Most of New Zealand lies near the coast endowing it with mild temperatures through the year. However, in the far north regions you will experience subtropical weather during summer and in the inland alpine region of South Island winter temperatures can be as cold as minus 10 degree Celsius. The average temperatures increase as you move from the South to the North of the country.

New Zealand seasons are different from ours as it lies in the southern hemisphere. The summer season is from December to February, during which time the average daily temperatures range from 20 to 25 degree Celsius. The autumn season is from March to May during which time the average daily temperatures range from 17 to 21 degree Celsius.

The winter season that lasts from June to August sees an average daytime temperature of between 12 to 16 degree Celsius. Spring lasts from September to November and the average daytime temperature during this time is between 16 to 19 degrees Celsius.

New Zealand receives snowfall between June to October, usually around the mountain regions, and a few inland areas as Canterbury and Otago. It rains through most of the year, with central and north areas getting mostly winter rains, and the south getting heavier summer rains.

The country receives plenty of sunshine throughout the year and certain areas like Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay and Nelson/Marlborough are even more blessed. However, UV rays of the sun are strong here, as there is relatively no pollution in the air. Especially during the months from September to April, you need to take certain precautions when outside:
– Be well covered and wear a hat and sunglasses.
– Stay in the shade as much as possible.
– Apply an SPF 30+ sunscreen lotion every two hours.

Best time to visit New Zealand

New Zealand tram, park beside the railway track and buildings
New Zealand country top view

New Zealand is an all-year-round destination as every season has something special to offer. During the winters (June to September) New Zealand becomes a world-class ski destination. Places like Ruapehu, Canterbury, Queenstown or Lake Wanaka offer the best of snow sporting action. From the thrill of heli-skiing, to snowboarding, cross country skiing or sledging, snow enthusiasts will love it all. This is also the perfect time to soak yourself in the warm thermal hot springs, after a day of walking or cycling in the crisp outdoors air.

Spring is the best time to take a tour to Hobbiton Film Set as the Middle earth gardens and charming bluebells are in full bloom then. The countryside is also delightful with flowers and beautiful gushing waterfalls at this time. So exploring vineyards or the great outdoors makes for a pleasurable activity.

Summer is the peak season for New Zealand as tourists as well as locals travel around at this time, especially during the X-mas break. The seas are warm and snorkelling, surfing, kayaking, sailing, swimming and beach picnics are very popular. From walking coastal trails or taking on mountain biking trails to swimming with the dolphins, there is plenty to do. The countryside is very scenic too with the native Pohutukawa tree abloom with vibrant red flowers at this time.

During autumn the temperatures are still warm, and at most places the sea is still good for swimming and other water sport activities. You can enjoy all the outdoor trails; and the countryside is coloured in hues of yellow, gold and orange of Deciduous trees. This many may consider as the best time to visit New Zealand as you have almost all the advantages of the summer season, but minus the crowds and high prices.

Getting around New Zealand

New Zealand has excellent infrastructure and getting around the country is easy. Daily flights ply between most of the cities with major airports at Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown and Wellington as well as 23 regional airports. Air New Zealand and Jetstar are the main domestic operators, while chartered flights and regional airlines also offer their services.

Passenger as well as vehicle ferries are available between North, South and the other islands. One of the most popular ferry routes is from Wellington to Picton as it takes you through the famous Marlborough Sounds. Water taxis are available for short distances and scenic tours too. New Zealand also has a handful of rail routes that are worth exploring. It has three long-distance train links and a few shorter scenic rail journeys.

New Zealand roads are smooth and well-connected, and travelling by bus or car makes for a great experience. You can even self-drive a rented car and enjoy some scenic road trips. Taking the road is very popular among young couples. The good part is that New Zealand has the same side drive as India

However, if you plan to self-drive, it is recommended you prepare yourself beforehand by familiarising yourself with the driving rules and regulations in New Zealand. Go through the Visiting Driver Training Programme available on www.aa.co.nz/visiting-drivers, and take the online self-assessment quiz.

New Zealand Currency

New Zealand currency (coins and dollars)
New Zealand Currency

The New Zealand currency is the New Zealand Dollar – NZ$. One New Zealand Dollar is approximately equivalent to INR 48. The denominations are $100, $20, $10, $50 and $5. Most credit cards are acceptable in New Zealand with Visa and Mastercard being the most preferred.

New Zealand Time

New Zealand Standard Time is six and a half hours ahead of India, which means when it is 12 AM in India it would be 6.30 AM in New Zealand. However, during daylight savings which starts from the last Sunday in September to the first Sunday in April New Zealand is seven and a half hours ahead of India.

New Zealand Food

Seafood of New Zealand served decoratively with french fries and bread
New Zealand food

New Zealand is known for its innovative recipes, its expert Kiwi chefs, and high-class wines. The traditional New Zealand cuisine of barbeques, and fish and chips, has evolved a long way with Kiwi culinary experts developing a distinct Pacific Rim cuisine. Savour its rich variety of seafood from delicious crayfish to green-lipped mussels, bluff oysters to fresh fish; relish its award-winning cheeses, and of course try its famous lamb roast.

From fine dining options amid a scenic backdrop, to one of its many remote luxury lodges there is much to indulge the gourmet lover. If you are one for street food and urban eats, head for one of its waterfront restaurants in Auckland or try a bohemian ethnic café in the Cuba Quarters of Wellington. And if you are touring during the summer months there will be wine and food festivals galore. Try out the West Coast’s Wildfoods Festival or the Kawhia Kai Festival for something really adventurous. If you are vegetarian or vegan too, New Zealand offers a number of restaurants that have a range of veg/vegan dishes.

However if you love your Indian food, fret not, as most of the big cities have Indian restaurants. Auckland and Wellington have 6 – 7 good Indian restaurants each. Some of the popular ones in Auckland are Raviz, Bollywood and Oh Calcutta to name a few. There is also the award-winning Cassia, a favourite among locals that serves Indian with a modern twist to it. In Wellington you will find Dawaat, Little India, Masala, among other Indian restaurants. Christchurch, Rotorua, Queenstown and Dunedin all have 4 – 5 authentic Indian restaurants.

For a taste of the local try out Maori cooking or attend one of the Kiwi cooking classes and take home some interesting recipes. Drop by at a Farmer’s market and discover local seasonal delicacies. The outdoors is an intrinsic part of Kiwis, and so from picking your own fruit, to enjoying barbeques at campsites, parks, and beaches, there is much to indulge in.

New Zealand Wines And More
White Wine served with salmon fish and veggies
New Zealand Wine

New Zealand is well famed for its fine wines and your trip is incomplete without going on a wine tour. Get to experience three of the best wine regions, namely Marlborough, Wairarapa and Hawke’s Bay and taste the local favourite – Pinot Noir.

Craft beer too is becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand and microbreweries have mushroomed, especially in cities as Auckland, Wellington, Nelson and West Coast. The many food, wine and beer festivals across the country are a place for some lively entertainment and plenty of appetising food and drinks. Attending one of these is an absolute must-do when here.

Another beverage that New Zealanders absolutely love is their coffee. From mini mobile outlets to lavish lounges, coffee cafes can be found everywhere. In fact New Zealand is said to have more roasters per capita than anywhere in the world and has arguably the world’s best coffee.

Also read:

 

Ready to plan your New Zealand holiday? You can be sure of a fantastic experience!

 

How Technology Is Driving The Travel Industry

The internet of things and artificial intelligence are changing the construct across
industries and businesses today, and that includes the travel industry. While the trend in travel may often be towards the offbeat and remote, the experiences and expectations are towards the technically more advanced. Without a doubt, today’s traveller is far more tech-savvy and in synch with changing technologies than ever before. Also, the travel industry has expanded rapidly, and while demand and expectations have risen, so have costs, requirements and deliverables. And technology is the one alchemy that will bridge this gap.

Here is a look at tech trends that are likely to re-shape the way the world travels in the near future.

Blockchain technology in travel

Blockchain that exploded in the digital world some years back is considered to be the technology of the future. Blockchain essentially deals with data storage and transferring through special clusters. Its key feature being that information is always traceable and transparent, yet highly secure as it is resistant to tampering or modifications. This makes it especially important for travel and tourism companies who rely on data and monetary transactions between different sectors as the agency, vendors, airlines, hotels etc. Blockchain technology can ensure safe, secure and seamless transmission across different channels.

Perhaps this technology will soon be an everyday part of the customer experience too, wherein you would be doing your flight, hotel and car rental reservations through chatbots and robots that operate via blockchain technology.

Voice Technology in travel industry

A couple giving voice instruction to Echo in the hotel room to perform some function
Voice Command Technology in rooms

Voice technology is evolving rapidly and from voice search on Google to voice assistants like Amazon Echo there is increasing interest in this sector. It is estimated that by 2020 at least 50% of search will be by voice. This technology has greatly interested the travel industry too, that has found many instances to use this to provide better and more efficient customer service.

Hotels are now placing voice devices in rooms and customers can conveniently use this to communicate with hotel staff, set alarms or control room temperatures. They can also conveniently and quickly find information about the place, weather or traffic conditions of the place they are in. So hotel rooms are getting converted to smart rooms and adding to traveller delight. Besides, the hotel get a more detailed digital mapping of its guest’s preferences.

Biometrics technology reshaping travel trends

A man unlocking the hotel room with Biometrics technology embedded key
Biometrics technology lock in room

The travel boom especially in airlines sector calls for quicker check-ins and security processes, while threat identifications have become ever more crucial in today’s world. Use of biometrics is one of the quickest and most effective answers. Facial recognition, retina scans and fingerprints help make processes faster and more secure.

Changi Airport for example has already implemented facial recognition at its security processing point for departure, enabling it to handle far greater passenger traffic. Dubai airport also plans to automate its passport checks at the airport by checking people’s identity as they walk through a marked out area via hidden cameras. It is estimated that by year 2020, almost 30% of airports worldwide will have implemented a single token biometric identification managmement system.

Certain airlines are also using biometrics for a more secure and faster processes. Air New Zealand for example has biometric bag drop in place while Air Alaska is issuing biometric boarding passes. Late last year, Delta Air Lines launched the first “biometric terminal” in the USA in Atlanta city. Here facial recognition quickly checks and identifies passengers as they move through the terminal.

Robots – the future technology of the travel industry

A robot informing a man regarding final call to board the airplane
robots for airport and hotel room services

The use of robots in the travel industry is slowly but surely growing, more so in the hotel industry. Japan was the first to take the lead in this with its wholly robot-managed hotel – The Henn-na in Ginza. However it did not quite work to expectations and continues with experimental innovations and human interventions. Hotels as The Hilton (Virginia) and The Marriot (Chicago) in the US are using robots for concierge and room services respectively, and giving customers an add-on delight factor. Many other hotels are looking at some kind of robotization of its services, as a means to save costs and labour hassles. Restaurants are also experimenting with robots due to the cost savings they imply and especially the fast food sector outlets like McDonald’s, KFC and Wendy’s in the US, already use robots for many routine and unpleasant tasks.

Wearable Devices permeates travel industry

The hype on wearable devices at a personal level may have worn off, but these are finding favour in commercial usage. One such top of the travel segment is luxury cruise, where these devices are bringing a whole new way of monitoring, managing and owning the customer experience. From room keys to special lounge or restricted area access, to temperature control, to booking activities and personalised recommendations and more, this technology is revolutionizing cruise experiences and interactions.

Over an year back the Carnival Corporation part of the Holland America Group launched a wearable pendant for passengers on its Regal Princess ship. This worked as an all-encompassing ID for passengers. It also worked as a key to their room, they could use it to book onboard activities, as also order food and drinks. The Walt Disney Company offers a customizable, RFID-equipped MagicBand, that connects to the theme park infrastructure, helping reduce waiting time as well as track visitor’s activities and location.

Also read: 6 Key Travel Trends To Watch Out for in 2019

So watch out for these technology trends that are fast becoming a reality of the travel industry and will take out the friction from a lot of tedious processes.

 

7 Reasons To Celebrate Holi in Mathura and Vrindavan

Come Holi and you can expect your Whatsapp to be flooded with Happy Holi wishes or gif images of Holi colours popping out on Instagram. And music enthusiasts can be seen listening to Bollywood Holi songs or stepping to Holi numbers. However, the streets generally remain quiet as societies have turned nuclear, and Holi celebration has become a closed affair, especially in metro cities. Yet there are still certain places in India that remain rooted in the traditional customs and folk tales, and celebrate Holi in its true essence, and with full fervour. One such city is Lord Krishna’s Mathura.

If you wish to experience a cultural convergence with colours of Holi at its best, you should celebrate Holi 2019 in Mathura and Vrindavan. Here are 7 reasons why:

1. You Can See The Famous Lathmar Holi Celebration Here

Group of women playing Lathmar holi with men in Mathura
Lathmar Holi Celebration in Mathura

The Bollywood film, Toilet, familiarised people across the country with Lathmar Holi, where women playfully beat men with sticks, and they use shields to cover themselves. If you wish to witness this form of Holi being played in front of your eyes, Mathura is the place to be. In Mathura’s neighbourhood Barsana, and adjacent Nandgaon, Lathmar Holi is celebrated since ages. According to the legends, the tradition of Lathmar Holi began when Lord Krishna went to the neighbouring village of Barsana to colour his beloved Radha and other Gopis. In return, the women beat him playfully with sticks. You can head to Barsana a few days before the Holi festival to celebrate Lathmar Holi in Barsana, or or else simply capture the exuberant atmosphere here in your camera.

When & Where: March 15 in Barsana, and March 16 in Nandgaon

2. Phoolon Wali Holi In Vrindavan Is An Affair To Remember

You must have seen a shower of flowers in the movies, but have you ever seen it in real life? If not, then head to Vrindavan for Holi festivities where Phoolon (flowers) Wali Holi is celebrated. In a short 20-minute ceremony, flowers are showered on the devotees at Banke-Bihari temple in Vrindavan. It is, perhaps, the only Holi celebration where neither dry nor wet colours are used. The temple priests also take part in it with the devotees who come here from all walks of life. The best way to experience this Holi would be to arrive as soon as the gates of the temples open so that you get enough time to take the perfect shot of the flowers mid-air.

When & Where: On March 17, 2019, at Banke-Bihari Temple at 4:00 pm

3. Widows Are Seen Breaking Stereotypes on Holi in Vrindavan

Widows playing Holi in Vrindavan and breaking the stereotypes
Holi Celebration in Vrindavan

Widows in India used to wear white clothes and never play with colours, but not anymore! In 2013, the widows of Pagal Baba Widow Ashram broke this convention. Now, Widows play Holi at the Gopinath Temple every year. They smear colours on each other’s faces and dance to the tunes of traditional Holi songs. Many Sanskrit scholars and priests also join them in the festivities signifying the further social assimilation and acceptance of these widows.

When & Where: At Gopinath Temple around 12:00 pm a few days before Holi

4. You Can See Lord Krishna’s Leela At Braj in Vrindavan on Holi

People dancing and playing Holi with each other and drinking Bhaang
Holi Celebration in Braj

If you are fond of watching plays and skits, then celebrating Holi would be a treat for you in Vrindavan. At Gulal-Kund in Braj in Vrindavan, the locals enact the stories from Hindu mythology where Lord Krishna can be seen in his playful avatar enjoying the riot of colours. Around a small lake near the Govardhan hill, this theatrical performance is organised on the Holi day, which can be enjoyed by anyone free of charge.

When & Where: On March 21, 2019, near Govardhan Hill in Braj all day long

Also read: Top 5 things to do in Vrindavan

5. Holi at Banke-Bihari Temple In Vrindavan Is A Delight to Experience

People gathered to celebrate Holi at the Banke Bihari Temple
Grand Holi Celebration in Banke Bihari Temple

A riot of colours is what you see at the Banke-Bihari temple where temple priests, also called Goswamis, sprinkle buckets of colours on the devotees. Water guns, dry and wet colours are smeared on everybody inside the temple complex while devotional music or bhajans are played in the background. You see everyone dancing in unison irrespective of the caste, creed, religion, and colour.

When & Where: On March 20, 2019, at Banke-Bihari temple from 9:00 am till 1:30 pm.

6. Holi Procession In Mathura Is An Exciting Fete To Be A Part Of

Men and women taking part in Holi procession and celebration
Holi Celebration in Mathura

After the Holi festivities in Vrindavan at Banke-Bihari temple get over around 1:30 pm, you can head towards Mathura to participate in the colourful Holi procession. It starts at Vishram Ghat and gets over a little after the Holi Gate. The street connecting these two landmarks is best to catch up with the enthusiasm of Holi celebration with the crowd.
In the procession, you see about ten vehicles decorated with flowers. Some even have kids dressed up as Radha-Krishna dancing on the open decks of the backside of the truck. Everyone plays Holi with everyone else in the procession. It is a delight for any photographer to capture these moments.

When & Where: On March 20, 2019, at Vishram Ghat around 2:00 pm

7. You Can Indulge in Bhaang and Gujiyas At Dwarkadheesh Temple in Mathura

Gujiya and a glass of Thandai or Bhaang
Traditional Holi celebration food items

On the day of Holi, the biggest festival takes place in Mathura at Dwarkadheesh Temple. As early as 7:00 am, you can head to Vishram Ghat to see the process of Bhang making by the priests. You can even have a glass yourself, if not more. The temple gates open at 10:00 am for the festivities. The crowd can be seen outside the gate well in advance colouring each other, singing traditional Holi songs, beating drums, and relishing the traditional Holi sweet, i.e. Gujiya. The scale of Holi here is smaller as compared to the Banke-Bihari temple, but the atmosphere is much friendlier. Priests can be seen playing Dhols, and you can join the dancing crowd inside the temple complex. Here, women are seen in large numbers inside the temple playing with Holi colours.

When & Where: On March 21 at Dwarkadheesh Temple at 10:00 am

If you are really excited about the Holi festival, head to Mathura and Vrindavan for a quintessential Holi celebration this year. Have a Happy Holi 2019!

 

Holi Types Holi Dates 2019
Lathmar Holi in Barsana MARCH 15, 2019
Lathmar Holi in Nandgaon MARCH 16, 2019
Phoolon Wali Holi MARCH 17, 2019
Holika Dahan MARCH 20, 2019
Holi Festival MARCH 21, 2019

 

Goa Carnival – The Best Festival Of Goa!

The quintessential Carnival in Goa, is one of the most happening carnivals, not just in the country, but also across Asia. This four-day long razzmatazz witnesses a frenzy of activities that range from dancing, feasting, drinking and just making merry! The beautiful and vibrant parades embellish the ethos with sheer vibrancy and dazzling colours, music sways its way through hearts while the streets are adorned with luminosity. A time, when the entire state is bustling with zeal and gusto, as its denizens celebrate the beauty, culture and all the good things that Goa is about! It is indeed, one of the most looked forward to festivals of Goa by locals and tourists alike. And people keep a tab on the Goa Carnival dates in advance to plan their trip accordingly.

So experience the oomph and soak in the rich heritage of Goa during the carnival as you take this sojourn and watch all the tourist places in Goa come alive with mesmeric splendour!

 

Story Of The Goa Carnival

The roots of the Goan Carnival date back to the Portuguese rule. It, however, received a boost when the Portuguese rule came to an end. It is believed that the carnival is celebrated at the end of the winter season to consume the stocked up winter food supplies before it decays. The celebrations also come as an opportunity to indulge in drinking and eating that is prohibited during the Lent month. The carnival is celebrated before Lent – the month that marks fasting as a part of religious observance for 40 days. The carnival echoes the Pagan culture that is a part of Roman Catholicism and is practised in a few countries around the world.

Today, however, the carnival wears a secular character and is celebrated by people from all walks of life. The Goa Carnival draws throngs of people from all across the country and marks the peak season of Goa tourism. This carnival is also known as the Viva Carnival Goa.

Also read; Explore History of Goa through these 5 places

 

All About The Goan Festivities!

A performer dancing with her co- partner during Goa Carnival.
Carnival Festival in Goa

In the list of festivals in Goa, The Goa Carnival is celebrated with immense brio and fervour. Every year, the carnival is thrown open to the masses by King Momo in Panaji. Now if you must wonder if that’s the gentleman bringing momos to you! You’re wrong! A ‘King Momo’ in Latin American festivals is considered to be the king of carnivals. His appearance marks the beginning of all carnival revelry and festivities. King Momo represents the dictum of “Eat, Drink and Make Merry!”

A grand procession led by King Momo entails exuberance to the hilt! The cavalcade sees a flock of dancers, along with singers and poets dressed as fortune tellers and women and older men dressed whimsically! From, fire-eaters, clowns, acrobats, to brass bands and jesters, all follow King Momo during the imposing march that starts from the streets of Panaji and goes till Mapusa, Margao and Vasco. There are crackers thrown with full abandon to match the beats of the drums! It is also said that the carnival makes for a great setting to profess one’s love for someone!

The carnival preparations begin from December, even weeks away from the carnival, young boys and girls clad in masks keep the carnival banter alive! According to a local tradition, the performers after their carnival rehearsals would occasionally visit one of their friend’s place to prank them! The pranks in the regional dialect are known as ‘Assoltes’ and form a part of all the carnival zest! Once a friend realises the error, they must entertain the performers with snacks and drinks.

There are cultural competitions of singing, dancing and acting. Judges from other states watch the performances and rate them. The best act receives an award on the last day of the carnival! Further, the guests are kept entertained with snacks and drinks to poise them for the grand carnival!

What To Do At The Goa Carnival

During the Goa Carnival, you can either cheer away with the crowd, participate in various hearty sports competitions, try the typical Feni – a drink made of cashews, gorge on lip-smacking Goan delicacies or be a part of DJ Nights and stirring fashion shows! The local bistros and cafes also prepare a delectable fish dish for the masses that just cannot be missed! As the people of the state, use the time of autumn to clean out their kitchens, all folks dine outside, and the eateries are open all through the night on the days of the carnival.

People also play with colours, just like Holi, that amps up the cheer. Attend the carnival parade and amble through the alleys and roads to soak in the real blue vibe of this stunning island state.

The Goa Carnival Floats are one of the gorgeous things in the Goa Carnival! Just like the Republic Day tableau, the floats look ornate and are decorated with elegant styles. The Carnival floats denote biblical, and nursery tales and there are contests for the best-looking floats.

According to the old traditional tales, during the carnival, the Christians would throw utensils at the parade as a mark of getting rid of the old things from the house before Easter, this unconventional (read – weird) practice has now stopped in the present times!

You may also like: Top things to do in Goa

Specials Of The Goa Carnival

Women participating and performing with flowers as prop in Goa Carnival Festival
Carnival celebration in Goa

One of the specialities of the Goa Carnival festival is a single act folk play called ‘Khell’ or Fell that exudes beguiling colours. Held during the carnival in Chandor, it showcases actors roaming through the village singing Fella-Gitam or the Intruzachim Geetam with soulful musical instruments in the backdrop. The sound of ghumats – a percussion of Goa, coupled with the beating of the drum, the tune of the violin and cymbals, infuse the air with an uncanny serenity! The rib-crackling ‘Fell’ is known for its satirical and scathing censure meant to mend human follies.

The whistle of the producer, also known as the ‘Mistri’ acts as the curtain-raiser, while the ‘dholak’ is hailed as the director of the folk play and helps intersperse the story. You can check out some Yatra Goa package to reserve a few hotels that can organise special festivity for their guests, at the time of the carnival.

Another striking feature of the Viva Carnival entails the Red and Black Dance. If dancing seems to be your first love and you do not mind the ever-growing frenzy of the crowds, then you can garb your finest red and black apparel, wear your mask and just party away with the crowds. The Red and Black Ball gives way to some beautiful moves and is followed by the crowning of King Momo.

Goa Carnival 2019 Dates

The Goa Carnival kicks off on a Fat Saturday and draws to a close on Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday, a day before the Ash Wednesday, that is usually the first day of the Lent season. And therefore, the merriment consisting of dancing, music and drinking, which continues till the early hours of the day before the dawn of Ash Wednesday.

The Goa Carnival 2019 dates are March 2, 2019 (Saturday) till March 5, 2019 (Tuesday). This year if you wish to attend the Goa carnival India, then be sure to make your bookings beforehand so that you get to experience the best of Goa during it’s splendid Carnival!

 

In Sum

Goa sure knows how to party and how! The carnival is a heritage of its people and pulsates with buoyancy and energy. The mirth and the joy is sure to leave a beautiful impression on your heart. Plan your trip around the Goa carnival this year, and try following it till Mapusa – nestled in North Goa!

Also read: Top 5 Free Of Cost Activities In Goa

 

Luxury Getaways From Delhi For The Long Weekend

Have a long weekend coming up soon? Time to start planning your next vacation! Here is our pick of some exclusive luxury getaways from Delhi that would make for a perfect destination. From the contemporary Golden Tusk in Jim Corbett National Park to the heritage hotel Vivanta by Taj – Sawai Madhopur Lodge that lies on the edge of the Ranthambore National Park. And down to the Gateway Hotel Ramgarh Lodge Jaipur by Taj for those who prefer royalty.

Weekend Gateway Places Location
The Golden Tusk Jim Corbett, Ramnagar
Sawai Madhopur Lodge Ranthambore
Hotel Ramgarh Lodge Jaipur

 

Read on and take your pick!

The Golden Tusk, Jim Corbett – Into the Wild

Elephants strolling near the river in Jim Corbett National Park
Jim Corbett National Park- Weekend gateway

Surrounded by trees and deep in the forests of the Jim Corbett National Park is this secluded oasis of private luxury called The Golden Tusk

From the moment you step off the train at Ramnagar, and are whisked away into a jeep for the drive to The Golden Tusk through the Jim Corbett National Park, you know this is going to be a good time. The property is fairly new, a fact that is easily noticeable from its simplistic Bauhaus construction, neat layout and superbly clean facilities. The area was previously agricultural land, and in trying to keep its charm, there is an abundance of trees, flowers, bushes and flora all around. Through the driveway into the property, there is a line of trees that serve up a cacophony of bird chatter in the evenings.

Activities at The Golden Tusk, Jim Corbett

If you are the slightly more live-action adventure type, there are facilities to engage your muscles. A climbing wall, a zip line and rappelling line are all built into the property. Other facilities include an outdoor pool, volleyball, football, badminton and a range of other sports. Add all this to a secluded, silent, private and yet luxurious spot and it’s that rare holiday. Once you get in The Golden Tusk and settle in for a long weekend, you never truly need to get out.
But of course you do. For a viewing of the tiger, the real reason you are probably in the area, there is a need to step into the jungle.

The Golden Tusk is situated in Village Dhela, in the Dhela and Jhirna zones of the Jim Corbett National Park. On most occasions, the property offers use of vehicles and safari services. The visitor is encouraged to take along their own eyes, ears and memory on the safari. There is no speeding of the vehicle chasing an animal, no squeezing through paths to try and get a better view. Every animal, be it an eagle, an elephant or a tiger, is accorded the same importance. And for this, we are grateful.

Facilities at The Golden Tusk, Jim Corbett

Aside from the regular rooms, the property also offers a luxury tent experience. Equipped with an AC, bathroom and electricity, the tents are situated right next to the river that flows by the property. When in spate, it is probably a sight to behold. In all fairness, The Golden Tusk is not an ideal holiday for someone who requires a fast-paced, adrenaline-filled experience. It isn’t for those looking to constantly text, call, email or post up their daily schedules on social media. But that again, isn’t the point of coming here.

If you’re here, you ought to surrender yourself to the people at the property (each one of them willing to flash a genuine smile and help out whenever needed) and to the peacefulness of its surroundings.

Also read:

 

Contact –
The Golden Tusk, Village Dhela, Ramnagar (Nainital), Uttarakhand – 244715
Reservations (0) 8937000770
Website thegoldentusk.com
Tariff Starts at `10,500 per night

 

Sawai Madhopur Lodge, Ranthambore – Gateway to Tiger Country

Tiger being Photographed by the tourists during jungle Safari in Jungle
Sawai Madhopur Lodge Jungle- Weekend Gateway

Once a hunting reserve for the royals, the Vivanta by Taj – Sawai Madhopur Lodge today stands as a heritage hotel at the edge of the Ranthambore National Park

Two hours pass by with no animal in sight. Suddenly, there’s a movement in the bushes. Finally, it emerges! The magnificent tigress, Arrowhead. She saunters across the shore of the lake, laps up some water, spares us a gaze and walks back. This is a sight to behold.

My gateway to the Ranthambore National Park is the Vivanta by Taj – Sawai Madhopur Lodge. Once a hunting reserve for the royals, today it stands as a heritage hotel amidst the Vindhya and the Aravali ranges, with 36 luxurious rooms spread across 12 acres of lush greenery. The Lodge boasts deco-style architecture, trophies from past hunts hang on the walls and photographs depict the history of the royals in action.

I return from the bumpy safari ride to sandwiches and hot tea. A staffer requests that I pen down my sightings. “Tigress Arrowhead, a sloth bear, a few spotted deer and crocodiles,” I list proudly. At dinner, enthralling folk songs greet me. Traditional Rajasthani cuisine follows —lal maas, lason ki chutney, dal bati churma, kadhi, ker sangri and more.

Facilities & Activities at Sawai Madhopur Lodge, Ranthambore

This Taj property perfectly blends the expectations of a wildlife enthusiast with the needs of an urban traveller. There’s a swimming pool, a spa offering traditional massages, a well-equipped gym, a well-stocked ‘Tiger’ bar and an elevated dining area called Machan.

Bicycles are available for cycling enthusiasts, but I prefer to take a stroll the next morning. Breakfast is again an assortment of Rajasthani dishes—pyaaz kachori, poha and pudina chutney. Later, I take a long walk up the hill to the famous Ranthambore Fort and Ganesh Temple. The guide provided by the hotel keeps me interested with fascinating stories about the fort.

We stroll around the old city of Ranthambore, with a pit-stop at the handicraft haven of Dastkar. The highlight, however, is meeting the renowned artist and wildlife expert, M.D. Parashar. His paintings of the famous deceased tigress, Machli, who once ruled the Ranthambore Park, are awe-inspiring.

For the barbecue at the hotel at night, lamps hang from trees, tiger-striped cushions are thrown on the couch, mild fragrances of incense waft in, and a small screen projects the film, Tiger Queen, an insight into the tigers of Ranthambore, the lifeline of the city of Sawai Madhopur. Walking back to my room, I can imagine how the place would’ve looked like back then —tents in rows, hunters gathered around bonfires, fire torches lighting the way for the people. The scent of a colonial past still hangs strong in the air of Sawai Madhopur, and the wilderness prevails.

Also read:

48 Hours in Ranthambore

Ranthambore spells romance – explore how!

Contact –
Vivanta by Taj – Sawai Madhopur Lodge, Ranthambore National Park Road, Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan–322001
Reservations (0) 74622 20718
Website vivanta.tajhotels.com/en-in/sawaimadhopur-ranthambore/
Tariff `9,000 to `12,000, plus taxes

Gateway Hotel Ramgarh Lodge, Jaipur – A Home in the Wilderness

The inside view of a suite in the Hotel
Gateway Hotel Ramgarh Lodge room- Jaipur

Spread across four acres with a manmade lake and a Spanish theme, the Gateway Hotel Ramgarh Lodge Jaipur is an oasis of serenity

The Amer Fort in Jaipur looks majestic atop the hill. From the top, the water body below looks scenic and the city sprawled around is captivating. A 40-minute drive from the fort brings us to the peach-coloured Gateway Hotel Ramgarh Lodge by Taj.

The gates open and I step in like a maharaja, to a royal welcome. On the walls of the reception area, fashioned like the parlour of a palace, hang the trophies from long-ago hunts. The manager and his wife greet me. I can’t help but feel at home in the wilderness.

Facilities at Gateway Hotel Ramgarh Lodge, Jaipur

The European influence in the architecture is prevalent in the interiors and the furniture. I’m amazed by the size of my room, with its king-sized bed and all modern amenities—an LED TV, mini-bar and even access to wi-fi this far from the city.

The room opens onto a balcony, with a lovely view of the lawns. One of these lawns hosts lunch, in the shade of trees, with a continental and traditional Indian spread. Post-lunch, we visit the nearby organic farm managed by Anokhi. The sight of fresh vegetables is refreshing; I can’t help grabbing a fresh carrot. The tour ends with us sipping hot lemongrass tea and nibbling on snacks.

On our way back, we’re greeted with the howls of jackals in the distance. The manager informs us that the property was once used as a hunting lodge by royals. Built by Sir Swinton Jacob with a Spanish theme in 1933, it was spread across four acres of land, with a manmade lake in front. The building now has 14 rooms— three basic, nine deluxe and two heritage rooms, which are restored periodically.

The lodge also has a swimming pool and spa. There’s a conference room to cater to the needs of corporate clients. The bar has a vintage look and is furnished in the fashion of the early ’50s. The hotel also provides specialised curated services.

Dark is settling in as we arrive back. The lodge is lit up like a historical monument, standing tall in the wilderness, a red sun setting on the backdrop of the Aravali ranges. We gather around the bonfire, pick our drinks and raise a toast to the night.

Also read:

  5 Things to do in Jaipur

Contact –
The Gateway Hotel Ramgarh Lodge, Jamwa Ramgarh, Jaipur, Rajasthan–303109
Reservations (0) 95212 14026
Website gateway.tajhotels.com/en-in/ ramgarh-lodge-jaipur/
Tariff `6,500 to `8,500, plus taxes

Also read: 

Weekend getaways from Delhi for an awesome weekend

10 Indian Experiences That Redefine Exotic!

That which was unique is now ordinary. Yet, look deeper and the magic remains. Exotic now lies in the novel. Here᾽s our curated list of 10 Indian experiences which will help you find the India that is mysterious, enchanting and have the trip of a lifetime.

I was seven when I first travelled to Rajasthan with my family. With the regular touristy stuff done, we headed to Pushkar to camp in a tent in the middle of the desert. At night, we sat outside under a million stars, sharing a delicious Rajasthani dinner. A group of local folk musicians had assembled, and when they began to sing, the wind picked up the music and served it as goosebumps on my skin. “Exotic!” exclaimed the foreigner couple sitting next to us. I didn’t quite grasp the meaning of the word then, but it sounded perfect for the occasion. Much later I’d come to understand that for the West, many things that we consider ordinary in India could qualify as exotic – from the temples and sadhus to the sari and bindi to the cows, snakes and elephants.

The same could be extrapolated to other countries as well on this side of the world. In fact, the great Edward Said, father of postcolonial studies, wrote an entire book on the West’s cultural representations of the East, forming the basis of what came to be known as Orientalism. But, as often happens, the interpretations of words change. Hollywood may still choose to depict an India of clichés but for many travelling here from abroad, the idea of what makes this country exotic is changing. The magnificent sights, sounds and tastes alone don’t cut it anymore. A camel ride, houseboat stay in the backwaters, a wildlife safari… these may have made it to the list a few years back. Now, exotic lies in novel experiences that are raw, handcrafted, extraordinary.

So here we present a handpicked bouquet of 10 Indian experiences that will not just entice the foreigner, but from which even the Indian traveller will come away witnessing something unique, mystical and absolutely exotic!

 

1. Rejuvenate with a holistic wellness package in the hills or at the seaside

A group of people in the yoga class at Ananda in the Himalayas
Wellness stay

In the foothills of the Himalaya in Uttarakhand lies the temple town of Rishikesh or, more popularly, the yoga capital of the world. Nestled here, amidst 100 acres of lush forest, is Ananda – ranked the best destination spa on Earth. Ananda offers a range of all-encompassing wellness programmes that include massages, treatments, specialised diet programmes and rigorous transformations in lifestyle. Whether you choose to sample the Ananda experience for a few days or opt for their longer, more intensive regimes, you’re guaranteed to come away feeling calmer, healthier.

If, however, you’re a water baby, Auroville or the ‘City of Dawn’ is the place to be for a complete revamp of your body and soul by the sea. For years, the experimental township located close to Puducherry along the east coast has been attracting those with an idealistic bend towards fostering unity, peace and sustainability. Lately, Auroville has witnessed a steady stream of wellness enthusiasts as well.

Quick Info

Ananda in the Himayalas
How to Reach Ananda: It is located about 270 km (7 hours) from Delhi and 22 km (40 mins) from Rishikesh.
Address The Palace Estate, Narendra Nagar, Uttarakhand
Reservations 1800 102 5333 (toll-free), (0124) 4516650
Website www.anandaspa.com
Tariff Wellness packages start from `22,000 per night

USP of Ananda, A Spa For The Soul: With the ancient principles of Ayurveda, yoga and Vedanta at their core and with Western wellness practices incorporated, the wellness programmes at Ananda are designed with a four-fold approach to complete well-being: Cleansing, healing, relaxation and revitalisation.

Auroville
How to Reach Auroville: It is located 15 km (30 mins) before Puducherry on the East Coast Road from Chennai (165 km, 3.5 hrs)
Address Quiet Healing Centre, Auroville, Tamil Nadu
Reservations (0413) 2622329, 94880 84966
Website www.quiethealingcenter.info
Tariff Wellness courses start from `5,000

USP of Heal By The Sea At Auroville: The Quiet Healing Centre run by the Auroville Foundation, located on seven acres of beachfront land, offers superb views of the Bay of Bengal as well as a range of natural treatments, aquatic body work, massages and health-related courses. The natural, non-invasive therapies seek to address your “deeper energetic level within a safe space of care, love and touch.”

 

2. Care for elephants in Karnataka

A herd of elephants by the river in Karnataka
Elephants in Karnataka

Besides the tiger and the snake, it is perhaps the elephant that holds the highest fascination for travellers to India. At the Dubare Elephant Camp near the Cauvery river, you get a chance to be up, close and personal with these gentle giants. You not only experience the sight of these majestic beasts but also work with them towards their protection. Here you can also experience riding in a coracle on the river; don’t be surprised if you catch a crocodile or two sunbathing on the banks.

Quick Info

How to reach Dubare Elephant Camp: It is located 240 km (5 hours) away from Bengaluru and about 102 km (2.5 hours) away from Mysuru.
Address Kushalanagar, Hobli, Coorg District, Karnataka
Reservations 9449597876, (08272) 200653; www.junglelodges.com/dubareelephant-camp-hobli
Tariff Day visit costs approximately `1,500, cottages are available from `5,000 onwards

Why you should trump along at Dubare Elephant Camp: Let a trained naturalist take you through the history, ecology and biology of elephants. You can opt to pitch in for an elephant grooming session and give them a scrub bath in the river! Also, learn how elephant food is prepared and how they’re fed.

 

3. Volunteer at Spiti Ecosphere

People walking on the road in Spiti Valley
Spiti Ecosphere

Tucked away in the transHimalayan belt of Himachal Pradesh, the cold desert of Spiti is, as Rudyard Kipling put it, “a world within a world.” Spread across 8,000 sq km of stark landscape, Spiti is bordered by Ladakh in the north and Tibet in the east. Based here, in the tiny remote village of Kaza, is Spiti Ecosphere – a social enterprise that is a collaborative effort of the local community and professionals from diverse backgrounds, who together work towards creating sustainable livelihoods, linked to nature and culture conservation.

Quick Info

How to reach Spiti Ecosphere: It is located in Kaza, which is 450 km (11 hours) from Shimla by road.

Address Ecosphere Office, Old Bazaar, Kaza, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh
Contact 9418860099, 8988471247; www.spitiecosphere.com

Travel For A Cause to Spiti Ecosphere: Spiti is on many new-age travellers’ bucket lists. But if you wish to make your travel meaningful as well as fun, a volunteer with one of the Ecosphere’s conservation projects, such as providing energy-efficient housing solutions, the revival of local handicrafts, addressing wildlife conservation or restoration of the Dhankhar Monastery, to name a few.

 

4. Learn mask-making in Majuli

At roughly 650 sq km, Majuli, situated in the middle of the majestic Brahmaputra in Assam, is one of the largest river islands in the world. A hub of ancient culture and traditions, such as the 15th-century socio-religious movement of Neo-Vaishnavism and the classical dance form of Sattriya, the island with its stunning green paddy fields and many inland water bodies is a charm to explore.

Quick Info

How to reach Majuli: It is accessible by a two-hour ferry ride on the Brahmaputra river. From Nimati Ghat, situated 13 km (30 mins) away from Jorhat, the nearest major city. Jorhat airport is served by flights from state capital Guwahati, as well as Kolkata and Bengaluru.

Where to stay in Majuli: La Maison De Ananda (call 9957186356 or email monjitrisong@yahoo.in) has eco-cottages made in the traditional style of the indigenous Mishing tribe with thatched roofs, cane walls and raised on bamboo stilts.

What to Eat: Local Assamese cuisine at Danny’s Kitchen. The thali here includes rice, steamed fish, bamboo shoot chicken, aloo pitika (mashed potatoes) and seasonal vegetables.

Things to do in Majuli: Visit the centuries-old Neo-Vaishnavite monasteries (sattras), go birdwatching while riding a boat on the Brahmaputra, attend a Sattriya Nritya performance.

Top Experience at Majuli – Put The Mask On At Majuli: If you’re looking for a more hands-on experience, head to the modest houses of the famed mask-makers of Chamoguri Sattra on Majuli. Here you can see the master craftsmen practising their art or even attend a mask-making workshop. Made by binding bamboo and clay, these masks some facial, others full-bodied are worn during entertaining dance-dramas based on mythology and fables. Smaller masks are available to be bought as souvenirs of the time you immersed yourself in a distant culture.

 

5. Camp in the Great Rann of Kutch

Folk musicians at the Rann of Kutch festival
Great Rann of Kutch

Spanning over 7,500 sq km, the Great Rann of Kutch is one of the largest salt deserts in the world. But that’s not where the miracle of these white lands ends. The Rann witnesses the strange Chir Batti phenomenon, when unexplained coloured ‘ghost lights’ occur on dark nights. It is home to the Kharai camels, a unique breed that can swim. The region is also the cradle of the famous and colourful Kutchi handicrafts, such as patchwork, mirror work and other ethnic embroideries.

Quick Info

How to reach the Great Rann of Kutch: Dhordo, the gateway to the Rann, is approximately 80 km (1.2 hours) from Bhuj, the nearest major city.

Where to Stay: If you’re visiting during the Rann Utsav (that runs from November to February), you can choose from a range of tents that are pitched as part of the festival. A 2N/3D package in a premium tent costs around `14,000 –`16,000 per person, and includes transfers, meals, sightseeing and various activities (www.rannutsav.net). Various other stay options are available throughout the year.  The Gateway to Rann Resort has characteristic Kutchi bhungas (mud huts), with traditional murals and glass work.

Tariff starts from `4,000 for double occupancy, including meals
(www.kutchrannresort.com)

What to Eat: Sample a simple but delicious Kutchi meal of khichdi (rice cooked with pulses), kadhi (lightly-flavoured curry made with yoghurt), rotla (bread made from black millet flour) and green chilli pickle.

Things to do in Kutch: Do Visit the Kutch Museum, the oldest in Gujarat and with the largest collection of Kshatrapa inscriptions, dating to the first century; Hike to Kala Dungar, the highest point in Kutch at 462 m, for fabulous views of the salt flats; Take a tour of the majestic Vijay Vilas Palace, built in 1929 in the fusion architectural style of Kutch, Rajasthan and Bengal; Opt for a full-day excursion to Mandvi Beach, bordering the Gulf of Kutch. The area also houses numerous old buildings of princely times and
ancient temples

Top Experience of Kutch – the Rann Utsav – Call of the White Desert: One of the best ways to experience a slice of Kutchi life is through the Rann Utsav an annual three-month-long celebration of the life and culture of the region. Camp in a luxury tent in the middle of the barren expanse of white desert, and on a full moon night see the salt lands light up and sparkle all around. Traditional dances are held during the Rann Utsav, folk musicians perform well into the night. During the day, visit Kala Raksha, a grassroots social enterprise dedicated to preserving the traditional crafts of Kutch, and see Kutchi women practising their art.

 

6. Go behind the scenes of a Bollywood blockbuster in Mumbai Film City

Mumbai Film City poster
Mumbai Film City

The charm of Bollywood extends beyond this film-crazed nation to many countries across the world; Hindi movies record massive earnings abroad, and every now and then a viral video on the internet pays homage to our colourful, peppy film songs and dances. Which is why, for foreigners and Indians alike, getting a glimpse of the action behind the celluloid is often magical. And if you’re lucky enough, you may also get chosen to star as an extra in a movie.

Quick Info

Mumbai Film City Tour offers several packages, such as Live Show Tour, Full Day Bollywood Tour, Dream Tour and more.
Prices start at `599 for Indians and `3,000 for foreigners. Private tours are usually priced between $115 and $175 for a whole day of location visits and other activities in private vehicles and includes a movie screening and dinner.
Booking mumbaifilmcitytours.com / www.bollywoodtours.in

Top Experience – Lights, Camera, and Action in Mumbai: The official Mumbai Film City Tour is a two-hour guided bus tour of the various shooting locations in Film City. A full-day private tour will take you right to a location site to see a movie being shot. Get a chance to peek inside a star’s vanity van, receive an intimate behind-the-scenes look at the technicians at work, enjoy a specially arranged dance show of Bollywood hits, drive past the famous homes of superstars, and if it’s your day, star as an extra in a film! Many foreigners get small roles simply by hanging out at the right places, such as Leopold Café or Colaba Causeway. For the more serious, there are casting agencies aplenty in the city of dreams.

 

7. Experience high culture in the Capital – Delhi

Ministry gate in Delhi
Delhi

The city of seven cities, is a nucleus of history and architecture, art and theatre, music and dance. Delhi is home to the National School of Drama, the Shri Ram Centre for Performing Arts, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and a whole host of theatres, art galleries and culture centres, such as the India Habitat Centre. With such a diverse variety of venues catering to different aspects of the high arts, it is obvious that the culture calendar of the country’s capital is forever busy with events across a range of interests.

Quick Info

Places of cultural experience in Delhi: National School of Drama Bahawalpur House, 1, Bhagwandas Road; Phone (011) 2338 9402; Website nsd.gov.in
Kiran Nadar Museum of Art 145 DLF, South Court Mall, District Centre, Saket; Phone (011) 4916 0000; Website www.knma.in , Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra 1, Copernicus Marg, Mandi House; Phone (011) 2338 6429; Website www.thekendra.com , India Habitat Centre Lodhi Road, Near Air Force Bal Bharati School; Phone (011) 2468 2002; Website www.indiahabitat.org

The High Culture Checklist of Delhi

•Watch a play at the National School of Drama. India’s premier theatre institute organises the annual Bharat Rang Mahotsav, a showcase of some of the best dramas, plays and performances curated from across the country.
•Admire and critique the works of modern and contemporary artists at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, which regularly hosts expertly curated art shows.
•The Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra’s Summer Ballet Festival is an institution in itself. The annual event features dance-dramas by well-known proponents of the various classical dance forms of India.
•Attend an evening of screenings and discussions of independent films at the India Habitat Centre.

 

8. Explore the caves of Meghalaya

Light falling inside one of the caves of Meghalaya
Caves of Meghalaya

Meghalaya, the ‘abode of clouds,’ in Northeast India is famous for many natural wonders. But even before the latest craze of living root bridges caught the fancy of travellers, Meghalaya was known the world over for harbouring the wettest place on Earth. Cherrapunji and nearby Mawsynram have routinely been at loggerheads for the title; currently the latter holds it, with an average rainfall of 11,872 mm annually. But what this marvellously green, wet and absolutely breathtaking region also has is an intricate system of some of the longest caves in the world.

Quick Info
How to reach Cherrapunji: It is 54 km (1.5 hours) away by road from the state capital of Shillong. However, the nearest major airport and railhead is at Guwahati in Assam, from where regular cabs and buses are available to Shillong. Mawsynram is only 12 km away from Cherrapunji geographically but due to lack of direct motorable roads, the distance is 81 km and takes about 2.5 hours.

Where to stay in Cherrapunji: It has several accommodation options: Polo Orchid Resort offers upscale lodging in pretty cottages, log cabins and mountain villas.
Address Mawsmai-Nongthymmai, Sohra, Cherrapunji;
Reservations 9073393239; Website www.polocherrapunjee.com;
Tariff `4,499 –`10,499 per night (plus taxes); Kutmadan Resort provides comfortable rooms with great views.
Address MDR 27, Cherrapunji;
Reservations 8014859700;
Tariff `2,500 per night (plus taxes);
Website www.kipepeo.in

What to Eat: Try a traditional Khasi thali of rice, mashed potato, red chilli chutney, fish and great pork dishes.

Things to do in Cherrapunji: Do Visit the numerous waterfalls, such as Mawsmai Falls, Nohkalikai Falls, Seven Sisters Falls and others; Explore one of the many cave systems of the region, such as Mawsmai Cave; and Mawmluh Cave that are open to the public; For a more rigorous caving experience, opt for package tours conducted by various adventure companies. A 7-day package for moderate expertise typically includes expeditions to four different limestone caves, wading through waist-deep water inside the caves, negotiating at least one vertical cave and more.

Best Experience- Going Down Under in Meghalaya: Of the 10 longest and deepest caves in India, nine are in Meghalaya. About 1,580 caves have been identified across the state in total, of which only a handful are open to tourists for day tours. But serious caving enthusiasts will be delighted to know that around 980 caves have been fully or partially explored, and caving expeditions called ‘Caving in the Abode of Clouds Project’ are undertaken annually by the Meghalaya Adventurers’ Association for scientists, the armed forces, speleologists and adventure enthusiasts from all over the world.

 

9. Walk the trail of Kolkata’s authentic street food

Street food in Kolkata
Kolkata’s authentic street food

Any trip to India is incomplete if you haven’t sampled the legendary street food of at least one city. Delhi and Mumbai may be forever haggling for the top spot on the ‘Best Street Food of India’ lists. Lucknow, Amritsar and Bengaluru may be smirking their way to glory with their fabulous offerings. But it is Kolkata that wins the battle when it comes to the sheer variety of street food – and especially, non-vegetarian options – that are available at a fraction of the cost anywhere else.

Quick Info
Food Tours by Calcutta Walks
Timings Any three hours between 10 am and 10 pm
Price: INR 3,000 per person, inclusive of food
Bookings calcuttawalks.com

Kolkata’s Street Food Is Finger-Licking Good: Jhalmuri and kathi rolls are synonymous with Kolkata street food, puchkas are a close cousin to panipuris or golgappas, but it’s the more unusual and locally avail – able dishes that make the City of Joy a truly joyful experience for foodies. Calcutta Walks conducts regular walks through the city’s street food hubs that feature an unending list of delectable sweets, fish cutlets, mutton chops, soota kebabs, Mughlai paranthas, dal puris, chilla and many more gourmet glories of the streets. Don’t for – get to sample Kolkata’s own version of fusion Chinese, owing to the city’s sizeable Chinese population that has localised itself over generations.

 

10. Take a boat ride through the Sunderban mangroves

The inside view of Sunderban mangroves from a boat
Sunderban mangroves

Picture this: winding rivers punctuating impenetrable mangrove forests, lush sundari trees lining the banks of narrow creeks whose waters change colour from muddy to emerald blue, crocodiles basking in the sun, crabs scurrying into the sand, and an occasional mighty Royal Bengal tiger taking a lazy swim in the afternoon. That’s Sunderbans for you – a Unesco World Heritage Site that harbours the largest mangrove forest in the world. Besides the endangered Bengal tiger, estuarine crocodile and Indian python, the Sunderbans’ mangroves are also home to 260 species of birds and an equally amazing number of other fauna.

Quick Info
How to reach The Sunderbans: It is well connected by rail; Canning is the nearest railway station, which is 57 km or a 1.5-hour local train ride away from Kolkata. From Canning railway station, Godkhali Ferry Ghat is about 29 km (30 mins) away by taxi. This is where cruises to Sunderbans start from.

Where to Stay in Sunderbans: The Vivada Sunderbans cruise offers two categories of rooms onboard the M.V. Paramahamsa, a four-deck cruiser vessel:
Luxury, at `16,200 per person per night,
Deluxe, at `14,750 per person per night.
Reservations: vivadacruises.com/sundarban.html

What to Eat: A traditional Bengali thali of staples including rice, shukto (a palate cleanser of bitter-sweet mixed vegetables), dal, beguni (brinjal coated with gram flour and deep-fried), a variety of fish and chicken preparations, mishit doi (sweetened curd) and sweets.

Things to do in Sunderbans: Do Visit a typical Sunderbans village, take part in farming, paddy husking and honey-packing; Experience the rich biodiversity of the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve, visit the watchtowers and cruise through small creeks running along the mangrove forests while sighting various birds and animals, and perhaps a tiger; Visit the crocodile project on Bhagabatpur Island—a hatchery and sanctuary for the largest estuarine crocodiles in the world; Spend sometimes getting an insight into the lifestyle of fishermen at the busy fishing harbour of Fishermen’s Cove at Namkhana.

Best Experience: Sail With The Wind In The Sunderbans: The best way to experience the other-worldly Sunderbans is to embark on a cruise of its waterways. The Kolkata-based Vivada Cruises offers luxurious inland waterway cruises in the Sunderbans, traversing the entire area and anchoring at the most gorgeous spots. It starts from Godkhali Jetty in the Sunderbans and over the next three nights and four days, takes you through 110 km of enchanting mangrove landscapes, fishing and farming villages along the waters, crocodile hatcheries and more, all the way to Kolkata

So which of these unique Indian experiences are you trying out first?

 

India’s 10 Best City Walks: From Heritage Walks To Food Tours

Every city tells its own story through the facades of ancient buildings, old customs and rituals, and the flavours of local cuisines. Take a heritage walk or a food tour through 10 of India’s greatest cities and experience the country like never before.

Also Read: Ten Global Food Experiences Beyond The Ordinary.

Here are India’s 10 best city walks curated especially for you.

 

Delhi Heritage Walk

Jamali Kamali Mosque inside Mehrauli Archaeological Park in Delhi
Delhi Heritage Walk

What is Delhi? Perhaps, the most precise answer to this was provided by one of its best-known residents – Mirza Ghalib. “The world is the body and Delhi its life!” Delhi is the heart of the country, the nerve centre from which the rest of India has been conquered and governed over millennia.

Delhi is a city of seven cities. It is Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s Shahjahanabad, preceded by Sher Shah’s Shergarh. Before that, came the three medieval cities of the Tughlaq era: Firozabad, Jahanpanah and Tughlakabad. Delhi also belonged to the Khilji rulers, who created the city of Siri. And before that came the first and the oldest city of Delhi—Qila Rai Pithora, created by the legendary hero Prithviraj Chauhan. Rai Pithora would later be overrun by the first Sultan of Delhi—Qutubuddin Aibak—and expanded to what is today’s Mehrauli, the area around the Qutub Minar.

With history running through every nook and corner, the capital of India is a joy to explore on foot. It isn’t an easy task. It can’t be done in a day or even over many days. But thanks to organisations such as INTACH and other private enthusiasts, you can walk parts of the city and then, walk away knowing you’ve caught at least a glimpse of the great city of Delhi.

Walk of Fame – Mehrauli Archaeological Park Heritage Tour: To understand Delhi, begin at the beginning—in Mehrauli. This area, as our guide (from INTACH Delhi Chapter), points out, has been the only continually lived in part of Delhi—from the 10th century till the present. Over 400 monuments lie scattered across Mehrauli village and the vast forested Mehrauli Archaeological Park. Our guide takes us on a trip down the ages, beginning at the Tomb of Balban—a 13th-century mausoleum where the last Sultan of the Slave Dynasty lies buried. The Jamali Kamali mosque stands towering a little distance away, attached to the tomb of Sufi saint Jamali, who lived during the Lodi era. Another interesting monument is Mughal courtier Quli Khan’s tomb, later transformed into a guest house by the British agent, Thomas Metcalfe. Apparently, Metcalfe’s dining table was placed right above Khan’s grave where the tombstone should have been. The walk ends at the impressive Rajon ki Baoli stepwell that lies deserted, bathed in the light drizzle.

Conducted by INTACH Delhi Chapter (ntachdelhichapter.org/heritage_ walks.php); Delhi Heritage Walks (delhiheritagewalks.com); Delhi Walks (delhiwalks.in) Price `200-1,000 per person.

 

Mumbai Culture Walk

The sub-precinct of Kala Ghoda in Mumbai
Mumbai Heritage Walk

The financial, commercial and entertainment capital of India, Mumbai is also the most populous. It was originally formed of seven islands that were home to fishing communities and ruled by successive indigenous empires, before ceding to the Portuguese and subsequently the British. Today, it ranks among the world’s top centres of trade and commerce and is also home to premier scientific institutes as well as the glamorous Bollywood film industry.

Walk of Fame – Kala Ghoda Art Walk: The sub-precinct of Kala Ghoda has a unique visual identity with its many heritage buildings in various architectural styles, such as Victorian Neo-Gothic, Indo-Saracenic, Renaissance Revival and Edwardian Neo-Classical.

It is also the cultural centre of Mumbai with numerous art galleries, museums, cultural spaces, restaurants and designer boutiques, many of which merrily call the pavement their address. This walk begins with an introduction to the history of the beautiful buildings, followed by visits to several galleries that showcase the various schools of Indian art and chart its evolution. You’ll also understand the Western influences on Indian artists and their artistic expressions, and decipher the distinct identity of Indian art.

Conducted by the Blue Yonder (theblueyonder.com/day-activities/mumbai/kala- ghoda-art-walk/) Price Contact organisers for details.

 

Jaipur Food Trail

The famous roadside food stalls near Amber Fort in Jaipur
Jaipur Street Food

Founded in 1726 by the then Raja of Amer, Jai Singh II, Jaipur was planned on the principles of Vastu. A century and half later, the city was painted pink during the rule of Sawai Ram Singh to welcome the Prince of Wales, giving it the epithet ‘Pink City’. The walled old city still stands today; its centuries-old buildings, built in the intricate Rajput architectural style with Islamic influences, lie swathed in myriad hues of pink. In these quarters, you’ll find old, family-run establishments engaged in a variety of crafts as well as those selling culinary delights.

Walk of Fame – Jaipur Food Trail: A food tour of Jaipur will take you on a culinary exploration that lasts 5-7 hours, with pit-stops at a dozen or so of some of the oldest and most famous food joints. Many Indian street food staples find their own interpretation here so you can be sure to sample Jaipur ki dal kachori, tikiya chole, kalmi vada and Jaipur’s famous pyaaz kachori. You’ll also get to taste several local dishes such as dal baati choorma, ker sangri, lal maas and gatte ki khichdi. Jaipur is also a paradise for your sweet cravings; try the petha, Jaipuri kulfi and a range of mawa kachori and the famed ghevar – malai, mawa or plain.

Conducted by Jaipur Food Tour (jaipurfoodtour.com/jaipur-food-tour/) Price
`3,500-6,000 per person.

 

Puducherry Heritage Walk

The vibrant color buildings in the French Quarters, Puducherry
Puducherry Heritage Walk

Not much is known of the history of Puducherry, previously known as Pondicherry and still affectionately referred to as Pondy. A marketplace named Poduke or Poduca is recorded as a Roman trading post from the mid-1st century. The area passed through the hands of the various southern empires until the French East India Company established the town as their headquarters in 1674. Pondicherry would go on to become their most prized Indian possession and the town, in turn, would imbibe French architecture, culture, cuisine and way of life.

Walk of Fame – Heritage Walk Through the French Quarter: The French quarter of Puducherry is marked by a well-planned grid of cobbled streets, reminiscent of quaint European alleys. The buildings here, painted in vibrant shades of lime and peach or kept a muted white, bear ornate arches, garden courtyards and multicoloured bougainvillaea creepers spilling off the roofs. A stroll through these parts is a delight in itself. Couple that with guided stopovers at landmarks such as the Gandhi statue, Romain Rolland Library, French War Memorial, Raj Nivas and others, and you’ll have a couple of hours well spent.

Conducted by Department of Tourism, Government of Puducherry (pondytourism.in) Price Contact organisers for details.

 

Kolkata Culture Walk

Old buildings of Anglo Indian district of Kolkata popularly known as the Bow Barracks
Kolkata Culture Walk

Calcutta was established as a colonial city by the British. It grew rapidly in the 19th century, developing a culture that fused European philosophies with Indian traditions—a culture so nuanced that it gave Calcutta—now Kolkata—the epithet of the ‘Culture Capital of India’. The city would go on to become an important nucleus of India’s freedom struggle and subsequently, a hotbed of the Naxalite movement. It has been home to some very prominent personalities, including Rabindranath Tagore, Mother Teresa, Satyajit Ray and others. Kolkata, today, may seem busy and politically charged, but nostalgia is always a pervading presence in the city.

Walk of Fame – Confluence of Cultures Walk: Besides the indigenous Bengalis and the colonial British, many other communities have called Calcutta their home. This walk allows you to trace the origins and existence of these varied communities. Start with a Chinese breakfast at Tiretta Bazaar – it was once home to 20,000 ethnic Chinese-Indians. Visit the Parsi quarter with its Fire Temple; Armenian Street, once the flourishing settlement of people who were the first to bring Christianity to India; and areas where Anglo-Indians, Marwaris, Nepalis and Biharis have established their homes, businesses and cultures.

Conducted by Calcutta Walks (calcuttawalks.com/confluence-of-cultures); Walks of Kolkata (walksofkolkata.com/confluence-of-cultures.php) Price `2,000- 2,500 per person.

 

Bengaluru City Walk

Cubbon Park - A must visit place in Bengaluru
Bengaluru City Walk

From a mud fort built by Kempe Gowda I in 1537 to a ‘Pensioner’s Paradise’ to ‘Garden City’ to ‘Silicon Valley of India’, Bengaluru has known many monikers over the years. Today it stands as a clement, cosmopolitan city, full of good life and fun. It assiduously maintains its lakes, parks and gardens, which are a delight to stroll in. Then there are neighbourhoods like Richards Town, Cox Town and Fraser Town, which were once the suburbs of Bangalore cantonment, the largest British military settlement in South India.

Walk of Fame – Cubbon Park Walk: Located in the heart of the city, Cubbon Park is a landmark ‘lung’ area that covers 300 acres of green space, and has a rich variety of flora and fauna, as well as numerous impressive buildings and statues. A guided walk through the well-laid out paths here will give you a preview of the architecture of some landmark buildings such as Attara Kacheri (now the Karna- taka High Court), Iyer Hall, Venkatappa Art Gallery and others.

Conducted by Bangalore Walks (bangalorewalks.com/html/medieval-bengal- uru-walk.html) Price `700 per person.

 

Amritsar Food Trail

Sweet shop in Amritsar's street food walk
Amritsar Food Walk

Established as a small village by the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das, in the middle of the 16th century, Amritsar is now the centre of Sikhism. The Harmandir Sahib, famously known as the Golden Temple, is the principal Sikh shrine – it stands glowing in the middle of the Amrit Sarovar, the large tank of holy water from which the city derives its name. Amritsar is also a city steeped in history, having been the centre of crucial events that shaped India’s struggle for freedom. Yet another aspect worth exploring is its marvellous gustatory offerings, many of which are unique to Amritsar.

Walk of Fame – Food Trail Walk: If you’re setting off for a breakfast walk, begin with the city’s most famous dish – the Amritsari kulcha. There are several contenders for the crown of the best kulcha – try Kulcha Land or Kulwant. Move on to crispy jalebis at Gurdas Ram Jalebi Wala, interspersed with pooris and kachoris, and wash it down with thick lassi. And don’t forget to try the kulfas -the Amritsari ‘big brother’ of the kulfi. While the old gated city around the Golden Temple peddles largely vegetarian fare, the city outside is a non-vegetarian’s dream come true. Amritsari tikkas – fish, chicken or mutton – have acquired a legendary status here. Majitha Road houses two celebrated eateries – Makhan Fish, known for serving the best fish dishes in Amritsar, and Beera Chicken, whose tikkas are to die for!

Conducted by Amritsar Heritage Walk (amritsarheritagewalk.com/amritsar- food-trail-walk/) conducts a food walk of the old city with lunch thrown in at Kesar, the oldest dhaba in Amritsar. food trails India (foodtrailsindia.com/amritsar- food-tour.html) does an evening tour of the new city’s non-vegetarian delights Price `300–1,300 per person.

Also, look out for 10 must try places to eat in Amritsar.

 

Fort Kochi Heritage Walk

Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi
Fort Kochi Heritage Walk

The year was 1341. A devastating flood lashed the Malabar Coast. It wiped out the legendary port of Muziris, but also opened a stunning natural harbour just south of it—the tiny fishing hamlet of Kochi. It would swiftly become one of the finest ports and important trading harbours of India. In the early 16th century, the Portuguese were allowed by the king of Kochi to build a fort there, making it the first European colony in India. It was subsequently colonised by the Dutch and then, the British.

Walk of Fame – Fort Kochi Heritage Walk: The 3-km heritage walk of Fort Kochi takes you through 31 sites around the old fort, with narrations sharing the social, cultural and political impact of colonial rule. It sets off from Burgher Street and takes you through picturesque old streets to historical spots such as the Dutch Cemetery, St Francis Church—the oldest European church in India, the magnificent Parade Ground, the old beach and Cochin Club. The Chinese fishing nets constitute a highlight of the walk. So does the neighbourhood of Mattancherry with the Santa Cruz Basilica, one of the largest and most impressive churches in India.

Conducted by Cochin Backwater tours (getyourguide.com/kochi-l743/fort- kochi-mattanchery-3-hour-walking-tour-t48715/); India holiday Architects (indiaholidayarchitects.com/excursions/fort-cochin-heritage-walking-tour-half-day/) Price `1,200 per person (approximately).

There is a lot to explore in Kerala. Check out the 7 must-visit monuments in Kerala and Fort Kochi is one of them! 🙂

 

Chennai Heritage Walk

Entrance of Kapaleeswara Temple in Mylapore Chennai
Chennai Heritage Walk

Chennai was established as a part of the Chola empire sometime between AD 900 and 1200. Predating it by several centuries was the village of Mylapore, going back to the Sangam period. A great shore temple dedicated to Lord Shiva once stood there until the Portuguese arrived in the mid-16th century, destroyed it, and created their own colony on the shore. Mylapore was pushed inshore, where it stands today, and the Shiva temple was rebuilt 300 years ago as the famous present-day Kapaleeswara Temple. The Dutch followed the Portuguese before the British arrived. Significant areas such as Fort St George, Triplicane and Egmore were annexed to Chennai over the years. It is in these areas that the history of the city can be traced.

Walk of Fame – Mylapore Heritage Walk: This walk takes you through the epicentre of Tamil culture. Start with a visit to the Kapaleeswara Temple – a fine example of Dravidian architecture, complete with gopurams and mandapams. Stroll the surrounding areas for a glimpse of Mylapore in all its chaotic glory – bazaars teeming with jewellers, silk merchants, and fruit, vegetable and flower sellers. The walk takes you through lanes lined by old-style homes, silk shops, and stores selling musical and religious memorabilia. It ends with a stopover at the popular Saravana Bhavan for snacks and coffee.

Conducted by Chennai magic (chennaimagic.com/mylapore.html) Price `1,000 – 3,500 per person, depending on group size.

 

Hyderabad Food Tour

Biryani stall in the old city of Hyderabad
Hyderabad Food Walk

The 500-year-old city came into being when Sultan Quli Qutub Shah declared independence from the Bahmani Sultanate, established the fortress city of Golconda and began the Qutub Shahi Dynasty. It took 70 years for the city of Hyderabad to be finally built by the fifth sultan, who dedicated it to his wife and built the city’s most iconic landmark – the Charminar. The Mughals later laid siege to Hyderabad and appointed Mir Qamar-ud-Din Siddiqi as its first Nizam or administrator, who declared himself independent and established the Nizam dynasty. The Nizams would go on to become some of the wealthiest people in the world, with the last Nizam being counted as the fifth richest ever!

Walk of Fame – Old City Food Walk: The various dynasties that ruled Hyderabad left more than just their cultural imprints on the city. They also left their many culinary legacies, which together form the Hyderabadi or Deccani cuisine. It comprises a wide repertoire of rice, wheat and meat dishes – the most famous of which is the Hyderabadi Biryani. This food walk of the Old City, however, will take you beyond the biryani. Explore one of the oldest vegetable markets, taste some breakfast staples, and indulge in one of the city’s favourite pastimes – sipping cups of Irani chai with Osmania biscuits. Later, observe the painstaking efforts that go into preparing some of the best delicacies of the region, such as haleem and kebabs.

Conducted by SeekSherpa (experiences.seeksherpa.com/tours/old-City-hyder- abad-food-Walk/612); food Drifter (fooddrifter.in/food-walks-in-hyderabad/) Price `2,500 per person

You can also visit the 5 eateries in Hyderabad a must visit for a biryani lover!

 

So whether you are looking for a heritage walk in Delhi or a food tour in Amritsar, take your pick from India’s best city walks.

 

12 Wedding Destinations To Give You Extraordinary Wedding Ideas!

 

Everyone wants their wedding to be a memorable one. But by choosing a unique theme in an exciting destination to say ‘I do’, you can add several extra doses of romance and thrill—flavours that will make your special day truly special. Here’s a list of out-of-the-ordinary wedding destinations and wedding ideas from around the world that promise an experience of a lifetime.

Also read:
20 Most Romantic Things To Do Once In Your Lifetime

 

Beach Wedding in Bali, Indonesia

Bride and groom during the wedding on the beach in Bali
Beach Wedding in Bali

Want the sun, sand, and the sea as the backdrop to those special moments when you say ‘I do’? Bali, with its exotic sun-kissed, palm-fringed beaches is your answer. It’s difficult not to get carried away by the infectious charm that this Indonesian island with volcanic mountains, green paddy fields, coral reef and beaches, jives to. And we haven’t reached the menu yet! Bali—whether you love to tuck in into hearty non-veg or are a vegan—is all kinds of meals-friendly, so sourcing an ideal menu for guests, whatever be your preference, shouldn’t be difficult.

There’s no end to how much you can splurge and make your destination wedding a fancy affair, but there are options aplenty of having a celebration that does not necessarily burn a hole in your pocket. Bali offers a wide variety of villas and resorts to choose from and one can hire a wedding planner to carefully plan all the fun and frills that need not be expensive. Getting a local vendor from Denpasar to supply the flowers, for instance, is one way of cutting some cost; replacing the branded liquor with local ones saves both money and gives guests the true Balinese experience. So let your hair down and head to Bali to enjoy your beach wedding.

Wedding Planners: bali-exoticwedding.com, baliweddingsolutions.com, or
varawedding.com

 

Yacht Wedding in Cyprus

Bride and groom dancing on the port
Yacht wedding in Cyprus

Legend has it that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was born in Cyprus. So what better place than here to be with the one you love and take the promise of a lifetime? And what more romantic way to do it than on a yacht, sailing across the crystal clear waters, while enjoying a reception of sparkling champagne and canapés? Coastal Paphos is famous for archaeological sites related to Aphrodite, including ruins of palaces, tombs and mosaic-tiled villas. So if you want the presence of the goddess of love to be really felt in your wedding, we suggest zeroing down to the Paphos harbour. You can sail on a beautifully decorated yacht with the stunning backdrop of the harbour and the castle—the photographs would look right out of a fairytale book!

One can have the religious ceremony on board, and if you are looking at renewing your wedding vows then blessings from the captain can also be arranged! The wedding reception can take place after you anchor on the peaceful bay, with a Mediterranean buffet awaiting to entice you with fresh seasonal fruits, cocktails and other drinks. Typically, you can hire a six-hour yacht charter but the details can be worked out with wedding coordinators.

Wedding Coordinators: tietheknotcyprus.com, exclusiveyachtweddings.com

 

Aurora Borealis Wedding in Finland

A couple in glass igloo beneath the northern lights in Finland
Aurora Borealis Wedding

Imagine a wedding in which nature itself paints the skies with spell-binding fireworks. An Aurora Borealis wedding—in other words, a wedding under the Northern Lights—promises you just that and much more. The Northern Lights are best visible from late August to late April, so it will be a winter wedding in which everything around will be pristine and pure white.

Just before midnight, when the Northern Lights are best visible in all their hues, the bride and groom can be driven to the wedding site on a sledge, pulled by husky dogs, or reindeer, or even a snowmobile. With rising interest among couples from around the world to take their vows in such a setting, there are a number of wedding planners and event organisers who can chalk out the details as per your wish. Kakslauttanen, in this context, has emerged as a favourite among couples to tie the knot and to renew vows. After the wedding, one can opt to stay in a snow igloo or a glass igloo on the honeymoon night and watch nature’s splendour through the glass roof. Mind you, the temperature could well plunge to below -40 degrees C, but the igloo will have a monitored temperature that promises comfort. Plus, there’s Finland’s famous sauna to beat the chill and relax. So, clichéd as it may sound, if it’s a fairytale wedding you are dreaming of, it doesn’t get any more magical than this.

Wedding Coordinators: kakslauttanen.fi, nordicweddingplanners.com or
laplandweddings.com

 

African Safari Wedding in Kenya

A couple taking African Safari in Kenya
African Safari Wedding

If the sound of a wedding in a tranquil setting, with stunning scenery in the backdrop and the sound of wild animals in a distance (a safe distance!) fancies your heart, then an African safari wedding in Kenya is what you want. Boasting of rich wildlife, endless savannah, rugged mountains and vibrant rainforests, Kenya promises to bless your marriage into truly being a once-in-a-lifetime experience—for you and your guests!

An exclusive game reserve, away from the crowds, is the best bet for a private ceremony and uninterrupted viewing of Africa’s Big 5 (lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhino). With the help of local safari organisers, one can select a scenic viewpoint overlooking a landscape where animals roam wild for the wedding ceremony. You will probably have the big cat roaring as blessing! For some local flavour, you can also have traditional Maasai singers as part of the ceremony. It also makes for a lovely honeymoon spot— no wonder, Prince William chose this tranquil, romantic setting to propose to Kate Middleton!

Wedding Coordinators: porini.com, africanmeccasafaris.com, or wildcatssafaris.com

 

Underground Wedding in Cornwall, UK

A woman standing in the underground caves of Cornwall before the wedding
Underground Wedding

‘Going underground’ usually has an air of mystery to it; something hidden away from the public eye. So imagine going underground for one of the most special days of your life, a gem only to be shared with close family and friends in an intimate ceremony. In Cornwall (UK), you can get married beside a crystal clear, blue-green subterranean lake that makes for a truly unique place, befitting to take your nuptial vows.

In case the thought of going underground scares you, rest assured. Courtesy the wedding co-ordinators, you can comfortably step down a flight of 60 steps into a candle-lit chamber, complete with music. It will be an entry unlikely to be forgotten by you and your guests! Plus it will give ample time for the photographer to get some perfect shots. There is usually a cap on the number of people allowed for an underground ceremony, so it’s safe to keep the number of guests limited to 35. And while the decoration is entirely up to you, we suggest tea-candles for a soft, magical ambience. Quite the perfect wedding destination for the select few, don’t you think?

Wedding Planners: carnglaze.com, theweddingsecret.co.uk

 

A Wedding for sports junkies—in a football stadium! Barcelona, Spain

Couple posing #FollowMeTo in Barcelona
Weddings in Barcelona

If you and your beloved eat and breathe sports—football in particular—then getting hitched in FC Barcelona will be an ultimate tribute to both your loves! The club offers Camp Nou for wedding ceremonies—both civil ceremony and
wedding reception—and has different lounges to choose from. You can have the decoration of your choice, but really, what can beat tying the knot on the Camp Nou terraces, the Grandstand Hall or Sala Roma, knowing fully well that you are overlooking a space where some of the world’s best-known and most beloved football players display their skill?

Camp Nou is the largest stadium in Spain (and in Europe) and the second largest association football stadium in the world. The club promises to get some of the best catering companies of Barcelona to take care of the food, although it’s the couple who obviously has the last word on every detail and design. You can add to the spirit by transporting in the first team coach and surprise your guests by gifting them commemorative Tshirts. But this is your day and a special performance by cheerleaders of the basketball team will definitely make you feel like the stars who everyone is hooting for! A dream wedding for Barca fans for sure!

Wedding Coordinators: www.fcbarcelona.com

 

Skydive Wedding in Las Vegas, USA

Couple posing in front of Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas
Las Vegas

So you are finally taking the plunge! Why not turn the thrill a few notches up and take the plunge as you take your vows—literally? In Vegas, US, you can have a Skydive Wedding wherein you and your soon-to-be better-half can take your vows on the ground amid your friends and family, and then board the plane with your tandem instructors for the ultimate newly-wed jump. Your guests, in the meanwhile, will be escorted to where you land for your grand entrance from the skies as Mr and Mrs! Alternately, you can choose to skydive first—and then have the ceremony on ground once you land. There’s also a third option.

A skydiving preacher can be organised to solemnise the ceremony on board the aircraft while on the climb up, and then, when the perfect altitude is reached, the couple can kiss and jump at 120 mph! A video of your jump, in addition, will always be a reminder of the thrill of that leap of faith. Needless to say, this will be an experience you will never forget—just what your wedding ought to be.

Wedding Coordinators: vegasextremeskydiving.com or lasvegasbridesmaid.wordpress.com

 

Cave Wedding in Croatia

Wedding venues in the caves of Croatia
Caves in Croatia

Deep inside a cave with nature’s unique creations like stalactites on display, a cave wedding is one of those rarely-heard and exquisitely beautiful events that is
bound to stun and charm all. In Dubrovnik (Croatia), couples can choose to go down a natural cave, lit up with just the right amount of light (and candles), and take their vows on a glass floor with the sea beneath. For decoration, you probably won’t need much or any of that. Pristine, icicle-shaped stalactites, hanging all around make for a sight that is difficult to surpass. And although this doesn’t need much defining, can you imagine the reverberation of a musician, gently strumming a love song on the guitar, as you make the entry and then look at your guests as Mr and Mrs for the very first time?

The wedding reception can ideally be held outside the cave, with the breathtaking view of the sea. Needless to say, this coastal city is one of those spectacular destinations waiting to be discovered.

Wedding Coordinators: ionianweddings.co.uk

 

Paramount Studios Wedding in Los Angeles, USA

Paramount Studios in Los Angeles

Now, who wouldn’t want a wedding that looks right out of the movies? You know, with special effects, props, a dream-like location, and all other frills? At Paramount Studios in LA, you can get the real deal and feel every bit of a movie star, starring in your own movie and enacting one of your favourite wedding scenes. You can choose to get married in a location of your choice—probably where scenes from one of your favourite movies was shot, like the Blue Sky Tank where Star Trek: Voyager was shot. You can even get the help of the audio-visual and special effects teams to add that extra zing to your special day. Paramount also has their party planning experts—caterers, art directors, props—to plan every detail of your wedding so that it looks like a dream production. And guests? You needn’t worry about the numbers. They can host up to 10,000 guests! Get ready for the flashbulbs!

Wedding Coordinators: paramountstudios.com; Phone (323)956-8398

 

Great Wall of China Wedding in China

A chinese bride on the Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China

Now here’s a venue that is visible even from space! The Great Wall of China, one of the great wonders of the world, makes for a majestic wedding venue with a striking landscape around. With the help of wedding coordinators— who have sample itineraries ready—one can plan their ceremony to suit their preference. There are a number of resorts and villas at the foot of the Great Wall where one can opt to stay and have the post-ceremony celebrations.

The wedding itself can be organised on the Great Wall—your photographer can have ample opportunity to take some stunning shots of the newly-weds as you walk down an aisle as long as that! One can add local flavour to the ceremony by having a group of performers playing traditional instruments like cymbal, suona horn and sheng. Lion dancing ceremony and a prayer ceremony, if one desires, can also be arranged. With sky lanterns and candles in your decoration and a majestic venue as this, it will be a wedding that’s out of the world!

Wedding Planners: theschoolhouseatmutianyu.com or firstclassweddingschina.com

 

Hot Air Balloon Wedding in New Zealand

Wedding on a hot air balloon in New Zealand
New Zealand Hot Air Balloons

Hot air balloon wedding in which you exchange your wedding vows mid-sky is sure to sweep your beloved off his/her feet, and your guests too! New Zealand, with all of nature’s bounty, offers some spectacular offers for a unique wedding as this. Once all the details have been worked out with a wedding company, be ready to be bowled over by the country’s beautiful landscape, as you float over the ocean and witness snow-capped mountains at sunrise and
then take your vows for a lifetime of togetherness. Guests, understandably a small number for a private wedding ceremony, are welcome to join the couple and two witnesses can be organised as well. The balloon ride usually lasts an hour, but the whole experience, from take-off to landing, can go up to five hours—enough to definitely leave an everlasting impression of a beautiful day in the skies.

Wedding Planners: theweddingcompany.co.nz or weddingsnewzealand.com

 

Royal Wedding in Rajasthan, India

The regal procession during a royal wedding in Rajasthan
Royal wedding in Rajasthan

Royalty never goes out of style. And when you think regal, Rajasthan can’t be far behind. So if it’s a king (or a queen) that your majesty wants to wed amid much pomp and show, then Rajasthan, with its majestic forts and palaces is your best bet. The groom, in all his finery, can make a royal entrance on an elephant to the venue—a palace no less—as folk musicians greet friends and family and shower them with flower petals. The bride, meanwhile, awaits to stun everyone with her beauty, highlighted even more in her gorgeous Indian attire.

There are many places and palaces to choose from for the grand day. Udaipur, the city of lakes, is one of the most sought-after royal wedding destinations. Jagmandir Island on Lake Pichola, Devigarh Fort Palace, and Zenana Mahal are some of the venues to select from. The blue city of Jodhpur has the hill-top Umaid Bhawan Palace, and Jaipur has Rambagh Palace and the Jal Mahal to choose from for royal wedding venues. You can also consider the picturesque Neemrana Fort and Palace. As someone rightly said, location is the key. And there’s a reason why couples, including many Hollywood celebs like Katy Perry-Russel Brand and Liz Hurley-Arun Nayar, and Bollywood couples like Raveena Tandon- Anil Thadani, chose a royal wedding in Rajasthan to solemnise their vows.

Wedding Planners: jaipurweddings.com, rajasthanroyalweddings.com or regal-weddings.com

Also read: 5 Luxury Hotels In Udaipur For A Royal Experience

 

So take up some of these unique wedding ideas and get set for a royal wedding or a cave wedding – or whatever has taken your fancy. Just get your wedding planner organised and head out to your chosen wedding destination.