5 Best National Parks In Madhya Pradesh – For Wildlife Enthusiasts

The jungles of Madhya Pradesh in the heart of India are a magnet for many a wildlife enthusiast. This vast hinterland flourishes with a wide variety of flora and fauna. Marked by the Vindhya and Satpura range of hills, expansive plains to the east, crossed by swarming rivers, rocky ravines and green forestland, it is an ideal ground for wild animals. It is no wonder Madhya Pradesh tourism boasts 25 wildlife sanctuaries, 9 national parks and 6 Tiger Reserves. The state is home to a number of endangered species from the tiger -which in effect has given the state the name of Tiger Country, to other animals like leopards, wild boar, deer and the barasingha among many others.

For those seeking wildlife adventures, this is the state to head to, and you can choose from its wide variety of national parks, sanctuaries and tiger reserves. Here is our pick of the best five wildlife destinations of Madhya Pradesh.

 

Bandhavgarh National Park

tigers, national park, MP National Park, Bandhavgarh
Tigers spotted at Bandhavgarh National Park

The Bandhavgarh National Park lies in the Vindhya Hills in Umaria district and is spread across 450 sq km. This park is said to have the world’s highest density of Royal Bengal tigers and sighting a tiger here is not luck but the norm! Soak in the sights, sounds and smells of the jungle as you enjoy a safari amid the tropical forest with Sal trees and vast grasslands. You can also easily sight other wildlife as white tigers, leopards, sloth bear, and deer here, as well as 250 varieties of birds including eagles, Great cormorant and stork.

Must-knows of Bandhavgarh Park: The Bandhavgarh Park is open from October 1st to June 30th. The morning jeep safari timings are 6.30 am in winter and 6.00 am in summers. While the afternoon safari starts at 2.30 pm during winters and 3.00 pm in summer season. Other places of interest around the park are the Bandhavgarh Fort and ancient man-made caves and rock paintings.

How to reach Bandhavgarh National Park: The nearest airport to Bandhavgarh National Park is the Jabalpur Airport at 190 km and next is the Khajuraho Civil Aerodrome which is 250 km away. The nearest railway station is Umaria at 37 km and Katni which is 100 km away. All these places are well-connected by road, and cabs or state and private buses can be got from these towns to reach Bandhavgarh.

 

Kanha National Park

tiger reserve, national park, Kanha National Park
Bengal tiger spotting at Kanha National Park

The Kanha National Park is an extensive expanse of forests and grasslands that stretch 940 sq km, making it the biggest national park of Madhya Pradesh. The towering plateau of Bamhnidadar which is a flocking point for birds of prey also provides visitors with spectacular sunset views and a panoramic view of the Kanha forestland. The Park is well-known globally for having brought the Barasingha (swamp deer) back from near extinction, and it is of course a renowned Tiger Reserve. Other animals that roam its wild trails are leopards, foxes, jackals, wild dogs, wild cats, and Indian gaur.

Must-knows of Kanha National Park: The Kanha National Park is open from October 16 to June 30. The morning jeep safari starts with sunrise, while the afternoon safari ends with sunset. Wednesday afternoons the safari remains closed. Some places of interest around the Park are the Kanha Museum and the Shravan Tal.

How to reach Kanha National Park: The nearest airport to Kanha National Park is the Jabalpur airport at a distance of 170 km. Other options are Nagpur Airport at 290 km and the Raipur Airport at 260 km. The nearest railway station is Gondia which is 127 km away. Jabalpur, Raipur and Nagpur are also important railheads. From all these cities, cabs can be availed to reach Kanha.

 

Pench National Park

sunset, forest, national park
Sunset at Pench National Park

The Pench National Park and Tiger Reserve sprawls 758 sq km across the forests of Seoni and Chhindwara districts, and is crossed in half by the Pench river, from which it takes its name. The Park is famed as the setting of Mowgli from Jungle Book and its most famous sightings are the Indian wolf (Akera), the sloth bear (Baloo )and of course the Royal Bengal Tiger ( Shere Khan). It otherwise has a wide variety of animals as wild boar, Indian leopard, fox, striped hyena, four-horned antelope, gaur, barking deer, among others, and about 285 species of home and migratory birds.

Must-knows of Pench National Park: The Pench National Park is open from October 16 to June 30. The morning jeep safari starts at 7.30 am during winters and at 6.30 am in summers. The afternoon jeep safari timings are from 3.00 pm during winters and 4.00 pm in the summer season.

How to reach Pench National Park: The nearest airport to Pench National Park is Nagpur airport at around 92 km. The next is Jabalpur airport almost 192 km away. These two are also the most convenient railway heads. Nagpur is connected by NH7 with Pench and is a two-hour drive away, while Jabalpur is 4 hours away by road.

 

Satpura National Park

The Satpura National Park stretches across the Satpura range in the Hoshangabad district covering an area of 524 sq km, and is one of the most scenic parks. The rugged terrain is mostly covered by dense forests, marked by sandstone peaks, ravines and narrow gorges. Its highest peak is the Dhoopgarh peak at 1,350 metres. It is popular for tiger sightings as well sightings of leopard, black buck, wild dogs, Indian bison, crocodiles and Malabar giant squirrel. If you are looking for a jungle safari away from the touristy crowds this is your destination.

Must-knows of Satpura National Park: The Satpura National Park is open from October 1 to June 15. You can take on different types of a safari here including jeep safari, elephant safari, go on a walking trail, enjoy boating and canoeing or bird-watching. You can do morning, afternoon or even a full day safari.

How to reach Satpura National Park: The nearest airport to Satpura National Park is Bhopal Airport at 190 km. Jabalpur airport is about 265 km away. The nearest railway station is Sohagpur about 20 km from the park but has limited trains. Pipariya is the next nearest railway station at a distance of about 45 km. Road connectivity is good and the park can be reached easily by cab from any of these cities/towns.

 

Panna National Park

river, National Park, boating
Inside Panna National Park

The Panna National Park and Tiger Reserve is a 543 sq km expanse across the Panna and Chattarpur districts. The Park is popular as much for its wildlife as for its gushing waterfalls and diamond mines that mark the area. The Ken River that meanders across the Panna hills forms a vast catchment area that is also part of the adjoining Ken Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary. You can spot the Indian Ghariyal here – this large reptile is found only on the Indian subcontinent. Besides the tiger, other wildlife that can be sighted at the park are a leopard, sloth bear, chital, nilgai, chinkara, and sambhar. The forests are atwitter with over 200 species of birds including the king vulture, hawk-eagle and honey buzzard.

Must-knows of Panna National Park: The Panna National Park remains open from October 16 to June 30. Some interesting places nearby are the Ken Ghariya Sanctuary, the Pandav Falls, and the Raneh Falls. You can take a boat ride on the Ken river, especially for bird-spotting.

How to reach Panna National Park: The nearest airport to Panna National Park is Khajuraho at about 45 km. Khajuraho is also the nearest rail and road head. Satna is another railway station about 70 km away.

So which MP national park are you heading out to? Check the Madhya Pradesh Tourism website – mptourism.com for more details.

 

Also read:
6 Amazing Safaris In India For Wildlife Enthusiasts

 

Top Hiking Trails In Europe

When we think of a Europe tour, the primary things that come to one’s mind is beautiful cities, historical towns, heritage monuments, art and culture, and of course shopping. But in fact, there is a lot more that Europe has to offer. From stunning mountain ranges to breathtaking snow-capped peaks, Europe is blessed with some fantastic hiking trails which are hard to find in India or other Asian countries. This makes it an ideal opportunity for adventure junkies to plan a hiking trip amid some of the world’s most alluring mountain ranges. Here is our pick of four, out of the many remarkable hiking trails of Europe.

 

Laugavegur Hiking Trail, Iceland

In the land of the Vikings, Laugavegur hiking trail that stretches 55km long, is considered to be one of the world’s best hiking trails. It provides one of the most incredible experiences a person can have while being away from the crowds and routine life. The Laugavegur hike takes around 4 days to complete depending on your capacity and time, you can extend it for a further two days. Hikers can find provision for overnight stays at the various mountain huts and campsites along the way.

This hike begins from the colourful Landmannalaugar Valley which is home to steaming hot thermal springs where people take hot baths for a short break. On the way to the top, explore the beautiful green moss and snow patches and admire the beauty of nature. This hike ends at the ice valley of Pórsmörk that displays spell-bounding views.

Best time to do the Laugavegur hiking trail: June end to August end

 

Eagles Walk, Austria

Nestled in Central Europe is the beautiful German-speaking country, Austria which is one of the most picturesque European countries. Amid Austria’s Alps in the west is a lovely state Tirol where you will fall in love with the Eagles Walk hiking trail. Eagles Walk offers the most beautiful alpine scenery in the Tirol area and has some breath-taking routes.

Eagles Walk is a 413 km long hiking trail covering the East of Austria to the West. It is built in the form of eagles wings and offers an opportunity for all the people willing to have a gentle walk across the quaint landscape as well as for the people planning an arduous hike to the highest point. This trail is broken down to 33-stages with never-ending opportunities for hikers with different skill levels. One can plan a day hike or a multi-week adventure in these alps, exploring the 24 stages from Kaiser Mountains to the Arlberg in North Tirol or the further nine stages from the Venediger to Großglockner peaks in East Tirol. No matter how long you choose to hike in these mountains, one thing is for sure that it will turn out to be an incomparable experience.

Best time to do the Eagles Walk trail: July to October

 

Westweg Trail, Germany

Westweg Trail is a 270 km long hiking trail in the Black Forest of Germany and is one of the oldest and most popular trails in the region. The hike begins from Pforzheim and ends in Basel. This hike takes around two weeks to complete with an average 15 km to 28 km per day. The difficulty level of this trail is moderate as the peaks are not high.

On the Westweg trail, you will get to witness the old wooden bridges, lush greenery and will get to explore green forests highest mountain, Feldberg Belchen, Lake Titisee, the vineyards & orchards of the Markgräflerland, Burg Rötteln castle, Black Forest National Park and much more.

Best time to do the Westweg Trail: April to end of October

 

Haute Route, Switzerland

Switzerland is known for its alps, glaciers and incomparable visual beauty. We highly recommend you to take on the Haute Route if you are on a Switzerland tour and are looking for a good hiking experience that offers you the best of nature.

Haute Route is considered to be one of the favourite Swiss trails which is 200km long and has a scenic route. The hike begins from Chamonix, France and ends at Zermatt, Switzerland. Witness the panoramic views of the breath-taking 10 out of 12 of the highest peaks in the Swiss Alps, including the beautiful Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. It takes around 10-12 days to complete this trail as you cross several passes. On this route, you’ll not only come across the snow-capped Alps but also the green mountains decorated with flower-covered meadows. What’s better than being able to explore two distinct cultures, regions, cuisines and languages?

Best time to do the Haute Route: June to October

 

So plan your Europe hiking trail and get ready for an amazing adventure!

 

Also read:
6 Picturesque Trails Across The Himalayas For Every Trekking Enthusiasts

 

Why The Lockhart Tea Museum In Munnar Is A Must-Visit For A Tea Lover

The beautiful hill station of Munnar is known for its super scenic locales, expanses of luxuriant botanical gardens, thick forests, and incredible tea estates. It is an all-time favourite tourist destination, blessed with a salubrious climate throughout the year, suitable for growing the best tea in the world.
Tea cultivation was introduced in Munnar during the colonial rule by the British. Since then, Munnar has been a hotspot of tea cultivation, housing more than 50 tea estates and gardens. One such estate is the Lockhart Estate, housing the Lockhart Tea Museum as well as the Lockhart Tea Factory.
The tea estate offers a memorable experience and is a must-visit for all the tourists travelling to the lovely hill station of Munnar. There are plenty of hotels in Munnar located close to the Lockhart estate and can be booked online, for a comfortable stay.

Also read: The best way to spend a weekend in Munnar

 

Lockhart Tea Museum

tea, tea museum
Inside Lockhart Tea Museum

Extremely popular with tourists, the Lockhart tea museum offers a historical insight into the first ever plantations of Munnar, dating back to 1879. The museum was initially constructed in 1936, however, it was opened to general public in January 2014.

The museum gives extensive knowledge about the orthodox method of tea production and processing. It also houses numerous ancient equipment used in the plantations such as mechanical harvesting machines, shears, fletcher sprayers, and many more.

Behind the museum is the Chokramudi View Point, one of the highest peaks of Munnar. Perched at an altitude of 7,200 ft. above the sea level, the peak is especially famous for its various trekking expeditions. From the other side of the museum, one can also see the watchtower.

A significant part of the Lockhart museum is the Lockhart kiosk, which offers visitors a variety of freshly brewed teas to choose from. Apart from that, one can also enjoy some delightful ice-cream flavours and scrumptious food, prepared by trained staff. Tourists can purchase various grades of tea and other plantation products they wish to take back home.

 

Lockhart Tea Factory

Munnar, Tea factory
Tea Factory in Munnar

The Lockhart tea factory is another very significant part of the museum. The factory uses an orthodox tea manufacturing process, which includes steps like withering, rolling, oxidation, drying and fibre extraction. The entire factory building is constructed in wood, with a beautiful and vast garden in front of it.

The owner of the factory is Harrison Malayalam Ltd., South India’s largest cultivator of tea. The tea factory produces 20 million kilograms of tea every year, which is exported to various countries like China, England, etc. The tea produced here has been certified to be the best commercial grade tea produce in the world. Flavoured teas and organic teas are the prime speciality products of the estate.

 

How to reach Lockhart Tea Museum / Tea Factory

munnar, road
On the way to Munnar

The Lockhart Tea Museum is located at a distance of 9 km from Munnar, on the Munnar- Thekkady road. It is easily accessible by rickshaw or taxi. Guided tours are available during the factory working hours.

Taking a walk through Lockhart estate’s perfectly manicured tea gardens, sipping fresh tea and feeling the cold mountain air is one of the greatest experiences. The plantation also offers many adventure activities such as trekking, hiking and wildlife to all thrill-seekers.

 

Also read: Munnar with its rolling tea gardens is a great winter destination.

Have a great Munnar Holiday!

 

2019 Predictions: 6 Key Travel Trends To Watch Out For

 

Travel fads come and go. However, certain travel trends emerge slowly and stick for a long-haul. In 2018, we saw modern family dynamics innovating the way a family travels. There was a surge in adventure travel that brought in new experiences. Intern-vacations got the attention of urban society. Emerging destinations took the spotlight. And, solo travel was at its all-time high. 2019 also promises certain shifts and turns that are on the holiday horizon for everyone.

Let’s take a look at some travel trends for 2019 that would shape the future of travel in India and abroad:

 

1. Conscious travel will be the call of 2019

As per ABTA Travel Trends report, 45% people consider sustainable tourism as an essential element while booking a holiday. They feel that social issues are of real importance while picking a destination to travel. From waste management to heritage preservation, LGBT-friendly destination and more, the spectrum of sustainable tourism sees a diverse range of concerns. Not only destinations, but 6% of travellers have also picked a travel company seeing their environmental record this year, and this trend is going to see a rise in the coming year.

 

2. Technology will dictate the choice for destination

Technology in travel is gathering pace. From artificial intelligence, virtual reality to speech recognition, 2019 will see numerous innovations that simplify the way we holiday. For now, you may encounter ease of online booking as a viable option. However, in future you may find keyless room access with your phone, or a robotic concierge to communicate with you in your mother tongue. Real-time luggage tracking through a mobile app is also a promising trend that may surface in the travel industry this new year. So, watch out for a tech-savvy travel experience coming your way!

 

3. Tailor-made packages will be on the rise

As per ABTA Travel Trends report, 60% of people booked package holidays in 2018 just because it was the best value option. The benefits of packaged holidays don’t limit to the cost savings. There is also the protection and reassurance of the travel operator involved as you explore the world. Holiday package sector is sure to see a slight shift towards tailor-made experiences in 2019. Travellers who want a bespoke trip are increasing, and they want to enjoy the desired activities while availing the perks of a custom-packaged vacation.

 

4. The road less travelled will find more takers

2019 will see people getting off the touristy path. The sentiment pulls more toward exploring offbeat and uncharted territories. Be it visiting a city less-travelled or staying in a hotel under the sea, 2019 will see explorers looking out for exquisite experiences. Travellers would steer clear of the masses and choose the place to visit wisely. This trend would emerge in both domestic and international travel segments, and is likely to bring forth some offbeat destinations worth travelling.

Also read: Offbeat destinations for a romantic holiday in India

 

5. Wellness holidays will be the prime pick

Wellness tourism is an estimated 639 billion dollar industry globally today. And, it is growing twice as fast as general tourism. People are seeking to alleviate stress, boost well being, and reduce illness through vacations. Food menus tailored with healthy options have been incorporated in restaurants across the world to cater to this segment of travel. Yoga centred holidays are getting pre-booked. Options like honeymoon trip dedicated to digital detox are emerging. It is expected that wellness travel will expand its horizon further in 2019 to carve a niche for itself. So, are you ready to embrace your call of a wellness holiday in the coming year?

Also read: Top 10 wellness retreats around the world

 

6. Cruise could be the ‘it’ thing this Year

Until now, cruises were only seen as an attractive holiday option for honeymooners or retirees. But not anymore! The trend for cruise holidays picked up in 2018, and it will only soar to new heights in 2019. The fact that cruise eliminates the fuss from travel is catching the attention of many travellers. Also, all your meals and stays are paid in advance with certain unique experiences that bring in more value. Spas, casinos, climbing walls, multiple swimming pools, gyms, cooking lessons, razzle-dazzle shows, and fine-dining restaurants are just some of the facilities that the bigger ships offer. Exploring the world on a cruise also eliminates the worry of any kind of transportation, packing and re-packing your belongings, or finding your choice of food, to get your way through different corners of the world. All these factors are making cruises the next ‘it’ thing for holidaymakers.

 

So, what do you think would be the driving travel trend of 2019?

Also read: 12 Best travel destinations for your 2019 travel list

 

Best Places To Visit In India For An Unforgettable New Year’s Eve

New Year is all about setting goals, introspection, receiving and giving gifts, partying with friends and family, and for some even checking the horoscopes to see how the coming year is going to be :P. But the most important part of the New Year is welcoming it with zest and zeal. Some party hard and some spend intimate time with their loved ones. How about celebrating this New Year’s Eve with travel. Sounds fun?

So let the countdown begin. Check out these 6 great places where you can welcome 2019 on this New Year’s Eve:

 

Goa – For the party animal

The party capital of India – Goa is one of the most predictable places for party animals. With cheap booze and endless beach parties, Goa is an ideal place for people who want to welcome the New Year with a bang and a week-long hangover.
If that’s not enough, Goa is blessed with a wide range of biodiversity. There are a number of luxurious sea facing hotels for you to stay combined with umpteen food choices.

Tip: Attend the silent noise parties by the beach to reduce the noise pollution.

 

New Delhi – For a luxurious celebration

The capital city is one of the best places to celebrate New Year in North India. With some of the most elite and posh parties, you can get a chance to welcome the new year at some of the most luxurious private lounges and exclusive nightclubs. The celebrity owned nightclubs are the best to witness head banging music by country’s best DJs.
During the New Year, most of the places are jam-packed, you must book your tickets in advance to experience the city’s nightlife at its best.

 

Mumbai – For celebrity spotting

For the city that never sleeps, Mumbai sure knows how to celebrate the New Year. During this time, the luxury hotels and lounges of Mumbai are drenched in vivacity and enthusiasm. You may even spot movie stars and celebrities in few of those; High-end nightclubs such as Kitty Su host one of the most happening parties with celebrity performances and unlimited booze.
Apart from the parties, the best way to welcome the New Year in Mumbai is to sit on Marine Drive with a drink and watch the fireworks over the cityscape of Mumbai.

 

Pondicherry – For an old-school celebration

Spend your New Year in Pondicherry amidst cultural and architectural elements from its French lineage. Experience the old school New Year celebration with mouth-watering steaks and fine wine. A walk along the buzzing Promenade beach during this time is the in-thing here. The lit up old colonial buildings, and the natural allure makes Pondicherry an ideal destination for a laid-back New Year celebration

 

Manali – For being high on life

For those who want to welcome their new year on a high – both literally and figuratively, Manali is the ideal place for you. Crazy DJ nights with a jaw-dropping backdrop of mountains and pine forests will surely leave you intoxicated.
Manali is also a fantastic place to indulge in thrilling adventure activities such as paragliding, parachuting, skiing and rafting. You can start your New Year with a hiking trip and end it with camping beneath the starry sky. However, make sure you are well wrapped in your woollens.
You can also pray Manikaran Gurudwara on the way back to fulfil all your wishes this New Year.

 

Bangalore – For corporates who loves to party

The IT Capital of India becomes the party capital when it comes to New Year parties. The city lights up with excitement and heads to clubs, pubs, stadium concerts and house parties to celebrate the New Year.
The pleasant climate and large green open spaces along with the youthful energy get you charged up. If nothing else, you can take a stroll along MG road and explore the vibrant place and festivities.

 

12 Best Travel Destinations For Your 2019 Travel List!

Now that 2019 is here, we bring you a list of 12 destinations to watch out for in this year. The list has been independently curated by the Travel Association – ABTA, based on various factors including, destinations on people’s wish list, hidden gems, and good value holiday destinations.
This list is sure to give you travel goals for the coming year – if you haven’t already got yours. So, read on and pick one or pick all!

 

1. Bulgaria

Castle, Fort, Bulgaria
The Tsarevets Fortress in Veliko Tarnovo

Get a dose of golden sunny beaches, spa at the Black Sea, vibrant historic cities, unspoiled wild landscapes, and incredible skiing opportunities; Bulgaria is your all-in-one travel destination.
On your vacation to the oldest inhabited city in Europe Plovdiv, explore the imposing Orthodox churches, synagogues, Ottoman markets and the city’s bars and nightclubs. Don’t forget to visit the UNESCO world heritage town of Nessebar and try a glass of Rakia fruit brandy and Ayran, the secret to a long and healthy life.

 

2. Costa Rica

Tropical Forest, Bridge
The bridge inside the tropical jungle of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a paradise for nature lovers and adrenaline junkies. Stroll through the lush green rainforests, witness the incredible wildlife including the iconic toucans, cute capuchin and howler monkeys. Go surfing at Tamarindo on the Guanacaste Coast or zip lining through the dense jungle canopy in Monteverde cloud forest.
Apart from the touristy central region of Costa Rica that is filled with numerous beaches and national parks, the north side is a beautiful mountainous region. It is famous for its active volcano – Arenal, and hot springs. It is the best place to enjoy a relaxing spa day.
Once you are here, Costa Rica is very hard to leave.

 

3. Denver

 State Capital Building, Sunset
Sunset over the Colorado State Capital Building

Placed against the stunning backdrop of the Rocky Mountain, Denver in Colorado is one of the few cities with such a dramatic location. Let loose your inner cowboy spirit in Denver’s iconic national parks, high-end restaurants and nightclubs, and when you go horse riding along its rugged landscapes. Experience the true vibe of the place by visiting its state-of-the-art theatres, museums and live music.

Denver, Colorado is also known as the quintessential great American outdoors activity state where you can take part in hiking, mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding in the first-class après-ski in world-renowned resorts such as Aspen. Do not forget to go on the famous tour of Denver breweries.

 

4. Durban, South Africa

Umhlanga Lighthouse, Beach
Umhlanga Lighthouse

Get a chance to witness the ‘Big Five’ animals in Durban, a city known for its stunning beaches, incredibly diverse landscapes, and the extraordinary Drakensberg Mountains. Experience the vibrant nightlife at the harbour area that buzzes with numerous bars and restaurants.
Favourite among the adventure enthusiasts, Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve is ideal for hiking amid its breathtaking scenery. The North Coast is perfect for the luxury traveller with its high-end resort at Umhlanga Rocks. Do not forget to explore the Elephant Coast, noted for the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area is home to untouched natural beauty, vibrant birdlife, Big Five bush breakaways and is laying ground for sea turtles. Durban offers the best of both worlds and should be on your 2019 travel list.

 

5. Galicia

Catedrais beach, Beach
Catedrais Beach in Ribadeo Galicia of Lugo Spain

The land of great seafood, bagpipes, dramatic coastline and barnacles; it is not Scotland but another Celtic land. Galicia in Northern Spain is a city straight out of a Game of Thrones series and is a must visit.
A trip to Galicia is incomplete without trying the extremely good quality Galician wine, a visit to its jewel-like cathedrals and a drive along the vast Atlantic coastline.

 

6. Japan

Himeji Castle, Cherry Blossom, Mount Fuji
Himeji Castle during Cherry Blossom season

Experience the best of ancient and modern in one place. Visit Japan to witness its picture-perfect temples and high rising buildings, majestic castles and modern hotels, and idyllic gardens with a backdrop of the latest architectural marvels.
Some of the best things to do in Japan are witnessing the stunning view of Mount Fuji, try green tea in different forms, click pictures in traditional Japanese attire and experience the country during its cherry blossom season that lasts from March to April. Japan never ceases to amaze you!

 

7. Jordan

Petra, History, Night
Petra during night

Indulge in the exotic mud baths near the Dead Sea to unwind after a tiring day of exploring archaeological sites and the lively markets of Jordan. Jordan is known to be one of the most welcoming countries in the Middle East offering a taste of centuries-old hospitality to travellers.
Here you can enjoy activities such as SCUBA diving in the Red Sea, the famous mud spas at the Dead Sea, and explore the rose red mythic city of Petra. Else you can simply chat away at the local coffee shops available in every nook and corner of the country. Jordan awaits you!

 

8. Madeira

Garde, flora
The Botanical Garden Monte, Funchal

Visit the Atlantic island of Madeira for its fresh atmosphere, rugged beauty, and lush countryside. Madeira is your ultimate adventure destination for biking through criss-cross mountain paths, its levadas that provide for unrivalled trekking opportunities and exploring volcanic landscapes covered in the bed of sweet-smelling flowers. Traversing through its long tunnels and deep canyons is not for the faint-hearted.
Don’t forget to visit the lovely city of Funchal for its alcoholic milkshake, Madeira truly confounds expectations.

 

9. Poland

Stary Rynek square, buildings
Colourful buildings at Stary Rynek Square

Spend your holiday exploring historic cities and unspoiled countryside or skiing in the Tantra Mountains of Poland. Poland’s incredible landscape is dotted with lakes, red-bricked fortress, medieval castles, and ancient churches, offering you a comprehensive insight into the bygone era.
On the other hand, the three city regions of Sopot, Gdynia and Gdansk on the Baltic coast provide health spas and beautiful sandy beaches for a more relaxing holiday experience. The Białowieza Forest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only place in Europe where wildlife enthusiasts can watch a wild bison roaming free.
Also, when planning for a vacation to Poland, don’t forget to pack your snow boots. Enjoy skiing on almost 500 km of slopes, with a visit to the Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains. Don’t miss the iconic Polish beer and vodkas while exploring this magical Winterland.

 

10. Thessaloniki, Greece

Saint Paul Church, cityscape
Bird’s eye view of Saint Paul Church, Agios Pavlos

The Land of Alexander the Great where people love to party. Thessaloniki in Greece welcomes you with lively waterfronts, well-preserved historical sites, beautiful beaches and a happening nightlife. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Philippi and Vergina by the day and hit the buzzing pubs by night.
You can get a tan by the beachside or unwind in the thermal waters of Agia Paraskevi or go hiking and mountain biking in the scented pine forests. You can also stay in the city sipping ouzo at the waterfront with a breathtaking view of Mount Olympus that makes you feel you have truly arrived at the home of gods!

 

11. Uzbekistan

Mizdakhan cemetery, cityscape
The aerial view of the city and Mizdakhan cemetery

Step back in time to explore one of the fabled countries of the Silk Route. Uzbekistan is a beautiful country known for the food and nightlife of Tashkent, adventure opportunities at Ugam Chatkal National Park, jewel-like mausoleums and cities like Samarkand that seem straight out of myths and fables.
Uzbekistan offers exotic architectural buildings covered in intricate carvings, mosaics, and tiles among high-speed trains and happening pubs. Uzbekistan is a once in a lifetime destination for history buffs and party lovers and deserves to be in your travel bucket list of 2019.

 

12. Western Australia

Cape Naturaliste, Beach
Top view of a beach in Cape Naturaliste

An extraordinary destination with endless beauty, bohemian charm, and some lovely Victorian style buildings, Western Australia, is an unforgettable holiday destination.
Land in Perth with a 17-hour non-stop flight and party on the sandy beaches or swim through the vibrant marine life of Ningaloo Reef or enjoy the spellbinding views of the Bungle Bungle Mountains.
A visit to Western Australia is incomplete without a drive on its endless dramatic coastline of the Southern Ocean and get an opportunity to witness whales, dolphins and whale shark. A trip to Western Australia will leave you with unforgettable memories.

 

So, where are you headed first?

 

A Look Back At The World’s Best Travel Destinations Of 2018

World Travel Awards 2018 have been announced, and this year had some offbeat, less-travelled and some recurring entries with obvious winners. If you are planning your holiday for 2019, we recommend you to take a look at the world’s best destinations across different categories before finalising your trip.

And the awards for the best destinations 2018 go to…

 

Best Honeymoon Destination: Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia, island
The island of Saint Lucia during sunset

Saint Lucia, a sovereign island country in the West Indies, dons its breathtaking beauty with such nonchalance that it can easily embarrass some of the world’s favourite cities. Bestowed with natural beauty, the Rodney Bay in the north is known for its small luxury resorts. Couples come here to enjoy modern comfort amid a beautiful bay on their honeymoon. In the south is Soufrière, which is home to hidden beaches, old plantations, and two mountainous volcanic spires that are gorgeous. Indeed, a picture-perfect destination for all those searching for a new and less-travelled honeymoon destination in 2019!

You may also like: 5 Honeymoon destinations Bollywood stars went to

 

Best Beach Destination: Jamaica

Jamaica, Beach
Beaches of Jamaica

Crystalline waters flow over gardens of coral and lap onto soft sandy beaches in Jamaica. Having alluring beaches, cerulean swimming holes, craggy coastline, and hidden waterways, Jamaica is a great destination for snorkelling and scuba diving. You can choose to float on the water taking bamboo rafts too. Adventurous souls can go caving near the beach, or get their hiking boots on to explore the remote crags and forests of this crumpled landscape. Not to forget the musical roots (Bob Marley hailed from Jamaica), and folk rhythms of this Caribbean country that add flavour to your beach holiday.

 

Best Safari Destination: Kenya

Amboseli elephant, Kenya, Wildlife
Amboseli elephant families in Kenya

Kenya Safari experience takes you to the land of vast wilderness and breathtaking sunsets. The safari usually starts in Nairobi, then takes you through to the Maasai Mara that lies in the Great Rift Valley. From easily spotted lions, zebras, giraffes, to endangered species like red elephants of Tsavo, wildebeest and black rhinos, you get to see abundant fauna on a Kenya Jungle Safari. You may even get to witness Amboseli elephant families in the shadow of Mt Kilimanjaro – a spectacular sight indeed. Also, the massed millions of pink flamingos at Lake Nakuru can be seen stepping daintily through lake shallows. Need an answer to your call of the wild, go to Kenya!

 

Best City Destination: Lisbon

city, church, buildings
The city of Lisbon

Postcard-perfect cobbled alleyways, spectacular white-domed cathedrals, and ancient ruins coupled with seven cinematic hillsides comprise the panorama of Lisbon city. What’s more? Fresh seafood dominates the kitchens of this city, and gourmet burgers and Alentejan beef are ready to please your palate. Come night, and the cobbled lanes transform into Portugal’s most raucous drinking locales. From LGBT hot spots to trendy bars along the waterfront, you find it all here!

 

Best Adventure Tourism Destination: Chile

Chile, mountain
Chile Landscape

Chile is South America’s adventure hot-spot. A mountain-side metropolis, it is a place where soaring peaks meet gushing rivers. From parched dunes to fertile valleys, volcanoes to ancient forests, massive glaciers to fjords, Chile packs a surprise for you in its diverse landscape. Here adventure happens on the way to having an adventure. For an adrenaline rush, try mountaineering, rafting, hiking, kite surfing, skiing, sand boarding or scuba diving here.

 

Best Island Destination: Madeira Island

shore, sea, island
The shore of Madeira Island

Looking for one of the safest holiday destinations in the world? This is it! Madeira Island, an autonomous region of Portugal is not only a crime-free archipelago of 4 islands but an island full of culture. It has a summer climate throughout the year as well as wonderful fauna and flora. It is perfect for an adventurous road trip and is an excellent culinary destination. Next time, you want to plan a family tour to an island, make sure Madeira is on your list.

 

World’s Most Romantic Destination: Mauritius

Infinity Pool, Beach
Couple at infinity pool in Mauritius

Sapphire blue waters on powder white sand beaches – that’s how Mauritius looks in its first view. Take a deeper look, and you would see luxury resorts offering most beautiful views of the Indian Ocean. Add to it the impeccable services, designer rooms, dreamy swimming pools, palm-strewn grounds, pampering spas, and world-class restaurants, and you have a perfect destination for a romantic couple vacation. If you haven’t explored this jewel of East Africa yet, you better get going as Mauritius is undoubtedly the place to spark the love!

You may also like: Offbeat destinations for a romantic getaway in India

# Bonus Point for India

Taj, Taj Mahal, India
Taj Mahal in Agra, India

Wondering if India grabbed any award in the World Awards 2018? Yes, we did.
World’s Leading Airport Lounge in the Business Class category is awarded to GVK Lounge International by TFS Performa @ Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai. So, next time you are at Mumbai’s international airport, and undecided on which lounge to pick, you know the answer!

You may also like: 10 Women Friendly Destinations Around The World

Now that you have a consolidated list of the best places to visit in the world, what are you waiting for? Go ahead, and plan your perfect holiday for 2019.

 

Best Things To Do In Japan – The Land Of Cherry Blossoms

Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and coastal seas, the Japanese archipelago consists of over 6800 islands and stretches nearly 3000 km from north to south, offering a diversity of landscapes and wildlife. Breathtaking mountain views, picturesque coastlines, majestic volcanoes and vast forests are waiting to be explored and admired. At the same time, it’s a country with the largest metropolis in the world, mega-cities as well as enchanting towns filled with amazing culture and traditions. Every adventurous soul and admirer of beauty will find something for himself. For fine dining enthusiasts too, Japan is the best destination as it has the maximum number of Michelin starred restaurants in the world.

We take you on a journey of discovery to this beautiful land. Here are some of the best things to do in Japan.

Also watch the video of Shalmali Kholgade’s travel to Japan

Tokyo

culture
Japanese culture in Tokyo

Let’s start in Tokyo, the bustling capital of Japan. Streets of Tokyo can leave you speechless with their mouthwatering food delicacies and a huge variety of shops and entertainment.

Reaching Tokyo city:
From Narita airport, you can take a Skyliner train to Ueno station for about 2200 JPY, and it will take 50 minutes. If you don’t want to struggle with luggage, then a limousine bus for about 2970 JPY is a better option.

Places to see in Tokyo:
For sightseeing go to Meiji Shrine in Shibuya, beautifully located in the dense forest area where you will get a touch of rustic past. Must-visit in Tokyo is an ancient Buddhist temple Sensō-ji situated in Asakusa.

Shopping in Tokyo:
Take off on a shopping spree in around 90 shops with traditional goods. Area of Asakusa and Ginza is a shoppers’ paradise. Also, Harajuku and Omotesando are the perfect spots for fashion lovers.

Culture & Entertainment in Tokyo:
If you are an entertainment type of traveller, see the Tokyo Tower which is inspired by the Eiffel Tower of Paris. Moreover, at the Tokyo Disneyland, you can have a blast with your beloved ones. The greatest city in the world has a separate gaming district called Akihabara where you can roam around, observe the fascinating Japanese culture of youngsters, try your luck in its variety of games and visit its themed
cafes.

The latest unique entertainment in Tokyo is the world’s first digital art museum named as Mori Building Digital Art Museum, launched by TeamLab. The ticket costs 3200 JPY for an adult and this is one of the best places to visit in Japan.

For an evening relaxation make sure to try Sake, Japanese alcohol. There are over 100 different kinds of Sake at Kurand Sake Market. To soak in Japanese culture and food visit Golden Gai. It’s a district filled with tiny bars where you can eat as a local.

View of Mount Fiji from Tokyo:

Mount Fiji, mountain
The view of Mount Fiji

When in Tokyo you cannot miss the stunning view of Mount Fuji – the highest mountain in Japan, a beautifully symmetrical volcano. It’s a well-known symbol of Japan and known as the most instagrammable spot. Fuji is snow-capped for 5 months in a year. The shortest way to get a view of this must-see place in Tokyo is via the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station. In Hakone mountain town nearby you can experience hot springs and a volcanic valley before hopping on a bullet train to Kyoto.

 

Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji, temple
Kinkaku-ji or the Golden Pavillion

Next stop is idyllic Kyoto where you will find yourself submerged in Japanese culture for sure. In its back streets history and tradition are untouched and live on to this day.

Places to see in Kyoto:
Kyoto is filled with historical, charming sights like Nijō Castle or Silver and Golden Pavillon – Kinkaku-Ji and Ginkaku-Ji. As a most famous one, Fushimi Inari Taisha needs to be mentioned. It’s an incredibly sacred place of thousands of torii gates which lead through a 4km stretch to Mt. Inari.

The highlight is definitely The Bamboo Forest of Arashiyama, that’s the place where your memory card will get full. You can rent a bike or enjoy strolling around majestic bamboos with a touch of sunlight shining through them. This is one of the best places to visit in Japan for nature lovers. In very close distance to Bamboo Forest, there is the Nonomiya Shrine which is worth visiting.

One more thing to not to miss in Kyoto is Nara Park. A perfect spot for nature lovers where wild deer roam around you. Even you can purchase deer crackers to feed them. In Nara, there is also the largest wooden building in the world, Tōdai-ji. This place of scenic beauty can provide you with some peaceful vibes after a day full of sightseeing.

For Green Tea Enthusiasts:

ice cream, green tea
Green Tea Oreo Ice Cream in Kyoto

If you are a green tea lover, then there is no better place for you than Kyoto, especially Gion district. Frappes, ice creams, cakes, everything is matcha-oriented, so enjoy green tea in any form!

From Kyoto, you can easily get into a bullet train and in half an hour reach Osaka – the second largest metropolitan area in Japan.

 

Osaka

japan, dress, culture
Women dressed in traditional Japanese attire

Among must-visit places in Osaka, there is Osaka Castle, Shinsekai area and Dotonbori. The second one will definitely take you back in time and make you experience a mix of vibes. Osaka’s principal tourist destination is Dōtonbori where the best street food resides and a wide variety of shops.

 

Best Time To Visit Japan

The best time to visit Japan starts from March to May and September to November. In April there is an amazing opportunity to see traditional dance performance Miyako Odori at Kyoto Shijo “Minamiza”. For that you need to book the tickets in advance, selling starts 6th Jan 2019 for the coming year.

The Country of Blooming Cherries feels the most magical in the middle of March till April because it’s the time when cherry tree blossoms cover the parks with their magical charm.

Also read: 7 Reasons to go offbeat and visit Japan

About Cherry Blossom Season in Japan

Cherry Blossom Festival
Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry flower is called Sakura, and it’s the national flower of Japan. During this wonderful peak season, you not only take the most amazing pictures, but also have an opportunity to try cherry blossom ice cream or tea.

Japanese hang paper lanterns on the trees to illuminate the beauty of these blooming flowers. Late-night picnics are very popular around this time of the year. Cherry blossom brings rejuvenation and hope. Experience this one of a kind atmosphere in the coming year, as Japan becomes a must-visit destination at this time.

 

Top Hill Trains In India You Need To Book Now

The crisp mountain air, the lush surroundings dotted with pine trees and you catching some moments to yourself. Wished for all this and more but not found the time yet to plan a vacation in the hills? Then now is the time when you start planning for one. The Indian Railways offers five mountain trains: Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Kalka-Shimla Railway, Kangra Valley Railway, and Matheran Railway. All these trains have been running for over a hundred years now and are still well-maintained. You can take your pick accordingly on IRCTC’s website.

Go to the site and select hill trains and you’ll be directed to the information on these trains. IRCTC next gen is the revamped website by IRCTC which is the online tourism leg of the Indian Railways. You can plan your travel by booking train tickets, look for train status and updates or search through various travel packages and offers all at the click of a button. With IRCTC Next Generation login you can avail all that the Indian Railways has to offer from luxury trains to special pilgrimage trains along with booking regular trains and even flights. Visit the IRCTC site and login after which you’ll be taken to IRCTC next generation e-ticketing. If you have an existing account with IRCTC even then you’ll be redirected to the next gen. So visit the site today and book yourself a seat on one of the popular mountain trains.

 

Nilgiri Mountain Railway

It first ran from Mettupalayam to Coonoor and was opened to the public in 1899. It is known for its unique rack rail system and steam locomotives. The train covers a distance of 46 km in almost 5 hours from Mettupalayam to Ooty. The railway line lies in the district of Coimbatore and the other half can be found in Nilgiri in Tamil Nadu. Situated in the foothills Mettupalaiyam is 330 meters high while Ooty is 2,200 metres above the sea level. It was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. You will find 16 tunnels between Kallar and Ooty.

 

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

Indian Hill Trains
Indian Hill Trains

Incepted in 1881 the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is famously known as the toy train and covers a distance of 88 km from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling in 8 hours. The train is a must if you would like to pass through some of the enchanting vistas and important sites which are popular on the tourist circuit. The route covers eight bridges, 177 unmanned level crossings and has an extremely narrow gauge. The train will take you through a thick forest from Sukna with climb full of five reverses and three loops – Batasia between Ghum and Darjeeling being the most important loop. The train was made a World Heritage Site in 1999.

 

Kalka- Shimla Railway

The Kalka-Shimla Railway started operations in 1903 and since then has been a favourite among the tourists. Its construction was started in 1898 by the Delhi–Ambala–Kalka Railway Company. What makes this route remarkable is the 101 tunnels covering the 6-hour long journey on a narrow gauge. You could come across arched bridges while enjoying the verdancy found throughout the passage. What many people don’t know is that before the railroad was built, Shimla could only be accessed by a cartway. The route is 96 km long and has 864 bridges on the way. The rail line became a World Heritage Site in 2008.

 

Kangra Valley Railway

The train was started in 1929 and covers a stretch from Pathankot to Joginder Nagar on a narrow gauge for 9 hours covering a distance of 164 km. You will find only two tunnels on the route which means you can get more time to enjoy the natural beauty while travelling. Be ready to capture 993 bridges, which connect Himachal Pradesh with its hydroelectric power house. The railway line is a part of the Northern Railway under the Firozpur division. You can find six trains running from Pathankot daily and among them two stop at Joginder Nagar and the rest four halt at Baijnath Paprola.

Matheran Hill Railway

The train making its way through the Western Ghat connects Neral to Matheran and started to run for the public in 1907. The 20 km route had its first draft of design ready by 1900 but the construction began in 1904. The line which comes under the Central Railways used to be closed during the monsoon because of the fear of landslides but now can be accessed round the year.

So login to IRCTC NextGen today and book a trip to the mountains.

 

What Makes India An Attractive Destination For Foreigners

Visiting India is the dream of every foreigner because of the boundless travel opportunities it presents, along with its rich heritage and culture, and varied flora and fauna. It is among the most ancient countries in the history of the world and yet is a thriving contemporary power too.

Crowned by the Himalayas in the North, and surrounded by the sea on three sides, (namely the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean), India is naturally adorned with hill stations, varied landscapes and enchanting backwaters, making it one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

There are 37 World Heritage sites in India that are recognized by UNESCO. These are places of cultural or natural heritage as described in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. Recently, India has unveiled the world’s tallest statue, i.e. Statue of Unity which is a statue of the Indian statesman and founding father, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in the state of Gujarat. The statue towers at the height of 182 meters (597 ft) above the Narmada river. It is expected to attract a lot of tourists in the time to come.

There are hence many factors that make India an attractive destination – we list a few key ones below:

 

Price Competitiveness

Indian Rupee notes, money
Indian currency

Foreigners find India affordable due to the lower value of Indian currency so they can manage within a limited budget and enjoy many luxuries at the same time.
According to the biennial World Economic Forum (WEF) Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, India ranks 10th best for “price competitiveness”. Luxurious accommodation is relatively affordable, eating out costs very little and you can easily go around the country by train or bus, which is a very affordable means of transport here.

 

India’s Heritage & Diversity Of Locales

Every region in India is identified with its unique folk dances, food, music, attire, handicraft, and, which reflect its harmonious blend of art, culture and religion.
The diverse geographical locales of India are a tourist’s delight. The innumerable monuments, museums, forts, palaces, sanctuaries, places of religious interest etc. offer interesting facets to tourists.
Some of the places that attract a huge number of global tourists are Agra, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Delhi, Mysore, Aurangabad, Goa, Pondicherry, Ladakh, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. While places like Haridwar, Varanasi, Ujjain, Amritsar, Shirdi, Allahabad, Puri, Dwarka, Vaishno Devi, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Rameshwaram etc. are destinations having religious importance that attract local and foreign pilgrims round the year.

 

A Gastronomical Journey

Indian cuisine
Indian cuisine

If we talk about the food in India, then it may safely be said that no other country can offer the range of cuisine that India does. There’s no such thing as typical Indian food, there is a special food of every state. Many regional dishes can be explored from Bihar’s authentic litti-chokha to Kolkata’s rasogulla, from smoked pork with bamboo shoot straight from the belly of Nagaland to Rajasthan’s dal baati churma, to Amritsari chole bhature to Andhra Pradesh’s saffron–smelling Biryani. There is a smorgasbord of fabulous regional dishes to be discovered beyond the familiar Indian dishes like Chicken Tikka Masala, Rogan Josh, Malai Kofta, etc.

 

Adventure and Sports Tourism in India

Trekkers and mountaineers from different parts of the world are attracted towards India because of its diverse terrain – from Himalayan peaks to the barren mountains of Ladakh to the green Western Ghats, there are a variety of adventurous as well as fun trekking trail options. Some interesting Himalayan expeditions for hard core climbers are peaks like Nanda Devi, Trishul, Shivlinga, Kedar Peak, Bandarpunch and Chaukhamba peaks, to name a few.
Many states have taken steps to promote sports tourism. Goa promotes water sports like sailing, scuba diving and snorkelling. Kashmir offers winter sports pleasure like skiing and mountaineering. Himachal has developed numerous winter sports in the state from skiing to ice-skating and more. Leh -Ladakh region has many things to do  and is known as an adventure zone for bike safaris, river rafting and high altitude camping. Bir Billing has introduced paragliding, which is the second highest spot for paragliding in the world, while Rishikesh has become a hotspot for river rafting and zip-lining.

 

Medical Tourism in India

People from different parts of the world come here for medical treatment. The primary factors that attract medical travel to India is cost-effective and good quality treatment available here, as compared to other developed countries. The Medical Tourism Market Report found that India is one of the lowest cost and highest quality of all medical tourism destinations. It offers a wide variety of procedures at about 1/10th the cost of similar procedures in the United States.

 

Indian Government’s Tourism Initiatives

monument, tourist
Hampi – UNESCO World Heritage Site

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC’s) India Benchmarking Report 2015, states every $1 million in travel and tourism spending in India generates $1.3 million in GDP. The Indian government has also shown its political will and rolled out many programmes to promote tourism. According to a report released by the government, the tourism and hospitality sector has been a harbinger of inclusive growth through backward and forward linkages and has been generating employment in various sectors. Swadesh Darshan, a mobile application called Swachh Paryatan, Adarsh Smarak Scheme, Multilingual Tourist Helpline, skill development, etc. are a few of the praise-worthy initiatives.
The digital economy of India is growing by leaps and bounds, and it is also contributing to providing ease of payment. Foreigners don’t have to worry about carrying Indian currency because they can easily make the payment online or via any digital wallet.

 

In sum:

Hence India is increasingly become an attractive destination for foreigners in terms of ease of travel and conveniences, along with its oriental charm and beautiful geographic diversity.

The author is Director, Travel Unravel Holidays Pvt Ltd