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Interesting Facts about Ladakh

The place brings peace to soul

The Bailey Bridge in Ladakh is the highest Bridge

A Bailey bridge between the Suru River and Dras River in Ladakh, India is the highest bridge in the world at an altitude of 5,602 metres  above sea level. It was built in 1982 by the Indian

Only place in India where twin Humped camel only be found

The Bactrian camel (two-humped) is a large, even-toed ungulate native. The Bactrian camel has two humps on its back, in contrast to the single-humped dromedary camel, they are rare compared to single hump camels

Zero-Gravity Hill

Technically speaking the Magnetic Hill of Ladakh is an optical illusion. Although it looks like an uphill route, it is actually downhill. So, if you leave your vehicle in neutral and turn off the ignition, it would look like your car is being pulled uphill.

Their Own Calendar

While the rest of the world follows the Georgian calendar, the Ladakhis follow the Tibetan calendar. Under this calendar, each year has 12 months with 30 days in each. It looks pretty normal, right? Well, here is where it starts to get weird. Every third year will have 13 months. The months do not have any name and are just numbered. The days are named after the five visible planets, the sun, and the moon. That extra month in every third year is added at the time of any auspicious days and any inauspicious weeks or days are just cut off from the calendar.

Highest Desert In The World

Katpana desert is the highest desert in the world, located 2,226m above the mean sea level. This desert runs between Khaplu Valley and Nubra Valley (Ladakh)

It has the highest natural ice hockey ring:

 The Karzoo Ice Hockey Rink in Ladakh is the world’s highest natural ice hockey rink. This rink comes to life during winters when the subzero temperatures are superior throughout the day. Winter sports are popular on a wide scale on this naturally built rink. Whereas the history of this sport in Ladakh dates back to the early 70s.

The most visited “high grassland lake”

Pangong Tso means “high grassland lake” in the Tibetan language. Commonly referred to as Pangong Lake, it is an endorheic lake in the Himalayas situated at the height of about 4,350 meters. During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being a salt lake.

ROOPKUND: SKELETON LAKE

ROOPKUND locally known as skeleton Lake or Mysterious Lake , It’s lies in the Lap of Trishul  Massif , located in the Himalayas. It’s a high altitude glacial lake in the Uttarak hand  Roopkund is one of the important places for trekking in Chamoli District, Himalayas, near the base of two Himalayan peaks: Trisul (7,120 m) and Nanda Ghunti (6,310 m)  The Lake is flanked by a rock face named Junargali to the North and a peak named Chandania Kot to the East. Roopkund lake is covered with ice for most of the year Roopkund is known as a mystery lake and is surrounded by rock-strewn glaciers and snow-clad mountains. The lake is about two metres deep and invites hundreds of trekkers and pilgrims every year

IN 1942 A BRITISH FOREST guard in Roopkund, India made an alarming discovery. Some 16,000 feet above sea level, at the bottom of a small valley, was a frozen lake absolutely full of skeletons. That summer, the ice melting revealed even more skeletal remains, floating in the water and lying haphazardly around the lake’s edges.

SKELETON AT ROOPKUND

Something horrible had happened here. The immediate assumption (it being war time) was that these were the remains of Japanese soldiers who had died of exposure while sneaking through India. The British government, terrified of a Japanese land invasion, sent a team of investigators to determine if this was true. However upon examination they realized these bones were not from Japanese soldiers—they weren’t fresh enough. As it turns out, all the bodies date to around 850 AD. DNA evidence indicates that there were two distinct groups of people, one a family or tribe of closely related individuals, and a second smaller, shorter group of locals, likely hired as porters and guides. Rings, spears, leather shoes, and bamboo staves were found, leading experts to believe that the group was comprised of pilgrims heading through the valley with the help of the locals.The researchers concluded that the death was due to a fatal blow on the back of their heads and not due to any wound by weapons, avalanche or landslide. The marks on their skulls and shoulders indicated at being hit by something round, like a cricket ball. The absence of injuries to other body parts indicated that hard round objects, possibly cricket ball sized hail stones or ice balls, fell from above.

KASHMIR

Location

Kashmir is the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term “Kashmir” denoted only the Kashmir Valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal Range. Modern usage of the term encompasses a larger area that includes the Indian-administered territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, the Pakistani-administered territories of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, and Chinese-administered territories of Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract.

History

In the first half of the first millennium, the Kashmir region became an important centre of Hinduism and later of Buddhism; later still, in the ninth century, Kashmir Shaivism arose. In 1339, Shah Mir became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir, inaugurating the Salatin-i-Kashmir or Shah Mir dynasty. Kashmir was part of the Mughal Empire from 1586 to 1751, and thereafter, until 1820, of the Afghan Durrani Empire. That year, the Sikhs, under Ranjit Singh, annexed Kashmir. In 1846, after the Sikh defeat in the First Anglo-Sikh War, and upon the purchase of the region from the British under the Treaty of Amritsar, the Raja of Jammu, Gulab Singh, became the new ruler of Kashmir. The rule of his descendants, under the paramountcy (or tutelage) of the British Crown, lasted until the partition of India in 1947, when the former princely state of the British Indian Empire became the subject of the Kashmir conflict. The modern region is administered by three countries: India, Pakistan, and China.

How to go

By air: To fly into Kashmir, take the Srinagar Airport (15 km away), which is well connected to prime Indian cities. Air India, GoAir, IndiGo and Jet Airways operate regular flights for Delhi, Goa, Jammu, Leh Mumbai and Bangalore. After reaching the airport, visitors can hire taxis to reach various cities and towns of Kashmir.

By train: Jammu Tawi Railway Station, situated at a distance of about 330 km, is the nearest railhead serving the beautiful valley of Kashmir. New Delhi-Jammu Tawi Rajdhani Express, Jammu Mail and Jammu Tawi Express are some of the prominent trains operating from Delhi. From outside the railway station, one can hire private taxis or take state or private buses to reach various places in Kashmir.

By road: The state of Kashmir is well connected by a network of state and private buses with several nearby cities and towns. National Highway 1-A connects Srinagar with Jammu. Also, the popular Jawahar Tunnel connecting Jammu with the valley of Kashmir also falls on the way. A number of J&K State Road Transport Corporation (JKSRTC), luxury and private deluxe buses ply frequently to and from state. These buses are extremely comfy and cost-effective.

Tourist Places

Srinagar: Srinagar is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and famous places to visit in Kashmir as well as in India. From boating to trekking, bird watching to water skiing, Srinagar place has it all. Locally this place is known as the mirror to the mountains, Srinagar is a first stopover for every traveler and there is a long list of places to visit in Srinagar, Kashmir. The largest city of Kashmir, this place is enclosed by the green mountains and the main highlight being the Dal Lake which is the gem of the city. This place gives a close outlook to the Kashmiri cuisine and the state’s culture.

Gulmarg: Famously known as the ‘Meadow of Flowers’, Gulmarg is a treat to the eyes with its spread of vibrant flowers against snow capped mountains as backgrounds. Gulmarg is considered to be one of the best places to visit in Kashmir for all right reasons. This region of Kashmir is also known as the adventurer’s paradise because of its vast options of skiing in the snow while enjoying the views around. The best time to visit Kashmir for snowfall is in winter season i.e. December-January.

Sonamarg: Sonamarg, as the name suggests, is famous as the ‘Meadow of Gold’. An endless stream of stunning flowers and undulated trekking routes are its attractions. Sonamarg has to be in every visitors’ list of places to visit in Kashmir for its mesmerizing aura and breathtaking views. The best season to visit Kashmir would be in summer i.e. May-June when the valley is blooming with variegated flowers.

Leh: Leh is one of the best and safe places to visit in Kashmir in summers. The lofty mountains, the alpine lakes, and the quaint settings enable Leh one of the best places to visit. This place is every biker’s dreamland. Clad in the beauty and love of nature, Leh offers breathtaking views, leaving no visitor disappointed. You must explore all the top places to visit in Leh when traveling to Kashmir.

Kupwara: Kupwara is a small district located in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and situated at a distance of 90 kilometres from the state capital, Srinagar. Blessed with nature’s finest views, the thriving meadows, alpine mountains, and the gushing clear water make Kupwara a must-visit destination in Kashmir. This city epitomizes the beauty of Kashmir.

Why should you visit Kashmir?

Breathtaking landscapes: There would be not a single person on this planet who doesn’t love nature. We all admire nature, but no one sees it in chaotic cities. Kashmir has everything including mountains, dense forests, green meadows, grasslands, and water streams that together create wonderful scenery. From Aru Valley to Saffron fields, Zabarwan Mountain range to the Chashme Shahi, Badam Vari to Apple Garden, Almond trees to Chinar Tress, all these naturally beautiful locations make Kashmir a Heaven on Earth. Gulmarg, Pahalgam & Sonmarg are some such marvelous locations that everyone loves to visit repeatedly.

Wonderful climate: Plan your trip to Kashmir in the scorching heat of summers when the temperature rises up to 40 degrees. Kashmir is cool even in the harshest of summer and you can visit this valley between March and May to see the blooming flowers, green meadows, and Chinar trees. Overall you can experience the new phase of spring in the Valley of Kashmir. If you plan your trip in Winter Season then you will enjoy beautiful snowfall that would be an incredible experience. The snow-capped mountains fill the region with exquisite surroundings and the snow-capped trees look awesome while offering a serene feeling to everyone. Also, you can enjoy the most stunning views of sunrise and sunset at Dal Lake in Srinagar.

Pristine Lakes: Your Kashmir trip is not complete without taking a ride of Dal Lake and these lakes are the perfect reason to plan a Kashmir trip. It is one of the favorite destinations for the tourists where shutterbugs also love to capture the exquisite scenes. The houseboats and Shikaras are the most famous attraction of Dal Lake. Here, you can see the floating markets and gardens with the sweet smell of flowers and various other attractions. Apart from this, Wular Lake is also popular as the largest freshwater lake in Asia, Mansbal Lake is home to many aquatic birds and surrounded by lush greenery and mountains. Nagin Lake offers the utmost tranquil space to enjoy the serenity. The list doesn’t end here; the waterholes like Gadsar, Gangabal, Tso Moririm, Pangong and Mansar are the greatest attractions for the visitors. The different waterholes provide a perfect landscape in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.

Trekking points: Enclosed by the Great Himalaya and Pir Panjal mountain range, Kashmir Valley is the best place for camping, trekking, and mountaineering. While traveling to this gorgeous land, you will witness the most enchanting views of mountains, lakes, and meadows. Walking through the foothills, Kashmir Great Lakes Trek is popular among tourists where you will cover the lakes of Gangabal, Kishansar and Vishansar that are close to the Harnukh Peak. Aru-Valley, Kolahoi Glacier Trek and Yousmarg Trek are yet another challenge for trekkers. Kashmir is one of the best places for trekkers where fun is boundless.

Art and heritage: You can explore the past events and lifestyle of ancient Kashmiri people in the museums that hold the glory of the rich culture and heritage of the state. These museums include items like paintings, copper utensils, shawls, handicrafts, pottery, stones, arms, and metal substances that stand as proof of the rich sculptural execution of Kashmir. Some of the museums of Kashmir were palaces in old times, which got converted. You can see here some art galleries having old clothes and even a library with old books. Some famous museums of Jammu & Kashmir are Amar Mahal, Dogra Art, Sri Pratap Singh, Kanchenjunga, and Stok Palace Museum where you can check out amazing paintings, old utensils, books, musical instruments, and textiles.

NEPAL

Location

Nepal, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a country in South Asia. It is located mainly in the Himalayas, but also includes parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. It is the 49th largest country by population and 93rd largest country by area. It is landlocked, and borders China in the north and India in the south, east and west, while Bangladesh is located within only 27 km of its southeastern tip and Bhutan is separated from it by the Indian state of Sikkim. Nepal has a diverse geography, including fertile plains, subalpine forested hills, and eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains, including Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. Kathmandu is the capital and the largest city. Nepal is a multiethnic country with Nepali as the official language.

History

The name “Nepal” is first recorded in texts from the Vedic period of the Indian subcontinent, the era in ancient India when Hinduism was founded and the predominant religion of the country. In the middle of the first millennium BCE, Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was born in Lumbini in southern Nepal. Parts of northern Nepal were intertwined with the culture of Tibet. The centrally located Kathmandu Valley is intertwined with the culture of Indo-Aryans, and was the seat of the prosperous Newar confederacy known as Nepal Mandala. The Himalayan branch of the ancient Silk Road was dominated by the valley’s traders. The cosmopolitan region developed distinct traditional art and architecture. By the 18th century, the Gorkha Kingdom achieved the unification of Nepal. The Shah dynasty established the Kingdom of Nepal and later formed an alliance with the British Empire, under its Rana dynasty of premiers. The country was never colonized but served as a buffer state between Imperial China and British India. Parliamentary democracy was introduced in 1951, but was twice suspended by Nepalese monarchs, in 1960 and 2005. The Nepalese Civil War in the 1990s and early 2000s resulted in the establishment of a secular republic in 2008, ending the world’s last Hindu monarchy.

The Constitution of Nepal, adopted in 2015, affirms Nepal as a secular federal parliamentary republic divided into seven provinces. Nepal was admitted to the United Nations in 1955, and friendship treaties were signed with India in 1950 and the People’s Republic of China in 1960. Nepal hosts the permanent secretariat of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), of which it is a founding member. Nepal is also a member of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Bay of Bengal Initiative. The military of Nepal is the fifth largest in South Asia; it is notable for its Gurkha history, particularly during the world wars, and has been a significant contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations.

How to go

  • Delhi to Kathmandu: If you want to fly (and get some incredible Himalayan views), Delhi to Kathmandu is the least expensive, least time-consuming route by air to Nepal (under two hours). Otherwise, the best option is to take a train to Gorakhpur and then a bus. Taking the bus all the way has become slightly more appealing since the Delhi Transport Corporation launched a direct service to Kathmandu. However, it’s still a long 25-hour haul!
  • Varanasi to Kathmandu: Many people travel overland from Varanasi to Kathmandu, either by bus, or train and bus combination. It takes less time than overland from Delhi (around 15 hours). It’s also possible to fly. However, it’s much costlier than from Delhi and there are very few direct flights.
  • Kolkata to Kathmandu: Nepal-based Buddha Air operates three direct flights a week from Kolkata to Kathmandu: on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The flights depart at 9.05 a.m. and the flight time is about 90 minutes. Expect to pay about 20,000 rupees one way. Air India also operates direct flights for a slightly cheaper cost, starting at 15,000 rupees. Alternatively, you can go by land via the Raxaul or Panitanki borders.
  • Via the Sunauli Border Crossing: Most people going overland from north India to Nepal pass through the Sunauli border to Bhairahawa in central Nepal, accessible from rather unappealing Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh (although, pleasingly, Gorakhpur has become a lot cleaner in recent years). This is the biggest and busiest India-Nepal border crossing. There are frequent connections to Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Lumbini from there.
  • Via the Raxaul Border Crossing: The Raxaul border crossing to Birganj in southern-central Nepal is accessible from Patna in Bihar. It’s most convenient for anyone traveling from Bodh Gaya or Kolkata. There are direct trains from Kolkata to Raxaul (16 hours). From Bodh Gaya, it’s quicker to take a bus or car and travel by road as opposed to train (13 hours). From the border, buses take six to seven hours to reach Kathmandu and eight hours to Pokhara. Shared jeeps to Kathmandu are a quicker option and only take four to five hours.
  • Via the Panitanki Border Crossing: The Panitanki border crossing, to Kakarbhitta in far eastern Nepal, is accessible from Siliguri in West Bengal. It’s most utilized by people traveling from Darjeeling, Kolkata, Sikkim and the rest of northeast India. Buses, taxis and shared jeeps run to the border from Siliguri, Kalimpong, and Gangtok in Sikkim. Siliguri to Panitanki (for those going from Darjeeling) takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour. Though the border crossing is open 24 hours, the Indian and Nepali immigration offices close are only open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. so foreigners should ensure that they arrive within this timeframe. There are regular buses to Kathmandu (14 to 16 hours) and Pokhara (15 hours) from Kakarbhitta. It’s worth stopping at Chitwan National Park on the way to break the journey. Get off the bus at Sauraha (nine hours from Kakarbhitta), which is the closest town and travel hub to the park.

Tourist Places

  • Kathmandu: Kathmandu, the capital and largest city in Nepal, is like no other city in the world. The decaying buildings in the heart of the city are a stark contrast to the lively atmosphere that permeates the streets. The smell of incense wafts from stores while street sellers push their goods, and people go about their daily lives, all against a backdrop of historic temples and carved statues. For several hundred years, Kathmandu was one of three rival royal cities, along with Bhaktapur and Patan. Situated in close proximity to each other, today these three almost run together. The highlight of Kathmandu has long been Durbar Square, the largest of the palace squares in the three royal cities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Temples and monuments of varying shapes, sizes, styles, and faiths can be found here. Kathmandu’s Durbar Square was severely damaged in the 2015 earthquake, with many buildings destroyed beyond repair, but it still remains a special place to visit.
  • Bhaktapur: Bhaktapur, the third of the “Royal Cities,” lies on the old trade route to Tibet, just outside of Kathmandu. For Bhaktapur, the trade route was both an arterial link and major source of wealth. Its relative remoteness at the time allowed the city to develop independently and in ways which distinguish it from the other two cities. In contrast to Patan and Kathmandu, the population of Bhaktapur is primarily Hindu. The best place from which to begin a tour of the city is Durbar Square, where in addition to the royal palace, several temples are also situated. The whole area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Boudhanath Stupa: The Boudhanath Stupa, just outside Kathmandu, is one of the largest stupas of its kind in the world and dates to sometime around the 6th century, possibly even earlier. Like Bhaktapur, it lies on the old trade route to Tibet and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The stupa itself is a symbol of enlightenment but at Boudhanath the symbolism is particularly clear. Each different shape represents one of the five elements, earth, water, fire, air, and sphere, which are also the attributes of the five Buddhas. Brought together in the form of the stupa, their unity reflects in abstract fashion the structure of the universe itself. The stupa sustained minor damage during the 2015 earthquake and is now fully repaired.
  • Pokhara: Set at the base of the foothills and surrounded by some of the highest mountains in the world – Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, and Annapurna I – Pokhara is one of Nepal’s most scenic cities. For trekkers, Pokhara is the gateway to the Himalayas and the starting point for treks to Jomsom and the Annapurna region. It’s also a wonderful spot to relax for a bit, either before or after a hiking trip. By population, it is the second largest city in Nepal after Kathmandu but still does not feel like a big city. As you travel from Kathmandu, 200 kilometers to the east, you’ll notice the much cleaner air and pleasant climate almost immediately. Lake Phewa, with its cluster of lakeside hotels, restaurants, and shops, is ideal for those looking for a little relaxation.
  • Swayambhunath: Set on a hilltop to the west of Kathmandu, Swayambhunath is the second most important shrine in the Kathmandu Valley after Boudhanath. Due to the resident monkeys that inhabit parts of the temple, it is more affectionately known as the Monkey Temple. The Swayambhu Stupa, painted with the eyes of the omnipresent god, forms the centerpiece of the temple complex. It was originally a prehistoric cult site, but the temple complex dates to the 5th century. Swayambhu plays a major part in the lives of the Vajrayana Buddhists of Northern Nepal and Tibet, but especially of the Newari Buddhists of the Kathmandu Valley.

Why visit Nepal?

  • Nepal is a country of contrasts. Spectacular natural riches combine with a vibrant culture and sense of history. Home to ten of the world’s 14 highest mountains, the country offers a magnificent setting for hiking and mountaineering, as well as some of the world’s best white water rafting.
  • With its vast range of altitudes, Nepal is also home to an incredible variety of plant and animal species, including more than 300 species of orchid. With over 800 bird varieties, it accounts for almost 10% of the world’s avian species.
  • The diverse national parks of Chitwan and Bardia encompass lowland tropical jungles and grasslands and Nepal shelters a rich variety of wildlife. The Bengal tiger, rare snow leopard, one-horned rhino and the Himalayan black bear can be seen in the remote national parks.
  • The ancient culture and traditional architecture of Kathmandu means that the city boasts no less than seven World Heritage Sites, while Nepal is famous for its scenic monasteries as well as being home to Lumbini, the birthplace of the Lord Buddha.

A wide variety of accommodation can be found, however, what we recommend and use is the award-winning property mostly in the five-star category. It is strongly recommended that you reserve all your accommodation as far in advance as possible, especially if you want to travel during their festival period.

Nepal is a wonderful, family-friendly destination, offering a range of activities for children such as tailored wildlife safaris, rafting, nature hikes and cultural excursions. So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and set out to Nepal!

DARJEELING

Location

Darjeeling is a city and a municipality in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is located in the Lesser Himalayas at an elevation of 2,000 metres (6,700 ft). It is noted for its tea industry, its views of Kanchenjunga, the world’s third-highest mountain, and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Darjeeling is the headquarters of the Darjeeling district which has a partially autonomous status called Gorkhaland Territorial Administration within the state of West Bengal. It is also a popular tourist destination in India.

History

The recorded history of the town starts from the early 19th century when the colonial administration under the British Raj set up a sanatorium and a military depot in the region. Subsequently, extensive tea plantations were established in the region and tea growers developed hybrids of black tea and created new fermentation techniques. The resultant distinctive Darjeeling tea is internationally recognised and ranks among the most popular black teas in the world.The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway connects the town with the plains and has some of the few steam locomotives still in service in India.

Darjeeling has several British-style private schools, which attract pupils from all over India and a few neighbouring countries. The varied culture of the town reflects its diverse demographic milieu comprising Lepcha, Khampa, Gorkha, Newar, Sherpa, Bhutia, Bengali and other mainland Indian ethno-linguistic groups. Darjeeling, alongside its neighbouring town of Kalimpong, was the centre of the Gorkhaland social movement in the 1980s and summer 2017.

How to go

By air: The nearest airport to Darjeeling is Bagdogra which is approximately 95 km away from the city. There are some direct flights from the cities like Kolkata, Delhi and Guwahati to Darjeeling. From the airport, one can reach the city by hiring taxis. It will take almost 3 hours to reach Darjeeling from the airport. Flights are available from all major cities.

By rail: The nearest railway station to Darjeeling is New Jalpaiguri which connects the city with all the major parts of the country. There are a number of trains from cities like Kolkata, Delhi, Guwahati, Chennai, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Bhubaneshwar and Kochi. People can hire private cabs from the station to reach Darjeeling.

By road: Darjeeling is well connected to some of the major cities closeby such as Gangtok and Kalimpong which are located at a distance of 100 km and 51 km respectively. The city is also connected with Kolkata which is 651 km away and it takes around 14 hours to reach here. The capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu is just 310 KM away from this beautiful place.

Places to visit

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway:  A visit to the city of Darjeeling is incomplete without a joyride at the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway toy train. Moving at a snail pace over the hilly terrain, it is an experience no one wants to miss.

Tiger Hill: If you want to witness the first rays of sun hitting the twin peaks of Kangchenjunga, along with a panoramic view of Everest peeping through the peaks standing by its side, then Tiger Hills make for a perfect sunrise for you. You can see Kurseong to the south along with multiple rivers flowing down. Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary is another nearby attraction you could visit – the place inhabits various high-altitude animals and bird.

Batasia Loop: Located around 5 km from Darjeeling, Batasia loop is a spiral railway track where the toy train takes a complete 360 degree turn. The toy train descends by 1,000 ft. as it completes the loop through a large circular area.

Darjeeling Ropeway: Darjeeling Ropeway is a cable car circuit where one can witness a myriad of exquisite landscapes, from the glorious snow-capped mountains to the charming valley replete with verdant tea estates.

Himalayan Mountaineering Institute: The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, commonly known as HMI Darjeeling, was established on November 4, 1954 primarily to encourage mountaineering as an organized sport in India. HMI regularly conducts Adventure, Basic and Advanced levels of mountaineering courses which are very comprehensive courses. These courses are highly subsidised to encourage mountaineering as a sport.

Nightingle Park: This park was earlier called ‘The Shrubbery’ when it was a private courtyard. The park was closed for renovation for about four years and has reopened for public since 2011. There is a giant statue of Lord Shiva, a musical fountain along with the great scenery.

Darjeeling Rock Garden: The Rock Garden or the Barbotey Garden as it’s commonly known is located a little far from the city around ~10 km away. The benches in the garden are made by cutting rocks at different levels.

River rafting in Teesta:  White Water Rafting in the River Teesta is one of the most exciting things to do in Darjeeling. A favourite among the adventure junkies, the rafting has a series of rapids ranging from Grade 1 to 4. However, the difficult rapids are only allowed to the professionals or the seasonal trainers as it is risky. You should definitely try this activity when in Darjeeling.

Why should you visit Darjeeling?

View of Himalayas: Darjeeling offers some breath taking panoramas from almost any guesthouse or hotel in town that has a roof terrace. Try Magnolia Residency for a hearty breakfast and amazing sunrise views, or follow the pilgrims out to Tiger Hill for stunning vistas of the snow-capped mountain Kanchenjunga. Like a guard that towers over the town and standing at 8,598 metres, it is India’s highest peak and the third highest in the word. If you are lucky on a clear day you might even catch a glimpse of Mount Everest glinting in the distance as Tibetan prayer flags flutter around you in the breeze.

Tea: A visit to Darjeeling would not be complete without sampling a steaming hot cup of the internationally acclaimed Darjeeling tea. With a distinct flavour like no other tea it is best served black, with no milk or sugar to distract from the delicate flavours said to have notes of apricot and toasted nuts; And when you have had enough of drinking the tea, head down to Happy Valley Tea Estate, (an organic farm and member of the ethical tea board) for a guided tour of their tea factory. By the time you leave you will know the difference between whole leaf, first blush and oxidisation like a seasoned pro. Once the tour is finished, be sure to take a long walk through the tea terraces for spectacular views and a glimpse of the tea pickers in action. The Happy Valley Factory tour is free, running from 8am-4pm every day except Sunday. If you can, try to arrive before 11.30am to see the pickers at work in the fields.

Colourful houses: Nothing sums up Darjeeling’s character and atmosphere quite like its collection of pastel-hued houses stacked up almost on top of each other – clinging to the hillside in a type of ramble shackle beauty. Walks around town and further afield will throw up houses in all shades of the rainbow – the perfect setting for the vibrant culture of the people who live here.

Taste of Britain: If you are feeling nostalgic for good ol’ British cucumber sandwiches and cream scones then Darjeeling will satisfy all your cravings. Formally a military hill station set up by the British armed forces in the mid 19th century, they left their imprint on the place in the form of Afternoon Tea. Darjeeling is still home to a few colonial style hotels that serve up traditional British fare like cheese and pickle sandwiches, Victoria sponge and of course lashing of locally grown Darjeeling tea. Try the Windamere Hotel for a step back in time and have high tea served to you while warming your bones in front of their open coal fire.

The food: Being a border town with so many fascinating neighbouring cuisines it is no wonder Darjeeling has so much to offer for your taste buds. For truly Indian flavours you can sample crispy Dosas served with hot samba and coconut chutney at the tourist hot spot Hasty Tasty. This place also has spectacular views over the mountains. For more international tastes warm up with a hearty bowl of Tibetan Thukpa (soup made with noodles, meat and broth) and deliciously plump Momos (dumplings filled with meat or vegetables) and wash it all down with a cup of sweet and salty Yak Butter Tea. Visit the family run restaurant Kunga – a favourite among the locals and known for truly authentic Tibetan flavours.

MANALI

Location

Manali is a resort town nestled in the mountains of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh near the northern end of the Kullu Valley in the Beas River Valley. It is located in the Kullu district, about 270 km north of the state capital, Shimla, 309 km north east of Chandigarh and 544 km northeast of Delhi, the national capital. The small town, with a population of 8,096, is the beginning of an ancient trade route to Ladakh and from there over the Karakoram Pass on to Yarkand and Khotan in the Tarim Basin. It is a popular tourist destination and serves as the gateway to Lahaul and Spiti district as well as Leh.

History

Manali is named after the Sanatan Hindu lawgiver Manu. The name Manali is regarded as the derivative of ‘Manu-Alaya’ which literally means ‘the abode of Manu’. Legend has it that sage Manu stepped off his ark in Manali to recreate human life after a great flood had deluged the world. Manali lies in the North of Kullu Valley. The valley is often referred to as the ‘Valley of the Gods’. Old Manali village has an ancient temple dedicated to sage Manu.

The British introduced apple trees in the area. The first apple orchard was set up by the British near Patlikuhal, before this, no Apple trees grew in the area. To this day, apple— along with plum and pear— remain the best source of income for the majority of inhabitants. Both Rainbow and Brown Trout was also introduced into the rivers and streams of the area by the colonisers.

With the increase in disposable incomes and somewhat owing to the rise of disturbances in Kashmir in the late 1980s, Manali witnessed a surge in tourist traffic. This once quiet village was transformed into a bustling town with numerous homestays as well as the occasional boutique hotel. During the warmer summer months, cafes and restaurants can be seen doing brisk business.

How to go

By air: The nearest airport is at Bhuntar, located approximately 50 kilometres away from Manali. Domestic flights connect Bhuntar with Delhi and Chandigarh. Once at the airport, you can take a pre-paid taxi to Manali. However, owing to weather conditions, flights are not the most reliable option for getting to or out of Manali.

By bus: Manali is very well-connected to important tourist destinations like Leh, Shimla, Kullu, Dharamshala and New Delhi by means of a network of state-run as well as private buses. The bus journey from Delhi to Manali is 550 kilometres, and it is advisable to book your tickets in the air-conditioned Volvo coaches, as the buses are more comfortable than ordinary ones, keeping in mind the long distance of the journey.

By road/self-drive: The drive up to Manali is simply breathtaking! You can catch scenic glimpses of the adjoining mountains and valleys from almost every turn that the twisty uphill road throws you in. Though a lot of tourists prefer a self-drive up to Manali, it is advisable to hire a taxi in case you are not comfortable with driving in mountainous regions.

Popular Places:

Solang Valley: A valley between the Beas Kund and the Solang village tends to be a favorite for all its visitors as well as the locals. Also known as the Snow point, the Solang valley is famous not only for the glaciers and snow-clad landscapes but also for the countless activities that one can enjoy here.

Rohtang Pass: Rohtang pass is the stretch which connects Manali to Himachal’s dreamier and dessert like landscapes, Spiti and Lahaul, and is one itself. This vast snow desert is a landscape like only a few other and a view one should not miss, while here.

Beas Kund Trek: The Beas Kund trek is a perfect weekend getaway trek with outstanding views of Pir Pinjal mountain ranges over the Beas River. Let your soul get wooed by the spectacular meadows of Dhundi and Bakarthach and finally, the glacial lake at Beas Kund which is worth all the hiking.

Paragliding: The hillside town of Manali is famous for paragliding. At 2050 metres above sea level, it is an ultimate location for the sport, with its beautiful green valleys, stark blue skies, and snow-capped mountain peaks. The picture-perfect valley boasts of ideal wind conditions for paragliding and is thronged by both international and domestic tourists. Starting with a basic training course, the operators are well organized, competent and trustworthy.

Hadimba Temple: Hadimba temple, away from the hustle and bustle of city life, is a peaceful place surrounded by towering deodar trees. The temple is dedicated to Hidimba, the wife of Bhima, one of the five Pandava princes from the great Indian epic Mahabharata. The main attraction of the temple is the three day Hidimba Devi Festival, which attracts devotees from all over the world and features colourful folk dance performances.

Skiing: A major tourist spot of North India, Manali is known for its excellent skiing conditions with skiing enthusiasts visiting from all over the country. The undulating slopes of Solang Valley and Rohtang Pass offer a perfect terrain for amateurs to learn their first move while an ideal grounds for professional skiing in Manali. So, if you are an adventure lover, leave yourself in the hands of your professional trainers to feel the thrill of skiing in the picturesque setting of Manali.

Chandratal Baralacha Lake: Chandratal Baralacha is a perfect trek destination steeped with all the right elements – nature’s beauty and enough challenges to be thrilling and tranquillity. Perched at an altitude of 4,300 meters, Chandratal is one of the high altitude lakes in the Himalayan region. Located on the Samudra Plateau of Spiti Valley, the most delightful sight of sunset gleaming upon the turquoise waters of the lake, pristine landscape, mountain passes, several gushing streams, verdant meadows, the gush of colourful orchards and exotic wildlife make Chandratal Baralacha Trek an unforgotten experience to cherish forever.

Why visit Manali?

Trekking Trails: Trekking is one of the most popular activities that many people love to do because it makes them feel more adventurous and close to Mother Nature. Manali is considered a paradise for trekking enthusiasts as it is the starting point of many amazing trekking trails. The most famous trek is the Hampta Pass, which starts from Jobri Nala. Some of the other treks are Beas Kund, Bhrigu Lake, Dashaur Lake, Patalsu Peak, Lamadugh, Hampta Circuit, Deo Tibba base camp, etc.

Vibrant Markets: Markets and mall roads are considered the lifeline of hill stations. Manali is home to a vast Tibetan market where one can find and shop varieties of clothes and souvenirs. The old Manali area is home to several cool cafes where one can chill out and spend a pleasant evening.

Waterfalls: Waterfalls are the only place where one can sit for hours and enjoy the sound of gushing water. Manali houses a famous waterfall called Jogini waterfall situated around 7.5 km from the main city. The place is perfect for spending quality time.

Mountain Biking: The most exciting thing about the mountains is the road and mountain biking can give you once in a lifetime experience. The curvaceous and adventurous roads can amaze anyone with its thrill. So if you are an adventure buff then it’s a must try activity in Manali. Bikes can easily be rented in Manali.

Hot Sulphur Baths: The natural hot water springs are one of the most exciting phenomena and found in the mountains. Taking a bath in these springs can give you an amazing relief. Manali houses one hot water spring situated at Vashisht Temple.

So this summer head out to Manali to beat the city heat and have a memorable trip. What are you waiting for?