Tag Archives: tourism

Goa: The smallest state with magnificent surprises

Did you ever plan out for a vacation? If you’re in India, the first thought in your mind appears with yourself enjoying the beaches of Goa. But now, the lockdown restrictions are removed as of 2nd July 2020. If you can’t visit, don’t worry, being a Goan, I’ll take you on a virtual tour to the paradises in the state of Goa. Are you ready for the journey? Let’s go.

The foothills of Western Ghats in Goa

Imagine you are on the Hop On Hop Off Bus, a tourist double-decker bus initiative taken up by the Tourism Department of the state. I tell you the story about what is so unique here. Situated on the South-West of India with a beautiful coastline and people around 1.8 million are present in the area of 3702 sq.km. Being the smallest state of India, don’t go by numbers, it has surprises for you to fascinate with the flora, fauna and its natural biodiversity. Well, with two districts, Panaji is the capital where you will find the paintings of Mario Miranda on the walls of the Municipal Market.

A panoramic view of a beach in Goa

Okay, moving on further, don’t consider language as a barrier to communicate because English is also well-spoken with the national language Hindi. Still, the local languages most widely spoken are Konkani and Marathi. You may also find Portuguese influence in the monuments as well as in the cuisine. I’m sure you’ll be tasting out the mouth-watering food virtually too. The first thing in my mind is rice with fish curry made with love out of the Goan fishes freshly cooked, which are caught during the dawn.

Harvalem Waterfall, Sanquelim, Goa. Also, there are many natural springs present in the state.

Along with this, the famous Ross Omelet, which you will find at every street outlet and restaurant which is somewhat similar to Xacuti, but it’s a pork dish. Still, here it’s usually replaced with chicken or other vegetarian alternatives with local bread known as Pao. Other famous dishes here in Goa are Sorpotel, Vindaloo, along with some Feni, made from cashews or coconut, which may make you feel dizzy. After all, everyone usually comes here to enjoy the alcoholic drinks, but may put you in trouble if you drink them on the beaches. No problem if you’re a teetotaler; there are other alternatives.

The cruise boats with the construction of Atal Setu bridge in the background

We’re also flourished with one of the famous world heritage sites declared by UNESCO, Basilica of Bom Jesus. Also, there are other famous places like Fort Aguada, Se Catherdral, and even ancient temples like Sri Mahadeva Temple in Tambdi Surla and other religions like Jain do have their establishments. Nonetheless, to mention, the beaches of Calangute, Baga, Anjuna are some of them. Also, you can go trekking at Dudhsagar Falls. The nightlife, casinos, and cruises are to be enjoyed if you fall into that category. The lavished exotic hotels are ready to welcome you always; even the people of Goa are amicable.

A glimpse of Church of St. Cajetan, Goa Velha

Let me give you an example, Dr. Edwin Gomes, the head of the medicine department of the famous Goa Medical College (GMC). He has done an incredible job recently by showing his gratitude by hugging more than 190 patients in the hospital after they were treated and found negative for COVID-19. The tour has come to an end, and I hope you visit the state and enjoy the moments.

JAIPUR

Location

Jaipur is the capital and the largest city of the Indian state of Rajasthan. As of 2011, the city had a population of 3.1 million, making it the tenth most populous city in the country. Jaipur is also known as the Pink City, due to the dominant color scheme of its buildings. It was constructed within a period of four years and Jaipur is the only city that has been planned as per rules & regulations of the Vastu Shastra and the Shilpa Shastra. It is located 268 km (167 miles) from the national capital New Delhi.

Jaipur is a popular tourist destination in India and forms a part of the west Golden Triangle tourist circuit along with Delhi and Agra (240 km, 149 mi). It also serves as a gateway to other tourist destinations in Rajasthan such as Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Kota and Mount Abu. Jaipur is located 616 km from Shimla.

History

Jaipur was founded in 1727 by the Rajput ruler Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amer, after whom the city is named. It was one of the earliest planned cities of modern India, designed by Vidyadhar Bhattacharya. During the British Colonial period, the city served as the capital of Jaipur State. After independence in 1947, Jaipur was made capital of the newly-formed state of Rajasthan.

On 6 July 2019, UNESCO World Heritage Committee inscribed Jaipur the ‘Pink City of India’ among its World Heritage Sites. The city is also home to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Amber Fort and Jantar Mantar.

How to go?

By air: Sanganer airport is the nearest airport to the city of Jaipur. It is located at a distance of 10 kilometers from the city centre. The airport has flight connectivity with major Indian cities like Mumbai and Delhi. International tourists can take connecting flights to Jaipur from Mumbai or Delhi airport.

By rail: The railway junction at Jaipur connects it with various cities. For a royal experience one can take the Palace on Wheels. This train leaves from Delhi and connects various cities in Rajasthan.

By road: Jaipur has good network of roads connecting it with major Indian cities. NH 8, NH 11 and NH 12 are the main national highways connecting the city of Jaipur with other cities. National capital New Delhi is just 235 KM from this beautiful city while the city of the Taj Mahal, Agra, is only 220 KM from here. Other important cities include Ajmer at 130 KM, Mathura at 196 KM and Gwalior at 250 KM. There are good services of Buses and Cabs available like buses from Jaipur to Delhi bus.

Tourist Places

Amer Fort: Amber Fort, situated 11 kilometers from Jaipur, is a fort built with great artistic taste. Cradled on the top of a hill forming a beautiful reflection in Maotha Lake, it is popularly known as Amer Fort.

City Palace: Located in Jaipur, The City Palace is the main palace from where the Maharaja reigned from. The palace includes the Chandra Mahan and Mubarak Mahal along with various other buildings within the complex. It is located towards the north-eastern side of Jaipur.

Hawa Mahal: The Hawa Mahal stands at the intersection of the main road in Jaipur, Badi Chaupad. It is regarded as the signature building of Jaipur and was built by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh.

Jantar Mantar: Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is the largest stone astronomical observatory in the World. It is located just next to the city palace of Jaipur in Rajasthan. Built during the period between 1727 and 1733, the Jantar Mantar is still in a running condition and it stands as a witness regarding the wisdom of former age.

Nahargarh Fort: Nahargarh Fort, situated on the outer skirts of Jaipur is an epitome of great architecture and planning. Drenched with rich past, the fort allows you a picturesque view of the entire city. Built in 1734, this grand architecture is a perfect way to begin the excursion of this pink city.

Chokhi Dhani: Chokhi Dhani is a luxury heritage resort synonymous with Rajasthani village culture. It is located a little on the outskirts of the city on the Tonk Road. The concept of the village is to give you a tangible feel of rural Rajasthan. It is a true depiction of traditional Rajasthan with ancient artifacts, handicrafts, paintings, folklore and sculptures. The village offers myriad entertainment options- folk dances, singing, camel rides, puppet shows, fortune-tellers, acrobatics, predicting parrots, magic shows, horse riding, boating etc.

Bapu Bazar: Besides the plethora of palaces and forts and havelis and wildlife, Jaipur is also the ultimate shopping paradise. Among the numerous flourishing flea markets of Jaipur is the Bapu Bazaar. Situated in the heart of the Pink city between Sanganer Gate and New Gate, the market is known for its alluring Rajasthani quintessential products including textiles, handicrafts, brass works and precious stones. The bazaar attracts tourists from all over India and worldwide owing to its authenticity, diversity and giveaway price products.

Jal Mahal: Amidst the chaos of the city of Jaipur, lies the splendid Jal Mahal, or Water Palace. Floating in the centre of the Sagar Lake, this low rise symmetrical Palace was once a shooting lodge for the Maharajas. This unique palace fascinates a large number of visitors from all over the world.

Panna Meena Ka Kund: Established in the 16th century, the place is also known by many other names locally, some of which are just derivations of the original name in the local language. A baori or a stepwell is a concept solely originating from the Indian subcontinent and were the most popular source of water during the old times. These are mostly man-made pools of water that can be reached by descending a series of stairwells. Panna Meena ka Kund in Jaipur is one of the many famous stepwells that still stand in the western part of India, where they were mostly constructed. The original purpose of this Baori was to supply the locals with water for drinking and other daily needs, especially during the dry summers, as well as crop irrigation.

So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and set out to discover yourself back in time! Set out to go into history!

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.

PRAGUE

Location

Prague is the capital and largest city in the Czech Republic, the 13th largest city in the European Union and the historical capital of Bohemia. Situated on the Vltava River, Prague is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of 2.7 million. The city has a temperate oceanic climate, with relatively warm summers and chilly winters.

History

Prague is a political, cultural and economic centre of central Europe complete with a rich history. Founded during the Romanesque and flourishing by the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque eras, Prague was the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia and the main residence of several Holy Roman Emperors, most notably of Charles IV. It was an important city to the Habsburg Monarchy and its Austro-Hungarian Empire. The city played major roles in the Bohemian and Protestant Reformation, the Thirty Years’ War and in 20th-century history as the capital of Czechoslovakia between the World Wars and the post-war Communist era.

Prague is home to a number of well-known cultural attractions, many of which survived the violence and destruction of 20th-century Europe. Main attractions include Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Old Town Square with the Prague astronomical clock, the Jewish Quarter, Petrin hill and Vysehrad. Since 1992, the extensive historic centre of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

The city has more than ten major museums, along with numerous theatres, galleries, cinemas and other historical exhibits. An extensive modern public transportation system connects the city. It is home to a wide range of public and private schools, including Charles University in Prague, the oldest university in Central Europe.

How to go

By air: It is quite easy to travel to Prague by flight, thanks to the international airport in the city. The Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague is one of the busiest airports among the ones in the newer European Union countries. A hub for Czech Airlines, the airport is well-connected to many cities around the globe, especially other European countries, like Athens, Dublin, Moscow, Paris, Rome, London, Brussels, etc. Some of the main carriers flying these routes are Lufthansa, Czech Airlines, Emirates, Easy Jet, China Eastern Airlines etc. Travellers from the East will find it difficult to find direct flights to this exotic city. But a lot of connecting flights are easily available from many eastern countries.

By bus: Prague is easily accessible by bus from many other neighbouring European cities. Buses from international cities stop at Prague Central Florenc Bus Station. There are buses connecting various cities with Prague like London, Paris, Brussels, Vienna, Zurich, Budapest etc. The main service providers on these routes are Flixbus, Eurolines, RegioJet, Blueline-bus, National Express (London) etc. Prague is also well-connected with many national cities like Brno, Ostrava, Plzen, Liberec etc. Public transportation is the most frequently used means to reach this beautiful city.

By train: There are a number of trains connecting Prague with other cities in the European Union. Cities like London, Zurich, Vienna, Budapest, Paris, Munich, Frankfurt etc. have regular train services to Prague. With assured comfortable commute and less travel time, a lot of European tourists tend to opt for a rail journey to reach Prague. Most of these trains are run by the German railway company Deutsche Bahn.

Tourist places

Prague Castle: Located in Prague’s Hradcany neighborhood, Prague Castle once the home of Bohemia’s kings, is today the official residence of the Czech Republic’s President and one of the city’s most visited tourist attractions. Originally built as a walled fortress around AD 870, the castle has changed dramatically over the years and contains examples of most of the leading architectural styles of the last millennium. Within the castle walls are a number of Prague’s most popular tourist sites, including St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George’s Basilica, the Powder Tower, the Old Royal Palace, and the Golden Lane.

The largest castle complex in the world, this vast fortress requires considerable time to tour, but it’s time well spent (particularly rewarding are the excellent views over the Vltava River with the old town and its many beautiful spires in the background). Highlights include the Old Royal Palace’s main hall, the Vladislav Hall, so large it could be used for jousting tournaments, and staircases wide enough to allow mounted knights to use them. Be sure to also spend time in the Royal Garden, dating back to 1534 and home to a number of superb old buildings, including the Ball Game Pavilion, the Royal Summer House with its Singing Fountain, and the Lion’s Court.

The best way to fully explore the castle is on a Prague Castle Walking Tour. One of the top things to do at night in Prague is to find a good spot from which to enjoy the castle illuminations that light this magnificent structure in a range of hues. In fact, basing yourself in a hotel in the vicinity of Prague Castle is a good idea, so you can experience the city highlights by day and night.

Charles Bridge: One of the most recognizable old bridges in Europe, magnificent Charles Bridge boasts 32 unique points of interest along its 621-meter span. Built in 1357, the bridge has long been the subject of a great deal of superstition, including the builders having laid the initial bridge stone on the 9th of July at exactly 5:31am, a precise set of numbers (135797531) believed to give the structure additional strength. For added good measure, it was constructed in perfect alignment with the tomb of St. Vitus and the setting sun on the equinox.

The bridge is particularly famous for its many fine old statues. Among the most important are those of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV and John of Nepomuk, the country’s most revered saint, unveiled in 1683 (a more recent superstition involves rubbing the plaque at the base of the statue for the granting of a wish). Other highlights include spectacular views over the River Vltava and the structure’s superb Gothic gates. Viewing Charles Bridge at night is also highly recommended.

Wenceslas Square: A highlight of Prague’s New Town district—an area that grew out of the city’s need to expand as it prospered—is the wonderful Wenceslas Square, home to the National Museum and numerous other architectural treasures. Named after the patron saint of Bohemia, whose statue can be seen here, Wenceslas Square was created in the 14th century during the reign of Charles IV as a horse market and has since become one of the city’s most important public spaces, still used for demonstrations and celebrations alike.

A visit today is a fun experience and undoubtedly one of the top free things to do in Prague, and will introduce visitors to some of the city’s best dining and restaurant experiences, as well as great shopping. If you are visiting Prague in December, it’s also the site of the city’s largest Christmas Market.

National Museum: Fresh from a seven-year-long renovation, the National Museum in Prague is spread across a number of locations and houses numerous important collections representing a variety of fields, with literally millions of items covering mineralogy, zoology, anthropology, and archaeology, as well as the arts and music. The entomology collection alone numbers more than five million specimens. The oldest museum in the Czech Republic, it was established in the early 1800s before moving to its current location in 1891.

A particularly enjoyable highlight is the archaeology exhibit with its extensive collection of 1st-and 2nd-century Roman artifacts, along with numerous Bronze and Early Iron age finds. Another museum to include on your must-visit list is the excellent National Technical Museum, which documents the many technological advances the country has contributed to, including displays of machinery and equipment built here over the years, from automobiles to aircraft.

National Gallery: Spread across some of the city’s most important architectural landmarks, the National Gallery in Prague is home to some of Europe’s most important art collections. The bulk of the collection is housed in the Veletrzni Palace a relatively modern structure built in 1925 that holds the 19th- to 21st-century works. While there’s a strong emphasis on Czech artists, foreign artists such as Monet and Picasso are included, as are other art forms such as photography, fashion, applied arts, and sculpture.

Other notable works are held in the Kinsky Palace, home to Asian art, art from the ancient world, and the gallery’s Baroque collections, and at the Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia, where you’ll find European art from the Middle Ages.

Finally, the splendid 17th-century Sternberg Palace houses some of the gallery’s most famous pieces, focusing on European art from the Classical era to the end of the Baroque period and including important ancient Greek and Roman pieces; 14th- to 16th-century Italian masterpieces; and 16th- to 18th-century works by artists such as El Greco, Goya, Rubens, van Dyck, Rembrandt, and van Goyen.

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!

Tourism : can this be the next big thing for India

Who doesn’t love to travel?

Every body seek to grab every single chance to wander around the world. Some love to travel to hills, while others are pleased to be at the sea side, other proportion of people want to travel to desert areas,and the remaining like to scratch out every corner of the world. An increase in the trend of more and more wanderlust among the people, is the reason for an increase in the trend of tourism industry. No matter where you want to travel, which part of the world you have to discover, just a click on the e-travel site and choose your favourite destination.

In case of the country, such as, India, which is counted as a developing one, it is a fresh opportunity to become the top countries to offer a great traveling experience to those coming to the country in order to observe its beauty. Post pandemic, will be a great opportunity for the government to promote tourism in the country and it will surely create a massive opportunity for the economy to bloom and grow positively. As many of the scholars have claimed that, India’s economy may fall to negative, but, tourism industry is an idom used to drown, that can help the country with incredible increase in the number of tourists.

About 10.89 million foreign tourists visited India in 2019. But, according to the UN World Tourism Organization, 50 million Indians will travel overseas in 2019, which is a big reason to worry regarding the tourism industry in the country. There is a huge gap between people coming and going out of the country which needs to be filled, in order to see India as a huge tourist destination.

It is one of the reasons why tourism can be next big thing for India! We have been privileged to be a part of such a beautiful country as this, where every kind of physiographic divisions could be found, be it Jammu and Kashmir, pure heaven on the earth; or the widespread desert of Rajasthan; backwaters of Kerala;beaches of Mumbai and Goa;historic sites of Central India; beauty of northeast India; and all that enormous beauty that is untouched by most of the travellers.

But, the pandemic has given a jerk to the tourism industry, which has been a great source of income to the country, due to shut down offices of travel companies, tourist destinations, along with, hotel, restaurant chains, along with the suspension of, both, national, as well as international flights, ultimately bearing the loss hit by the pandemic.

The Indian tourism industry is projected to book a revenue loss of Rs. 1.25 trillion, in calendar 2020,which means a 40% decline in revenue over calendar 2019.

But, as it has been righteously said that, the population of any country is its wealth, we as the wealth of our country must only visit the tourist attractions in our own country (post pandemic) in order to give a hike to its economy. This would complete the twin objective

  • One is, to give a boost to the economic conditions of the country.
  • Second is, it will give us a chance to explore the unseen beauty of our own country and people will not underestimate the power of the country.

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?

MURSHIDABAD

Location

Murshidabad is a town in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is located on the eastern bank of the Hooghly River, a distributary of the Ganges River. It forms part of the Murshidabad district.

The District of Murshidabad has an area of 5,550 square kilometres. It is divided into two nearly equal portions by the Bhagirathi, the ancient channel of the Ganges. The tract to the west, known as the Rarh, consists of hard clay and nodular limestone. The general level is high, but interspersed with marshes and seamed by hill torrents. The Bagri or eastern half belongs to alluvial plains of eastern Bengal. There are few permanent swamps; but the whole country is low-lying, and liable to annual inundation. In the north-west are a few small detached hillocks, said to be of basaltic formation.

History

During the 18th-century, Murshidabad was a prosperous city. It was the capital of the Bengal Subah in the Mughal Empire for seventy years, with a jurisdiction covering modern-day Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. It was the seat of the hereditary Nawab of Bengal and the state’s treasury, revenue office and judiciary. Bengal was the richest Mughal province. Murshidabad was a cosmopolitan city. Its population peaked at 700,000 in the 1750s. It was home to wealthy banking and merchant families from different parts of the Indian subcontinent and wider Eurasia, including the Jagat Seth and Armenians.

European companies, including the British East India Company, the French East India Company, the Dutch East India Company and the Danish East India Company, conducted business and operated factories around the city. Silk was a major product of Murshidabad. The city was also a center of art and culture, including for ivory sculptors, Hindustani classical music and the Murshidabad style of Mughal painting.

The city’s decline began with the defeat of the last independent Nawab of Bengal Siraj-ud-Daulah at the Battle of Plassey in 1757. The Nawab was demoted to the status of a zamindar known as the Nawab of Murshidabad. The British shifted the treasury, courts and revenue office to Calcutta. In the 19th century, the population was estimated to be 46,000. Murshidabad became a district headquarters of the Bengal Presidency. It was declared as a municipality in 1869.

How to go?

Murshidabad is well connected to the rest of India by rail & road. Regular rail, as well as bus services, ply to and fro Murshidabad junction, well connected by several passenger and express trains. There are no direct buses for Murshidabad; you need to break your journey at Malda for a taxi to the same. There is no direct flight connectivity for Murshidabad. The nearest airport is the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata.

Main attraction – Hazarduari Palace

As the name suggests, Hazarduari is a palace with thousand doors. The palace was built in the nineteenth century during the reign of Nawab Nizam Humayun Jah who ruled Bengal, Bihar and Odisha. The architect of this masterpiece was Duncan Macleod.

What makes the palace unique?

It is not just the number of the doors that make the palace different from the rest, it is interesting to know that out of these thousand doors, only 100 of them were real doors, and the rest 900 were fake ones. You may wonder what the mystery behind the fake doors is. Well, the doors were built this way to protect the palace from predators. The idea was to confuse the attackers who attack the palace and try to escape, giving the Nawab’s guards enough time to catch them.

Palace Complex

The palace enclosure is known as Nizamat Kila or Kila Nizamat. Apart from this stunning structure, the palace complex also has Nizamat Imambara (a Muslim congregation hall), Wasif Manzil, Bacchawali Tope, Nawab Bahadur’s institution and three mosques that include the Madina mosque. Built just 40ft away from the banks of Bhagirathi River, the foundation of the palace was laid very deep, so the structure stays strong. The grand staircase to the palace and the Indo-European architectural style are other highlights of this magnificent structure. The palace was used as a venue for royal meetings and official discussions between the British and the Nawabs, and also as a residence for high-ranking British officials. However, today the palace is a museum that preserves the precious collection of the Nawabs that include furniture, paintings and antique pieces.

Palace Museum

The palace museum is today the biggest site museum managed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The antiquities of the palace museum include the belongings of the royal family, which include a stunning chandelier of the Durbar hall which is the world’s second largest chandelier in the world, the first being one in the Buckingham Palace. This chandelier was gifted to the Nawab by Queen Victoria. The museum galleries include Armoury wings, Royal Exhibits, Landscape Gallery, British Portrait Gallery, Nawab Nazim Gallery, Durbar Hall, Committee Room, Billboards Room, Western Drawing room and Religious Objects’ Gallery to name a few. The palace is located at Murshidabad at West Bengal, and here’s how you can reach Murshidabad.

Overall, it’s a really nice place to have a refreshing weekend. You can enjoy the rich heritage of Indian history and have a quick glance into the Mughal era. So what are you waiting for? Pack up your bags and set out to seek the unknown!

SHILLONG

Location

Shillong is a hill station in the northeastern part of India and the capital of Meghalaya, which means “The Abode of Clouds”. Shillong lies on the Shillong Plateau, the only major uplifted structure in the northern Indian shield. The city lies in the centre of the plateau and is surrounded by hills, three of which are revered in Khasi tradition: Lum Sohpetbneng, Lum Diengiei, and Lum Shillong.

It is the headquarters of the East Khasi Hills district. Shillong is the 330th most populous city in India with a population of 143,229 according to the 2011 census. It is said that the rolling hills around the town reminded the British of Scotland. Hence, they would also refer to it as the “Scotland of the East”.

Shillong, the capital city of Meghalaya is just 100 km from Guwahati, which can be accessed by road along NH 40, a journey of about 2 hours 30 minutes through lush green hills and the magnificent Umiam Lake in between.

History

The Shillong Municipal Board has a long history dating back to 1878, when a proclamation was issued constituting Shillong and its suburbs, including the villages of Mawkhar and Laban, into a station under the Bengal Municipal Act of 1876. Inclusion of the villages of Mawkhar and Laban (Lumparing, Madan laban, Kench’s Trace and Rilbong) within the Municipality of Shillong was agreed to by Hain Manik Syiem of Mylliem under the agreement of 15 November 1878. But, there is no trace of Shillong in the British era maps dating back to 1878, up to 1900.

Shillong was also the subject of the great earthquake that occurred on 12 June 1897. The earthquake had an estimated moment magnitude of 8.1. Twenty-seven lives from Shillong town alone were lost and a major part of the town was destroyed.

How to go

By air: Shillong Airport in Umroi is a small airport that is available for the flights and is located at a distance of 40 km from Shillong. Bus services are provided by Meghalaya Transport Corporation from the airport to the various cities of the state. There are regular flights from Shillong to Ahmedabad, Aizawl, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and various other destinations.

 By rail: There are as such no proper rail lines in Meghalaya. Guwahati railway station is the nearest railway station situated at a distance of 105 Km from Shillong. The city is well connected to all other major cities of the country via rail medium. There are also taxi as well as bus facility for Shillong.

By road: Assam State Transport Corporation and Meghalaya Transport Corporation run buses from Guwahati to Shillong. The main interstate bus stand is located near to Guwahati railway station. Reasonable prices for different types of buses like AC, AC Sleeper, luxury and Volvo buses are available for Shillong. Some of the places nearby which you can visit are Cherrapunji and Jowai.

Places to visit

Umiam Lake: Umiam Lake, a mesmerizing man-made reservoir, is located at a distance of 15 kilometres north of Shillong which is the capital of the north-eastern Indian state of Meghalaya. The lake was formed after a dam was constructed to generate hydroelectric power. The scenic Umiam Lake is encircled by lush green East Khasi hills that form one of the best panoramic sights for nature-lovers in the country. The sunrise at the lake is a treat to watch and shouldn’t be missed. The Umiam Lake has a park adjoining it which is a hotspot for picnics and frequented by locals for a getaway from their busy scheduled.

 Elephant Falls: Named after an Elephant like stone at its foot, the Elephant Falls are amongst the most popular falls in the North-East, situated next to Shillong. It is a tourists’ paradise with three layers of the falls accessible to the layman from different vantage points. The Britishers named this fall so owing to the presence of an elephant-shaped rock on one side of the fall. However, the stone disintegrated and was washed away due to an earthquake in 1897. Elephant Waterfalls is a superb place for spending some time in the midst of nature while capturing the incredible moments for your keepsake.

Police Bazaar: Police Bazaar is the major market of Shillong, and a popular shopping haunt for locals and tourists alike. In addition to an array of restaurants, hotels and big brand stores, the Police Bazaar also has a flea market section which is pocket-friendly and draws the maximum number of tourists owing to its traditional handicrafts stores, exquisite Meghalaya merchandise, regional apparels, junk jewellery and the like. The colourful market is thronged by shopping enthusiasts as well as foodies.

Laitlum Canyons: Perched on the East Khasi Hills, Laitlum Canyons is a less explored but one of the most picturesque tourist and trekking destinations in Shillong. The canyons are located about 21 kilometers south of Shillong which is about a half-hour drive away. Literally, translating to ‘End of hills’, this exotic viewing site offers the best panoramic views of the whole of Meghalaya embraced by the majestic hills and valleys. The spot is secluded and serene, ideal for quiet and peaceful getaways. It can be visited by families, friend groups as well as couples. To catch this place at its best, visit Laitlum Canyons either during sunrise or sunset.

Shillong Peak: At the height of 6449 ft or 1965 m above sea level, Shillong Peak is the highest point of Shillong. It offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the entire city, the Himalayas, its waterfalls as well as of the Bangladesh plains. A telescope is available for tourists to get a bird’s eye view. Trekking up to this semi-circular Shillong Peak is highly recommended for the best views but it is often bounded by heavy fog.

Mawphlang: Mawphlang, home to Meghalaya’s Sacred Forest, is a beautiful village situated 25 kilometres away from Shillong, the capital city of the north-east Indian state of Meghalaya. The village lies in the district of East Khasi Hills and is famous for its sacred groves. The village is named Mawphlang as it is one of the several monoliths in the Khasi Hills. The name Mawphlang means Grassy Stone and is a land of legendary stories, sacrifices and unique culture. For the ones who want a glimpse of the tradition, culture and lifestyle of the Khasis that is fading away in the modern world, Mawphlang is the place to visit.

Ward’s Lake: A pretty artificial lake surrounded by gardens is an ideal evening get away! Also known as the Polok Lake, it is usually flocked by couples, picnickers and locals.

Don Bosco Museum: Hailed as Asia’s largest Museum of Indigenous Cultures, the Don Bosco Museum is the house of the beautiful culture and tradition of North East India. It is conveniently located in the Mawlai area, near the Police Bazaar. With its seven storeys, it rises into the skyline of Shillong and flaunts 16 laid out galleries that showcase artifacts, paintings, figures significant to the Northeastern culture. Not only do these provide a feast to the eyes of the visitors, but also give an insight into the lifestyle of the North-Eastern people.

David Scott Trail: Most popular trekking routes of Meghalaya, this path was originally laid by David Scott, a British officer as early as in the 1800s. It is still used to commute between Assam and Bangladesh.

Mawlynnong: Mawlynnong is a small village situated around 90 km from Shillong in the East Khasi Hills, Meghalaya and is also known as God’s own Garden. It was declared as the cleanest village in Asia in 2003 by Discovery India which certainly which makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Indian state. Mawlynnong village is a community-based ecotourism initiative where the entire community made collective efforts in making and maintaining the cleanliness of the village.

Why visit Shillong?

Rarest and friendly tribes: The Shillong population mostly belongs to the Khasi tribe, who are predominantly Christian. There are also a significant number of Assamese, Bengali and Nepali minorities. An interesting aspect of the Khasis is that they are a matrilineal society. Therefore the mother’s surname is passed on to the children and the youngest daughter inherits the ancestral property.

Can you imagine the celebration the birth of a daughter entails? And the special pampering the youngest daughter receives?

Thrilling peak: Located at a height of 1,496 meters above sea level, Shillong is a great destination and a treat for nature lovers. Situated 10 kilometers from the city, the Shillong Peak offers spectacular views of the city from a lofty height of 1,965 meters above sea level. Being the highest point in Shillong, it gives impressive views of lush greenery and cascading waterfalls. On a cloudless day you will be able to view the majestic Himalayan peaks and the forever inundated Bangladesh plains in the distance. The Indian Air Force has its radar station here.

Cherapunjee: Meghalaya or the Abode of the Clouds is famous for Cherrapunji and Mawsynram, which are the wettest places on earth. This makes it a popular monsoon destination. Cherrapunji, which lies 15 kilometer to the east of Shillong, offers guest houses, resorts, cottages and home-stays for visitors. Eating in Cherrapunji is a great experience. You can enjoy the succulent Khasi cuisine like pork rice. Sohra Pulao, which is rice cooked with oil and vegetables without spices, should not be missed.

Living Root Bridges: Deep in the dense tropical forests of Meghalaya, and shrouded in cloud and rain for much of the year, are some astonishing natural wonders. Known as living root bridges, and preserved as UNESCO heritage site, these roots of ancient rubber trees or Ficus Elastica have been trained by the Khasi tribesmen, to grow in a tangled mess, which have then been intertwined and intermingled to form double and single decker root bridges that are intriguing the world. Strong as they are, the bridges take 10 to 15 years to become functional enough to hold the weight of more than 50 people at a time. The wonderful bridges are alive and still growing and thus get stronger over time.

Mawsmai Caves: Meghalaya has the longest cave system of India situated in the Jaintia Hills. Of them all, Mawsmai are easily the most favourite caves for many travellers, as it is one of the few caves one can explore without a guide. Just about 6 kilometers from the main town of Cherrapunji and an enchanting drive through golden autumnal grasslands, one finally reaches a thick grove. Mawsmai, the limestone caves, lie hidden beneath these trees! The cave has a wide opening but it soon gets narrower and is best avoided if one is claustrophobic, has health issues or weight problems.

The cave is a one way road, so the adventurous visitor enters from one end and goes out of the other. In the middle, there are places where you’ve to bend and squeeze yourself out. The channel gets narrower and the walking pace is slow, but there is no turning back! The cave is well lit with electricity and you can see each and every detail of the rock formation.

The colours and shapes come alive and you can interpret different figures for the fun of it. Rocks glint in the light as water drips down from the stone tips. It’s a marvel how these tiny drops change the appearance of hard rocks, working on them tirelessly for decades like a patient artist. With bats and insects flying around, tiny passages where one shrinks and crawls, shadows and shapes filling the air and the thrill of being inside a cave, the mere 150 meters of the cave length appears unending and hugely exciting.

So what are you waiting for? Pack up your bags and set out to seek the unknown!