India’s Unique Holiday Destinations

Do you fancy an idyllic but different break in India? Did you know that there are a host of unique holiday destinations in India that are just a few hours away by flight or road from the tourist traps in major cities?

Here is our take on five unique holiday destinations in India where you will find ample opportunities for everything from quiet getaways to rejuvenation to hectic activity. What’s more these destinations score high on accessibility and exclusivity too!

Dalhousie – Himachal Pradesh

Fly to Jammu or Amritsar or take a train to Pathankot and then drive to Dalhousie, a picturesque locale on NH 33-35 which can be reached from many cities by bus or private tour vehicles. Built in the 1850s on five hills of the western Dauladhar Range, Dalhousie is a hill station established by the British Empire in India as a summer retreat for its troops and bureaucrats. It is a green destination in more ways than one. Blessed with the refreshing climate and warm sunshine its length and breadth are covered with cedar, oak, rhododendron, pine and a variety of shrubs.

Walk and trek to explore Dalhousie which is dotted with English-style cottages, bungalows and churches that emanate the charm of a bygone era. Start exploring the place from Tehra Hill, the centre of the town surrounded by a level walk called The Mall on day one and trek up to the Thandi Sarak and Pangi Hills where panoramic views of the undulating landscape await you on day two.

If trekking is something you enjoy then there are many trek routes on the Dalhousie – Khajjiar – Chamba triangle. If you enjoy leisurely walks then the nearby towns of Khajjiar and Chamba are replete with pine fringed paths, snow fed streams, lakes and temples.

Panchpula is a great picnic spot where small streams flow under five bridges and Jandri Ghat is excellent for a day trip and was once home to the palace of the former rulers of Chamba. You could also choose to stay at the forest lodge at Kalatope Wildlife Sanctuary, 8 kms from Dalhousie, which is home to the Himalayan black bear, barking deer and many species of birds.

It is best to visit Dalhousie from October to May as this avoids monsoon season when the roads can be difficult to traverse.

Rann of Kutch – Gujarat

A short flight from Mumbai to Bhuj and a two and a half hour drive later you arrive in the Rann of Kutch. A safari in the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary is the best place to begin your journey into the Rann. Spread over nearly 5,000 square kilometres, it is the largest wildlife sanctuary in India and is home to a variety of animals like the desert fox, desert cat, jackal, wolf, nilgai, and the Indian Wild Ass which is only one of the three surviving species of Wild Ass in the world and figures high on the list of endangered species.

For bird lovers the sanctuary offers the opportunity to see over 350 bird species. The flamingo, pelican and Common Crane vie for the bird watcher’s eye together with foreign avian visitors during the winter such as the Siberian Crane, the Egyptian Ceraneous Vulture, the European Blue-tailed Bee-eater and Houbara Bustard from neighboring Iran and Iraq. More winged delights await you at the Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, 64 kms from Ahmedabad.

The Rann is inhabited by a number of local tribes like the Kolis, Rabaris, Bajanias, Bharvads, Kutchis and the Gujjars and a visit here is incomplete without a closer look at their vibrant lifestyles.

There is a lot more to explore in the vicinity like Modhera which is famous for its beautiful temples that have been carved out of stone. Zinjuwada, an 11th century fort structure, located on the periphery of the Rann houses one of the area’s largest salt works. A stop in the historic city of Rajkot (famous for its association with Mahatma Gandhi) or at Patan (known for its Patola sarees and fabrics) is a good way to wrap up your trip to the Rann.

Ladakh – Jammu & Kashmir

If trekking and exploration are high on your travel agenda then Ladakh is one of the best places to visit. Fly to Leh (Ladkah’s largest town) to begin your journey into the challenging and exciting destination of Ladakh. Making Leh your base camp to acclimatize to the high altitudes is ideal.

The trek from Spituk to Stok takes 4-5 days during which you can explore remote villages, enchanting monasteries and wildlife at the Hemis National Park. If you are looking for an authentic stay in Ladakh then the Himalayan Homestays programme gives you the opportunity to stay with a Ladakhi family and explore the park with experienced guides.

Other treks like the Lamayuru to Alchi trek through the Kongske La Pass at 4,900 metres and Stakspi La at 4,950 metres give visitors a glimpse of the stark, undulating landscapes and some ancient monasteries like the Alchi Chos-khor known for 11th century murals.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands – Bay of Bengal

For those of you who are water babies the colour blue will take on many hues at the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The islands are a great place to unwind and spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

You can enjoy scuba diving and snorkeling in the blue-green visage and swim alongside colourful marine creatures during night dives. Take a glass bottom boat ride to get a glimpse of the diverse marine life and corals along the Havelock Islands coast in the Andamans and the Lakshadweep.

The best way to get around the islands is on a bike so you can drive around and discover the place and sample local cuisine along the way.

The Backwaters of Alappuzha and Kochi – Kerala

The tranquil backwaters of Alappuzha and Kochi are accessible by flights (the Cochin International Airport is the nearest one), by train from major cities like Kochi, Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi and Chennai or bus from Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Chennai, Bangalore, Mysore, Coimbatore to Alappuzha.

A house boat with a butler, oarsmen and cook to wait on your every need of course while you enjoy the tranquility of the sylvan settings and navigate 900 kilometers of the water kingdom is the best way to enjoy some quiet time. You can also relax, rewind and rejuvenate as you surrender to the goodness of Ayurveda at the Keraleeyam Ayurvedic Resort, 70 kms south of Kochi or the Coconut Lagoon and Kumarakom Lake Resort. Medicated oils and herbal concoctions work their magic on you as experienced masseurs get on the job.

If you want to grab a slice of hectic activity in Alappuzha, then the Snake Boat Festival in August is the best time to go. You could also visit during the temple festivals of which the Ambalapuzha temple festival is particularly impressive. Five elephants carry the Krishna idol from the temple amidst great pomp and splendor to the accompaniment of music. The temple is famous for its rose palpayasam, a traditional very sweet milk-based dish as an offering.

All in all, depending on what you’re looking for India has a lot to offer in terms of quiet retreats and destinations that are replete with frenzied activity. Here’s to a wonderful Indian rendezvous.

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When in Rome…

It’s fair to say that Rome is one of Europe’s most in-demand cities right now, making the headlines for the new Pope, Francis. There’s no better time to visit the Eternal City and see it all for yourself on a short break to Rome.

St Peter's Basilica

St Peter’s Basilica

Iconic Ruins and Historical Sites

Grab yourself a Roma Pass (€30) to make the most of your time here and help your money to go further – it gives you free entry to two historical sites, museums or galleries, and discounted entry to many others. Start by using it at the Colosseum, where your pass will give you fast-track entry and you can admire the amazing architecture at your own pace. If you want to get your photo taken with a costumed ‘Roman Centurion’ outside, bear in mind that they tend to charge €5 for the privilege! Afterwards, head across the road to the Roman Forum and see the former centre of business and politics in the city, consisting of several different temples and spectacular arches.

For those of you really short on time, the best way to cover all the basics is to take a Vespa tour around the streets, ticking off key landmarks as you go, with a company such as Scooteroma. You’ll be able to stop off at regular intervals for photo opportunities and have the chance to quiz your drivers about their insider knowledge of the city, so be prepared to learn as you travel! An easy three hour tour gives you an excellent grounding of where the main sights are in relation to each other, as well as allowing you to access some of the neighbourhoods that the tour buses miss out altogether, such as Trastevere, which is full of rustic charm and has Rome’s only medieval piazza.

Some of the busier highlights should really be saved for early mornings or after dark, when the crowds will disperse and you can get a much better view. The Trevi Fountain is a perfect example; during the day you’ll struggle to get past school groups and other tourists, but it’s much quieter at night and you can get right to the front to throw a coin into the fountain for luck. Other places to try outside of peak time are the Mouth of Truth (or Bocca Della Verita) and the Spanish Steps.

The Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps

Museums and Galleries

Again, you can use your Roma Pass in many of the most popular sites, including the Borghese Gallery, which sits in the Villa Borghese Gardens, and the four branches of Rome’s National Museum, which are scattered around the city. Meanwhile the Vatican Museums are a firm favourite with visitors, due to the breath-taking artworks in the collections.

Of course, St. Peter’s Basilica is a must-see for culture lovers, who can marvel at the huge dome and climb the steps to see a stunning view, before moving onto the Sistine Chapel to admire Michelangelo’s legendary ceiling frescoes. For something more modern, try the MAXXI Museum, designed by architect Zaha Hadid, which is full of 21st century art, from the likes of Gilbert & George, to keep kids and teenagers interested.

Scooteroma Vespa Tour

Scooteroma Vespa Tour

Restaurants and Cafes

The best way to discover more authentic Roman food, and to avoid paying high tourist prices, is to step away from the restaurants closest to major monuments. Instead, be a bit more adventurous and head to the smaller streets to get a real taste of the city, with traditional and filling dishes such as wild boar ravioli, pasta with grilled artichokes and rustic pizza.

The former Jewish ghetto, which is right on the banks of the Tiber, is the perfect place to find cheap and hearty meals in family-run restaurants. Alternatively, over the river you’ll find that Trastevere is full of reasonably priced, independent trattorias and cafes. There’s also a lively food market here where you can pick up essentials.

Meanwhile, for food on the go, head to a café that serves pizza al taglio, which is pizza by the slice, measured in size or weight. It’s very cheap and easy to enjoy if you don’t have enough time for a sit-down meal. If you’re popping in for a coffee then this is also best enjoyed standing up, as you’ll pay much less for the privilege – typically around €1. Italians tend to enjoy cappuccinos and espressos early on, followed by a macchiato in the afternoons. Those of you who try and order a cappuccino after lunch may get a few strange looks, as it’s regarded as a morning-only drink here.

If you miss a good old-fashioned British cup of tea then head to Babington’s Tea Rooms, right beneath the Spanish Steps, to enjoy a bit of Blighty in an unlikely location. A convenient hotel close to the area is the Domus Romana, which is within easy reach of Babington’s and also the Trevi Fountain and the Forum – perfect for maximising your sightseeing potential.

Whatever you choose to do in Rome, you’re never far away from a slice of culture in the Eternal City. The hardest part will be narrowing down your wish list of places to see!

London Attractions: The Tower of London

The Tower of London may not be the prettiest building in the city, if compared to some of the other famous London tourist attractions like Buckingham Palace or the Houses of Parliament. Standing proud on the skyline of the Thames, this 930 year old building deserves to be written about and most certainly visited by anyone with an interest in history or the monarchy. Visitors have enjoyed guided tours of the Tower of London since the 1590s and millions continue to enjoy the site each year.

With the surrounding fortress in place, William the Conqueror began to build a tower in the centre, which was unlike any other building in London or England, to mark his territory in London. From then on the tower was developed and adapted by the monarchs that followed to build its defences against attacks and threats towards the throne. Over time the Tower has been used for many different purposes, from keeping Lions and other exotic animals, a palatial residence, the Office of Ordinance and a prison. The tower has also longed been used to store and protect the Crown Jewels, which are now on display for paying visitors in the Jewel House, which is under armed guard.

The Crown Jewels are an outstanding collection, with many of the pieces on display in use by the monarchy today during official ceremonies. With over 2500 diamonds, and many other precious stones, the jewels include rings, crowns, orbs, sceptres, spurs, swords and more.

Apart from this dazzling collection, there is plenty more to see and do at the Tower of London. Popular amongst tourists looking for a cheap London attractions day out, visitors can get real value for money from their visit by making the most of the Tower’s facilities. From an exhibition showing an armour collection 500 hundred years in the making, to Royal Beasts and raven spotting. Braver visitors could even try out ghost spotting for characters such as Anne Boleyn and Henry VI. The armour collection not only shows the ingenious ways English soldiers used to use to protect themselves, but also showcases the skill and creativity of the royal armourers. The collection includes silver, gilt and Japanese armour given as a gift, with many intricate and ornate pieces being created personally for the monarchs to wear during battle.

Ravens are a more cuddly looking attraction at the tower, but certainly shouldn’t be approached! These large and potentially dangerous black birds have their own residence at the Tower, are individually named and cared for full time by the Royal Ravenmaster.

The Ravenmaster is one of the Towers 35 Yeoman Warders, more familiarly known as Beefeaters. The Yeoman Warders are part of the Royal bodyguards and have been since the 16th Century. Only male warders are employed, and in order to qualify for such an important role in our country, gentlemen must have served in the armed forces for at least 22 years. The ‘Beefeater’ uniform is popular on postcards and pictures of London for its traditional and curious style.

To enjoy the tower’s full array of attractions, you’ll need a good few hours so it would be sensible to allow at least half a day. To make a day of it in London, even on a budget there are several London daily deals sites that offer family and individual discounts not only to London attractions but also restaurants and theatres in the Captial. Entry to the Tower of London is currently £19.80 per adult, and £10.45 per child. Check out the official Tower of London website for more details.

About the Author
Katie Sykes is a Digital Marketing professional and enjoys writing both for business and pleasure. Based in Brighton, her passion lies in fashion, culture and lifestyle and she enjoys promoting this both in her writing and through her own website BrightonMixdotcom, as well as keeping a personal blog. Having moved to Brighton to study at University, Katie has now made the seaside city her home town and base for work and enjoys all of the creative opportunities that Brighton has to offer along with its close connections to London.

Images reproduced from River Thames Guide, CollaborateLive and Britbound