INDIA TRAVEL - 6 MOST BEAUTIFUL BUT LESSER KNOWN ROYAL PALACES OF INDIA

Hi Friends! India is a country with great historical past. It has seen a number of Kings and Queens ruling different states in different times. Maharajas, Nawabs, Nizams and Ranis are an integral part of India's history and almost all of them have left a legacy of their own. The palaces of India are an equally important part of that history. Each palace has it's own story to tell. And what makes them stand apart is the uniqueness of architecture of each one of them. Every palace in India is a proof of the tastes and grandeur of it's erstwhile owner/originator.
I am bringing out 6 of the most beautiful but very less explored palaces of India. You can feel the royalty of these palaces only after visiting them.

1. LUKSHMI VILAS PALACE, VADODARA - Located in Vadodara in one of the most developed states of India, Gujrat, this palace was built by Maharaja Siyaji Rao Gaekwad in the year 1890. It's sheer size makes it unique. It is believed to be four times the size of the Buckingham Palace and is supposed to be the largest private dwelling unit ever made. It's architectural style is Indo-Serecenic. Though it was built in the late 19th century but even at that time it had all the modern amenities like elevators. The interior of Lukshmi Vilas Palace looks like an European country house. With it's compound spread in an area of 500 acres, it houses many buildings.

Many scholars are trying hard to get it included in UNESCO's world heritage list.

Lukshmi Vilas Palace image
LUKSHMI VILAS PALACE
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 Some of the main buildings are Maharaja Fatehsingh museum, Moti Baug Palace and Lukchmi Vilas Palace banquets and convention centers.

The royal family still lives here and is held in high esteem by the locals.

The highlight of the palace is it's ornate Darbar Hall. It has a venetian mosaic floor and walls with intricate mosaic decoration. Windows are made of Belgian stained glass. It boasts of an Italianate courtyard with fountains. Nowadays, this is used for musical concerts and cultural events sometimes.

A golf course was opened in the palace in the year 1930 by Maharaja Pratap Singh for his European guests. It was renovated and opened for public in the year 1990 by his grandson Samarjit Singh. It also has an indoor tennis court with a teak floor, which is very rare to find. Along with this it also has a badminton court.

Lukshmi Vilas Palace has an amazing collection of old armory. It also has old sculptures made of bronze, terracotta and marble. It's walls are adorned by the paintings of world famous Raja Ravi Verma.


View of Lukshmi Vilas Palace
GLORIOUS VIEW OF LUKSHMI VILAS PALACE
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There is a well called the Navalakhi(nine hundred thousand) well, a fine baoli of stepwell is located 50 m north of palace.

Another unique feature of the palace is a miniature railway line built by Maharaja to take his children to school in the palace compound itself. The engine of that train has been refurbished and is visible at the entrance of the museum.

Maharaja Fatehsingh Museum - Opened as a school named Moti Baug School in the year 1875, it was later turned into a museum and opened to public in 1961. The museum has a vast collection of artifacts collected by Gaekwads. Maharaja Ranjit Sinh Gaekwad had a huge collection of vibrant headgears from Gujrat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. A separate headgear gallery was opened in the museum in the year 2015, which displays this collection.

Entrance fee for museum -  There is an entrance fee for mueum as per the following structure :
Indian Adults - INR 60
Foreigners - INR 150
Children - INR 40
For a group of 20 school children - INR 400
Timings - 10.30am - 5.30 pm 

Lukshmi Vilas Palace Tickets - There is an entrance fee of INR 200 for the palace also, which includes an audio tour.

Timings - 10 am - 5 pm

HOW TO REACH LUKSHMI VILAS PALACE - Vadodara is a major city in Gujrat and is very well connected by air, rail and road to the rest of the country. It is easily accessible from anywhere in India.

2. UJJAYANTA PALACE, AGARTALA - Located in the capital Agartala of the North Eatern state of Tripura, this is an erstwhile royal palace now turned into a museum. Constructed by Tripura king Radha Kishor Manikya between 1899 and 1901, Ujjayanta Palace is situated on the bank of a small lake and is surrounded by Mughal gardens. It was an abode of Manikya dynasty till 1949, till the time of Tripura's accession to India.

In 1972, state government purchased the palace and started using it as legislative assembly. However, after 2011 it was turned into a state museum.

It now displays the arts, traditions and lifestyles of North East India. It was given the name Ujjayanta by the great poet Rabindranath Tagore.

Ujjayanta Palace image
UJJAYANTA PALACE
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The palace compound is spread in an area of 250 acres. The main rooms in the palace are the Darbar hall, reception hall, throne and library.

Buildings and grounds cover an area of 800 acres.
The palace building has two storeys and three large domes. The largest dome is 26m(86 ft) high and rests over a four storeyed central tower. The building has a mix of Mughal, British and Roman architecture. It's tilted floors and carvings on front doors give it a distinct look. A musical fountain in front of main entrance has been added as a new attraction.

The grounds are designed as Mughal gardens with beautiful fountains. Both sides of the garden have large artificial ponds which are decorated with fountains.

Ujjayanta Palace view
GRAND VIEW OF UJJAYANTA PALACE
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The Ujjayanta Palace surroundings have many Hindu temples. Each temple is dedicated to a deity. Some of the more important ones being dedicated to Uma Maheshwari, Lakshminarayan, Jagannath and Kali.

Entrance fee for palace - INR 10 Per person

Timings - 10 am - 5 pm (Monday closed)

HOW TO REACH UJJAYANTA PALACE -
Air - Agartala has it's own airport and regular flights are available to and from this place.
Rail - Nearest rail heads are Kumarghat at 160 km(100 mi) and Dharma Nagar at 200 km(125 mi). Both of them are not major stations but are connected to Guwahati and Lamding which are major rail stations and are very well connected to the rest of the country.
Road - Agartala has a good network of roads and is well connected and easily accessible from all parts of the country.

3. LALLGARH PALACE, BIKANER - It was designed as Laxmi Niwas Palace in the year 1896, to be abode of Bikaner king, Maharaja Ganga Singh, which was completed from 1898-1902. But later on it was expanded and became much larger Lallgarh Palace. This expansion was carried on between 1902 and 1926, when Lallgarh palace was finally completed. It has been carved in red sandstone
This palace was named after father of Maharaja Ganga Singh, Maharaja Lall Singh and was designed in Indo Saracenic style.


Lallgarh Palace image
LALLGARH PALACE
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Karni Singh established Ganga Singh Charitable Trust in 1972 and a part of the palace was used for this purpose. Two wings of the palace were converted to two independent hotels. Currently, the palace is owned by the descendents of Maharaja Ganga Singh, who also run the hotel.

The palace is arranged into two courtyards. First one, Lakshmi Niwas is the most impressive one. Lallgarh Palace was constructed in stages and final stage was completed in 1926.
Red sand stone, quarried from famous Thar desert was used extensively in building the palace along with finely carved stones.

There are several grand halls inside the palace along with various rooms like drawing rooms, smoking rooms, guest rooms etc. Palace also has large cupolas and pavilions. A large dining hall with a seating capacity of 400 is also there.
Fire places, Italian colonnades, beautiful pillars and intricate lattice work add to the charm of the palace.

Darbar hall and an indoor swimming pool decorated with art, form the part of Karni Niwas.

Lallgarh Palace swimming pool
INDOOR SWIMMING POOL AT LALLGARH PALACE
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Presently, Lallgarh Palace is house to the following ;
- The Shri Sadul museum in the west wing. This wing also has a huge library, considered to be the 4th largest library in the world. This library opens from 10 am to 5 pm everyday except Sundays.
- A second wing is home to the Royal family of Bikaner.
- The Lallgarh Palace Hotel which is owned and run by Maharaja Ganga Singh Ji Trust.
- The Laxmi Niwas Palace. A true reflection of the royalty with all it's charm and charisma. This structure has Mughal and Rajput style exteriors and British style interiors.

 It has separate Billiards and cards rooms. The carvings on balconies and cupolas have been so well carried out that red sandstone reflects with it's full glory even today.

Timings - 10 am to 5 pm on all days except Sunday.

Entrance Fee - INR 10 for Indians and INR 20 for foreigners.
Photography is restricted in certain areas of Lallgarh Palace.

HOW TO REACH LALLGARH PALACE -
Air - Nearest airport is Jodhpur International Airport which is 252km(158 mi) from Bikaner. Jodhpur has regular flights from rest of the countries. From Jodhpur, you can hire a taxi to reach Bikaner.
Rail - Bikaner has it's own railway station Bikaner Junction and is well connected with other major cities.
Road - Bikaner is easily approachable by road from rest of the country.

4. COOCH BEHAR PALACE, WEST BENGAL - A landmark of Cooch Behar city of West Bengal state, this palace is also called Rajbari and Victor Jubilee Palace.  Built during the reign of Maharaja Nripendra Narayan in 1887, this palace was modeled after Buckingham Palace. It's grandeur and elegance is noteworthy.

Built in classical western style, this sprawling palace is a brick built structure having an area of 766.8 sq. m (51309 ft). It is on rests of 4ft 9 inches above ground and is 120 m(395 ft) long and 90 m(296ft) wide.

Cooch Behar Palace image
COOCH BEHAR PALACE
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A series of arcaded verandas form the front of the palace with their pieces arranged in single and double rows alternately. A projected porch in the center provides the entrance to Darbar Hall.
Darbar hall has a beautiful metal dome, which has a cylindrical louver for ventilation at the top, which is built in Renaissance type architecture at a height of 38m(124 ft). Corinthian columns support the cupola. Interior of dome is carved in stepped pattern.

Halls and rooms in the palace include Drawing rooms, dressing rooms, billiards hall, Toshakhana, dining rooms, library, vestibules and ladies galleries.

Cooch Behar Palace picture
ANOTHER VIEW OF COOCH BEHAR PALACE
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Main entrance to the palace will remind you of St. Peter's Church in Rome.
There is a light and sound show in the palace on every Friday and Saturday from 6pm to 8 pm.

Timings - 10 am to 5 pm (Friday closed).

Entrance Fee - INR 10 (Children below 14 years are free).
No food items are allowed inside the palace premises and photography is not allowed inside the main building.

HOW TO REACH COOCH BEHAR PALACE -
Air - Nearest airport is New Cooch Behar airport, which is hardly 20 minutes drive from the palace.
Rail - Nearest railway station is Cooch Behar railway station, which is 8km (5 mi) from the palace.
Road - Cooch Behar is well connected by road with rest of the country.

5. RANJIT VILAS PALACE, WANKANER - Wankaner is located in Morbi district of Gujrat. The Ranjit Vilas Palace here is a living proof that the Royals of Wankaner were very passionate about architecture. art and engineering alike. So much so, it was designed by Maharaja Amar Singh Ji himself in the year 1907 and took seven years to complete.

Ranjit Vilas Palace stands proudly on top of a hill and overlooks the city of Wankaner, the purpose for which it was built.

Ranjit Vilas Palace Wankaner
RANJIT VILAS PALACE
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It's architecture is a mix of many styles. While on one hand it has Gothic arches, on the other it boasts of a grang Clock Tower with a Mughal style dome. Windows have Franco Italian panes and balconies are built in Oriental style.

Members of Royal family still live here but a part of it has been converted into a museum. This museum contains artfacts, armaments and many other masterpieces. This museum is open for public. It has a huge collection of antique weapons like many swords, spears,daggers and shields. Then it has a collection of a variety of stuffed animals and paintings. An added attraction is the collection of vintage cars. Also there is a collection of medieval era chairs and period furniture, chandliers, glass galleries and regal lamps.

And the best part is a large stable of Kathiawadi horses.

Maharaja Amar Singh Ji named this palace after his friend Maharaja Ranjit Sinhji of Jamnagar, who also inaugrated the palace.

The sprawling palace is spread over an area of 225 acres, having a Mughal style dome and a large Dutch style roof at the center. River Machchhu goes in a bend, past the hill, on which the Palace stands. The hill has an average height of 81 m(270 ft).

Ranjit Vilas Palace has beautiful Italian style fountains and a three storeyed step well. It has a state guest house named Chandra Bhawan.

Inside Ranjit Vilas Palace
GRANDEUR OF RANJIT NIVAS PALACE
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The front and the back of the palace have been so designed as to merge with the surroundings. Due to the receding height of the palace towards front, it gives an appearance of terraces.
Apart from it's center, the clock tower has Mughal style domes at each of it's corners also and goes tall upto seven storeys.

Hexagonal chattris adorn a five storeyed bastion. Whole structure of Ranjit Vilas Palace has Gothic arches along with Italian style pillars and victorian style windows.
A special feature of the palace is a double staircase, inspired by similar structure at Chatrau de Chambord in France. This was created for the ladies of the palace to enable them to go upstairs and downstairs without being seen.

Timings - Ranjit Vilas Palace is not normally open for public. You have to contact the palace office to get the permission to visit the palace.

HOW TO REACH RANJIT VILAS PALACE - Wankaner is easily accessible from the rest of  country.
Air - Nearest airport is Jamanagar, which is 98 km(61 mi) away. You can get a taxi from there.
Rail - Wankaner has it's own railway station Wankaner Junction and is well connected to other parts of the country.
Road - The nearest bus station is Morbi, which is 25 km(16 mi) away. You can get taxi or local transport from there to reach Wankaner.

6. CHOWMAHALLA PALACE, HYDERABAD - Chowmahalla means four palaces. This palace is situated in the old city of Hyderabad near famous Charminar. When Nizams ruled Hyderabad, it used to be their residence as also the seat of Asaf Jahi dynasty.

While it was started by Salabat Jung in the year 1750, it took extremely long time to complete. Eventually it was between 1857 and 1869, during the reign of Afzal ad-Dawlah Asaf JahV, that the palace was completed.

When constructed, it had an area of 45 acres, but now only 12 acres of it remain and is still a property of Barkat Ali Khan Mukkaram Jah, heir of Nizams.

It received the prestigious UNESCO Asia Pacific Merit Award for cultural heritage preservation on 15th March 2010.

Chowmahalla Palace image
CHOWMAHALLA PALACE
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Functions like accession of Nizams and reception of Governor General were all held in this palace.
It's a unique blend of style and elegance. Since it took so long to complete, we can see influence of many architectural styles.

Palace has two courtyards, fountains and of course gardens. And then there is the grand Khilwat(Darbar hall).

Sothern Courtyard - Built in neo-classical style, this is the oldest part of Chowmahalla Palace. It has four palaces namely Mahtab Mahal, Aftab Mahal, Afzal Mahal and Tahniyat Mahal.

Northern Courtyard - It has a long corridor of rooms called Bara Imam on the eastern side and once housed the administrative wing. It faces the central fountain and on the opposite side is Shishe Alat which is it's mirror image. Rooms here were used for officials accompanying the Nizam's guests, as guest rooms.

Khilwat Mubarak - This is considered to be the heart of Chowmahalla Palace and is held in high esteem by the people of Hyderabad. Many persian architectural elements like ornate stucco work and Mughal style domes and arches adorn the Khilwat. These are typical of the buildings built during that period. There is a pure marble platform in this grand pillored Darbar Hall, on which is built the royal seat called Takht-e-Nishan. All the Royal ceremonies and Darbar were held here. Recently, Darbar hall was refurbished and restored to it's old splendor by reinstalling 19 magnificent Belgian crystal chandeliers.

Chowmahalla Palace chandeliers
CHANDELIERS OF CHOWMAHALLA PALACE
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Clock Tower - There is a clock above the main gate of the palace which has been working for more than 200 years and is affectionately called Khilwat Clock. The best thing about it is that an exoert family of clock repairers winds this mechanical clock every week.

Council Hall - The Nizam used to meet his important officials and other dignitaries here. It contains a large collection of manuscripts and books. Exhibitions of the treasures of Chowmahalla Palace are often held here from the collections of a bygone era.

Roshan Bangla - It was named after mother of sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Roshan Begum. He is believed to have lived here.

Chowmahalla Palace is often compared with Enchanted Gardens of Arabian Nights for it's grandeur. It is believed that at any given time, it used to have as many as 7000 attendants.

Sprawling magnificent lawns with green landscape contrasting with yellow and white motifs of palace have a hypnotizing affect on the visitors.

You get first impression of the architectural excellence of the palace with a huge fountain in the front, which has beautifully carved pillars. Each hall has differently designed glass chandeliers.

Palace also has a huge collection of vintage cars used by Nizams, which was opened for public viewing in 2005.

There are many galleries in the palace. Each gallery displays beautiful collection of crockery, furniture, pictures, cloths and even coins and currency of that era.

Mughals gifted many horse carts(Buggies) and a fish motif on a poll to Nizams. These are also on display.

Palace has a souvenir shop. It has a large collection of carved decoration pieces and showpieces with traditional designs. This shop also has beautiful collection of jewelry which includes bangles, earings and pearl necklaces, the specialty of Hyderabad.

Entrance Fee -  Indian Adults - INR 50
                          Foreigners -     INR 200
                          Children -         INR 10
There is an extra charge of INR 50 for photography and INR 100 for video cameras.
Please note that SLR, Professional cameras and tripods are not allowed inside.

Timings - 10 am to 5 pm all days (Friday closed)

HOW TO REACH CHOWMAHALLA PALACE - Hyderabad is a major metropolitan city of India and is very well connected to all parts of the country by air, rail and road. Very easily approachable.




INDIA TRAVEL - EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SHILLONG

Hello friends! Hope you are enjoying your travels and adventures. One place that has something for everyone and is one of the best, when it comes to scenic beauty. That place is Shillong in the north eastern state of Meghalaya in India. Meghalaya means abode of clouds. Whether you are a nature lover or an adventure seeker, a spiritual person or a wildlife lover, a solo traveler or a family man or a photographer. You will find more than one places to interest you in Shillong. It's not for nothing that Shillong is referred to as 'Scotland of East'. Britishers, when they came to this place, were reminded of Scotland by the rolling hills around the town. Hence the name.  Located between Brahmputra and Surma valleys, it has an average altitude of 1496m(4908 ft). Highest point is the Shillong peak at 1966m(6449 ft). Surrounded by Pine trees, this is an extremely beautiful and picturesque city.
The climate here is pleasant throughout the year and more importantly pollution free. Temperatures vary from 23 degrees celcius in summer to 4 degree celcius in winters. Light drizzle and cool breeze make it extremely enjoyable. Shillong has many waterfalls,beautiful golf courses, mountain peaks, museums,crystal clear lakes and zoo to mesmerize the visitors. People here are jovial in nature and culture is mostly westernized. Musical events are organized here all around the year and it is sometimes referred to as the music capital of India. Shillong has many pubs, bars and discos too.
But the best thing about it is it's greenery with breathtaking views what with lakes and waterfalls all around. There are so many places here which provide peace of mind and serenity.


Shillong picture
VIEW IN SHILLONG
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HISTORY - Shillong derives it's name from Lei Shyllong, which is an idol worshiped on Shillong peak. Earlier it was a part of united Assam province but a separate small state was carved out and full statehood given to Meghalaya in the year 1972. It has locales mainly from Khasi tribe.

PLACES TO VISIT
Shillong has so many amazing places to visit that it is a herculean task to describe about all of them. So I am trying to bring out some prominent and more interesting places.

1. Elephant Falls - Though there are many falls in Shillong, but this one is the most beautiful. It is situated about 12 km(7 mi) from the main city. It was named elephant falls because of an elephant foot like stone at it's base, which later disintegrated due to an earthquake. It descends from mountains with three successive falls in small valleys having rocks covered with trees of feather type leaves. In local dialect these falls are referred to as 'Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khosiew', which means 'three step waterfalls'. Out of the three, first and the topmost is engulfed by dense trees but are broad. The second one is not that broad and of late water level has been receding. The third one and the bottom most is the most visible, tallest and beautiful what with milky white water flowing against the backdrop of black rocks. It is an ideal place for photography. Elephant falls have small shops selling souvenirs and also some small eateries near the parking lot. There are some tempting trekking trails also around these falls. All in all, you can plan a half day visit to this spot.

Falls in Shillong
ELEPHANT FALLS
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Important - Leave early from your hotel to avoid heavy traffic. Also, elephant falls have a flight of around 100 stairs, so seniors must factor that. Further, wear properly gripping shoes as ground at the falls gets slippery.
How to reach - Elephant falls are easily accessible by road from Shillong city and you can hire taxis from there.

2. Wards Lake - This is an artificial lake situated in the middle of the city. This lake is encircled by lush green garden and has trees all around. Wards lake is named after a former British commissioner of Assam, Sir William Ward, who first started the plan to build this lake, which was eventually constructed in the year 1894. One of the stories connected to this lake says that a Khasi prosoner was bored by the monotony of his daily routine and he developed the area around the lakeWards lake is also known as Pollock's lake or non polok in local dialect. It is a horse shoe shaped lake with boating facilities. You can take a walk around this beautiful lake on the cobble stone paths around it. You can feed the fishes in the lake. There is a cafeteria also where you can enjoy various delicacies.
How to reach - Wards lake is located just below the Raj Bhavan or Governer's house in Shillong, so it can be easily reached by local transport. You can travel on local buses or shared taxis.
Time - From November to February the lake is open from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm and from March to October, lake is open from 8.30 am to 7.00 pm.

3. Shillong Golf Course - Shillong has one of the largest golf courses in Asia, which is also the world's wettest. There are very few natural golf courses in Asia and this golf course is one of them. It is both, scenic as well as challenging. It was inaugurated in the year 1924 as a 9-hole course but was later converted to a 18-hole course. It is scenic because it is situated in a valley amid pine and rhododendron trees. But it is difficult tight fairways, with local grass which makes the soil hard and are difficult to negotiate. Numerous water streams that criss cross fairways make it more daunting. And then there are obstructions in the form of trees and bunkers along with the rain. Shillong golf course is located at an altitude of 1550 m(5200 ft). It's longest hole is 6th at 594 yards. United States Golf Association calls it the 'Gleneagles of East'. Other facilities like tennis court, library and flower gallery are also available in the Shillong Golf Course.

View of Shillong Golf Course
SHILLONG GOLF COURSE
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Another view of Golf Course at Shillong
ANOTHER VIEW OF SHILLONG GOLF COURSE
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How to reach - It is situated just 5 km(3 mi) from the city center and it can be easily reached by local buses or shared taxis, which charge a nominal fare of INR 5 to 10.

Also read: SPITI VALLEY(THE HIDDEN PARADISE) - EVERYTHING YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE GOING

4. Shillong Peak - It is the highest point in Shillong at 1966 m (6449 ft) above sea level. Located at 10 km from city center, it is a picnic spot for all. From the top, you get a stunning view of  the countryside, waterfalls and Himalayas. As I said earlier, Shillong gets it's name from this peak. Legend has it that the deity Leshyllong resides here and protects the area from all evil. Every spring, obeisance is paid to the deity in a ritual at the U Shalong site at the top and this place is considered sacred. This is an Air Force Base and has a radar station of Indian Air Force. So there is strict checking before entering this place. Try to view the sunset from here.

Shillong Peak, Meghalaya
SHILLONG PEAK
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Important - Carry your ID proof with you while visiting Shillong Peak as it may be required for the security check. Also, security personnel may ask you to deposit cameras at the entrance.
How to reach - Since it is just 10 km from the city center, taxis are easily available to travel to Shillong Peak.
Time - It is open from 9 am to 5 pm on all days of the week.
5. Laitlum Canyons - Surrounded by green hills, it is an edge of the hill at a great height. It is a remarkable natural environmental formation and means 'end of hills'. You will get a magnificent view of the green rocky hills and tiny villages below. The valley has a rough rocky path which is easier to travel downhill. However, walking uphill on this path is really an uphill task(pun intended). This place is not crowded normally and is good for peaceful and secluded break. It is also called a paradise for trekkers and nature lovers. There is a small shop here selling simple snacks.

Laitlum Canyons Shillong
LAITLUM CANYONS
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 How to reach - You can again hire taxi from Shillong to this place. Laitlum Canyons is about one hour's drive from Shillong and taxis usually charge INR 30/- for this place.

Important - Start early to reach this place as it gets engulfed in fog by afternoon. Moreover, you should carry a lot of water with you.

6. Don Bosco Center for Indigenous Culture(DBCIC) - This is a center for research on cultures along with programmes on animation, publications and training. It provides a glimpse of rich culture of the native people of North East India. This is a museum, which has a large collection of attires, ornaments, handicrafts, photographs and weapons of the region. It is a seven story building with 17 galleries where you can see art items, fiber glass items and paintings. The uppermost story displays various dance forms of the North East India.

How to reach - It is not very far from the city center and local buses and taxis are easily available.

Entrance Fee - Indian Adult - INR 100
                         Foreign Adult - INR 200
                        Indian Student - INR 50
                        Foreign student - INR 150

Timings - DBCIC museum is open from Monday to Saturday. It is closed every Sunday and on all public holidays. Except fro December and January, it opens from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm. In Dec. and Jan. it opens from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm.

Important - Students must carry their identity cards with them while visiting DBCIC.

7. Umiam Lake - Also known as Bara Pani or Big Water, Umium lake is a vast but scenic reservoir. This lake is a part of the dam constructed for the first hydroelectric power project in the North East India. Surrounded by khasi hills, this lake gives a very panoramic view and is often compared with the mesmerizing lakes of Scotland. Umiam lake is a spot for water sports and adventures like kayaking, scooting, boating and water cycling. You can ride paddle boats, row boats, speed boats, sailing boats and cruise boats here. Adding to it's charm is a beautiful garden named Lum Nehru at it's shores. Then there are small islands, that rise from the water and add to lake's beauty.

Lake in Shillong
UMIAM LAKE
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How to reach - Umiam Lake is located 15 km(9 mi) from Shillong on the Shillong-Guwahati highway and is easily accesible. Local buses and taxis are easily available.

Timing - Lake is open all days. However, for boating there is a time boundation. Boating is open from 9 am to 5 pm only.

8. Butterfly Museum - It is also called Entomological museum and is the only known museum devoted fully to butterflies and moths. It is a privately owned museum and it's owner is Wankhar Riatsamthiah. It houses 1600 species of moths and butterflies. Anyone interested in the colorfulness of butterflies would not want to miss it.

How to reach - It is just 2 km(1.3 mi) from the center of the city and is easily accessible by local buses and shared taxis.

Timings - Butterfly museum is open from 10 am to 4.30 pm from Monday to Friday. Saturdays it opens only from 10.30 am to 1 pm. It remains closed on all Sundays.

9. David Scott Trail - A British officer David Scott discovered it as a mule trail in the year 1802 and continued to maintain it for the next 30 years. This trakking trail is named after him. This is the most popular trekking trail not only in Shillong but in whole of Meghalaya. Although the total route of this trail is spread over 100 kms(63 mi) and takes about 5 days to cover, it is broken to smaller routes and the stretch between Mawphlang and Ladmawphlang is more popular for it's panoramic setting. This is a 16 km(10 mi) stretch which can be completed in 4 hours to one day. It goes through lovely East Khasi Hills and you will find rivers, rocks and woods on the vast landscape. Another attraction is the beautiful bridge connecting the villages of Mawphlang and Ladmawphlang. Whole route is full of natural wonders like beautiful waterfalls, expansive meadows, wonderful Khasi villages, streams with crystal clear water gushing down from mountains and forest groves. You can also set up your camps to admire the beauty of the valley. The best time to visit David Scott trail is October Novenber, though you can visit it at other times also.

How to reach - The starting point of the trail, Mawphlang is 25 km(15 mi) from Shillong. You will need to hire a taxi from Shillong to reach this place. It may charge you around INR 1200 for the return trip.

10. Chrysalis the gallery - Located right in the commercial hub of the city, this is situated on the second floor of Salonsar Mansion. This art gallery has flexible space to display paintings, handicrafts, sculptures and photographs primarily of artists and artisans from North East India.

11. Mawjymbuin Cave - This is a natural cave and has natural formations inside too. Located 56 km(35 mi) from Shillong, this cave is a major attraction. A giant column of rock in the form of Shivaling. The best part is that this Shivaling is always wet and bathed in water from a rock shaped as udder of a cow. It is a must go place for all including pilgrims, nature lovers, photographers, geologists and even adventure seekers. The fact that it is located near the wettest place on earth -Chirapunjee adds to it's attraction. A 209 m high buckle, made of calcereous sandstone, will leave you spell bound.

Mawjymbuin Cave Shillong
MAWJYMBUIN CAVE
 Google Images
How to reach - It is easily accessible by road and taxis and buses are available from Shillong to Mawjymbuin cave. It takes around one hour to drive to this place from Shillong.

12. Lady Hydari Park - This park is named after the first lady of the province, Lady Hydari. It is a beautiful park full of variety of flora. The highlight of the park is it's bed of roses. It has a mini zoo to which has 73 species of birds and around 100 species of reptiles along with deer and serow. Park also has a special play area. Also, it has variety of orchids. A walk around the park will completely rejuvenate you. It is a Japanese style park with round hedges and willow trees with their leaves touching the ground. Numerous ponds are scattered around the park giving it a distinct look.
How to reach - It is hardly 2 km(1.3 mi) from the city center. You can actually walk down to this park. Alternately, you can hire a taxi. It is not advisable to travel by your own car as there may be parking problem.

Timings - Lady Hydari Park is open from 8 am to 5 pm on all days except Mondays. It is closed on Mondays.

Enterance fee - INR 10 for each adult. For each camera also you have to pay INR 10

13. Captain Williamson Sangma State Museum - This is a govt. owned museum and provides insight to the lifestyle of local tribals. If you are interested in tribal culture, you will find enough here to hold you. It depicts the culture and traditions of ethnic tribes. It is located in the state central library complex. Here statues of great patriots of the state are erected. You will also find ethnic handicrafts, plants and archaeological objects here.

How to reach - It is located in the heart of the city.

Timings - Summer - 9.30 am to 5.30 pm. Winters - 9.30 am to 4.30 pm.

14. Police Bazar - The commercial hub of the city. You can get anything and everything at this place. This is located in the heart of the city. This market has winding interconnected streets and if you visit them, you may end up with some surprise bargains too, specially for fashion loving women. This market has two private and two government owned handicrafts emporiums. Here you can shop for bamboo and wood handicrafts like display items, baskets, trays along with other items like Assam silk sarees, purses, bags and jewellery etc. There is no bargaining at the government emporiums but you may have to bargain at the private emporiums. You can also shop here for hand woven shawls, trendy head gears and traditional Khasi dresses. Police bazar has some small malls also. This is the perfest place to try out local cuisine including steaming hot momos. You will get tribal food also here. Most of the restaurants are situated here.

Police Bazar Shillong
POLICE BAZAR
 Google Images 
How to reach - This is the hub of the city. Bus stand and taxi stands are situated here and most of the hotels in Shillong are also situated here.

Important - Most of the market gets closed by 8 pm, so you should finish your shopping and dinner before that.

I have tried to describe as many spots as possible but there are many many more places to see in and around Shillong, which are not only fascinating but will enchant you with their breathtaking beauty.

Also check out: INDIA TRAVEL - VALLEY OF FLOWERS NATIONAL PARK UTTARAKHAND

HOW TO REACH SHILLONG 

Air -  Shillong is connected to rest of India by a small airport named Umroi airport, 35 km(22 mi) away, which operated limited flights, mainly to Kolkata. Govt. run buses along with private taxis are available to commute to and from airport. The nearest major airport is Guwahati in Assam, which is 128 km(80 mi) away. It has regular flights from all the major cities of India. From here, you can hire shared taxis, which charge INR 300 per person and drop you at Police bazar in Shillong. There is a helicopter service also on all days except Sunday. It takes only 20 min. to reach Shillong from here. You have to check the fare.

Rail - Shillong doesn't have a railway station. Again the neares railway station is Guwahati, which is 104 km(65 mi) away. It is connected to all the major cities of India. Meghalaya Transport Corporation runs bus services from here to Shillong. The service is available from 6 am to 5 pm on all days. Taxis are also available from here to travel to Shillong.

Road - Shillong is very well connected to rest of the country by road.While National Highway 40 connects it to Guwahati, National Highway 44 connects it to Tripura and NH44A to Mizoram.

WHERE TO STAY - Shillong has hotels to suit every budget. Most of good hotels in Shillong are located in Police Bazar and you can easily find the hotel here to suit your pocket.

So Happy Traveling!!



INDIA TRAVEL - 7 INDIAN TRAVEL DESTINATIONS YOU SHOULD NOT MISS

Summers are upon us and you must have started planning for vacation, certainly in your mind if not practically. India has plenty of famous summer destinations and every year so many people throng all the famous hill stations in the country. Every well known hill station becomes very crowded with summer rush. I will take you to some lesser known and explored places which are more beautiful and where you can enjoy cool climes and enchanting locales.

1. KASOL - It is a hamlet located between Bhuntar and Manikaran in Parvati Valley in Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh. It is situated at a height of 1580 m(app. 5200 ft) from sea level. Kasol is 5km (3 mi) from Manikaran and 31.2 km (20 mi) from Bhuntar. It's picturesque surroundings and plenty of trekking trails make it a favorite spot of backpackers. It serves as base camp for treks of Kheerganga and Malana. Kasol has good weather around the year and gets snowfall during the months of October to March.
Kasol Camping
CAMPING IN KASOL
Courtesy google images


View of Kasol
BEAUTIFUL VIEW OF KASOL
Courtesy google images 
PLACES TO SEE IN KASOL -

1. Kheerganga Trek - At the extreme end of Parvati river lies the Kheerganga at a height of 3050m (app. 10000ft). It has a small temple of Lord Shiva along with a hot water spring. It also has a bathing tank filled with hot water from spring. Here you can take bath. Imagine taking hot water bath in the midst of snow all around. Experience could be exhilarating. It is considered a holy place.

2. Parvati River -  Go to river bank and laze around in the picturesque environs. You have option of indulging in fishing or going for river rafting.

3. Tosh - Tosh is a village in Kasol approachable by treacherous roads. It's hippie culture makes it special. It's beauty is further enhanced by magnificent architecture o iaf it's wooden houses and hues of bright colors on them.

4. Malana - It is located at 8 km from Kasol. If you are adventure minded, this is the place for you. With trekking avenues, you can also go sight seeing. You can interact with locales and understand their interesting  traditions and customs. 

5. Manikaran Gurudwara - A place considered holy by both Hindus as well as Sikhs equally, it is just 15 min. drive from Kasol. It is situated on the bank of river Parvati. Lot of people visit this place for pilgrimage. Manikaran Gurudwara has hot water springs. People believe that bathing in these hot water springs cures you of many illnesses.

6. Rasol - This is again a very small village nearby. It is sparsely populated with hardly 70-80 houses here. It is a very beautiful and quiet place situated at a height of 3100 m(10000 ft). This village has it's own unique lifestyle. Every second person of the village can be seen spinning wool. You can understand the wool spinning process besides learning their lifestyle.

How to reach Kasol - Kasol is well connected by air and road. Nearest airport is Bhuntar, which is 31 km from Kasol From Bhuntar you can hire taxis to reach Kasol. All buses going to Manali from Delhi pass through Bhuntar. There are volvo luxury and ordinary buses run by govt. You can get down at Bhuntar and then take another bus or taxi to Kasol. It is not well connected by rail network due to it's high altitude. The nearest rail station Pathankot is 150 km(94 mi) from where you can hire taxi to reach Kasol.

2. LANDSDOWNE - Located in Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand, Landstowne is a cantonment town at a height of 1706 m(app 5500 ft). It is 250 km(155 mi) from Delhi and 45 km(28 mi) from Kotdwar. British developed this town to train new recruits to Garhwal Rifles unit of army. Nowadays, it serves as Command Office of Garhwal Rifles.
It is again a quintessentially quiet town, away from the hustle bustle of city life. Ride from Kotdwar to this place is very steep but surroundings are very picturesque. Landsdowne has not spoiled by human activities yet and retains it's uniqueness and beauty with lush green surroundings.


Amazing Lansdowne
AMAZING VIEW OF LANSDOWNE
Courtesy google images


View of Lansdowne
LANSDOWNE
Courtesy google images

PLACES TO SEE IN LANSDOWNE - 

1. Bhulla Lake - This lake is maintained by army. It is a must see for it's very serene and tranquil atmosphere. You will simply love the quietness around and would soak in the serenity of the place.

2. Jugle Safari - You can go for a jungle safari. This is organized by the local tour operators. You can spot many Himalayan wild animals during this safari. 

3. Tarkeshwar Temple - This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Situated at a height of 2092 m (6500 ft), it is one of the ancient temples here. Mahashivratri  festival is celebrated with great fervor here.

4. Bhim Pakora - Trek for about 2 kn downhill from Lansdowne and you will reach a unique spot named Bhim Pakora. Uniqueness of this spot lies in two big stones atop each other by their edge. In spite of resting on their edge, none of the stones ever falls down. 

5. Darwan Singh Regimental Museum - This is a defense museum. Named after Victoria cross holder Darwan Singh, this is a two story building near parade ground. It was opened in the year 1923. It has a large collection of arms, uniforms and photographs of Garhwal Rifles.

6. Tip N Top - Also known as Tiffin top, this is a small hilltop view point situated at a height of 1700m(5200 ft). Located at 1.5 km from the town, it is the highest point of the town and provides breathtaking view of the city and surrounding forest. You can also see Garhwal hills from here with a backdrop of Himalayan ranges.

How to reach Lansdowne - Lansdowne is easily reachable from all major cities of India. Nearest airport is Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun, which is 150 km(94 mi) away. You can hire a taxi from there. The nearest railway station is Kotdwar, which is 41 km(26 mi) away. It is well connected to all the major cities. From Kotdwar, taxis and buses are available for Lansdowne. Buses are available from Delhi to Kotdwar also.

3. CHAIL - Another beautiful but very less explored hill station in Himachal Pradesh is Chail. Unspoilt by human invasion, Chail offers a perfect getaway from the madness of city life. It has an altitude of 2250 m(7380 ft) and is located 44 km(27 mi) from it's more famous sibling, Shimla. This place boasts of world's highest cricket ground. Chail will cast a spell on you with snow capped peaks of Shivalik range and with it's orchards and sylven pine trees. This place is best for hikers.



Cricket ground in Chail
CHAIL CRICKET GROUND
Courtesy google images
Image of Chail
BIRD'S EYE VIEW OF CHAIL
Courtesy google images
PLACES TO SEE IN CHAIL -

1. Chail Palace - Spread over an area of 75 acres, this palace was built by Maharaja of Patiala in 1891. It will mesmerize you with it's architectural splendor. Inside the palace, there is a tennis court and a badminton court. It also has an orchard, log cottages. Besides these, it has elegant lawns and a children's park too. There is a thick forest around palace. You can walk through it or you can try trekking also. Chail palace has been converted to a heritage hotel. There is an entry fee of Rs 100/- to visit the palace. Timings to visit are 10 am to 10 pm.


2. Rashtriya Military School - This is a military training school, where approximately 300 cadets are trained at any given time, to become future leaders.


3. Cricket Ground - As I said earlier, this is world's highest cricket ground at an altitude of 2444 m(8018 ft). It is surrounded by thick deodar forest. This ground is maintained by army and is well maintained. It was built in the year 1893. It serves as a play ground for Chail Military School. This ground is used as polo ground during the school vacations. There is a basketball court too. It is also used to play football with goal posts on both sides. Army has built a tree house here on an ancient tree.


4. Chail Gurudwara - After building Chail palace, Gurudwara was the first building built by Maharaja of Patiala. It was completed in the year 1907 and is built in western style. The main attraction here is the 6.7 m(22 ft) high wooden roof. It's sheer artistry takes your breath away.


5. Kali ka Tibba - This is a pilgrimage site and attracts lot of people from all over the world. It is also known as Kali Devi Temple. You get an amazing view of Shivalik ranges from the top here.


6. Chail Sanctuary - Spread over a vast area of 10854 hectares, this sanctuary came into being in the year 1976. It boasts of wild animals like ghoral, sambhar, red jungle fowl, kakkar and khalij and cheer pheasants. Machans(high view posts) have been built here, from where you can observe the wild life.


How to Reach Chail - Nearest airport from Chail is Shimla, which is 45 km(27 mi) away. From there you can hire a taxi. The nearest rail station is Kalka, which is 60 km(38 mi) away Kalka is well connected to all the major cities of India by train. From Kalka, you can either hire a taxi or you can get on a train to Kandaghat on meter gauge. From Kandaghat again you have to hire a taxi for about 30 km travel. Buses are available from Chandigarh and Shimla for Chail.


4. AULI - Also known as Auli Bugyal in Garhwali, meaning meadows, this beauty is situated at an altitude of 2500m(8200 ft) to 3050 m(10010 ft). It is the ski destination of India. Located in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, it is on the way to Badrinath, the holy pilgrimage site of Hindus. Auli gives a panoramic view of Himalayan peaks and is surrounded by coniferous and oak forests. For skiing purpose, slopes have been built intentionally, both for professionals as well as novices. Apart from a 4 km(2.5 mi) long cable car and a cable chair it also has a ski lift. It has well maintained trekking routes also.

Auli skiing
SKIING IN AULI
Courtesy google images



Auli
SNOW COVERED AULI
Courtesy google images

PLACES TO SEE IN AULI -


1. Gurso Bugyal - At an altitude of 3056 m (10026 ft), it is a trekkers' delight. You will reach here after a 3 km trek from Auli. And from here, you get a stunning view of some of the highest peaks of Himalayas, namely Nanda Devi, Trishul and Drone.


2. Kwani Bugyal - Again a trekker's dream, it is located 12 km (almost 8 mi) from Gurso Bugyal. It is situated at an elevation of 3380 m(11089 ft). It is best to visit during June to September.


 togedr.com provide excellent options and best deals.

for trekking, camping and many other outdoor activities.  

3. View Points - From this point, you get a panoramic view of Nanda Devi peak. There is a small Hanuman temple also. It is believed that Lord Hanuman took rest here while going to procure sanjivani herb for Lakshman, the younger brother of Lord Ram. There is an artificial lake to, believed to be the highest man made lake. And then there is cable car, which provides stunning view of the picturesque surroundings.


4. Chenab Lake - This is one of the least known and visited spots. It's virgin beauty is a thing to cherish. It's calm and serene atmosphere makes it enchanting for the visitors.


5. Trishul Peak - Trishul Peak is formed by three Himalayan mountains in western Kumaun region. It has an altitude of 7120 m (23360 ft). There is a ring of peaks enclosing Nanda Devi sanctuary. Trishul Peak forms the southwest end of this ring. It's main peak Trishul 1 became the first peak over 7000 m to be climbed by man.


HOW TO REACH AULI - The nearest airport to Auli is Jolly Grant in Dehradun, which is 149 km(93 mi) away. The nearest railway station is Haridwar, which is 273 km(170 mi) away. From Dehradun and Haridwar, you can hire a cab or get on to a bus for Auli. Another alternative is to travel to Joshimath by bus or cab and then get on to the second longest cable car in India. It is 16 km(10 mi) long and takes about 22 minutes to reach Auli. The best part of travelling by cable car is the picturesque and breathtaking views you get around and moreover it reaches faster than bus or cab.


5. BINSAR - About 95 km(60 mi) from Nainital is a dream destination named Binsar. Nestled in beautiful Himalayas, at an altitude of 2420 m(7940 ft), it provides an ideal mountain retreat. It is surrounded by Alpine forests and rhododendron trees. It was empire of Chand king in the 7th century. If you are looking for solitude and peace, this is the place for you. It is a paradise for trekkers also, what with many trekking trails. And it is a great place for a romantic holiday also. Binsar has a wildlife and bird sanctuary, with a huge variety of flora and fauna. All in all, it is good for solitude, adventure or romantic getaway seeking people.




Calm Binsar
CALM BINSAR
Courtesy google images
Image of Binsar
PICTURESQUE BINSAR
Courtesy google images

PLACES TO SEE IN BINSAR

1. Wildlife Sanctuary - Binsar is essentially a forest region and this wildlife sanctuary was established here in the year 1988, primarily to protect broad leaved oak trees. For wildlife and nature lovers as well as adventure seekers, this place is a paradise. It is home to 200 species of birds and about 100 species of wild animals and plants. One thing unique to this sanctuary is that you don't get a vehicle to travel inside the sanctuary. You have to walk around to see the place. But there is a government rest house beside a few private properties, inside the complex where you can stay. It is strongly recommended to have a guided tour of the sanctuary, which is organized by the local tour operators.


2. Zero Point -  Walk for around 1.5 km inside the wildlife sanctuary and you reach zero point. From here you can see upto 300 km(190 mi). You can get an excellent view of Kedarnath, Nanda Devi, Trishul peaks and Shivling.


3. Bineswar Temple - This temple is devoted to Lord Shiva. It was built in the 16th century and it's architectural grandeur will stun you.


4. Golu Devta Temple - Golu Devta is another name for Lord Shiva. It was built during Chand regime in the 7th century. Devotees hang bells here as offerings and you can here soft tinkles of bells coming from the temple. Therefore, it is also called the temple of a thousand bells.


How to reach Binsar - Nearest airport to Binsar is Pantnagar, which is 152 km(95 mi mi) away. You can hire taxis from there. Pantnagar is connected to Delhi by daily flights. Nearest railway station is Kathgodam, which is 119 km(74 mi) away. Kathgodam is very well connected to other major stations of the country. Again, taxis are available from Kathgodam. Binsar is very well connected by road to all the major cities of Uttarakhand.



6. DHANAULTI - Between two more famous hill stations, Mussourie and Chamba lies this beautiful Dhanaulti in the state of Uttarakhand. It is 24 km(15 mi) from Mussourie and 31 km(19 mi) from Chamba. Surrounded by alpine forests of Deodar, Rhododendron and Oak trees, it is a quiet place. It's pristine beauty will take your breath away.

Dhanaulti snow

SNOW COVERED ROAD IN DHANAULTI
Courtesy google images



Image of Dhanaulti
GREENERY IN DHANAULTI
Courtesy google images

PLACES TO SEE IN DHANAULTI

1. Surkanda Devi Temple - It is a part of Devi Darshan triangle. This triangle provides trekking opportunity around Dhanaulti in Surkanda Devi, Chandrabadni and Kunjupuri. It is situated at 8 km from Dhanaulti towards Chamba. This place is also famous for it's festival Ganga Dussehra during autumn.


2. Himalayan Weavers - On way to Dhanaulti from Mussourie, you will see Himalayan weavers. They produce hand woven shawls, stoles and scarves of wool, eri silk and pashmina. You can buy this stuff from here. At the same time you can see the process also. It is open upto 4.30 pm. It is 8 km from Mussourie towards Dhanaulti.


3. Dashavtar Temple - Built during Gupta empire, this is a popular place in Dhanaulti. This temple is devoted to Lord Vishnu. It was earlier known as Panchayatan Temple. Side walls of temple have carved inscriptions of vaishnava mythology and terraced basement has beautifully sculpted panels.


4. Eco Parks - Named Amber and Dhara, two eco parks are maintained by the forest department. These provide you an opportunity for casual strolls in the midst of Deodar and Cedar trees. There is ample open space for children to play. You can indulge in small hikes also. Families also can have fun in the large open places. These parks are open from 6am to 6pm daily. There is an entry fee of Rs 25 per adult and Rs 10 per child.


5. Barchipani and Joranda Falls - Originating from Budhabalanga river, water falls down at very high speed from here. Both these falls have great height. While Joranda is at 150 m, Barchipani is at 400m height.


6. Camp Thangdhar - Campers and nature enthusiasts will find this camping retreat very exciting. Equipped with comfortable safari tents and modern amenities, it provides many outdoor activities options. Check in and checkout timings are 9am.


7. Dhanaulti Adventure Park - Lush green meadows, towering trees and stunning view of Himalayas form this adventure park. It is located on Orchard road and is an ideal getaway from hustle bustle of city life. From here, there are trekking options to Top Niba and Sarkanda Devi. Another option available here is mountain biking.


8. Aaloo Khet - Or potato farm is a government farm. You can see large stretches of potatoes farmed here and get first hand knowledge of potato farming. Also, it has a sunrise view point. This farm is open from 9am to 6 pm.


How to reach Dhanaulti - Nearest airport is Jolly Grant at Dehradun, which is 95 km(60 mi) away. Flights from all the major cities land here. Nearest railway station is also Dehradun, which is well connected to all the major cities. From here you can hire taxi to Dhanaulti. From Delhi, Dhanulti is 325 km and is 8-9 hrs drive.


7. PALAMPUR - Situated in Kangra valley of Himachal Pradesh, it is known as the tea capital of northwest India. Nestled in the lap of Dhauladar ranges, it is surrounded by pine forests. You will find numerous streams of water falling from mountains to plains. Palampur draws it's name from a local word Palum, which means lot of water. It has an altitude of 1470 m(5000 ft) and the highest point here is Birni Mata Temple, which is at a height of 2170m (7200 ft). Greenery all around and lot of water streams give it a distinctive look. You can see Victorian style mansions and castles in Palampur town.




Image of Palampur
LUSH GREEN IN PALAMPUR
Courtesy google images
Palampur tea garden
TEA GARDEN OF PALAMPUR
Courtesy google images
PLACES TO SEE IN PALAMPUR

1. Tea Gardens - Large stretches of lush green tea gardens are the primary attraction here. Divine fragrance of tea leaves transports you to a dream world. These tea gardens have been here since 19th century and tea produces here is known as Kangra tea. You can see the tea leave pluckers working in the gardens and interact with them. Beside that, you can gain complete knowledge of tea making process, right from plucking of leaves. You can also visit Palampur Cooperative Tea Factory Limited downhill.


2. Neugal Khad - It is chiefly a picnic spot for family. It is 2 km from Palampur town. The natural beauty around gives a scenic view. There is a government cafe also here, named Neugal cafe.


3. Toshi Jong Monastery - Besides being a place of worship of Buddhists, this place also serves as home for many Tibetan refugees. It has a main shrine, a college for freshers and a Tibetan restaurant. It is a very serene place. You can get Tibetan artifacts as souvenirs from the crafts museum inside the monastery.


4. Saurabh Van Vihar - Built in memory of Kargil war martyr, Saurabh Kalia, it is a nature park on the banks of snow covered Neugal Khad in Kwat village. Located 4 km(2.5 mi) away from Palampur town, it is spread over 13 km. It houses large species of birds and wide variety of plants and trees. It provides breathtaking view of Dhauladar ranges. You can enjoy boating here along with bird watching and bouldering.


5. Andretta Pottery - Started by Mansimran Singh in 1983, it was established to teach clay pottery and designing for a fee. See the pottery making here.


6. Baijnath Temple - This temple is devoted to Lord Shiva and is one of the most beautiful temples of Kangra valley. It was built by two local merchants Ayuka and Manyuka in 1204 AD. It has splendid architectural design which resembles architecture of Jagannath temple of Puri. Legend has it that demon king Ravan worshiped Lord Shiva  here and got immortality as a boon from him. It's architectural beauty and religious significance make it a must see place. Here Lord Shiva is worshiped as God of healing. It is believed that water here has potential to cure many diseases. It is one of very few temples where both Lord Shiva and Ravan are worshiped. Visit this place for it's architectural marvel.


How to reach Palampur - Nearest airport is Gaggal in Dharamshala, which is 25 km(15 mi) from here or Bhuntar in Kullu, which is 58 km (36 mi) away. You can get taxis from both these places. Nearest railway station is Pathankot, which is 83 km(53 mi) away. Again, taxis are available from there. Regular buses are also available from all major cities of Himachal Pradesh. Palampur is 489 km(302 mi) from Delhi.


WHERE TO STAY - All the above places have good hotels to stay. You can have both budget as well as luxury hotels. Just checkout FABHOTELS for best hotel deals.


So pack your bags and get ready to view these enchanting places.


HAPPY TRAVELING!!