INDIA TRAVEL - PEORA - THE HIDDEN TREASURE OF UTTARAKHAND

Hello friends! Our quest to explore takes us to so many places. Whether it's for business, leisure or pleasure, we are always looking for something new in the form of people, places or things. Uniqueness of things always fascinates us. And for us travelers, what better can satisfy our inquisitive instincts than exploring a hitherto unexplored or less explored place. So let's go to a tiny raw place, tucked in the mighty Himalayas, untouched by human invasion. It is named Peora.

Peora is a small village in Nainital district of Uttarakhand, hidden from maddening city crowd. Nestled in the Shivalik ranges of Himalayas, this village falls in the Kumaon region. This small hamlet, situated at an elevation of 1997 m (6600 ft) is considered to be the best location for eco tourism. Peora (pronounced as Pora) is situated 10 km(6.3 mi) away from Mukteshwar and 23 km (14.2 mi) from Almora. Enveloped by thick natural forest of pine and oak trees, this place possesses it's own devine beauty. Whole of Kumaon region is covered with thick oak, pine, sal, kaphal and rhodendron trees giving it beautiful lush green cover. The rustic charm of Peora is to be seen and felt, to be believed. The most unique feature of this place is the clear panoramic view of about 350 km span of very high snow clad peaks. You can feast your eyes with the breathtaking view of so many snow clad Himalayan peaks, from this one place. You can spend hours and hours in Peora admiring the view around and you won't get bored.


Beautiful Peora village
BEAUTY OF PEORA
Source - Indiatimes

THINGS TO DO IN PEORA

1. Take a walk in the hills and , enjoy the fresh air(which you don't get in crowded places). Soak in the beauty and charm of the place.

2. Visit the local NGO Aarohi. This NGO works in the fields ranging from education to environment conservation. You can also volunteer to work with this NGO for whatever amount of time you want to.

3. Mingle with locals of Peora and find out about their culture, local cuisine, their festivals etc.

4. Take pictures of wild flowers, birds and trees.

Peora Village, Uttarakhand
PEORA VILLAGE
Source - Tripoto
5. Take a cycle and move along the secluded trails in the midst of lush green surroundings and stop at different places to relax and unwind. You can book a cycling trip with togedr.com.

Lush green Peora village
GREENERY AT PEORA
Source - Milleniumpost
6. Go to apple orchards and enjoy the fresh fruits.

7. Visit the local herbal factory and see the manufacturing process. You can also buy some herbal products like face pack made from peach seeds or herbal spices.

8. You can also plan a day trip to Almora, which is again a beautiful place.

Peora is also  known as the fruit bowl of Uttarakhand. The main occupation of the villagers is agriculture and farming. Almost all varieties of fruits are grown here. From apples to pomegranates, plums to peaches and apricots, everything is grown here. You can walk around and pluck fresh apples from the trees and eat them.

Since the area is covered with tall trees, Peora comes as a paradise for wildlife lovers and bird watchers. 

Peora is a very small village so there is no market here.You must carry all the essentials with you when you visit Peora. There are no ATMs in the vicinity. You can see traditional tiled roofs on houses here.

Snow clad peaks from Peora in Uttarakhand
VIEW OF SNOW CLAD PEAKS FROM PEORA
Source - Trodly

Houses in Peora, Nainital
TRADITIONAL TILED ROOF HOUSES IN PEORA
Source - India Untravelled
HOW TO REACH PEORA

Air - The nearest airport to Peora is Dehradun, which is around 175 km (110 mi) away. From here you can hire taxi to reach Peora.

Rail - The nearest railway station is Kathgodam, which is around 68 km (42 mi) away. You can hire a taxi from Kathgodam to reach Peora in 2-2.5 hours. It will charge INR 1100-1300 for the one way trip

Road - Taxis are available from Delhi and Kathgodam to reach Peora. It is 360 km (230 mi) from Delhi. When you drive from Kathgodam to Peora, you will cross lakes of Bhimtal. The drive takes you along slopes and serpentine roads covered with green pine trees and dense forests. The drive itself is an eye popping experience.

WHERE TO STAY IN PEORA

The best place to stay in Peora is the Dak Bunglow. It is a very old building renovated recently by a family and is being operated as a homestay. In fact it was built in 1905. It still retains it's old world charm with mud walls, high ceilings and fire places. This Dak Bunglow overlooks the Nanda Devi and Trishul peaks and if the day is clear, you can have a great view of the beautiful peaks. You have to order the food which you want to eat. Since Peora is not a very popular destination yet, so the food is not ready made. It is made to order. But the home made food is really delicious.

Dak Bunglow in Peora Village, Uttarakhand
DAK BUNGLOW IN PEORA
Source - India Untravelled


There are a couple of other staying options also like a resort, which has come up nearby and boasts of all the modern amenities. But the true enjoyment lies in experiencing the village life.

So either you are looking for a peaceful and serene location to unwind and rejuvenate or mad about natural beauty or are a wildlife enthusiast, just pack your bags and head straight to Peora to get a unique experience.




INDIA TRAVEL - 7 MISTAKES WHICH I LEARNT TO AVOID WHEN TRAVELING

Mistakes in traveling


Hello Friends! Traveling is always a learning experience, provided you are willing. But there is also a thing called forced learning. The things you are forced to learn unwillingly or by encountering situations you had not anticipated. Learning these things keeps you better prepared for your next trip. You can learn from others' experiences also.

Like over a period of time while I traveled, I encountered a few situations which I had not planned for and had me in an unnecessary spot of bother. Though very small, these things tend to spoil your mood as well as the momentum you have built for your trip. So I am going to share a few things I found I should have foreseen but didn't. These are not exclusive to solo travel, they may hold good for group or family travel too. So it is useful for every traveler.

1. BE SURE ABOUT YOUR EXACT ARRIVAL TIME - It always helps to know your exact time of arrival at your destination. I made a mistake that I totally relied on the time of arrival written on my m-ticket and never bothered to cross check from anywhere else. And I found out later that the time of arrival written on the ticket was for the destination of bus and not for my destination. The result was I reached very early in the morning and the hotel I was supposed to stay in, hadn't opened yet. I had informed the hotel that my time of arrival was 8.30 in the morning, but if I reached at 6 am, it was not their fault. They still were gracious enough to allow me an early check in. But what if they stuck to rules or hotel was full and I had to spend good 3 hrs on the road after an overnight travel? So better double check the time of arrival at the destination lest your whole schedule goes haywire.



Traveling in India
KNOWING YOUR ARRIVAL TIME IS IMPORTANT


2. GET COMPLETE INFORMATION ABOUT LOCAL TRANSPORT - In big cities, local transport is not an issue. You get many options to travel from one location to other. However, if you are traveling to a remote location, whether solo or in a group, it is always better to find out in advance, what local transport would be available to ferry you from one point to another. In my case, I found out that the only available local transport available was taxi. And these taxis were charging obscene amounts to cover even a single location. It would have offset my budget by quite a margin, so I decided against hiring a taxi and instead hitched a ride. This saved me a good amount of money. But if I had researched thoroughly, I could have avoided that short period of mental stress and unnecessary running around to find a cheaper transport. The problem becomes acute if you are traveling with family. In that case it is always advisable to opt for a package.

Also Read: INDIA TRAVEL - HOW TO SAVE MONEY IN TRAVEL - SOME TIPS

3. CARRY DIFFERENT NETWORK PHONES - Again, in cities, mobile networks don't pose much problem but once you are in a remote location, the networks start playing truant and that may create many unexpected problems. Like in my case, I was carrying my phone and a data card, both from the same network. And I lost full one day without being able to do any work either on my phone or laptop. This set my schedule of work back by sometime. So much so, I was able to book my return ticket, only the next day when network became better. The hotel staff told me that the particular network did not work well in their area. So if I had carried two different network phones or sims, I may have saved quite some time haggling with network issues. So as far as possible, carry different network phones to counter any eventuality.

4. GET COMPLETE INFORMATION OF WEATHER - Weather is a very important factor whenever you plan to travel to any destination. So it is always good to have accurate information about the weather in that place. When I planned my trip, I found out that it would be cold during mornings and evenings so I had kept a sleeveless sweater in my backpack. However, I failed to check the forecast for the days I was supposed to be in that place. So I encountered cold windy conditions even during the day time and was left shivering. The saving grace was the walk I did, which brought some warmth into the body. Moreover, I had not braced for rains and was left stranded at a place for sometime because I was not carrying the umbrella. Similarly, I was stranded during one of my earlier trips and had to spend an extra night due to extreme weather conditions. This is particularly true for hilly and coastal areas. You must be prepared for the unpredictability of the weather. Otherwise you may either find yourself confined to your hotel room or stranded midway. So keep yourself updated with the weather predictions for the area you are going to travel to.


Weather in India
WEATHER CAN SPOIL BEST LAID OUT PLANS

5. ALWAYS CARRY DRINKING WATER - This is bare minimum essential, which you need to always have with you. Particularly when you are traveling to remote locations, you may not get drinking water everywhere. Like I did not want to carry anything with me when I went out to explore the place. I wanted to keep myself free from any extra weight apart from my own. But unfortunately, all the places I visited that day, were so situated that I did not get any drinking water and from 12 in the noon till 8 in the evening I was without drinking water. And add to this a lot of walking I needed to do, it was really bad. My folly. In fact there were no eateries also in these places. So no harm in carrying a little extra load.

Also read: INDIA TRAVEL - DOES TRAVELING EFFECT US EMOTIONALLY AND MENTALLY?

6. WHICH IS BETTER? FIXED ITINERARY OR FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE - Both have their own merits and demerits. A fixed itinerary gives you a sense of security and discipline. You know exactly when you will be where and keep yourself ready accordingly. And you are free from worries of having to plan for the day or taking care of logistics. But then it robs you of the freedom to do your own exploration and thus a thrill of adventure. You are bound by the time table and can't deviate from the given schedule. On the other hand, if you keep a flexible schedule, you can do a lot of things which otherwise you may not be able to do. Like you can mingle with locals and find out about their culture, food etc. Or you can go on your own on long walks to find out new places, which would otherwise not be covered in a fixed itinerary. In my case, I kept a mix of both. I had a rough itinerary in mind, having planned about the places I wanted to visit on the first day and then on subsequent days. However, I had kept myself open to visiting any new places, which I might come to know of from the locals. And that helped. I was able to see a couple of extremely beautiful places, which I would have not even passed by if I had a fixed itinerary. And I did not find any major obstacle in terms of any logistical problem or any sense of uncertainty. So I found it better to have a mix of both , a fixed itinerary and a flexible schedule, quite cool. For family travelers it may be a bit problematic but it should work well for solo or group travelers.

You can add more activities in your schedule by going to togedr.com



Explore India
FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE GIVES YOU FREEDOM TO EXPLORE

7. KEEP SUFFICIENT CASH FOR EMERGENCY - Last but not the least. Always keep some minimum amount of cash with you for any eventuality. Although, nowadays most people prefer to pay by cards or other means of plastic money, and it is the norm now, but there may be situations where plastic money may not work. Again true for remote locations. You may not face any major problem in big or medium cities but in small cities or remote locations, you may face a situation, where only cash will work. I was sure that I would pay my hotel bill by card so did not bother much about the amount of cash I had. However on the day of my departure I was told that the swipe machine was not functioning and I needed to pay in cash. So next logical step for me was to go to an ATM. I found out that there were only three ATMs in the vicinity. One was closed because it was a Sunday and other two were not working. So I found myself in a difficult situation. Fortunately for me, when I checked the cash in my wallet, it was just enough to pay the hotel bill and get me by to my next port of halt. That because I had already booked my return ticket online. Still it gave me a lot of anxious moments till the time I found an ATM at my next stopover and withdrew some cash. So it is always better to have some decent amount of cash in your wallet, to get you by through difficult or unanticipated situations.

I hope my experience will benefit at least some of you.

SO HAPPY AND SAFE TRAVELING TO ALL OF YOU!!



INDIA TRAVEL - MY TRAVEL DIARY TO A HEAVEN ON EARTH CALLED NARKANDA

It was long overdue. I had been postponing it for one reason or the other for some time. I had started feeling that I was getting trapped in my comfort zone and I needed to get out of it urgently. I keep traveling but this time the gap had been longer than usual. So I packed my bag and off I went to Narkanda in Himachal Pradesh. It was an unplanned trip in the sense that I had no local pre bookings, no itinerary, only a basic information about the place and I was traveling solo. Usual fear of the unknown was there. But once I reached Narkanda, everything fell into place so smoothly that it left me wondering if I had not been making heavy weather of it.

I did two things before starting. One, I booked a seat on HRTC AC bus from Delhi to Rampur upto Narkanda and two, talked to one of the hotel owners there, who was very nice and confirmed a room for me without any pre condition (maybe because season had not started yet).


Scenic Beauty of Narkanda, Shimla
SCENIC BEAUTY AT NARKANDA

Narkanda is a beautiful, picturesque but tiny town in Himachal Pradesh. It is located around 70 km(44 mi) from state capital Shimla. Situated at an altitude of 2750 m(app. 9000 ft), it is in the midst of Shivalik range. It is a very peaceful and calm town with no madness of big cities. The beautiful natural surroundings, the apple orchards all around and the valleys with thick green forests consisting mainly of Oak, Deodar and Maple trees and colorful view from the top leaves you spellbound.

 So I left on the appointed day and time. I was supposed to reach Narkanda at 8.30 next morning as per the schedule provided on the ticket. I checked with the hotel owner and he told me something like there was no direct bus from Delhi to Narkanda and I had to travel to Rampur and then the same bus would take me to Narkanda. That left me confused. Nobody in the bus was able to clear my confusion.

I had expected HRTC bus to be comfortable since it was an AC Deluxe bus. And my previous experience with HRTC buses was pretty good. However, to my surprise, I found a 36 seater bus at ISBT, Delhi. It was a small bus and I was cramped for leg space. I was told that this was the only AC bus plying between Delhi and Rampur.

We reached Shimla at 4 in the morning where some locals boarded the bus. And then the steep climb started. As dawn broke, I began to enjoy the view outside. Huge mountains on one side and deep valleys, covered with thick forests of green trees on other. I started to look for milestones on the road and saw one, saying Rampur 90 km(56 mi). It was 5.30 in the morning. I reckoned at current speed and with such steep climb, it would take at least 4 hours more to reach Rampur and then onward journey to Narkanda would take 2 hours more. I started feeling uncomfortable knowing I had to travel 6 more hours in this cramped bus. However, shortly I noticed another milestone saying Narkanda 17 km(10.5 mi). I asked the man sitting next to me, who seemed to be a local and had boarded the bus at Shimla. He told me that Narkanda was indeed before Rampur.


Narkanda photo from my room
VIEW OF NARKANDA FROM MY ROOM

Me in hotel in Narkanda
TIME TO GET CLICKED IN NARKANDA

Human mind is a strange phenomenon. The feeling of discomfort was replaced by anxiety. It meant I would reach Narkanda by 6 am. So would hotel be open? Would there be any staff to interact with me? And then I had a hearty laugh at myself. I told myself, "why can't you relax and let things take their own course?". That made me lot calmer.

Also read: INDIA TRAVEL - 7 MISTAKES WHICH I LEARNT TO AVOID WHEN TRAVELING

So exactly at 6.10 am, I touched down at Narkanda main market or the city center, whatever it may be called, since it is a very small town. There was peace all around. I soaked in the fresh cool breeze of the hills and forgot all my tiredness on account of 11 hours travel in the bus. It was cold and I was wearing only a tee and track pants(after all I was coming from Delhi). Luckily, the hotel I had booked was just across the road, right in front of me. But as expected, it's door was closed and there was no doorbell in sight. I deliberated for about 10 minutes about my next course of action and then decided to give a call to the hotel owner. To my delight, he picked up the call on the 3rd or 4th ring and I explained the situation to him. He, very courteously told me that he would immediately arrange to open one room for me, where I could relax for the time being and could change the room later if I wished to. And within no time, an employee of the hotel appeared from inside and guided me to a room, which was small but nicely done and with a beautiful view of the valley outside.



Good morning in Narkanda, Shimla
WELCOMING THE DAWN FROM MY ROOM

After relaxing for a while, getting ready and having my breakfast it was time to move out and start my exploration. My first destination was Hatu peak. I asked the hotel staff for a taxi and they connected me to the taxi operator. He asked for an exorbitant amount, which I politely declined. Since Narkanda is a small town, there is no other local transport available to move around and you have to depend on taxis to visit nearby places.

Also read: INDIA TRAVEL - HUES OF HIMACHAL PRADESH - MASHOBRA

I decided to be adventurous and hitch a ride to Hatu peak and stationed myself a little away from the market, on the side of an empty stretch of road. Luckily for me, within 5 minutes a car pulled up in front of me and people in there asked me about the way to Hatu peak. And when I told them that I was also going in that direction, they immediately offered me a ride. There were three gentlemen in the car, all very jovial in nature and we were soon talking like old friends. Co incidentally, these people were also from Delhi, so that made the matters easier.





Soon, we started our climb to Hatu peak. And gosh, it was scary. Very steep climb coupled with pot holed road and sharp invisible turns made all of us very nervous but it was thrilling at the same time. Our hearts pounding, we could not help praying. Though Hatu peak is only 7 km(4.5 mi) from the city center, it looked like light years away, before we finally reached there. But it was all worth it in the end(I will explain later).


On the way to Hatu peak Narkanda
ON THE WAY TO HATU PEAK

On the way I saw many camping sites in dense forest. These camps are arranged by local operators and other agencies and the cost starts from as low as INR 1000 per night, which includes bed, breakfast and dinner.
You can checkout the site TOGEDR.COM, to book such camps, trekking or other outdoor activities.
Camping site in Narkanda
OUTSIDE A CAMP NEAR HATU PEAK

Check camp in Narkanda
CHECKING OUT THE CAMPING SITE

When we finally reached Hatu peak, the only word that came out was WOW.

Hatu peak in Narkanda, is said to be the highest point in whole of the Shimla district. At 3400m(11152 ft), you feel on top of the world standing atop it. The road ends here and you can't drive further. You get 360 degrees view of the surroundings from here. I could see the valleys, hills, the city, the colorful houses below and the apple orchards all around from here. It is an adventure spot also. I could see school kids practicing rock climbing here under the guidance of trained instructors. The weather was cold. But the stunning view all around made me hold my breath in awe. It is one place, where you can spend hours and hours, admiring the beautiful creations of nature. The view all around is so amazing that it becomes difficult to decide which way to look.


Beauty of Hatu peak, Narkanda
SCENIC BEAUTY AT HATU PEAK

Rock climbing at Hatu peak
CHILDREN TRAINING FOR ROCK CLIMBING AT HATU PEAK



Awesome scene at Hatu Peak
BREATHTAKING SCENE AT HATU PEAK

Situated at Hatu peak itself is Hatu Temple. An artistic marvel. This is said to be a 5000 years old temple built by Pandvas. It was renovated recently. The beauty of the temple is that it is made entirely of wood and has intricate carvings on whole of the structure. There is a gallery around the temple and people do prikrama(taking rounds) of the temple paying their respect to Hatu Mata. It is a very calm and serene spot and an ideal place for meditation. There are a couple of rooms situated in the temple premises, which are available for guests to stay. But the flip side is that you have to arrange for your own cooking. The temple people provide the ration but arranging cooking fuel(wood in this case) and utensils and cooking the food is your responsibility.


Hatu Temple Narkanda
HATU TEMPLE

View of Hatu Temple
CLOSER VIEW OF HATU TEMPLE

Another view of Hatu temple
SIDE VIEW OF HATU TEMPLE

Intricate carvings on Hatu temple structure
INTRICATE CARVINGS 

We spent quite some time on Hatu peak and then were off to our next destination, Tanu Jabbar lake. It is about 5 km from the city center. But first we had to come down about 4 km. When you come from Narkanda city center to Hatu peak, you get to a fork shaped point on the road, after driving for about 3 km. On the right side of the fork is the road that goes up towards Hatu peak and on the left is the road that goes straight to Tanu Jabbar lake. It is a man made lake with calm water and very serene surroundings. Enveloped by thick green Maple and Deodar trees, this is quite a picturesque beauty spot. There are houses of locals and apple orchards around the lake. And then there is a small temple of Nag Devta(snake God) in the vicinity. It is a very quiet place.


Enjoying at Tanu Jabbar Lake, Narkanda
AT TANU JABBAR LAKE

Nag Devta temple at Tanu Jabbar Lake
NAG DEVTA TEMPLE

Tanu Jabbar Lake, Narkanda
TANU JABBAR LAKE

One very important advice - No eatables or drinking water are available at Hatu peak or Tanu Jabbar lake. Make sure you have ample stock of these necessities when you visit these places.

From there, my new friends dropped me back to a place where I could get a bus to get back to my hotel. My heartfelt gratitude to those friends.

Next day I decided to visit some apple orchards. I observed that all the apple trees are covered by a net to protect them from birds and humans. Since it was not an apple season, apples hadn't blossomed fully. I could only see only very small budding apples hanging from the trees under the nets. But I was lucky to spot trees full of red cherries and could not hold myself from plucking a couple of them (with permission from the owner of course), and taste them. They were really sweet. Imagine eating fresh cherries straight from the tree. I was thrilled beyond words.


Cherries on the tree in Narkanda, Shimla
CHERRIES ON THE TREE

Apples on a tree in Narkanda
APPLES BLOOMING ON A TREE

Apple Orchards of Shimla
AN APPLE ORCHARD IN NARKANDA

Further, I had been told that Narkanda has it's own skiing center. So exploring that was on my agenda. And when somebody told me that it was only half a km from my hotel, it became all the more imperative for me go there. So off I went. After trekking for 500 m on a muddy stretch (some vehicles were also plying on that stretch), I reached a spot, which reminded me of scenes from movies. A very beautiful lush green area, surrounded by tall green trees. And hidden among these trees was a long and wide slope, covered with green grass. The slope, starting from up the hill, went right down to the valley below. Though there was no snow, I could imagine how people would be enjoying skiing there. It was an awesome sight (just see the video below). Then there was a cricket pitch just besides the skiing slope and some people were preparing to start a match.






Skiing Center, Narkanda
STUNNING VIEW OF SKIING CENTER

Greenery of Skiing Center, Narkanda
LUSH GREEN AROUND SKIING CENTER

Cricket pitch at Narkanda
CRICKET PITCH NEAR SKIING CENTER


On the way back, I noticed a small school below, where children were playing their usual games and the view from there was as awesome as it could be.

Narkanda has a very small market. There are a handful of small eateries serving you mainly north Indian and Chinese delicacies. There are a couple of restaurants. And then there are a few shops selling daily essentials like groceries, vegetables and fruits. There are a couple of confectionery shops also and I relished pakodas at one of them. They were simply delicious. Don't expect ice cream parlors or big branded restaurants here. But the food at my hotel was awesome. I tried different dishes and found each of them superbly prepared.


Narkanda Market
PANORAMIC VIEW AROUND THE MARKET
On the third day it was time to say good bye. My hotel would not accept payment by card as the swipe machine was non functional. So I had to pay by cash. That left me with very little cash and I looked around for ATM. I found that there were only three ATMs around. One was of a local bank, second one of SBI and third one was of UCO bank. Local bank ATM didn't have cash. I was told that SBI ATM remains closed on Sundays(don't know who concluded that people don't need cash on Sundays) and UCO bank ATM was out of order. Hard luck.Thankfully, I had enough cash to travel to Shimla and eat food. And wisely(on hindsight) I had booked a ticket on another HRTC AC bus from Shimla to Delhi. So no worries on that account. But I learnt the important lesson. Not to leave anything to chance.

There are only four hotels situated in and around the city center or market in Narkanda. Rest are a little off the way. You must bargain with hotel owners to get a good deal. Or you may checkout FabHotels for a genuinely good deal in best budget hotel.



Amazing Scenery at Narkanda, Shimla
AMAZING SCENERY

People in Narkanda are very simple and friendly. The locals are very polite and helpful. Approximate population of Narkanda is 3000 only.

Narkanda has a very good road connection with other parts of Himachal Pradesh. It is two hours drive from Shimla. I could see buses plying whole day, from early morning till late evening(upto 8.30 pm), to and from Narkanda. And there is no dearth of buses to and from Shimla. So in case you don't want to hire a taxi, hop on to any of these buses.

So I bid adieu to Narkanda and headed towards Shimla to catch my bus back to Delhi. I would have loved to extend my stay but had some other commitments back home. But it was truly a memorable, adventurous and heart warming experience.

As you may have noticed, Narkanda does not have many places to visit. But the sheer beauty of the place, the breathtaking locales, picturesque surroundings, the pollution free fresh air and calm and serene atmosphere are enough to hold you. Whether you are looking for a peaceful stint in the lap of nature or itching for some adventure or if you want to rejuvenate your mind and soul, Narkanda near Shimla is the ideal place. I will surely recommend it to everyone to go at least once.


INDIA TRAVEL - DOES TRAVELING EFFECT US EMOTIONALLY AND MENTALLY?

THE ANSWER IS YES!!
Hi Guys! Have you ever thought how travel affects us mentally or emotionally? I am not talking of a vacation here or there, but traveling to explore and learn. Apart from being fun, it may be quite stressful at times. So let's find out how and why travel effects us mentally and emotionally.
Travel is not about only moving from one place to another. It is not only a physical movement but also a mental and emotional shift . You must switch off your mind from the place you are coming from and tune in to the place you are visiting if you have to enjoy your trip. And it’s quite obvious that your emotional state would be entirely different when you are traveling, to the one when you are in your comfort zone.

Thinking of traveling
THE FUN OF TRAVELLING
This is particularly true of backpackers, who, although not in their comfort zones, have to continually shift their focus from one place to other. Even before their previous visit sinks in completely, they find themselves in an altogether different territory with a new culture and people. They have to quickly overcome the hangover of their previous visit and get into the ‘here and now’ of the new place.
Even for people like me, who are not backpackers but frequent travelers, moving into the unknown is both fearsome as well as thrilling. Whenever I travel, I find myself both excited as well as a little anxious, not knowing what to expect in my journey. But then again, I love to enjoy the journey rather than worrying about the destination.
I have had experience of backpacking also, when once I was thrown into a situation, where I had to unexpectedly travel to different cities at very short notice. That was my first experience at backpacking. And trust me, I was so tensed up not knowing what and how I would cope up with such swift movement, which I had never done before. But at the end of the experience, I came out stronger, confident, smarter and wiser. I learnt that you must go through difficulties in order to make your life better.


Traveling rejuvenates us
GOING TO NEW PLACES REJUVENATES US

And traveling is one thing that makes you strong enough to face any difficulty in life. It is something, which makes you go through all the emotions like excitement, fear, curiosity, anger, helplessness, happiness and most importantly, sense of achievement.
Traveling has made me ready to face uncertainties of the future as I am always willing and prepared to move out of my comfort zone. And as they say ‘Life begins outside your comfort zone’.
So folks, get ready and get out of your comfort zones and travel and face the uncertainties confidently.



INDIA TRAVEL - HUSSAIN SAGAR LAKE - THE JEWEL OF HYDERABAD

Hi guys! Every city has it's own landmarks. But there are a few cities whose landmarks are recognized world over. And these landmarks become the identity if that city. One such landmark is Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad in Telangana state in south India.

Hussain Sagar lake is the largest artificial lake in Asia and is a heritage site of India. Not only that, this heart shaped lake has also been declared the 'Heart of the World' by UNWTO(United Nations World Tourism Organization), for being the largest heart shaped mark on earth among 78 such other marks in the shape of lakes and 9 in the shape of islands.

Hussain Sagar lake has an area of 5.7 sq. km and a maximum depth of 32 ft. Situated in the heart of the city, just two km from the city center, this lake has a 3 km long dam wall which connects the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secundrabad. The lake was built in 1562/63 by Ibrahim Quli Qutub Shah. It was named after Hussain Shah Wali, who played a major part in designing the lake. The lake is fed from the river Musi.

The beauty of Hussain Sagar lake is unmatched and is enhanced by a 16 ft high statue of Buddha, situated right in the center of the lake, on rock of Gibraltar. This statue was established in the year 1992 and has been a major attraction ever since. Carved out of white granite rock, this Buddha statue displays many hues after dark with lights around it changing colors. It is an amazing sight. The view of the lake is breathtaking during night when lights come on around it's periphery. These lights form the shape of a necklace around the lake. As a result, the road around the lake is popularly called Necklace Road.


Hussain Sagar lake, Hyderabad
A VIEW OF THE NECKLACE ROAD

Hussain Sagar lake is surrounded by lush green parks. While on the eastern side is Indira park, northern side of the lake has Sanjeevaiah park and southern side is covered by Lumbini park. You will not find such beautiful and picturesque surroundings in the middle of any other metropolitan city.


16 m high Buddha statue at Hussain Sagae lake, Hyderabad
CLOSE VIEW OF BUDDHA STATUE AT HUSSAIN SAGAR LAKE

You can enjoy many activities in and around Hussain Sagar lake. It is a popular spot for sailing. Apart from that you can enjoy boating and yachting. A round of Hussain Sagar lake will give you an unforgettable experience with a magnificent view of the Buddha statue, the calm waters of the lake, the lush green surroundings and the beauty of the necklace road.



Buddha Statue at Hussain Sagar lake, Hyderabad
MESMERIZING VIEW OF HUSSAIN SAGAR LAKE

Another major attraction at the Hussain Sagar lake is the 48 seater launch ride. The ride itself is a thrilling experience. You can feel the goose bumps with launch moving slowly along the periphery of the lake and you standing near the railing feeling the cool breeze on your face along with the magnificent view of the entire lake. As the launch nears the Buddha statue, you are eager to catch all the hues displayed by different colored lights around the statue. An added attraction of the launch ride is the song and dance presentation by the local artists. They chart out hit bollywood numbers and dance to their tunes. You can also join in if you want to and have lots of fun. These artists encourage the guests on the launch to participate with them. This ride lasts for around one hour and you have best of the time during this period. You can even organize party on the launch. The charges for boating, sailing, yachting and launch can be confirmed from the booking counter at the lake.There are other outdoor activities also which you can indulge in. 

 You can checkout togedr.com for trekking, camping and many other outdoor activities. They provide excellent options and best deals.



View of Hussain Sagar lake from launch
VIEW FROM LAUNCH

After enjoying a round of  Hussain Sagar lake you can head to the light and sound show in the evening. It lasts for a little over one hour and leaves you mesmerized. This light and sound show, held at Lumbini park uses laser lights to create 3-D imagery to describe the history of the city.
The timings of the show are 7.15 pm daily. On weekends, there is an extra show at 8.30 pm. Entry fee for the show is INR 50.

For foodies, there is an Eat Street in the premises of Hussain Sagar lake where you can find all your favorite fast food brands as well as other Indian delicacies including famous Hyderabadi biryani. You will get all variety of food at Eat Street and can have a wonderful time with your family and friends.

Reaching Hussain Sagar lake is very easy as it is located almost in the heart of the city. You can get taxis, buses and even local trains to reach here from anywhere in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secundrabad.

So next time you are in Hyderabad, do not miss visiting Hussain Sagar lake for it's sheer beauty come back with fond memories.

HAPPY TRAVELING!!




INDIA TRAVEL - SEE 3 DIFFERENT SHADES OF INDIA - VARKALA, MAJULI ISLAND AND ORCHHA

Hi friends! India has so many stunningly beautiful and enchanting places that you are never short of inspiration and excitement to visit them or write about them. Let us today, know about three entirely different but equally magnificent travel destinations of India. These three places are located in three separate regions of the country with strong cultural difference. And this is what makes the diversity of India so unique. The places I am talking about are Varkala, a coastal city in Kerala in Southern India, Orchha, a very beautiful and historical city in central India and Majuli Island in north east India.

1. VARKALA - Located in the southern most Indian state of Kerala, it is a coastal city in Thiruvananthpuram district. The unique feature of this city is the cliffs found adjacent to Arabian sea, the only place in Kerala to have this feature. In fact, Varkala cliff has been declared a Geo heritage site by Geological Society of India. The city is known for it's beach, the very beautiful Varkala beach and the 2000 years old Janardanaswami Temple apart from other things and places. This temple is an important Vaishvaite shrine of India. Varkala also has a mineral water spring, which is known to cure many diseases.

PLACES TO SEE IN VARKALA
1. Varkala Beach - One of the most popular places in Varkala, it is considered a paradise for sun bathers and swimmers. The cliffs at the beach house many resorts, restaurants and spas. It also has a long stretch of small shops which go upto 1 km. The evening view and the sunset are truly mesmerizing at Varkala beach. It is also known as Papanasham beach. Pap is sin and nasham is washing away. People believe that Varkala beach has holy water and they can wash or destroy their sins. Varkala beach offers stunning landscapes. It is an ideal location for peaceful and leisure time. It is also known for Ayurvedic treatment.



Varkala Beach, Kerala
VIEW OF VARKALA BEACH
Source-google images

Cliffs at Varkala Beach
VIEW OF CLIFFS AT VARKALA BEACH
Source - google images
2. Janardhana Swami Temple - It is also known as Kashi(Benaras) of south or Dakshin Kashi. It is located close to Varkala beach and is 2000 years old. It is Lord Vishnu temple. It's attraction is not only it's history but it's architecture also. Their are broad staires to enter the temple and you can see the arched tiled roof on the way. Idols of different Gods and Godesses, painted in bright colors are there at the entrance of sanctorum.
 The captain of a ship, which sank near Varkala was so overwhelmed by the fact that there was no casualty eventhough the ship sank, that he donated a bell from the shipwreck to Janardanaswami temple. This ancient bell still hangs at the entrance of the temple.


Janardhana Swami Temple at Varkala, Kerala
JANARDHANA SWAMI TEMPLE
Source - google images

Timings to visit Janardhana Swami Temple - 4 am to 12 noon and 5 pm to 8 pm

3. Anjengo Fort - Located 12 km(7.5 mi) away from Varkala, in picturesque natural surroundings, this fort has a great historical value. It is believed that this fort was built in 16th or 17th century.  This is supposed to be the place given to the Britishers for their first trade agreement in Kerala. Currently it is protected as national heritage monument. It is an architectural marvel and will certainly interest those of you, who don't mind walking around to explore places of historical value. Though this fort was attacked many tomes by foreign powers, it still retains it's architectural beauty. The backwater stretch on one side of the fort and the coconut groves dotting it's vicinity, add to the charm of the fort. Anjengo fort is an ideal  spot for a relaxed picnic.



Anjengo fort at Varkala, Kerala
ANJENGO FORT
Source-google images

Beautiful view of Anjengo fort, Varkala, Kerala
BIRD'S EYE VIEW OF ANJENGO FORT
Source-google images

4. Kappil Lake - This is an estuary located at 6 km(3.75 mi) from Varkala. It flows serenely and merges with Arabian sea. A bridge built on Kappil lake is an ideal spot to see backwaters and a stunning view of the lake meandering through into the blue horizon. The surroundings are dotted with coconut groves and trees. You can enjoy boating in the lake. And if you are a shutterbug, this is heaven for you.



Kappil lake, Varkala
KAPPIL LAKE
Source-google images

Another view of Kappil lake, Kerala
ANOTHER VIEW OF KAPPIL LAKE
Source-google images

5. Paravur - Located 13 km (8.1 mi) from Varkala this is also called land of backwaters and estuaries. This naturally beautiful place has all, see, rivers and lakes. Situated in Kollam district, this is a must see place for nature lovers because of it's green landscapes. A houseboat ride in backwaters at Paravur is absolutely thrilling. The largest natural backwater lakes in southeast Asia are located in Paravur. You can enjoy swimming and surfing here and with prior permission from authorities, you can indulge in fishing too.



Paravur, Kerala
PARAVUR
Source-google images


REACHING VARKALA 

Air - Nearest airport is Thiruvananthpuram airport located 51 km(32 mi) away. It is well connected to all the major Indian cities with regular flights. From here, you can get pre paid taxis to reach Varkala.

Rail - Varkala is located on Thiruvananthpuram - Ernakulam line. It has it's own railway station but since it is a small station, all trains do not stop here. Again, Thiruvananthpuram is the nearest major railway station and is well connected to all other major cities. You can hire taxis from here to reach Varkala.

Road - Varkala is well connected by road and you can get state road transport buses from Thiruvananthpuram to reach Varkala. However, this journey may prove to be tiresome.

WHERE TO STAY - There are hotels in Varkala which suit all budgets. You can get a budget hotel as well as a luxury hotel.

2. MAJULI ISLAND - Another great wonder of nature, Majuli Island is the largest river island. It is located in river Brahmaputra in the north eastern state of Assam. It is also called Majoli Island and had an area of 880 sq. km(340 sq. mi) earlier but due to erosion, it's area has shrunk to 352 sq km(136 sq. mi). It is the first island in India to be become a district.



Majuli island, Assam
MAJULI ISLAND
Source-google images

It's chief attraction lies in it's crystal clear waters and breathtaking landscapes. It is called the cultural capital of Assam as all the Assamese traditions and festivals are celebrated prominently here with great pomp and show. Different forms of local dances are performed during these celebrations. The main population here is tribal and their colorful culture is something to watch.




Majuli island, Assam picture
BLUE WATER AT MAJULI ISLAND
Source-google images
Majuli island is a center for Vaishnavite studies and there are many Satras(or Monasteries) of Vaishnav religious sect here. Sankardeva, considered to be the father of Assamese culture, found these Satras and presently there are 22 of these in Majuli island. These Satras preserve various antiques like jewelery, utensils and weapons. They also house treasure contributed by Sankardeva like Matiakhara, Sutradhar, Borgeet, Satria Krishna dance etc.

 Dakhinpat Satra in Majuli island is the most popular Satra. This place is so serene that it attracts devotees from all over the world. Established in 1584 by Vamshigopal, apart from being a religious institution, it also plays a historical role. Besides that, the architectural beauty of Dakhinpat Satra is also a treat in itself. You can see many animal forms, religious motifs and flower forms engraved at the entrance. The inner walls are adorned with beautiful paintings and sculptures.



Dakshinpat Satra, Majuli island
DAKSHINPAT SATRA
Source-google images

The monks, called Bhaktas stay here and devote all their life in the service of the Lord. The festival of Rasotsava is celebrated prominently and with full fervor in Dakhinpat Satra. This is one of the most important festivals in the culture of Assam.



Dakshinpat satra, Majuli island picture
INSIDE VIEW OF DAKSHINPAT SATRA
Source-google images

For five days, starting the second Wednesday of February every year, all locals are involved in the celebration of Ali aye Ligang festival, which is a treat of colors, dances and local dishes. Traditional dances like Gumrag Somah are performed in all the villages of Majuli island and local dishes made of rice, chicken, pork and fish are served. For five days, villagers worship the almighty Donyl Polo (mother sun and father moon).



Festival of Majuli Island
TRADITIONAL DANCE AT ALI AYE LIGANG
Source-google images

Dance in Majuli Island, Assam
ANOTHER DANCE FORM DURING ALI AYE LIGANG
Source-google images

Majuli island is a paradise for bird watchers too. The southern end of the island is the spot for bird watching. Particularly between the period of November and March, the view is absolutely fabulous. Sakuli beel and Vereki beel are two other stunning bird watching points.

You must visit Majuli island for the following reasons:


  • Colorful culture of tribal people
  • Visit Vaishnavite Satras
  • The natural beauty of the place
  • Migratory birds watching
  • The traditional festivals 
  • To see pottery making and mask making
  • To enjoy ferry rides
  • The best part is that since Majuli is surrounded by water bodies from all sides, you have to use boats and ferries to go from one place to another.


REACHING MAJULI - Reaching Majuli island is an adventure in itself as this is one of the few places which heavily depend on waterways.

Air - There is no airport at Majuli. The nearest airport is Jorhat, which is 20 km(12.5 mi) away but has limited flights from Kolkata and Shillong. The nearest major airport is Guwahati, which is about 347 km(216 mi) away and is well connected with all the other major cities. From Guwahati, you again have to reach Jorhat. You can hire a taxi or get on a state run bus to reach Jorhat.

Rail - Majuli again has no direct rail connection. Jorhat is the nearest station apart from Guwahati.

Road - There is no direct road connection to Majuli Island.

Ferries - Once you reach Jorhat, get on a bus or a taxi. From here there is a 14 km(9 mi) ride to Neemati Ghat. From here, there are two ferry services daily to Majuli island. One starts at 10 am and the other at 3 pm. This lasts for around one hour and then again a 10 minutes bus ride takes you to Major Sapori, another island en route to Majuli. After this there is another short ferry and bus ride that will take you to Kalambari, the main town of Majuli island. 
If you want, you can hire a taxi from Jorhat. Taxis are allowed to cross river on ferries.

WHERE TO STAY - There are a number of budget and luxury hotels in Majuli. Accommodation is not a major problem in Majuli.

WHEN TO VISIT - Although November to March is the recommended period of visiting Majuli island but it can be visited all year around as it's natural beauty remains intact all the time.

3. ORCHHA - It is a beautiful town in Tikamgarh district of  Madhya Pradesh state of central India. Orchha is a town full of historical monuments such as forts, palaces, temples and other buildings that showcase the royal lifestyle and will have you travel back in time. The monuments made in different eras will give you an insight into how the art of construction of buildings evolved over a period of time. The different architectural styles of different eras have their own uniqueness. Each historical building has it's own tale to tell. So you will come across a different story for each building.

Also known as Urcha, the town was established by Rudra Pratap Singh as the seat of erstwhile princely state in Bundelkhand region of central India. Though not exactly known but it is believed that Orchha was established somewhere around 1501. Situated on the bank of Betwa river it is at a distance of 80 km(50 mi) from Tikamgarh and 15 km(9.3 mi) from Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh. Rudra Pratap Singh, who was the king from 1501 to 1531, also built the Orchha fort.

PLACES TO SEE IN ORCHHA

1. Orchha Fort - The biggest attraction in Orchha is it's largest monument, Orchha fort which houses many palaces and forts. Situated on a seasonal island on Betwa river in a very scenic location, it is a huge palace fort which consists of several inter connected buildings. The interesting part is that these buildings, including forts and palaces were built in different times and under the reign of different kings. The three most prominent and attractive among these are Raja Mahal, Jahangir Mahal and Rai Parveen Mahal.



Orchha fort, Madhya Pradesh
ORCHHA FORT
Source-google images

Orchha fort , Madhya Pradesh picture
INSIDE ORCHHA FORT
Source-google images


Raja Mahal, built in 17th century by Madhukar Shah, depicts his deep religious beliefs in it's design. It is the oldest monument in the fort. It's bold and colorful murals revolving around religion are quite stunning.



Raja Mahal at Orchha, Madhya Pradesh
RAJA MAHAL
Source-google images

Jahangir Mahal was build by Madhukar Shah's successor Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo in honor of his friend , the Mughal emperor Jahangir. It is considered to be a great example of Mughal architecture and their grandeur.



Jahangir Mahal, Orchha
JAHANGIR MAHAL
Source-google images

Rai Parveen Mahal - Rai Parveen was a dancer and a poetess in the court of king Indramani, who was deeply in love with her and built this beautiful palace for her. The palace was at it's beautiful best with lush green gardens and magnificent balconies, but now it is in ruins but still worth a visit.



Rai Parveen Mahal, Orchha
RAI PARVEEN MAHAL
Source-google images


2. Ram Raja Temple - This is the center of attraction in Orchha. The presiding deity in the temple is Lord Rama. It is believed that the idol of Lord Rama was supposed to be shifted to Chaturbhuj Temple but idol refused to move from here, so a temple was built around the idol. The temple has a plain exterior with projecting windows and delicate domes. It is built on a square base. Ram Raja Temple is a highly respected and revered place for the locals.




Ram Raja Temple, Orchha
RAM RAJA TEMPLE
Source-google images


Picture of Ram Raja Temple, Orchha
BEAUTIFUL VIEW OF RAM RAJA TEMPLE
Source-google images

3. Chaturbhuj Temple - This is another beautiful temple with marvelous architecture. Again, it was built in 17th century by the Bundela king and he is said to have chosen the site of the temple himself to enable him to have a view of Lord Krishna, directly from his palace. The sheer beauty of the architecture is so mesmerizing that it may inspire many architectural minds. You can get a stunning view of the city surroundings from the top of the temple.



Chaturbhuj Temple, Orchha
CHATURBHUJ TEMPLE
Source-google images

View of Chaturbhuj Tenple, Orchha
ANOTHER VIEW OF CHATURBHUJ TEMPLE
Source-google images


4. Laxminarayan Temple - Constructed in a design which is the blend of temple and fort, this temple has it's own uniqueness. It was built in 1662 and shows the innovative minds even at that time. Beautiful and exquisite wall paintings of that time adorn the walls of the temple and their color and grandeur is still intact.



Laxminarayan Temple, Orchha, Madhya Pradesh
LAXMINARAYAN TEMPLE
Source-google images


5. Dinman Hardaul's Palace - This palace was named after prince Hardaul and built in his honor. The story goes that prince Hardaul's elder brother Jhujhar suspected him to be involved with his companion. Prince Hardaul took the decision to end his life to prove his innocence and uphold his value. Dinman Hardaul palace was built to honor his sacrifice. The palace was built in 17th century but it's architecture stands proof of the skill of the artisans of that time.



Dinman Hardaul Palace, Madhya Pradesh
DINMAN HARDAUL PALACE
Source-google images


6. Jhansi Fort - The fort is located right in the center of the city in an area of 49 acres and is said to be one of the best fortified areas in India. It was built by Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo on a hill in the 17th century and is also known as 'Rani Jhansi ka Quila'. There is a museum inside the form that has stored sculptures of that time and depict the history of that area.

7. Orchha Wildlife Sanctuary - Spread over an area of 46 sq. km, it is a prime attraction of Orchha. It was established in the year 1994 and it's beauty is enhanced by the river Betwa, which flows through the area. It houses a wide variety of wild animals including tigers, leopards, langurs, jackals and sloth bear. It is a paradise for bird watchers as it has over 200 species of birds and many migratory birds like woodpecker, jungle bush quail, black swan and geese visit this sanctuary.



Wildlife sanctuary at Orchha
WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
Source-google images


8. Chattris - Chattris meaning canotaphs are an integral part of Orchha and glorify the cultural heritage of the era goneby. There are 14 chattris built on the sides of Betwa river apart from many other dotting the Orchha landscape. These chattris reflect the mighty Bundelkhand dynasty and are testament of their contribution in the region. Their amazing architecture has to be seen to be believed.



Chattris of Orchha
CHATTRIS
Source-google images

9. Uth Khana - Or the house/shelter of camels. This is where camels used to rest. It is located next to Orchha fort. You can go to the roof of uth khana and have a splendid view of the entire Orchha town.

Besides this, if you want to explore further, go behind the Orchha fort and you will find ruins of houses of various ministers and officials of that time apart from a gunpowder factory. Walking through these ruins gives a strong feeling of walking back in time and is quite exhilarating. Orchha has a beautiful landscape.

REACHING ORCHHA 

Air - The nearest airport is Gwalior at about 120 km(75 mi) distance. Gwalior is well connected to other major cities by regular flights. From here you can take a taxi and reach Orchha.

Rail - The nearest railway station is Jhansi, which is about 16 km(10 mi) away. From Jhansi, you have option of hiring a taxi or getting on to a bus or even an autorickshaw.

Road - Orchha is well connected by road and is easily accessible from major cities like Gwalior and Jhansi. You can hire a taxi from these places to reach Orchha. Many private and government buses are also available from Jhansi. And you can even hire an auto rickshaw from Jhansi to reach there.

WHERE TO STAY IN ORCHHA - There are hotels in Orchha suiting all budgets. You can get budget hotels to luxury hotels as per your requirement and budget.

SO HAPPY TRAVELING!!