Immerse yourself in the virtual tour of Kanyakumari.
I toured South India during June and July’19, covering 11 cities across three states. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to complete this 2-month long tour without breaking down, and so when I reached Kanyakumari, I was extremely happy and proud of myself. And despite the exhaustion of a non-stop travel, I was looking forward to the last few days of the trip.
Read the complete Kanyakumari travel guide for an absolute travel immersion.
Immerse yourself in the virtual tour of Kanyakumari.
“Just take care when you are traveling, you are a girl!”
“Reach back home before it’s dark, you are a girl!”
“Avoid going to isolated streets, you are a girl!”
“Don’t trust anyone, you are a girl!”
..but how could I not trust someone who called me “Chechi (Elder Sister)” when we first met!
Shy and quiet, his dark black eyes peeping through his tanned face bedimmed by his greasy, neatly partitioned hair. A very lean body, and although I knew he was young, he looked a little older than his age - was it the work or just his genes, I can't say. His hands small, but strong enough to pull half a tonne weighted camel.
This child was from a small, remote village in India. The families in this village are generally large, with many uncles and aunts staying in one home. The young boys of these families are sent away to attend tourists and give them camel rides on the desert or serve them in restaurants in the neighboring city. And the young girls of these families are sent to perform the traditional dance for these same tourists.
Traditional education is not a priority for these families. They are concerned about making sufficient money for daily survival, which is why they send the kids out to work at a very young age. However, when these kids meet national and international tourists, they learn new languages, become aware of the latest fashion trends, and start to understand the hospitality business. Many of these young boys grow to become business owners later in life.
Gaining responsibility of feeding large families takes aways a kid's childhood away so soon. And although they start learning about more important things early in life, they most likely miss the best phase of human life, childhood.
There are changes needed, and not just in one country, but in a larger part of the society, irrespective of the nation, the religion, or the beliefs - the gap between the rich and the poor needs mending so that the lesser privileged parts of the society can also relish all significant phases of human life, if not more.
According to the details shared by locals, Varkala beach got famous around the 70s when many European travelers visited the then unexplored Kovalam beach. These travelers continued to move north of Kovalam and reached Varkala. The city’s sea-facing cliff is what impressed the travelers, and since then, Varkala became a world-famous tourist spot. Although not as many international tourists visit this city now as in the 70s/80s, Varkala has started getting famous among Indian travelers lately!
Here’s a quick travel guide to help you tour the Cliff Beach of South India!
Most of us feel uncomfortable talking about a woman’s period or its associated effects. We generally avoid discussion around this topic, unless there is something urgent that we need to talk about it to our gynecologist.
Apart from the stigma around period, there are also jokes about women PMSing on days they are frustrated.
PMS is no joke, especially for some women!
You cannot not think of backwaters and houseboats when you talk about Alleppey (also known as Alappuzha). I was very excited to visit Alleppey, the place that I had heard about since I was a kid. I imagined myself relaxing on a houseboat in the tranquility of the backwaters as the sun sets.
PS: This was just an imagination, I did not actually do it 😅
Alleppey was the 8th stop of my South India tour. I toured the city with Alex, who I met at Poornodaya. Alex is a person of faith, so in addition to the backwaters and beaches of Alleppey, we also visited a few temples.
This is the ultimate travel guide that you will ever need to plan your trip to Alleppey.
How to reach Alleppey?
If you are coming from far, you can take a flight to Kochi (Cochin International Airport), which is around 80 km from Alleppey. From Kochi, you can either take a bus, train, or taxi to Alleppey. You can also rent a two or a four-wheeler and drive to Alleppey.
We were visiting Alleppey from Kottayam, so we first took a bus from Kottayam to the Thirunakkara bus stand. Then we took an auto-rickshaw (or tuk-tuk) to Kanjiram Boat Station from where we caught our ferry to Alleppey.
Ferry from Kanjiram leaves twice a day to Alleppey. You can check the latest timings on the official website or confirm from the locals.
The ticket fare is just Rs 15 for the ferry ride, and it drops you at Alleppey boat station, right in the city center.
PS: The ferry ride is pleasant, and you'll get your first backwater experience as well.
Where to stay in Alleppey?
Alleppey is full of backpacker hostels, guesthouses, and BnBs, so you'll not find difficulty in choosing the best place for you.
We were in Alleppey during the off-season, because of which most of the accommodations were empty and also cheaper than the regular rates.
Alex and I stayed at Carpe Diem, located in a residential society at a walkable distance to the Alleppey Beach. The first thing that we noticed when we entered our hostel was its peaceful locality and the white paint on its walls that reflected positivity.
We stayed in a 10-bed mixed dorm, and I was particularly impressed by the clean room and sheets that still smelled of detergent.
Nets were put on each bed to protect from mosquitoes and other insects.
Each room looked onto a balcony with a view of the locality and the green trees.
Paul, who is also the co-owner of the property, helped us with tips on touring the city. He also arranged for the backwater tour for us.
Things to do in Alleppey
If you are not in a rush and want to spend your time leisurely in the city, here is a list of activities that you can do, and the places that you can visit in 3 days in Alleppey.
Spend a relaxing time at Alleppey Beach
As I mentioned above, Alleppey Beach was within walking distance from our hostel. So the first thing that we did after freshening up was walk to the beach.
The beach was less crowded than usual because of the off-season, and it was also cleaner than what I had expected. The waves were fierce at the time and crashed right on the beach. So we avoided playing with the water and instead took a walk along the shore.
The first thing that you will notice at Alleppey beach is an old and broken pier that extends farther into the sea. It is quite a sight!
We spent our first evening at the Alleppey beach and watched the sun go down, reflecting its shimmering golden on the browns of the sand and whites of the waves.
The next day we decided to sit and read by the beach. We walked to the Alleppey beach, and further towards Pozhiyoram beach. The waves were as fierce as the last evening, so we decided to sit a little farther from the sea.
It was the first time that I just sat down by the beach and did nothing, but only listened to the waves, and quietly pondered.
Watch the sunset at Marari Beach.
If you are looking for a much quieter beach in Alleppey, this one is for you. Mararikulam (or Marari) beach is around 15 km from Alleppey beach, and you can either hitch-hike or take a bus from Alleppey town to the Mararikulam village. Take a 5-minute walk from the Mararikulam bus stop, and the stunning views of the beach and backwaters will astound you.
Since it is a little far from the main Alleppey town, the beach is less crowded and even cleaner than the Alleppey beach. One can easily spend an entire evening here watching the waves crash at the shore, and the sun softly go down.
Take the Alleppey backwater Canoe tour
If you are wondering why didn't I spend a night in a houseboat in Alleppey - houseboat stays tend to be quite expensive for solo budget travelers.
Although we experienced riding on Alleppey backwaters on our way from Kottayam, Alex was eager to go on a canoe tour that includes riding through narrow canals along with the open waterways.
Paul booked the canoe village tour through Oscar Cruise, and the ride cost us Rs 800 per person (discounted rate due to off-season).
The tour starts at 8:30 am when a motor-boat takes you to a nearby village, where you first have Kerala-style breakfast at a local's place. The actual canoe tour starts after that, and it lasts for four hours with a snack-break in between. Post that you have lunch at the same place where you had breakfast in the morning, and get ready to leave for the main town.
The canoe takes you through narrow canals and streams, passing through many villages. The most enjoyable part for me throughout the ride was observing the routine village life of the locals - everyone busy in their daily chores, undisturbed by tourist boats passing by their houses, doing laundry, cleaning utensils, and catching fish.
Try a Toddy
Toddy is the local alcohol of Kerala made of coconut and palm. If you are doing a canoe tour, you can ask your boat rider to buy you some on the way. We bought a 1-liter bottle of toddy for 200 Rs that 3 of us from the group shared.
PS: Toddy is best consumed fresh when it is prepared in the morning because it gets bitter and stronger with time.
Watch the world-famous Snake boat race
Alleppey hosts around 15 snake boat races throughout the year, of which the Nehru Trophy Boat race is most famous. If you are in the city during the time of the race, you can witness one of the most enjoyable boat races. All villages of Alleppey district compete in the race, and you can see a 100 people seated on one boat rowing strenuously in synchronization. It's a captivating sight!
If you are not able to watch the actual race, you can still see the practice, which starts a month before the race.
Visit the revered temples of Alleppey
Right in the city center of Alleppey, you'll find many adorned temples.
The first temple that we visited was the Mullakkal temple. It was hosting a dress-up ceremony of a God's idol for its new home(or temple). Many priests were playing music on the traditional instruments while a few of them were chanting and performing the ceremony. It was glorious.
Next, we went to Kidangamparambu Sree Bhuvaneswari Temple, which was just a 10-minute walk from the Mullakkal temple. This temple was architecturally rich, with many gods carved on the temple walls. There was some function happening here as well, so we left quickly after paying our respects.
All in all, we were able to cover many places of Alleppey in 3 days, and also spend some quiet leisure time.
We can produce the best-ever next-generation if each one of us takes responsibility to teach the right things to our kids.
If we don’t teach our kids how to respect fellow beings, then I think we are failing as a society!
Read more on what is the right way of educating our future generations for a better world.
We are accustomed to reading articles and watching videos where people discuss their struggles of working at a 9-5 job, and not being their boss, not being able to follow their passion, and just being a slave. It is very uncommon to see articles written by people who are happy and contented with their jobs and do not feel any of the things that I have mentioned above.
This article represents people who love their job and don’t feel stuck in a 9-5 cycle. They are happy and satisfied with whatever they are doing. This article is for people like me, who don’t have work satisfaction but also do not hate their work environment as much!
I'll admit, the idea of dressing up and posing in front of the camera had been quite fascinating - All the lights and all the eyes on you! But let me remind you, not everything is as fancy as it seems 🙂
I received a message from a friend in December, where he informed me about a probable opportunity of modeling for a friend of hers, Vineetha. At the time, I was (or better I still am) in an experimental phase of my life, and I was trying almost everything that I had ever fascinated. So considering it an opportunity with a no-gain no-loss situation, I said yes. And that's when the process began!
The First Call With The Designer
Have you ever heard of "friends on the first call"? That is what happened with Vineetha(founder of Vinnhi) and I. We gelled instantaneously and were comfortable talking about the work, requirements, and expectations more freely.
We were in different cities at the time, so we had to coordinate and get minimal things ready for the shoot beforehand. We had a few initial conversations on the phone, where Vineetha told me about her work, her vision for the brand Vinnhi, and her plans for the shoot. Both of us were new to this domain, so we tried to discuss as many details of the process as we knew.
A Day Before the Shoot
I reached Pune from Bangalore a day before the shoot had to start. I met Vineetha and the photographer, wherein we discussed each look in brief, that included hairstyle and make-up, and location of the shoot for each saree. We also looked at a few sample pictures of other models for motivation. Vineetha also showed me the beautiful sarees that she had designed before I left.
PS: If it is your first catalog shoot, make yourself comfortable with the designer, and any other person who is involved in the process- photographer, make-up artist, business manager, etc. It reduces the pressure of posing in front of strangers at the time of the shoot.
First Day of the Shoot
Nervous and Excited- just like on the day of a school exam!
A day of trying out something completely new, but appealing. I was looking forward to the day because I didn't know what to expect.
We planned to start the shoot by 10 am, so I reached Vineetha's place an hour before that to be able to get ready (dressing-up, make-up, and hair-do) in time.
The weird thing at the time for me was putting a lovely piece of saree and getting adorned with jewelry and make-up (however light they were) early in the morning.
And so it began..
I felt a little self-conscious as I walked out all dressed-up in front of the photographer and his team. But since I was now friends with Vineetha and her husband, their presence comforted me a bit.
After a few minutes of testing light, focus, and angle, the photographer started clicking pictures. The discomfort was clearly showing on my face - with the photographer pushing me to get rid of my tensed expressions.
The first photo session was a pretty uncomfortable experience, with the photographer instructing me to smile, but smile less, not look directly at the camera, but look somewhere, act thoughtful, but be natural, choose better expressions, pose this way, and again change, and change, and again and smile again!
It was all so overwhelming for me in the beginning that it was hard to focus on the shoot and not be stressed.
I was so tensed and worried about not being good enough. I wanted to stop right there and call the whole thing off. But Vineetha, who was blindly relying on me, I did not want to leave her hanging in the air and not fulfill what I promised. I am so glad, Vineetha and her husband were cheering me and just being kind, that I could overcome this feeling.
With each costume taking at least an hour, by the time we finished the first half of the shoot, it was 2:00 pm. It had been almost 4 hours since we were changing, posing, ideating, and clicking. The whole process was very exhausting, but I was now more comfortable in front of the camera and the people around me.
If your dress is comfortable, you'll feel more at ease during the shoot. I myself was able to pose freely and express better in the sarees and blouses I was more comfortable wearing.
The second part of the shoot after the lunch-break went more smoothly, although it was a little challenging to get in flow after the meal since I felt more sleepy and tired then.
By the end of the shoot, we were happy about the success of the first day but too exhausted to have a full-fledged retrospective discussion. So, we relaxed for a bit and then separated.
The day was mentally tiring, although I did not use much of brains apart from listening to everyone and focussing on being confident and posing better. It was physically tiring too because we were standing for the most part of the shoot - quickly rushing and changing.
There were 5 dress changes in a matter of 7 hours!
Second Day of the Shoot
Because of the experience that we gained on the day before, we were more light-minded and were able to start the second day a little earlier than the last one. But the challenge that day was modeling in public places.
I remember the first video I shot in a park in Bangalore. I was recording the introduction and the conclusion for this video. Even shooting this very basic video in public was a challenge for me. And now here I was, all dressed-up, posing in a public park at 10 in the morning, with a giant camera setup following me.
PS: It was one of the most awkward moments for me!
Again I gradually got more comfortable with shooting outside and was able to care less about the people passing by. The best part throughout these uncomfortable moments was the support from Vineetha, her husband, and our mutual friend.
The sarees were also more comfortable than the last day, and I could easily dance and jump around these(in short, just be me).
Your confidence will reflect in the pictures.
We had planned to shoot pictures in the next saree outdoors as well, and it was funny how we rushed to a mall to quickly change.
Everyone, especially Vineetha, pampered me throughout the shoot - I was assisted for the most basic chores as well, that included carrying items like a phone, or a handbag!
I am not used to people helping me around, and it was difficult for me to fit in a character where even when a Pallu (the loose end of a saree) falls, I'll have someone rushing towards me to correct it.
But mind you, it was not all pampering. It was also following commands and instructions, especially when you are in front of the camera (at least when you are a beginner and a novice).
As the shoot was nearing its end, I was happy to have stayed strong despite many uncomfortable moments. I was glad that I could deliver what I promised.
The pictures came out nice, and Vineetha is doing well in her business.
Now at least I know what it feels like to be a model. It was an unexplored fantasy, and I am glad I gave modeling a try but ultimately decided to not pursue it.
How could you make your first modeling experience better?
Here are a few concluding points that I can share from my personal experience to prepare you for your first assignment.
- Know what to expect.
- Be open to suggestions.
- Get comfortable with the photography team, because they'll be the ones to guide you throughout, about the poses, angles, expressions, etc.
- Share/exchange your ideas with the team early on, so that you spend less time experimenting and trying, and more time on getting the work done.
- Stay happy and engage in whatever cheers you up because that will reflect on your face when you are getting clicked.
- And remember the more comfortable and stress-free you are, the better the whole presentation will be.
Kochi was not a part of my original South India travel itinerary. It was instead an impromptu plan that the volunteers made with the director of Poornodaya Vidyanikethan, Anish, on a Friday evening.
Kochi is most famous for Fort Kochi, the fortification that was built around the city a long time back. You do not see the fort anymore now, but most of the points of interest lie within its plausible boundaries.
You can see most of the city in one day on foot! Amazing right?
So if you are on a tight schedule, this is how you can plan your time to explore Kochi. Read the complete post to know more!
The 5th stop of my South India travels was Coimbatore, one of the major cities of Tamil Nadu state. I made a stop here to take a break from a continuous two weeks of travel across tiny villages.
Coimbatore is a big city, and I did not expect a lot from it. But it surprised me with beautiful, majestic views when I drove a little over 10 km from the city center.
Here is a detailed Coimbatore Travel Guide to help you spend your time in the city pleasantly, without worrying about the "big city" noise and pollution.
How to reach Coimbatore?
I took a direct Tamil Nadu state bus from Ooty to Coimbatore that cost me Rs110 for the ticket and 3.5 hours of the bus journey.
If you are not coming from very far, you can take a train or the state/private bus to Coimbatore. You can also take a flight to Coimbatore from any major city.
Where to stay in Coimbatore?
I am not a huge fan of hotels, so I decided to stay in a Bed "n" breakfast property.
The place is owned by Mr. Suresh, who found his calling in the hospitality industry. His love for his work was clearly visible from how the property was maintained.
The moment I entered the room allotted to me, I felt at home. The room was well-lit and extremely neat. The bedsheet was covered with another sheet to prevent dust from soiling it. The bathroom had all the essential toiletries.
My room did not come with a kitchen, but there were basic utensils, tea and coffee sachets, and filtered water to get the day started.
If you are also in Coimbatore for a few days and are looking for a homely stay, this place is just perfect.
PS: Mr. Suresh was really helpful in guiding me about Coimbatore's places to visit and food to try.
Things to do in Coimbatore
Eat Tamilian food at Annapurna Restaurant
When in Tamil Nadu, try Tamilian!
If you are a food enthusiast and love spicy food, Annapoorna Restaurant's thaali is a must-have. It is one of the oldest restaurants in Coimbatore, serving South Indian meals for more than 50 years.
Enjoy an authentic Tamilian lunch meal at Annapoorna for just Rs 110.
PS: The service is not the most polite, but the place promises good food.
Pray at Maruthamalai Hill Temple and enjoy scenic views
Maruthamalai temple is situated on a hillock, around 10 km from Coimbatore city. Lord Murugan of Hindu mythology has the temple dedicated to him.
The temple is supposedly very crowded during peak hours of prayers. Luckily, when I visited the temple, there weren't many people. I had enough time to look around and appreciate the intricate architecture of the temple. The panoramic views of the city and the hills around are another reason to visit the temple.
PS: The temple was not the cleanest, but if it is for the faith that you are visiting it, this should not matter much.
Visit the magnificent Adiyogi statue at the Isha Yoga Center
With a backdrop of the hills, the Adiyogi Shiva statue looks so mesmerizing that it is so difficult to take your eyes off it. It is the world's largest bust sculpture, and will surely leave you spellbound.
In addition to the Adiyogi statue, you can also pay a visit to the other parts of the Isha Yoga center, including the Dhyanalinga and Theerthakunds.
PS: You can rent a vehicle or take a bus to the Isha Yoga Center. It is only 30 km from Coimbatore city.
There are many more places that you can explore if you are in the city for a longer time. Ooty is just a 3-hour drive from Coimbatore. You can visit Kovai Kutralam waterfalls on your way to the Isha Yoga Center if you have sufficient time.
Ooty has welcomed tourists from all around the world for leisure and recreation for more than 50 years. And many people say it still looks the same – serene, quaint, and beautiful.
Use this travel guide to make the best of your time in Ooty.
The first and foremost thing that caught my attention was the ideology behind Poornodaya. It resonated with my idea of education. Read more about my experience!
If you are from India or a tourist in India, a place that you would never want to miss apart from the chilly mountains, is the God's Own Land, Kerala. And so like many others, Kerala had been in my "must-visits" since a very long time. After a few years of failed plans, I was finally visiting this beautiful green land of India.
The first city I visited in Kerala was Wayanad, and I instantly fell in love with its endless greens.
Here is a detailed itinerary to help you plan your trip and cover the beautiful places of Wayanad in 2 days.
How to reach Wayanad?
There is no direct bus that goes from Coorg to Wayanad. So, I planned to go to Mysore first, spend a night there, and then take a bus from Mysore to Wayanad.
Regular KSRTC buses leave from Mysore to Wayanad. It takes around 4 hours by road to reach Wayanad from Mysore, and the general KSRTC bus ticket costs just Rs 140.
Many KSRTC and private buses go from Bangalore to Wayanad that take around 7 hours to reach.
From anywhere else:
If you are coming from far away, you can either take a flight to Bangalore and Mysore and choose the options mentioned above.
And finally, you can always rent a two-wheeler or self-drive car, or hire a cab to reach Wayanad.
Where to stay in Wayanad?
Wayanad is full of hotels, retreat centers, resorts, hostels, and homestays. I chose a homestay for myself, Kudajadri Drizzle, in Kanyambetta, a village near to the main town of Kalpetta of Wayanad district.
It was the first time I was staying in a homestay, and I could not ask for a better experience.
Kudajadri Drizzle is amidst the greens, and it was great waking up to the chirping of the birds every morning. My room had an attached bathroom, and it gave a feeling of rural lifestyle combined with the comforts of the urban world. The daily home-cooked Kerala food and endless conversations with the family made the overall stay a very comfortable one.
Places to see in Wayanad
You can hire a private taxi, or rent a scooter, or a self-drive car, or take local buses to tour around the city. Most of the viewpoints are within the range of 30 km from the city center, so it is better to either rent a two or a four-wheeler or take a private taxi. This way you can save some time commuting to the viewpoints.
And it goes without saying, the roads are beautiful and some times more intriguing than the actual destination.
Sit by the serene Karlad Lake
Famous amongst the adventure seekers, Karlad Lake was opened to the public some time in the starting of 2016. Apart from the many adventurous activities that the place offer, you can boat in the calm and serene waters of the lake or just sit by its quiet surroundings.
There are a few paid parking spots just outside the lake entrance, and also a few restaurants by them.
Visit Asia's second-largest dam, Banasura Dam
Apart from being Asia's second-largest dam, Banasura dam also had India's largest floating solar power plant. Located around 3 km from Karlad lake, you can visit both of the places in one day.
With magnificent views of the water, Banasura Dam is a perfect place to adore the vast greens and blues of Kerala.
It was raining when I visited the dam, so the views though beautiful, were quite misty.
Enjoy the magical greens of Kerala from Phantom Rock viewpoint
This was a completely unplanned stop that I made on my way to Eddakal caves (another commonly visited tourist point).
As I mentioned before that the roads and the scenic views on the way to your destination might grab your attention, and you could have one of the best experiences of your trip. My stop at Phantom rock viewpoint was one such example.
I was driving by when I saw a beautiful turquoise color water body that was so enchanting that I couldn't resist stopping by. While I was enjoying the view when the owner of a restaurant opposite to where I had parked, signaled me to go further and climb up a few rocks, to maybe get a better view. I followed his instructions, and I was welcomed by the most mesmerizing views I had seen so far during my whole trip.
There was not a single person on the trail and at the viewpoint, and I had the whole place to myself.
PS: It was on my way down, that I realized it was the Phantom rock viewpoint.
Walk back into the pre-historic times at Edakkal caves
I skipped Eddakal caves, because at the time I had not researched the place thoroughly, and didn't know what it was famous for. Assuming that it will also have a similar valley view as was from the Phantom Rock viewpoint, I decided to skip my visit to Edakkal caves altogether.
But when I saw pictures of the caves later, I regretted not visiting it. Edakkal caves have ancient scriptures and carvings of the pre-historic time, which make them all the more interesting apart from the scenic views.
Visit the ancient Sultan Bathery Jain Temple
Sultan Bathery Jain temple dates back to 13th century. It served both as a religious site as well as a place where Tipu Sultan kept his armory (or battery) when he invaded Kerala. And this is where the town got its name from, Sultan's Battery (Sultan Bathery). The temple is now a protected site under the Archaeological Survey of India, but you can still visit it inside and see the old temple ruins and statues of Jain Tirthankaras.
Hike to the highest peak of Wayanad district, Chembra Peak
Famous for the heart-shaped lake that you see on your way up to the peak, the climb up to the Chembra Peak is very scenic, surrounded by lush green tea plantations.
You need prior permission from the forest department for this trek. During monsoon, the hike to the top of the peak is forbidden, so do a little bit of research before you make your plans.
And as for the heart-shaped lake, I saw one on my way to Banasura dam. So if you are most excited about just that lake, you can skip hiking to Chembra peak.
I could not visit the peak because of lack of time and the required permissions, but I am sure the hike and the views from the top are gorgeous.
Crazy greens, cozy homestay, lovely hosts, and scenic views - my experience in Wayanad was full of it.
I am currently touring across South India, and Coorg (or Kodagu) was the second stop I made after Mysore. Also known as the Scotland of India, Coorg is a perfect stop for nature lovers. It is a hilly district of the Karnataka state, which is why the temperature here is a little more cooler.
I met my friend from college, Ankita here and we spent two days exploring this beautiful town. Read the post to know how our experience was and also get tips to plan your trip to Coorg.
Having stayed in Bangalore for some time, I had heard a lot about the city of palaces from friends. Mysore had been in my “must-visit” list for a long time, but somehow I never made a deliberate plan to visit it.
I was in Hyderabad when at an impulse, I decided to do a South India tour before I returned home. I planned Mysore to be the first city that I’ll visit as part of the “official” tour. Here’s a complete personalized guide to help you plan your trip to the “City of Palaces”, Mysore.
The top places to see in Mysore.
I don't remember when and why the name of the place popped up in my mind, but since that time, it was under my to-visit radar. I reject 2-3 travel plans - my own and a few with friends because I wasn't going anywhere else until I see what this valley of death has in store for me.
At the time, I was in Seattle and, I along with 2 of my friends in the city, my sister who'd be coming from Irvine, California, and one of her friends, who'd join her in Irvine, planned a 4-day trip to Death Valley and Las Vegas (best combination ever - nature, adventure, and fun).
More about Las Vegas in another post. In this post, I'll share with you a 2-day itinerary to tour Death Valley National Park, and also any other handy tips that I have.
How to reach Death Valley?
Depending on which corner of the United States, or the world, you are coming from, the mode of transportation might change.
If you are coming from a little far within the States, you can take a flight to Las Vegas or Los Angeles, whichever is more convenient for you. From there, you can rent a car, and drive to Death Valley National Park.
You can also book one day trip around Death Valley from Las Vegas, in case you do not intend on driving.
A few things to keep in mind, before you hit the road to Death Valley.
- Fill your car's fuel from the city, reasons being, you'll not find many gas stations, as you enter the desert region, and second, the fuel price is notably high at those gas stations
- Download an offline map of the place, because there is no network
Where to stay?
There are 4 hotels located inside the national park, including, Stovepipe Wells Village, The Oasis At Death Valley, The Ranch At Death Valley, and Panamint Springs Resort. These hotels provide rooms, as well as camping, and RV accommodations. Other than these, there are a few options outside the park, which are at least 25-30 miles from the park.
We, however, stayed at Longstreet Inn & Casino in Amargosa Valley, which is around 25 miles from the Death Valley National Park.
The hotel rooms were decently clean with an outdoor pool and view of the mountains. There are not many restaurants around the area, so the only place to eat was at the hotel restaurant. The food was average for vegetarians, though it had better options for non-vegetarians.
Once you have sorted your commute and stay, this is how you can plan your travel itinerary in Death Valley.
Our flight had landed in Las Vegas, and we reached Amargosa Valley by noon. The day was cloudy, so we didn't plan a lot of places on our first day, just one, Badwater Basin. And since we took a longer route, we had to drive almost 90 miles (actual distance from our hotel is 50 miles) to reach the Badwater Basin.
The lowest point in North America, Badwater Basin is a vast dried up land with hexagonal salt formations created as the water from the scarce rains evaporated. The point is almost 86 m below sea level. You can see a spot marked "Sea Level" on the mountains facing the basin.
Apart from the Badwater Basin, we got down at several points in between to appreciate the magnificent dry landscapes. I am not very sure of the exact locations, but you'll find many such spots on your way too.
The second day was much more clearer than the first day with clear blue skies and scattered clouds throwing their shadows on the mountains below.
Formed due to water washing off the rocks and forming gullies giving it a landscape that exists now. You can also take a walk around these badlands - it is around a 2.5 hike that takes you to Gower Gulch and back to the Zabriskie.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
A vast stretch of dunes, one of the fewer places in Death Valley that had sand gathered from rock erosion and winds. The dunes are not too high, and you have to walk further into the stretch to experience slightly higher dunes. Stovepipe Wells resort is nearby, and you can make a quick stop here for snacks.
Ubehebe Crater is one of the younger craters, and possibly still active that was formed due to magma eruption. The groundwater that had come out as steam exploded the rocks above, and thus created the crater cavity. You can also walk around the crater, it is approximately 1.5 miles. You can also climb to the top to get a better view of the crater bottom.
Wait for the starry night in the desert before you head back to Las Vegas.
I have lived in Amritsar for almost 18 years, and the city has changed so much over time. But the things that remained constant are the Golden Temple, Jallianwala Bagh, Wagah/Attari Border retreat ceremony, and of course the crazy food of the city. In this …
Mahabaleshwar is one of the most visited hill stations in the western ghats, especially by the people from Mumbai, Pune, and few places in Gujarat.
Also known as the strawberry city, Mahabaleshwar is full of strawberry fields all around, and even one of the most famous sharbat/squash brands, Mapro, started here. With so many viewpoints and places to see, you can spend an entire weekend visiting these and be taken aback by the breathtaking views of the surrounding hills.
The best time to visit Mahabaleshwar is after the monsoon, for a greener scenery. But I visited the city in March when the weather was mildly hot, and the hill ranges were not so green.
How to reach?
I had taken an overnight bus from Bangalore to Mahabaleshwar. But there are many other ways to reach the city, depending on your choice of transportation mode.
If like me, you are coming from a distant city, you can book a flight to Pune or Mumbai, and then take a bus from there to Mahabaleshwar. You can even hire a local taxi or drive yourself to the city, especially if you are coming from Pune because the Pune-Mahabaleshwar distance is not too much.
If you are also coming from Bangalore like me, you can take an overnight bus till Satara and then from there take a local taxi to the Mahabaleshwar. Other options are to take a bus till Wai or Nipani, depending on whichever place is closer to your hotel.
The nearest railway station to Mahabaleshwar is in Pune and from Pune, you can take bus, taxi, or bike to the hill station.
PS: It is very hard, maybe not even possible to rent bikes in Mahabaleshwar because of a strong taxi union that wouldn't allow this. So taxis are your answer when you need a conveyance to tour the city and do have one of your own.
Where to stay?
There are many beautiful resorts, hotels, and homestays in Mahabaleshwar. You can check the list of accommodations here.
I stayed with Hotel Mahabaleshwar Fragrance and while the building was fairly new, the rooms were very neat and spacious too. The highlight though was the location of the building and the view of the hills from the room.
There is an adjacent strawberry farm, a free tour of which is included as a part of your reservation.
The staff was also really polite and quickly accessible.
The two things that you would need to consider though, one there is no elevator in the building, but the staff will help you shift your luggage, and second not all the rooms have best views, so make sure to check with the management before you make your booking.
Places to see
I had my friends from Pune also visit the city at the same time. We effectively had only one day in Mahabaleshwar, so we tried to fit in as much as we could on that day.
We started off the day by visiting Mapro Gardens. Located in the neighboring town of Panchgani, it is a massive garden, with a restaurant, and a retail outlet for Mapro products.
We had our breakfast here and also the Strawberry Cream Ice Cream - Fresh cream, strawberries, and ice cream all layered up in a glass.
It is a great place to sit and relax with your friends amidst scenic views of the hills and strawberry fields, and good food
You can also buy Jams, Syrups, Chocolates, and Juices from their outlet.
Triveni View Point
My hotel’s manager had suggested us to visit Triveni point, hike to which started right opposite to the Mapro Gardens. So that is where we went next with our tummies full till throats.
Not many tourists know about this place - apparently, it is not shown or suggested as part of the tour packages that some people take. But it is a perfect location for both sunrise and sunset.
A small trek through jungles and you are welcomed by the crazy 360 degree views of the surrounding peaks.
Also known as the mini Kashmir of the west, Tapola Dam would definitely be a treat to the eyes during monsoon. I could not see the mini Kashmir as it'd be, but it was still quite impressive. A vast stretch of clear blue water, sparkling with yellow colors of the sun.
The ride from Mahabaleshwar to Tapola is even more incredible - passing through jungles and crossing tiny villages. We made multiple photo-stops in between just because each view looked prettier than the other.
We stayed at the dam for a little time and had tea from nearby stalls before we headed back to the city.
Sunset Point or Bombay Point
It is a typical touristy point, I would say. We reached the point way ahead of time and much to our surprise, it was full of people - I have never seen a viewpoint so much crowded.
While the sunset view was good enough, I'd suggest you to explore other viewpoints for the sunset.
As we rode back to the city, the sky got darker and the stars brighter. We made a "not so quick" photo-stop to capture the starlit night. It was one of the best moments ever, standing by the road and looking above to an absolutely silent star bed.
I so wish I had a few more days in the city. There's just so much more to see!
Welcomed by a Himalayan background, serene lakes, and lush green forests, Uttrakhand is unmistakably nature's paradise. Visited by tourists all the year round, there are still some unexplored parts of this divine land that you can visit for a truly enthralling experience.
Chopta is one of the lesser explored hill stations of Uttrakhand. It serves as a base camp for treks to Tunganath Temple and Chandrashila peak, and Deoria Tal. And that's not the end of it, a few days in Chopta is an entirely new and different experience. Life in Chopta is like a stand-still, with very little access to the digital world and basic necessities of life, like electricity and warm water.
How to reach Chopta?
Depending on where you are coming from, you can either take a direct cab to the village or break it down in different chunks of travel.
You can take a flight to Dehradun which is around 225 km from Chopta. From there you can either take a taxi or a bus to Chopta.
Another option is to take a train to Rishikesh or Haridwar and then again from there take a taxi or bus to Chopta.
Where to stay in Chopta?
We had decided to camp at "Moksha" a little ahead of the Chopta city center. But due to heavy snowfall in the area, the roads beyond the city center were blocked with a series of vehicles stuck in the snow.
There was no way we could get any further, so we decided to get down in the market and looked for accommodation nearby.
Pro Tip: There are many guest houses in the city center if you are not very particular about where you want to stay.
We stayed at Baba Holiday Home which was a very minimalistic guest house.
The best part about staying in Chopta
The is no electricity in the entire village, and everything works using the solar energy consumed during the day. So we literally spent the night in the dark with dead phones and freezing cold water flowing in bathrooms.
It was an amazingly crazy experience living a life away from our comfort zones and without any unnecessary luxuries.
PS: We paid Rs 60 for a single bucket of warm water every night for bathing.
Things to do in Chopta
The hike is pretty simple especially since there was no snow and it was a gradual steep. We spent good 4 hours relaxing at the Tal before we finally half-heartedly decided to descend back.
Trekking through snow to Tunganath temple was one of a kind experience.
Excited and scary, cold and warm at the same time.
Constantly slipping on icy rocks, helping one another to reach the bottom before it gets dark or before you lose hope of returning in one piece!
I had spent almost a month of solo backpacking in Europe, exploring its mountains, fairy-tales villages, cobblestone streets, colorful houses, historic palaces, and much more. Click here to read more about my Europe adventures Before even returning to India, I had made plans with my …
Budapest was the last stop of my Euro trip, and though it had been almost a month of traveling, I was all fresh reaching this quieter yet one of the most happening places in Europe. Budapest is the largest city of Hungary and is flooded …
The intricate architecture of Vienna is so intoxicating that you can spend hours just staring at the artistic marvels in the city. But that's not it, Vienna also boasts of baroque styled gardens and parks visited by tourists and locals alike.
I spent two days in Vienna walking around and exploring the free gems of the city. Here is a day-wise itinerary of things that you can also do for free in Vienna.
Relax in Burggarten
Close to city center but away from the touristy crowd
Located inside the Ringstrasse, is this greener belt surrounded by many historic buildings, including Hofburg and Albertina. The park is full of architectural statues and sculptures. But the main highlight though is the discrete statue of Mozart located right in the center of the park. If you need some time to chill and absorb in the Viennese beauty, Burrgarten is a perfect place for you.
Walk around the old city
Take a walk along the magnificent Hofburg - an Imperial Palace and its museums, including, Sisi Museum, Imperial apartments, and Imperial Silver collection). If you want to check all of these from inside, make sure to buy a city pass (or card, whichever fits more to your plans) - it's a great deal if you have enough time and if you want to visit many tourist attractions.
Climb up the painted stairs to Albertina Gallery onto the terrace that looks down at the city with a backdrop of the State Opera House.
Free entry to the museum with a Vienna Pass.
Right in the center of Judenplatz standing above a medieval synagogue, is a memorial dedicated to the Austrian Jews that lost their lives during the Holocaust. It bears the names of the concentration camps, where the Austrian Jews were killed.
The entry to the Jewish Museum & Museum Judenplatz is free with a Vienna Pass.
Admire the grand Schonnbrunn Gardens
Schonnbrunn Palace and Gardens boast of magnificent Baroque architecture. The entry fee to the palace is €17,50 but it is free with a Vienna pass. You can, however, roam in the gardens for no cost at all. The gardens are huge, and you can relish its different parts, including, Great Parterre, Neptune Fountain, Gloriette, and much more.
Visit the very interesting Naschmarkt
An outdoor market with around 100 stalls of food and a few stalls that sell clothes and antiques. Take your time walking across the market, tasting food samples, buying some fresh fruits, and looking through the souvenirs.
Get Amazed by the magnificence of St. Stephen's Cathedral
Conveniently located in the city center, in Stephansplatz, is this giant gothic beauty. It takes you back in the time, and you can easily spend 30-40 minutes inside the church praising its grand architecture.
The entrance to the church is for €1 in the name of donation, and if you want to do an underground catacomb tour, or climb the 343 steps of the south tower, you'll need to pay €5 - €6 for each.
Watch Sunset over Danube river
Take a 30 minute U-Bahn ride from Stephansplatz to Neue Donau, the closest station to Brigittenauer Bridge. Walk over to the bridge, and you can see the sun go down on the other side. You can also sit by the lake in Donau Park just under the bridge for a relaxed evening.
“I had always fancied the idea of going to a random place and exploring it on my own. And when I finally did it, I learned to overcome my own inhibitions that not only concerned travel but so many other things too.” Before moving to …
Excited and nervous, I ran towards my hostel from where the cab dropped me. I took a cab at 9 am from Ubud to Kuta where my hostel and surfing class was – Pro Surf School and Hostel. It took almost 3 hours to cover a …
Salzburg - a heaven on earth.
Salzburg is famous for being the birthplace of Mozart and for the filming of the movie, Sound of Music, but there's so much more than that, that you can see and do for free in the city.
Having spent 3 days in Munich, one of the expensive cities, I was a little reluctant to spend more immediately and wanted to keep my budget in check.
So, when I was drafting out a rough itinerary, I decided between places or experiences that I really wanted to have and the ones that I was okay to miss and spend less.
Travel experience is all about the choices you make!!
Stay at YoHo Hostel
Just a 10-minute walk from the train station, YoHo International was a good budget hostel with clean and comfortable rooms. It had a complimentary bread, butter and jam breakfast with an option to upgrade to a full-fledged breakfast buffet. The staff was also very accommodating and readily gave amazing travel tips for touring the city.
PS: You get a free welcome shot of Apfelstrudel!
Visit an Alpine Salt Mine
Interestingly Salzburg means, Salt Fortress, and it has been the center of salt extraction for thousands of years. You can visit the salt mine at any of these three places surrounding the city - Hallein, Hallstatt, and Alatausee. The experience will be very similar in all of these places as the tours are organized by a single company.
I went to the mine at Hallein - it was a pretty fun experience, learning about the history of the salt mining business in the city.
Before the tour started, we were given overalls to wear to avoid soiling our own clothes. After that, we rode on a mine train that took us across the Austria-Germany border under the Alps. This was followed by a slide down deeper, under the ground. The tour ended with a boat ride across the briny water lake.
In addition to all these rides, you can also be more experimental, and actually taste the water inside the caves. And if you are lucky enough, you can also get a salt crystal from the mine to take home as a personalized memento.