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India Travel – Adventure Tour

India is one of the most preferred destinations in the world for adventure tours and tourism. It attracts adventure enthusiasts and travellers through out the world with a plethora of adventure sport activities from trekking in the bone breaking icy white expanse of the majestic Himalayas to white water rafting in the chatty & enchanting waters of Ganga & its tributaries and exciting wildlife jeep safaris in dense forests of national parks to thrilling camel safaris in the endless expanses of great Indian desert called the Thar Desert. An India trip provides you a cherished time of bumpy trekking in most peaceful surroundings. Nowadays trekking tours in India are getting their fame rapidly among adventure enthusiasts and trekkers from all over the world. Trekking in this beautiful country provides travellers maximum excitement and many options to explore into the contributions of fascinating Indian landscapes.

The most popular place for trekking tours in this country is Himalayas – the highest mountain range of the world. In fact, it is the best for trekking and some of other adventure activities like mountaineering, rock climbing, jumping, and mountain biking. On trekking tours in Himalayas trekkers or adventure enthusiasts have also an opportunity to explore the charm of the lofty mountains romancing the sparkling waterfalls gushing down in excitement, like a merry village belle. Shimla, Manali, Kullu, Rohtang Pass, Solang Valley, Kashmir, Leh, Ladakh, Mussoorie, Darjeeling, Sikkim, Gangtok, etc picturesque tourist destinations situated in foothills of majestic Himalayas. Theses hill towns are much known among travellers and adventure enthusiasts from all over the world with lots of Himalayan adventure & sport activities.

On the other hand a trip to desert land of Rajasthan lets travellers to enjoy perplexing desert of the Thar on camel safari with opportunity to see rippling sand dunes. Desert camping in Rajasthan is also enjoyable. Adventure tour in India also provides tourists a wonderful opportunity to wildlife expedition. Wildlife tourism in India provides tourists a perfect mingle of adventure and nature. The eye catching nature beauty and sensational activities of wild animals team up together and never fail to thrill and impress visitors. Ranthambhore and Sariska in Rajasthan are world popular national parks in India. They are known for big population of royal Bengal tigers. If you are wishing to see lions, you need to go Gujarat where you will visit Sasan Gir National Park & Lion Sanctuary. Kaziranga National Park in Assam is popular with big population of rhinos. Corbett National Park in the first national park of India which is, in my point of view, a must visit destination for those looking for nature and adventure.

There are many more national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India which can be visited and explored on India travel and tours. Besides these there are many more options for adventure & sport activities in India which can be enjoyed on India tours and travel. Water sports like scuba diving in Goa and Adman & Nicobar, water scootering in Goa, etc are worth enjoyable. So, choose a right India tour package and visit India and enjoy adventure & sport activities along with sightseeing.

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Relish the Natural Beauty of Green Hills by Staying at Popular Hotels in Lonavala

Located in the Pune district of Maharashtra, Lonavala is a beautiful hill station in the lofty ranges of the Sahyadri Mountains. Set amidst the sylvan ranges of the Western Ghats, this hill station is an ideal weekend getaway from Pune and Mumbai. It also serves as a starting point for visiting the famous Buddhist rock-cut caves of Karla and Bhaja. Besides soaking themselves in the revelling beauty of this place, travellers also love to enjoy the thrill amid its verdant valleys and peaks. The zigzag valleys of the place present an ideal topography for enjoying the adrenaline rush. Some of the most popular tourist places are Ryewood Park, Duke Nose, Tiger Leap, Bhushi Dam and Visapur Fort. Apart from enjoying a sightseeing tour of this charming hill station, travelers can also enjoy a pleasant and peaceful stay at hotels in Lonavala.

The charm and exquisiteness of the place has always grabbed attention of the nature lovers and honeymooners. Monsoons accentuate the beauty of the emerald surroundings, and thus most of the travelers visit this place during this season. So, it is always better to have a prior booking in some of the finest budget hotels in Lonavala to avoid any last minute hassles.

Accommodation

Lonavala, being a popular hill station in Maharashtra, is all around dotted with a number of deluxe and budget hotels. As there is no dearth of hotels in Lonavala but finding the best one can be a bit tricky. It is the convenient location and the surroundings of the hotel that most travelers focus on. Travelers have their own preferences and desires, and accordingly look for some of the finest accommodating options. From 5-star and 3-star hotels to budget and cheap hotels, there a number of staying options to choose from the list. Generally, all these properties are located around the railway station and the bus stand so that travelers can conveniently reach them.

All these establishments provide for comfortable stay in their well-equipped and spacious rooms. These rooms are well furnished and boast of all the basic and modern amenities like soft beds, comfy sofas, en suite bathrooms, wardrobes and balconies. Most of the budget hotels in Lonavala also provide for amenities like LCD, mini-bar, electronic safe, direct-dial telephone and internet access.

Dining

Famous for its hard candy jaggery delicacy – chikki, Lonavala offers its travelers a number of opportunities to enjoy their gustatory delights with a sumptuous dining or street delicacies. Most of the budget hotels in Lonavala have their on-site multi-cuisine restaurants. They cater to their guests a full platter of delightful flavors, so that they can ease their appetites. From delectable appetizers to refreshing beverages and delicious desserts, all these hotels arrange for top class dining arrangements. Some hotels also have their in-house deluxe bars, where guests can relish some of the most celebrated alcoholic drinks.

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Museum Inn, Bangalore

HOTEL OVERVIEW:

Bangalore is the IT hub of India and attracts a large number of travellers. People come to Bangalore to spend holidays and for business. Here one can find number of good accommodations in order to have a comfortable stay. Hotel Museum Inn is a well known 3 star deluxe hotel of the city.

Hotel Museum Inn promises you a comfortable stay with style in Bangalore. Museum Inn is among the most popular economy hotels in Bangalore. The hotel is known for its striking interiors and calm environment to make you feel at home away from home. Museum Inn is one of the most preferred accommodations due to its location. The hotel is at a distance of 38 Kms from the Bangalore City Airport and is at a distance of 8 Kms from the Bangalore Railway Station. This is an ideal destination for the business travellers and the leisure travellers who come to Bangalore.

The hotel is situated amidst the business and entertainment districts of M.G. Road. The hotel consists of well equipped 40 spacious guestrooms. All the rooms are tastefully designed and have the potpourri of dinning outlets. Bamboo Shoots are the Chinese restaurant of the hotel which is known to serve multi cuisines.

The Museum Inn Hotel blows its own trumpet of three highly modernised restaurants where you may savour Chinese, south Indian, continental and Thai food. The hotel also has a Tavern Pub where you can laze around during the leisure time. The Angeethi Restaurant serves Indian delicacies and is also a pastry shop. The hotel also provides with numerous other facilities for the comfort of the visitors. The restaurant here serves best of dishes to tickle your taste buds.

The hotel provides you with wireless Internet service, travel desk facility, airport transfers, 24 hour room service, laundry service, air conditioned rooms, 24 hour running water. Various other facilities given to the guests include a doctor on call, safe vault and many more.

Here at Museum Inn Hotel in Bangalore you feel fresh every moment you can relish your stay in the hotel. The professional trained staff of the hotel tries its best that the visitors do not face any inconvenience. The Museum offers cocoons of comfort for staying where the guests can have the memorable time. So walk into The Museum Inn and spend some memorable time with your friends, family and the loved ones.

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Roopkund Lake, Uttarakhand – A Mystery Frozen in Time

Also known as the Lake of Skeletons, Roopkund Lake in Uttarakhand, located at 5029m above sea level, was a mystery frozen in time which was only unravelled recently by scientists.

The nascence of this lake at such a height was already a matter of bewilderment. On top of it, the lake has a heap of skeletons buried at its bottom, which is visible only once the snow melts. It was chanced upon by a forest ranger in 1942 who discovered mass grave in this inaccessible lake which actually takes a difficult trek of 4 days to reach at an isolated and uninhabited place.

Local legends believe that the skeletons belong to King of Kannauj of 9th Century AD. who was headed for a pilgrimage of Mount Nanda Devi along with his queen and other pilgrims who met with a sudden hailstorm and drowned in the lake. Scientists have recently corroborated the story that the skeletons actually belong to pilgrims and locals dated to around 850 AD. The researchers concluded that these deaths were caused by fatal blows on the back of the heads and not due to wounds found through battle-weapons, avalanche or landslide. The marks on the skulls and shoulder-bones were consistent with being hit by something round of the size of a cricket ball. The best guess is of the ball sized hail stones which would have caused the injuries and subsequently, deaths of these pilgrims.

Roopkund, also known as the mystery lake, is surrounded by rock-strewn glaciers and snow-clad mountains. The lake is about 2 meters deep and hundreds of trekkers flock to it every year. Tourists and pilgrims also attend the Nanda Devi Raj Jat that takes place once every twelve years at Roopkund for worship of goddess Nanda.

Roopkund Travel Guide

Distance from Delhi: 492 Km + 34 Km (trek)

Best Season: May to October

How to reach Roopkund

Lohajung Pass, well connected through motorable roads, is the starting point of the trek. The difficulty level of trek from Lohajung Pass to Bedni Bugyal is medium. Bedni Bugyal is the most scenic spot en route with a vast expanse of greenery, slopes full of coniferous trees. The most difficult part of the trek is of 14 km from Bedni Bugyal to Roopkund which is meant for properlygeared up travellers with prior trekking experience. No accommodation is available on the trek route.

Road route from Delhi to Roopkund

Delhi – Haridwar – Rishikesh – Devprayag – Srinagar – Rudraprayag – Karnaprayag – Dewal – Lohajung Pass – (Trekking = 34 Km) – Roopkund

Train Route to Roopkund

Rishikesh is the nearest railway station to Roopkund Lake. From Rishikesh, the road route as mentioned above needs to be followed.

Flight Route to Roopkund

Dehradun’s Jolly Grant airport is nearest to Roopkund. From there, the road route leads to Dewal from where the above mentioned road route can be followed.

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How You Can Enjoy Your Trip To Thailand With Children

Although Thailand is not known for its children centred attractions, there are plenty of activities to appeal to families with young children whether on the beach or away from the coast. Thai’s are also very welcoming to young children. So traveling with children to Thailand is not a problem at all.

The two most well-known beach resorts in Thailand that are labelled family-friendly are the islands of Koh Samui and Ko Lanta. Both islands have plenty to offer for families with children. There are on the beach accommodations available for both mid-range and upper range budgets. There are also many open air beachfront restaurants to dine in while your kids can play in the sand within your sight. There are also many day trip activities you can take up from elephant riding to snorkelling.

The island of Phuket is also another favorite family destination. However the beachfront accommodations are considered premium. Alternatively, there also many other less well-known beach resorts that your older kids can enjoy. The activities include kayaking, rock climbing and also the many dive centres that would teach the PADI children’s SCUBA courses. For eight years old, they can enroll the Bubblemaker program. The Discover SCUBA diving day is for anyone over 10 years old. Thailand is blessed with many national parks and their waterfalls and caves are good day trip activities with River rafting and elephant riding.

The capital of Thailand Bangkok and Pattaya also has many child friendly theme parks for families. If you are in Thailand in January, your children to enjoy the free entertainment and activities organized all over the country on the national children’s Day also known as Wan Dek. This is held on the second Saturday of January and kids will be able to get free entry to the zoos and free rides on public transport.

Here are a few things you should note for parents. Many of the more expensive hotels will allow one or two under 12 years old to share their parent’s room for free if no extra bedding is required. However, it is possible to squeeze two adults and two children into a double room in most budget or midrange hotels. Many hotels also provide babysitting services.

Most museums or transport companies do not offer any reduction in prices for children. According to the State Railway, a child that is age 3 to 12 years old can qualify for half price only if under 150 cm tall. For domestic flights, most airlines charge 10% of the full fare for children under two years old and 50% for children under 12 years old.

You will be able to buy disposable diapers easily at most convenience stores, pharmacies and supermarkets in the major resorts and towns. For your convenience, consider bringing a changing mat for your baby as there are few public toilets in Thailand. You will be able to find many international brands of powdered milk in Thailand.

You should also bring along or purchase a mosquito net and a sun tent. You should also consider packing along a bottle of a favorite spread for the toast just in case. Be careful with the unwashed fruits and salads and any other dishes that have been left uncovered for a long time.

Dogs can be a nuisance in Thailand. There are cases of rabies. So you should keep your kids away from animals such as dogs or monkeys. If necessary, get a rabies shot before the trip.

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Beautiful Barcelona – Easy Travel Guide

Beautiful city of Barcelona, capital of Catalonia (a Spain’s province), is situated on on the shore of the Mediterranean sea and bordered at either end by 2 river deltas. Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after its capital city Madrid. Barcelona has a population of 1.5 million, over 4 million including suburbs. The varied, eventful history of the city dates back 4,000 years to the first settlements by ancient farmers. Later it became a Roman colony, the Visigoth’s capital city, then it came under Moorish rule. It went through sieges, destructions and occupations, finally to become an autonomous democracy 1975. The city has always played an important role in political and cultural life of Spain and it is well reflected in the variety and quality of historical buildings, museums, many other tourist attractions. Today Barcelona is one of the most diverse european cities with unique culture and rich traditions. You can find here a formidable balance of the traditional things and the avant-garde. A cosmopolitan metropolis, Barcelona affords visitors a warm and sincere welcome, being aknowledged worldwide as one of the best tourist-friendly cities in Europe.Barcelona’s organisation of the 1992 Olympics provided regeneration of this dynamic city, gave a fresh start to its infrastructure development.

WHAT TO SEE AND WHERE:

POINTS OF INTEREST – La Rambla is a tree-lined pedestrian boulevard packed with buskers, living statues, mimes and itinerant salespeople selling everything from lottery tickets to jewellery. Pavement cafes and stands selling craftwork, street performers surrounded by curious onlookers, a noisy bird market, Palau de la Virreina, a grand 18th-century rococo mansion, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, the famous 19th-century opera house- these are all colourful parts of La Rambla’s mosaic. La Rambla ends at the lofty Monument a Colom (Monument to Columbus) and the harbour.

Barri Gotic – also known as Gothic Quarter, it is the old part of the city. Picasso lived and worked in Barri Gotic from 1895 to 1904 and Joan Miro was born and lived here during his youth. Gothic Quarter is situated on the right hand side of the La Rambla, it contains a concentration of medieval tall Gothic buildings (14-15th century) on narrow cobbled streets and now is home to much of the city’s nightlife.

La Sagrada Familia – La Sagrada Familia is one of the most famous and magnificent among Barcelona’s landmarks. The life’s work of Barcelona’s famous architect, Antoni Gaudi, the magnificent spires of the unfinished cathedral imprint themselves boldly against the sky with swelling outlines inspired by the holy mountain Montserrat. Above each facade there are four towers, 12 in total, which are dedicated to the Apostles. The tower in the center, the tallest of all at 170 m., is dedicated to Jesus Christ. Around these there are the towers of the four Evangelists, and the tower over the apse is dedicated to the Virgin. They are encrusted with a tangle of sculptures that seem to breathe life into the stone. Gaudi died in 1926 before his masterwork was completed, and since then, controversy has continually dogged the building program. Nevertheless, the southwestern (Passion) facade, is almost done, and the nave, begun in 1978, is progressing.

La Pedrera – Casa Mila (Mila House) is an apartment building, the last example of Gaudi’s civil architecture.It is one of his finest and most ambitious creations, extraordinarily innovative in its functional, constructive, and ornamental aspects. Visitors can tour the building and go up to the roof, where they can see spectacular views of Barcelona. One floor below the roof is a modest museum dedicated to Gaudi’s work.

Montjuic – the largest open space in the city, its main attractions are the Olympic installations, the Spanish Village and the hilltop fortress. Montjuic, the hill overlooking the city centre from the southwest, is home to some fine art galleries, leisure attractions, soothing parks and the main group of 1992 Olympic sites. Montjuic is covered in ornamental gardens with water features and is the most popular destination in Barcelona on Sundays.

Tibidabo – is the highest hill in the wooded range that forms the backdrop to Barcelona. It has amazing views of the whole of Barcelona, a stunning cathedral, and a family fun park Parc d’Atraccions with old-style rides offering breathtaking views. A glass lift at the park goes 115m (383 ft) up to a visitors’ observation area at Torre de Collserola telecommunications tower.

Modernisme – spectacular modernista architectural creations dotted around the city by famous Antoni Gaudi and his contemporaries.

Camp Nou – home of F.C. Barcelona, one of Europe’s leading soccer teams, with capacity of almost 100,000 spectators.

The Seu Cathedral – Built in medieval times on the site of a Roman temple, La Seu is one of the great Gothic buildings in Spain.

Parc de la Ciutadella – Barcelona’s favourite park and a Sunday afternoon rendezvous for families, friends and ducks

The Sardana – traditional Catalan dance, performed outside the cathedral and at national festivals, with everyone encouraged to join in.

MUSEUMS – The Barbier-Mueller Museum of Pre-Columbian Art -the only museum in Europe devoted exclusively to Pre-Columbian cultures. Housed in a gothic palace, its collection is one of the finest of its kind and gives visitors an insight into the rich world of the earliest cultures on the American continent. This tiny museum contains one hundred pieces, including wood and stone sculptures, ceramics, tapestries, jade, often found in international exhibitions and prestige publications. The exhibits represented the Olmec, Maya, Aztec, Chavin, Mochica and Inca civilisations.

Palau de la Musica Catalana – one of the world’s most extraordinary music halls, it is a Barcelona landmark. From its polychrome ceramic ticket windows on the Carrer de Sant Pere Mes Alt side to its overhead busts of Palestrina, Bach, Beethoven, and Wagner, the Palau is the flagship of Barcelona’s Moderniste architecture.

Museu Picasso – is Barcelona’s most visited museum. 3,500 exhibits make up the permanent collection. Picasso spent several years (1901-06) in Barcelona, and this collection, is particularly strong on his early work. Displays include childhood sketches, pictures from the beautiful Rose and Blue periods, and the famous 1950s Cubist variations on Velazquez’s Las Meninas (Ladies-in-Waiting).

Gaudi Casa-Museu – Gaudi lived in this pink, Alice-in-Wonderland house from 1906 to 1926, which now houses a museum of Gaudi-designed furniture, decorations, drawings, and portraits and busts of the architect.

Fundacio Miro – it was a gift from the famous artist Joan Miro to his native city. The museum opened in 1975, and now it is one of Barcelona’s most exciting showcases of contemporary art.

BEACHES – One of Barcelona’s greatest draws is undeniably its beautiful beaches. Beside world-famous Costa Brava and Costa Dorada which are within 1-hr drive time from Barcelona, there are also several nice beaches over 4 km long within the city boundaries, we will list just several of them here: Nova Icaria- Closest to the Olympic marina, always crowded, this wide swathe of rough golden sand is great for food goers. There are three perfect beach bars and two very popular restaurants on the promenade (Mango and Chiringuito de Moncho) and countless bars and restaurants are just a short stroll away. Bogatell- This beach is twice the length of adjoining Nova Icaria and fringed by a stretch of stone walkway perfect for jogging, roller blading and cycling. Three large informal restaurants on the promenade. Mar Bella (Metro Ciutadella Vila Olimpica, plus 20-minute walk)- Barcelona’s only naturist beach close to a peaceful park – good for a picnic or siesta under the trees. Barceloneta- wide and long, a traditional and popular stretch with locals, crowded, noisy and very jolly.

WHEN TO GO, WEATHER: The best times to visit Barcelona are late spring and early autumn, when the weather is still comfortably warm, around 21-25°C. Summers are usually hot and humid, with temperatures averaging +30 (+ 86 Fahrenheit). Especially avoid the “dead” month of August, when many shops, bars and restaurants close for the month as many local inhabitants head out of the city. Winters are cool with average daytime temperatures around +12 C (+59 Fahrenheit), occasionally rainy.

GETTING THERE AND AROUND: By a direct flight to Barcelona, or through Madrid or via another large European city from almost any major airports in the world. The highest fares are from May to September, the lowest in March-April, October-November and December to February (excluding Christmas and New Year when prices are hiked up). Note also that flying on weekends may increase your ticket cost. If traveling to Barcelona from within Europe you can also chose train, bus or car, though these take much longer than a plane and often work out no cheaper. Many Mediterranean cruises include Barcelona as a port of call.

ACCOMODATIONS: We can offer you a range of choices. You can choose vacation rentals in Barcelona starting from $ 125 USD for a double room in a 4-star apartment hotel. Or you can opt for hotels from $ 65 USD for a double room in a 3-star hotel. Accomodation prices do not change much throughout the year due to the steady all-season flow of visitors to this extremely popular tourist city and surrounding resorts.

DINING: Besides restaurants you can eat at bars where you would have a succession of tapas (small snacks- three or four chunks of fish, meat or vegetables, or salad, which traditionally used to be served up free with a drink) or raciones (larger ones). The bar option can be a lot more interesting, allowing you to do the rounds and sample local specialities. Generally, the average cost for a meal consisting of two dishes and dessert would come to about 25 Euros. Travellers on an extremely limited budget can do well for themselves by using the excellent markets, bakeries and delis and filling up on sandwiches and snacks. Decent restaurants and cafes are easily found all over the city, though you’ll probably do most of your eating where you do most of your sightseeing, in the old town, particularly around La Rambla and in the Barri Gotic. Look for the best and most authentic seafood restaurants in Barceloneta, a seaside neighbourhood. Gothic Quarter neighbourhood is home to some of the oldest and most traditional restaurants in the city. Gracia is a very popular area among young people during the weekend, it leads the way in terms of exotic restaurants (Lebanese, Egyptian, Thai etc.).

TRANSPORT: Barcelona has excellent transport system comprising the metro (subway), buses, trains and a network of funiculars and cable cars. You can find a link to transport maps at the end of our guide. On all the city’s public transport you can buy a single ticket every time you ride, but even over only a couple of days it’s cheaper to buy a targeta – a discount ticket strip. The T-10 targeta is valid for ten separate journeys on the metro, buses and trains. These tickets can be used by more than one person at a time. The metro is the quickest way of getting around Barcelona. For black-and-yellow taxis there is a minimum charge of $ 2 euro. You’ll obviously have a great deal more freedom if you rent a car . Major roads throughout the city are generally good, and traffic is generally well behaved, though Spain does have one of the highest incidences of traffic accidents in Europe. It also has some of the lowest fuel prices on the continent.

SHOPPING: Barcelona, one of the most stylish cities in Europe offers great shopping, from designer clothes and accessories to household items. You will find the city to be quite cheap for a lot of items, especially if you coincide with the annual sales ( rebaixes in Spanish) lasting from mid-January until the end of February, and throughout July and August. The best shopping areas in Barcelona are the old streets off the upper part of the Ramblas. Souvenirs include ceramics, which are widely sold in the streets around the cathedral; leather goods; city’s delicatessens, particularly cooked Catalan meats and sausages; a porron (the long-spouted glass drinking jar); CDs and tapes of Catalan rock and pop, sardana music, Spanish rock or flamenco. If you’re looking for original gift ideas, some of the best hunting can be found in the shops of any of the city’s museums, where you’ll find reasonably priced and unique examples of Catalan disseny (graphic), and other original items ranging from postcards to replica works of art.

We wish you a nice and safe trip!

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Costa Rica’s Roads: The Adventure Within Your Adventure

The outward appearance of Costa Rica is of endless tracts of rainforest canopy, throngs of natural wildlife, and beautiful white sand coastlines. These picturesque landscapes are populated by healthy, friendly, welcoming locals and rich markers of cultural heritage. The air is clean, the food is organic and the government is stable.

All of these highlights live up to (and in some case exceed) expectations, but there is one untold pitfall among all the beauty, culture and fun of Costa Rica: The roads are in a horrendous state of disrepair.

Much has been written in Costa Rica travel guides about the unpaved pot-hole constellations that pass as roadways, and the various reasons for the inability for the government to build and fix the roads (short answer: corruption). The expense of this scenario reaches into the economy in the form of increased vehicle wear; a typical tourist commuter van that runs to the Pacific beaches needs new tires every 5,000 miles! The combination of passing on two-lane paved highways near San Jose and swerving around unpaved gravel roads in the countryside eats up the tires, plus greatly increases the likelihood of damage to the brakes, suspension, and steering.

Several Costa Rica road projects met with years of delays and budget overruns that were only solved by selling the stalled projects to foreign interests. One example is the Autopista del Sol which a Swedish construction firm finished in exchange for a healthy percentage of the toll revenue; another example is the aptly-named Amistad de Taiwan (Taiwan Bridge) whose completion cut nearly three hours (and a ferry ride) out of the drive from San Jose to the coastal province of Guanacaste.

When you ride on the country roads around Costa Rica, any cynicism towards the upkeep evaporates in the face of how miraculous the existence of these roads are in the first place. Elevation changes are drastic and rapid. The earth pours rock, mud and felled trees across the road during the monsoon season. Some of the bridges in the low country are patchwork creations of clay, PVC pipe, gravel and a healthy dose of prayer. Never mind my own bravery; there are dudes in 18 wheeler Mack Trucks barreling down roads barely two-horses wide making turns that I wouldn’t attempt in a go-kart.

For the traveller who is willing to let go of concepts like making good time and not being delayed, Costa Rica’s primitive highway system can lead to very authentic adventures. For instance on my most recent trip to Guanacaste I was ‘stuck’ helping a few Ticos haul a tree off the road using two mules and a beat up chainsaw; once we finished they invited me to a Rodeo that night in Esperanza. In fact the eldest of the brothers was a participant so naturally the other fellas were in a festive mood.

Four hours, a dozen Imperials and about six gorings later, I piled back into my rental rally car and finally got on my way. Turns out that the roads in Costa Rica have a way of taking you to the right place after all.

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African Travel Tips For Visiting Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s biggest draw is undoubtedly the majestic Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. But the country also has other natural and historical advantages to captivate travellers and beckon them to return. Wildlife, fish and birds abound including a number of unique, rare and endangered species making game viewing, bird watching, fishing and hunting popular activities.

Home to four World Heritage Sites, Zimbabwe has a rich history of ancient civilisations that makes its friendly people stand proud, despite hardship. From the refreshing spray of the Falls on your face, to a Lake Kariba sunset, a lush mountain escape to a river rafting adventure on the Zambezi, Zimbabwe is sure to leave you with memories as indelible as those of Livingstone and Rhodes when they witnessed the country’s riches.

CAPITAL: Harare

CLIMATE: Subtropical. The best time to visit is Apr-Oct when weather is mild with little rain. Winter (May-Aug) is dry and sunny. Rainy weather is Nov-Mar/Apr.

CURRENCY: 1 Zimbabwe Dollar = 100 cents. You may take 15000 Zimbabwean dollars out of the country. There are no restrictions on foreign currency brought in. If you don’t declare the foreign money you bring in, you’ll only be able to take out 500 US dollars. You may be asked to account for foreign currency exchanged/spent in country. Hotel bills must be paid for with credit cards or in foreign hard currencies e.g. US dollar.

Users of credit cards are subject to a surcharge of about 3 percent on the total value of goods purchased. US dollar traveller’s cheques are recommended. Avoid street money changers who promise “no commission, best rates”, but then cheat on delivery. There are strict penalties for illegal foreign currency trading. Several of the city’s large stores don’t accept American Express cards; travellers’ cheques are the most convenient means of payment.

HEALTH: Yellow fever immunisation is essential if you arrive from an infected country or area. Visitors are also advised to take pre-arrival precautions against hepatitis A, polio, typhoid and malaria (depending on the area visited especially those outside of towns). Other health concerns include bilharzia (don’t swim in the rivers/dams or drink the water from them as it may be infected), sunburn, limited medical facilities and supplies outside of towns, AIDS and influenza (risk extends throughout the year).

LANGUAGE: English is the official language. Chishona and Sindebele are widely spoken.

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS:

1 January New Year’s Day

12 April Easter Monday

18 April Independence Day

1 May Workers’ Day

25 May Africa Day

11 August Heroes’ Day

12 August Defence Forces Day

22 December Unity Day

25-26 December Christmas

SHOPPING: Shona soft-stone carvings; woodcarvings; T-shirts; safari clothing; pottery; leather goods; basket ware; sculptures; textiles. Nail polish and old clothes can sometimes be swopped for carvings.

SOCIAL CONVENTIONS: Christianity is the main religion, but in rural areas people have traditional beliefs. Western/European courtesies are observed. Return invitations are appreciated. Handshaking is the common form of greeting. Dress is casual, but most hotels require more formal wear, e.g. tie and jacket; business meetings require suits.

TIME DIFFERENCE: GMT+2

TIPPING: Ten-fifteen percent is common.

TOP TEN ATTRACTIONS DESCRIPTION:

Victoria Falls:

Called by locals “Mosi-oa-Tunya” – the smoke that thunders, Victoria Falls is a World Heritage Site and undoubtedly the most majestic waterfall in the world; popular activities include walking through the rainforest, white water rafting, bungi jumps, flights over the falls, river cruises, and much more.

Lake Kariba Unique scenery of dead trees rising from the depths of this huge man-made lake is especially beautiful during sunset; a popular way to enjoy the lake is on a houseboat with friends viewing the large numbers of crocodile and hippo, going game viewing at the Matusadona National Park or Tiger fishing – the largest Tiger fish ever was caught here and weighed 15.5kg.

Harare:

The capital city offers sightseeing at the National Gallery; National Archives; Queen Victoria Museum; Queen Victoria National Library; National Botanic Garden; Mbare Market; Chapungu village; tobacco auction floors; Mukuvisi Woodlands; Museum of Human Sciences; Harare Gardens; Cecil House; National Handicraft Centre; Africa Unity Square and The Residency.

Kame Ruins:

22 km west of Bulawayo is Kame Ruins, one of southern Africa’s magnificent Late Iron Age ruins, now a World Heritage Site showing the area was the seat of government of earlier civilisations.

Great Zimbabwe National Monument:

Ruins of an ancient African city, believed to have flourished between the 13th and 15th centuries AD, is the only one in existence south of the Sahara and a World Heritage Site; the country has taken its name from it and the famous Zimbabwe birds found at the site has become the national bird and been incorporated in the flag; visit the museum on the site, the Kyle recreational park and do game viewing by car or horseback nearby.

Hwange National Park:

The country’s largest national park, both in size and variety of wild game and bird life; also one of the few remaining elephant sanctuaries in Africa, with herds of up to 100 strong seen; the only area in the country where gemsbok and brown hyena occur in reasonable numbers and where the population of wild dog is thought to be the largest surviving in Africa today.

Mana Pools National Park:

Part of the Middle Zambezi Valley, Mana Pools is host to some of the biggest concentrations of large mammals to be seen in Zimbabwe; it is also renowned for its varied and colourful birdlife and forms one of the last remaining strongholds of the black rhino; game viewing, hunting and canoe safaris are popular.

Bulawayo & Matobo:

Zimbabwe’s second largest city which stands on the site of the royal kraal of Lobengula, last of the Ndebele Kings; view the Natural History Museum, Railway Museum, Mzilikazi art and craft centre, Centenary park, central parks and National Art Gallery; 30 km from the city is Matobo National Park, a unique area of some 2000 square kilometres of gigantic wind-sculpted rock formations. Cecil John Rhodes’ burial site and thousands of ancient rock paintings can also be found here.

Eastern highlands:

Luxuriant natural surroundings characterise this region with mountains, grassy plains, streams, waterfalls, mountain flowers, rare birds, etc. contributing to panoramic views of exquisite beauty attracting nature lovers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts; visit the Nyanga National Park, Mutare, Mutarazi Falls, Bunga Botanical Reserve, Bvumba Botanical Gardens and the wilderness of the Chimanimani National Park.

Gona-re-Zhou park:

This park adjoins the Kruger National Park in South Africa and is home to some of the rarest bird and animal life in Africa. The bat-eared fox, suni, Liechtenstein’s hartebeest, nyala and roan antelope are to be found along the famous African elephants of this park, which are unlike any others in the world.

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Kodai – A Holiday in the Hills

Holidaying in a hill station in the hot summer months of May and June had always been my desire. I had been to very few hill stations and Kodaikanal is one of them. The scenes of Kodaikanal or Kodai are still vivid in my mind, as very recently I had the opportunity to make a trip to this exotic location. Kodai is a hill station located at a height of 7,000 ft above sea level in the Palani hills in the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu, South India. The description of the place is very dear to my heart, from the point of view of a common man unlike a professional writer and is very personal with little exaggeration and more mesmerization. I alighted at the Coimbatore airport at 10:30am and travelled by car to my dream destination. As we entered the hilly zone, everything around us changed so suddenly and it seemed so much different. A traveller’s eye wouldn’t miss the changes so subtle yet so real and exciting –

  • The rapid fall in the mercury from a very hot sultry temperature to a cool and pleasant weather.
  • Green, green and green everywhere – like a maverick who painted everything green.
  • The cool breeze that sends chills down your spine and soothes the tresses on your forehead.
  • The zigzag and winding roads that seem never to stop and triggers vertigo, till one reaches one’s destination (hotel).

The panoramic and verdant views evoke many of euphoric expressions on the traveller’s face. As I reached my hotel, the light drizzle and tranquil ambience were intriguing. The beaumontand magnificent hills stood magnanimously, amidst the evergreen trees and plants which depicted vitality and vigour. Blooming flowers and fruits were messengers of cheer and charm. All elements of nature converged into one single invaluable beauty. One has to witness such nature’s bounty to believe it.

With little pronunciation differences the meaning of the word Kodaikanal in the Tamil language ranges from the ‘gift of the forest’, ‘the summer forest’, ‘the forest of the creepers’ and ‘the end of the forest’. Whatever be the meaning it is just forest everywhere – meadows, grasslands, eucalyptus trees, pear trees and more. The must see places which made my heart skip a beat –

  • Kodai lake, a man-made lake stretching over an area of 5 to 6km created way back in 1863, is a popular landmark and the main tourist attraction. The Kodaikanal boat club rents 2-seater and 4-seater pedal boats which is a favourite pastime for most of the tourists. Walking, cycling and horse riding along the pathway skirting the lake are the other activities tourists indulge in, which help them achieve two targets – good health and enjoying the beautiful hills around them. An array of shops surrounding the star shaped lake sell woolen garments, stuffed toys, medicinal herbs and oils, home made chocolates, fruits and a wide variety of other accessories.
  • A botanical garden called Bryant Park located to the east of the Kodai lake never misses the tourist’s itinerary. It derived its name from the forest officer, H.D.Bryant who built it in 1908. The park with its numerous species of flowering plants dahlias, delphiniums, French Mary gold, antirrhinum, verbena, celosia and pansies is a feast to the eye of all flower lovers. The park boasts of a picturesque landscape with different varieties of ornamental plants, cactus and shrubs. The nominal entrance fee attracts many a tourists as well as the locals who celebrate summer festival in the month of May. Various cultural programs and competitions of dance and song are held which again is a great tourist attraction, as one enjoys these programs sitting on the lush green grass. Bryant park is a great picnic spot, as buses plying regularly from nearby places bring in a multitude of locals who come there for a picnic or to participate in these cultural activities.
  • A paved path called Coaker’s walk built by Lt. Coaker in 1872 seems to be an unending, uphill walk. It winds around Mount Nebo, giving a stunning view of the surrounding hills and the city below. An observatory with a telescope, located midway along the walk gives a view of the old Kodai village. Vendors lining the walk provide a whole assortment of exquisite wares. The mouth watering, brilliantly bright orange carrots along with their green stems halt one’s ascent, demanding a short break.
  • Pillar rocks are huge masses of stone made of charconite and granite rocks at a height of 500ft. A flowering garden located at this point is fascinating. The caves below these rocks are a safe haven to many endangered species like crested serpent eagle, black eagle and honey bazard.
  • Devil’s kitchen orguna caves are cave formations of giant rocks. Tourists are now not allowed to have a view of these natural caves, due to previous tragic incidents of suicides.
  • Green valley point or previously called suicide point provides an excellent view of the plains below. Past incidents of suicides led to the construction of wire meshes around this point which serve as barricade to adventurous tourists from venturing further. Commercial shops lining the stairs are another great attraction.
  • Enchanting waterfalls and cascading streams like the silver cascade falls, bear shola falls and pambar falls are other must see places in Kodai.
  • Kurunji Andavar temple which houses the deity Lord Murugan is one of the famous Hindu temples. Hundred years old La Salette church is another tourist spot, buzzing with tourist activity and is a testimony to the widely prevalent Christian culture.
  • Pine forests which are largely pictured in many South Indian movies are a symbolic of height and extent of growth in a poet’s words.
  • Sai Shruti ashram overlooking the Kodai lake provides a calm and serene atmosphere. Once a summer abode of Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, entry into this ashram puts one’s mind and body to rest. The shallow steps lead to the mandir where regular bhajans are held.
  • Kodai is a wonderful place for tourists interested in trekking. Rich flora and fauna makes Berijam Lake another exotic lake located deep in the forest in the upper Palani hills and requires permission from the forest department. Because of the wet weather I had little opportunity to go trekking or visit this lake.
  • The guides never miss to mention the 500 years old tree, with its thick trunk.
  • Homemade chocolates, eucalyptus oil, herbal oils, herbal tea, coffee and a wide variety of fruits like plums, pears, figs, avocados, peaches, grapes etc occupy a definite place in the shopping list.

As my heart longs for more, I resolved to come back again soon.

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Hornbill Festival of Nagaland

The well-known Hornbill Festival is one of the biggest celebrations of the native warrior folks of Nagaland. The festival is named after the bird Hornbill which is ardently admired by the Nagas and it reflects in tribal dances, music and folklore. The festival takes place every year from the 1st through the 7th of December. Since 2013, it has been stretched out for a couple of additional days due to which it culminates on the 10th of December.

Where does the festival take place?

Located at a distance of 10 kilometers from Kohima, the capital of Nagaland, there is a small town known as the Kisama Heritage village. This is where the festival commences at 9 in the morning every day. You can hire a taxi service to reach the festival venue. However, make sure that the taxi has a pass which allows them to park the vehicle at the venue.

How is the festival celebrated?

Almost all the major tribes of Nagaland attend this festival. The main features of the Hornbill Festival include folk music, dance, games and traditional arts. All of these exciting activities are carried out amid impeccable imitations of tribal camping grounds that are equipped with wood carvings. The celebrators play the hollow drum instruments in mysterious harmony towards the end of the day. Besides, there is a great deal of food stalls, handicraft stalls and intoxicating rice beers for you to take delight in.

After the sunset, The Hornbill National Rock Concert steals the spotlight at the festival. There are various bands from all over the country who attend the festival to showcase their skills and compete against each other. Later, the people jazz around the night market. The most fervent event at this festival is unquestionably the Naga Chili eating contest.

Tips for Travellers

In order to get around easily, go to the Information Centre which is located at a spitting distance from the festival avenue. You can acquire brochures that list all the events that are going to be conducted at the festival apart from the other attractions in Nagaland.

If you are a foreigner, you no longer need to produce an entry permit to visit Nagaland. However, you would need to register yourself at the Foreigner’s Registration Office within 24 hours of arriving to the state. If you are an Indian tourist, you need to have an Inner Line Permit. You can get it from the State Government of Nagaland office or any Nagaland House.

Since the Hornbill Festival is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Nagaland, ensure that you book your accommodation beforehand.

There is no airport in Kohima. The closest airport is in Dimapur which offers back and forth flight services from Guwahati and Kolkata. Once you reach Dimapur, you are only a two-hour drive away from Kohima. If you can’t stand the two-hour journey, you can take advantage of the helicopter ride which will take you to Kohima in only a half hour.