Incredible India – Eco Tourism

Serve Green

Recycling waster, tapping solar and wind power to become energy – efficient, offering linen reuse programmes, and more – hotels are leaving no stone unturned to make sure that they do not take their environment for granted.

Eco-tourism came as a wave a few years ago and has today taken the entire travel industry by storm. Right from destinations to hotels, everyone is trying their best to integrate sustainable practices to be able to play their part in environment conservation. There is an awareness of the fact that with tourism on a rise, there is a greater consumption of natural resources, which in turn could be disastrous to the planet as a whole.

Eco-Tourism in India

Eco-Tourism in India

Green Certificate

Right from planning a hotel to finally opening its doors to guest, there is a whole list of things that are being taken in account to ensure that a property is eco-friendly in every regard. In fact, hotels in India are looking towards adhering to the guidelines set by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) – the internationally recognised third-party verification of green buildings awarded by the United Sates Green Building Council and the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC).

In India ECOTEL@ is a prestigious environmental certification designed by HVS’ Sustainability Service specifically for the hospitality sector, which offers assistance in setting and achieving green targets for hospitality business and chains. The ECOTEL@ Certification is based on five areas namely environment commitment, waste management, energy management, water management as well as employee education and community involvement.

 It’s All about Experience

CGH Earth is the pioneer of eco-tourism in India. Today, the group has a number of properties across peninsular India and is managing at least a dozen properties, including the exotic Bangaram Island in Lakshadweep. The man behind it all – Jose Dominic, MD, CGH Earth – shares how he made the group what it is today. A charted accountant by qualification, Jose joined this family-owned hotel business, which had its first property, Casino Hotel in Wellington Island, Cochin.

“When we started working on Bangaram Island in Lakshadweep, we thought of keeping its natural beauty intact and started working on a model that focussed on providing an environment and service that was as local as possible. We used the local products right from the onset, like using coconut thatched roofs instead of those made with concrete. We recruited people from the island and even served neighbourhood cuisine instead of international food,” say Dominic.

However, he believes that real luxury is to enjoy a holiday in its true essence – acres of space, unspoilt nature and an experience of local culture. Dominic continues, “When the hotel opened in 1988, we quoted a price of US$180, same as that offered by The Oberoi, Mumbai. Initially, it was difficult to explain to the travel agents, but when guests came to us after experiencing the property, they asked us to stay as we are even if we decide to increase the price. This gave us confidence and hence shifted the entire paradigm. Today, the definition of luxury has changed. A holiday is not only a memorable experience but a transformative experience.”

“In 1991 we opened the Spice Village in Kerala, where we followed the same rules of keeping everything natural,” he said. The model found instant success and CGH Earth today has a tagline that reads ‘experience hotels’ and boasts around 14 properties in India. Dominic reveals why they changed the name Casino Group of Hotels (CGh) to CGH Earth. “We decided to use Earth for our three core values, which are 1) nature is sacred, 2) involving local community, 3) adopting local ethos. CGH, on the other hand, expands to Clean, Green and Healthy.”

One would be surprised that none of the properties at CGH Earth have a television, and Dominic is proud of the fact. “It is our most commented on and complained about feature,” he laughs. “However, it is essential to the model we work on, offering an experience that makes the simple things in life extraordinary,” he said.

Leading the way

Inspired by the green philosophy, ITC hotels have been the torchbearer for eco-tourism, truly abiding by their tagline that reads Responsible Luxury. In fact, ITC Hotels is the first hotel chain in the world with all its ten Luxury properties LEED@ Platinum certified. “What sets ITC apart is its global acknowledgment as an exemplar is sustainable practices. It is the only company in the world of its size, to achieve the three major global environmental distinction of being carbon positive, water positive and solid recycling waste positive,” says Niranjan Khatri, General Manager – Welecomenviron Initiatives, ITC Hotels.

While the decision to follow a green path is exemplary, to be marketing it as luxury is a different ballgame altogether. “The dynamic that combined luxury and sustainability demanded clear vision and resolve. It took serious deliberations and a determined undertaking to demonstrate that the union of luxury and sustainability tapped into the zeitgeist and in fact showed the way ahead, for the hospitality industry as a whole,” says Khatri.

Ecolodges

Ecolodges

Ecolodges

A new concept of sustainable tourism has taken shape in the form of ecolodges, not just in India but in other counties as well. Hitesh Mehta, President, HM Design, is one of the world’s leading practitioners and researchers on ecotourism physical planning, landscape architectural and architectural aspects of ecolodges. He defines ecolodges as, “low-impact, nature-based accommodations of five to seventy-five rooms that protect the surrounding environment; benefit the local community; offer tourists an interpretative and interactive participatory experience; provide a spiritual communion with nature and culture and are designed, constructed and operated in an environmentally and socially sensitive manner.”

In India Taj Safaris has made a name for itself as far as successful Ecolodges are concerned. They provide guests with the ultimate interpretive wildlife experience, based on a proven sustainable ecotourism model.

How to go Green?

It takes a lot to put the green ideology into practice and hotels are trying their best to take good care of the environment. Manju Sharma, Director, Jaypee Hotels, agrees, “We at Jaypee hotels believe in creating an environment friendly architectural marvel across all our properties, along with the sustained green initiatives carried on a regular basis by our group. “She adds, “At Jaypee Hotels, employees planted saplings and took the responsibility to maintain the plants. The hotel will also be using green foliage, rather than using cut flowers to avoid wastage of water.” Apart from this, Jaypee has also taken a number of other initiatives like installation of energy efficient lighting system, waste refrigerant with R—134a. The group has also invested in rain water harvesting system and have also taken initiatives for noise management.

ITC manifests responsible luxury in all its properties through many ways. 55 per cent of the total electrical energy demand in ITC is met through renewable sources i.e. wind and solar energy. “The energy we produce through our wind farms is sufficient to light up a 1400 km stretch of highway, for a year,” claims Khatri.

Jose Dominic too propagates recycling waste. He says, “At EGH Earth all biodegradable waste is converted in fuel and fertiliser.” In fact, the Christmas decorations at CGH Earth were done using recycled paper and waste material.

The Chalets, a Welcome Heritage Resort, located 22kms away from Shimla, has also taken green initiative seriously. Amish Sud, Director, Chalets, Naldehra, says that the entire resort is constructed on mountains without harming or cutting their original structure. “The resort has three green houses and approximately 300 varieties of plants and trees are grown through the winter months and even have plants ready for the summers,” he said. Taking of solar energy, he revealed, “The solar panels help us maintain the water temperature of the swimming pool at no extra cost. “Sud further added, “Flooring of restaurant and some rooms has been done by the recycled scrap wood.”

The property also has an ATP (affluent treatment plant) and a bio gas plant. ATP recycles waste water from the kitchen, washrooms and laundry. “The ATOP regenerates 12000 to 14000 litres of water a day which we use for the gardens and lawn, “said Sud.

The naturalist team at Pashan Garh, under Taj Safaris, has created a water recycling system to recycle the grey water from the staff village and further use it for the vegetable garden. Inspired by Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Pashan Garh also has a garbage incinerator, which provider’s ash that is combined with the compost to produce organic fertilisers for the vegetable garden.

Another property by Taj Safaris, Banjaara Toal Kanha, in partnership with the Forest Department has undertaken a project aimed at providing training to local ‘honey hunters’ to educate them about eco

Hemis Monastery – The Most Ancient Monastery in Ladakh,

Hemis Monastery

Hemis monastery, known as one of the most ancient monastery in Ladakh. Hemis monastery representative reincarnate of Buddha. Hemis Gompa is one of the most important in Ladakh quite apart from its annual festival. You can gain an impression of the extent of the monastery area by climbing the so called eyrie, a hermitage (Gotsang Gompa) reached by one hour, three km climb to 3900 meters. The 13th century monastery pre-dates the Hemis Gompa and was built by Syalwa Gotsangpa. There are about a dozen monks living there.

Hemis Monastery Ladakh

Hemis Monastery Ladakh

The thousand square meter courtyard of the Hemis Gompa is entered from the north-east. The two prayer flags, in front of the first steps up to the Dukhang, form which there is a good view of the dancers during the festival. A few places are reserved for guest but it is sometimes possible to buy ‘admission tickets’ to the gallery from business-minded monks! The day before the two-day festival the part which foreigners can watch begins at 10 am with ceremonies in the courtyard. After prayers in the Dukhang the Rimpoche climbs the steps up to the courtyard, accompanied by musician monks, crosses it and takes his place underneath the gallery.

Dance and Festivals

The Gompa is famous far beyond the borders of Ladakh for its he is festival (Hemis Setchu or Mela of the Hemis Gompa). This takes place every year with mask dances on the 10th and 11th day of the fifth Tibetan month. This date usually falls in the second half of June although it sometimes goes into the beginning of July. Hemis also has a gigantic Tanka, one of the largest in the world, which is only displayed to the public every 11 years at the Hemis Festival. It was unveiled at the 1980 festival so it will not be shown again until 1991. The festival draws pilgrims from all over Ladakh and, since 1975, tourist from all over the world. Apart from being one of the largest in Ladakh it is virtually the only major religious festival in Ladakh which is held in the summer, when the passes are open. A monastery in Zanskar has a similar festival, with mask dances, in the summer months. Recently there have been deliberations by the monks of Karsha Gompa, the Zanskar monastery near Padum, whether mask dances usually held in the winter months should be switched to the summer. This would be a further attraction for a visit to Zanskar.

Shortly afterwards the dances begin, which have as their theme the struggle against evil and infidels and the investable victory of good and of Buddhism. The Padmasambhavas dance, which shows the conquest of the Ruta demons, is part of this dance. Other figures which the dancers represent are Yama – the God of Death, the black-hatted sorcerer Guru Trakpo – the vanquisher of all demons, and various other forms of Padmasambhavas. The sequence of the dances changes with time – often to present a different finale from for the benefit of distinguished guests! The dancing continues to late afternoon, with a brief stop at mid-day. Locals and foreigners wall where tea, soup, Tsampa, sweets and other refreshments are sold. If you wish to take photographs take account of the position of the sun when selecting your vantage point. In the crowded conditions during the dancing it is virtually impossible to leave your place.

If you visit the Gompa outside the festival time you will be impressed by the stillness of the valley. You will also have the opportunity to see the various chapels. Near the Dukhang is the Lakhang, which is the first one after a small set of steps from the yard. The doors are placed inwards so that the front room stands behind, its roof supported with four poles. The side walls of this front room are covered with partially damaged frescoes of the watchers of the heavenly directions. In the Dukhang, the general assembly room, the throne of the Rimpoche dominates the sitting places of the monks. In the Lakhang there is a large gilded statue of the Buddha Shakimuni with blue hair, surrounded by several silver Chortens which, as in Spitok Gompa, are decorated with semi-precious stones. There are also beautiful frescoes on the Lakhang Nyingpa which is otherwise practically empty. The hands of the artists who prepared the gimp’s giant Tanka are revered as holy relics but Hemis also has many lesser, but still interesting, Tankas. Hemis also has an excellent library, particularly well preserved wall paintings and good Buddha figures.

hemis monastery festival

hemis monastery festival

In the second and third storeys, near the other chapels like the Zankhang, there is the Kharrabgysal, the rooms of the Rimpoche or head lama. The Rimpoche, spiritual overland of Hemis, is a reincarnation of the monastery’s founder, Stagshang Raspa, who built Hemis in the first half of the 17th century, under King Sengge Namgyal who also established the monasteries of Chemre, Hanle and Tmsosgang. The last overload of the Gompa was a reincarnation that, as a five-year old child, was undergoing training in Tibet when the Chinese invaded. Since then the Chakzot (manager) a brother of the late king of Ladakh, has conducted the business of the Gompa. Because of the Chinese takeover of Tibet the monastery has had no communication with its Rimpoche since the ‘60s. During the 1975 festival Dugpa Rimpoche, 1 12 year-old youth, became the new Rimpoche as a new incarnation.

He is at the same time the overload of the Drugpa Kargyupa, one of the six divisions of the red-cap sect who, before the Chinese invasion of Tibet, possessed influence practically only in Bhutan and Ladakh. In Ladakh the Stagna and Chemre monasteries belong to this order, while Spitok belongs to the yellow-cap (Gelugpa order). Drugpa Rimpoche currently lives in Darjeeling, where he is completing his training.

How to Reach

Hemis is easily reached by a car or jeep from Leh (5 km) but rather difficult to get to by public transport. By car you follow the Upshi road past Shey and Tikse, this is the Manli road which follows the Indus. Past the TCP checkpoint at Karu you turn to the right to cross the Indus over a new bridge and follow the winding road up towards the Gompa. Unlike many other Gompas Hemis is not visible from afar – it only comes into view when you’re right beside it.

There is only one regular bus a day from Leh towards Hemis and it does not go right to the Gompa. You take the Sakti bus which departs Leh around 11 am and get down at Karu Bridge. You then have to walk up the six km road, it takes about two hours. Since the bus continues on to Sakti, turns around there and starts off on the return trip to Leh at 2 or 2.30 pm there is no way you can get up to the Gompa and back down to catch the bus back on the same day. Thus if you want to visit Hemis by bus you must plan on staying overnight at the monastery and returning the next day. During the tourist season the tourist office erects tents at Hemis for overnight visitors.

The Zanskar Valley, Land of Copper and Red

Zanskar

Zanskar, the region between Kargil and Lamayuru in the north and Kishtwar and Manali in the south is, at the moment, an ideal trekking area. The new road from Kargil over the Pensi La to Padum will bring a post office, bank and even a phone connection to the Zanskar capital but at present you will find none of these or any hotels. Nor will you find military installations and soldiers, a common part of the scene in Ladakh. The most you’ll come across is a mounted patrol or pony-carvan of the J&K Police. As for foreign visotrs they are still few and far and far between in this far ‘off the beaten track’ Himalayas valley. The valley is about 300 km and is unusual in that access is only by high passes from the sides. A unique feature of the Zanskar area is the twin of Nun and Kun.

Zanskar Valley, Ladakh

Zanskar Valley, Ladakh

Trekking Tips

Certain precautions will make a Zanskar trek an easier proposition:

Survaival
Anyone intending to trek in Zanskar Valley should be completely outfitted in Srinagar or, at the latest, Kargil. Very little will be found in Padum and in the small villages along the trail it is not easy to buy even Tsampa meal. If you have porters or pony-leaders you should ensure that they feed themselves. Most important you must take sufficnet kerosene (and ensure the containers do not leak!) since there is very little fuel for burning.

Food
Westerner’s should take along tinned meat and other food suitable for strenuous walking at altitudes from 3000 to 5000 meters. A larger group could take along a sheep as live meat. If you wish to (or have to) survive Zanskari style you should bring Tsampa (roasted grain) with tea, water and Chang. A kind of noodle known as Pakthuk can be prepared for a change and Tsmpa can also be baked as flat bread called takir or, in Tibetan, pakleb. Chuli Pak is a real Zanskari appetizer – it consists of apricots (Chuli) cooked in butter (hopefully not rancid), which is then eaten with flat bread for breakfast.

Packing
Clothing and equipment should be packed in a rucksack kitbag, the latter are easier to transport on pony back. Waterproof individual items by putting them in dust bags sealed with rubber loops.

Walking Stick
A sturdy stick is important, especially for crossing streams.

Shoes
Light canvas running shoes with rubber soles are recommended for trekking; they dry quickly after crossing steams. In no circumstance try to cross streams or rivers barefoot.

Sun Hat
Take a sun hat but ensures it stays firmly in place or it will sun be blown away.

Chap Stick
Important if you want to ovoid burnt, dry lips.

Sunglasses
Very important in the high mountains – good quality and 85% filter factor.

Parka & Sleeping Bag
Both should be good quality since the nights can get very cold

Tents
Make sure the tent is waterproof; some monsoon rain creep over the mountain barrier and bring heavy downpours.

Zanskar Trekking

Zanskar Trekking

Ponies for Trekking

Ponies are indispensable for riding and haulage in the Kashmir Valley, particularly on the Pahalgam-Amarnath trek, and in Ladakh, particularly on the Pahalgam they are often made of iron: hard, inflexible, awkward and with just a little leather on top. In either case riding rapidly becomes impossible, but not only are the saddles a nightmare, the bridle and stirrups are equally bad. In fact stirrups are often completely lacking o Suru Valley and Zanskar ponies and the bridle may be simply a loose rope tied around the animal’s neck. A tall westerner, with his legs reaching almost to the ground, looks like Don Quixote! The reason for this poor equipment is quite simple – apart from water crossings poines are primarily used only as beasts of burden and rarely ridden. If you wish to use your own saddle it is not necessary to bring it with you since saddles are sold in the neighborhood of the Shah Hamadan Mosque in Srinagar. They can easily be resold after you complete you pony trek.

In choosing a pony, if you should be so fortunate as to have a choice, considering the limited number available, pay close attention to the rear and withers. Otherwise you will have an uncomfortable time on horseback. Forget whatever you known about horse when viewing these animals – they fly in the face of our preconceptions and are unbelievably nimble and surefooted. If you decide to entrust yourself such a ‘disguised deer’ do not try to steer them, they find their own way with remarkable certainly. If you do want to direct the pony with the reins (they do not seem to understand hints on the shanks) them give a gentle indication and allow one or two seconds reaction time. They’re not machines with instantaneous reactions! Over strenuous tugging at there in leads to defensive resistance.

Allow the ponies sufficiently long rest stops and opportunities to relax. The animals don’t always find enough food at overnight halting places (at least in Zanskar) so they are allowed or wander in search of food at night. Don’t blame the horse-drivers if it takes some time to round them up in the morning. The mid-day stop should, if possible, be at a place where ponies can graze. Unload them at this time and remove the saddles, you will see the ponies roll on their backs to reduce the flatulence caused by the tight belly band. The pause should not be too short or, further down the trail, the docile beasts may suddenly decide to throw off their load or rider and settle down to some serious grazing. Bear in mind that the smell of westerners is still unusual to Zanskari horse. A local horse-leader can be very reassuring for the ponies but if you ride alone it is important to tether your pony during stops. Otherwise it will gallop off home at the first opportunity.

The lightly tinkling bells found around the neck of Zanskari horses drown out the noise of falling stones and reassure the horses. Despite such precautions against panic horses do sometimes fall, as happened on our trek from Zangla to Nerag (see Padum-Lamauru Trek) when our houses was drowned. This is naturally seen as a bad omen for the trip a porters and horses-drivers may desert you after such an accident. Financial compensation for the dead animal will help, it is often the horse-driver’s sole possession. You must reckon on Rs.1000 to 2000. In general Zanskari horses and porters are more reliable than those from Kashmir. Fro horses from the Suru Valley the rope suspension bridges at Padum constitute an insurmountable obstacle on a trek to Zanskar and you will have have to swithch to Zanskari horses from Thonde or Zangla. They are able able to get across these frightening bridges. Many porters from then Kashmir Valley are unwilling to go beyond Padum since they are unused to the high altitude passes (5000 meters) on the trek to Lamayuru, Leh or Manali.

Religious Festivals in Zanskar

Festivals in Zanskar

Religious Festivals in Zanskar

Karsha Gompa
Gostor on the 25th-29th days of the 11th month of the Tibetan calendar – usually in the first week in January, features Cham dance with masks.

Tonde (Stongde) Gompa
Gostor form the 29th day of the 11th month of the Tibetan calendar – it follows the end of the Karsha Gosto.

Bardon Gompa
Gersta on the 15th day of the fourth month (usually the first week in June), features Cham dance with mask. This is the only Zanskar festival that takes place in the summer; the Hemis festival in Ladakh takes place at the same time and is similarly the only Ladakh summer festival.

Zongkhul Gompa
Zongkhul Huchot takes place on the 16th and 17the days of the fourth month but there are no mask dances.

Sani Gompa
Sani Nasjal takes place between the 15th and 20th days of the sixth Tibetan month, usually the first week in August. The festival takes place during the blooming of the ‘Guru Neropa Flower’.

Phuctal Gompa
Anchog takes place on the 15th day of the 11th month and is, once again, only prayers

Tagrimo Gompa
A one day prayer festival takes place on the 29th day of the 11the month, at the same time as the Karsha Gostor.

Padum
The Padum Hurim or Skurim is on the 28th and 29th day of the 11th month, at the same time as the Karsha Gostor.

Zangla
The Zangla Hurim is on the 28th and 29th day of the 10th month (first week) in December). On the 29th day there will be mask dance in from of the Zangla Palace.

Lingshot Gompa
Monlam takes place on the 15th day of the first Tibetan month (February) and consist of prayers.

Madhya Pradesh – The Green Land of India

Madhya Pradesh is richly endowed with unexploited and spectacular natural environment. Playing this strength to its advantage, the state has metamorphosised into a sought after eco-destination.

Home to revered pilgrimage shrines, historical monuments, lavish places, rich culture and gracious hospitality, Madhya Pradesh is both mysterious and mesmerizing. It’s many abandoned cities provide an  intriguing glimpse into the rich and colourful past. Here, one can get a first hand experience of ancient Indian history – right from a visit to the Sanchi Stupa, built, built by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka to the unique temples of Khajuraho. Endowed with immense natural beauty and splendor, Madhya Pradesh is also famous for its wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, offering you the opportunity to enjoy its rich variety of flora and fauna.

madhya pradesh tourism

madhya pradesh tourism

The Way Forward

Understanding the importance and significance of preserving nature, the government of Madhya Pradesh has been quite vigilant with regards to eco tourism and policies pertaining to the same have been framed since the year 2001. The ecotourism policy has helped identify areas and a host of districts for eco-promotions. Attraction such as national parks and wild life sanctuaries and activities like canoeing, trekking, jungle safari, white-water rafting, rock climbing, mountaineering, para sailing, para gliding and hot-air ballooning have seen a tremendous rise.

To garner further support, tour operators, travel agents and different members from the hospitality industry along with several other private investors were encouraged to partake in the mission of developing and popularizing these activities. Ecotourism has not only enabled tourist to enjoy nature and see wild life in its natural habitat, but has also helped develop the region as a whole. Here are some of the must visit destinations of Madhya Pradesh that are bound to leave you enchanted.

Kanha National Park

Kanha National Park

Bandhavgarh & Kanha National Parks

Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Parks are among the top national parks in India. Bandhavgarh, while being relatively difficult to reach, is the best place for you to spot tigers in the wild in India. The sprawling Kanha National Park has the honour of providing the setting for Rudyard Kipling’s classic novel, The Jungle Book. The two parks are today being recognized as examples in wildlife preservation and according to nature experts, the national parks thoroughly follow the principles of ecotourism and are committed to maintaining the ecological balance in nature. Serious eco friendly measures have been incorporated to protect the reserve, including a ban on pollution causing diesel jeeps. The original tribal’s of the region, apart from receiving alternate accommodation facilities, have also been involved in the activities of the forest preservation and protection plan. Apart from garnering popularity in the international market, the two sanctuaries also generate large sums of foreign exchange for the state of Madhya Pradesh.

Khajuraho Temples

Located in Chattarpur district, Khajuraho has the largest group of medieval Hindu and Jain temples, famous for their erotic sculptures. Originally housing 85 temples of which 25 remain in a reasonable state, Khajuraho is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. Here, you can get a glimpse into the explicit depiction of the sexual life during medieval times. Moreover, they sow a celebration of love, life and worship. It is said that although the locals were well always aware of the presence of these temples, it was pointed out to the English only when the wrath of nature had taken a toll on the monuments. The Khajuraho group of temples has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is considered to be one of the seven wonders of India.

Khajuraho Temple

Khajuraho Temple

Pachmarhi

An abode of tranquility, Pachmarhi is Madhya Pradesh’s most verdant gem. Bridle paths lead you into placid forest groves of wild bamboo, Jamun, dense Sal forest and delicate bamboo thickets. The lovely hill station perched in the majestic Satpura Range offers you an escape from the crazy rush of an urban life with its lush greenery, breathtaking views, waterfalls, mountain streams, rich and rare wildlife.

Gwalior

Conveniently located at a mere distance of two hours’ drive from the Taj Mahal, Gwalior is full of history. Its main attraction, the massive hilltop fort that towers over the city, is bound to bowl you over. Reputed to be one of the most invincible forts in India, its history stretches back over 1,000 years. The regal fort has changed hands many times – from the Tomaras in the 8th century, it was passed on to the Mughals, and then the Marathas under the Scindias. The Mughal emperor Babur is said to have described it as ‘the pearl amongst fortresses in India’. While in Gwalior you must visit the marvelous Jivaji Rao Scindia Museum, which exhibits a wide range of articles from all over the world. Objects on display include miniature paintings, weapons, bronzes, sculpture, manuscripts and coins. Gwalior is one of the largest cities of Central India and is often referred to as the tourist capital of Madhya Pradesh.

Dhuandhar Falls, Bhedaghat

The Dhuandhar Falls are located on the Narmada River in Bhedaghat. Whilst the river makes its way across the very famous Marble Rocks, it narrows down and then plunges in a waterfall known as Dhuandhaar. The plunge, which creates a bouncing mass of mist, is so powerful that you can hear its roar from a far distance. Watch the spectacular waterfalls and witness the power of nature unleashed at Bhedaghat.

Dhuandhar Falls, Bhedaghat

Dhuandhar Falls

Eco Resorts in Madhya Pradesh

Nature Heritage Resort, Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

Spread across a sprawling six acres at the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, the Nature Heritage resort houses 22 elegantly furnished, air-conditioned cottages, with a personal veranda and garden. Get pampered with some farm fresh cooked meals served at their three restaurants. Being environmentally sensitive, the resort has restrained itself from adding a swimming pool.

Banjaar Tola, Kanha National Park

Situated along the banks of the Banjaar River, directly overlooking the heart of Kanha National Park, Banjaar Tola houses two elegant camps of nine suites each. Both the camps have their own intimate tented sitting area. The luxurious, yet lightweight, en-suite tents have been designed in a contemporary style giving an opportunity to experience luxury amidst the wilderness.

Mahuaa Vann, Pench National Park

Spread across 11 acres and housing over 300 large trees, the Mahuaa Vann resort at Pench Tiger reserve is an eco-sensitive resort. It houses 20 beautiful cottages, out of which 12 are designed to give you a sense of privacy, while eight cottages are in cluster, allowing visiting groups an opportunity to bond with each other. Equipped with a conference room, a comfortable lunge and library, well spread restaurant and plenty of sit out spots in nature, the resort truly helps you connect with nature.

Places of Tourist Interest in Ladakh

It has been called ‘the moonland’, or ‘the last Shangri La’. Those romantic definations all hold more than a slight degree of truth. Ladakh is the most remote region of India, a barren, virtually rainless area which lies north of the Himalayan, an area known geographically as the Tibetan plateau. The Himalayas serve as a barrier to clouds carrying rain form the Sahara. The result is the ‘moonland’ label – much of Ladakh looks much like the moon, a barren, grey-brown landscape from faraway glaciers or melting snow, carry water to habitation do you find plant life. Ladakh is a part of strategically important Jammu and Kashmir, there are so many places to visit for so many reasons.

Here are some visiting places in Ladakh listed below:

Drass, Ladakh

Drass, Ladakh

Drass

This is a small village with a TCP and a large military camp on the Drass River, en route to Kargil. The public works Department Rest House has a tourist officer and stands on the right hand side of the road from Srinagar. It can’t be missed as it is directly opposite the Rahi Tea Stall where there is ‘Hot Tea Available Anytime’. Drass is famed for its freezing temperatures and heavy winter snowfalls. In this area the dialect spoken is named after the weather – Hambabs means snowfall. For trekking from Drass to Sanku (Suru Valley).

From Drass to Kargil the road follows the river. At a left-hand curve outside of Drass four 7th century Buddhist bas-reliefs stand next to the road: Maitreya, Avalokitesvera, an equestrian figure and a lotus. Beyond Tashgam the valley narrows and the mountain side on both sides of the river are covered with rocks and pebbles. Shortly before the road from the Drass Valley turns off into the Suru Valley a reasonable bridge, passable by jeeps, crosses the Drass River towards the left. This bridge is barred to foreigners as it leads into a restricted military area.

From Drass the road runs to Kharbu (10 km), to Channigund (14 km) an then Kargil (10 km). The villages along the route are all hundreds of meters above the road, on small plateau. Beyond Tashgam the Landscape becomes more rocky, the mountains on both sides of the ricer reaching 5000 to 5500 meters.

Kargil

Kargil was once an important trading post due to its strategic location at strategic location at the intersection of trade routes from Russia to India and from China to the west. Over the last 30 years political changes have considerably reduced its importance. Today it is just a village at the junction of the Drass and Suru Rivers, 20 km from the Indus; a stoping point with hotels, camping facilities and a service station on the road to Leh. The buses to and from Leh stop for the night here. Civilian leave for Leh between 4.30 and 5 am.

If you are contemplating trekking in Zanskar or Ladakh it is worth pointing out that until Padum travelers must live off their stored supplies for virtually the entire distance. Anything forgotten in Srinagar should, therefore, be bought here. Due to the strong religious beliefs of the local population great difficulties accompany the purchase of alcohol.

The dialect spoken here is Purik and shows its relationship with the dialect spoken in Skardu, Pakistan. In contrast to the rest of Ladakh, the children here are taught in Arabic. A momentous occasion in Kargil is the archery contest in May. By the time of gets to Kargil the traveler will have been struck by the artificially irrigated fields. Since irrigation is so important in this region, the distribution of water requires great care. Every village is divided into groups, called Gowar, of from five to 10 families, to ensure an equitable arrangement. In Kargil itself the conspicuous absence of women in the streets is a consequence of Islamic religious practice. The people follow the Shi’ite Moslem sect, like the Iranians.

Kargil Town

Kargil Town

Kargil is the second largest town in Ladakh and has a population of about 3000. It’s situated in a lovely valley with apricot trees growing in the intensively cultivated fileds. Williows and poplars grow beside the irrigation ditches which lead to the terraced files. They furnish building materials for the construction of houses in this nearly treeless land.

Trespone and sankhoo are two ‘Imanbaras” found in Kargil. These Turkish style buildings have Persian and Arabic speaking Moslem mystic’s kwon as Aghas in residence. Kargil also has a mosque, the Jami Masjid. Kargil’s Moslems are noted for their extreme orthodoxy.

Around Kargil

Mount Kala Pahad (4575 metres) near to Kargil was under Pakistani control until the 1971 India-Pakistan conflict. In that war the borders of India were pushed further to the west but one still cannot travel directly to the Indus Valley and along the Indus to Leh. One must still take the hard way over the Namika-La and Fatu-La passes and reach the Indus Valley by Khalsi. At present a road is being built around the Namika-La pass – ‘which touches the sky’. It runs through the forbidden zone, west of the present road. In this region are the interesting villages of Garkon, Dards, Dardchik and Dha Hanoo, whose population (altogether about 700 people) is light skinned and speaks a language which sounds like Russian although it also contains elements of Persian and Sanskrit, the language of the Aryan invaders. The remote locality and the custom of marrying only amongst themselves have preserved their distinctive indent right up to the present day. The government of the village is the responsibility of a seven-man village council, chosen by all men in the village. In July these villages celebrate a harvest festival which lasts for several days. Garkon is 80 km from Kargil.

Shergol

The small village of Shergol is 33 km from Kargil. The village, on the right hand side of the Wakkha River, is hard to see from the road as it lies behind a mountain. A small Gompa perches half-way up the eastern slope of this mountain. Appropriate to its size the Gompa has only two monks who are tended b a single nun. Some of the room, such as the kitchen, are hewn from the rock and resemble holes more than rooms. At the foot of the mountain, near the 35-houses village (210 inhabitants), there is a less important Gompa.

mulbekh monastery

mulbekh monastery

Mulbekh

A further seven from Shergol brings you to this Wakkha valley village. The palace of Rajah Chalon of Mulbekh is on the left hand side of the road. Above the village on the slopes is a double monastery. It’s a difficult ascent, particularly if you are not yet acclimatized to the altitude of Ladakh. Two paths lead to the Gompa and the right hand path (Monastery Mountain to the left) is the easier. Here, as with all Gompas  in Ladakh, one should make enquiries’ beforehand in the village as to whether the monks are present. Often the Gompas may be deserted for days at a time and therefore shut. Only in the mornings and evening can one be sure of encountering lamas who are not engaged in prayer. We were able to put two lamas of Mulbekh Gompa into action by showing them pictures of the Dalai Lama. These pictures of a holy and are haled accordingly – carefully touched, pressed on the forehead and reverentially returned. With amazing speed the lamas then ascended the maountain and opened the Gompas (the Serdung and Gandentse Gompas) for us.

Choose the direct path up to the Gompas even though it seems steep for it gives a better view of the Wakkha Valley. A festive highpoint is the harvest thanksgiving festival (Shuba) which is celebrated at the same time in practically all larger Wakkha Valley villages. Mulbekh  Subhla is a great attraction during the harvest time when the oracle of Mulbekh makes an appearance. In one is incarnated in a young farmer.

One should always remove one’s shoes when visiting a Gompa. If you do not like going barefoot, the floors are often coated with rancid butterfat, take along socks or stockings for these visits. Obviously one should also have a reverent attitude;’ don’t make loud noises or touch holy figures. Remember that mani walls or chortens should always be walked around clockwise with the structure on your right.

Chamba Satue
A km beyond Mulbekh, beside the road on the right hand side, is a huge figure of the Matriya, or future, Buddha, cut into the rock. The figure is thought to date from Kushan period, around the time of the birth of Christ. Inscriptions found on the side of the rock are in the Kharoshti script. A new small temple, which partly obscures the figure, was built in 1975.

Gel
If you wish to make more than a short pause at Mulbekh and to experience a little of the local way of life then visit the village of Gel. The small village, picturesquely situated on a steep slope above the Wakkha River, still lives, (like many Ladakhi villages) in a bygone era. Although it is only a few km from the surfaced road Indian soldiers rarely come here and during a visit there time seems to stand still. When we visited Get not only did the children cry when they first saw us, but adults held the animals fast in their quarters, barricaded the doors and observed us suspiciously form the roofs of their houses. The ice was rapidly broken, however, when we wanted to buy an expensive Giri (hand-spindle with distaff). With the construction of the new jeep-road to the Namika-La, the modern world is now encroaching upon Ge.

Namika La

Namika La

Namika La & Fatu La
From Mulbekh the road climbs through a sand hill landscape to the 3718 meter high Namika La. The first village beyond the pass is Kangral; a small collection of houses where it may be possible to obtain fuel Here also a dirt road branches to the left, leading to stakchey, Samra, Chiktan (with old palace ruins), Sihakar, and Sanjar and along the Indus to eventually meet the Kargil-Khalsi road. The principal town in the valley of the Kanji Nallah is Bodh Kharbu, a large military camp which stretches put on both the right and left sides of the road. In the rest houses of the PWD, on the left had side of the road, the two traveler’s rooms can sometimes be used by tourists. There are many government projects underway during the beautiful summer moths so your chances or finding a room free are not good.

The road follows the river for a short time and then winds its way to the 4094 meter high Fatu La pass, which is always cool and windy. This is the highest pass on the Srinagar-Leh road. About 15 km from the top of the pass the old Tibetan monastery of Lamayur stands below the road on a crumbling mountain. There is a village on the mountain side.

Basgo
Above the road at this small town is the heavily devastated Basgo Fort. Basgo Gompa is worth a visit on account of its Buddha figures but, unfortunately, its wall painting have been badly water damaged. The first gompa has a two-storey high golden Chamba statue in ‘European’ sitting posture. Smaller Chamba statues stand in front of the figure of the white clothed Chamonada. One of the three monks who live below the Gompa in a small house will have the Gompa key.

Nimmu
On the right had side of the road in the green fields there are four ‘Gate’ chortens. Just 2.5 km beyond Nimmu the road leads to the place where the Zanskar River flows into the Indus through the Nimmu Gateway (Nimmu Gyasgo), a large cleft rock. From here it is only 35 km to Leh.

Kasauli – A Beautiful Hill Station in Himachal Pradesh

Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh

Location – Solan District, Himachal Pradesh
Altitude – 6100 feet
Best time to Visit – April to October

Kasauli is a solitary settlement on a hilltop, in Solan district of Himachal Pradesh. It is located about 320 kilometers away from New Delhi. The landscape, climate and the terrain of Kasauli are completely different from other hill stations in North India. And, being located is one of the young Himalayan Mountains, Kasauli is very rich in flora and fauna. The name Kasauli is derived from a flower called Kasool, which grows in this region. The town is most commonly known for its lush foliage, quietness and its cobbled passages.

Kasauli Himachal Pradesh

Kasauli Himachal Pradesh

The extremely neat town is situated 6100 ft above the sea level. The region is suitable for vegetation such as Himalayan Oak, Chir-Pine and Horse Chestnut trees to grow in abundance. The town also exhibits an exceptional concoction of British Victorian age, the Indian Medieval Period and the Modern Indian. Every year, this small town receives a huge number of tourists, especially weekend travelers from the neighboring cities.

In the 17th century, Kasauli was home for the Rajput families, but it was taken over by the Britishers in the 19th century. Thus, besides Shimla, Kasauli became a summer destination for the British generals and the soldiers. Today, Kasauli is not only a tourist destination, but it is a large military cantonment.

This town is slightly on the upper-range (Expensive), thus most backpackers usually avoid going to Kasauli – room for one night starts from Rs.1000. In Kasauli, resorts outnumber hotels and guesthouses; resorts at the upper mall road provide the best view in the whole town. Vacationers love walking on foot to explore the town, but the picturesque Kasauli surroundings can also be explored on rented motorbikes and taxies.

What can you do in Kasauli? Very simple! Take a few good books with you and drink a lot of Tea! But if you have plans to explore the town, make sure to carry an umbrella or a rain jacket; the weather in Kasauli can be very unpredictable.

Places to Visit in Kasauli

Kasauli Sunset Point

Kasauli Sunset Point

Sunset Points
The first and foremost destination is the sunset point. This spot is located approximately 1.2 km away from the Kasauli club House (The Upper Mall Road) or 2.5 km from the bus stand. Walking on this particular stretch is very pleasant! In a way, sunset point and monkey point offers the same view, except that, for security reasons tourists are not allowed to visit the monkey point after 5:30 P.M. The sunset view is simply wonderful; the entire scene looks like an art work on a huge wall. Cuddle up, take pictures; snug-in, the choice is yours, but make sure you visit this place. The best time to visit sunset point is between 6:30 P.M and 7:30 P.M. (depending on the season). After the sun sets in, for a change, the sky and the earth resembles each other. They look equally beautiful; the sky is full of stars, scattered everywhere and the same on earth as people living in the low-lying area turn on the light. Note; they do not allow visitors to go beyond the Air Force check point (Which is 1 km before the sunset point) after 7:30 P.M., so make sure you are already inside!

Monkey Point
It’s also the highest elevation point in Kasauli, where a temple is erected in honor of Lord Hanuman (the Hindu Monkey King according to Hindu mythology). It’s a pleasant walk to the monkey point, which is around 5 km from the main town. Once inside the premises, one has to climb around 0’8 km to reach the temple. Otherwise there is a restaurant inside the premises with severs excellent tea and after a good view of the Punjab plains. All sorts of electronic devices, including phones, cameras, pen drives, music player etc are strictly not allowed inside the premises. Make sure you don’t carry them with you, unless you travel by car where you can deposit them safely – also carry your passport or an identity Card with you. On a clear day, one can see the plains of Chandigarh, the terrain of Punjab, the hills around Shimla and the silver lining of Satluj River.

Sunrise point
There are few sunrise points in Kasauli, the most prominent being one on the way to monkey point and the other on the way to sunset point. For early birds, this is the perfect destination. Most travelers say; a Trip to Kasauli is incomplete if you fail to witness the sun rise – the crimson sun slowly emerges, the world becomes brighter and brighter, it looks like the sun will never stop growing in size.

The Markets

Kasauli has two markets adjoining to each other, Pine Mall and Heritage Mall – stretches around 150 meters. They are very small markets, but sell cute and fancy items such as handicraft, accessories and women clothes. Also, there are small eating joints, which sell Maggie, Thukpa, Momo etc. but if you want something different, visit Rudar Café – the café was opened by few boys, a year ago. They play nice music throughout the day, and the food is great too!

Christ Church, Kasauli

Christ Church, Kasauli

Christ Church

The Christ Church is nothing fancy, but quite attractive! It was built in 1844 and located right next to Kasauli bus stand. It was built in the style of Anglican churches – the lustful shrubbery and trees around add to the beauty of the church. On a regular day, this church is flooded by tourist taking pictures and walking around it.

Strolling through the narrow thoroughfares and bird watching are very common activities among holiday makers. Above all, the best thing to do in Kasauli is to simply stroll or pick a conversation with some stranger over a cup of tea. Remember they are also travelers like us and are looking to engage in some adventurous activities! One cannot get loud on the street; it’s a cantonment area. Smoking is strictly prohibited in public places; penalty can go upto Rs.25000. besides, it’s best to make hotel reservation before arriving at Kasauli.

How to Get There

Roadway – buses, coaches and taxis are easily available from Delhi

Nearest Railway Station – Kalka in Haryana (40 km from Kasauli)

Nearest Airport – Shimla airport and Chandigarh airport (35km and 65km from Kasauli)

Bodh Gaya – A site of Enlightened

Spiritual Sojourns

The centre of the Buddhist Universe, Bodh Gaya helps one understand the message of the Enlightened one.

We stood amid the ruins of an ancient Stupa that rested like a crumpled crown on the summit of a little mound that overlooked the dry Flagu River. And as dusk cast its veil like a soothing balm over the sun-scorched land, the sand of the riverbed started to glow with an almost mysterious golden-yellow hue. A little shrine perched on the banks of the river was bathed in fluorescent light and shimmered like a beacon for souls lost in the vast sea of sand.

Maha Bodhi temple

Maha Bodhi temple

Popular legend has it that this shrine stands on the very spot where Prince Siddhartha bid farewell to the five disciples who had accompanied him through his six years of penance and meditation. Dejected by the fact that he had still not unlocked the mysteries of life and human suffering, he pleaded with them to leave him alone. Soon after they had departed, the young prince sat down for his first meal in six years, offered to him by an old lady who lived in a hut close by. He then crossed the sandy stretch, a frail skeleton-like figure trudging across the barren riverbed to the forest on the other side.

That night as Prince Siddhartha mediated on a bundle of straw under a bodhi tree the earth heaved and a slab of polished stone emerged directly under him. And that night he attained enlightenment and was reborn as Lord Buddha. Today, the forest has been transformed into a sprawling temple complex around which the pilgrim town of Boddh Gaya and indeed the entire world revolves. For Bodh Gaya is the centre of the earth… or so Buddhists believe; for it is here that the religion traces its origins.

The Mahabodhi Temple Complex (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) comprises manicured gardens and shrines that surround the towering Stupa within which is the larger-than-life gilded statue of the Buddha. We looked at the bejeweled sage and could not help but muse on the paradox that he was being showered with the earthly treasure that he had renounced in his life. That was till we saw a group f devotees, elderly men and women, walk past in single file. The simple unquestioning devotion that radiated from eyes that gazed out of their parched ad wrinkled faces was a fitting rebuttal to our skepticism.

bodhgaya tree

bodhgaya tree

We lowered our cameras and meditated on the Buddha and his message. For a brief moment, we were cocooned in a void, away from the hustle and bustle of pilgrim around us… indeed, the world itself seemed to go into a prolonged spasm as we felt the Buddha reach out through the centuries and touch us. The moment of infinity was brief before we were dragged back once more to the raucous reality of the pilgrims around us.

We joined the river of pilgrims as they circled the main stupa, stopping to offer prayers and seek the blessing of the Lord at the number of smaller shrines and gilded statues that grace the complex. After admiring the bodhi tree under which Lord Buddha attained spiritual liberation (the one today is believed to have sprung from the roots of the original tree), we set off to explore the town which was studded with monasteries that reflected the architectural flair of the nations that built them: Japan, China, Thailand, Tibet, Sri Lanka…. Indeed, they gave Bodh Gaya the feel of a miniature global village them park. Our final stop was at the giant 80 ft Japanese statue of the Buddha before we retired for the night. Yes, Bodh Gaya was our first stop on a spiritual journey that traced the footsteps of the Buddha as he progressed from birth in Lumbini across the border in Nepal to Kushinagar where he discarded his earthly body and attained Maha Parinirvan. In many ways it was an awakening of sorts: our personal journey of enlightenment.

On the Buddhist Trail

  • The Maha Parinirvan Special Train, run by Indian Railways stops at the most important places on the Buddhist pilgrim circuit as it chugs across the plains of Central India.
  • The eight-day / seven-night journey which starts and ends in Delhi covers the four main sites that are a must on any in-the-footsteps-of-the-Buddha itinerary: Lumbini where Buddha was born, Bodh Gaya where he attained enlightenment, Saravasti where he spent 25 of the 45 monsoon seasons after enlightenment and Kushinagar where he discarded his earthly body.
  • It also includes a number of other Buddhist pilgrim sites as well as the Hindu pilgrim town of Varanasi and Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal.

Bandipur Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka

Once the hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Mysore, Bandipur National Park is today is a wildlife reserve that is home to a fascinating variety of wildlife. The wildlife reserve was originally part of the Venugopal Wildlife Park. In 1973, it became one of the first reserves under Project Tiger, an Indian Government initiative to project the tiger from extinction. It was renamed the Bandipur National Park in 1974.

shivanasamudra bandipur gopalaswamy betta

shivanasamudra bandipur gopalaswamy betta

Protected under the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, along with the Nagarahole, Mudumalai and Wayanand sanctuaries, it is one of the country’s best tiger reserves. The sanctuary is located at the foot of the scenic Nilgiri range.

A mix of dry deciduous, evergreen and scrub forests thrive here as does a multitude of flora and fauna. There are many water bodies, hilltops, abandoned temples and villages to break the monotony of the undulating terrain. The Kabini, Nugu and Moyar rivers flow through the Park. Streams like the Bavali, Moolehola, Kekkanalla and Marandi are other replenishment spots for the animals.

Bandipur is home to large herds of the regal Asian elephant and nearly a hundred majestic tigers. Sighting a tiger is a matter of luck but the more commonly sighted animals include the elephant, Gaur (Indian bison), Chital (spotted deer), Sambar, Dhole (wild dogs), Barking Deer, Langur, Porcupine, Slender Loris, Malabar Squirrels, the Black-napped Hare, the Tiger, Four Horned Antelope, Panther, Sloth Bear, Crocodile, Mouse Deer and Osprey. Reptiles commonly include the Common Rat Snake, Russell’s viper, Common Krait, Indian Python, Flying Snake and Cobra. Many of the species here are endangered ones and protected by law.

Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta
Himavad means “covered in clouds”, a name befitting the lush hill which stands proud at a height of 1455 meters. A temple at the hill top, dedicated to Lord Krishna, is a popular stop for trekkers. Catch a dazzling sunset and a panoramic view of distant surroundings from the hilltop. One can occasionally encounter grazing herds of wild elephants.

bandipur Bison

bandipur Bison

Moyar Gorge
The River Moyar winds its way through this area and separates the reserve into the Bandipur and Mudumalai forests in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu respectively. The river cuts the rocky terrain through the 300 meters deep Moyar Gorge. Also famously known as the Mysore Ditch, the gorge is believed to be the only region in Bandipur where the Indian Four Horned Antelope can be sighted.

Safaris

The plethora of wildlife in these forests can be best enjoyed on a safari ride and is therefore a must do on your Bandipur trip. Forest Department vehicles at the Bandipur Tiger Reserve will take you on these safaris. The forest department also arranges for elephant rides. Almost all resorts offer safari activities on request.

The Forest Department conducts van safari and jeep safari.

The Van Safari is a 40 minute drive in a 25 seater van.

The Timings Are:
Morning: 6.30 am to 9 am, Evening: 3.30 pm to 5.30 pm
The Jeep Safari is for a maximum of 5 people at a time and there are two in the morning and two in the evening.

The Timings Are:
Morning: First Trip: 6.30 am to 8 am, Second Trip: 8 am to 9.30 am
Evening: first Trip: 3.30 pm to 5 pm, Second Trip: 5 pm to 6.30 pm
Jungle Lodges & Resorts also conducts safaris in Bandipur for guest staying with them.

The Timings Are
Morning: 6 am to 8.30 am, Evening: 4 pm to 6.30 pm

Bird Watching

With more than 200 species of avifauna, bird watching in Bandipur can become a preoccupation with bird lovers. Sometimes the chirping of birds is the only sound to break the stillness of early mornings in the forest. Peafowl, the national bird, can be seen in this forest. Besides, birds like Red Spurfowl, Grey Jungle fowl, Herons, Egrets, Partridge, Quail, Lapwing, Warbles and Green Pigeon can be spotted regularly.

Bird Watching at Bandipur

Bird Watching at Bandipur

Best time to view wildlife - May-June and September – November

Around Bandipur

Nanjangud – 55 km from Bandipur is Nanjangud, a pilgrim centre on the banks of the Kapila River, famous for the massive Nanjundeshwara Temple. Built in Dravidian style, this temple is one of the largest of its kind in Karnataka. The town takes its name from the temple.

How to Reach There:

By Air – Bangalore - 265 km

By Rail – Mysore - 90 km

By Road Mysore – 90 km, Bangalore – 220 km

Best Tourist Place Near Jaipur

Tourist Places abound in Jaipur, giving you a clear reflection of the royal Rajputana culture, riches and ethnicity. So if you are in the city and want to explore Jaipur to the fullest, you must know where to start from and which are the most noteworthy and must-visit places for you. Read on to get an idea.

The arid land of Rajasthan has a beauty of its own to attract thousands of tourists every year. A major part of Rajasthan is covered by the Great Thar desert that will present you with typical sand dunes, camel caravans, thorny bushes and undulating plains of sand stretching beyond all limits. The colorful culture; the typical desert music and dances like ghumars etc, the Banjaras and their very colorful costumes, the desert handicrafts, the palatial buildings of historical importance scattered all across the state and of course the tangy and spicy Rajasthani cuisine are all just enough to draw lots of tourists from all over the nation plus the globe to the state.

If you have plans to visit Rajasthan this year, keep Jaipur at the top of your list. Jaipur, we all know is the state capital and is dotted with some real fabulous visit-able places that will definitely appeal to anyone who loves traveling and exploring new places.

Take a look at the Top Tourist Places of Jaipur, the well famed as the ‘Pink City’.

Hawa Mahal

Hawa Mahal

1. Hawa Mahal

This Hawa Mahal is a monument, semi-octagonal in structure and 5 storied. It comes with 152 windows, an outstanding feature that makes this monument truly unique and famous. The founder of this Mahal was Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh and the construction of this Mahal took place around 1799. The overhanging balconies with superb lattice work exhibit a fine specimen of Rajput architecture and were meant for the Royal ladies to take a look at the processions and entertain themselves by peeping down at any other activities going on in the street adjoining the Mahal. Today Hawa Mahal has a Museum stocked with artifacts and arsenal collections from the yester years giving a clear glimpse of the rich and royal Rajputana era.

2. Jantar Mantar

Another place which you shouldn’t miss when you are in Jaipur is the Jantar Mantar. It’s the amazing observatory that was constructed by the Rajput king Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in the 18th century. The Jantar Mantar allowed an accurate study of the movement of stellar objects in the universe like stars and constellations in that era when technology and science didn’t reach the present state of advancement. Even till date the huge Sun-dial you see there, will provide you time with highest accuracy

3. Birla Planetarium

This is another place in Jaipur really worth visiting. The exceptional audio-visual presentation that you would get to see there would not only be informative but also truly enjoyable. The most sophisticated computerized system of projection is used offering the audio-visual presentation and the subject is of course entertainment & stars. Make sure you reach in time so as to enjoy the show right from the start. The show timings are 11.00 hrs, 13.00 hrs, 15.00 hrs, 17.00 hrs, 18.00 hrs, 19.00 hrs.

city palace jaipur

city palace jaipur

4. City Palace & Museum

The city palace located centrally in the old city covers an area that is huge enough. In other words, the City palace extends to almost 1/7th of total area that comes under the Old Jaipur city. You will get to see a clear fusion of Mughal and Rajput Architectures in the architectural style of the city palace. The noteworthy attractions of the city palace are the Diwan-E-Aam (Hall for the Public Visitors) and Diwan-E-Khas (Hall for the Special Private Visitors). The Ornate intricate carvings characterizing the architecture of Diwan-E-Aam will definitely appeal you and the huge collection of valuable manuscripts preserved there will help you to explore the rich past. The Marble-balconied gallery in Diwan-E-Khas which is famous for its exclusive collection of royal textiles and costumes is called Mubarak Mahal. It will let you know about the lavish royal lifestyle of the Rajput Kings and Queens in the past eras. The Sileh Khana with its huge collection of weapons and armories gives you a glimpse into the military strength and bravado of the Rajput kings. So visiting the city palace and museum is indeed a big treat for a history loving tourist.

5. Jaigarh Fort

This Fort is on the hilltop that overlooks the palaces and the Amer city. The Fort is world famous for Jai Ban, the biggest on-wheels canon nowhere else to be found throughout the world. The cannon come with unique barrel 20 ft long and was meant to be pumped in for just one single shot. The canon was constructed during the ruling period of Maharaja Sawai Jaisingh.

6. Nahargarh Fort

This Fort was constructed around 1734 and lies on a hill that towers 600ft above the Jaipur city. The Fort walls crest the hill and will lure you with a sense of strong security that the Rajput had set up for themselves with the strong masonry walls bordering the hill’s ridge. Once you are inside the fort, you will indeed marvel at the architectural intricacies and beauty of the Madhavendra Bhawan, Hawa Mandir that lies within.

Laxmi Narayan Temple

Laxmi Narayan Temple

7. Laxmi Narayan Temple

This Temple also popularly called the Birla Temple, falls just underneath Moti Doongri and is well famed for its ornate White marble Carvings that make the Temple appear as a true specimen of rare architectural beauty!

8. Amer

Amer is a city that stands aloof and apart from the main Jaipur city. It lies atop a hill and is actually the old ruling capital city of the well known Kachhwahas. The fort is famous in many respects; i.e. for its sturdy battlements, surroundings full of majestic grandeur and palaces of great architectural beauty. These all attributes are just enough to draw tourists to Amer from far and wide. The Fort shows a clear fusion of Hindu-Muslim Architectural Styles. There’s a lake of pellucid water just at foothills and when the colors of the Red sand stone along with the pavilions made out of white marble reflect on this lake, it indeed creates a magical solemn sight which you shouldn’t at all miss. The Original Amer Palace was constructed during the times of Raja Man Singh. Later extensions were undertaken by Maharaja Mirja Raja Jai Singh, Sawai Jai Singh II, the last of the Amer kings who was also the founder of the Jaipur city, the newly founded city to which he later shifted his ruling capital in the year 1727.

The rich ornamentation’s and carvings scattered all around the Palace Complex clearly give a cue to the once upon a time Royal affluence of Amer. You’ll be spellbound to see the beauty of the Sheesh Mahal which is actually a Hall with Mirrors on all sides. Next comes, the Diwan-E-Aam (Hall of General Public Visitors). This Hall is unique in the sense that it is supported by two rows of pillars that props the hall up just like a stilt house. It is indeed an engineering masterpiece and the pillars on which the hall stands are richly ornamented. Also the Hall has opening or outlets in three directions. When you reach the Diwan-E-Khas (Hall of Special Visitors), you will indeed feel that you have entered into the royal Rajput era and soon you ought to receive some special welcome treatment. The beautiful Mosaic Work made most delicately and subtly in glass that you get to see in Diwan-E-Khas would leave you mesmerized. The Sukh Mandir has mighty doors made out of Sandalwood studded with ivory that makes beautiful inlaid designs on the wood. So on the whole your visit to Amer would not go empty; rather you would return with lots of fruitful information on Jaipur history, the Rajputana culture and riches once you finish touring the city.

Amer Fort

Amer Fort

9. Jal Mahal

While you are traveling to Amer, spare few hours and make sure to visit the Jal Mahal which falls on the road by which you will be travelling to Amer. This Mahal is situated amid the Man Sagar Lake. You can easily reach the Mahal by means of a spacious, well constructed paved causeway that functions as a link bridge between the Jal Mahal and the bank. It will take you only few hours to explore the Mahal because the Jal Mahal isn’t as huge as the other palaces or Mahals of Jaipur. Since the Mahal stands amid a Lake therefore it’s called ‘Jal’ Mahal.

10. Kanak Vrindavan

If you wish to refresh yourself in the ambiance of a beautiful garden, Kanak Vrindavan is the place which you shouldn’t at all miss. The colorful garden with flowers in full bloom will soothe your mind; give you a real enjoyable and creative experience. Kanak Vrindavan is located in vicinity to Jal Mahal and also has a temple that’s newly restored. This Garden is a famous picnic spot of Jaipur and has emerged to limelight also because of the many popular films shot therein.

Central Museum, Jaipur

Central Museum

11. Central Museum

The Central Museum also known as Albert Hall was founded by Prince Albert in the Year 1876. It is located in Ram Niwas Garden. The museum exhibits a rare and unique collection of handicraft & archaeological specimens. So you must visit this museum to take a look at these interesting collections.

So these are some of the best tourist spots of Jaipur which you shouldn’t miss during your Jaipur tour.

Gulmarg – A Beautiful Hill Station in Kashmir Valley

It is a cup shaped valley called, “The Meadow of Flowers”. It is the finest and the most famous pleasure resorts in Kashmir. It is a lush green meadow sprinkled with flowers, a height of 2,650 meters above the sea level. It is at a distance of about 46 kms from Srinagar. The enroute stations are Shalteng (7 kms); Mirgund (13 kms); Magam (23 kms); Tangmarg (38 kms) and Gulmarg (46 kms).

Gulmarg

Gulmarg

The alpine valley of Gulmarg has an undulating topography which adds to its scenic beauty and majestic charm. All the basic amenities i.e., hotels, market, boarding houses and transport etc. of a hill station are available at Gulmarg. The weather is delightfully cool even during the summer seasons, with intermittent showers of train, which far exceeds that of the valley. The green carpeted meadows offer a beautiful view to the tourists and a perfect level of slopes to the golfers.

In Gulmarg there is also a 500 meter chair lift. A cable car project (Gondola) highest in the world is operating from this scenic spot.

Gulmarg receives snowfall periodically from November to April, often above 15 feet and mostly gets the first and last snowfall in the valley.

Gulmarg is a perennial scenic spot. The international golf course, at Gulmarg, is known for its green grass’ rolling gentle slopes and towering heights. The Golf Club was established in 1902 it is the highest golf course in the world. In winter, Gulmarg is the Playground for skiing. Gulmarg provides an excellent base for undertaking some of the most delightful treks. The Gulmarg Gondala Cable Car, the highest in the World connects Gulmarg with Kongdori and Apharwat (4080m) a famous ridge that offer breath taking view of the area throughout the year.

Gulmarg Gondola

Gulmarg Gondola

St. Mary’s Church atop a meadow built in 1902 A.D., Rani Temple and the Maharaja Palace are worth seen. A newly developed lake and a children’s park is quite fascinating.

Around the Gulmarg

The various locations around the Gulmarg are:

Outer circular walk
This seven Kms, circular road, girdles Gulmarg through pine forests. Once can have a panaromaic view of the valley; the massifs of Nanga Prabat and Harmukh; and the rugged slopes of Ferozpur; sunset peaks and Apharwat ridge.

Khilanmarg
A green meadow carpeted with wild flowers, is just 5 kms from Gulmarg, towards the western side. It is at the height of 3460 meters, carpeted with wild flowers. It is referred as a “Paradise for Botonist”. It affords a glorious view of the valley and its surrounding mountain ranges, which include the Naga Parbat.

Alphater Lake
This triangular lake with floating ice, and connected with small tarns in its neighborhood, is in the close vicinity of Apharwat Mountain. From Khilanmarg the lake is about 8 kms in distance and one can reach by foot or by the pony ride. The catchment area of the lake is full of snow round the year. It is at the height of 3843 meters.

Rani Temple, Gulmarg

Rani Temple, Gulmarg

Baba Rishi Srine
It is a shrine of noted Saint Baba Payam Rishi, about 8 kms from Gulmarg where devotees from all parts of Kashmir are seen throughout the year.

Tangmarg
It is a famous stop over enroute Gulmarg. A short trekking route from Tangmarg to Gulmarg is very exciting.

Tosh Maidan
It is one of the most beautiful parts of the valley of Kashmir, that can be reached from Gulmarg via Ferozpur Nallah.