Outlook Traveller http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ Outlook Traveller en 2017-07-24 10:16:08 Manasbal: Where the Lotus Blooms https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Manasbal1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/manasbal-lotus-blooms/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/manasbal-lotus-blooms/ 2017-07-23T19:16:56+05:30 article Manasbal is Kashmir's deepest lake and also among its most beautiful A lovely lake close to Srinagar, Manasbal has always played second fiddle to its more famous brethren. The origins of its name can be traced back to it being a pilgrimage destination for those who couldnt make the arduous trip to Manasarovar Lake in Tibet. The Mughals did build a royal garden here, but its eclipsed by the gardens they built in Srinagar and Achabal. Even today, Manasbal lives in the shadow of Kashmirs more famous lakes, Dal and Wular, a short drive away.

For Manasbal, this proximity has resulted in a twilight of sorts. Not many people know of it, and unjustifiably so. For while Manasbal might lack the tourist trappings of Srinagar or the wild allure of Wular, it possesses a charm of its own. Its a friendly, quiet, nontouristy place that offers a respite from the crowds at the more popular destinations. And it does have its own claims to fame at 13 metres, its perhaps the deepest lake in Kashmir. Manasbal is a major stopover for migratory birds, and best of all, in the months of July and August, the lotus blooms in abundance, covering the periphery of the lake in an almost ethereal glow.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Lying to the north west of Srinagar, Manasbal stretches around 3 km west to east, and just under 1 km north to south. Manasbal Park, developed by J&K Tourism, is on its eastern bank. To the south is the village of Kondabal, a centre of limestone extraction and brick kilns. And on the northern bank is Noor Jehans palace-garden, and the village named after it, Jharokha Bagh. Right behind Jharokha Bagh is the village of Safapora.

Manasbal Lake and Park

On the eastern bank of the lake and split into two by the Ganderbal-Manasbal road lies Manasbal Park. Maintained by the Department of Tourism, its the main attraction and pretty much the hub of all activity. The upper section of the park affords some great views across the lake. Its also a lot smaller and quieter than the lower section, and the beautifully manicured lawns and flower beds make it a great picnic spot.

Head on down to the lower section of the park. At the southern end lies a small submerged Shiva Temple thats been dated back to the 8th century CE. Discovered and restored only a few years ago, only the top, pyramid-shaped roof capstones are visible above the water. A walking path winds its way along the lake shore. Theres also a food court here, but as of now, its not operational and the stalls lie shuttered.

Head up north, and youll cross a bunch of snack stalls. Walk on further north to the main part of the park where sprawling lawns beckon you. During the summer months, youll also find picnickers from Srinagar and hordes of children playing football or trooping behind their teachers on a school picnic.

Park entry fee ? 20 Timings 8.30 am- 8 pm, open all days

Up ahead is a little dock for the shikaras. Take a ride around the lake or ask the boatman to drop you off at Jharokha Bagh. The JK Tourism Aquatics Sports Centre (Contact Abdul Gani Laherwal; Mob: 09906741845; Timings: 10 am-4 pm), right behind the Manasbal Restaurant a little further on, offers kayaking and boating lessons. The facilities arent really meant for joyrides but theyll let you try out the kayaks for free. The walking path by the lakeside goes on further, and will eventually stretch all the way to Jharokha Bagh, but as of now, the park ends a short distance beyond the water sports centre.

Shikara rides ? 350 per hour

Jharokha Bagh

Around 3 km by road lie the palace gardens of Jharokha Bagh, on the northern bank of the lake. Believed to have been built by Mughal Emperor Jehangir for his queen, Noor Jehan, the small park is a popular destination with local residents and day-trippers from Srinagar. Walk inside and relax on the lawns or on the benches placed under the chinars. Right at the end is a flight of steps leading down to the lake where youll find shikaras waiting to take tourists to Manasbal Park.

Entry fee ? 20 Timings 10 am-8 pm

WHERE TO STAY

The JKTDC Guest House (Mobile: 09858494100; Tariff: ? 1,850-6,000) at Manasbal offers 3 rooms set in the midst of the gardens just above the lake. It has a restaurant, the bathrooms have geysers and rooms have TVs. Lake View (Mobile: 09596065152, 09797234474; Tariff: ? 1,400-1,600) in Jharokha Bagh, run by the affable Arshad and family, offers cosy rooms right next to the gardens. The rooms are basic, but clean and inviting. Another guest house at Jharokha Bagh is Manasbal Pearl Spot (Mobile: 099068 38739, 09622941785, 09018405454; Tariff: ? 800-1,800), but the rooms here are rather cramped. A few other guest houses were coming up when we visited. Check with JK Tourism in Srinagar (Tel: 0194-2452691) before visiting as they maintain a register of approved guest houses here and in Kondabal village on the southern shore of the lake.

WHERE TO EAT

Dont expect a mind-boggling variety of cuisine at Manasbal. But a hearty Kashmiri meal can be found easily (and cheaply), with the spicy kebabs going down easy after a day of sightseeing. Your best bet for a meal is Manasbal Restaurant (Mobile: 09906597486) in Manasbal Park. Settle down under one of their garden umbrellas and watch the shikaras on the lake as you eat. For breakfast, try the paranthas, served with dollops of butter. They can also rustle up a quick Kashmiri meal with good rishta and gushtaba, or Maggi for the kids. They also do a serviceable paneer dish, but, be warned, theres not much choice for vegetarians in Manasbal. The restaurant at the JKTDC guest house does boast of an impressive menu, but theyre usually out of everything and youre unlikely to get anything beyond chicken curry, rotis and a veg dish (usually aloo-tamatar).

The many stalls inside Manasbal Park also serve fresh pakoras, with the usual assortment of ice creams and cold beverages. Try the fish pakoras here. The bus stand at Safapora also has a few small dhabas that serve Kashmiri food. Try the decent kebab-rishta-rice meal at the Hyat, named in homage to the Delhi hotel where the owner claims to have once worked. You can also pick up fresh fruit at the bus stand stalls. Theres not much choice for food in Jharokha Bagh. It has a couple of small restaurants that offer fried fish and wazwan, but the hygiene looks doubtful. Most guest houses will arrange a meal on request, but dont expect anything fancy.

AROUND MANASBAL

Kheer Bhawani (12 km)

The temple of Ragnya Devi, or Mata Kheer Bhawani, at Tulla Mulla is much revered by Kashmiri Pandits, who propitiate the goddess with offerings of kheer. The temple in its present form was built around a century ago by the-then ruler of Kashmir, Maharaja Pratap Singh and renovated by his successor, Hari Singh, but has been a pilgrimage destination for longer. According to one of the many myths surrounding the temples origin, Goddess Ragnya resided in Lanka, but after becoming displeased with her disciple Ravana, commanded Lord Hanuman to bring her here, to the site of a sacred spring. Theres another interesting legend attached to this temple its said that if the spring within the temple becomes murky or black, it portends bad times for Kashmir. The same goes for the offerings of kheer traditionally made to the goddess.

Kheer Bhawani witnesses a heavy influx of worshippers during the Mela Mata Kheer Bhawani on Jyeshta Ashtami (the eighth day of the waxing moon in the third month of the Hindu calendar), which falls between mid-May and mid-June. This festival has assumed a significance beyond the scope of worship, becoming a place of reunion for Kashmiri Pandits travelling here from Jammu, Delhi and further. It is also a symbol of Kashmiriyat, a time of unity when Muslim citizens of Tulla Mulla provide seva and puja material to the visiting Pandits. The Chief Minister of J&K is among those who offer kheer to the goddess at this time; even banks distribute juice to pilgrims. Tulla Mulla village is 1 km off the Ganderbal-Manasbal Road.

Parihaspora (15 km)

Heading west from Manasbal, cross the Jhelum by the Sumbal Bridge and turn left onto the Bandipora-Srinagar Road to Shadipora. Barely a kilometre ahead of Shadipora is Turgam. Turn right here and drive through Turgam and along narrow rural roads past Malikpora to the ruins of Parihaspora, built in the 8th century by Karkota king Lalitaditya Muktapid. This city of stone that sat alongside the confluence of the Jhelum and Sind rivers was the capital of Lalitadityas empire but declined in importance following his reign. Much of it was dismantled by his descendants, and Sultan Sikandar dealt it a final blow during his late-14th, early-15th century reign.

Parihaspora is not as magnificent as the Sun Temple at Martand, but its probably the birthplace of the cut-stone architecture seen there and at other sites across Kashmir. Take a stroll around the grounds, admiring the massive stone blocks (some weigh well over 50 tonnes), now overrun by grass. Youll cross the remains of the chaitya (prayer hall) and the royal monastery to get to the old stupa on the northern end of the complex. Most of it is gone, but what remains does give you an idea of this citys long-lost grandeur.

TIP You can also see artefacts from Parihaspora at the Shri Pratap Singh Museum in Srinagar

Before heading back, try the fresh fruit from the stalls outside the SSM College of Engineering just 500m from the ruins. Sprinkled with rock salt and lemon juice, ice-cold watermelon is just what you need on a hot summers day.

Wular Vantage Park (22 km)

A 45 minute drive on the Bandipora road takes you to the eastern shore of Wular Lake Indias largest freshwater body. The Wular Vantage Park here is a beautifully laid out garden teeming with flowers. Relax for a bit in one of the many gazebos here, before walking to the top to take in the massive lake, which seems to stretch as far as the eye can see.

Entry fee ? 10 Timings 8.30 am-8 pm A great picnic spot, but carry everything along as there are no shops here

FAST FACTS

When to go Anytime between May- September, although June can get quite hot. Winter months see snowfall

Tourist Offices

J&K Tourism, Tourist Reception Centre, Srinagar, Tel 0194-2452691, 2479548,

Director Tourism (Kashmir), Srinagar; Tel: 2472449, Website: jktourism.org

JKTDC, TRC, Srinagar, Tel: 2457927/ 30; Website: jktdc.co.in

Wular-Manasbal Development Authority, Manasbal; Tel: 01954-217541, Mobile: 9419012220, STD code 01954

GETTING THERE

Location Manasbal Lake is in the Jhelum Valley towards Wular Lake, 11 km from Ganderbal in the district immediately north of Srinagar

Distance 31 km NW of Srinagar JOURNEY TIME By Road 1 hrs from Srinagar

Route from Srinagar NH1D to Ganderbal via Pandach crossing, Ganderbal-Manasbal Road to Manasbal via Barsoo

Air Nearest airport: Sheikh-ul-Alam Airport, Srinagar (42 km/2 hrs/ Tel: 0194- 2303000/ 31, 2303635), connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Leh and Jammu by Air India, SpiceJet, Indigo and Go Air. Prepaid taxis charge ?2,200 for a drop to Manasbal

Rail Nearest station: Jammu Tawi: (329 km/ 9 hrs). Taxi to Manasbal will cost ?5,200, one-way

Road Manasbal is a short drive from Srinagar. Follow the Srinagar-Leh NH1D. At the Nagbal T point, turn left and continue on NH1D to Ganderbal. Turn left into Ganderbal and soon youre crossing the Sind Bridge. The right turn at the end of the bridge is the road to Manasbal. Taxi charge from TRC Srinagar is ?1,400. JKSRTC (0194-2455107) runs ordinary and deluxe buses (?250) to Manasbal only during season. Private buses from Batmaloo bus stand (?30) operate at regular intervals. Shared jeeps charge ?40-50 per person.

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Ladakh: Climbing Stok Kangri https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/climbing1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/ladakh-climbing-stok-kangri/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/ladakh-climbing-stok-kangri/ 2017-07-23T19:11:43+05:30 article The trekking peak of Stok Kangri is an amateur mountaineer' delight My first day in Leh, I fancied I detected a strain of worry in Pankaj Lagwal, our guide for the trip. Taxed with it, he smiled but admitted it: Ive been here for two weeks now, and look at the mountain constantly. Only on two days have I been able to see the peak. We raced up to the terrace of our hotel and brought out the binoculars. As hed said, the peak yonder was veiled, shrouded in cloud and rain. We could see why he was worried what was a pretty sight here was probably a fairly vicious storm up there. Stok Kangri was having a right royal snit. Six of us were in Leh to make an attempt to summit Stok Kangri, the trip organised by adventure operators Aquaterra. The highest of the Stok range, the mountain is an imposing six-thousander; what makes it even more special is that it is a non-technical climb accessible even to fit trekkers without mountaineering skills. Come August and climbers from the world over descend on Ladakh, making their way to the mountain in what is part pilgrimage, part ego-trip.

On day two, we were still being acclimatised and the itinerary included Khardung La and a leisurely tour of a couple of Lehs fine monasteries. On our way back, there was a shout we pulled up and brought out the big lens. The weather on Stok Kangri was clearing, and only a few wisps of dark cloud still clung to the peak. For the first time since we arrived we could see it fully. It is a beautiful mountain.

The next day, from admiring the scenery we went into it. Our group of six: Aman Nugyal, Amit Sharma, Takako Coco Inamori, Aaron Wolff, Rajesh Huddar and I. Assisting Pankaj with guide-work were Chain Singh and local boy Rigzin Tamchos. The route took us past Spituk Gompa and over the mighty Indus; the bridge so heavily adorned with prayer flags I was only able to see the river through the chinks. Then from a point in Zingchan, we started to walk, making our way through rain to stop at Rumbak (9,842 ft). This was the first time I was trekking at elevations so high. The two days spent in Leh getting used to the thin air helped, but not enough. The trek was arduous enough but the challenges piled up with the weather. Ladakhs summer, July to September, is known for its congenial temperatures climate change, however, knocks all assumptions out of reckoning. It had been raining incessantly: the streams were swelling, and we were obliged to trek and camp in the rain.

I puzzled the first couple of days at my fatigue not all your reading of how altitude affects the human body prepares you for the fact of it. Terrain I thought I should be traversing with reasonable ease became formidable; my feet seemed dipped in treacle, my breath dragged in far less than I needed. It was lowering. If the first foray was gruelling, the second day was tougher still. We headed to Mounkarmo (13,944 ft) via the cruelly placed Stok La pass (16,043 ft). Footsteps became small and great effort was needed to make even minuscule advances. Once over the hump though, we skied down mud paths, and made quick work of the descent. When we finally tramped into camp, I sat down to watch lammergeiers in the cliffs surrounding us.

So far, we had been circling Stok Kangri like wary boxers. It was time to make a move. Day Three saw us make a bold stroke we moved to Stok Kangri Base Camp (16,322 ft). This, I must say, is something like an international camping festival. A wide-ish meadow with a stream running by, it is a necessary pit stop for trekkers on their way up and those on their way down. A shack here provides the essentials instant noodles, energy bars, chocolate, beer and rum. Tents of every hue are pegged here, and the scene has campers walking about, kitchen fires going with wholesome aromas, and mules and horses tethered here and there, nibbling at grass and at each other. I fell asleep to the hum of voices and the jangle of mule-bells.

We were now to see the whites of the eyes of our target Advanced Bas Camp (17,438 ft). A flattering name, for all it is really is a pile of rocks, with barely enough room for four tents. Our cook Ravinder conjured up some divine khichdi and soup, and we all huddled into the kitchen tent to tuck in. The air was nippy Stok Kangri (20,187 ft) was sending out tendrils of biting cold to run their fingers down our spines.

The summit push

Our bid for the summit started, as these often do, in the middle of the night. The plan was to climb up to a ridge on the mountain and then crawl along the ridge to the summit. The weather seemed fine and would hold out, God willing. Layers of clothing were donned, miner head-lamps were fastened, a preparatory cup of tea was imbibed with biscuits. We set off over rocks at first and then over the glacier, stamping to keep the ice off our shoes, digging in the pick axes as we scrambled for purchase. We began to climb in earnest. A trail of sorts there was, but difficult to pick out in the dark. All I was sure of was the direction: up. In the distance behind and ahead of me, I saw headlamps bobbing in the dark. About 20 trekkers were trying to summit that day.

A few hours into the foray and it started to get light over the east. The sun crept up from behind snow-rimmed peaks, lighting them an eerie and utterly gorgeous orangey-yellow. I was tiring. Some of the others in my group had long gone ahead. Nausea rose up my chest and I was beginning to get light-headed. Rigzin was with me, holding my hand to prevent me falling, sometimes dragging me, sometimes urging me on. Stopping, gasping, grunting, moving... Some time after daylight, I staggered onto the ridge and flung myself down.

I was wondering if I should climb on. My tired mind came up with reasons for not. I saw no glory in struggling on for the next two or three hours, in such a state as I was in, dragged across by a guide. On the other hand, now that I had made the ridge, I should wait for 10 or perhaps 20 minutes. A renewal of energy would put a different spin on things. This would not be the first time I had been intimidated by challenges that I eventually tackled.

It was not to be, though. Coco, who had reached about 330 ft from the summit, had collapsed. She had to be given oxygen and brought down quickly. While those close to the peak would go on, it would be difficult for the expedi-tion to guide me to the summit as well. Fate had taken a hand and made up my mind for me. So I took in the view of the magnificent Karakoram, took a few pictures and descended.

Ladakh and Stok Kangri beckon climbers like a flame. Over the six days we walked, we mustve encountered at least 200 trekkers, a large majority of whom were foreigners. On the way to Mounkarmo, through the high pass of Stok La, there was a veritable traffic jam and my head hurt from nodding at passing trekkers, porters and pack-mules. Juley, we all went, bonhomous in a fellowship of trekkers.

Why do people climb mountains? The famous retort is because theyre there. Nearly everyone agrees that mountain-climbing is an internal business. The mountain is inside you, and the obstacles. Whether you summit or not, there are lessons for everyone character faults loom before you, personality-driven walls come up slap in your way. Your belief matters. What effort you consider significant matters. How kamikaze youre prepared to be in your attainment of a goal matters.

And so it was that three of six touched down on the peak of Stok Kangri and three of us didnt. I shall probably keep trekking, so if an opportunity like this comes offered on a platter again, Ill take it as if it was meant.

THE INFORMATION

When to go Stok Kangri (20,187 ft), the highest mountain in the Stok Range, is among the most popular summits to scale. This is due to its proximity to Leh (24 km), and also because it is one of the few peaks over 6,000 metres that is a trekkers mountain, requiring no special equipment or expertise in the summer months (July-September). Later in the year, it does need mountaineering skill

Permits Foreign nationals will need a permit (USD 50 per person) to ascend from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (The Director, IMF, 6, Benito Juarez Road, New Delhi-110021; Tel: 011-24111211; Website: indmount.org). Permits are also issued at their branch in Leh. Contact Everest hero Sonam Wangyal (Mobile: 09697459678)

Operators We climbed with adventure operators Aquaterra (?55,815 plus air fare; Delhi Tel: 011-29212641, 29212760; Mob: 09811103831; Web: aquaterra.in), who have a well-designed 10-day trip that builds in acclimatisation as well as a spectacular trekking route. A night was allowed at the Base Camp, one more at the Advanced Base Camp and the ascent was made the following day. Among other reputed operators are Rimo Expeditions (Gurgaon Tel: 0124-2806027-29, Leh Tel: 01982-253348, 251897; Website: rimoexpeditions.com) and Snow Leopard Trails (Delhi Tel: 011-26133165, 26124788; Website: ladakh-tour.com).

Acclimatisation It is inadvisable to land in Leh and climb Stok Kangri before acclimatising. Weather conditions on Stok Kangri are notoriously unpredictable which can be dangerous for the under-prepared. Its a trekking peak, but not to be underestimated

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Kitchen Confidential: Tanuj Nayyar https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/featured-image-7.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/kitchen-confidential-tanuj-nayyar/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/kitchen-confidential-tanuj-nayyar/ 2017-07-23T19:05:23+05:30 article Chef Tanuj Nayyar of Mussoorie's Jaypee Residency Manor opens up on some monsoon delicacies OLT: What inspired you to become a chef?
Tanuj Nayyar: I have always been an explorer and a lover of flavour and taste. I have enjoyed eating and cooking since I can remember. I do not even recall the moment when this turned into a passion and soon enough, I had opted for it as my profession. I have always had the desire to try something new with the dishes I cook. I try and use new ingredients and techniques in my cooking style and always attempt to bring unique flavours on the plate.

OLT: What are some of the challenges you have faced in your food journey?
Tanuj Nayyar: I have learnt a lot from different stints in my professional career and have put in a lot of hard work to reach where I am. When I finished my education in Nagpur and started working with ocean liners, adjusting to people from different nationalities and coping with them at a young age was a big challenge.

Tanuj-Nayyar

OLT: What is your favorite cuisine?
Tarun Nayyar: Italian

OLT: What is your favorite monsoon dish?
Tarun Nayyar: Cottage cheese- and potato-stuffed bread pakodas with hot ginger and green cardamom tea.

OLT: What are your taste buds more inclined to, sweet or savoury? Why?
Tarun Nayyar: Savoury, as it gives our taste buds a distinct flavour and each individual flavour can be relished.

OLT: What is your most memorable culinary experience?
Tarun Nayyar: During my six year stint with the cruise industry I got to work with some great chefs and explore
some unique and authentic world cuisines.

CHEF'S MONSOON PICKS
Chicken Milanese

chicken-milanaise

A thin slice of chicken is dipped in beateneggs, seasoned withsalt andbreadcrumbs and shallow-friedinoil. It is served with tomato sauce tossed spaghetti.

Gai Yang Khamin (Thai Grilled Chicken)

thai-grilled-chicken

Full-bodied grilled chicken seasoned with lemongrass, birds eye chilli, turmeric, galangal and a few Thai spices and served with Thai salad and pad Thai noodles.

Matarwaali Tikki

Mattar-Wali-tikki

A healthier and refined version of the aloo ki tikki with a tangy pea tikki stuffed with hung curd and dry fruit filling. It is served with fresh mint and coriander relish.

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Bangkok: Avani Riverside https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Avani-2-2.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/bangkok-avani-riverside/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/bangkok-avani-riverside/ 2017-07-23T18:56:55+05:30 article Get 40 percent off on bookings if you book on a Wednesday this month It is the perfect time to plan a holiday to Bangkok, as Avani Riverside is offering 40 percent off on all bookings done on Wednesdays in the month of July. Tariff starts from ?6,842 (taxes extra). Valid till December. Contact +6624319100, minorhotels.com

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Mamer & Naranag: Riverside Tranquil https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Mamer1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/mamer-naranag-riverside-tranquil/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/mamer-naranag-riverside-tranquil/ 2017-07-22T14:49:51+05:30 article From ancient temples to white water rafting, Mamer and Naranag have it all On the face of it, Mamer seems an unlikely destination. Most travelers who cross this sleepy little town dismiss it as a mere highway stop, a place to stretch your legs and perhaps wolf down some pakoras before hitting the road again. Cars whiz past, heading east on NH1D, hoping to make it to Sonamarg before trucks clog up the highway. Tired motorists heading west look eagerly to arriving at Srinagar. No one gives Mamer a second look. But scratch below the surface, and this little gem of a place begins to shine in an altogether different light. There are idyllic village paths to tread, river banks to sit on and watch the world go by, verdant forests that tower over you, and for the heritage lover, the ancient temples of Naranag, located in a pristine, sun-soaked valley not far away. And if thats too tame, Mamer has some high excitement to offer indeed rafting on the Sind River.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Mamer is a 1-hour drive from the state capital, along the Srinagar-Leh highway, NH1D. The towns quite small, and stretches barely a few hundred metres along NH1D. As you come in from Srinagar in the west, youll spy a few dhabas by the riverbank. About 300m beyond that is a pedestrian bridge across the Sind that takes you to Daraduder Village and the thick forests beyond. Another 200m east from the bridge is a J&K Tourism guest house, tucked away at the end of a short path leading to the Sind River. Beyond that are a handful of shops, a few dhabas and a hotel. To the north west of Mamer, at the end of the Wangat Road that leads from the local tehsil HQ of Kangan (10 km), lie the temple ruins of Naranag (25 km). But while Kangan might be closer to the temples, its just another noisy and utterly forgettable highway town. Mamers unspoiled nature and the good accommodation options make this, unquestionably, the better destination.

A tourist trap Mamer isnt. No ponywallahs, no impatient cabbies waiting for tourists to check off another entry on their guidebooks before rushing to the next destination, no parks with stern warnings about the perils of plucking flowers. What there is, though, is that all-too- rare aura of peace and quiet.

Take a stroll

Walk across the pedestrian bridge which takes you over the Sind towards Daraduder Village. Do take a moment midway to look at the mesmerising flow of water under your feet. Once on the other side, turn right to walk along with the flow of the river. A little further along is a small clearing overlooking the Sind. Retrace your steps towards the bridge and sit by the grassy bank, perfect for lazing around with a book. But dont stop here. Walk through the village, crossing small houses, fields and apple trees on your way to the motorable road that passes around 600m away. Once on the road, turn left (east). Youll come across a magnificent forest to your right, stretching for a distance, the line of trees broken only by an occasional stream and the odd boulder. Theres plenty of space here to relax and perhaps take a nap on the grass, away from the chaos of civilisation. Pretty much the only people youll see around are school kids playing and shepherds tending their flock.

Its also possible to drive up here in case youd rather not walk. Drive east along NH1D for 2 km from the JKTDC guest house till Harganyiwan Village and take a right turn towards the bridge across the Sind. Cross the river, turn right after 100m, and again after 200m; the road will lead you to Daraduder.

But its not all idyllic walks and sandwiches-on-the-grass at Mamer. If youd rather do something a bit more energetic, Highland Rafting (Mobile: 09469039619) offers rafting on the Sind. They cast off from the bridge near the JKTDC property.

TIP Pack some fruits and snacks from the market, and fill up a thermos with tea, the forest is just perfect for a picnic

Go fishing in the Sind

Long-time anglers swear by the restorative effects of a days fishing. Put this theory to the test in Mamer. The Sind is packed with trout, first introduced to Kashmir by the British in the early 20th century. Since then, this tasty fish has become a favourite for recreational anglers in the Himalayas. You can pick up a license (?1,000 for six fish) and check out the other rules for anglers at the Department of Fisheries, Gogjibagh, Srinagar (Tel: 0194-2312046; Website: jkfisheries.in).

The Temples of Naranag

Mamer is the perfect base for a trip to the ancient temple complex at Naranag. Its close enough that you can leave after breakfast, spend a couple of hours exploring the ruins and relaxing by the Wangat River, and be back in Mamer in time for lunch. Head 10 km west on NH1D towards Kangan, and take a right turn onto the Wangat Road at Kangan Police Station. A narrow, winding road will take you past rural communities to the temple complex at Naranag (7,316 ft), all told about 25 km from Mamer.

Lying on the western bank of the Wangat River, Naranag is split into two levels. The largest temple on the first level seems mostly intact, although its been adorned with a tin roof, which unsightly as it is, does provide some protection from the elements. There are other temples scattered around the main one, all in various stages of decay. Step carefully around the broken stones, avoiding the slippery patches of fluorescent algae. Towards the left is a newly built flight of steps that leads down to the second complex, also in ruins. Youll spot a few Shivalings here, some ruined, some intact, including one in a temple. Theres a small tank shaped out of stone in front of the main temple. At the far end of the complex is a tank that holds water from the sacred Naranag spring. Although it suffered from the depredations of Hayavadana, a notorious rebel baron during the reign of Jayasimha in the early 12th century, the spring still flows.

Naranag is believed to be the Sodaratirtha pilgrimage spot referred to in the ancient Kashmiri text Nilmat Purana. It holds much significance for the Kashmiri Pandit community who would stop here on the way back after immersing the ashes of their departed in Gangabal Lake, at the foot of Mount Harmukh. Other legends associate Naranag with King Jaluka, said to have succeeded Emperor Ashoka as the ruler of Kashmir. But at least two of the temples still standing at Naranag today are said to have been built by the 8th century ruler of Kashmir, Lalitaditya.

Today, the temples lie desolate, apart from the occasional tourist or backpacker on the way from Gangabal and the Great Lakes Trek. No pilgrims come by any longer and youre more likely to spot the children of the nomadic Gujjars who inhabit the region.

WHERE TO STAY

There are just two places to stay in Mamer, both within 200m of each other along NH1D. Hotel Snow Land Resorts (Mobile: 09419006698, 09622833613; Tariff: ?4,500-5,000, with two meals), appears from the outside to be just another small-but-neat highway motel with a faux-Alpine chalet appearance. But the cosy rooms, wood-panelled and carpeted, are absolutely delightful. Pick the ones that overlook the river.

The JKTDC Alpine Guest House (Mobile: 09469515047, 09697986156; Tariff: ?1,500), also by the river, offers a lot more privacy as there are just two rooms here, usually unoccupied. Again, be sure to ask for the room with a view of the river. Its basic, but comfy enough and airy with windows that offer a ringside view of the fast-flowing Sind, barely a few metres away. Theres a small balcony, perfect for relaxing in the evening. Theres also a lawn stretching alongside the river and the friendly staff will be more than glad to serve you tea here.

Naranag offers you a choice between Gulshan Lodge (Mobile: 09697761389; Tariff: ?1,000) and Mohammed Aslams Guest House (Mobile: 09697560626, 09858339208: Tariff: ?600-800), a little distance before the temple complex, though the options at Mamer are better.

WHERE TO EAT

The restaurant at Snow Land is the best option for a meal in Mamer and serves Kashmiri and North Indian food. The staff at the JKTDC guest house will also whip up a meal with advance notice, but dont expect anything lavish theyre more accustomed to day trippers and motorists taking a tea break on the way to Sonamarg.

Theres also a line of dhabas and tea stalls along the highway, between Snow Land in the east and JKTDC in the west. They serve up simple highway fare of pakoras, paranthas with chutney, and tea. You can also pick up fruit plums, cherries and apples from the stalls in the small market. There are a couple more dhabas 300m down the highway from the bridge, with tables arranged right by the river. The town of Kangan, 10 km away towards the west, might be a good idea for a meal if youre visiting the Naranag temples.

FAST FACTS

When to go April to September. Avoid during the Amarnath Yatra (usually late June to mid August)

Tourist Offices

J&K Tourism, Tourist Reception Centre, Near Dal Gate, Srinagar, Tel: 0194-2452691, 2479548

Director Tourism (Kashmir), TRC, Srinagar, Tel: 2472449, Website: jktourism.org

JKTDC, TRC, Srinagar, Tel: 2472644, 2457930, Website: jktdc.co.in, STD code 0194

GETTING THERE

Location By the Sind River, 10 km after Kangan on the Srinagar-Leh highway in Ganderbal District. The Naranag temples lie 15 km north of Kangan

Distance 47 km NE of Srinagar JOURNEY TIME By Road 1 hrs

Route from Srinagar NH1D (Srinagar-Leh Highway) to Mamer via Nagbal, Ganderbal, Manigam, Prang and Kangan

Air Nearest airport: Sheikh-ul-Alam Airport, Srinagar (58 km/2 hrs), connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Leh and Jammu by Air India, SpiceJet, Indigo and Go Air. Pre-paid taxis charge ?2,000 for a drop to Mamer

Rail Nearest railhead: Jammu (345 km/ 10 hrs). Taxi costs ?6,000 to Mamer

Road Mamer is along NH1D that connects Srinagar to Leh. Follow NH1D past Nagbal, Ganderbal, Wayul, Manigam, Prang (bear right) and Kangan to Mamer. Taxi from TRC, Srinagar (50 km/1 hours) charges ?1,500. Shared Sumos charge ?100. Local buses charge about ?70

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Trekking In Zanskar https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Intro1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/trekking-in-zanskar/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/trekking-in-zanskar/ 2017-07-22T14:45:04+05:30 article Zanskar's rugged mountains and plunging valleys offer some of the world's finest treks Zanskar, with its minimal roads and spectacular moonscapes, offers the best trekking in Ladakh, from 3- to 20-day treks over the high passes north to Lamayuru, westward into the Vale of Kashmir or south to Himachals Lahaul valley. Trekking is also the only way to get to some of the remote monasteries, such as Mune and Phugtal. Many Leh operators organise well supported treks through Zanskar. If attempting the trek alone, its best to take a guide along these trails. Ask at the Marq Hotel or Tourist Rest House in Padum. If you've got more stuff than you can carry, you can also hire a horse in Padum.

But some of the best trekking experiences are along with the Snow Leopard Conservancys Himalayan Homestays programme (Website: himalayan-homestays.com), which organises treks with stay in Zanskari village homes along the route. The homestay programme is a boon to travellers in a region which has very little by way of facilities. A popular circuit is Padum to Pidmo Padum-Karsha (6 km/2 hrs)-Zangla (28 km/7 hrs)-Pidmo (7 km/2 hrs). The trail follows the course of the Zanskar River on the Zanskar plain, and is level in most parts. The Himalayan Homestays along the Zanskar River route are at Pidmo, Pishu and Karsha villages.

Another well-supported trek is the 6- day Lugnak trail that follows the eastern bank of the Tsarap River. This trail is quite a contrast to the previous one. Theres no flat land here the spectacular trail runs along the steep, rocky gorge of the Tsarap (Lugnak) river, an age-old trade route between Zanskar and Lahaul in Himachal. Villages en route are perched on small ledges high above the river. Himalayan Homestays on this route are at Anmu, Ichar, Cha, Reru and Dorzang.

The 4-5 day Zanskar-Sham trek north across the Zanskar Range has stays at Karsha, Zangla, Pidmo and Pishu.

In the pages that follow, we cover two of Zanskars most popular treks. The trail from Padum to Darcha in Himachal Pradesh, just north of Jispa on the Manali-Leh highway. The trek crosses high passes on the Zanskar Range and affords some of the most spectacular Himalayan scenery. Then we walk along the Zanskar Chadar from Chilling to Nimmu near Leh, a trek undertaken in mid-winter when the Zanskar freezes up between end-January and early February.

TIP Rafting down the Zanskar River is another exciting option to explore this remote and spectacular region.

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UK: Splash World Family Package https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Ramada-plaza.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/uk-splash-world-family-package/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/uk-splash-world-family-package/ 2017-07-22T14:42:32+05:30 article Ramada Plaza Southport has a great summer offer The hotel presents a family package that includes a stay in the Family Room along with breakfast and a three course meal. Family entry to the Splash World theme park is also included. The offer is available through the year, depending on the theme park opening datesit is open all of August and on some dates in July and September. From 190 per night for a family of four; ramadaplazasouthport.co.uk.

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#GoaForKids Offer at Novotel Goa https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/novotel.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/goaforkids-offer-novotel-goa/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/goaforkids-offer-novotel-goa/ 2017-07-22T14:40:59+05:30 article Don't miss this exciting offer for kids this season Novotel Goa Resort & Spa and Novotel Goa Shrem are offering 50 per cent off on a second room for children between eight and 16. Included: breakfast buffet with a special kids selection, access to the kids club, motion sensor games and unlimited refills on kids mugs. Valid till July 31. From ?10,500 per night for two adults and two children, taxes extra; accorhotels.com.

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Sham Trek: Likir To Temisgam https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/st2_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/sham-trek-likir-temisgam/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/sham-trek-likir-temisgam/ 2017-07-21T12:42:15+05:30 article This tough but short trek through the Sham valley is a must for Ladakh beginners The Route: Likir-Yangthang-Hemis Shukpachen-Angtemisgam-Nyurla

You wont find an easier trek than this in Ladakh. The passes are all around 12,000 ft, and the distances between places are relatively short. Plus, there is the added bonus of the Himalayan Homestays Programme, offering accommodation in village homes, which means you dont have to lug tents and equipment all the way. This is also probably the only trek in Ladakh one can safely do alpine-style, without porters and guides. But on the other hand, you could also make this a safe adventure holiday for the entire family, with smaller children having the exciting option of riding on ponies. Ask your trekking agency about this option.

The Sham area of Ladakh is quite dry and hot and although you can trek this route anytime from the beginning to end of Ladakhs tourist season (late Maylate September), I would suggest planning it either during the beginning or towards the end to avoid the hotter middle months.

When I first trekked this route in the late nineties, the link road from Likir to Temisgam was just being built. Today, it is a full-fledged pucca road, albeit with little traffic. So much of the journey can be done comfortably following the road all the way except on Day Three between Hemis Shukpachen and Ang. Of course, you can take brief excursions on the short-cut tracks made by the villagers throughout the trek.

Since it takes only an hour and a half from Leh, set out for Likir after lunch and visit the Likir Monasteryand either pitch a tent in the campsite under the monastery for the night or try the Hotel Lhukhil (Mob: 09419840149; Tariff: ?3,000). It has 22 comfy rooms with attached baths.

DAY ONE

LIKIR-PHOBE LA-CHAGATSE LAYANGTHANG

DISTANCE 9 KM TIME 4-5 HOURS

LEVEL MODERATE

Although the distance today is short, the route is hot, without any shade or water and you must traverse two passes, so start early with water bottles filled. For Ladakh, these passes are low, but do not underestimate them. I huffed and puffed all the way with a 15-kg backpack, ran out of water and had to struggle up the Chagatse La (11,909 ft). It was not very pleasant! From Likir, take the road heading west up to Phobe La (11,745 ft). The climb is gentle and you will top the pass in an hour. From the pass, you can scramble down the short-cut tracks and meet up with the road below, avoiding the longer loops of the jeep road. The road continues west to Sumdo, a small settlement where you can stop for tea. Just before Sumdo, you will need to cross the stream over a bridge.

From Sumdo, follow the main road that climbs steadily upwards, winding its way to the west for a little over an hour. From Chagatse La, it is another 30 mins down. The village of Yangthang (11,909 ft) is on your left through the fields. The camping area is near the main stream, but why dont you try one of the Ladakhi homes for the night?

If you reach early and have the energy, check out the Ridzong Monastery, which lies about an hour south of Yangthang. This quiet, secluded gompa is over a hundred years old and nestles in a narrow gorge.

DAY TWO

YANGTHANG-TSERMANGCHEN LA-HEMIS

SHUKPACHEN

DISTANCE 8 KM TIME 2-3 HOURS

LEVEL EASY

Today is an easy walk despite the pass because both the approach and the descent are of gentle gradients. From Yangthang Village, head back through the fields onto the road that brought you here and turn left, or west. The road heads north, descending for a bit, crossing a stream before climbing up west again to Tsermangchen La (12,303 ft). Take a break at the pass before heading down to Hemis Shukpachen. The village, named after the grove of cedars (shukpa in Ladakhi) is one of Ladakhs prettiest. There are plenty of sparkling streams surrounded by shady willows and large barley fields that add the much needed dash of green to the otherwise desolate, rocky mountains.

Book your stay with the Himalayan Homestays (Web: himalayan-homestays. com) or camp out near one of the brooks.

DAY THREE

HEMIS SHUKPACHEN-MEBTAK LA-ANG

DISTANCE 10 KM TIME 3 HOURS

LEVEL EASY

Again a fairly easy day if you dont lose your way as I did. I set off in a splendid mood early in the morning, following a small irrigation stream due west and saw a track going steeply up the hill to the left. I assumed this was the path and climbed and climbed right to the top, where the track simply disappeared! It took me a while to realise that this was the local high pasture, that the track was a mere goat-track and that I should give up and head right back. From the top I was able to see the real track, rather wide, which moved between two hillocks west of the village, past the old chortens. Follow this track (there is no road as yet between Hemis Shukpachen and Ang) moving west-north-west through a rather ravaged landscape, until it veers south and climbs steeply up to the Mebtak La (12,303 ft), marked by prayer flags. From the pass head down the gorge to Ang, a charming village with apricot orchards. Choose between the comfort of a Himalayan Homestay or camping out.

DAY FOUR

ANG-TEMISGAM-NYURLA

DISTANCE 8 KM TIME 3 HOURS

LEVEL EASY

The last day is very easy as its downhill all the way to the main road. You will probably meet up with lots of villagers from Temisgam heading to Nyurla on the main highway to catch a bus to Leh. If you dont feel like walking all the way to Nyurla, you could even ask your trekking agency (or the Leh Taxi Stand) for a taxi pick-up at Temisgam, or hop onto a local bus or truck.

Time 4 days

Level Easy

Ideal Season Late May and late Sep

Location West of Leh in the Sham area

GETTING THERE AND OUT

FROM LEH to Likir, its 60 km/1 hrs by car (?775) or 2 hrs by bus (?40). There are a number of buses running between 5.30 am and 3.30 pm.

RETURN Get picked up at Nyurla (80 km/2 hrs) and either return to Leh by taxi (return fare ?1,600) or by local bus (?52/3 hrs) at 8 am

TIP Book your taxi in Leh as none are available in Nyurla

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Trek: Spituk To Stok https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/spituk1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/trek-spituk-stok/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/trek-spituk-stok/ 2017-07-21T12:38:22+05:30 article Ladakh's 'baby trek' is also one of the region's prettiest The Route: Spituk-Zingchan-Rumbak-Stok La-Campsite-Stok

The Spituk-Stok trek in the near vicinity of Leh is oft described as a baby trek. Indeed, this trek is one of the easiest to organise, with numerous Leh operators putting it together at short notice. My guide, from Lehs Dreamland Tours, was a young Ladakhi lad, and the ponyman an old, retired Tibetan drunk. Together they made a great team. It was lovely to be woken up with bed tea and have the luxury of camp set up at the end of the day, replete with tea and pakoras.

I saw plenty of birds and wildlife on the short walk and hadnt realised until then quite how wonderful the 4,400 sq km Hemis National Park was made easy to explore by the Snow Leopard Conservancys Himalayan Homestays experience. For a small fee you can stay in clean rooms with a Ladakhi family on this route and explore the park, accompanied by trained nature guides who will draw your attention to plants and flowers, birds and animals. Who knows, you may even get lucky with a sighting of the elusive shiang, or snow leopard.

DAY ONE

SPITUK-ZINGCHAN

TIME 4-6 HOURS

LEVEL MODERATE-EASY

The trek traditionally starts at the bridge over the Indus about a kilometre west of Spituk Village. However, a jeepable road runs nearly all the way to Zingchan and if you get your taxi to drop you 7 km down the road to the point opposite Phey Village, you can skip the 2-hr-long hot walk over un- changing scree-filled landscape (parti- cularly after Spituk Pharka Village). From this point, it is a pleasant walk along the descending road in a south- westerly direction along the Indus, on your right, until you arrive at a fork where a swift flowing stream joins the Indus from the left. Walk into the valley due south, across the bridge, which can be a pleasant resting point. A walk of a couple more kilometres will bring you to a road sign: Jhingchan to Rumbak Road 1 km. Look out for the log bridge here, which often gets washed away. If there is no bridge you will have to ford the thigh-deep stream. After crossing the stream, find the path heading south-east which climbs suddenly onto the hillside to Zingchan Village.

There are two campsites here one just before you climb up and one past the village down by the stream called the Daisy Campsite. I preferred to walk a little further for an hour, crossing the stream once more on a bridge, past a Forest Checkpoint with a sign welcoming you to Hemis National Park. Continue up the well-defined path, crossing the nallah at least four times before you arrive at Sumdzom, marked by a stone chorten with prayer flags and a grove of willows and wild roses. There are good camping options here.

Entry fee to Hemis National Park ?50 per person per day

DAY TWO

ZINGCHAN-RUMBAK

TIME 4-5 HOURS

LEVEL MODERATE

From Sumdzom, walk upstream on the left side (true right bank) crossing the stream twice over sturdy wooden bridges. Then climb steadily uphill as the path moves due south-east until it comes out of the narrow gorge into a broad valley which serves as a junction. Straight in front is the Kanda La Nallah, along which there is a path leading to high pastures. On your left or north is the path that leads up to Rumbak past a tea-stall. And up ahead, crossing the nallah and to the right is the path leading to Nyurutse and the Kanda La Base Camp.

Rest a while at the tea-stall. You may want to photograph the plentiful wild flowers, especially straight ahead along the Kanda La Nallah.

Walk up past the tea stall heading east into the broad valley. The first fields and houses of Rumbak Village appear fairly soon. If you have booked a homestay (Snow Leopard Trails, Leh Tel: 01982- 252074; Website: himalayan-homestays. com) at Rumbak, head over to your lodge and spend the next couple of days exploring the Hemis National Park. If you are continuing on the trek, I would suggest camping ahead, closer to the Stok Pass. Walk up the valley climbing a gentle gradient for about 1 hrs 1and then climb steeply up onto the plateau on your left. You will find a flat campsite where you can spend the night. I had a surprise visit by a couple of friendly shepherds with their big mastiffs, who appreciated the dinner I shared with them.

DAY THREE

RUMBAK-STOK LA-CAMPSITE

TIME 4-5 HOURS

LEVEL TOUGH

Today is a difficult day on the trek, as you will ascend the 16,076-ft Stok Pass, also known as the Namlung La. If you are fit and have camped at the plateau just under the pass as I did, you should have no problem climbing up to the pass. I climbed steadily and made it in less than 1 hrs. From the campsite walk up east for 10 mins and on your right you will find a path zigzagging up the mountain. At first it looks quite steep. Dont worry. It soon crosses over the cleft to the left and heads up east at a less troubling gradient all the way to the pass.

The Stok La is marked by prayer flags and has excellent views to the north and south. But it is quite windy. When I was there in early October it was freezing cold and all plans to hang out and brew a cup of tea were quickly abandoned. The pass is a point along the climb up Stok Kangri (see page 330). We went sharply down the track leading north- east down the mountain. The track is in poor repair and crumbling in parts, so be careful as you descend into an arid valley. Soon you will follow a swiftly flowing stream on its left bank as the path broadens. There are stunning rock formations on your left and right.

There are quite a few campsites just 2- 2 hrs from the pass once the valley turns northwards and broadens. Take your pick and settle in for the evening.

DAY FOUR

CAMPSITE-STOK

TIME 4 HOURS

LEVEL EASY

Today is an easy day going downhill all the way. Follow the stream on its left bank as it heads north. The path is broad and easy. You will find willows and wild roses growing on islands in the middle of the stream which grows quite wide as you approach Stok. Visit the Stok Palace, residence of the former king of Ladakh. The museum with ancient weapons and old thangkas is open to the public.

Time 4-5 days

Level Moderate

Ideal Season Mid-Jun to late Sep

Location South-west of Leh

GETTING THERE AND OUT

From Leh to Spituk, its 8 km/ 20 mins by car (?180) or half an hour by bus (?10). Buses ply between 7.30 am and 9 pm. You can also ask the taxi to drop you beyond Spituk Pharka Village at the point opposite Phey Village (12 km/ 40 mins/ ?280), which is on the other side of the Indus. Or catch the 8 am bus (runs only on Mondays and Saturdays) to Phey Village. On the return, get picked up at Stok (17 km/ hr/ taxi ?750) for Leh via a trip to Stok Palace. Or if in time, catch a bus to Leh (?10). Only two buses run from Stok to Leh, at 9.30 am and 6.30 pm

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Gompa Trek: Lamayuru To Alchi https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/mm_pic7_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/gompa-trek-lamayuru-alchi/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/gompa-trek-lamayuru-alchi/ 2017-07-21T12:23:08+05:30 article This fantastic high altitude trek connects two of Ladakh's oldest monasteries The Route: Lamayuru-Wanla-Hinju-Sumdha Chenmo Sumdha Chun-Stakspi La-Alchi

I am a Ladakhi. As a young boy I used to accompany the sheep from our lands in Chilling to the grazing pastures on the Lamayuru-Alchi route. Thats how I got to know these tracks so well. Later, I decided to literally cash in on this experience by guiding hikers on this and many other treks in Ladakh. On this route there are three passes (las) to cross. There are las to the left and right of every part of this trek. One understands why Ladakh could have had no other name but this one, La-tags, meaning land of many high passes.

Lamayuru has a camping ground below the awesome escarpment on which perch the huge 11th century monastery and its guest house. There are several guest houses and restaurants in Lamayuru. The yellow loess formations around Lamayuru are most impressive and part of the route takes you past them. At the other end of the trek lies the 11th century temple complex of Alchi. Do spend time here to enjoy the magnificent frescoes.

DAY ONE

DAY ONE LAMAYURU-PRITIKINGI LA-WANLA

TIME 4-5 HOURS

LEVEL EASY

This is a short but hot march. Better to do it early or later in the day. From Lamayuru (11,319 ft), the path goes down to the stream, then turns southeast up a side valley at the chortens and prayer flags. The track then winds its way up through a barren gorge of yellow loess clay, to the Pritikingi La (11,503 ft) pass. Descend steeply eastwards into the Shillakang stream, then turn downstream past Shilla Village and a 30-min walk will bring you to the big village of Wanla (10,500 ft). There is a guest house and a few tea-stalls here. Explore the Wanla Gompa, which is supposed to date from the Alchi period.

DAY TWO

WANLA-HINJU

TIME 5-6 HOURS

LEVEL EASY

Follow the jeep track upstream (hot and dusty) for 2 hrs towards Panji La Pass, where the trail splits. The right path goes south to Padum (Zanskar) up the Wanla River. The left track to Panji La (11,154 ft) Pass leaves the Wanla River and goes high above the village and then descends to join the Ripchar stream after 30 mins. Another hours walk brings you to Hinju (12,303 ft). There are several campsites beyond the village, near pullus. These are camping grounds where water is available.

Down Yapola Nallah from Panji La is a route that goes south to Photaksar and thence to Padum.

DAY THREE

HINJU-KONGSKE LA-SUMDHA CHENMO

TIME 4-5 HOURS

LEVEL MEDIUM

Its a relatively easy climb for 2 hrs above Hinju through several summer pastures. At the shepherds shelters, the path leaves the stream and climbs steeply for another couple of hours. The views from the Kongske La (16,076 ft) top are worth it. Looking east-south-east behind a subsidiary mountain range can be seen the attractive peaks (around 19,300 ft) of Alam and Palam. To the south are the peaks of Zanskar, to the west the peaks above Suru and Batalik near Kargil, and north, over Khaltse, the Nubra-Shayok peaks. The descent from the pass is gentle for about 15 mins over snow and ice (if early in the season), then steep down along the Sumdha Chu to the pullus for another 2 hrs. The camp at Sumdha Chenmo (12,795 ft) is just below the vast grazing ground amidst hundreds of yaks, sheep and goats. Be careful of the ferocious sheep dogs that accompany their masters. It is possible to follow the Sumdha Chu to its confluence with the Zanskar River and then get out at Nimmu on the Srinagar-Leh Highway.

DAY FOUR

SUMDHA CHENMO-SUMDHA CHUN

TIME 5-6 HOURS

LEVEL EASY

The trail, moving south-east, crosses many grazing areas and streams. If water levels are low, stay along the river; if high, traverse the southern cliffs for about 90 mins. The path divides 45 mins after leaving Sumdha Chenmo at a bridge. The right path goes to Chilling towards the Zanskar River, and the left path goes into the gorge. Dont cross the bridge but follow the stream as it flows down. Stay on the main trail that involves four river crossings. Then after about 3 hrs, towards the left, will be Sumdha Chun (12,631 ft). Between two large boulders turn up into the side valley, towards the north-east, at a large willow growing up against a sheer rock face. The main path continues down to the Nimmu Road. It is another hours walk up to Sumdha Chun, which has a beautiful gompa, numerous metal workers, who had originally come from Nepal 200 years ago, and a few small campsites.

DAY FIVE

SUMDHA CHUN-STAKSPI LA-ALCHI

TIME 7 HOURS

LEVEL TOUGH

The climb to the Stakspi La pass is steep and difficult. It can take 4 hrs or more to ascend the scree-laden path. Climb up the valley north-east of the village along a small tributary, to a campsite and pullu the last place to get water before the pass. Follow the stream gully to the head of the valley. From here, the preferred direct route goes left or right of the crags to a rock band, traverses left below the band and crosses the shoulder to the top.

The route is tough, with the last section over rocky ground only marked by cairns. The reward is the wonderful view from the top of Stakspi La (16,240 ft). The descent to the north is sharp over rocky terrain towards the central spur, then crossing the river twice to the grazing grounds and pullu.

Its another 3 hrs to Alchi, so consider camping here if tired. Otherwise, carry on to the many guest houses and restaurants at Alchi (10,335 ft).

Time 5-6 days

Level Moderate to Tough

Ideal Season Mid-Jun to late Sep

Location West of Leh, moving west to east

GETTING THERE AND OUT

FROM Leh to Lamayuru on the Leh-Srinagar Highway, its 125 km/ 6 hrs by taxi (?2,500). Or catch the daily Leh- Srinagar (5 am) or Leh-Kargil (5.30 am) bus (?100-200) for Lamayuru. You can even negotiate a ride on the many trucks that run between Leh and Kargil (?100-200 is reasonable). RETURN Get picked up at Alchi, take a taxi (return fare ?1,500) or a bus (?32) to Leh (67 km/ 2-2 hrs)

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Hemis High-Altitude National Park https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Hemis3_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/hemis-high-altitude-national-park/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/hemis-high-altitude-national-park/ 2017-07-21T12:18:37+05:30 article Home t snow leopards and bharal, Hemis is one of the crown jewels of Ladakh Location The Hemis High-Altitude NP lies bepayond the west bank of the Indus River in Central Ladakh, stretching up to, and over a part of, the Zanskar Range

Distance The Martselang Gate of Hemis NP is 41 km SE of Leh; the Stok Gate 13 km S of Leh; the Zingchan Gate 25 km S of Leh; and the Chilling Gate 60 km SW of Leh

Route from Leh State highway to Karu via Choglamsar, Shey and Thiksey; state road to Martselang Gate of Hemis NP

This is peak season. All the trekkers must have driven out the wildlife, said our travel agent, laughing. It was hardly an auspicious start to our visit. The best way to counter it, I decided, was by beginning my walk in the wild with blessings from the famous Hemis Gompa, after which the park is named. At the monastery, a young monk reassuringly informed me that the bharal, or blue sheep, made occasional visits to their doorstep. He then waved a fox tail in front of me with a flourish. My friend found it in his village, he said. That was the closest I would get to a fox, but I didnt know that then.

We set off from the monastery, entering the National Park from Martselang. With each turn, the road from Martselang to Shang turned more silent. The craggy mountains added to the stillness with their sheer size and ruggedness. The brown of the muddy river blended with the brown of the mountains to create a sombre beauty.

When we reached Shang, an ideal campsite and a great place to spot animals, the villagers were enjoying the last rays of the sun before nightfall. There are many bharal here, a villager told us. Also the shan(snow leopard).

I was keeping my fingers crossed that I would spot bharal, about 3,000 of which are estimated to live in the park. The blue sheep live at altitudes higher than other animals, and the steep rocks in the park are ideal perching ground for them. But all I could manage was one look at the animals before they disappeared behind stones. The chukor, the parks resident partridge, was thankfully made of much sterner stuff, and I watched them hopping slowly from one stone to another to my hearts content.

We decided to tackle Chilling next, one of the three other entry points to Hemis National Park, on the far side of the park from Martselang. Its a 60-km drive from Leh along the Zanskar River via Nimmu. Chilling is a village with an artistic history. According to historical accounts, artisans were brought from Nepal to Ladakh in the 17th century to build monasteries. Many of them stayed back, some in Chilling literally, Valley of the Outsiders where they continued their work. Today, Chillings copper utensils are a big draw with tourists.

In the winding lanes of Chilling, 10- year-old Jigmet became our self-appointed guide. She took us to the villages coppersmith, who gave us a toothy grin before showing off his wares: kettles, cups and two sets of spoons, one for boys and another for girls.

Across the river from Chilling lies the village of Skyu-Kaya. A cramped ride in a rickety trolley that costs ?100 takes you over the swirling waters of the Zanskar to this village. As Khenrab Phuntsog, a wildlife guard at Chilling and a repository of local knowledge, pointed out, the compound name of the village was all thanks to the fact that it was so long. Thus, one end became Skyu, and the other Kaya.

From this long village began our walk to Markha Valley, easily the most popular trekking trail and which ends in Hemis. The other trail to Markha starts from Spituk. Popularity, however, does not make the trek an easy one. One has to negotiate two high passes Kanda La (15,978 ft) and Kongmaru La (16,831 ft). But a few really simple pleasures the warmth of a homestay, the antics of marmots, the fleeting glimpses of bharal make the climb an extremely enjoyable experience. Its another matter altogether that we did not spot any snow leopards. In summer, one is hardly likely to sight them, in any case. But just being in the environment of the majestic animal was enough of an adventure.

ABOUT HEMIS NP

Declared a High-Altitude National Park in 1981, Hemis became Indias first National Park to be established north of the main Himalayan Range. With an area of 4,400 sq km, its not easy to cover all of this Trans-Himalayan Park, dotted with villages. A census conducted by the Wildlife Department, incidentally, put the human population in the park at over 1,600 and that of the livestock at over 5,000. Home to the snow leopard, Hemis is also the habitat of the lynx, four species of wild sheep and goat, red fox, the dhole or wild dog, the marmot, the golden eagle, the marrow-loving lammergeier or bearded vulture, the snowcock, the snow partridge and the chukor.

ORIENTATION

There are four entry points to the Hemis National Park (entry fee: Indians ?20, foreigners ?100). These are: Martselang (to the south-east of the park/ 41 km from Leh), Chilling (to the north-west/ 60 km from Leh), Stok (to the north/ 13 km from Leh) and Zingchan (again to the north/ 25 km from Leh). There are hardly any roads beyond the gates and the park must perforce be explored on foot. But trekking is the best way to see the parks shy residents (see right).

PLACES TO VISIT

From visiting monasteries to trekking, Hemis presents many options before tourists. You can even explore the park on bicycle. Since its a high-altitude park, spotting wildlife is not very easy. But the craggy landscape, the haunting monasteries and the Indus and the Zanskar rivers are reasons enough to visit. In summer, wild flowers will appear like colourful smudges on the landscape. Hemis Gompa, the biggest and the most important monastery in Ladakh, is near the Martselang Gate. In summer, the two-day Hemis Tse-chu Festival is held here to celebrate the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism.

Hemis NP is hot during the day in summer, but it can get quite cool in the evening. So remember to carry a sweater. In winter, the temperature goes down to a beyond freezing -30 C.

Rumbak

Rumbak is a good place to make an acquaintance with the blue sheep. You can also see nesting sites of the golden eagle. And though you may not stumble across a snow leopard in summer, you are likely to see signs of its presence. You can either start your trek from Spituk, 8 km from Leh, or get a ride up to Zingchan, then make your way up to Rumbak from there. Its a moderate trek that will take you 4-5 hrs. If you have started walking from Spituk, then you can take a break at Daisy Campsite in Zingchan near the stream, but if you started from Zingchan, then you can break journey at Sumdzom. The latter has camping options.

Chilling

Metal workers from Nepal came to Ladakh in the 17th century to build monasteries in Ladakh, and some of them settled in this village and carried the tradition forward. The village is now a popular stop with tourists. In winter, snow leopards come down to the valley and may be sighted here.

Markha Valley Trek

Trek through the Markha Valley. The effort is worth it for its views, and the bharal and marmots you will encounter on the way.

You can also trek from Spituk to Stok (four to five days), passing Zingchan and Rumbak.

Best of all, you can climb Stok Kangri Peak.

WHERE TO STAY

To thoroughly explore the Hemis NP, homestays are your best option. Developed by a local NGO, the Snow Leopard Conservancy, with support from UNESCO, the Himalayan Homestays programme was introduced in Rumbak in 2002. A year later, other villages joined in, and by 2004, the concept had spread to all villages. The main aim of the project is to preserve wildlife by giving locals a stake in conservation. Though there is little hunting in the Buddhist villages here, when snow leopards attack livestock, villagers often kill them in retaliation. Generating an additional income for the villagers has helped them bear their losses and given them an incentive to protect the snow leopard and other wildlife. One night at a Ladakhi home will cost you ?2,100 for a couple, inclusive of breakfast and dinner.

Every visitor is issued a voucher for staying at a homestay and this should be presented to the homestay operator on arrival at the village. Payments are made to the homestay operator, except for Rumbak, where payment is made directly to the householder.

Our homestay morning at Rumbak began with a cup of sweet tea many Ladakhi homes now stock up on Amul Mithaimate condensed milk, so if you dont have a taste for gur gur or butter tea, you can skip it. As we slurped down our tsampa porridge, made from roasted barley, we admired the gleaming array of traditional utensils displayed in the kitchen-cum-living room. The kitchen is very much the hearth and heart of a Ladakhi home; the family gathers round the low stove seen in most Ladakhi houses, cooking, eating, warming themselves, socialising and sleeping on low beds or rugs along the walls of this room. Serving us khambir (local bread) and some delicious homemade apricot jam, Tsewang, our host, launched into a comparative account of the latest Ladakhi films and his favourite Bollywood films and stars. Whatever the local flavour, its always spiced with Bollywood! For details, check the websites himalayan-homestays.com or snow leopardconservancy.org.

For the Ladakh region, Maitriya Tours (Tel: 01982-251466), on DB2- Zangsti, LBA Complex, Leh, is the designated homestay coordinator. Snow Leopard Trails (Tel: 252074; Website: ladakh-tours.com) in Lehs Hotel Kanglha-chen is the booking agent.

Other than homestays, the only option is to carry your own tents. Its best to contact a tour operator in Leh for equipment. Try Dreamland Trek and Tour (Tel: 01982-250784, 257784; Mobile: 09419178197; Website: dream ladakh.com) on Fort Road, Leh; Overland Escape (Tel: 257858), Raku Complex, Fort Road, Leh; Himalayan Safaris (Tel: 252638), Hemis Complex, Zangsti, and Markha Tour & Travel (Tel: 251626; Website: markhatravel.com).

You can also stay at the clean and basic rooms in Hemis Monastery itself. There are 18 rooms here. For bookings, contact the Manager, Hemis Spiritual Retreat (Mob: 09419542989; Tariff: ?400-500). To camp here, the fee is ?100. Bring your own tent and sleeping bag.

WHERE TO EAT

If you are at a homestay, you will be provided all meals. Breakfast usually consists of kholak, which is tsampa (roasted barley) mixed with Ladakhi tea, or namthuk porridge with meatballs. A variety of stews and soups with noodles (thukpa pakthuk, gyathuk), mokmok (steamed dumplings stuffed with vegetables or meat) and the Ladakhi pasta-like stew or chutagi can be had for lunch and dinner. And you could, of course, wash it all down with the readily available chhang, or barley beer.

It is best to stock up before leaving for a trek. Splendid isolation can hardly be enjoyed on an empty stomach. Treks organised by travel agents include food but if youre setting off on your own, even though you can get meals at the villages, it will be worthwhile to pick up some easy-to-carry food in Leh, such as rice and noodles. At Hemis, you can choose between a burger or a bowl of noodles or dal at the Hemis Restaurant, below the monastery. There are also a few small eateries near the monastery that serve rice, dal, vegetables and Ladakhi food, as well as snacks of omelettes or noodles.

FAST FACTS

When to go The park is open through the year; mid-Jun to mid-Oct is a good time for trekking but for real wildlife enthusiasts, winter is the best. Best sightings are between Dec and Jan, when there are more chances of spotting a snow leopard as the animal comes down to the valleys, but winter temperatures are well below freezing. From Nov to May, you need a permit from the Wildlife Office in Leh to enter the national park

Wildlife/ Forest Dept offices

Wildlife Warden, Wildlife Division, (LAHDC), Badami Bagh, Skara, Leh; Tel: 01982-252171

Conservator of Wildlife, Ladakh Region, Old Dak Bungalow, Leh, Tel: 250410, 255733, Mobile: 09906977888

District Commissioners Office, Polo Grounds, Leh. Tel: 252010

Chief Wildlife Warden, TRC, Srinagar; Tel: 0194-2476063, STD code Leh District 01982

Homestays in Hemis

As Hemis is one of the few national parks where trekking is permitted, it gives you an incredible opportunity to savour the local flavours, up close and personal. Opt for a stay in one of Snow Leopard Conservancys Himalayan Homestays (Website: himalayan-homestays.org), and you not only get to enjoy wildlife, but also a chance to mingle with the local people. In fact, exploring Hemis is more than just about spotting wildlife. Its also all about discovering the food, customs and religion of its people. In a homestay, you will be a part of the host family, and even the food that you will eat will be the local food cooked in the house. The homestays help the locals earn money, some of which goes into community development efforts, such as stocking up on fodder for winter or maintaining the Buddhist monuments here.

GETTING THERE

Road Of the four entrances into the 4,400 sq km Hemis NP, the Stok Gate (17 km) is closest to Leh. From here, you can access Rumbak and the trek to Stok Kangri Peak. A taxi from Leh to Stok costs ?750. The Zingchan Gate is ahead of Phey Gompa, off the Srinagar-Leh Highway. You have to walk to the gate from Phey. From here, you can access Rumbak, and the treks to Stok Kangri Peak and across the Markha Valley. The Martselang Gate, 41 km south-east of Leh, is near Hemis Gompa. Follow the Leh-Manali highway past Choglamsar, Shey and Thiksey to Karu. About 1 km ahead of Karu is the slip road on the right for Hemis Gompa. Take the right and about 2 km ahead is the left turn to Martselang, another 2 km away. A taxi from Leh to Martselang costs ?1,550 for a drop. The road continues another 5 km till Shang Sumdo the end of the Markha Valley Trek within the park. Hemis NPs Chilling Gate is 60 km north-west of Leh. Follow the Leh-Srinagar Highway for 35 km past Spituk and Patthar Sahib Gurudwara to the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers, just short of Nimmu. Watch out for the sharp, descending full-left turn onto the Chilling Road. Follow this road around the confluence and for 25 km to Chilling. A taxi from Leh to Chilling costs ?2,449 for a drop. From here, you can trek in western Hemis NP

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Kokernag: Spring Time https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Kokernag1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/kokernag-spring-time/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/kokernag-spring-time/ 2017-07-21T12:03:26+05:30 article Famous for its botanical garden, Kokernag comes alive in spring with a hundred blooms A hoopoe with its beautiful crown, a false set of eyes and a mouth painted on its forehead, had come to give me company for my morning tea in the Kokernag Botanical Garden. With chopstick beaks, it was displaying its dexterity in breaking the white chestnut flowers into smaller bits, all the better to gulp them down. For the hoopoe this was everyday routine, but how was I having my morning tea in a botanical garden, you might well ask? Because I had spent the night there, in a wooden bungalow surrounded by glorious trees. That is the appeal of Kokernag you get to stay in a beautiful garden, and not just any garden, but one that is home to the largest spring in Kashmir. I have seen a hoopoe often enough but it was on this leisurely morning in Kokernag that its fake eyes and mouth, placed on the forehead, were revealed at close quarters a defence mechanism, I gather, against predators when its actual eyes and mouth are busy foraging the ground for flowers!

Kokernag is named for a gushing spring which emerges from below a densely wooded hill. Strictly speaking, its a set of seven springs and hence the name: koker means fowl and nag spring; the many adjacent springs remind you of the claws of a fowl. The spring has been famous over centuries for its beauty and for the curative properties of it water. Famous enough to find mention in the Ain-i-Akbari. However, for some mystifying reason which will doubtless leave historians permanently puzzled, the Mughals eschewed their regular practice and did not make a garden here.

Only in the 1970s was this anomaly rectified and a botanical garden built at Kokernag as an ode to the divine waters. Not being a Mughal Garden means you dont find any jugalbandi of stone and water here, and no baradaris either; just the water in its green, very green surroundings. The garden is a popular picnic spot for locals, and a lovely holiday spot for visitors.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

The spring and the botanical garden are the whole point of Kokernag. A small habitation lives around it on the road from Achabal to Daksum. Just outside the garden is a collection of dhabas and small shops; next door is a trout farm.

Botanical Garden

The 15-acre Botanical Garden runs along a hill, pines rushing down the hillside, huge and magnificent chinars rising high, and billowing chestnut trees spread below. The water flows amidst a Kashmiri carpet of grass over pebbles through a channel, under a network of wooden bridges. The garden has roses and manicured shrubs, but its the trees that grab the attention and dont let go. At one end of the garden, the spring emerges from the hillside so abundantly that it feels as if an irrepressible underground stream has found a way out. People lounge and children play all day long, leaving a dense darkness behind at night.

Trout Farm

Next to the Botanical Garden is a Trout Farm run by the J&K Fisheries Department, set up in 1960s. The farm, the biggest in the state, produces about 25 lakh trout in a year. It is worth a visit to see the fish in various stages of growth and to learn how they are farmed in channels that are called raceways. You can also buy rainbow trout here.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

This subz-bagh is a place worth spending a night in, especially for the dark silence that engulfs it and for the blessings of the morning. The sound of the water becomes part of that silence in Kokernag, as does the occasional call by the ducks. You wake up to the chirping of the resident birds. Out in the garden, in April-May, you find the chestnut has dropped a white carpet of florets at your feet.

Trout fish flourishing in Kashmir's wild streams

JKTDC (Mobile: 09419450902; Tariff: ?650-4,000) has a few staying options here, all within the garden precincts. The four rooms (Tariff: ?1,000 and ?1,300) in a wooden bungalow under a chinar tree are the most atmospheric of the lot. The rooms are spacious with a sit-out from where you can gaze at the greenery around you. Two 2-room huts (Tariff: ?4,000) near the garden periphery give you a more secluded stay, away from the picnicking business of the botanical garden. The budget Alpine Hotel (Tariff: ?650) is next to the entrance.

Trout fish flourishing in Kashmir's wild streams

The JKTDC kitchen feeds you basic north Indian vegetarian and non-veg fare in a dining hall or in your room. The set-up is small and informal enough for you to give your suggestions about whats being cooked. The dhabas and stalls just outside the garden dish out samosas, kebabs, toasted bread and local bakarkhani bread.

Fish with a Tale

Trout is big business in Kashmir. In the streams, it is a great game fish and out of water its a perfect meal on the table. The story of how this fish, a resident of north European seas, made these mountain streams home is as succulent as the trout. We need to go back more than a hundred years to 1899 when the multi-talented FJ Mitchell from Scotland zoologist, carpetmerchant with a shop near Shalimar Garden and an angling enthusiast encouraged by the then Maharaja of Kashmir procured the first batch of trout to try and raise them locally. However, a flash flood caused by a cloudburst washed all the trout and his labour away. Of course, the story does not end here.

A few years later, in 1905, Mitchell imported a fresh lot of trout to give his project another shot. Around the same time, while fishing in a far-away stream, Mitchell, the keen angler, could not believe his eyes when he caught a fully grown-up brown trout. More trout was found elsewhere. It was then that he figured that the flood had been a blessing and had disseminated the fish throughout the valley! And that is how we find brown trout fish flourishing in Kashmir's wild streams. Its a cold water fish and is finicky enough to live only in fresh flowing water. It also finds these streams hospitable for they do not contain chemical pesticides or effluents.

Another interesting bite: Over the years, the J&K Fisheries Department (Web: jkfisheries.in) has been successfully harvesting trout in its farms, as you can see in Kokernag, however, the variety produced is the rainbow trout and not brown trout. So, buy trout from a farm and youll get rainbow trout, but angle for it in the wild and youll catch only brown trout.

AROUND KOKERNAG

Daksum (12 km)

Achabal (20 km)

FAST FACTS

When to go April to September is the season. It begins to snow in Kokernag in December. The JKTDC Tourist Bungalow has electric blankets, but the power supply in winters is inadequate

Tourist Offices

J&K Tourism, Office of the Tourism Officer, next to Botanical Garden Main Gate, Kokernag Mobile: 09906815898, Website: jktourism.org

Kokernag Development Authority, Chief Executive Officer, Kokernag, Tel: 01932-244155, Mobile: 09419028475, STD code 01932

GETTING THERE

Location The small town of Kokernag is at 6,640 ft in the lower Brengi Valley, in Anantnag District in south-east Kashmir

Distances 87 km SE of Srinagar, 30 km SE of Anantnag JOURNEY TIME By Road 2 hrs from Srinagar

Route from Srinagar NH1A to Khanabal Point via Pandrethan, Pampore, Barsoo and Avantipora; NH1B to Kokernag via Anantnag and Achabal

Air Nearest airport: Sheikh-ul-Alam Airport, Srinagar (Tel: 0194-2303000/ 31/ 94 km/2 hrs), connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Leh and Jammu by Air India, SpiceJet, Indigo and Go Air. Pre-paid taxis charge ?2,500 to Kokernag

Rail Nearest railhead: Jammu Tawi (275 km/ 8 hrs). Taxi from Jammu charges approx ?4,000 to Kokernag. Shared taxi is ?700 per head

Road From Srinagar, follow the well-maintained Srinagar-Jammu NH1A past Pandrethan, Pampore, Avantipora and Sangam Bridge, till Khanabal. A short way into Khanabal is the Degree College. Here, NH1A turns right to Jammu, and the road continuing straight is NH1B. A kilometre ahead and just across Khanabal Bridge is Khanabal Point, where NH1B too turns right towards Kokernag. The road going straight goes to Pahalgam via northern Anantnag City; you must take the right and follow NH1B through southern Anantnag to Kokernag via Achabal. The Botanical Gardens are right on the highway. Shared taxis charge ?120 and Sumos charge ?80 upto Kokernag. Shared sumos from Anantnag charge ?30 per person

TIP Many important roads converge at Khanabal-Anantnag, so ask and double check you are on the road to Kokernag. Anantnag is locally called Islamabad

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Sistine Chapel Travels to New York https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/CAPPELLA_SISTINA_Ceiling.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/sistine-chapel-travels-new-york/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/sistine-chapel-travels-new-york/ 2017-07-20T21:16:59+05:30 article Michaelangelo's masterpiece sets up temporary home in the Big Apple Art enthusiasts, here's an opportunity to engage with Michelangelos Sistine Chapel in a brand new way.Westfield recently launched the debut of UP CLOSE: Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, an immersive exhibit of museum quality with life size reproductions of the iconic frescoes locatedin theSistine Chapel in USA.

The ceiling paintings from the Sistine Chapel have been reproduced using state-of-the-art technology with great expertise and care. The paintings have been recreated in their original sizes to giveobservers a chance to fully understand the artwork. Thanks to the modern style of the exhibit, visitors can explore the paintings up close, at a distance that is impossible to achieve in the real Sistine Chapel.

Venue: Westfield World Trade Center
New York, NY
Dates: Till July 23
Get your tickets here: westfield.com/upclose/tickets

 

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Zanskar River Rafting Expedition http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/zanskar-river-rafting-expedition/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/zanskar-river-rafting-expedition/ 2017-07-20T21:13:38+05:30 article Don't miss out on one of the finest river rafting experiences in the country If you're one of those people whoneed at least one yearly dose of adrenaline to get by, Aquaterra has the perfect holiday planned for you in the picturesque valley of the Zanskar river. The trip begins with a flight over the Himalayas to Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. You will spend a few days acclimatising in Leh town which is at a height of 11,000 feet. Here you can visit ancient monasteries, palaces and villages. Once acclimatised, you will be driven west of Leh past the town of Kargil and travel south into the valley of Zanskar, one of the coldest inhabited places on earth. Your real river adventure will begin on the Stod river and will take you down the spectacular Zanskar river gorge over a period of a few days. The walls of the gorge rise thousands of feet abovethe river bed and end at the mighty Indus river. Check out aquaterra.in for more.

Trip Details
Location:Leh
Duration:12 Days
Grading:Demanding
Departure1:Aug 07 18, 2017
Departure 2:Aug 20 31, 2017

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Amsterdam: Kimpton DeWitt https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/The-Kimpton-De-Witt-1.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/amsterdam-kimpton-dewitt/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/amsterdam-kimpton-dewitt/ 2017-07-20T21:10:02+05:30 article The famous boutique luxury hotel brand Kimpton makes a debut in Europe American boutique luxury hotel brand, Kimpton, has just debuted in Europe. The place of choice is the historic-hip city of Amsterdam, and the location of the Kimpton DeWitt is slamdunk centralsteps away from the citys Centraal train station. Its pulled off something of a coup, combining minimalist European lines with touches of Dutch tradition, offering serenity amid the bustle of touristdom outside. From Delft pottery-inspired floor tiles to little bursts of vivacious green and blue, the hotels public spaces and guestrooms are modern, soothing and very luxurious indeed. Of the 274 rooms on offer, nine are suites, including one three-storey, two-bedroom house within a hotel set in a four-century-old residence that the property embraces. Food choices are highly promising as well: Wyers offers American comfort food with some Dutch flavours, with a firm emphasis on all meats that can be grilled, cued or charred, a cocktail bar, and a counter service of coffee and fresh sugar-dusted beignets so you can get out and get going in this endlessly fascinating city. From 289 doubles; kimptondewitthotel.com

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Noida: Sandal Suites https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Sandal-Suites.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/noida-sandal-suites/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/noida-sandal-suites/ 2017-07-20T21:08:10+05:30 article A brand new business hotel comes to Noida Professionals moving to Noida or businessmen looking to stay in the city for long durations have a new address to check in at. In the first week of June, Noida saw the launch of Sandal Suites, upscale serviced apartments located within Assotech Business Cresterra, an office complex in the IT hub of Sector 135. Operated by Lemon Tree Hotels, Sandal Suites offers 195 suites, split into three categories, designed to provide extended stays. Theres also an opulent Crest suite, spread over 1,340 sq ft, on the 10th floor. Sandal Suites features banqueting facilities, and comprehensive dining options including Citrus Caf, an all-day dining restaurant, Citrus Patio, an al fresco dining area, and Bitters, the bar. Recreational facilities like a gym, squash and tennis courts, swimming pool and yet-to-open pool bar and spa have been included. From ?6,500 (plus taxes); +91-9911701701, lemontreehotels.com

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Pahalgam: Life by the Lidder https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Pahalgam1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/pahalgam-life-lidder/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/pahalgam-life-lidder/ 2017-07-20T21:00:03+05:30 article Surrounded by breathtaking meadows, beautiful valleys and the majestic Himalaya, Pahalgam is paradise A bunch of kids run towards the camera, their giggling red cheeks and snotty noses filling up the frame. Outside the frame, in a small grassy clearing amidst a hilly forest, stand a few stately deodar trees and boulders. Theres a young man sitting on one of the rocks, waiting for the children. Hes their teacher, and this is a school that I have interrupted a summer school for children of the shepherd households that move up here when the snow melts and go back down to their villages in winter. I chanced upon this open-air learning experience while walking in the hills here, not that far away from Pahalgam town itself. In a nutshell, this is what Pahalgam is all about. The small town offers a retreat next to the very pretty and very Himalayan Lidder River, along with a few unexpected surprises like a golf course and an amusement park. But close by is an altogether different world a set of beautiful hillsides forested with tall pine trees. There are gentle walks by the river and through the woods to luxuriant meadows and endearing valleys.

Once a humble shepherds village (pahal = shepherd, gam = village), high up in the Himalayas at the confluence of two streams on the route to Amarnath, Pahalgam grew to become a popular tourist resort. All through the 70s and 80s, it was visited by hordes of pilgrims, trekkers and honeymooners. You really hadnt seen India till youd seen Kashmir, which really meant Gulmarg and Pahalgam. Then, the rise of militancy killed off tourism, and Pahalgam, forgotten by the world, reverted to its old self. However, with peace slowly coming back to the Valley, Pahalgams shrugged off its sleepy air and regained its status as one of the most important and popular tourist destinations in Jammu & Kashmir.

ORIENTATION

Pahalgam lies along the Lidder. As you approach the town from the south on the Khanabal-Pahalgam Road (KP Road) from Anantnag, youll find the Lidder on your left and forests all around you. On the way, you cross the small village of Ganshibal to your right, the Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports, and a few hotels. In the centre of town, near the main mosque, is a crossroads. The JKTDC Tourist Reception Centre is over here as well. Right from the crossroads will take you past a couple of hotels and the main Taxi Stand to a road running parallel to the main KP Road. This goes past the JKTDC guest house complex all the way to Laripora Village (which lies along Lidder East and has a number of guest houses next to the river) to the north of Pahalgam. From the crossroads, the road to the left crosses the Lidder and heads towards the towns helipad and the Mamleshwar Temple.

The main KP Road winds its way through the town, passing shops, restaurants and hotels all the way past the village of Laripora, the heavenly Betaab Valley on the way to Chandanwari (16 km from Pahalgam), one of the base camps for the Amarnath Yatra. At Laripora, a turn-off to the right takes you back to the JKTDC huts. On the way is another fork, with a road heading to Baisaran. Instead, if you cross over the river just before Laripora, youll come to a fork right after the bridge. Turning left here will take you to Aru, via the Lidder Amusement Park and the Pahalgam Deer Park & Zoo. And to the right, is the golf course; the road heads past the golf course and several hotels, rejoining KP Road after Laripora.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Pahalgam used to be a one-and-a-half street town, but has grown in the past few years. The centre of the town has some shops, small restaurants, most of the hotels, the taxi and bus stands, and the Tourist Reception Centre. The reasons why Pahalgam has long been one of the most famous hill stations in India are the Lidder River and the simply stunning surrounding countryside.

The Lidder

Lidder River is what makes Pahalgam so alluring. The Lidder has two main tributaries Lidder East (flowing from Sheshnag Lake) and Lidder West (from Kolahoi Glacier). The two streams tumble down the mountains and come together in a relatively flat and broad stretch right next to the town proper. There are mountains all around but just about enough space for the main street to run along the river for a bit, and for visitors to stretch their legs next to the streams, and even wet their feet in the snowmelt. Walking near the river bank is a rejuvenating experience; take a stroll around and chuck a few pebbles into the river at the Lidder View Park, right in the centre of town. During season, and on holidays, the riverside in the town can see hectic activity, with groups and families and couples in picnic mode.

For a different riverside experience, you can walk along Lidder East, past the golf course into Laripora Village. The Lidder East divides into two streams for a short stretch here; part of the village is on an island between the two streams. You will find hens and children bathing in the river, women washing clothes and ponies quenching their thirst.

Lidder Amusement Park

This park is around 2 km from the taxi stand, on the road to Aru, adjoining the Lidder West. Its been controversial for not fitting into the Himalayan backdrop, but nevertheless, the 9-odd rides have become quite popular with the locals dont be surprised to see families from as far away as Srinagar come by on day trips. Across the road, the river offers great picnic and camping options right next to the flowing water.

Entry fee Adults ?100 for 7 rides, children ?25 for 4 rides Timings 9 am- 7 pm, Fridays closed Season April-November Mobile 09419746713

Pahalgam Deer Park and Zoo

Another kilometre ahead from the Lidder Amusement Park is the Pahalgam Deer Park and Zoo. Its quite small but theyve got a leopard, along with some deer and a bear. Makes a great trip for the kids but even the adults wont complain about walking through the forested grounds.

Walk to Baisaran

There are also many walks to the lakes and meadows scattered all around Pahalgam. The most popular of these walks is the one to a large meadow called Baisaran (1 hour walk), surrounded by magnificent pine trees. You can also opt for a pony ride (?350 per hour) or drive up here (6 km from the Pahalgam taxi stand), but the road (more of a dirt track) is not in the best shape so check with the local authorities or your hotel before setting off. The tea and snack stalls at Baisaran make it a great picnic spot.

Mamleshwar Temple

For those interested in history, Pahalgam is home to the ancient Shaivite Mamleshwar Temple. In Mamal village, across the Lidder, the shrine (also known as Mamalika Temple) is believed to date back to the 12th century CE reign of King Jayasimha and is still in use today making it perhaps the oldest surviving temple in the Kashmir Valley.

Betaab Valley

Halfway along the Chandanwari Road lies Betaab Valley (8 km), a gorgeous expanse by the Lidder offering fantastic views of the Himalayas. Made famous by (and named after) the Sunny Deol-Amrita Singh flick that was shot here, Betaab Valley (earlier known as Hagan Valley) is a picture-perfect little expanse of green with a river flowing through it and mountains as a backdrop. The tourism department has built a park here (Entry fee ?20), on a little island that splits the river. Take a stroll or a pony ride. Youll also find snacks stalls outside the park.

TIP Hire taxis from Pahalgams official stand; ponies can be hired in the market

Rafting and Adventure Sports

Pahalgams also the right destination if youd like to take up adventure sports in a serious fashion. The renowned Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports (Tel: 01936-243129, Mob: 09906967830, Website: jawaharinstitutepahalgam.com), on the KP Road just before Pahalgam, offers a wide variety of adventure sports courses from mountaineering and rafting to paragliding and outdoor skills for children. Operators offer rafting on the Lidder a little below Pahalgam; you will see them as you drive in to Pahalgam.

Mountain Magic Trek n Tours (Contact Ibrahim; Mobile: 094692 84249; Website: mountainmagictours. com) and Jungle Guide Adventures Trek & Tour (Contact Imran; Mobile: 09419923810, Email: imranbeachresort@gmail.com) are two good operators who undertake white water rafting in Pahalgam. The white water rafting season here extends from April 1 to August 15. Approved rates are ?400 for a short rafting ride (2 km) and ?800 for a long ride (5 km).

Pahalgam Golf Course

Avid golfers would be doing themselves a disservice if they dont play a round at the Pahalgam Golf Course, across the Lidder on the western side of the town. Renovated a few years ago, this Himalayan course is now a proper 18 holes. It offers much you wont find in a big city cool air at this altitude, the craggy Himalaya visible from anywhere on the course, the Lidder flowing nearby Contact the CEO, Pahalgam Development Authority (Tel: 01936- 243049, Mobile: 09419594280) to tee off.

Fishing

The Lidder and other small streams are also packed with enough trout to make a day spent angling worth your while. Dont forget your fishing license (?1,000 for 6 fish) from the Department of Fisheries in Srinagar (Gogjibagh, Jawahar Nagar, Tel: 0194-2312046; Website: jkfisheries.in). You wont be able to get one in Pahalgam.

Kashmirs trekking capital

Just out of Pahalgam, youre in picture-postcard territory: Grassy meadows, tall peaks, frothy streams and tall fir trees. Baisaran can be done as a day trek or on horseback but there are other longer, and tougher, options for the experienced trekker.

Tulian Lake (11,811 ft), to the south west of Pahalgam via Baisaran, is a 10-12 km, 2-day return trek for experienced hikers. Another trek close by is to Sheshnag Lake (12 km from Chandanwari) on the Amarnath trail. But one of the best treks youll find anywhere is the Kolahoi Glacier Trek, via Lidderwat. This follows the course of the Lidder River from Pahalgam up to the Kolahoi Glacier, Kashmir Valleys largest. From Pahalgam, you spend a day walking up the Lidder valley to the village of Aru (12 km). The trek proper (3-day return from Aru) begins after that, up the Lidder West, through alpine meadows and boulders around the Kolahoi massif, before arriving at the glacier itself. Right in the middle of the Great Himalayan Range, this is one of the easier glaciers to get to. Lidderwat (9 km from Aru; 2-day return) is a gorgeous Himalayan meadow that is a good choice for a shorter trek.

Many trekking agencies offer the Kolahoi Glacier trek, including Mountain Magic Trek n Tours (Mobile: 094692 84249) and Jungle Guide Adventures Trek & Tour (Mobile: 09419923810) in Pahalgam. Approximate cost is ?10,000- 15,000 per person (depending on size of group) for a 2N/ 3D trek, inclusive of boarding, lodging, guide and porters. The Leh-based Northern Escapes (Mobile: 09871511133, 09868013714, Website: northernescapes.in) also conduct treks to Kolahoi Glacier for ?25,000-30,000 per person for a 7-day trek, inclusive of porters, guide, boarding and lodging.

WHERE TO STAY

Most hotels are located in and around the main market or along KP Road all the way till Laripora. There are also a few across the Lidder, near the golf course.

Grand Mumtaz Resorts (Mobile: 09013527195, 09810616990; Tariff: ?9,000-13,000), a massive property, is the towns classiest it has lovely views, is in peaceful surroundings, and offers good service and food. Pine Palace Resort (Tel: 01936-254466; Tariff: ?7,000-10,500) is giving it competition, but Pahalgams best seems to be the Senator Pine N Peak (Tel: 243210; Tariff: ?12,000- 30,000), close to the amusement park. Also around this part of town are the Alpine Inn (Tel: 243065, Mobile: 09906756030; Tariff: ?4,000, with meals), a small-but-cosy gem of a place. Or try Hotel Heevan (Tel: 243219; Tariff: ?10,000-23,000).

Among several high end options are: Hotel Pahalgam (Tel: 243252; Tariff: ?12,000-14,000) in the main market, an old favourite around since 1931. It has a nice lawn overlooking the river. Hotel Woodstock (Tel: 243219; Tariff: ?6,200-8,800) is next door, also with a lawn, but its bulky stone look does not gel with the surroundings. The Mansion (Tel: 243354/ 56; Tariff: ?8,500-13,000) is at the beginning of Laripora Village and its Lidder-facing rooms have lovely views. Hotel Mountview (Tel: 243221, 243321; Tariff: ?8,900-9,900) offers a gym and a pool table. Hotel Natraj (Tel: 243225; Tariff: ?4,000-12,500) is nestled in the woods 500m from the main Taxi stand and Volga (Tel: 243292; Tariff: ?4,000-6,000, with meals) has basic but clean rooms in the market.

A field of asters makes a floral carpet for a Pahalgam hotel

JKTDCs Hotel Complex & Tourist Bungalow (Tel: 243224; Tariff: ?2,500- 6,000) has fine cottages on the hillside just above the town. Boasting a stunning view of the surrounding pine-covered slopes by the Lidder River, the pretty little Himalaya House (Tel: 243072/ 51; Tariff: ?4,500-7,000) is a great place to enjoy the charms of Pahalgam. Pine Grove (Mob: 09419015970; Tariff: ?6,500, with meals) has nice woody interiors.

Near the bus and taxi stands are a few places like Hotel Tulyan (Tel: 243096; Tariff: ?3,300-4,400) and Highlands (Tel: 243492; Tariff: ?3,500-5,500). Walk on a bit further from the taxi stand towards Pine View Road and youll find Hotel Hilltop (Tel: 243466; Tariff: ?7,500-9,500), earlier called Pine View, with a restaurant. A little ahead is Hill Park (Mob: 09419016869; Tariff: 5,000, with two meals), a sprawling property with some surprisingly basic rooms.

Towards the Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and some distance from the bustle of the main market is Himalayan Discover Resort (Tel: 243012; Tariff: ?5,000-6,000, with meals), which offers simple but clean rooms.

Youll also find a couple of places on the road to Aru. These are a great choice if youve got your own car. Pine Valley Guest House (Tel: 243065; Tariff: ?4,000, with meals) at Mandalan is run by the same folks who own Alpine Inn and offers cottages and rooms. Travellers Inn (Mob: 09906505354; Tariff: ?3,500) is a friendly place with simple rooms and a near-perfect location by the Lidder. Or try Yenas Lodge (Mobile: 09906764716; Tariff: ?2,500).

Laripora Village has many hotels and lodges. Forest Hill (Tel: 243151; Tariff: ?3,800-4,400), right next to the Lidder East has 20 rooms with TV. They also have a golf putting green. Also in Laripora but not as fancy are Valley View (Tel: 243111-12; Tariff: ?7,500, with meals), Brown Palace (Tel: 243255, Mobile: 09469284249; Tariff: ?2,300-12,000, with meals) and Paradise Inn (Tel: 243009-10; Tariff: ?5,500-6,900).

WHERE TO EAT

For your meals, theres a slew of small dhabas sprinkled around Pahalgam market, on the KP Road and in Laripora. The Punjabi Rasoi dhaba, close to the bus stand, offers cheap and hearty vegetarian fare and is always packed. Dana Pani in the main market is popular for its simple and affordable North and South Indian vegetarian fare, including paranthas and dosas.

In the hotels, Hotel Pahalgam has quite a few options: The Pine Retreat coffee shop or Caf Log Inn are a good choice for light meals. The latter, a stylish joint next to the entrance of Hotel Pahalgam, serves pizzas, burgers, coffee and kahwa. But the pick of the town has to be the Troutbeat specialty restaurant, which offers fresh trout from the Lidder. The Senator Pine N Peak has two restaurants Lolaab, Saahil and a coffee shop. Hotel Tulyans popular Nathus Rasoi, right behind the taxi stand, offers Indian and Chinjabi food.

Other popular places include the Volgas The Lounge coffee shop and Cooks Corner buffet restaurant. The restaurant at Heevan serves Gujarati and Continental cuisine apart from Kashmiri, Chinese and North Indian. Theres a caf here offering splendid views of the Lidder. Grand Mumtaz has a multi-cuisine restaurant, Samovar, and a coffee shop as well.

AROUND PAHALGAM

Ziarat of Sheikh Zain-ud-Din Wali, Aishmuqam (19 km)

About 18 km back toward Anantnag from Pahalgam, a left turn from the KP Road at Aishmuqam takes you to the shrine of Hazrat Zain-ud-din Wali, a 15th century Sufi mystic who was a disciple of Sheikh Baba Noor-ud-din Wali of Charar-e-Sharief. Legend has it that Zain-ud-din was a prince who was taken ill and after being cured by the Sheikh, devoted his life to spirituality. The hillside green-roofed structure is visible from the main road. A flight of stairs leads to the shrine. There are around 250 steps, so keep that in mind. A spacious compound usually has villagers relaxing and taking in the views. The mausoleum itself is set in a cave in the hillside.

A storage room attached to the shrine is also said to hold some important relics, including a wooden bread the mystic used to drive away hunger. Another interesting relic, one that hasnt been publicly seen in years, is an old staff said to have been given to Baba Zain-ud-din by Sheikh Noor-uddin Wali himself. A legend attached to the shrine claims that the staff originally belonged to Moses and was later also used by Jesus.

Aru (12 km)

Martand Sun Temple (35 km)

FAST FACTS

When to go April to October is warmer but avoid the rush during Amarnath Yatra. Visit in December-January for snow

Tourist offices

J&K Tourism

Tourist Reception Centre, Pahalgam

Tel: 01936-243224

Website: jktourism.org

JKTDC

Main Market, Pahalgam

Tel: 01936-243468

Website: jktdc.co.in

STD code 01936

GETTING THERE

Location At 7,200 ft amidst alpine meadowland and forests to the south-west of the Great Himalayan Range, at the confluence of the Lidder West and Lidder East Rivers

Distances 99 km E of Srinagar, 287 km N of Jammu JOURNEY TIME By road 3 hrs from Srinagar, 10 hrs from Jammu

Route from Srinagar NH1A to Khanabal via Avantipora; Khanabal-Pahalgam state highway to Pahalgam via Martand, Aishmuqam and Batakut

Route from Jammu NH1A to Khanabal via Jhajjar Kotli, Udhampur, Chenani, Kud, Patnitop, Ramban, Banihal, Jawahar Tunnel and Qazigund; rest as above

Air Nearest airport: Sheikh-ul-Alam Airport, Srinagar (108 km/3 hrs/ Tel: 0194-2303000/ 31, 2303635), connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Leh and Jammu by Air India, SpiceJet, Indigo and Go Air. Prepaid taxi to Pahalgam costs ?3,000

Rail Nearest railhead: Jammu Tawi (287 km/8 hrs). Taxi to Pahalgam costs ?4,500 from Jammu, one-way

Road From Srinagar, follow the Srinagar- Jammu NH1A past Pampore and Avantipora till Khanabal. A kilometre into Khanabal, across Khanabal Bridge is Khanabal Point, where NH1B turns right and the Khanabal-Pahalgam Road goes straight, through northern Anantnag. Follow the KP Road past Martand and along the Lidder River via Hutmarah, Aishmuqam and Lidder to Pahalgam. A taxi from Srinagar will charge ?2,500- 3,000 to Pahalgam. Shared taxis/ Sumos run from Lal Chowk all through the day for Anantnag (?80) from where you can get shared taxis/ Sumos to Pahalgam (?70). If travelling up from Jammu, follow NH1A via Udhampur, Patnitop, Ramban, Jawahar Tunnel and Qazigund till Khanabal and join the KP Road

TIP Many important roads converge at Khanabal-Anantnag, so double check you are on the road towards Pahalgam

Pahalgam

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Verinag: A River is Born https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/verinag1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/verinag-river-born/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/verinag-river-born/ 2017-07-20T20:33:45+05:30 article The mighty Jhelum is born in a spring overlaid by a Mughal Garden in Verinag Many summers ago, on my first visit to Srinagar, I travelled by road from Jammu. A tortuous climb up the Pir Panjal Mountains brought us to Jawahar Tunnel. Beyond the tunnel, everything changed. The shining bright valley of Verinag was my first sight of the larger Kashmir Valley the small valley so iridescent that the green of the paddy had turned almost yellow. That first impression has been a lasting image of Kashmir for me. This time around, I reached Verinag from the other side, having flown in to Srinagar. To relive that childhood memory, I walked up to the Jawahar Tunnel. The beauty of Verinag was as mesmerising as before hills all around housing a small valley, abundant with many hues of green, some of which were a silken yellow.

Verinag is, however, more than just a beautiful valley and, for road travellers, it is the first view of Kashmir. It is home to a spring, revered for ages, that is the source of the principal river of the Vale of Kashmir, River Jhelum. The Mughal Emperor Jehangir had come to Verinag, became enchanted and built a pool, a pavilion and a garden around this spring. His son, Shah Jehan, enlarged the garden and added baradaris and hammams, most of which have perished over time.

If you decide to stay at Verinag, from your perch at the JKTDCs Alpine Resort, backed by a forested mountain, you get to see a birds eye view of this Mughal creation the pavilion, a channel carrying the spring water through a garden, trees, enormously big chinars, people lolling about or strolling through all of this, the town beyond, and the hills still behind it You can spend a good amount of time just letting this seep into your consciousness as the sun travels and the skies change their colours, finally pulling on a blanket of dark and putting everyone to sleep.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Mughal Garden

Verinag Garden sits a little above the town, built on a spur of the mountain under which the Verinag spring is born. A large, deep tank surrounds the spring such that the water on its surface appears completely calm. It is said that the spring emerges at a depth of 54 ft. Around the tank is an arcade, octagonal in shape, with a broad walkway and recesses in its walls. On the walls are two Persian inscriptions on stone slabs. One is by Jehangir (PadshahNoor-ud-din, Jehangir), announcing the year of its construction as 1619-1620, and other one by Shah Jehan saying that the aqueduct was built in 1626-1627.

TIP Ask around to find the lone guide here and he can recite the inscriptions for you. Theres no guide fee, and you can tip as you like

In two of the recesses of the pavilion, there are Hindu icons, one of them a Shivaling. Some people claim that these predate the Mughal construction, but it is more likely that they date from the Dogra period (1870s) when this and many other gardens in Kashmir were repaired.

The tank here has a lot of fish and water flows out from it into a channel around which are the lawns with flowers and trees. On the eastern side of the garden, theres another, smaller spring. Check out the cluster of three chinars that form a lovely umbrella over this one. It is very soothing to walk along the water channel in the garden, sit on a bench or under a tree and watch others doing the same.

The garden has three entrances: one below the JKTDCs Alpine Resort (this is to the west), the second on the other side of the tank (east) and the third at the far end of the garden (north), after which the water goes out to join other streams and give rise to the Jhelum. The main town of Verinag is towards the north. At the north entrance is a mini bazaar, with shops selling snacks and trinkets.

Entry fee ?10

Vyatastha

About 2 km from the centre of Verinag, on NH1A back to Qazigund, Vyatastha is another spring with a small park around it. Village women do their washing here, while children play. It is a pleasant walk to Vyatastha through houses and fields. Interestingly, Vitasta is said to be an ancient name for Jhelum River (also called Jehlum and Vyeth). Autos charge ? 100 for a return journey.

Walk to Jawahar Tunnel

You can walk up to the famous Jawahar Tunnel. The route is a motorable road, which joins the Jammu-Srinagar Highway NH1A. It goes through Omoh Village, which has the ruins of an old, presumably Mughal period caravanserai called Mughal Sarai. On the path till Omoh, the landscape feels like an extension of Verinag, but beyond Omoh it becomes more mountain village-like, with some patches of forest. Just before the highway, you get lovely views of the Verinag Valley surrounded by hills.

TIP There are a lot of security checks near the Jawahar Tunnel; you might want to walk back before reaching them

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

JKTDCs Alpine Resort (Mobile: 09419166212; Tariff: ? 600-800) is beautifully located high up from the Mughal Garden, yielding great views. The hotel and its 6 double rooms have been revived this year after many years of a lull in visitor arrivals. Theres a kitchen which will dish out basic north Indian fare. Just below the hotel is a JKTDC restaurant which also cooks food that is none too different.

AROUND VERINAG

Achabal (22 km)

Kokernag (20 km)

Crossing Banihal

Banihal means blizzard in Kashmiri. It is the name of the pass, at above 9,000 ft in the Pir Panjal mountain range which separates the Kashmir Valley from the Jammu region, that had to be crossed to reach Kashmir from the north Indian plains. The only other route, easier and more used from the plains, was the Jhelum Valley Road which ran through what is now Pakistan, and which was closed after Partition. However, Banihal Pass was accessible only in summer and remained snowed under in winter. Therefore, the Kashmir Valley experienced a host of shortages after partition. To have a round-the- year connection with Kashmir, the 2- km-long Jawahar Tunnel was built in the 1950s, at about 7,000 ft through the Pir Panjal Range. This opened out on the Kashmir side just above Verinag. Now, a new tunnel, almost 4 times longer at 8 km and at a lower altitude (below 6,000 ft), is near completion. Also, an 11-km-long rail tunnel has been added this year by the newly built Kashmir Railway to connect Qazigund with Banihal, also the name of the town below the Banihal Pass in Ramban District.

FAST FACTS

When to go April to November is the main season. December-January offers snow but theres not much infrastructure in Verinag for winter

Tourist Offices, J&K Tourism, Tourism Hut, Near JKTDCs Alpine Resort, Verinag, Mobile: 09622808234, Website: jktourism.org

Verinag Development Authority, Chief Executive Officer, Verinag, Tel: 01932-291645, Mobile: 09419023449, STD code 01932

GETTING THERE

Location Verinag, chief source of the Jhelum River, is in a small valley at 6,108 ft, surrounded by hills in Anantnag District, with the Pir Panjal Range rising to the south west

Distances 83 km SE of Srinagar, 26 km S of Anantnag JOURNEY TIME By Road 2 hrs

Route1 from Srinagar NH1A to Khanabal via Pampore and Avantipora; state roads to Verinag via Anantnag, Larkipora and Doru

Route2 from Srinagar NH1A to Qazigund via Pampore, Avantipora and Khanabal; state road to Verinag

Air Nearest airport: Sheikh-ul-Alam Airport, Srinagar (87 km/2 hrs/ Tel: 0194-2303000/ 31), connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Leh and Jammu by Air India, SpiceJet, Indigo, Go Air. Pre-paid taxis charge ?2,000 to Verinag, one-way

Rail Nearest railhead: Jammu Tawi (219 km/6 hrs). Taxi charges ?4,500-5,000 to Verinag. When driving up from Jammu along the Srinagar Highway (NH1A), Verinag is just 4 km from Jawahar Tunnel; look for a road going down on the right about 1 km after the tunnel

Road From Srinagar, follow the Srinagar- Jammu NH1A past Pampore, Avantipora and over the Sangam bridge till Khanabal. A short way into Khanabal is the Degree College to the left. Here, NH1A turns right to Jammu; the road continuing straight is NH1B. Follow NH1B through Anantnag. A kilometre ahead, just across Khanabal Bridge, NH1B too turns right. Take the right and follow NH1B through Anantnag for about 2 km, till the crossing between the TB Hospital and Afzal Beg Hospital, where you turn right onto the Verinag Road. About 6 km down the road is Hardialgam, just ahead of which the road forks. The right fork is the Verinag Road. Continue along the road past Larkipora, Doru and across the Jhelum to Verinag. From Srinagar, you could also continue south on NH1A from Khanabal to Qazigund and 7 km later, before Jawahar Tunnel, is the left turn for Verinag, 4 km away. The NH1A route is longer by just 4 km. Taxi charges ?2,000 for a drop from Srinagar. Shared taxis/ Sumos (?70) run from TRC Srinagar all through the day for Anantnag, from where you can promptly get shared taxis to Verinag (?35). Private buses also serve this route

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Daksum: River Music https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Daksum1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/daksum-river-music/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/daksum-river-music/ 2017-07-20T20:11:56+05:30 article A trekker's paradise covered with lovely forests, gurgling streams and hidden grassy meadows Mountain rivers are very private creatures. They do not allow you up close for any length of space. A walk along their bank is inviting, but soon you realise its near impossible. The bank gets too steep, the rocks too slippery, the undergrowth too daunting, or it gets too slushy. You feel fortunate if you can get a few paces next to the gushing water. Or so I thought till I visited Daksum. Here you get not one, not two, but three mountain rivers beside which you can take leisurely strolls for long stretches right next to the water. For a special treat, at places you can even do this in a grassy pine forest. Connoisseurs of riverside walks and pine forests will know how unusual and delightful this is. Usually, pine slopes are not that easy to walk in. These trees inundate the forest floor with their needles, make it slippery and dont allow much greenery to flourish below. But Daksum is, again, different. There is lush grass underneath and pleasant greenery all around. River, grass, plants, trees it all comes together beautifully in this little Kashmiri hamlet.

Daksum (d pronounced as in day and s as sh) is a village of some seventy-odd houses of Kashmiris and Gujjars. Its the last village in the Brengi River Valley, after which the road rises 32 km to Sinthan Top, a 12,450-ft-high pass en route Kishtwar. Daksum has a solitary Tourist Bungalow perched at the top, a narrow valley around and slopes on either side dense with conifers. River Brengi adds its musical hum to it all and numerous streams join her, playful and eager.

At first glance, Daksum is very pleasant, very scenic. Then, as you settle in on the lawn at the tourist bungalow, you hear the sound of the river reaching you and something more than pleasant takes hold. But its when you begin to explore the surroundings (even a little walking around will do) that you really get to know Daksums unique blessings. You can spend a few days here just ambling around drinking in the beauty, patting the trees, smiling at the villagers, dipping your feet in the snowmelt and generally nourishing an intense happiness within.

Daksum is rediscovering tourism after two decades of disruption. Theres just the two-room JKTDC bungalow here for stay; another three huts and a J&K Tourism office are being readied. There are no other hotels or restaurants. Before, there was better tourist infrastructure, but it suffered damage at the hands of militants and the Army. Now the locals speak of the militancy as a thing of the past and look forward to better times.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

It is rare to find a place as forested as Daksum without needing a trek or a guide or a safari. Make the most of it. Find a nearby forest and plunge in ; short walks are completely safe during day time. If you want, you can ask the staff at the JKTDC Bungalow to find a local to be your guide. The staff will also organise a taxi for you.

Brengi River

Just below the JKTDC bungalow, near a bend in the road is the access point to the Brengi River. On good weather days and holidays, youll find a few cars, and occasionally a bus with school kids, parked here with occupants picnicking by the river. It seems that a picnic in Kashmir usually involves none of your conveniently packable snacks but an elaborate meal partaken from huge utensils and eaten on, if you please, a fullscale heavy carpet spread out on the grass! There is a bridge to walk over to the other side and an attempt at making a garden on the hillside above.

Leave all that behind and walk left along the river upstream. In a few minutes you will be on your own, except for the river music, abundant grass at your feet, pine trees giving you shade and sometimes a monkey or two.

Dessu Village

If you turn right after crossing Brengi and walk downstream, you will get to Dessu Village after a few minutes walk. This is a delightful walk too the river rushing on your right, streams coming off it, the riverside village, wide-eyed children staring at you, curious villagers in the fields, small kitchen gardens, water mills, fruit trees, old wooden houses, newer brick ones. For a different perspective, a slightly detached one, you can also walk on the road just above the village.

Mathar Nallah

Just below Dessu, a mountain stream called Mathar Nallah comes down from the southeast into the Brengi. A path goes up along the nallah, leading up to a local stone dam, which forms a charming tiny lake and fall. Paths move on from here into the pine forest. You will find some locals hanging out or collecting wood and some Bakarwals going on to Mathar, a meadow a few kilometres away which is a summertime pasture for these nomadic sheep herders.

Mathar Nallah is a nice narrow valley to explore. On the far side of the nallah are a few pretty houses with small fields. Watch out for the bridge made of just two logs close to where the nallah disappears into the Brengi.

A Sheep Breeding Farm run by the Department of Grassland is just a 5-min walk behind the JKTDC Tourist Bungalow. Go up from the bungalow and take the path off the road (next to the fencing) into the woods. Cross the small stream and follow the path onto beautiful flat grassland with enough trees to offer shade. Walk to your right where you enter a large grassy clearing with long stone huts for sheep and cottages for officers. There are more than a couple of thousand sheep here and you will see some herds grazing away busily.

But the real attraction here presides under the mountain face that you see to the northwest, and if you pay attention you can hear the lovely sound that yet another of Daksums water bodies makes as it tumbles down a hilly path. You can easily walk down to this delightful stream called Rajparian Nallah or Mahawar Nallah an amazingly beautiful tract with forest on either side of the animated water. Once in a while, a herd of sheep from the farm, with a couple of herders, passes you by. You can walk upstream for some time; theres no fear of losing your way as you are walking next to the stream. Officially, you will be walking in a protected forest the Rajparian Wildlife Sanctuary.

TIP Technically, the gate to the wildlife sanctuary and the sheep farm (which lies within it) is downstream, where this nallah joins the Brengi. But its generally closed and the staff, who are still getting used to tourists visiting Daksum, might stop you from walking in. J&K Tourism is trying to ensure that tourists are welcomed by the forest department!

Drive to Goran Village

This 16-km drive takes you into another valley a relatively densely populated, but green and gorgeous, countryside. You will cross village after village, house after house with their gardens and fields and orchards all under the shadow of hills and escorted by streams. A taxi will charge ?600 for the trip. The road after Goran is not too good, but locals recommend it for its sublime beauty.

Sinthan Top

Sinthan Top is the 12,450-ft-high pass that connects the Kashmir Valley and the Kishtwar region. The 32 km drive to the pass, on the relatively new NH1B is smooth and utterly beautiful. The road goes along the Brengi River through pine forest with snow getting closer all the time. Sinthan Top has snow from November till early July. It is gradually emerging on the tourist map. You can play in the snowfields here, ogle at the views high mountains, snow at your feet, wooded valleys below and have hot tea and equally steaming Maggi from two small shops.

The pass is open for traffic from April till the snow begins to fall in November/ December. A taxi from Daksum to Sinthan Top costs around ?1,000 for a return trip. Shared taxis run from Vailoo (10 km below Daksum) to Kishtwar (83 km from Sinthan) and take about 4-5 hours for the journey. The taxis stop at the top and people pay obeisance to the glacial beauty.

If you are interested in trekking, about 10 km from Daksum on the way to Sinthan, a 3-km-long trail goes off the road along the Brengi stream to the Girsar Spring, whose waters also feed the Brengi. The beginning of the trail is signposted. Aarshan is a tempting meadow right on the roadside, 21 km from Daksum towards Sinthan as you go above pine country, after which only grass and the white-barked bhojpatra trees give you company.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

JKTDC Tourist Bungalow (Mobile: 09469515050, 09596369601; Tariff: ?1,000) is the only tourist accommodation in Daksum. Its a pleasant cottage set on a flat patch of lawn next to the road at the top of the village. The bungalow has been functioning for about a year now and has two comfortable double rooms with attached bath. There are no heating arrangements. Three JKTDC huts will soon become functional. Reservations are best made online. If a room is available, they entertain walk-ins. You can also call a day in advance and book by phone.

This is also your solitary eating option here. The cook dishes out a few nice, freshly made dishes (dal, sabzi, egg, chicken, mutton and fish). Discuss in advance what you want cooked, for they need to organise provisions. Expect eggs, toast and parantha for breakfast. A couple of shops across the road sell biscuits, namkeen, chips, and crucially, Maggi.

AROUND DAKSUM

Kokernag (12 km)

FAST FACTS

When to go April to September. Snow begins in December, but the Tourist Bungalow isnt adequately heated

Tourist Office

J&K Tourism, Next to JKTDC Tourist Bungalow, Daksum; Mob: 09906815898, Website: jktourism.org, STD code 01932

GETTING THERE

Location At 8,046 ft, just upstream of the confluence of Brengi River and Rajparian Nallah in Anantnag District, in a narrow valley overlooked by Sinthan Top, beyond which is Kishtwar

Distances 99 km SE of Srinagar, 42 km SE of Anantnag JOURNEY TIME By Road 2-3 hours from Srinagar

Route from Srinagar NH1A to Khanabal Point via Pandrethan, Pampore, Barsoo and Avantipora; NH1B to Daksum via Anantnag, Achabal, Kokernag and Vailoo

Air Nearest airport: Sheikh-ul-Alam Airport, Srinagar (106 km/3 hrs/ Tel: 0194- 2303000), connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Leh and Jammu by Air India, SpiceJet, Indigo and Go Air. Pre-paid taxis charge ?2,500 to Daksum, one-way

Rail Nearest railhead: Jammu (287 km/ 8 hrs). Taxi charges approx ?3,500 to Daksum

Road From Srinagar, follow the Srinagar- Jammu NH1A past Pampore, Avantipora and over the Sangam Bridge where the Jhelum receives its Vishav tributary, till Khanabal. A short way into Khanabal is the Degree College on your left. Here, NH1A turns right to Jammu; continue straight on NH1B. A kilometre ahead and just across Khanabal Bridge is Khanabal Point, where NH1B too turns right. The road going straight goes to Pahalgam via northern Anantnag City; you must take the right and follow NH1B through southern Anantnag City to Daksum via Achabal, Kokernag and Vailoo. Shared Sumos from Anantnag charge ?50

TIP Many important roads converge at Khanabal-Anantnag, so if in doubt, ask and double check you are on the road towards Achabal. Anantnag is locally called Islamabad

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Achabal: A Begum's Retreat https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Mughal1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/achabal-begums-retreat/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/achabal-begums-retreat/ 2017-07-19T15:54:59+05:30 article Achabal is home to one of the finest Mughal Gardens in India The thing to do in Achabal is to retreat to the Mughal Garden, dip your feet in the cool spring around whose waters the garden is laid out, and roll some Persian words on your tongue. Nashiman: the platforms to sit on in the waters company. Jadwal or juyee: the canals that carry water from the main spring.Persian is called for because the art of gardening among many other customs and cultures was brought to Kashmir by the Shah Miri Sultanate, many members of which were immigrants from Persia. The pattern of the garden that you see around you terraces and fountains and trees set around a central water channel is that of the Persian pleasure gardens. Later, Mughal royalty refined this art and took it to greater heights. Mughals themselves were of Turko-Mongol origins but Humayun had spent the years of his exile from India in Persia, and he and his successors carried the imprint of that culture throughout their rule.

Achabal itself is a small town, just a short drive from the clamour of Anantnag. Its justifiably famous for its garden, one of the most beautiful examples of a Kashmiri Mughal garden, playing out the symphony of water, wood and stone. Another treat in store at Achabal is an excursion to Chattabal, reached by a drive through the gorgeous Kashmiri countryside, where you can sit beside a pristine river flowing through a secluded valley. It is also the best base for a leisurely visit to Martand, home to Kashmirs most famous ancient temple.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Not many tourists reach Achabal and there is not much to distract you from your reverie. You can stay close to the garden, eat in a restaurant which has its own charming garden right across the road and go for pleasant walks and drives.

Achabal Garden

It would seem that no ruler could resist the temptation of converting Kashmirs wooded hills, ample water and fecund soil into orchard gardens and vatikas. What existed on this site before todays garden, even before the Shah Miris and the Mughals arrived, was what else but a garden. Nilmat Purana, an ancient Hindu text, is said to have mentioned a spring by the name of Achapal Nag here. Coincidentally, it was a king named Achshan who settled Achabal and the region around it. According to some historians, this is not a coincidence and Achabal is a corruption of that very kings name. In the 15th century, Achabal was famous for an orchard.

In any case, now the Achabal Garden is very much a Mughal Garden with a known provenance. It was built in 1620 by Empress Noor Jehan and named Begumabad in her honour. Though Jehangir himself had not laid this garden, it has yet another name, after him Sahebabad. The garden is laid with a hill in the background, whose rocks and trees are juxtaposed beautifully with the stone and tree of the garden. A spring comes out of a few places from under the hill; the water flows in a canal and branches (jadwal) through the garden. Platforms (nashiman) and pavilions (baradari) sit along the course of the water. Faithful to the Persian concept of chahar bagh, it is quadripartite, with walkways lined with trees and flowers.

The garden laid out at the time of Noor Jehan was much bigger than what we see today. It had four terraces and a number of buildings; there were pools, cascades and water channels. Later a hammam was added to the garden in the 17th century by Jehanara Begum, the oldest daughter of Shah Jehan. Most likely, the area around the present-day garden was all part of the bigger enclave. Afterwards, the garden deteriorated and it was only in the 19th century, during the reign of Ranjit Singh, that it was restored and rebuilt.

Walking around in the garden, the quantity of water from the springs at the far end will surprise you. Around you will be giant chinars, a rich green in summer and a glowing red if its autumn; bushes and flowers sitting pretty in the orderly beds underneath; a hill behind packed with pine trees; and a few locals having their daily communion with nature. The cluster of chinar trees over the spring and the pines on the hill behind make it almost dark. There is a walking path up the hill through the forest to the Nagdandi Ashram and there are plans to develop it as a small trek.

Nagdandi Ashram

About 1 km from the Achabal Garden (after a sign-boarded right turn on the road to Naugam) lies the Vivekanand Nagdandi Ram Krishna Ashram among dense woods, which you can walk through. Theres also a pond with ducks here. Swami Vivekananda had visited Achabal in 1898.

Trout Farm

Close to the main market chowk in Achabal is a Trout Breeding Farm run by the J&K Fisheries Department (Web: jkfisheries.in). You can see the fish in its various stages of growth and buy some if you like.

Martand Sun Temple

Martand is a most rewarding visit for anyone interested in Kashmiri heritage. Possibly the most famous of all Hindu temples in Kashmir, this 8th-century Surya Temple was built by Lalitaditya Muktapid, the most powerful monarch of the Karkota dynasty, and is generally considered a masterpiece, not least for its crossover of indigenous and classical Corinthian styles. The temple is dramatically located on a hilly plateau with a backdrop of the snowy Pir Panjal peaks and looking over the Kashmir valley. Here stand the ruins of a temple second only to the Egyptians in massiveness and strength, and to the Greeks in elegance and grace..., said an impressed Sir Francis Younghusband. The choreography of carved stone, elegant pillars, and graceful arches is a pleasure to behold.

To get to Martand, drive back up NH1B to Anantnag and catch the Apple Orchard Road to Martand, 10 km all told.

Chattabal

Chattabal, 16 km east of Achabal, makes for a lovely excursion. The drive to Chattabal is utterly enchanting you get to see the off-the-highway face of Kashmir. Village after small village with houses surrounded by greenery, fields, orchards and forested hillsides watered by numerous streams. Chattabal is a scenic out-of-the-way spot where the Chattabal River flows through an open valley, while snow-covered peaks loom over the end of the valley. Fern, willow and chestnut paint the hillside close to the riverbed a lightish green, whereas pine in the upper reaches lend a darker hue. Carry a packed lunch and have it next to the gurgling river. You might meet a group of nomadic Bakarwals on their way up from the Jammu region.

J&K Tourism (Mobile: 09906577055; Tariff: ?500) has two huts here with two rooms each. The caretaker will cook for you, but inform them in advance for them to arrange provisions.

From Achabal, drive to Chattabal via Naugam and Chattargul. A taxi will cost ?1,100-1,600 for a return trip.

TIP The road to Chattabal is narrow and bumpy. Its best to take a 4WD

Shopping in Anantnag

Anantnag town is well known for its traditional handicrafts. Apart from producing lathe-turned and lacquered woodwork ladles, rice measures, bedsteads and other objects you will find carpets woven in wool and silk. Anantnag is particularly famous for embroidered pashmina shawls and pherans using traditional patterns and techniques such as sozni, crewel and zari embroidery.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

A couple of minutes walk from the garden, JKTDCs Alpine Hotel (Mobile: 09797027927; Tariff: ?4,000) has one 2-room hut. Next door, J&K Tourism has 6 doubles (Tariff: ?500) but without attached bath.

JKTDC runs a cafetaria called Zaiqa right across from the Mughal Garden. You can eat here or an attendant can deliver the food to your room. The cafetaria has omelette, toast and parantha for breakfast; pakoras and kebabs as snacks; and rogan josh, rishta, kaddu yakhni and dal for meals. The glass-walled cafetaria is set in its own garden that seems inspired by the royal garden across the road. Its chestnut trees give it a different character. You can eat inside or on the grass outside.

FAST FACTS

When to go April to September is the main season

Tourist Office

J&K Tourism, Office of the Tourism Officer, Next to Achabal Garden, Achabal, Mobile: 09906815898 (Mr Shafkat), STD code 01932

GETTING THERE

Location At 5,535 ft, the small town of Achabal is located a small distance from the bustling commercial centre of Anantnag in Anantnag District, on the way to Brengi Valley

Distances 67 km SE of Srinagar, 10 km SE of Anantnag JOURNEY TIME By Road 2 hrs from Srinagar, 40 mins from Anantnag

Route from Srinagar NH1A to Khanabal via Pandrethan, Pampore and Avantipora, NH1B to Achabal via Anantnag

Air Nearest airport: Sheikh-ul-Alam Airport, Srinagar (77 km/2 hrs/ Tel: 0194-2303000/ 31), connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Leh and Jammu by Air India, SpiceJet, Indigo and Go Air. Pre-paid taxis cost ?1,800 to Achabal, one way

Rail Nearest railhead: Jammu (255 km/7 hrs). Taxi to Achabal is approx ?4,500

Road From Srinagar, follow the well-maintained Srinagar-Jammu NH1A past Pampore, Avantipora and over the Sangam Bridge till Khanabal. A short way into Khanabal is the Degree College on the left. Here, NH1A turns right to Jammu; you must continue straight on NH1B. A kilometre ahead, just across Khanabal Bridge, is Khanabal Point, where NH1B too turns right. Take the right (the straight road goes to Pahalgam via northern Anantnag City) and follow NH1B through southern Anantnag City and onward to Achabal

TIP Many important roads converge at Khanabal-Anantnag, so double check you are on the road towards Achabal

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Mountain Echoes Literary Festival 2017 https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Performance-by-students-of-Royal-Academy-of-Performing-Arts-IMG-Bhuwan-Kafley.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/mountain-echoes-literary-festival-2017/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/mountain-echoes-literary-festival-2017/ 2017-07-19T14:24:28+05:30 article The eighth edition of the Bhutanese literary festival is back with big literary names The eighth edition of the Mountain Echoes Literary Festival is all set to be held in Thimpu, Bhutan in August, this year. This annual literary festival is organised byIndia Bhutan Foundation in association with Siyahi. Itaims to provide a platform forwriters, biographers, historians, environmentalists, scholars, photographers, poets, musicians, artists, film-makers to engage in cultural dialogue and share their stories apart from highlighting the shared history of the two nations.Globally relevant issues such asenvironmental conservation, natural history, spirituality,andthe global evolution of textiles and design traditions,amongst others will be discussed during the three-day festival. The list of prominent speakers includescelebrated Bhutanese poetAshi Sonam Choden Dorji, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Barkha Dutt, Pradip Krishen and Imtiaz Ali.

Venue: Thumpu, Bhutan
Dates: August 25-27, 2017

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Arunachal Pradesh: With the Idu Mishimi http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/arunachal-pradesh-idu-mishimi/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/arunachal-pradesh-idu-mishimi/ 2017-07-19T14:21:11+05:30 article A cultural encounter with the Idu Mishimi people of the wild Dibang Valley The restaurant, Aninis best,was a single room with four tables and a huge poster of Lhasa covering one wall. Two young Idu men sat at one table, daos strapped across their backs, shovelling spoonfuls of fried rice into their mouths with one hand and playing computer games on their mobile phones with the other. At another, two teenage girls were slumped over the table, fiddling with their mobiles. We ate chowmein, our voices drowned out by the reverberant thud of helicopters taking off, then stocked up on essentials for the trip: Maggi noodles, Good Day biscuits and two bottles of the finest Royal Stag whisky. At 500 rupees a bottle it was the Rolls-Royce of local blends and even came in its own cardboard box. Just in case we ran out, we bought a bottle of McDowells No.1 Rum too. Lastly I had to register with the police.

Where John? queried the fat, jolly Singpho commander-in-chief, as he copied the details of my permit into a yellowing ledger.

I asked him how many foreigners registered here each year and he paused, tapped his mouth thoughtfully with his index finger and replied: Four, maybe five.

We rode out of town on a rough tarmac road that threaded its way along the side of the hills. It was a drab day and the sky was smeared with hoary clouds, but I was in high spirits, exhilarated to be riding towards the end of the road, to be so near Tibet. Beside me rode Edi, his grey nylon trousers and pointed black shoes more suitable for a day at the office than a tramp across the hills. But he was an Iduthese mountains were in his blood, and he didnt need all the pampering paraphernalia us Western travellers lug around.

Altitude and the cold had shaped the landscape differently here, and the luxuriant emerald jungle of the lower Dibang Valley had morphed into tonsured hills, their bald copper pates ringed by slopes of thick green coniferous curls. Occasionally thered be a single hut on a hillside, grand in its startling isolation, an ancient warren of footpaths embossed onto the surrounding slopes like lugworm casts on a beach. Below galloped and gurgled the Mathun River, secure in its wooded gorge. If it werent for the frame of stately white peaks it could have been Scotland in October. After an hour were ached the village of Mipi, where the tarmac road ended.

When Bailey arrived here in March 1913 he found an enfeebled community of Tibetans, the last of a group of 2,000 pilgrims whod left eastern Tibet a decade earlier in search of the promised land of Pemako. Many had died crossing the high passes, and those who made it never found the prophesied holy mountain of glass surrounded by fertile valleys. Instead theyd succumbed to disease and been attacked by the Idu, whod ambushed them, set traps and shot them with poisoned arrows. In 1909, disillusioned and defeated, most of the settlers returned to Tibet. By the time Bailey arrived only the old and infirm were left.

Now Mipi was a tiny Idu settlement, just a few houses and a helipad splayed over a grassy spur above the river, girdled by an arc of trees. I was expecting a large red and white barrier and a checkpoint patrolled by stern-faced, heavily armed soldiers telling me I wasnt allowed any further.But there was no checkpoint, and no soldiers to be seen, just two drunks lolling on a bench outside their hut. Beyond, a footpath climbed down to the river then emerged from the trees on the other side, winding alluringly across the tawny hills towards the snowbound ridge of the Indo-Tibetan border.

Maam, we have choice, na, said Edi, after talking to the drunks for a few minutes. We stop here, or we leave the bikes with these people and walk. Theres a village half-day walk away. We could go there, na.

The two drunks lolled and looked at us.

Lets go! I replied, unable to resist the lure of adventure and the pull of those forbidden mountains. It was just after midday; if we walked fast we could reach the village before dark. The drunks might not be models of responsibility but what was the worst that could happen? (Cue a brief mental montage of hot-wiring joyriding, our bikes disappearing over the edge of mountains, crushed limbs, destroyed helmets, dead chickens. . .but all of that was unlikely. Wasnt it?) Ten minutes later wed wheeled the bikes behind the hut, pocketed the keys, given our helmets to the drunks and told them wed be back in a few days. Shouldering our rucksacks, we set off down the hill to the river at a brisk, jubilant pace, the men shouting after us: Be careful! Theyre uncivilized people up there. After similar warnings on his journey, Bailey had written: It seems to be universal, the inability of human beings to feel virtuous except when surrounded on all sides by rogues and villains.

9781471156564

Bailey mentions being in Mipi in the middle of March in falling snow, but it was early March now and at least 10 degrees. Edi said it had never snowed here in his lifetime. A wooden bridge took us across the river and from there we followed the narrow, winding footpath due north along the valley. We strode across open hillsides, our feet swishing through dry, yellow grass, then dipped through elfish dells where gnarled branches were hung with ragged pennons of moss and giant ferns sprouted from the nooks of twisted trees. Later we looped through lush pockets of jungle thick with bamboo and banana palms and slid across slabs of rock at the bottom of small, gabbling waterfalls. It was like travelling from Scotland to the tropics in the space of a few miles.

Fired by excitement and a desire to reach the village before nightfall, we kept up the momentum, swinging along with bamboo staffs, sweat trickling down our reddening faces. The wind whispered in the trees, water rushed and babbled around us, and our feet and staffs thudded rhythmically on the path. We paused only briefly at clear, fast-flowing nullahs, Edi bending down to scoop water out of the stream with his hands while I refilled my water bottle. And every time we emerged into the open again there were the snowy mountains, ranged like guardians across the northern horizon. It was on the other side of those mountains that Bailey had slipped over the edge of a cliff one afternoon. He was saved, he wrote, with the handle of my butterfly net.

That afternoon I found a huge smile spreading across my face. It didnt matter that I was puffing and sweating after Edi, or that my legs were tiring: I was elated to be walking into the unknown, towards Tibet, my rucksack clanking with whisky and rum. But there was something else, too. It was as if every joyous stride was sloughing off the last remnants of an unwanted skin. I wasnt just walking towards the last Idu houses; I felt as if I was walking away from the past and into a brighter future, one free of batty episodes on Thai ferries and in BP service stations. I realized, in those few hours, that the fears and problems of the past year were just that, the past: that Id been restored to the essence of who I was by the Idu and their hills. It was one of those rare occasions in life when you feel a pure, unrestrained joy to be alive, right here, right now. I wanted to call Marley and say, Im back! Im back! and to jump up and down and skip through the grass. But I just kept walking across that magical valley, my whole being suffused with light and happiness.

It was six oclock, and almost dark, when we reached a single bamboo longhouse on the edge of a forested hill above the Mathun. The Idu dont use the same calendar as us but this time of year is known asMu-La, the time when the fields are cleared for planting, and the bare earth around the hut was smudged with ash and dotted with blackened tree stumps. Four black pigs grunted in a muddy pen and a foxy ginger dog ran towards us barking, then stopped, wagged uncertainly and skulked away, unaccustomed to sweaty white females landing on its doorstep at dusk.

Edi disappeared into the hut, emerging a minute later with a sooty older couple. These my fifth cousins, na.

Elsewhere I would have thought this a startling coincidence, but among the Idu it was perfectly normal.

He nodded towards the pair. Their name Kormu and Mishing.

Kormus tracksuit was tatty and caked in years of grime, his bare feet black and calloused, the rough hand he held out ingrained with ash and dirt. Filth was embedded in every crease and wrinkle of his face and neck. His short black hair was thick and matted. His wife, Mishing, was tiny and birdlike, her sweatshirt and sarong equally soaked in dirt. They seemed shy and extremely surprised to see us, but they were Idu, and Edis cousins, so they welcomed us in for the night. A glance at the map on my phone showed we were at 1,700 metres altitude and just 12 miles from Tibet.

I sat by theengokoas the couple talked excitedly to Edi and Mishing poured us cups of watery yu. On the woven bamboo walls around us hung a plastic clock, a calendar, an old Indian National Congress election poster, a few bamboo baskets and a string of grubby clothes. Two wooden shelves held plastic jars of salt and sugar, tins of tea and a selection of pots and pans. The only other resident was a brown cat, which sat sphinx like by the fire, its brilliant green eyes fixed languidly on the flames.

They never meet foreign person before, said Edi, after a few minutes. They very surprised to see you here, and very happy.

In honour of the occasion Mishing hurried down the corridor, returning wearing a clean blue T-shirt and a string of white beads. Kormu just grinned, sat beside the fire and poured himself a large glass of the rum Edi had just given him. When I handed him a bottle of whisky, too, Mishing intercepted it, giggling, and disappeared down the corridor to hide it.

I remember that night as one of the funniest of the entire journey. In my minds eye I can see the hut clearlythe four of us sitting around the fire in the orange light of the flames, the small, elfin couple with their work-blackened hands. I can hear the clack of mugs, Mishings girlish laughter and Kormus rasping chuckle. And I can picture the cunning cat, fat as a spoilt pet, which they alternately beat with the bamboo fire tongs and cuddled in the rough way that small children torment family pets. The cat, its eyes never flinching from the flames, seemed utterly impervious to both. At some point we ate dinner, Mishing boiling rice and bitter greens and Kormu slicing raw, bloody venison on a log with hands so begrimed it was as if the dirt had seeped into the skin itself. With no loo and no running water, this would be a bad place to have diarrhoea. But thankfully I was brought up with chickens clucking around the kitchen, a pack of dogs sleeping beside the Aga and one of my mothers pugs regularly sitting on the kitchen table as we ate. As a result, Im equipped with a stomach like a steel dustbin.

The more rice beer and rum we drank, the more loquacious Kormu and Mishing became, their initial shyness giving way to a childlike excitement. They laughed freely, showing brown, infrequent teeth that had probably never been nearer a dentist than a strip of cane, a tot of rum and a good yank. They were so happy to meet me, they said, to actually see a foreigner for the first time. They couldnt believe it! The only outsiders who came here were Indian Army patrols who stole their cooking utensils and drank their yu. By the time the rum was half-empty Kormu was a staunch Anglophile. How wonderful the British were! How kind! How beautiful! Everything made by Britain and Bhutan was fantastic quality, unlike the rubbish made by India, China and Nepal. They were sorry they didnt have more to give me, that their house was so simple. But I couldnt have been happier, and told them so repeatedly. Whenever the flames died down Mishing took a length of bamboo from the rack above the engoko and pushed it into the embers, showering us all in a blizzard of grey ashes and giggling.

It was after eleven oclock when we each lay down on our side of the fire, Mishing fussing around her guests, apologizing it wasnt more comfortable. She watched as I unpacked my orange sleeping bag, falling about laughing at the sight of my teddy bear and patting its head and squeezing it to her chest in the same rough way she cuddled the cat. Kormu did the same. Afterwards they fell asleep under thin blankets, with logs as pillows, and I lay there listening to the crackling embers, the gurgling river and Kormus drunken mutterings. I cant remember having spent a happier day in my entire life.

My eyes were gummed together and puffy from smoke when I woke at dawn. Mishing was pulling the kettle off the fire and Kormu was still a lump under his blanket. When he emerged, a reluctant caterpillar from its cocoon, he sat up and poured himself a refreshing glass of rum. Over tea and Maggi noodles I asked them if they liked living here and if they considered their surroundings beautiful. Theres always fish in the river, said Kormu, and animals to hunt, and it was never too hot or too cold. But they didnt consider it beautifulit was just where they lived. Life was hard here, he went on, having another restorative tot of rum. There was no road, no electricity, no telephone signal, and they had to clear the jungle and work all day in the fields to survive. Politicians always appeared before the elections and promised them a road and electricity, but of course these never came. Mishing had given birth to 11 children, alone, with no medical help, only five of whom had survived. The others had died of diarrhoea, hepatitis, malaria, fevers. It might have been different if theyd been able to reach a doctor.

My family is the same, said Edi, nursing a breakfast cup of yu. My parents had 11 children, but there are only five of us now. Its just part of our Idu life, na.

Its so ironic. We urbanized, overcrowded Westerners dream of these wild places. We travel to the far side of the world to reach them, togetaway, to gaze at unpolluted night skies, to be free of mobile phones, email, traffic, noise, crowds. For many of us these dwindling pockets of wilderness are earthly paradises, last Shangri-Las, precious fragments of a disappearing world. Yet for the people who live here the wilderness is there to be tilled, planted, fished and hunted. Their lives are about food, water and shelterthe primal aspects of human survival. They want electricity, a road and a mobile phone connection. They dont want to walk for days to buy clothes or reach medical help. There used to be more villages further up the valley but theyve been abandoned. Like a tree, whose farthest branches were withering away, Idu society was shrinking to fit the roads. And it wasnt just in the Dibang Valley: between 2001 and 2011 the urban population in Arunachal Pradesh grew by 30 per cent. Kormu and Mishings remaining five children all lived in towns. We are an accursed race, always wanting what we dont have. If only there was a happy medium.

Before we left they sat on their porch for photos, Kormu clutching the cat to his chest, Mishing with her arms around the foxy dog, a parody of an English family portrait. Edi then took one of the three of us, and Mishing posed with a bunch of mustard flowers and held my hand tightly in hers. When we hugged each other warmly goodbye, I couldnt believe her diminutive, bony frame had survived 11 childbirths. Theyd miss me, they said, and asked when I was coming back, then we all waved and shoutedji pra ji, stay well, until we were well out of sight. I was sad to say goodbye and leave them, alone, for another solitary day of graft in the fields. What a life they lived.

This is an extract fromLand of the Dawn-Lit Mountains: A Journey Across Arunachal PradeshIndias Forgotten Frontierby Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent (Simon & Schuster2017,?499/371pp)

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Aurangabad: A Historic Landmark http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Aurangabad1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/aurangabad-historic-landmark/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/aurangabad-historic-landmark/ 2017-07-19T14:08:34+05:30 article Aurangabad's heritage monuments are some of the finest in the subcontinent Aurangabad, like most Mughal-trodden spots on the Indian map, is two-faced. The old wrinkles of a bygone era enhance the youthful flush of this touristdriven economy (Aurangabad acts as the gateway to Ajanta-Ellora), like the rambling fort wall of the city or the sun-bleached dargahs that promise to be keepers of more of the prodigious history that sustains this city. The important tourist sites in the town are: the Bibi ka Maqbara, an elegant structure, locally called the twin of Taj Mahal; Panchakki, which is a water wheel and Daulatabad, a coveted stronghold of its times.s

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Aurangabad is a city with rich history behind it. The region was once ruled by the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughals. Owing to its geographic location, many rulers have built forts and other monuments of importance in the area. Today, these sites have turned into popular tourist destinations.

Bibi Ka Maqbara

The iconic Taj Mahal might be seemingly unique but its legendary status has ensured that people have tried to replicate it over the years. While a Bangladeshi filmmaker made one close to Dhaka in 2008 and a postman in Bulandshahr recently built a mini-Taj to commemorate his wife, one of the earliest attempts was in the 17th century.

It is believed that the Bibi ka Maqbara (literally tomb of the lady) was built to outshine the Taj Mahal, but due to budgetary constraints and opposition from emperor Aurangzeb, it ended up being a mere shadow of the original. Despite this, the monument, also known as the Dakkhani Taj (Taj of the Deccan) or the poor persons Taj, is worth seeing in its own right.

Set in a Mughal charbagh garden enclosure on a raised platform, the mausoleum is crowned with an onion-shaped dome and has four minars (towers) surrounding it. There is a mosque as well on the plinth, which was a later addition by the Nizam of Hyderabad. The mountain ranges rolling behind the tomb provide the perfect backdrop. As in other Mughal monuments, there is a canal lined with ornamental shrubs running along the approach path. However, unlike the Taj, only some parts are built of marble while the rest is made of a high quality plaster. Thus, the structure has an ersatz marble-like appearance and lacks the whiteness and sheen of its predecessor.

The mausoleum was built for Rabia-ul Daurani, also known as Dilras Banu Begum, the third wife of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, by her son Azam Shah. It was constructed between 1551 to 1561 CE with marble brought from mines near Jaipur.

While Azam Shah wanted to raise a grand structure, Aurangzeb, famous for his frugality, refused to spend lavishly. He blocked the movement of construction materials from Rajasthan until finally a compromise was reached and only the dome was built of marble. According to contemporary accounts, the construction cost more than Rs. 6,00,000. Comparisons to the Taj notwithstanding, the tomb is a grand structure and once you see it, youll know why it is emblematic of Aurangabad.

Entry Indians ?5; Foreigners ?100

Sunehri Mahal

Not far from the Bibi ka Maqbara, inside the campus of the BR Ambedkar Marathwada University, is Sunehri Mahal (literally golden palace). The palace was so called because of the golden paintings which embellished its interiors. Built by Paharsingh, a chieftain from Bundelkhand who accompanied Aurangzeb on his Deccan invasions, in 1652 CE at a cost of ?50,000, the palace was later sold to the Nizam of Hyderabad. It is a two-storey edifice set in a lush garden against the Satara mountain range. The lawn is surrounded by an enclosure studded with arches and has an imposing gateway at its entrance. The first floor of the palace, accessible by two narrow staircases, has been turned into a museum. There are nine galleries with a variety of exhibits like sculptures, weapons, paintings and utensils.

Panchakki

A marvel of medieval engineering in India, the Panchakki is a water mill that draws water from an underground canal 6 km to the north of the city. Water travels through earthen pipes to collect in a reservoir where it is raised to a height and discharged, akin to a waterfall, into a large reservoir below. This action is used to run a mill adjacent to the tank. It is said that the mill could earlier grind flour on its own, without any human effort. The Panchakki was built in 1744 to commemorate Baba Shah Musafir, a renowned saint who moved here from Bukhara. His tomb is part of the same complex as the water mill and draws a large number of devotees.

There is also a library in the compound which has a collection of 2,500 books and manuscripts on history, jurisprudence, medicine, religion and philosophy in Persian, Urdu and Arabic. The library is supposed to have earlier housed 1,00,000 books but many were moved to Hyderabad for administrative reasons.

Shivaji Museum

The Shivaji museum was founded by the Municipal Corporation of Aurangabad to commemorate the first Maratha leader Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. It has a collection of coins, weapons, clothes, armours as well as memorabilia related to the emperor. Some of its famous exhibits are Mughal emperor Aurangzebs hand-written copy of the Koran, a 400-year-old sari and a 500-year-old war suit. It is located near Nehru Bal Udyan.

Entry ?5 Timings 10.30am6.00pm Photography is not permitted Tel: 0240-2334087

Salim Ali Sarovar

The Salim Ali Sarovar (lake) is an oasis of tranquility amid urban chaos. Historically known as Khizri Talaab, it was renamed as Salim Ali Sarovar in honour of the pioneering ornithologist who systemically studied the avian biodiversity of the country and promoted their conservation.

The lake has been redeveloped in the past decade and now it has facilities for boating and a 60-feet-tall tower for birdwatching. While human activity has led to a drop in the number of birds inhabiting the lake, it still hosts a significant avian population, including many migratory birds.

The lake is located near Delhi Darwaza, opposite Himayat Bagh.

City Gates

Aurangabad is surrounded by remnants of buttressed walls and bastions. The fortification is still evident in the numerous gates found across the city, giving it the moniker city of gates. It is said that originally there were 52 gates, of which at least 13 are still extant.

Some of the more significant gates are Makai Darwaza, Mahmood Darwaza, Islam Darawaza, Bhadkal Darawaza and Delhi Darwaza. The Bhadkal Darwaza was built by Malik Ambar in 1612 CE to commemorate his victory against the Mughals.

Pir Ismail Mausoleum

Pir Ismael was the tutor of Aurangzeb. His tomb is built in a picturesque garden, in which you can also find many cisterns and fountains. The tomb is primarily built in the Mughal style, but has flourishes of Pathan architecture too. It is a square structure with domed pavilions at the corners. The entrance of the tomb complex is through a gate with a grand pointed archway and rooftop pavilions.

The tomb is located on Harsul Road outside Delhi Darwaza.

Aurangabad Caves

Although not as spectacular as the caverns at Ajanta and Ellora, the Aurangabad Caves on the outskirts of the city are worth a visit, especially for history enthusiasts. Carved along a hillside at a height of 70 m, the 12 caves are divided into three groups cave numbers 1 to 5 comprise the first group. The second group, consisting of cave numbers 6 to 9, is 500 m to its east. A kilometre further to the east is the third group comprising of caves 10 to 12. They are largely unfinished and devoid of ornamentation.

The caves were excavated between the 3rd and 7th century CE and are fine examples of Buddhist architecture. The influence of Tantric Buddhism is visible in the carvings in these caves especially in Cave number 7 which features images of scantily-clad lovers. The rocks of the hill are not strong enough to withstand excavation work and many have collapsed or developed cracks. As a result, construction in some caves was abandoned midway. The caves offer views of the Bibi ka Maqbara and Sunehri Mahal. They are located 2 km north of Bibi ka Maqbara and can easily be reached by an autorickshaw from the city.

Goga Baba Hill

The Goga Baba hill is a part of the same mountain range as the Aurangabad Caves. It is named after a temple at the summit dedicated to Goga Baba. Not much is known about the hermit or the eponymous temple. The peak can be ascended by a short trek and offers sweeping vistas of the city. There is a temple dedicated to a goddess on a neighbouring hill as well.

Goga Baba hill is located behind the Marathwada University.

WHERE TO STAY

Vivanta By Taj (Tel: 0240-6613737; Tariff: ?8,50030,000) on Harsool Road near Rangeen Darwaza is a luxury property with good ambience and good food. Welcom Hotel Rama International (Tel: 6634141; Tariff: ?7,50032,000) has a restaurant, bar, swimming pool and even a mini-golf course for those whose holiday is not complete without a swing on the greens. Lemon Tree Hotel (Tel: 6603030; Tariff: ?7,20015,000) in Chikalthana, near CIDCO Bus Stand, has restaurants, a bar, swimming pool and spa. Spread over 14 acres, the 92-room Ambassador Ajanta (Tel: 6607200; Tariff: ?8,50030,000) is another luxury hotel located near the airport on Chikalthana-Jalna Road.

MTDCs Holiday Resort (Tel: 2331513; Tariff: ?1,5503,000) and Hotel Panchvati (Tel: 2328755; Tariff: ?1,1251,250), well located near the railway station, are decent budget options. Hotel Amarpreet (Tel: 2332521-23, 6621133; Tariff: ?4,290 8,540), on Jalna Road, has a restaurant and bar. The centrally located Hotel Windsor Castle (Tel: 2484177; Tariff: ?3,9006,500) offers similar facilities. They also have a swimming pool.

WHERE TO EAT

Apart from the restaurants at the hotels, which serve great multi-cuisine fare, there are plenty of standalone restaurants in Aurangabad. Green Leaf serves good vegetarian Gujarati as well as Punjabi cuisine in decent surroundings. For sumptuous, traditional and authentic vegetarian thalis, Bhoj and That Baat are the choices. The best butter chicken can be eaten at Foodwalas Tandoor Restaurant and Bar. They serve good Chinese too. For great ambience and delectable Italian, Mexican, Indian and Chinese food, head for Madhuban Garden Restaurant on Beed Bypass. Not to be missed is Kream n Krunch for great pan-Asian cuisine. There is also Tara Pan Centre for an amazing variety of pan. It is a must-visit if you are in Aurangabad.

AROUND AURANGABAD

Daulatabad Fort (16 km)

As you travel from Aurangabad to Ellora, it is hard to miss the Daulatabad Fort looming on the horizon. Rising sharply from a carpet of verdure, the imposing fort is yet another impressive specimen of the hill forts of Maharashtra. Built on a 700-ft-high conical hill, Daulatabad was one of the most powerful and intricate forts of the Deccan. Spanning an area of almost 100 hectares, it incorporates fascinating examples of architecture, military engineering, town planning and water management systems.

First built upon by the Yadavs of Devgiri in 11th century CE, it was conquered by the Khilji dynasty in the 12th century. Muhammad bin Tughlaq shifted his capital from Delhi to here to consolidate his empire and for protection against invaders from the north. He renamed the fort as Daulatabad. After he again moved his capital back to Delhi, Hasan Gangu of the Bahmani dynasty annexed Daulatabad. The Nizamshahis of Ahmednagar wrested control of the fort in 1499 CE and made it their capital. After a relentless siege, the Mughals conquered the fort in 1633 CE. The Marathas controlled it for a brief period before the Nizams of Hyderabad annexed it in 1724 CE.

The defensive constructions of the fort consist of three fortified walls and walkways, a double dry and wet moat, gates with iron spikes, bastions and turrets. The outermost wall of the fort is known as Ambarkot. The wall, believed to have been constructed by Malik Ambar, is 14 km long, has 45 bastions and nine main gates. There are a few mosques and a hammam (bath) in the Ambarkot.

Invaders who managed to penetrate the Ambarkot would have to deal with the Mahakot, the next line of defence. The 5-km-long fortification has four distinct layers of enclosure walls and encompasses 54 bastions, some of which are double and triplestoreyed. The Mahakot has notable structures such as the Bharat Mata temple, Chand Minar and Hathi Tank.

Built by Sultan Alauddin Bahmani in 1435 CE to commemorate his victory over Gujarat, the Chand Minar is a tower made of stone and adorned with coloured tiles. It spans across four floors, which are accessible by a spiral staircase. Every floor has six small windows for ventilation. At the base of the tower, there is a chamber with 24 arches. Close to it, there is a mosque and the Nagar Khana.

The Bharat Mata temple, despite its name, is actually a mosque. It is so called because one of its walls has a statue of Bharat Mata (Mother India). Constructed during the reign of Qutubuddin Khilji in 1318 CE, it is one of the oldest structures in the fort and is also known as Jama Masjid. It was built by reusing the pillars and stone of a temple that was constructed there in the 10th11th century CE by the Yadavs. The mosque can be accessed from gates on three sides that open into a courtyard. On the western side, there is a covered and colonnaded space leading to the mihrab and crowned by a dome.

The Saraswati Bawdi (stepwell), located next to the main entry gate, consists of descending stone blocks leading to a well. While earlier water was supplied by pipes from the reservoir, it now only stores runoff water. An inscription in the fort mentions that the water was mainly for public use.

The Hathi Tank (literally elephant tank) is so called because of its large size. It was constructed by Malik Ambar who was renowned for his management of water resources. The tank relies solely on gravitation to collect water. With an estimated capacity of 10,000 cubic metres, the tank had a network of pipes to supply water to various parts of the fort.

The Kacheri is a double-storeyed palace with a vast courtyard in front. Its central hall has a large dome, which is adorned with polished stucco mouldings.

The Hammam, constructed during the Tughlaq period, was used by the upper classes for bathing. The edifice is built using stone plastered with lime-mortar and its chambers are adorned with stucco plaster and painting. It has a large network of rooms, enclosures and compartments. The ceiling is domed and has an aperture for ventilation. There were separate baths for men and women. Water was transported throughout the complex using earthen pipes. While the hammam is largely well-preserved, the structures for heating water are no more.

The next layer of fortification, Kalakot, is located right at the foot of the hill. It is roughly rectangular in shape and encloses a large palace complex built by the Ahmednagar dynasty. The fortification has a deep rock-cut moat that encircles the western side, thick and wide walls with walkways and strategically-positioned bastions and turrets.

The deep and wide moat was excavated from a rock. It has a very steep incline making it impossible for humans or animals to scale. The area surrounding the moat was plain so that spies or enemies could not hide and reach the fort unnoticed. Earlier there was a drawbridge over it which was pulled up at night. During times of siege, the moat could be flooded with water to render the bridge impassable. In 1874, the Nizam of Hyderabad constructed a masonry bridge. The iron bridge currently in use was built in 1952 so that tourists could have easy access.

Chini Mahal, a double-storeyed palace, is so called because it was formerly inlaid with blue and yellow enamelled tiles. The first storey has two rooms and is well-ventilated. The structure is largely well preserved. It was at the Chini Mahal that Aurangzeb, after the fall of the Golkonda dynasty, imprisoned its last ruler Abdul Hasan Tanashah until the latters death in 1700 CE.

Rang Mahal, thought to have been built in the 18th century, is a rectangular structure with six interconnected chambers. Two inner rooms on the southeast and northeast have another storey on top and fragments of their roofs can still be seen. There is an arched doorway adorned with medallions and floral designs at the entrance. It opens into a central chamber which is connected to others through arched doors and latticed windows. The roof of the structure was built with wooden beams and lime concrete and is supported by pillars. The pillars have intricate carvings and are the only extant example of wood-carved architecture in the fort.

The Andheri or dark tunnel is a subterranean passage at the entrance of the fort which could easily be blocked during a siege. The tunnel rises abruptly through a flight of uneven steps, making it difficult to navigate without light. Many cells were cut into the rock alongside the tunnel to make room for guards and storage. The passage eventually opens out through a window (now barred with grills) into a ditch which was a trap for intruders. It is said that the defending armies flooded the tunnel with smoke or threw boiling oil or water down the tunnel in order to thwart invaders.

The Baradari, a white pavilion with 12 arches, is located at the top of the hill. Next to it, there is a square courtyard surrounded by porticos and galleries. The Baradari, constructed at the behest of Shah Jahan in 1636 CE, was favoured by the emperor and his son Aurangzeb who used it as their summer residence. It has two storeys and was built using uniformly sized basalt stones.

Due to continuous occupation by different dynasties, the Daulatabad fort is abundant with cannons. Many of them are still in their original locations on the fort walls, bastions and towers while others were brought from different places to the courtyards near the entrance and next to Aam Khas gate. Notable among the cannons are Aurangzebs Mendha (literally ram), so called because it is shaped like a ram. Originally known as Qila Shikan (literally fort-breaker), the cannon is placed between Chini Mahal and Rang Mahal. Dara Shikohs cannon is located near Aam Khas at the highest point of the fort. A lot of artillery in Daulatabad is of European origin which is unusual considering that the Europeans never took control of the fort.

How to reach From Aurangabad, take the National Highway 211 which goes all the way to Khuldabad and Ellora. The Daulatabad Fort lies northwest of Aurangabad, from where frequent buses are available.

Entry Indians ?5; Foreigners ?100 Timings Sunrise to Sunset Photography Free Videography ?25

Khuldabad (30 km)

Most travellers bypass Khuldabad to visit its more famous neighbour, the Ellora caves. However, the town has shrines of important religious figures, the tomb of Aurangzeb and nume-rous ruins, making it an interesting place for the historically or spiritually inclined. Khuldabad is located northwest of Aurangabad. Accommodation at Khuldabad is limited, with the State Guest House being one of the better options, so most visitors opt to stay at Ellora.

Tomb Of Aurangzeb

The tomb of Aurangzeb, while not a sight to behold, nevertheless draws many visitors because of its historical importance. It is situated at the centre of a raised stone platform and surrounded by latticed marble screens (which was a later addition by the Nizam of Hyderabad). Aurangzeb himself chose the spot and gave instructions regarding his burial. His son Azam Shah brought his body to Khuldabad and made a simple grave for him without any embellishments, as was Aurangzebs wish. To the east of Aurangzebs tomb are the graves of Azam Shah and his wife.

Masusoleum Of Burhanuddin

Burhanuddin, a revered saint, studied under Nizamuddin Auliya, one of the foremost saints of the Sufi order. He migrated to Daulatabad when Muhammad bin Tughlaq shifted his capital from Delhi to Daulabatad and later settled in Khuldabad. He died in 1344 CE. His shrine, located opposite the tombs of Aurangzeb and Zainuddin, is built inside an enclosure. There is a mosque in front of it. Legend has it that hair from the saints beard is preserved in the tomb.

Mausoleum Of Zainuddin

Zainuddin, an eminent Muslim saint and scholar, was born in Shiraz, Iran in 1301 CE. He was a disciple of Maulana Kamaluddin of Samana and accompanied him to Daulatabad. Zainuddins teachings have been recorded in Hidayatul Kabul by Shaikh Husain. His disciples built a mausoleum for him much after his death. The tomb complex has a wall surrounding it and the enclosed courtyard has two mosques at two levels. The year of his death (1370 CE) is etched on the eastern side of the mausoleum along with verses from the Koran. The robe of the saint has been preserved in a room in the courtyard and is publicly exhibited every 12 years.

Tomb Of Asaf Jah

The tomb of Asaf Jah, the founder of the Nizam dynasty of Hyderabad, is located to the right of Burhanuddins tomb. He is buried along with his consort. Their graves are built on an elevated platform inlaid with marble. There is a screen of red stone around the platform. The tomb of Nasir Jang, the second son of Asaf Jah, is also nearby

Khan Jahan Lal Bagh

Khan Jahan, the foster son of Aurangazeb and the then Viceroy of the Deccan, built the Lal Bagh (literally red garden). It is so called because red basalt was used for the construction of Khan Jahans tomb and other monuments inside. The garden is a Mughal charbagh with a tank at the centre.

Bani Begum Maqbara

Bani Begum was a concubine of one of Aurangzebs sons. Her mausoleum, located to the west of the Aurangzebs tomb, is in the centre of a sprawling garden. The grave is built within an enclosure which has minarets at the four corners. It is decorated with jalis (latticed screens).

Bhadra Maruti Temple

The Bhadra Maruti temple is famous for its idol of the monkey-god Hanumana in a sleeping pose (Maruti is another name for Hanumana). The only other such temple is in Allahabad. Hanumana figures in the Ramayana as an associate of Ram and Lakshmana. He fought the demon-king Ravana to rescue Sita, Ramas wife. It is believed that Hanuman, who had lifted the entire mountain on which the lifesaving Sanjivani herb grew to aid the injured Lakshmana, rested at the spot where we find the Bhadra Maruti temple is today, en route from the Himalayas to Lanka.

Another legend has it that Rajarshi Bhadrasen, an ancient ruler of Khuldabad, would sit next to the Bhadrakunda lake and sing hymns in praise of the monkey god. On one of his journeys, Hanumana heard the mellifluous notes and captivated by Bhadrasens music, descended from the sky and sat enraptured. Eventually the music lulled him to sleep. When he woke up, he was immensely pleased with Bhadrasen and granted him a wish. The ruler asked Hanumana to stay with in the town forever. Hanumana smiled and left. Some days later, an idol of Hanumana was found at the spot where he had slept. To install the idol, the king built a temple, today known as the Bhadra Maruti. It is about 2 km away from Aurangzebs tomb in Khuladabad.

Other Places Of Interest

Among the numerous other tombs in Khuldabad are those of Malik Ambar, Tana Shah (the last of the Golkonda Sultans), Nizam Shah (the rule of Ahmednagar), Zar Zari Baksh and Ganj Ravan Baksh who is believed to be one of the first Muslim saints to come here. The ruins of the city wall and the seven gates Nagarkhana, Pangra, Langda, Mangalpeth, Kunbi Ali, Hamdadi and Azam Shahi constructed by Aurangzeb are still extant.

Kachner (34 km)

The Chintamani Parsvanath temple is a holy site for Jains, though it is frequented by others due to its reputation as a place where desires are fulfilled.

The idol at the temple is supposed to have been discovered by an old woman about 250 years ago. According to folklore, she used to see her cow giving milk at a particular spot daily. One day she tied the cow, but by the evening, the cow managed to free herself and was again found at the same spot. When the woman mentioned this to other villagers, they started digging at the spot until they hit the gate to a chamber inside which they found an idol of Parsvanath crowned with seven serpents. They built a temple at the spot to install the statue. A few years after, the head of the idol broke off. This was a bad omen and made the villagers distressed. They thought of disposing off the broken idol in a pond and installing a new one instead.

However, a priest saw a dream in which Parsvanath instructed him to dig a pit, place the damaged idol in a pit with ghee and sugar and worship it continuously for seven days. The villagers did so and when the idol was dug out, the head was miraculously reattached. As evidence of this story, people point to the crack below the neck of the idol.

Gautala Wildlife Sanctuary (80 km)

Spanning an area of 261 sq km, the Gautala Wildlife Sanctuary has a population of leopard, chital, black buck, wild boar, hyena, jackal, nilgai, and barking deer. It is best visited on a day trip from Aurangabad. For more information regarding the sanctuary, contact the Office of the Chief Conservator of Forests, Van Bhawan, Osmanapura Opp. SSC Board, Station Road, Aurangabad.

Tel: 0240-2345508

Pitalkhora Caves (80 km)

One of the earliest examples of rock-cut architecture can be seen in Pitalkhora a group of 14 Buddhist caves. Some of the caverns were decorated with paintings, traces of which still remain.

The inscriptions on the rocks date back to the 3rd4th century CE and mention Patithana (capital of the Satvahana empire) and Dhanyakataka (a place in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh). The caves were carved from a kind of basalt rock which weathers fast and thus, many parts of it have crumbled.

The Pitalkhora Caves are located northwest of Aurangabad and are nearly 25 km west of Kannad, a tehsil headquarters. In order to reach the caves, take the Aurangabad- Chalisgaon Road, and turn into the diversion at Kalimath. From there, the caves are nearly 4 km away, situated in a valley.

FAST FACTS

When to go During the monsoons. Also pleasant between the months of October and March

Tourist Offices

MTDC, Holiday Resort
Station Road
Aurangabad
Tel: 0240-2334259, 2331198, 2331513

MTDC
Mumbai
Tel: 022-22044040
W maharashtratourism.gov.in
STD code 0240

GETTING THERE

Region Marathwada

Location At an elevation of 568 m in the Aurangabad District of central Maharashtra

Distance 183 km E of Nashik

Route from Nashik Take SH30 from Nashik and continue on it till the Vaijapur-Gangapur Road; turn left and continue on the Nagpur-Aurangabad-Mumbai Highway

Air Chikalthana Airport, Aurangabad. Connected with Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad. Taxi charges ?300 approx

Rail Aurangabad Station, with direct trains to Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Hyderabad and many other cities

Road From Mumbai, there are two routes to Aurangabad, via Nashik and via Pune. The latter is longer but faster.

Bus There are regular ST buses from Pune and Nashik and overnight services from Indore and Mumbai. MSRTC and private operators also offer luxury overnight buses from Mumbai

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Jim Corbett National Park http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/corbett-NP1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/jim-corbett-national-park/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/jim-corbett-national-park/ 2017-07-19T13:08:20+05:30 article India's oldest national park remains the most beloved, and for good reason Nestled in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas, Corbett National Park lies mainly in the districts of Nainital, Almora and Pauri Garhwal. The first sanctuary to come under Project Tiger (in 1973), it covers an area of 1,318sq km and includes within it, the Corbett National Park (521sq km), Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary (301sq km) and Kalagarh Reserve Forest (496sq km).

The park is fed by the Ramganga river, the Kosi river and their tributaries. It has two main wildlife zones to the southeast, close to Ramnagar, is the smaller portion called the Bijrani range (entry from Amdanda gate). The other, much larger range is Dhikala. Entry here is via Dhangarhi gate and is restricted to those who have a permit to stay overnight in any one of the five forest rest houses within this section of the park.

Permits have to be obtained from the tourist office at Ramnagar. Private vehicles are not allowed in the park. You can hire a jeep at the reception. Day visits to Dhikala are not permitted except in conducted tours organised by the tiger reserve.

? Park Entry Indians ?100 (day) ?200 (overnight); Foreigners ?450 (day) Rs.900 (overnight) Vehicle Entry Indians ?250; Foreigners ?500

Park timings 6.00am10.00am; 1.00pm5.00pm Elephant safari Indians ?300; Foreigners ?1,000 (2hrs) Timings 7.00am9.00am; 3.005.00pm Photography Free

THINGS TOSEE AND DO

One of the little-known delights of Corbett is not the park itself, where only the four-wheeled (jeep) or four-legged (elephant) are allowed, but the surrounding area, where visitors can walk freely.

Most people, eager to reach the hotspot of the park miss the many pleasures of these surrounding areas, where frequent wildlife sightings take place. Animals of Corbett criss-cross with ease the hard human edges separating the national park from the rest of the region.

Theres also something magical about walking in the forest feeling the crunch of twigs beneath your shoes, the scent of wild mint, suddenly noticing that the trees are loosely linked by skeins of spiders silk, gilded silver by the early sunlight. The forest canopy arches overhead and one instinctively talks in a whisper as if entering a cathedral. And there is no better way to birdwatch, especially if you have an expert guide with you, who can spot a tree-creeper hunting out ants on the bark of a tree, or home in on the distant toc-toc-toc of a wood-pecker at work, or make out the intricate tear-shaped nest of a weaver bird hung like a bauble on a Christmas tree.

Tiger Spotting

Most people come to Corbett for tigers. Theres no guarantee that youll see the cat, but the best time of the year for tiger-spotting is April to mid-June, when the forest cover thins out. Pugmarks, of course, are the classic tell-tale pointers of tiger activity.

Jeep safaris offer the best chance to sight a tiger, since you are able to cover a much wider area in the time available. The guides who accompany you on the safari are also well-versed in listening for warning cries of animals and know the habits of each. The downside is that quite often youll end up in a minor traffic jam when a tiger is spotted, with many jeeps converging at the same spot.

In the forest, you can also look out for signs of wild boars, where the undergrowth and soft ground has been churned up by their snuffling snouts, as well as deer-droppings and hoofprints where chital (spotted deer), sambar and tiny muntjac (barking deer) have left their mark.

If you enjoy birdwatching, then mid-December to mid-March is the best time to visit as that is when migratory birds make the park their home. But no matter when you go to Corbett, there will always be deer, elephants, crocodiles, wild boars, otters and mongoose to see.

Elephant Rides

Taking an elephant ride is an experience in itself, even though the chance of seeing a tiger from atop an elephant is much less. There is nothing quite like sitting on a tusker though. You feel much closer to the forest, as your vehicle lumbers along.

Angling

Angling is allowed in the Ramganga river, but only with a special permit that has to be obtained well in advance. Many resorts, such as Jims Jungle Resort, will be happy to organise angling trips, including arranging for equipment and permits for an extra charge.

Birdwatching

The park is home to over 580 species of birds and birdwatchers can have a field day spotting some of its more unusual denizens such as the bright-headed cisticola and red avadavat.

The park also encompasses the Kalagarh Dam, where the Ramganga creates a large reservoir a great attraction for the many species of migratory birds, such as greylag and bar-headed geese, sandpipers and snipe.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

Forest Rest Houses

The first choice of die-hard wildlife enthusiasts is one of the forest rest houses located in the park. Book these well in advance. In order to stay at any of the rest houses, make your reservation in Ramnagar and obtain your permit before entering the park.

Tip Reservations for all FRHs can be done online or through the main reception office of Corbett National Park in Ramnagar (Tel: 05947-251489, 253977)

Corbetts main camp, Dhikala Forest Lodge (Tel: 251489; Tariff: ?1,0002,500, log huts ?250 per bed), 40km northwest of Ramnagar, is set in a beautiful location over-looking the Ramganga Reservoir where one can often watch herds of wild elephant taking their young down to the water for their evening drink and the forested hills beyond. There is a variety of accommodation here: from bunk beds in the log huts, to more comfortable and private bungalows and cabins. Elephant rides start from the lodge at sunrise and sunset.

Bijrani Forest Rest House (Tel: 251489, 253977; Tariff: ?1,2502,000), with only six rooms, is much smaller but conveniently located, just 9km from Ramnagar. There is a small canteen, as well as a souvenir shop, where you can buy books. Next to the Forest Rest House is a viewing platform deer often come close while grazing. Elephant rides are also available.

Sarapduli Forest Rest House (Tel: 251489; Tariff: ?2,000) is further inside the park, on the road from Dhangarhi Gate towards Dhikala. You will need your own vehicle to stay here, and will also have to make arrangements for food and refreshments. Tourists should refrain from littering.

Private Hotels and Resorts

There is also a wide choice of hotels, guesthouses and resorts lining the road north of Ramnagar along the parks eastern edge and around the periphery of the park. Corbett Riverside Resort (Delhi Tel: 011-29551191/ 6688, Cell: 09811109596; Tariff: ?13,00031,000 for 3D/ 2N), overlooking the Kosi river, has a restaurant. It arranges jungle safaris, rafting in the Kosi in the monsoon and angling. Mapple Leisure Resort (Tel: 281330, Cell: 09818596333; Tariff: ?6,5009,000), in Sawaldey, village has lovely rooms, a swimming pool, gym and restaurant.

Set up by conservationists, Jims Jungle Retreat (Delhi Tel: 011-43516376, Cell: 09711789828; Tariff: ?39,00050,000 for 3D/ 2N, with meals and one safari) is beautifully designed, yet homely. They have a swimming pool and offer internet access. They also arrange angling trips. Infinity Resorts (Delhi Tel: 0124-4655800, Cell: 09650193664; Tariff: ?9,000, with meals) is located on the banks of River Kosi. They have a swimming pool, games hall, library and a jogging track. If you are coming with your kids, there is a childrens park to keep them engaged. The Riverview Retreat (Delhi Tel: 011-46520000; Tariff: ?7,00037,000) has a restaurant and bar.

GETTING THERE

State Uttarakhand

Location Corbett National Park is located in Ramganga valley, near the Himalayan foothills

Distance 263km NE of Delhi

Route from Delhi NH24 to Moradabad via Hapur and Gajraula; SH to Kashipur; NH121 to Dhangarhi Gate of Corbett National Park via Ramnagar and Garjia Gate

Rail Nearest railhead: Ramnagar Station (19km/ 30mins)

Road After Moradabad, turn left on the Kashipur Road. Cross River Dehla and follow the road that skirts the reserve and leads to the Amdanda, Garjia and Dhangarhi gates

Bus There are buses at regular intervals for Ramnagar from ISBT Anand Vihar

FAST FACTS

When to go The best time to visit is between mid-November and March. December to February can be very cold temperatures can go down to 5oC. During the night, a cold wind (locally called dadu) blows here

Tip The park closes from mid-June to mid-November

Wildlife/ Forest Dept offices

The Director

Corbett Tiger Reserve

Ramnagar, Dist Nainital

Tel: 05947-253977

Park Reception

Tel: 251489; Fax: 251012, 251376

W corbettonline.uk.gov.in

STD code 05947

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Turkey: Istanbul in Pictures https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/featured-image-6.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/turkey-istanbul-pictures/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/turkey-istanbul-pictures/ 2017-07-18T15:49:59+05:30 article Fashion designer J.J. Valaya's fine art phoneographs offer a different take on Istanbul Since 2011, celebrated fashion designer and couturier J.J. Valaya has also been a fine art photographer. With two solo exhibitions under his belt and a third in the works, Valaya is well on his way to being a master of the craft. He is also a firm believer in the dictum that the best camera is the one thats with you. No surprise then that all his Istanbul images have been shot on a smartphone. It even has a name, phoneography, and many believe it is the future of photography (some believe the future is already here). Few cities ooze with endless visual imagery quite like Istanbul. But this cosmopolitan city seems to have met its match in Valaya, whose sensitive images capture the eclectic spirit of Istanbul perfectly.

Inspired by Henri Cartier-Bressons inevitability of a decisive moment, Valaya says, It is my core belief too, that Art indeed does exist everywhere, and candid photography is perhaps the most honest way to interpret it. I have also realised, over time, that whilst my fine art photography offers me the supreme opportunity to be a storyteller, it also demands patience and time to be woven together into incredible shows (sometimes years!). I had to, therefore, find a medium that would allow me to satiate my chronic desire to seize the spontaneity of the moment...for my own pleasure, as also to, perhaps, celebrate all that exists around us.

Valayas Istanbul is the first in a series, an amuse-bouche if you will, and we cant wait for more. All images from The Little Book of Memories: Istanbul, by J.J. Valaya. Available on amazon.in, and at stores like Nappa Dori , Paperboat (Goa) , CMYK bookstore; ?1,200

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Uttarakhand: Seclude, Ramgarh https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/seclude-ramgarh-uttarakhand-nainital-outer-view-42251241fs.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/uttarakhand-seclude-ramgarh/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/uttarakhand-seclude-ramgarh/ 2017-07-18T15:47:05+05:30 article Seclude in Ramgarh is a homestay that was built for a quiet getaway If a quiet getaways what youve been craving, Seclude, Ramgarh is the place to be. The quaint hill station is a stones throw away from Nainital and offers a majestic view of the Himalayas. Whether youre planning a lengthy stay or a weekend break, Ramgarh is the place to be if crowded tourist destinations arent your thing. The Seclude bungalow is perched on a steep hill overlooking the mountains and the mornings can be spent watching the clouds part giving way to the lush green Himalayan peaks. As the sun descends behind the mountains, spend the evenings watching fireflies grow luminous and stare up at stars brighter than youll ever see back in the city.

Nicknamed the fruit bowl of the Kumaon, Ramgarh is peppered with orchards and a morning hike should be on the cards. A rabbit path from Seclude will take you down a winding road through majestic orchards overflowing with plums, peaches and apples. The hill-station personifies solitude and you shouldnt miss out on visiting Bhimtal Lake, only 19 kms away. Nathuakhan is a charming hamlet nearby where you can spend hours lost in its natural beauty. If youre into birdwatching and adventure sports is your thing then head to Naukuchiatal Lake. This lake with nine corners and the surrounding area is home to a number of exotic bird species and is the go-to destination for paragliding, boating, fishing, etc.

Seclude, Ramgarh is designed to feel like your home away from home. Fitted with all the amenities required, the rooms strike the right balance between comfort and rusticity. Home-cooked meals prepared with fresh local produce is another plus and the common living room is the perfect place to kick back after a nature hike. A holiday should rejuvenate your senses and as its name suggests, Seclude, Ramgarh does exactly that.

For more details log on to www.seclude.in
Phone:011-41676724, +919810743242

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Yusmarg: A Land of Meadows https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Yusmarg1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/yusmarg-land-meadows/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/yusmarg-land-meadows/ 2017-07-18T15:43:52+05:30 article The meadow of Jesus and other nearby high-altitude meadows are an absolute delight There are a couple of legends surrounding the origins of Yusmargs name. The more prosaic one hints at Yusmarg being a corruption of Roosmarg, or meadow of the musk deer. The more interesting one comes from a belief that Jesus Christ spent some of his lost years in India, and passed through Yusmarg, earning it the name Meadow of Jesus. Given that Yusmargs an excellent base for treks, its a lot more fun to believe it was named after someone whos said to have walked on water.

Yusmarg is certainly a good alternative to Kashmirs more popular destinations, especially if youre a hiker whod rather spend time in the wilderness than in gardens. Its a small little dwelling, not even a town, marked just by the JKTDC guest house complex set amidst a sprawling meadow, and manages to be ignored by most tourists. Which is just as well for those who want to immerse themselves in the legendary beauty of the Vale of Kashmir, a beauty best experienced in the treks across the Budgam woods to stunning meadows. Some of these are light walks; some are more demanding.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Yusmarg lies at the end of the road from Charar-e-Sharief, home to the dargah of Sheikh Noor-ud-din Wali. As you pass the ancient Sufi shrine, you find the air becoming cooler and the foliage turning a deep shade of green. The winding road leads by streams and small clearings set amidst the forests, till you come across some new tourist facilities being built by the Yusmarg Development Authority (YDA). Up next is a water reservoir, fenced off for security reasons, and then, a narrow, rutted path that passes by a small market on to the JKTDC tourist huts and car parking. All around are meadows, rolling hills and pine trees. A bridle path leads through the meadows towards Doodhganga, passing by the under-construction Yusmarg Club.

Short walks at Yusmarg

Doodhganga, barely 2 km to the west of Yusmarg, is a fast-flowing river named after the water that churns into froth when passing over rocks. This is an easy walk, but you can also hire a pony for ?150. The clearing by the river is the perfect spot to picnic in, or relax in the meadows off the path. Youll also see the huts of nomadic Gujjars on the slopes, and their horses running around.

You could fish in the Doodhganga. The fisheries department has an office here, close to the Yusmarg market, which hands out licenses (?1,000 for a days fishing; you can catch up to 6 fish), but the office is often shut. Alternatively, pick up a license when passing through Srinagar (Department of Fisheries, Gogjibagh, Jawahar Nagar, Tel: 0194-2312046, 2313378; Web: jkfisheries.in).

The Nil Nag Lake beside Gogji Pathri Village is another popular walk, a 4-km hike north from Yusmarg. You could take a guide along, but soon out of Yusmarg youll reach the lower village houses of Gogji Pathri, and can ask the way. Else, take the long way round and make a detour to Nil Nag from Nagam, ahead of Charar-e-Sharief. Its a 49 km drive from Yusmarg via Charar-e-Sharief, Nagam, Shoukatpora, Dadompora and Nowhar to Gogji Pathri and Nil Nag. This detour is best taken on the way back to Srinagar. Do confirm the roads in good shape before setting off. The Hajun meadow is close to the lake (1 km).

Long treks from Yusmarg

You could also do a number of long treks from your base in Yusmarg. The beautiful Doodpathri meadow with its JKTDC guest house is a 20-km trek to the west. Its steep going through the forested lower slopes of the Pir Panjal, and a guide is essential.

The frozen valley of Sang-e-Safed around 40 km south west of Yusmarg is a two-day return hike and takes you past the unspoiled meadows at Diskhal and Liddermar (25 km). Fresnag, north of Liddermar is also a popular hiking destination.

Trisoru, 18 km to the south of Yusmarg, is another famous high-altitude meadow you can trek to. Other trekking destinations to the south and south west of Yusmarg include Burga (15 km), and en route, Drugdolen (7 km).

J&K Tourism in Srinagar issues passes to tourists for trekking. This is not mandatory but helps in smooth passage in case of security checks. The trekking equipment shop at the TRC offers all equipment, tents, etc on hire at very nominal, approved rates. Local guides are also available here.

Charar-e-Sharief

This town, 18 km back up the road from Yusmarg to Srinagar, is home to one of the holiest shrines of Sufi Islam, the dargah of Sheikh Noor-ud-din Noorani, or more popularly Sheikh Noor-ud-din Wali. Also known as Alamdar-e-Kashmir (standard-bearer of Kashmir), Sheikh-ul-Alam and Nand Rishi, Sheikh Noor-uddin Wali was a renowned early 15th century Sufi mystic who has come to symbolise Kashmiriyat, the syncretic blend of culture so beloved of this region. Revered equally by Muslims and Hindus, the Sheikh was known not just for the austere life he led, but for his efforts against superstition, religious intolerance and social injustice. His poetry, as found in works like Rishi Nama and Noor Nama, speaks of a man far ahead of his time and could be considered progressive even by the standards of today.

In 1995, the dargah was the site of a protracted gun battle between the Army and insurgents. The shrine and much of the town were almost destroyed in the resulting conflagration, but have since been rebuilt. As you come in to the town, youll see the spire of the rebuilt shrine towering above you. The square in front of the dargah is heavily guarded. The main entrance to the shrine is reserved for men; women have a separate entrance by the side of the building. Walk in and youll immediately be struck by the sense of calm that seems to pervade the dargah. The wood-panelled and carpeted interiors manage to stay cool even on the hottest day. Sit down a while to soak in the atmosphere. Try and time your visit for Thursday evenings, when the Sufi musicians are singing.

TIP Photography prohibited inside

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

The JKTDC Hutment Complex (Mob: 09797927055; Tariff: ?1,500-7,000) at the end of the road to Yusmarg is the only stay option here and includes several accommodation units scattered across a large meadow. The rooms are spacious and theres plenty of space to loll around on the grass, right next to your room. Yusmarg, being rather close to Srinagar, is a popular day trip and most visitors dont stay the night. Unfortunately, many of the picnickers hold a rather cavalier attitude towards disposing of their trash; by evening, theres rubbish strewn across the grounds of the JKTDC property.

The restaurant at JKTDC serves basic meals. Expect paranthas and omelettes for breakfast and rotis, chicken curry and paneer otherwise. There are a few small restaurants at Yusmarg which serve simple meals of meat curry and dal, along with tea, coffee and light snacks like Maggi. Theres also a pure veg restaurant here. There are also many small dhabas and restaurants in Charar-e-Sharief.

FAST FACTS

When to go April to September

Tourist Offices

J&K Tourism

Tourist Reception Centre

TRC Road, Srinagar

Tel: 0194-2452691, 2479548

Director Tourism (Kashmir)

Srinagar; Tel: 2472449

Website: jktourism.org

Yusmarg Development Authority

Chief Executive Officer, Yusmarg

Tel: 0194-2442666, Mob: 09419002593

Web: yda.co.in

STD code 01951

GETTING THERE

Location In Budgam District, facing the Pir Panjal massifs on the north side

Distance 47 km S of Srinagar JOURNEY TIME By Road 2 hrs

Route from Srinagar Srinagar-Chadoora Road to Chadoora via Bagh-i-Mehtab and Wathora; Srinagar-Charar-e-Sharief Road to Charar-e-Sharief via Nagam; Charar-e-Sharief-Yusmarg Road to Yusmarg

Air Nearest airport: Srinagars Sheikh-ul-Alam Airport (50 km/1 hour) is named for Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Wali. A pre-paid taxi costs ?1,800 to Yusmarg

Rail Nearest railhead: Jammu Tawi (293 km/ 8 hrs). Taxis dont go directly to Yusmarg from Jammu, but a taxi to Srinagar costs ?4,500; shared taxi is ?600 per seat. A JKSRTC deluxe bus from Jammu to Srinagar is ?500 per head

Road Yusmarg is a short hours drive south of Srinagar via Chadoora and Charar-e-Sharief. A taxi from the TRC Srinagar (46 km/1 hour) charges approx ?1,600. Local buses from Srinagar (?80) operate in the morning and evening. Shared Sumos charge ?200 per person

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Tangmarg: Strawberries and Green https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Tanmarg1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/tangmarg-strawberries-green/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/tangmarg-strawberries-green/ 2017-07-18T15:04:06+05:30 article Located at the foot of the Pir Panjal range, Tangmarg is gifted with great natural beauty Situated in the forested foothills of the Pir Panjal Range, Tangmarg is a quiet little hill town in the vicinity of Gulmarg. The drive from Srinagar starts out along a broad, double-barrel road. Starting early (around 7 am) gives you the dual advantage of avoiding the khatarnak traffic jams at HMT Chowk as well as being early enough to spot the hawks, kites and eagles that line the tops of street lamps, silently surveying the rice fields beyond for the odd mouse or squirrel. Convoys of Army trucks are a regular sight, as are the stray donkeys that wander onto the road divider to graze.

Turning off the main highway from the Narbal crossing, the road to Tangmarg is a delight. A bridge leads across the Hokersar Nallah that is part of the Hokersar Wetland Reserve, a wintering ground for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds each year. As you climb gently up into the foothills, vistas open up revealing thickly forested hills fringing a green valley dotted with tin-roofed houses and rice fields (rice is a staple in Kashmir and everything grown here is consumed locally). We stop at the roadside Magray Garden Cherry View Point in Druroo, 2 km short of town. Tangmarg famously grows strawberries, apples, walnuts and cherries, and we sip chai under trees laden with the last of the seasons cherry crop in this still relatively unspoiled place, compared to its more famous cousin Gulmarg.

ORIENTATION

Most of Tangmargs activity centres around the main drag along the Narbal- Tangmarg Road, starting with the colourful Chandilora Market on the outskirts of town. Passing the turn-off to J&K Tourisms Hotel Alpine, whose signboard assures us that its a home away from home with delicious cuisine, you reach the Childrens Park and tiny Tourist Assistance Centre, backed by spreading valley views. Another signboard informs us that Gulmarg is a no-polythene zone, while opposite are a handful of small hotels and J&K Bank. The main market is located right behind the hotels. However, Tangmargs real beauty lies off the main road in its apple, cherry and walnut orchards and miles of flooded rice fields that are interspersed with wild flowers. Ask your hotel staff if they know any families who own orchards and request a walk or a visit.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Tangmarg has three main sights of interest in its vicinity. The Drung Valley picnic spot along the banks of the Ferozpora Nallah makes a nice walk, 1 km southwest. The road winds through hills laden with pine trees, herds of cows being taken to pasture, and a pista-green mosque with a tiered spire, typical of the region. At the picnic spot, a lawn dotted with shops fronts the gushing river, where families frolic under shaded huts. You can try your hand at rock-climbing on the overhanging rocks nearby, or follow the Ferozpora Nallah upstream along a row of fat pipes that carry water to nearby towns. The construction of a hydel power plant has caused some damage to the aquatic life and detracts a little from the charm of the place. There are some temple ruins nearby, thought to be from the 11th century.

The Shrine of Hazrat Baba Payaamud-Din Reshi lies 7 km northwest of Tangmarg, on the road to Gulmarg. In summer, it is a beautiful drive along a winding road full of pine trees, lush meadows and hillsides carpeted in daisies that resemble white frosting on a bed of green. At one point, you can see the whole of Baramulla District spread out below. Zigzag stairs lead up to the shrine, which is located high up on hill, with panoramic views. The ziarat (grave) of this revered Muslim saint is housed within a striking building, fronted by trefoil wooden windows and a slim, 3-tiered spire. It is visited by thousands of pilgrims each year, so if you wish to avoid large crowds, it is best not to visit during festivals or holy days.

Continuing 4-5 km north from Baba Reshi, you reach Ningli Nallah, a snowfed stream and waterfall that makes a lovely campsite. Of all the picnic spots around Tangmarg, this is the prettiest, mainly because it is off the tourist track and has escaped the trail of litter usually left by day-trippers. Hence if you do decide to picnic or camp here, please collect all your empty plastic bottles, chips packets and other garbage and carry them back with you, so that Ningli Nallah can stay exactly as it is.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

JKTDCs Hotel Alpine (Mobile: 09419046044; Tariff: ?2,000-5,000) is by far the best place to stay in Tangmarg. This red brick building with spacious well-appointed rooms is set in a large garden, 1 km before the main market. Further ahead, on the Narbal-Tangmarg Road is a line of hotels that offer clean, but slightly pokey, rooms. The two better hotels are Abdulla Greenz Hotel & Restaurant (Tel: 01954-254411, Mobile: 09419181023; Tariff: ?2,500-3,000) offering 10 rooms fitted with mod cons, Wi-Fi and central heating in winter, and Downhill Hotel & Restaurant (Tel: 254516, 254433; Tariff: ?3,200) that has rooms with attached bathrooms, a backup generator and heating in winter. Next door, Pine View Hotel & Restaurant (Mobile: 09622579291, 09906319555; Tariff: ?3,000) has standard rooms with TVs, attached baths and winter heating.

At the budget end, Mahajan Hotel & Restaurant (Mobile: 09419413099; Tariff: ?2,000) has 10 basic rooms with attached baths and TVs. All hotels offer discounted rates during the off-season (Jul-Mar), except over the Christmas-New Year vacations.

The hotels listed above all have in-house restaurants. Tangmargs best eating-place is Downhill Restaurant, which is part of Downhill Hotel. I sampled their mouthwatering Kashmiri wazwan and biryani that is very popular with locals (the Chinese and Indian food on offer arent as good). A few doors down, Greenz Hotel & Restaurant has a Caf Coffee Day on its premises, while the vegetarian Jain Restaurant is nearby. For a local dhaba, try the popular Malik Dilbar Restaurant located behind the hotel strip in the main market. Hotel Alpines Zaiqa Restaurant serves standard Indian and Kashmiri fare.

FAST FACTS

When to Go Tangmarg is a year-round destination. The climate remains cool even in midsummer (May-Aug)

Tourist Offices

J&K Tourism

Tourist Assistance Centre

Narbal-Tangmarg Road, Tangmarg

Mob: 09419053312

J&K Tourism

Tourist Reception Centre

TRC Road, Srinagar

Tel: 0194-2452691, 2479548

Website: jktourism.org

JKTDC

Tourist Reception Centre

TRC Road, Srinagar

Tel: 2457927/ 30

Website: jktdc.in

STD code 01954

GETTING THERE

Location Tangmarg is a fruit bowl town an hours drive west of Srinagar in Baramulla District, just 13 km short of Gulmarg on the Narbal-Tangmarg Road

Distance 38 km W of Srinagar JOURNEY TIME By Road 1 hours from Srinagar

Route from Srinagar NH1A Bypass via Nowgam, Hyderpora, Bemina and Lawaypora to Narbal crossing; Narbal-Tangmarg Road to Tangmarg via Narbal, Magam, Dhobiwan, Kunzer and Druroo

Air Nearest airport: Sheikh-ul-Alam Airport, Srinagar (49 km/1 hrs/ Tel: 0194-2303000/ 31, 2303635), connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Leh and Jammu by Air India, SpiceJet, Indigo and Go Air. A taxi costs ?1,000-1,500 to Tangmarg

Rail Nearest railhead: Jammu Tawi station (336 km/8 hrs). A taxi from Jammu up to Tangmarg will cost approx ?3,000-3,500, one-way. Shared taxis and buses also ply to Srinagar

Road From Pantha Chowk on the outskirts of Srinagar, turn onto the NH1A Srinagar Bypass passing Nowgam, Hyderpora Chowk (the turning for Srinagar Airport), Bemina, Parimpora and Lawaypora to reach the Narbal crossing. From the crossing turn left onto the Narbal-Tangmarg Road (also called the Srinagar-Gulmarg Road), across a bridge over the Hokersar Nala past Narbal, Magam, Dhobiwan, Kunzer and Druroo to Tangmarg. If you miss the turn onto the Srinagar Bypass and reach Srinagar City, simply turn left onto MA Road from NH1A, then over the Budshah Bridge Flyover to Qamarwari-Batmaloo Road, which rejoins NH1A at Parimpora. Buses from Srinagar to Gulmarg pass via Tangmarg. A taxi from the TRC at Srinagar to Tangmarg costs approx ?1,000-1,500 one-way. Shared Sumos charge ?60 a head

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Bekal: Anchored in Stone https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/bekal1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/bekal-anchored-stone/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/bekal-anchored-stone/ 2017-07-18T14:58:58+05:30 article This grand medieval fortress on the Arabian Sea is a stunning destination Kasargod seems like a metaphor for peace, with its quiet beauty, sea-kissed forts, wind-caressed palms as well as embracing beaches. This mosaic of calm lagoons and patches of red earth, makes for a truly colourful landscape. Emerald green rice fields add to the colour. Not too long ago, great forts towered above Kasargod, standing sentinel over the town at the edge of the Arabian Sea. Now dilapidated, they bear silent testimony to official neglect. The plunder of their unique, rectangular laterite stones have left behind only ruins. Forts like Bekal, Chandragiri, Hosdurg, Kumbala, Panayal, Kundamkuzhi and Bandaduka which appear to have been built one stone at a time, are now falling apart in much the same way.

ORIENTATION

Kasargod, the district headquarters, is the access point for Bekal. Located in the extreme north of Kerala this town has been equally influenced culturally by Karnataka. Kasargod lies at the heart of the Tulu speaking region, Tulunadu, spread over both Kerala and Karnataka. The region is known for the traditional art form, Bhootha Kola, a local performance that is part of an ancient ritual that honours the gods. The artist, believed to be empowered by spirits, paints his face bright yellow, and combines elements of music, drama and energy in one colourful spectacle.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Apart from the ruins of magnificent forts, the leitmotif of Bekal, there are several religious sites worth visiting in Kasargod. These shrines are also storehouses of history and culture, preserved amid a sea of modern concrete constructions.

Bekal Fort

The Bekal Fort is perhaps best known as the lilting, grey backdrop in Mani Ratnams movie, Bombay. The fort stands alone and isolated, and slightly taller than the other forts in the town an imposing structure. A large number of movies have been shot on its ramparts, promoting tourism inadvertently. Bekals history, of course, precedes cinematography by centuries. Ruled by the Mahodayapuram Perumals till the 12th century CE, it was fortified in the mid-16th century by the Kolathunadu and Keladi Nayaks. It was Tipu Sultan who turned the fort into an important military base, before losing it to the East India Company.

The history of the fort is also embellished by stories of secret passageways hidden within the fort, for armies to enter or regress, and for royal lovers needing refuge. The tall, thick walls of the fort, though covered with moss today, once kept marauders at bay. They remain standing faithfully, their past glory witnessed by the Arabian Sea surging beyond the walls. Around the fort, on golden grassy knolls, sit the Magazine, the Observation Tower and a score of intriguing peepholes which give glimpses of picturesque sights. In addition to this, the ancient Anjaneya Temple, a newly renovated mosque, a sea bastion and underground passages invite the curious traveller.

Inside Bekal Fort, a once popular guesthouse for travellers lies in disuse. The Bekal Resorts Development Corporation (BRDC) and Public Works Departments (PWD) have not been able to do much in the fort. More recently, the ASI has stepped in, building pathways for visitors along the walls of the ancient fort and restoring some of the existing tunnels.

Location Bekal Fort Road Entry Indians?5; Foreigners ? 100 Timings 8:00am5:30pm Tel 04672236580

Bekal Fort Beach

On the other side of the imposing fort lies a shallow beach, occupied largely by shells of all sizes and vast colonies of scurrying crabs. Visitors are advised to bring their own food and drink. The single little petti kada, or tea stall, stocks only the most basic refreshments. The Bekal Hole Aqua Park is a small pier with pedal boats and water cycles on offer.

Kasargod Forts

The 17th century Chandragiri Fort, located about 4km from Bekal, survives now as a single wall, broken in places, and a pile of rubble. Covered with wild grass, it changes colours with seasons, subject to the ravages of time and weather. It was built by Sivappa Naik. Attempts have been made to restore the fort, some of which are still underway. Despite its dilapidated condition, the pinnacle of the steep laterite steps offers a beautiful view of dense palm groves to one side, the serene Chandragiri to the other, and the Arabian Sea beyond. Inside the fort is a watchtower, which offers a superb view of the confluence of the Chandragiri river with the ocean.

The ruins of Panayal Fort are represented only by a few stones that have survived in a contemporary residential area. Hosdurg Fort, 12km south of Bekal, is part of the chain of forts built by the Ikkeri Nayaks. It is now only a huddle of stones and half a rampart, and sadly not worth a visit. But Hosdurg Beach, a long strip of tawny sands fringed by casuarina groves, is a beautiful, peaceful space.

Kappil Beach

A ten-minute drive away from Bekal is the secluded Kappil Beach, partially overrun by thick green creepers with mauve flowers. There are also shallow groves of casuarina trees, offering shelter to the rare traveller. Kodi Cliff to one side of the beach is worth the relatively less arduous climb for a view of the sea.

Malik Dinar Mosque, Kasargod

Malik Ibn Dinar, the son of a slave and an ardent disciple of Prophet Mohammad, is believed to have been the first person to propagate Islam in Kerala. This mosque in Kasargods Thalangara area is said to have been founded by him, and is also his final resting place. Overlooking a green swathe of land, shaded by the swaying branches of a number of trees, this mosque has magnificent wooden beams as well as thick, shining columns. Every year, the Urs festival, commemorating the arrival of Ibn Dinar in Kasargod, attracts pilgrims from all over India.

Twin Ashrams of Kasargod

The Nityanandashram, close to Hosdurg Fort, is a meditation centre founded by Swami Nityananda. The ashram itself is a series of 45 caves cut into the side of a hillock, a major tourist attraction. The temple follows the architectural style of the Somnath Temple in Gujarat.

There is also a life-sized statue of Swami Nityananda here in the meditation centre. Anandashram is another famous ashram in the region, founded by Vaishnava saint Swami Ramdas, 4km from Kanhangad. It is a peaceful space, nestled within mango and coconut groves.

Nileshwaram

Nileswaram, once the cultural centre of Kasargod District, lies about 12km south of Bekal on NH17. The town is home to a clutch of decrepit buildings and old Nileswaram palaces. The main Nileswaram Palace has been converted into the Folklore Centre of the Archaeology Department. For those who imagine palaces to be grand structures, this sprawl of red-tiled houses could come as a bit of an anticlimax. However, to the discerning eye, the solid teak roof beams, the magnificent wooden pillars, the shining red stone floors and the nalukettus, all paint a poignant picture. The myriad shrines dotted across Nileswaram, all lit up in the evening, make for a moving sight.

Main Palace Timings 9:00am7:00pm

Valiyaparamba

South of Nileswaram lie the scenic Valiyaparamba backwaters, dotted with numerous little islands, narrow strips of beaches and densely packed groves of palm and arecanut, fed by four swiftly flowing rivers. It is possible to spend a whole day and even stay overnight here, exploring the backwaters by houseboat. The BRDC runs a couple of houseboats on the Tejaswini river, from Kottapuram in Nileswaram to Kannur, along the Valiyaparamba Backwaters. En route past the nine islands, visitors can take in the brilliant verdant of the surroundings and Chinese fishing nets. Houseboats afford the tourist the possibilities of swimming, lazing about, staying through the night or even longer, among other things. These tours are also a lot more affordable than the ones in Alleppey and Kottayam. Tours can be booked for anything from two to 24 hours, or be customised as per the visitors requirements.

SHOPPING

Kasargod is best known for beautiful saris manufactured by the handloom co-operative society and marketed by the Kerala State Handloom Development Corporation, Hanveev. The Hanveev Showroom is located near the Old Bus Stand in Kasargod. It is also possible to visit the weavers at Udayagiri on Madhur Road on request. These saris can be traditional cotton weaves, cotton-silk blends or pure silk. Rajadhani Cane Furniture makes cane furniture like the hanging jhoola and bamboo rocking chairs. Decorated arecanut leaf caps are usually a hit with the children. Roadside shops also sell compactly woven baskets and payas (mats). All typical munchies banana chips, sweet and salted jackfruit chips and long golden plantains (nendrapazham) are sold here.

WHERE TO STAY

Kasargod District is just beginning to boast of some exceptional hotels, and the resorts of the Bekal Resorts Development Corporation are yet to come. Surrounded by the backwaters and the sea, high-end options here include Vivanta by Taj (Tel: 0467-6616612; Tariff: ?14,00028,000) on Kappil Beach is a charming property with modern spacious rooms, awesome private pool villas, gourmet food and a spa; and The Lalit Resort & Spa (Tel: 2237777; Tariff: ?5,0001,00,000) with multi-cusine fare, a spa and lots of activities such as canoeing and kayaking.

Nirvana @ Bekal (Tel: 2272007/ 2900, Cell: 09446463088; Tariff: ?3,8594,715) is close to the fort. Kanan Beach Resort (Tel: 2288880; Tariff:?6,50017,000) is a beach-front property offering good food, yoga, Ayurveda and a swimming pool. Hotel Bekal Palace (Tel: 2265636-37; Tariff: ?3,0005,500) is a decent option.

Gitanjali Heritage (Tel: 04672234159, Cell: 09447469747), set in green surroundings near the ruins of the Panayal Fort, is a 65-year-old family-run heritage tharavad. Ayurvedic rejuvenation and relaxation therapies, yoga and reiki are available on request, plus traditional medicinal systems like Ottamooli. Gitanjali Heritage is also very well-equipped, with chess, carrom, badminton, a lush green jogging track and Internet facilities. Conducted tours are arranged and many traditional dishes of North Malabar cuisine are on offer. Chandralayam Homestay (Tel: 2236456, Cell: 09446772414; Tariff: ?2,5003,000) is another decent homestay.

By the Nileswaram River sits a sprawl of compact laterite stone cottages, the Gokulam Nalanda Resorts (Tel: 2282662/ 925; Tariff: ?2,2504,500), a very good base while you roam Bekal Fort and its environs. Bang on the banks of the Nileswaram river on one side and NH17 on the other, it has ample parking space and and lung space! It is among the nicest resorts in Kasargod District, and arranges houseboats on the Valiyaparamba Backwaters (only on prior request).

Bekal Boat Stay (Cell: 09447469747; W bekalboatstay.com) offers good cruise packages. Currently under maintenance, will start operations soon.

You can also stay on the Bekal Resort Development Corporations houseboats.Some good operators for houseboat cruises include Bekal Queen (Cell: 098460 222330, Bekal Ripples (Cell: 07025488333), Bekal Waves (Cell: 09447217626), La Costa (Cell: 09447446699) and Honey Dew (Cell: 09633416633). They can be contacted through BRDC as well.

WHERE TO EAT

The restaurants at Vivanta By Taj and The Lalit offer great multi-cuisine fare. Hotel Vasanth Vihar and Hotel Green Leaf are good vegetarian opotions that offer fantastic, steaming hot local delicacies such as idlis, dosas, vadas and appams. Viceroy Restaurant across the road from Hotel City Tower serves up excellent Malabar parottas, biryanis and seafood. In the heart of Kasargod city is the Salwa Dine Restaurant, close to the Apsara Regency. The food here is greasy but absolutely delicious, worth the antacid tablet that weaker stomachs will certainly need after a trip here! A bonus at Nalanda Resort is the restaurant, which serves excellent North Malabar fare as well.

AROUND BEKAL

Sreemad Anantheswara Vinayaka Temple, Madhur (27km)

The Madhuvahini (Payaswini) river flows in front of the Sreemad Temple, located northeast of Kasargod. The temple has a unique three-tiered dome, a copper-plated roof and a cloistered court. Scenes from the Ramayana are carved on the ceiling of the namaskara mandapam. In the wood-carved inner mukha mandapam and sukasanas are the idols of Shiva and Vinayaka. Visitors here can also take a cleansing dip in the Madhuvahini, which is believed to contain the essence of spirituality.

Timings 5.00am1.30pm & 5.308.30pm Main Festival 5-day Vishu in April

Sree Anantha Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Ananthapura (31km)

Its quiet setting, deep within Kasargod District, belies the importance of this 9th century shrine. For the Ananthapura Temple is believed to be the moolasthanam, or original abode, of Anantha Padmanabha, an avatar of Vishnu who is the powerful deity of the famed Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram. Its a beautiful shrine set in the middle of a small lake.

The temple authorities relate with moving passion stories of how Lord Padmanabhaswamy used to play in the precincts of the temple when he was a child. The legend is that when a meditating sage brushed him off in a moment of impatience, he created a tunnel that led right up to Thiruvananthapuram. Quite a feat, considering Ananthapura is near the very northern tip of Kerala and Trivandrum near the southernmost end. The sage spent the rest of his life searching for the child god.

Unlike the Thiruvananthapuram temple, where Maha Vishnu is seen in the Ananthashayanam (the Infinite Repose), the idol here reclines in the sitting posture. A footbridge across the lake is the only access to the sreekovil. Wooden carvings embellish the ceilings of the namaskara mandapam.

The lake is home to an ancient crocodile, somewhat improbably named Babya. Legend goes that in 1945, when British soldiers were stationed near the temple, a soldier is said to have shot a crocodile dead. This crocodile was also called Babya. The soldier died as a result of snakebite days later, believed to be an act of vengeance of the serpent god Anantha. Another crocodile mysteriously appeared here soon after. All subsequent crocodiles to have lived in the lake have been bestowed with the same name.

To get to the temple, take the diversion from Nayakkap, 5km from Kumbala, on the Kumbala-Badiadka Road. The temple is one kilometre from Nayakkap, marked by the old tharavad on a hilltop on the opposite side. The latter is said to have been relocated stone by stone from its original site elsewhere. This building will soon be turned into a heritage homestay.

Timings 5:30am1:00pm & 5:30-8.00 pm Tel 04998-214360

TIP Men must be bare-chested and wear a mundu. Women must wear sari or salwar kameez

Puliyamkulam (35km)

Puliyamkulam is a 32-acre farm rich with trees, medicinal plants, birds and insects. P Abdul Kareem has spent the last 25 years converting this previously sun-scorched wasteland into the Kareem Forest Park. Botany experts have certified that Kareem has grown 300 species of flowering plants and increased the water table in the area. All are welcome to visit, while those truly interested in conservation can even stay here.

Tel 0467-2254283

Sreemad Anantheswara Temple, Manjeswaram (48km)

This temple, on the border of Kerala and Karnataka, is believed to have been set up when Ranga Sharma, a Gouda Saraswat Brahmana hailing from Kushasthali (Cortalim) in Goa, discovered the swayambhu idol of Anantheswara in the woods of Shankamala. The temple is set in a massive court, and has a copper-plated roof and the typical ribbed, wooden walls of Malabar.

Ranipuram (54km)

Ranipuram has shola forests, wildflowers growing in abundant profusion and verdant grasslands. The thin mist that wreathes the treetops sometimes also hides a stray herd of wild elephants. The drive to Ranipuram is pleasant and a respite from the sweltering Malabar heat at sea level to slightly cooler climate at an altitude, in a matter of a few hours. The Kasargod DTPC has a reasonably priced three-room guesthouse here.

FAST FACTS

When to go Bekal is ideally avoided during the monsoons, a time of deluges, low visibility, slushy roads and tracks. The balmy winter months are more ideal.

Tourist Offices

District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC), Vidya Nagar, Kasaragod, Tel: 04994-256450, W dtpckasargod.com

Bekal Resorts Development Corporation, Bekal, Tel: 0467-2236580, Cell: 09447793812,
W bekaltourism.com, STD codes Bekal 0467, Kasargod 04994

GETTING THERE

District Kasargod

Location Bekal Fort faces the Arabian Sea in north Malabar, 19km S of the district headquarters in Kasargod. Kasargod is 49km S of Mangalore and 93km N of Kannur

Distance 156km N of Kozhikode

Air Nearest airport: Bajpe Airport, Mangalore (69km/ 1.5hrs) is connected by daily flights to Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai. Prepaid taxis to Kasargod from Bajpe Airport will cost around ?1,5002,000 and to Bekal or Nileshwaram around?2,2002,500

Rail Nearest railhead: Kasargod Station (19km/ 30 mins) is well connected to Kozhikode by the Mangalore Mail and Parashuram Express, in addition to several daily trains. The Netrvati Express connects the station with Ernakulam, Trivandrum and Mumbai, while the Mangla Lakshadweep Express goes all the way to Delhi. Mangalore Mail is also an excellent daily link to Chennai. Visitors can get a bus or taxi to Bekal Fort from the station

Road Bekal is 19km from Kasargod, connected to Mangalore (49km), Kannur (93km), Kozhikode (175km) and Mumbai (994km) by NH17

Bus Kasargods KSRTC Bus Stand (Tel: 04994-225677, 230677 has frequent daily services to Mangalore, Kannur, Thalassery, Kozhikode and Kochi, among other places

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An Alaskan Odyssey https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/GettyImages-586889769.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/an-alaskan-odyssey/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/an-alaskan-odyssey/ 2017-07-17T14:02:06+05:30 article Explore the wonders of Alaska from aboard a cruise ship Denali
It is hot in Alaska and I am not afraid of sounding foolish saying so, though the Denali National Park is barely 230 miles south of the Arctic Circle. It is early June and I am awake at 2.40am in Denali because the small table fan in the warm, stuffy hotel room makes more noise than it cools. Despite the thick curtains, I can see it is still light outside. I take a moment to reflect on the utter unsuitability of the contents of the suitcase that I have brought to Denali. The words of Lucy in the B&B in Vancouver come back to me. I wouldnt go to Alaska without my fleecies, my dear! It snowed in Anchorage last week. It had. So I prepared myself for Alaskawith thermals, gloves, waterproof quilted jackets and, of course, the fleecies.

Denali National Park is spread over six million acres and includes lowland forests of poplar, aspen and paper birch; the tundra with small plants and lichens; and the Alaska mountain ranges. At 20,320ft, Mount McKinley is the pride of Denali. It is the highest point in North America and seems to float, rising sheer above the surrounding mountains. The Athabascan tribe of Alaska called it Denali or the High One. Though the park carries the original name, political consideration sensured that Denali became Mount McKinley, after William McKinley, US presidential candidate in 1896 and president the following year.

The next day I take the shuttle into the park. It is still only the start of the tourist season and there are large patches of snow on the ground, but the dry scrub terrain is prone to fires and there are warning signs everywhere, Fire Danger: Very High, Fire Permit Required. I am part of the first batch of tourists to the park and visibility is good (read very warm, sunny day). We are lucky enough to see the big fourmoose, caribou, Dall sheep, grizzly bears (mother and cub)and a fox still in its winter coat, as a bonus. Very soon three more buses arrive, packed with tourists, necks craned, camera and binoculars at the ready.

Every year, Denali gets an estimated 400,000 visitors. In peak season, it has been likened to Londons Oxford Street in July, and even now, on my return to Denali village I count 20 coaches parked outside hotels and near the marketplace. There are perhaps two dozen shops selling souvenirs, snacks, ice cream and cold drinks. I buy a hat to shield my head from the sun. Unsurprisingly, there is an Indian restaurant, Bombay Deluxe, and at one end of the market a slightly crooked signpost that lists distances to some major capitals of the world. Of these the furthest is New Delhi: 5,708 miles.

Juneau
The capital of Alaska is unique in that it can be accessed only by boat or plane. Small seaplanes line Auke Bay, rippling blue and gold in the bright sunshine. Juneau is the seat of government, but from May to September is overrun by tourists. Its main street, Egan Drive, goes on for about 42 miles and then comes to a dead end. Every year, nine million cruise ship passengers visit Juneau. It is perhaps the best place to view humpback whales (some tour operators offer to refund money if none are sighted), orcas, sea lions, etc.

Our excursion is successful and, apart from whales, we are lucky enough to see a pod of frolicking orcas about 50 feet away. Three smaller boats are barely a few feet away from the orcas. Regulations dictate a mandatory 100 feet distance, but the final decision is left to the wildlife. I feel aggrieved because all my photographs have more boat than orca.

The other attraction in Juneau is the Mendenhall Glacier, often described as the drive-in glacier. It is so accessible that it gives the remote, pristine image of glaciers a bad name. It is nonetheless stunningly beautiful with its 1.5-mile face, forests, streams, mini lakes, ice and ice floes glinting blue in the strong sun (I am now beyond surprise). Locals, in shorts, are out in strength, sunbathing, while children paddle in the small pools. I am hot, thirsty and desperate for shade and in urgent need to get rid of my inners.

Most cruise ships dock in three Alaskan townsKetchikan, Juneau and Skagwayand in all three, the biggest, glitziest shops lining the harbour are jewellery shops. Apparently, there is something about a cruise that unlocks the human shopping gene. Visitors buy not only the Northern lights, a topaz with green, maroon and reddish hues (guilty), but also expensive diamonds and other precious gemstones. Tanzanite seemed to be the new stone on the block: a blue rare stone from Tanzania. I meet a young Indian, Mukund Bathija, in his large jewellery shop. He shifted to Juneau from Mumbai 10 years ago, and is one of nine Indian families settled here. Business is flourishing. I have no hesitation believing him; last year the revenue from jewellery sales was in the range of $25 million. Cruise trips seem to bring out, in equal measure, the romantic impulse as well as a willing suspension of thrift and common sense.

In 1867, secretary of state William Seward signed a treaty to purchase Alaska from Russia, for $ 7.2 millionless than 2 cents an acre. This vast wilderness saw prosperity with whaling, salmon runs and canning, but it came into the limelight in the late 19th century during the gold rush to the Yukon Mountains. Stories abound about the hardships endured by the prospectors as they made their way up into the mountains. Only about40 per cent made it, and of these only a minuscule number became rich on gold. One of the would-be prospectors gave up halfway and started repairing the shoes of those continuing their climb. He charged five dollars per shoe; today he is known as the man who started the successful chain of stores, Nordstrom.

Anchorage
The largest city in Alaska has attracted settlers from places distant and diverse. Those I spoke to said they had come here for its laidback life and that, despite the long sunless winter, they enjoyed the warmth of greater social interaction. The Trans-Alaskan Pipeline runs 300 miles from the city, and has contributed to the financial welfare of all the residents of Alaska. Every year, the US government pays roughly $1,000 (depending on the years profit) to each member of a family, a tradition that began when a percentage of the profits was paid to those who lost their land when the pipeline was laid, but now extends to all residents.

Three of the long-distance coaches that I travelled on were driven by women. They were drivers, helped load/unload luggage and, as part of the narrated trip, were chatty and informative: from telling us that caribou and reindeer were the same (the latter were domesticated), pointing at the house where Sarah Palin lived, to advice on how to make sense of the weather variables in Alaska. As for the last, our coach driver Anna summed it up succinctly: There is no bad weather. There is only bad clothing! A fact that I had been made uncomfortably aware of in the last few days!

The Information

Getting There
Alaska Cruise departures are mainly from Seattle, USA, or Vancouver, Canada. We took our seven-day cruise from Vancouver. Both Seattle and Vancouver are well connected by air to all major cities of the world.

The Cruise

Most cruise ships stop in Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau, and Icy Strait Point; ships often cruise up to the Hubbard Glacier. Our route took us all the way to Seward since we wanted to go to Denali but seven-day cruises have various routes to choose from.

All towns where the ship drops anchor offer a number of excursions that take you out to sea in smaller vessels to watch marine life and scenery. There are coach trips from the mainland into the mountains, to see the Mendenhall Glacier or even to visit the Yukon Mountains in Canada (youll need a Canadian visa if visiting Yukon). Cruise prices start from $900 per person and go up depending on the cabin/stateroom/suite. Best to book in advance, especially in peak season (July/August).

What to See & Do

We disembarked at Seward and took the coach to Anchorage. The coaches are comfortable and the journey takes 4-5 hours. From there we continued to the Denali National Park which is another 4-5 hours including breaks for tea, coffee and snacks. Visitors can stop in Anchorage and check out the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, the Alaska zoo, the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum, etc. The town is pedestrian-friendly but cabs are easily available. Alaska is a paradise for those interested in cycling, trekking, camping and even panning for gold!

When to Go
The best time to visit Alaska is between May and September. The weather can be fickle here, so keep light woollens and a warm wind cheater handy.

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Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/vedanthangal-BIrd-Sanctuary1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/vedanthangal-bird-sanctuary/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/vedanthangal-bird-sanctuary/ 2017-07-17T13:40:18+05:30 article One of India's oldest sanctuaries, the mangroves of Vedanthangal thrum with birds Usually, getting to bird sanctuaries in Tamil Nadu involves a lot of teeth-rattling road time, but pleasantly, the drive to Vedanthangal is nothing like that. A quick drive along the newly-polished NH45 from Chennai gets you to the oldest water bird sanctuary in the country, also a delightful retreat from the grime and the noise of the city.

As we enter the Vedanthangal Sanctuary, through a gate guarded by monkeys, no less, there is the thrum of satisfied birds eating, swimming, diving, homemaking and squawking. They seem to be happy doing nothing, enjoying their last few days of rest before starting on the long flights home. They are accustomed to visitors, and some of the birds venture quite close to the tourists. Beyond the islands full of mangroves, they perch on the trees that line the banks and reach out to the water.

The Barringtonia mangroves of the sanctuary create a floating habitat for a variety of migratory birds. We walk along a shaded stone pathway around the mangroves to view the birds on our left. On the other side are extensive chartreuse paddy fields and a gorgeous sunset luckily, we are visiting at the right time. The setting is so beautiful that I feel the sanctuary extends beyond its watery boundaries. We try to guess the number of birds by counting how many there are in the trees. It proves to be a futile exercise, as the mangroves extend far into the distance and the horizon seems to rustle with white wings. Official reports claim there are between 10,000 to 20,000 birds per season, resting, sheltering and breeding on what are apparently 2,000 partially-submerged trees.

We climb one of the watchtowers and immediately spot a trio of painted storks gathering twigs from a tree to build their nests. Their delicate balancing act on the thinnest of branches reminds me of the gravity-defying scenes in a martial arts flick, where a dexterous fight takes place atop bamboo reeds. The painted storks are by far the most expressive species in the sanctuary, with milky wings that rise to fuschia at the tips. There is also considerable pleasure in watching birds that are merely resting. We notice many villagers in the sanctuary; they wield a lot of influence in the running of the sanctuary.

The village and reserves boundaries meld together, and in fact, the 73-acre sanctuary and its surroundings were only deemed a protected zone after the villagers complained about the intemperate hunting of the birds by the British. At dusk, you can watch young goat-herds returning home with their flocks or the brightly painted oxen preparing to doze off all an integral part of the typical evening scene in villages.

The pace of life suddenly seems slower, and coupled with the pacifying landscape and the harmonious coexistence of humans and nature, lifes harsher realities seem far away if only for the time you actually spend in the park. Vedanthangal is close to the temple towns of Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram and one can visit the sanctuary on the return journey from these towns.

ABOUT VEDANTHANGAL SANCTUARY

Said to be the oldest water sanctuary in India, the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary was granted legal protection in 1798. Spread over 30 hectares, the ecosystem here is made up of islands of Barringtonia mangroves, evergreen scrub and thorn forest. The area was recognised as a sanctuary in 1936. The 1962 Madras Forest Act accorded it the status of a reserve forest and, subsequently, the 1972 Wildlife Protection Act pronounced it a wildlife sanctuary.

ORIENTATION

You can take NH45 from Chennai to the nearest township, Chengalpattu. From here, continue to the Padalam Junction (Padalam town is 12km from the sanctuary). Turning right from here, drive for about 20 minutes and youll pass the forest rest house (FRH); drive on for another kilometre to reach the sanctuary gate, the adjoining ticket booth and the car park.

There is an interpretation centre (in a state of disrepair, but of some interest), where a knowledgeable ticket collector will also act as your guide. Guides can be hired at the sanctuary as well.

The birds can be viewed from the clear, stone paved path that follows the western embankment of the lake. Most of the facilities seem to have been designed with the tourist in mind and are very well-maintained.

There are granite benches along the way for you to rest and various watchtowers (with winding staircases) that offer good views of the sanctuary, though I dont think the binoculars affixed to the towers were working when we were there.

Tip You might want to plan a weekday tour, as it gets very crowded on weekends

? Entry ?5 per person Timings 6.00am6.00pm Camera ?25 Parking ?50 Contact Range office

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

If you care passionate about bird-watching, you can spend long hours just looking at the birds here go about their daily routine and not get bored at all.

Children, in particular, will find a visit to this bird sanctuary an engrossing one. You can also spot mammals such as jackal, jungle cat, wild boar and black-naped hare.

Birdwatching

Follow the paved path, dotted with watchtowers and benches, to survey the birds nesting in the tank area and their counterparts in the surrounding fields and scrub. Amongst the different bird species here, look for white ibis, Asian spoonbill, grey heron, grey pelican, rosy pelican, night heron and cormorant. Both in the sanctuary and outside (especially in the surrounding fields and grasslands), you will spot the Eurasian thick-knee, black-headed cuckoo shrike and yellow-wattled lapwing, apart from several other Indian species. Take binoculars, a bird book and a zoom lens camera, all of which will make your visit to the wildlife sanctuary memorable.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

The Forest Rest House (Tariff: ?770), which is 1km from the sanctuary gate, has four clean, well-maintained AC rooms. Meals are available on request. Reservations can be done through the Wildlife Wardens office in Chennai or Range Officer, Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary. There is a cluster of tea shops outside the main gate where you can have refreshments. You will also find vendors selling guavas, tender coconuts and watermelons.

AROUND VEDANTHANGAL

Karikili Bird Sanctuary (9km)

This reserve, located on the Uttaramerur Road, is another great retreat for birdwatchers. Pintailed ducks, Garganey teals and common teals are found in abundance here. You should plan to spend at least a night at Vedanthangal so that you can get to Karikili early to enjoy the wonderful morning scenery.

? Contact 044-24321471

GETTING THERE

State Tamil Nadu

Location Off NH45 from the state capital Chennai, close to the small town of Padalam in Kanchipuram District

Distance 86km SW of Chennai

Route from Chennai NH45 to Padalam Junction via Chengalpattu; district road to Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary

Road Take NH45 from Chennai (86km/ 1.5hrs) to the nearest big town Chengalpattu (35km), and continue south to Padalam Junction. (Padalam is a small town in the opposite direction from the sanctuary.) Turn right here to access the sanctuary road. Vedanthangal can also be approached from Kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram but the roads are in poor condition.

Bus Several buses ply from Chennai to Chengalpattu; onward connections to the sanctuary are available, but the best option is to hire a taxi from Chennai (?1014 per km)

FAST FACTS

When to go The best season to visit is NovemberMarch. Breeding season lasts from October/ November to March, peaking in DecemberJanuary when about 30,000 birds nest here

Go there for Painted storks, oriental darters and ibis

Wildlife/ Forest Dept offices

Forest Department

Chennai. Tel: 044-22351471

Range OfficerVedanthangal

Tel: 22200335

STD code 044

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Deccan Odyssey: Affordable Luxury http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/deccan-odyssey-affordable-luxury/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/deccan-odyssey-affordable-luxury/ 2017-07-17T13:29:51+05:30 article Deccan Odyssey's Early Bird Offer is here to turn your luxury dream into reality Indian train journeys are never just about reaching the destination. One can enjoy the countrysidepassing by their window, with each glance presenting a fresh, varied, often breathtaking view. And it getseven better if that journey happens to be aboard the Deccan Odyssey luxury train, which is offeringbookings at a discounted price.

The Early Bird Offer, wherein if you book tickets before the 31st of July,enables you to pay ?4,37,500 per couple instead of ?6,12,500, for a Deluxe Cabin.For the uninitiated, Deccan Odyssey comprises of 21 royal coaches, 12 of which contain palatial guestcabins equipped with a wide spectrum of modern amenities. It also has a conference/entertainment car,two dining cars, two generator cars with a store for luggage, two staff cars, a spa car and a bar car.

The trains Ayush spa is equipped with masseurs trained in ancient Indian massage techniques. One ofthe two restaurants, Waavar, presents local specialties of the state the train is travelling through, while theother, Utsav, specialises in various cuisines. Deccan Odysseys unique features and amenities includeWi-Fi connectivity, a gym, a beauty salon, paramedics, a bar, and cell phones and LCD TVs in every cabin.

Choose from one of the many interesting itineraries such as Maharashtra Splendour that connectsMumbai with historical destinations such as Ajanta, Kohlapur and Aurangabad and Hidden Treasures ofGujarat that has one visiting Sasan Gir, known for the Asiatic Lion, Little Rann of Kutch, known for its saltflats, and the Sun Temple of Modhera. For more information, visit thedeccanodyssey.com. For bookingsemailtrains@deccanodyssey.in

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Ponnani: Where the Nila Goes https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/ponnani1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/ponnani-nila-goes/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/ponnani-nila-goes/ 2017-07-17T11:54:04+05:30 article The beautiful coastal town of Ponnani runs to its own slow time Life in Ponnani runs at a pace unfettered by timetables and deadlines, reflected in the somewhat impersonal patience of the boatmen who ferry passengers across the water, and the fishermen who submit to the rhythm of the water itself, darning their long blue nets while their catch dries in the sun. Large boats, named Zainuddin and Misriya, are slowly pulled apart and put back together again, while others sail smoothly across the surface of the gleaming blue waters that form the confluence of two rivers and the Arabian Sea in the ancient port of Ponnani. Seagulls ride the waves with the boats, and fish occasionally leap out of the water, escaping certain death at the beaks of watchful birds sometimes by a mere whisker.

A 15-minute boat ride will bring you to Padinjarekkara Beach, where passengers wishing to get to the other side of the river gather under coconut trees. From here, down a narrow road that never seems to end, there is a small temple, a million legends drifting in the river next to it. In the kovilakam, that is all but falling apart, is a green pond filled with lotus flowers, hiding behind a dissipating roof. Time has stood still here, clearly. The boat ride that brings visitors to this place, costs only a few rupees but offers the gift of time. While tourists and traders rush around bound by their agendas, life in Ponnani itself has a sense of luxurious disconnection from time, a near nonchalance reflected in the unaffected durability of the large ferries, which are older and seem almost wise in their slowness, when compared with the speedboats and water scooters that await holiday-makers. The floating coffee shop in the midst of this peacefulness embodies this spirit, offering joy and languid refreshment at a small price.

Ponnani, and indeed most of Malappuram, is in many ways reassuringly committed to not changing, to a way of life that some would describe as dated or conservative. In this sense, it is quite unlike the rest of Kerala, sheathed in the comfort of Gulf money and duty-free shops, strangely able to connect with the culture and cuisine of a distant Arabic land. While its neighbours have opened hearts and hearths to tourists who come looking for Ayurvedic massages and backwaters, Malappuram continues to remain somewhat enigmatic, its distinctive mosques shrouded in mystery, its temples cloaked in fables. There are no tour guides to deconstruct the colourful frescoes in temples, no houseboats to ruffle the deep-green backwaters. The only promise is that of discovery.

ORIENTATION

The main attractions around Ponnani are spread all over the west Malappuram region. Vistors will need to hire a taxi, preferable if one intends to cover many places in one day, or take a private bus to get from one place to another.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Malappuram has a lot to offer, particularly for heritage lovers, though many of the monuments, including the mosques with their unique architectural styles, are disintegrating due to age and neglect. Malappuram is also not particularly used to tourists, and it is advisable to tread carefully and respect the many restrictions put in place in the region. Most temples only allow men wearing mundus and women wearing saris within their premises; trousers, shirts, skirts and even salwar kameez are not permitted. Non-Hindus are not allowed in most temples and women are not permitted within mosques.

Padinjarekkara Beach, Ponnani

The beach is located where the Bharatapuzha meets the Arabian Sea. A privately owned boating service has two speedboats, a water scooter and a floating coffee shop comprising two boats tethered together. The beach is more famous for bird-watching, as migratory birds are often spotted here. Located about 5km from Chamravattom, it can also be accessed by sea if one is coming via the Ponnani-Chavakkad Road.

The Blue Yonder, a tourism-promotion company that runs the Riverside Retreat at Kuttipuram, is active in weaning locals away from sandmining, which has done irreparable damage to the Bharatapuzha. They organise rafting trips on the Thoothapuzha tributary of the Bharatapuzha, and provide facilities for bathing at Vakkad Beach near Tirur.

Tel Bengaluru Office080-41152218, Cell 09886053286 W theblueyonder.com

Navamukundan Temple, Thirunavaya

Sometimes refered to as the Kashi of the South, this allegedly 6000-year-old temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Located on the Tirur-Kuttipuram Road, on the banks of the Bharatapuzha, this temple stands witness to the last rites being performed as the river placidly flows past the steps. The beauty of the shrine lies not only in its scenic natural setting, but also in the exquisite sculptures carved around the sreekovil. Magnificiently set against the wall on the top row, just below the sloping roof, are the 10 avatars of Lord Vishnu. Just below these are sculptures narrating the tale of how Lord Shiva, in his kirata avatar, as a tribal, blessed Arjuna with the powerful weapon, the Pashupati Astra.

Step outside and you will see a structure to the left of the gate, marking the spot where the Zamorin kings would sit and watch Mamankam, a cultural event held once every 12 years on the banks of the Bharatapuzha. All the rulers under the Zamorins participated in the event, which started off as a trade fair in the port of Ponnani.

The tale is filled with pathos when told in Malappuram, as the Valluvanad king, who once ruled over the region, was charged with the right to conduct the Mamankam before a Zamorin king wrested the rights from him. The battle between them never really ended. To prove his ground, the Zamorin would stand in a place called the Nilapadu Thara, surrounded by his soldiers, and the Valluvanad king would send his soldiers, the Chaver Pada, to kill them.

The soldiers were always unsuccessful. The locals now tell a gruesome story of how the Zamorin had the bodies of the soldiers thrown into a well; if they piled up to the top, he would have an elephant shove them in. The well, named Mani Kinar, is located in the premises of the CSI Hospital at Kodakkal, on the Tirur-Kuttipuram Road. Only a slab of stone, covered with weeds, is left of the Nilapadu Thara, located within an abandoned, privately owned tile factory.

Temple Timings 5:0011:00am & 5:007:00pm Holy Days The Amavasya days of the Kumbham (FebruaryMarch), Karkidakam (JulyAugust) and Thulam (October November) months Tel 0494-2603747 Cell 09446631453 W thirunavayatemple.org/

Keraladeeshapuram Temple, Tanur

The coastal town of Tanur is famous as the place St. Francis Xaviers visited in 1546; the Apostle of the East who lies entombed in the Basilica of Bom Jesu in Old Goa. The Keraladeshapuram temple stands at the end of a long narrow road, notable for its red tiles. It was once owned by the local Vettathu Dynasty. The temple is rumoured to be located on the line that can split Kerala into two equal parts.

The temple has a neglected air; its murals have disappeared under a coat of paint and the ancient idol of Krishna was destroyed by Tipu Sultans army. Efforts are being made to restore it to its past glory.

Location 2km to Janata Hospital near Moolakkal Junction Timings 5.0010.30am, 5.007.00pm Main Festival Talappoli in December

Thunchan Smarakam Memorial, Tirur

Dedicated to the legendary 16th century Malayalam poet Thunchathu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan, this memorial is always buzzing with students, who can be seen reading or studying in the serene surroundings. In some ways this is more of a memorial to the poet, for it was under a nux vomica tree here that he taught his own students. It is believed that as a result of this the leaves of this particular tree are not bitter, as is the norm. During the early months of the year, the memorial comes alive with cultural events such as seminars and poetry readings, during the annual Thunchan Festival.

Location Kuttipuram Road, 2km from Tirur Railway Station Timings 8.30am6.30pm; Annual Events Vidyarambam (initiation into education) Ceremonies in October, on Vijayadashami Day, Thunchan Festival in January or February Tel 0494-2422213/ 9666 Email thunchanmemorial@gmail.com, info@thunchanmemorial.com W thunchanmemorial.com

Betel Mania

The legacy of betel traders, nearly 100 years old, is a fast-disappearing tradition. Yellowing ledgers now lie half-open in their shops, some of which have been so for almost a century, as trade in betel leaves, more commonly known as the Lanka paan, suffers. The betel leaves that are grown in Tirur are distributed by 30 or so betel merchants. Earlier, they were largely exported to Lahore and Karachi in Pakistan, where they are extremely popular.

The stacks sent to Pakistan are the best and most expensive; farmers are paid ?20 for 100 high quality betel leaves. When diplomacy prevails, the betel merchants and farmers in Tirur rejoice; but every time there is an escalation in conflict between India and Pakistan, the fortunes of the betel traders dip sharply.

These days, they are facing other problems as well, as there are no direct bookings from Tirur to the north, and stacks are sent instead to Delhi and Mumbai, from where they are routed to Pakistan. Tradition here survives sometimes only by force of will. The Lanka paan continues to add a distinctly Indian flavour to the galis of Pakistan, at least as of now.

Garuda Temple, Triprangode

The Garuda Temple at Triprangode is believed to be the only temple in India dedicated to Garuda, Lord Vishnus faithful carrier. This quiet, small place of worship makes for a pretty picture. It also houses a rare shrine where Lord Vishnu is worshipped in his koorma avatar as a tortoise. Legend has it that Lord Vishnu sent Garuda here after a saint prayed to him from the spot. The Garuda shrine is easily recognisable because of the carvings of golden snakes around it. Pilgrims usually stop here en route to Sabarimala.

Location Just off Chamravattom Road Timings Weekdays 5.00 10.00am, 5.006.00pm, Sundays 5.0010.30am, 4.306.00pm Main Festival Shivaratri

Sastha Temple, Chamravattom

Few temples can compete with the beauty of this Ayyappa temple at Chamravattom, behind which the Bharatapuzha river flows like a fine piece of silk, its white sands making for a perfect and exquisite border. The temple, which lies beyond vast stretches of paddy fields, is believed to have been built by the legendary sculptor Perunthachan. The idol of Lord Ayyappa has been placed at the same level as the river, well below the sanctum sanctorum. In the monsoon, the temple and its surroundings are flooded; this is considered to be an auspicious time for arattu, or the bathing of the idol. Pilgrims heading for Sabarimala stop here as well.

Location Just off Chamravattom Road, 15km west of Tirur Timings 5.0011.00am & 5.007.00pm

Kadampuzha Bhagavathi Temple

Quite unlike the Sastha Temple in Chamravattom, the Kadampuzha Bhagvathi Temple has no glorious idol, no festival, nor even a river that the suffix puzha warrants. Nonetheless, Goddess Durga is worshipped here in three forms, and is considered to be so powerful that thousands of pilgrims flock here everyday, to seek blessings from the deity here.

The sanctum sanctorum is located beneath a flight of stairs, housing a small idol covered with flowers. The temple authorities also run a small guesthouse next to the temple. It has 18 rooms and a very affordable dormitory.

On the day of Karthika in the Malayalam month of Vrischikam (NovemberDecember), it is believed that the temple authorities prepare food for almost 10,000 people.

Location On the road to Kottakal, 2km east of Vettichira Timings 4.30am12.30pm, 3.30 7.00pm Main Festival Karthika Day, Vrischikam (NovemberDecember) Telefax 0494-2615790

TIP Non-Hindus are permitted within the premises only up to the tank. Men must be bare-chested and wear a mundu, women must wear a sari or salwar kameez

Pazhayangadi Mosque, Kondotty

This mosque has a lovely white dome, is decorated with delicate filigree work and framed by coconut trees in the distance. It is unique in Kerala because it embodies facets of Mughal architecture, and dates back to the 18th century. The Valia Nercha here is an immensely popular festival, and draws huge crowds.

Location 5km from Karipur Airport on NH213 Timings 8.00am5.30pm

TIP Only Muslims may visit

WHERE TO STAY

There are very few good stay options in this region. Malappuram as this part of Kerala is still relatively new to the tourism business. However, there are two excellent resorts in the region.

The NC Gardens and Beach Resort (Tel: 0494-2471480-82, Cell: 09961471480; Tariff:?3,3754,750), located at Ariyallur, Vallikunnu, is the closest Malappuram has to a beach resort. It is right on Vallikunnu Beach, which is just south of Karipur Airport, and has cosy cottages, a multi-cuisine restaurant, and a travel desk as well.

KTDCs Tamarind Easy Hotel (Tel: 0483-2717200, Cell: 094000 08669/ 70; Tariff: ?1,4002,000) on TB Road in Kondotty is another good place to stay in this region. They have 10 rooms and a restaurant.

Located at Kottapadi on Calicut Road, is Grace Residency (Tel: 04832736201-02, Cell: 09895342236; Tariff: ?5401,350) is a decent budget option with 29 rooms and a restaurant attached.

In Ponnani, Rouba Residency (Tel: 2665554-55, Cell: 09446523255; Tariff:?1,2503,500) on CV Junction is the only decent place to stay. It offers a multi-cuisine restaurant, coffee shop, curio shop and Internet. There is a travel desk too.

WHERE TO EAT

The traditional Malabar Muslim cuisine of Malappuram is colourful and flavourful. Pathiri, an appamlike delicacy made of rice powder, is quite popular and usually eaten along with chicken curry.

Parotta, naichoru (ghee rice), meen curry, beef fry and kallumakaya (mussels) remain favourites as well, while payam pori (banana fritters) is a common and delicious snack. There are several small eating joints and cafes here. Albaik, in the Central Plaza Building on Malappuram Road, Tirur, is popular for its Arabian delicacies, such as banana muthabak (spring roll), as well as Keralite cuisine. Keralite dishes are available at NC Garden Resort as well.

FAST FACTS

When to go November to February, after the monsoons, when the weather is somewhat cooler

Tourist Office

District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC), Uphill, Malappuram, Tel: 0483-2731504
W malappuramtourism.org, STD code 0494

GETTING THERE

District Malappuram

Location Ponnani, one of the earliest ports in Kerala, lies at the confluence of the Bharatapuzha and Tirurpuzha rivers and the Arabian Sea, on the southern Malabar Coast in southwest Malappuram

Distance 91km SE of Kozhikode

Route from Kozhikode NH17 to Edapal via Feroke, Tirurangadi, Perumanna, Athavanad and Kuttipuram; state road to Ponnani

Air Nearest Airport: Kozhikodes Karipur Airport (65km/ 1.5hrs). Taxis to Ponnani cost about ?2,5003,000

Rail Nearest Railhead: Kuttipuram station is served by most trains that stop at Kozikode, which is also a convenient railhead. Taxi upto Ponnani costs about?800

Road Ponnani is about 17km off NH17. To get here, visitors must drive south from Kozhikode, till Edapal via Feroke, Tirurangadi and Kuttipuram. Then, turn right towards the coast and Ponnani

Bus Ponnanis KSRTC Bus Stand (Tel: 0494-2666396) on NH17 has regular services from Kozhikode, Palakkad, Thrissur and Ernakulam. Private buses leave for Kuttipuram and Valikunnu every 5min, while KSRTC buses only leave once in the morning and in the evening

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Uttarakhand: Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/NANDHAUR-WLS1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/uttarakhand-nandhaur-wildlife-sanctuary/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/uttarakhand-nandhaur-wildlife-sanctuary/ 2017-07-17T11:43:53+05:30 article India's youngest wildlife sanctuary is a naturalist's paradise Plain and mountainous, or wet and dry, patches of dense forests or miles of rugged terrain with no vegetation, the Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary is a mosaic of various landscapes. Declared a sanctuary in the year 2012, Nandhaur opened to wildlife tourism in November 2015. The countrys youngest sanctuary so far, it stretches over an area of 270sq km, and falls between Haldwani and Champavat forest divisions. It is home to an abundant variety of wildlife and avifauna. Its recent inclusion in Indias protected areas suggests that it is still relatively undiscovered, and is, therefore, a perfect destination for true naturalists who are looking for something more than the done-to-death touristy sanctuaries.

ORIENTATION

Currently, there is only one gate Chor Galiya open for entrance and exit to the sanctuary. Chor Galiya is 32km from Haldwani, the city closest to Nandhaur sanctuary. You will require a permit from the SDO, Forest Division at Haldwani itself. Once you reach Chor Galiya from Haldwani, take a left and drive for about 1km to reach the gate, where you can pay the entry fees.

As of now, there are no guides available, but if you ask politely, a forest guard may come along with you and offer useful spotting tips.

Tip The rocky, bumpy terrain requires a sturdy jeep or any other SUV for travel. Vehicles can be hired from Haldwani

Entry ?250 per vehicle; ?100 per person Timings 8.00amnoon

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Nandhaur Forest Rest House

A graceful building from the Colonial period, the rest house dates back to 1876. This is the first thing you will come across as you enter the sanctuary. Set in lush grounds with a gravel path leading up to the sprawling verandah, you can enjoy a cup of tea here before setting off to the forests interiors. A caretaker is available for help.

Wildlife Spotting

Reach the sanctuary early in the morning to make the most of your day. There are several routes you can take. These include the way to the Suryabeni Temple, Machchli Van and Jaulasal.

All the paths take you through thickly wooded, predominantly sal forests. The perennial Nandhaur river flows through the sanctuary. It is rare that you will come across other visitors, so you will have the chance of exploring a pristine wilderness, with only animal calls and birdsong for noise.

As the forest guards here say, this place is not for people who enjoy planned tiger shows, expect to see a big cat lurking wherever they look, or those who expect unbridled luxury in the middle of the forest, wanting to be waited on hand and foot at a 5-star safari tent, with wildlife being incidental to the experience. But this destination is for those who want quietude, the thrill of spotting animals in their natural habitat, and the feeling of being one with nature.

Nandhaur is home to tiger, wild elephant, leopard, jungle cat, small Indian civet, jackal, flying foxes and sloth bears, as well as over 200 species of birds, including the rare great pied hornbill, which you might see if you are extremely lucky. More easily spotted are nilgai, deer, sambar and wild boar. Birdwatchers can expect to see grey and red jungle fowls, partridges, brahminy ducks, darters, rosy pelicans, pin tails, storks, the Great Indian horned owl, mallards and herons.

Water Distribution System

Those with an engineering bent of mind must visit the 19th-century water distribution system on the Nandhaur river. Set underground, along the riverbank, are stone channels; if the water rose to a certain level, instead of flooding the riverbank, it would flow into these channels for 45km.

At the end of one channel, there was even a contraption for grinding wheat, which would work with the force of the water! With time, the level of the river decreased. Today, even during the rains, the water does not rise enough to flow into the channels. The system is, therefore, no longer in use, but it is worth a look.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

There are three forest rest houses within the sanctuary. Nandhaur Forest Rest House (Tariff: ?1,250) is the most comfortable option. It has three suites Mahaseer, Hornbill and Nandhaur. Tents are available on demand, and there are dormitories under construction. Note that the kitchen has to stock up in advance, so inform them in advance if you plan to eat here. Jaulasal FRH (Tariff: Rs.1,250), built in 1923, offers two suites, as does Amwlakheda FRH (Tariff: ?1,250), which dates to 1887. Both serve meals if given advance notice. Book in advance with the Haldwani Forest Division. Those who cannot give up on creature comforts can opt to stay in Haldwani, which has a wide range of hotels. It is possible to visit the sanc-tuary as a daytrip from here.

Blue Saphire Clarks Inn (Tel: 05946-235201-03, Cell: 08476018881/ 19991; Tariff: ?3,5009,000) is a comfortable choice, offering facilities including a restaurant, swimming pool and Wi-Fi. GenX Devashish 1589 (Tel: 224466, 224566; Tariff: ?4,40010,000), located opposite Judges Court on Nainital Road, is also a good base. Hotel Nagpal Towers (Tel: 252391/ 95; Tariff ?7502,450), is a budget choice with basic facilities, as is Hotel President (Tel: 250365, 254219; Tariff: ?8001,550). Lemon Park Hotel & Spa, a chain hotel (Tel: 266305-06; Tariff ?2,6503,700) on Nainital Road, has efficient service.

GETTING THERE

State Uttarakhand

Location In Nainital District, part of Terai Arc Landscape, bound by River Gola in the west and River Sarda in the east

Distance 25km N of Haldwani, 270km NE of Delhi

Route from Delhi Take NH24 to Rampur via Hapur bypass; to Rampur via Gajraula,Joya and Moradabad bypass. From Rampur railway station, turn left onto NH87 to Haldwani via Rudrapur and Tanda More

Air Nearest airport: Pantnagar (48km/ 75mins). Air India operates one flight four times a week from Delhi to Pantnagar. Taxi charges ?4,0005,000

Rail Nearest railhead: Haldwani (32km/ 40mins). Taxi as above

Road From Delhi, follow NH24 to Rampur via Hapur bypass, Gajraula, Joya and Moradabad bypass. At Rampur railway station, turn left onto NH87 to Haldwani via Rudrapur and Tanda Modh. Then to Chor Galiya via Golapar

Bus Uttarakhand Roadways (Tel: 011-22141611) buses leave every 30 minutes between 6.00am and midnight from ISBT Anand Vihar to Haldwani

FAST FACTS

When to go The sanctuary is open from 16 October to 14 June every year, though winter months are the most comfortable. Nights are chilly though

Tourist/ Wildlife offices

Divisonal Forest Office

Haldwani Forest Division

Tikonia Campus, Haldwani

Tel: 05946-220002

Nandhaur WLS SDO

Cell: 09411076337

Range Officer

Cell: 9458128392, 9412130041

103, Indraprakash Building

21, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi

Tel: 011-23712246, 41519366

W kmvn.gov.in

STD code 05946

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Maharashtra: Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Taboba1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/maharashtra-tadoba-andhari-tiger-reserve/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/maharashtra-tadoba-andhari-tiger-reserve/ 2017-07-17T11:37:11+05:30 article Maharashtra's oldest and largest national park boasts of a wide variety of wildlife A big black shape loomed in the middle of the road as I was exiting the park one night. It wasnt moving out of the way, so I braked. By the time I came to a stop, I realised I was sitting 2ft away from a wild, fully grown black bear, the red fruity marks of its last meal still fresh and wet upon his muzzle, and so close that I could have easily reached out and patted it dry through my open window. I do not know which of us was more surprised.

The Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve offers plenty of opportunities for such close encounters with the creatures of the wild, and several other interesting sights as well. The imposing stone pillars that we saw every day on our way from the MTDC guesthouse at Moharli into Tadoba, and the structures, for instance, on either side of a long road. These looked as though they were conjectured to either be antique lamp posts or some sort of communication device for the Gond king of Chandrapur, as he made his royal way through the forest to Nagpur.

As it happens, the king of Chandrapur was relieved of his royal rights by the Bhonsles of Nagpur in the mid-18th century, but these pillars still remain as an intriguing testament to the majesty of the tribal kings of this area.

Its a lush forested area, with a variety of tree species. I was most taken with the oddly beautiful and aptly named ghost trees with their white branches. The mahua is everywhere, with its distinctive smell if you ask around in Moharli, you could probably lay your hands on a bottle of the mahuas best-loved by-product, the eponymous liquor. Scattered throughout, we saw lovely kusums and flowering silk cottons, which bloom from late winter to spring. Especially around the waterhole at Panchadhara there are Arjuns, for those of you who enjoy trees with their own stories.

The waterholes dotted around the park are a beacon for animals, especially in high summer. Even in January, near the Pandharpauni waterhole (about 5km north of Tadoba Lake) in the evening, we saw deer and boar, till our eyes bubbled, placidly eating their fill. Another afternoon, we surprised a bear by a waterhole, and he lurked till we left, because the poor thing hadnt had his drink.

One memorable morning, I was out at first light, and coming around a narrow lane through the bamboo, happened upon a gaur in the middle of the road. Looking to the left, we saw two young gaur, and off to the right, a nursing mother and her young, an almost incredibly cute thing with huge ears that in no way foreshadow the colossal adulthood that will soon descend upon its owner. It was quite something to be in the middle of a family of these huge but elegant animals, the closely packed bamboo on all sides of the car breaking the early morning light as it played upon the animals. And then, as suddenly as we had come upon them, they were gone.

We came upon a huge solitary male in the evening, chomping quietly by the side of the road. Myguide whispered urgently in my ear that adult males, if on their own, have been known to charge.This one was in no mood to crumple my car, and quietly consented to being photographed.

Yes, thats right, my car. The park authorities allow you to take your own vehicle inside the park, provided it is a four-wheeler. I saw a Maruti 800 gleefully puttering about inside, and the driver said he had driven all the way from Nagpur in that same car, his family cheerfully crammed inside, many times.

Tadoba is a magical place. Those who bring their sense of wonder and adventure, and are prepared to peer into the undergrowth, will see things theyve never seen before. The sheer profusion of the animals, the close quarters viewing, the abundant beauty of the reserve itself, all come together to make Tadoba a special experience. And the best part is that it is so accessible, and yet so remote from the world that surrounds it.

ABOUT TADOBA ANDHARI TR

The Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is almost in the centre of India. Which is nice, since practically everyone can get to it. It actually started life as the Tadoba National Park in 1955. The Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary, which is contiguous with it, was notified in 1986, bringing the size of the park to a very respectable 625sq km. The whole entity was notified as a Tiger Reserve in 1995, and hasnt looked back since.

Being a notified Tiger Reserve and hence part of Project Tiger, this gem of a wildlife preserve is much more than just a National Park. What that means to you and me is that the forests are better protected and guarded, the animal sightings are at closer quarters and of a high and frequent grade, the accommodation facilities are very good indeed, and, to top it all, you have a very good chance of seeing the beast himself, the tiger.

Tadoba is so called because there is a temple by the Tadoba Lake, dedicated to a local Gond eminence called Taru, who apparently died while fighting a tiger. The villages of the area there are still six villages inside the reserve, awaiting rehabilitation outside the reserve, and numerous villages surrounding it are predominantly tribal, with a sprinkling of other groups.

Scientifically speaking, Tadoba is a southern tropical dry deciduous forest of the Deccan Peninsula, and what you see around you is primarily teak forests along with bamboo thickets, with a significant presence of other large indigenous trees such as mahua, ain, dhawda, tendu and jamun. This particular reserve is interesting because there doesnt seem to be a core forest that you arent allowed into; indeed, the whole reserve, not being very hilly, is remarkably well served by roads. The forest guards close off these roads when they think that the situation calls for it; but the forest itself is in very good shape, barring some degraded patches on the western and northwestern peripheries, and the forest department hasnt seen the need to close off big chunks off it.

This park is very well managed and has been for years, and the visitor benefits from the expertise of the men that look after it. The park is safe for the animals; their habitats being protected, they dont feel threatened. This also adds to the enjoyment of tourists, because you dont need to be part of a wildlife film-crew with a Discovery Channel budget and four weeks to spare to get the flavour of Tadoba. Quite simply, the animals are everywhere.

There are chital herds and the sound of the young bucks locking antlers with each other is ubiquitous in the mating season. There are shy barking deer (muntjac) and sambar and chousingha and wild boar galore. There are bears, huge beasts that are generally elusive but that you can spot by the waterholes. The huge gaur Indian bison is here as well. Monkeys of various types roam around in hordes. And there is, of course, the tiger.

Busy Chandrapur nearby is full of the money that sitting on an apparently inexhaustible vein of coal brings. Western Coalfields Limited is a big presence on the very road from Chandrapur to Tadoba, as is the huge MSEB Thermal Power Plant that supplies power to the Western Grid. There are cement factories around the area and, of course, the huge BILT paper mill at Ballarpur and even an ordinance factory in Bhadravati. These big industries share an uneasy relationship with the pristine park they so closely adjoin, but the good news is that the notification of Tadoba as an eco-sensitive zone is in the works, and when it comes through, nobody will be able to do anything worth the name within 10km of its periphery. Tadoba may be made of coal, but if the government does the right thing, the reserve will remain the way it is.

ORIENTATION

The Tadoba Reserve covers the hilly area known as the Chimur Hills. The Andhari Sanctuary, stretching over the Moharli and Kolsa ranges towards the south of the park, is less hilly, and derives its name from the river flowing through it

Tadoba Lake, practically at the centre of the Tadoba Reserve, is a crucial perennial water source for the region. The reserve is peppered with many other lakes, and has large meadows and the occasional shrub land punctuating the thick tracts of forests.

While the Tadoba area of the reserve is serviced by two gates, Navegaon to the north and Moharli to the south, the Kolsa part of the reserve to the east can also be accessed by two gates, at Pangadi and Zari. The Khutwanda Gate, where the Tiger Trails Resort is located, is the entry point for visitors approaching the reserve via Shegaon and Mudholi, instead of Chandrapur. This route has another access into Tadoba via the Katejhari Gate, also on the western side, 10km away from Khutwanda Gate. If you dont have a car, taxis can take you to the MTDC resort in Moharli (20km away) and the FRHs inside the reserve (45km).

The Navegaon entrance is superficially closer to Nagpur, on the Umred-Chimur-Khadsingi route. The road to the Navegaon Gate from Khadsingi is terrible, and there is a rule that you must exit the park from the same gate that you enter from. So, unless youre a day-tripper or have reservations at the FRHs within the park, it doesnt make sense to enter from here, since you cant drive through the park to the MTDC at Moharli.

We advise you to go around to Chandrapur and enter from Moharli. It also places you closer to the quietude of Kolsa, on the far end of the park. Its now worth taking the shortcut that runs from the Chimur-Warora Road through to Moharli, where you turn off at Shegaon and go past the village of Mudholi, on the route that has been fully tarred recently. Various motorable pathways leading from around the Tadoba Lake area allow for good wildlife watching in different parts of the reserve. The viewing is especially rewarding near the waterholes, with Pandharpauni and Panchadhara being standouts. Set up at different locations, including Panchadhara and Vasant Bhandara waterholes and those around the lake, make for excellent wildlife spotting.

There are FRHs in Tadoba as well as Kolsa, though the suites at Kolsa are more remote and quieter. The ones at Tadoba are beautifully situated overlooking Tadoba Lake which is swarming with crocodiles, so dont bring your bathing suit and are very comfy indeed. There is also a Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) resort at Moharli, very close to the Moharli Gate, which is extremely serviceable. Even if youre staying at the MTDC resort, book a night at the FRHs; theyre so cheap, it makes sense to use it just as a place to take an afternoon nap till you start driving around again. You can then decide in the evening whether you want to stay inside the park or go back to your room at the MTDC. Also, make sure you call ahead and check that there is no internal animal census on when youre planning to come down; the park is closed on the days of the census.

Guides: The Wildlife Department employs local men from the villages inside and around the park as authorised guides of the park. They are mandatory to take along, but are worth it, being founts of knowledge, and unfailingly courteous and obliging. If you take a night stop inside the reserve, you can keep the same guide all day, and the next day as well.

? Entry ?80 Guide ?40

There is also an excellent interpretation centre near Moharli.

Two and three-wheelers are not permitted in the park. At Tadoba, the forest departments 12-seater mini-bus is available for jungle safaris. However, make sure that you organise your car before you come to the park, since there are no cars hanging about the periphery waiting to be hired. This is a tiger reserve, and there are rules about these things. There is a limit of 50 cars allowed inside the park, so make sure you get in early.

? Entry per vehicle ?7501,000 (for 6 pax) Timings 6.0011.00am and 3.006.00pm Guide fee ?300 Closed Tuesdays

Tip Timings are the key. You must log out from the central area of the reserve, where the FRHs are, by 6.00pm. Also, when inside the park, you cant drive between 11.00am3.00pm

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Tadobas biggest asset is the possibility of frequent and ample wildlife sightings. However, for those looking for extras, theres a shrine near Tadoba Lake and an excellent interpretation centre, amongst other things

Driving Around

The roads inside, largely unpaved, are very manageable by any car with a good suspension. Those whove always fantasised about weaving around in thick forests, complete with creatures of the wild making an appearance every now and then, a-la-Hollywood jungle movies, here is where your fantasy comes true.

The reserve is beautiful at any time of the year, and the sheer numbers of the animals ensure that youll see something that youll find enchanting, even if you dont see the tiger himself. Or herself. Tigresses with cubs are sought-after sightings, and children love them. However, silence within the car is a big plus; animals are shy, and blaring music or crying babies will scare them off. Dont swim in the lake. Crocodiles were introduced here a few decades ago, and have succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of the forest officials. Carry field glasses since there is a huge variety of avifauna.

Temple visit

The temple dedicated to Taru is under a large tree by Tadoba Lake. An annual fair, held here between December and January, attracts crowds of adivasis. Permission from the forest department is needed to visit the temple, since it is on the shore of the lake and hence on animal paths to the water. The forest department is rightly adamant about minimising the discomfort to the animals, especially when they go searching for a drink.

Interpretation Centre

For older children, one of the best Interpretation Centres around is in Moharli, where simple well-planned exhibits bring the science and romance of wildlife alive.

WHERE TO STAY

The best option here is Tiger Trails Jungle Lodges (Nagpur Tel: 0712-6541327, Cell: 09822930703; Tariff: ?10,000 per person, with meals) a country-style guesthouse in the Chichghat Forest Valley. The luxurious Svasara Resort (Res-ervations Cell: 09370008008; Tariff: ?21,500, with meals and two safaris) is near the Kolara Gate. Camp Tiger Serai (Cell: 09881389437; Tariff: ?6,500, with meals) is another beautiful property near Moharli Gate, with good food. The MTDC Tourist Lodge (Cell: 09579314261, 09021480465; Tariff: ?1,4503,200) in Moharli village is situated next to the Irai Lake.

Other good options include Resort Saras (Cell: 09422139353; Tariff: ?4,0004,500) in Moharli and Chava Kolara Resort (Cell: 09021128158, 09860001538; Tariff: ?3,0003,500) in Kolara village.

AROUND THE PARK

Chandrapur (45km)

The town is the seat of an old Gond kingdom. The outer bastions of the walled city still exist, and there is an old Mahakali temple just outside the gates. Otherwise, it is a bustling town. The nearby town of Bhadravati (26km) has an interesting Jain temple complex. Be sure to look at the graphic representation of how the site was found, towards the left of the entrance.

There is also an old fort in the area. The general area of Chandrapur and Gadhchiroli is also the seat of three of Baba Amtes set-ups, including Anandvan in Warora, a short hour or so from Chandrapur on a good road, and his son Prakash Amtes Ashram in Hemalkasa in Gadhchiroli District. Anandvan was started as a leprosy aid centre, but has grown to include deaf-mutes and the blind and other physically challenged people, and the aged, and general relief work for the people of the area. Prakash Amte apparently has a pet tiger or two that he feeds by hand in Hemalkasa, but the forest department is uneasy about all this and it is wise not to ask the forest officers about it. However, to do all of this would be hard if youre not spending the night somewhere in Gadhchiroli.

Chaprala Wildlife Sanctuary (70km)

Located in Gadhchiroli, the Chaprala Wildlife Sanctuary is an interesting day-trip, if you leave in the morning. Be advised that youll get back late, and if youre staying inside the park, you need to be at Moharli Gate at or before 6.00pm.

GETTING THERE

State Maharashtra

Location In Chandrapur District

Distance 110km S of Nagpur

Route from Nagpur Via Mancherial-Chandrapur-Nagpur Road

Air Nearest airport: Nagpur (150km/ 3hrs) has good flight connections to all metros. Hiring a cab for the whole day will cost about ?3,000

Rail Nearest railhead: Chandrapur (45km/ 1hr) but Nagpur (linked to all metros) has better transport options

Road From Nagpur, take NH7 till Jamb and then SH264 to Warora. Turn left to Shegaon (16km), via Aashta, Goshri, to Khutwanda Gate. Or, you can take the district road from Warora to Moharli Gate via Mudholi. From Chandrapur, take the road to Moharli Gate

Bus State buses ply from Chandrapur to Tadoba, thrice a day for ?40

FAST FACTS

When to go NovemberMarch is pleasant but AprilMay (upto 46?C) is the best time for tiger spotting. Park closed during JuneJuly

Wildlife/ Forest Dept Office

Field Director

Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve

Rambag Colony, Mui Road

Chandrapur

Tel: 07172-251414

STD code Chandrapur 07172, Nagpur 0712

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Silent Valley National Park http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/silent-valley-NP3_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/silent-valley-national-park/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/silent-valley-national-park/ 2017-07-16T15:52:12+05:30 article Silent Valley's dense rainforests is home to the largest population of the endangered lion-tailed macaques Adventure-loving British were the first ones to have explored the valley around the Kunthi river in 1847, and coin the name Silent Valley. This was probably because the loud calls of cicadas heard elsewhere in this region are not heard here. It is also said that the name is a corruption of the word Sairandhri, a name that the local villagers had given to the forest. The word is also synonymous with Draupadi, wife of the Pandavas. Another legend traces the name to the scientific name of the lion-tailed macaque silenus (Macaca silenus).

The valley is nestled in the Nilgiri hills, and is therefore, cut off from the rest of the world. As access is difficult, it remains largely untouched by human interference, and the flora and fauna have enjoyed an unbroken period of evolution over a million years.

Spread across an area of 89.52sq km, the Silent Valley National Park is divided into four divisions Nilikkal, Sairandhri, Poochipara and Walakkad. The valley was in the eye of a storm when the Kerala State Electricity Board had decided to build a dam across the Kunthi river in the 1970s, to harness its waters for power supply. Environmentalists, including the late Salim Ali, had waged a battle against its construction, which threatened to destroy the rare animal and plant life found in the valley.

ORIENTATION

The park can be reached from its southern part, through Mukkali. On the Anakatti Road, you will see signboards indicating the way to the park. To your left (while driving to Mukkali from Palakkad) is another road on which the Assistant Wildlife Wardens office, the dormitories and the Inspection Bungalow are located. One has to pay the entry fee at the Wildlife Wardens office here. This is also where you can get a guide, usually a person from the tribal community. It is compulsory to hire a guide before entering the forest.

After getting the permit, head on the same road to reach the watch-tower at Sairandhri (23km). The first 15-odd km of the road passes through coffee plantations and offers excellent opportunities for birdwatching. At the end of the plantations, there is a lovely viewpoint, from where you can gaze at magnificent mountains to your hearts content. Down in the bed of the valley, you will be able to see the settlements of the indigenous Mudukar tribe. The watchtower is located at the end of the road; further up theres an Inspection Bungalow and an Interpretation Centre. A 1.5-km-long walking trail from here leads to a hanging bridge across the Kunthi river; the trail is ideal for a short trek.

Note: Guided trips are run jointly by the forest department and eco-development committees in their vehicles. The four-wheelers ply only up to a point called Sairandhri, which is situated along the buffer zone of the park. No private vehicles are permitted inside the park.

? Timings 8.00am1.00pm Package tour ?1,750 for 5 pax includes entry fee, a vehicle and two guides Camera Still ?25; Video ?300

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Silent Valley is not oriented towards tourism, so there is not much for visitors to do here. A little bit of photography and the occasional sighting of wildlife is all that you can hope for. However, this national park is an ideal destination for those looking to get away from the daily grind of city life and enjoy the tranquil beauty of the forests.

Drive to the watchtower

A drive to the watchtower at Sairandhri is the perfect way to enjoy the beautiful valley. Its also your best chance to spot deer, langurs, Malabar giant squirrels, birds, and if you are lucky, even a leopard or a herd of elephants. Jeeps run by the forest department will take you to the watchtower and back, at Mukkali. A jeep to the watchtower from Mukkali, including waiting at Sairandhri, will cost Rs. 100 per hour for every additional hour.

Stop the vehicle here, get down and walk till a few points of the drive. Besides the dense flora around you, look for pugmarks of big cats, such as tigers and leopards. Be cautious of leeches, which thrive in plenty here. Carry some salt as antidote.

The watchtower at Sairandhri gives the visitor a panoramic view of the beautiful valley below and some of the peaks of the Nilgiris in the far horizon. The Interpretation Centre near the watchtower has information and photographs about the park. Children will, in particular, love the innovative jungle orchestra at the centre, wherein the sound of a particular animal can be reproduced at the press of a button.

Trekking

A short trek of 1.5km from Sairandhri watchtower to Kunthi river is a must-do and needs no special permit. The more adventurous tourists can trek the entire 23-km stretch from Mukkali to Sairandhri, which will take around 5 hours one way. The path is full of leeches and is certainly not for the faint-hearted.

Earlier, there were certain paths chalked out for trekking, such as one along the Kunthi river till Poochapara, which went further up till Walakkad Division and Anginda. However, all trekking is discouraged now.

One is allowed to enter the areas that are otherwise closed for specific research purposes, but even for this, permission has to be sought from the Chief Conservator of Forests in Thiruvananthapuram.

WHERE TO STAY

In Mukkali

The Forest Department Guest House (Tel: 04924-253225, 222056; Tariff: ?1,000), which also doubles up as the Information Centre, at Mukkali is quite basic but comfortable. This option is recommended only if you wish to stay for more than two days to explore the valley. It was closed and undergoing renovation at the time of going to print.

Tip Dont forget to pack a safelight in your luggage as you will need it the most here, especially if you decide to explore the village after dark. There are two dormitories (Tariff: ?150 per person per day) located close by. There are no private resorts or camps near the park

In Palakkad

Palakkad has a few decent hotels, but some of the nicest are outside the town. Sri Chackra International (Tel: 0491-2570901/ 06; Tariff: ?1,6003,700) at Krishna Gardens in Chandranagar, is amongst the best. It has 49 rooms, a pool, bar, restaurant, coffee shop, health club and an Ayurvedic centre. Their Rice Bowl Restaurant serves amazing seafood. They also offer package tours to Palakkads several tourist spots, including the peacock sanc-tuary at Mayiladumpara.

Kanoos East Fort Resort (Tel: 2532507, 2526935/ 47; Tariff: ?560900) at Fort Maidan is a good budget hotel with 23 rooms and a restaurant. Kairali Towers (Tel: 2547174-77; Tariff: ?7002,000) offers 20 rooms, a restaurant and a travel desk on Coimbatore Road, near IG Stadium. Kapilavasthu (Tel: 2515897-98; Tariff: ?7751,800) is near the KSRTC Bus Stand on Shoranur Road, and has 26 rooms, a restaurant and travel desk. Fort Palace Hotel (Tel: 2534621/ 24; Tariff: ?1,5003,750) has 19 rooms on West Fort Road, in the centre of town. Hotel Ambadi (Tel: 2531244, 2532244; Tariff: ?9001,500) with 15 rooms is located opposite the Telephone Exchange on TB Road. It is a well-reputed hotel.

WHERE TO EAT

The Forest Guest House at Mukkali doesnt provide food, so you will have to head to one of the small teashops nearby for your meal. These little shacks serve very simple food. Hotel Priya, at the T-Junction at Mukkali, serves appams and chutney in the morning. Hotel Haritha, also at the T-junction serves biryani for lunch. Hotel Vinaya, right opposite the Wildlife Wardens office, serves homely lunch and dinner on prior notice. Its the right place to have dinner in case you dont want to walk too far from your guest house. Do remember that all of Mukkali, including telephone booths, shuts down by 8.00pm.

Palakkad, on the other hand, has plenty of options. All the hotels in the town have restaurants that serve everything from local to Chinese cuisine. Hotel Ashok Bhavan on GB Road in Sulthanpet has a reputation that is well-deserved.

GETTING THERE

State Kerala

Location In Palakkad District, in the southwest corner of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in the Kundali hills

Distance 65km N of Palakkad town, 468km SW of Bengaluru

Route from Bengaluru NH7 to Salem, NH47 to Palakkad via Coimbatore, NH213 to Mannarkad, state road to Mukkali, the entry point of the park

Air Nearest airport: Peelamedu Airport, Coimbatore (125km/ 2.5hrs), is connected to Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. Taxi to Mukkali via Anakatti/ Agali Road costs ?1012 per km; the road is quite rough

Rail Nearest railhead: Palakkad Junction (65km/ 2hrs) is connected to all major cities by daily trains. Taxi to Mukkali costs ?1012 per km. From Bengaluru, the best bet would be the Bengaluru-Kanyakumari Express till Palakkad Junction. If you are travelling from Mumbai or Delhi on the Konkan Railway, then Shornur Junction (106km/ 2.5hrs) is the closest railhead. From Mumbai, you can take the Netravati Express, and from Delhi, the Trivandrum Rajdhani. Kerala Express runs daily from Delhi and Alleppey Express from Chennai

Road Mukkali is on the Mannarkad-Anakatti-Coimbatore Road. From Palakkad, take NH213 to Mannarkad (20km) and then the Anakatti Road to Mukkali. Palakkad is connected by a good network of overnight buses from Bengaluru, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram. You will get direct buses to Mukkali at the Municipal Bus Stand in Palakkad town

FAST FACTS

When to go The park is open all year round but the best time to visit is just after the monsoons, from September late March. Animal sightings are the best between NovemberJanuary; the lion-tailed macaque is seen more during these months, as this is the time when a tree, called culinia, flowers. The primates are fond of its flowers and fruits. Many orchids also flower in the valley during this season

Go there for Tropical rainforest, lion-tailed macaques, Nilgiri langur

Wildlife/ Forest Dept offices

Wildlife Warden, Silent Valley NP

Mannarkad PO, Palakkad

Tel: 04924-222056

Email: svnp@forest.kerala.gov.in

Assistant Wildlife Warden, Silent Valley National Park

Mukkali PO, Mannarkad

Tel: 253225

Email: silentvalleyrange@gmail.com

STD code 04924

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Eravikulam National Park http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/eravikulam-NP1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/eravikulam-national-park/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/eravikulam-national-park/ 2017-07-16T15:46:31+05:30 article A gorgeous wildlife sanctuary in the lap of the Nilgiris The first time I visited Eravikulam, it seemed like I had entered another world. We were a group of botanists, looking for wild flowers found only on the south Indian hilltops. The terrain was tough and it had started pouring. The path along which I was walking was narrow, muddy and slippery and although I had desperately tried to keep my balance, I had still tumbled down into a pool of water. I was wet from head to toe, plastered with mud, shivering in the cold wind and bleeding from leech bites. Yet, when I looked around me, all I could feel was a heady happiness: there, stretching in every direction, waves of grassy hillocks lying in an unbroken sheet of green. Criss-crossing this grassland were many streams, and the exquisite wild flowers that we finally found, were so many in number that we tip-toed on the grass, fearing we might squish them.

The grasslands of Eravikulam are called climax grasslands because scientists believe that they represent the culmination of evolution having reached the most perfect state of harmony possible. Interspersed in these vast stretches of grass are little pockets of sholas, the Tamil word for forest, which are storehouses of vitality. Diverse life forms, like orchids, flourish on these trees, while the undergrowth shelters many animals. Names such as bear shola and tiger shola indicate the kind of inhabitants these sholas have been known to support, though, of course, bears and tigers are rarely seen now.

This grassland with its hills and rocks is home to the Nilgiri tahr, an endangered mountain goat seen in small numbers in parts of South India. Called varai aadu (hill goat), one can see them in the early hours of the morning or in the evening, feeding on shrubs. We were lucky to see a small herd from a distance, mysteriously appearing and disappearing in the rising mist. The ease and speed with which these goats negotiated the slippery rocks, made me wonder if they were somehow exempt from the laws of gravity!

ABOUT ERAVIKULAM NATIONAL PARK

Once a hunting preserve of British planters and officers, the forest tract of Eravikulam-Rajamallay was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1975. In 1978, it was made a national park. The primary purpose of this park, spread over 97sq km, is to protect the Nilgiri tahr. The undulating grasslands encompass Anamudi, which, at an altitude of 2,690m, is peninsular Indias highest peak. The area receives abundant rainfall in the monsoon season and in winter, especially at night, when the temperatures fall below freezing point.

ORIENTATION

The tourism zone is located at Rajamallay, to the southwest of the park, on the Munnar-Udumalpet Road (SH17). From the main road, a smaller estate road leads you 5km to the Rajamallay checkpost. Entry tickets can be purchased at this checkpost. Thereafter, the visitor can walk along the road, keeping an eye out for the tahr. Most visitors walk for about a kilometre along this road. A little above the Rajamallay checkpost is an Interpretation Centre tourists can walk only a kilometre from here. Tourists are not permitted into the core area. As its the habitat of an endangered animal, tourists are expected to follow certain rules, including maintaining silence.

? Entry Indian Adults ?90; Children ?65; Foreigners ?370 Timings 8.00am4.30pm

THINGS TO DO

Theres very little for the visitor to do here apart from taking a walk in Rajamallay. Its a haven for bird-watchers as well. Do remember that picnicking is discouraged here for fear of pollution.

The Walk

Walking amongst tahrs is quite an experience. These animals used to be baited in the Rajamallay area with salt, a practice that has now been discontinued. Today, tahrs seem to have lost their wildness and are almost tame. They have become habituated to tourist presence.

Birds and Flowers

Even if you dont see the tahr, there are many other features that vie for your attention. You can find plenty of wild flowers, including terrestrial orchids on the hillsides, as you walk along the road. Birdwatchers can keep an eye out for avifauna such as the green imperial pigeon and the emerald dove, various fly-catchers, warblers, wagtails, pipits, babblers and thrushes. The Interpretation Centre is worth a visit. It has a small collection of wildlife exhibits, photos and books on birds and animals; the latter is on sale.

WHERE TO STAY

Munnar has good hotels for all budgets. Since tourists stream into Munnar throughout the year, its advisable to reserve accommodation well in advance, especially on week-ends and holidays.

In Munnar

Perched high above the Kochi Road, 6km from Munnar, Windermere Resort (Tel: 04865-230512, 230978; Tariff: ?8,00018,000) offers char-ming cottages, some planters villas and lots of privacy. It is amongst the best hotels in Munnar.

Located just a kilometre from town, KTDCs Tea County (Tel: 230969, 230460; Tariff: ?7,00012,500) offers a restaurant, beer parlour, a health club and is one of the top-rung resorts in Munnar.

Picturesquely located on a sheer hillside 2km from Munnar, Abad Copper Castle (Tel: 231201/ 02; Tariff: ?4,5005,500) is set away from the bustle of the town. It has a multi-cuisine restaurant and also an Ayurvedic rejuvenation centre.

Blackberry Hills Retreat & Spa (Tel: 232978/ 79; Tariff: ?6,80010,000) has 16 cottages spread across a slope, on Bison Valley Road. Situated beside the Muthirapuzha river in an unobtrusive corner of the town, West Wood Riverside (Tel: 230884/ 86; Tariff: ?3,7505,600) is a fairly new hotel offering well-furnished rooms and a multi-cuisine restaurant.

Edassery Eastend (Tel: 230451; Tariff: ?3,2508,000) has 112 rooms and a multi-cuisine restaurant. Isaacs Residency (Tel: 230501/ 04; Tariff: ?4,0008,000) overlooks the town, just off the road to Top Station. The facilities include a restaurant, beer parlour, coffee shop and Internet.

Flanked by the Muthirapuzha river, the planters High Range Club (Tel: 230253/ 724; Tariff: ?2,7004,300) with its colonial ambience and old-world charm is ensconced in sylvan surroundings. It boasts a 9-hole golf course, tennis courts, an indoor squash court, a gymnasium, a well-stocked library, an impressive collection of shikar trophies and other relics from its hoary past.

The Woodbriar Groups Tallayar Valley Bungalow (Cell: 09442202001/ 02; Tariff: ?7,51314,234, with meals) nestles within the huge Tallayar Tea Plantation on the outskirts of Munnar, in the shadow of the dumb mountain, Oomamalai, to which they take their guests for trekking. It provides efficient serves and scores on the food.

WHERE TO EAT

Munnar is dotted with a host of small eateries. Although these do look rather unimpressive, they dish out wholesome, cheap fare: sizzling vadas, bondas and bhajis, washed down with a cup of strong, aromatic tea. If you would like to dine alfresco, the thattukadas (fast food stalls) on the main road serve piping hot chappatis, puris and dosas.

Rapsy Restaurant and Hotel Hazrath, two popular eateries in the middle of town, serve excellent chicken and mutton biryanis. For purists seeking authentic Keralite food, the SN Lodge is perhaps the best bet. Their non-vegetarian thali includes many dishes, including the pungent mango pickle, served here as an appetizer.

Sarvana Bhavan, known all over the country for its palatable and satisfying vegetarian fare, is located on MG Road at the heart of the bustling town. SN Annexe is also a good option for the vegetarians. Silverspoon has a good buffet spread. Birds Caf offers a great choice of Indian, Chinese, Continental and Kerala cuisine. The High Range Club, with its rather colonial aura, offers typical English food. However, a minimum notice of four hours is required to eat here.

FAST FACTS

When to go Open throughout the year except for a certain period between January and March, when the calving period of the Nilgiri tahr begins. Specific dates of the parks closure can be accessed from W eravikulam.org. Best sightings are from September to October when the climate is pleasant

Wildlife/ Forest Dept Office

Office of the Wildlife Warden

Eravikulam NP, Munnar PO-685612

Tel: 04865-231587

STD code 04865

GETTING THERE

State Kerala

Location In Idukki District; straddling the high ranges of the southern Western Ghats

Distance 155km NE of Kochi, 15km N of Munnar

Route from Kochi NH49 to Munnar; state road to Eravikulam National Park

Air Nearest Airport: Cochin International Airport, Nedumbassery (121km/ 4hrs). Prepaid taxi (Tel: 0484-610115 extn: 2107) to Munnar will cost between ?2,800Rs. 3,084

Rail Nearest Railhead: Ernakulam Junction (127km/ 4hrs)

Road NH49 links Munnar with Kochi (128km) to the west and Madurai (152km) to the east, taking you through picturesque forests Munnar is also connected to Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu via Pollachi and Udumalaipettai. The 60-km-stretch of NH49 to Munnar is quite tortuous and it is advisable to carry medication for motion sickness Bus Munnars Bus Stand (Tel: 04865-230201), located at the edge of the town, is served by KSRTC and private buses from both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The hill station is well connected to Thiruvananthapuram, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Kochi, Thrissur, Kozhikode and more

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Parambikulam Tiger Reserve http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/parambikulam-sanctuary1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/parambikulam-tiger-reserve/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/parambikulam-tiger-reserve/ 2017-07-15T20:00:25+05:30 article Parambikulam Tiger Reserve in Kerala is a beautiful biodiversity hotspot Spread across 285 acres of green and incredibly biodiverse land, the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve is located in Sungam hills, between Nelliyampathy and Anamalai ranges. While the Nelliyampathy hills are not very high and are only visible from the northern part of the reserve, the peaks in Anamalai hills go as high as 1,438m. These include Karimala Gopuram, Vengoli Malai, Puliyarapadam and Pandaravarai.

The Parambikulam Tiger Reserve was established in the 1960s. The forests were heavily exploited for their vast reserves of timber in the early 1900s. However, in the 1950s, the government of the newly independent state of India, Kerala, abolished the tramways that had been set up by the British for easier transport of teak. The government also prohibited tree-cutting. Today, Parambikulam Tiger Reserve is a highly protected forest area.

The main attraction here, for which most tourists make the long trip to the sanctuary, are the big cats leopards and tigers. Not everyone gets a glimpse of these glorious jungle cats, although, on rare occasions, they are known to pop by the small coffee shop near the Parambikulam bus stand to reveal themselves to the loud and colourful human beings. But for those who are spared of this hair-raising, highly adrenaline-pumping experience, other mammals such as bears, elephants, macaques and flying squirrels make the experience of tourists worthwhile.

The sanctuary also attracts over 120 kinds of butterflies, of which 34 are endemic to the region, and 134 species of birds, of which 18 are endangered. Neem, teak and sandalwood trees populate most of the forests. The oldest tree here is the majestic Kannimara Teak, believed to be 450 years old. This abundant and thriving population of flora and fauna in the sanctuary co-exists peacefully with the four indigenous tribes: Kadar, Malasar, Mala Malasar and Muduvar.

ORIENTATION

Parambikulam Tiger Reserve lies south of the Palghat Gap in the Western Ghats, between the hills of Anamalai and Nelliyampathy. Its altitude ranges from 9804,600ft. The sanctuary has no direct roads connecting it with towns in Kerala, and must be accessed from Pollachi in Tamil Nadu. There is a certain amount of grunt work involved in getting here, as tourists will have to negotiate with the forest departments of both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The latter manage the Indira Gandhi National Park at Anamalai (Entry Rs. 15), which has to be navigated to get to Parambikulam. The Annapadi checkpost, 10km from the Anamalai Sanctuary, marks the transition from Tamil Nadu to Kerala, and the beginning of the Parambikulam reserve area.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary

Tourism at the sanctuary is carefully monitored and visitors are only allowed inside with an experienced forest guide. Eco-tourism activities in Parambikulam include night-stays, trekking, camps and nature-education trails. All of these are organised by the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve. Contact the Forest Information or Wildlife Interpretation Centre at Annapadi for guides.

It is a good idea to get there as early as possible, as animals are most active at this time of the day. One should also ideally come in a vehicle, as moving around on foot is difficult inside the park.

It is possible to stay within the sanctuary. The reserve offers a large number of accommodation options, which are basic. However, staying here for a night is quite a wonderful experience; wild animals come out to drink on the far side of the lake in the evenings. As night falls over the forests, a sort of stillness envelops the sanctuary, disturbed only by the cries of owls and the occasional roar of a tiger. On cold winter nights, the sanctuarys many hotels offer the pleasurable experience of sitting by a fire and feasting on simple, but delicious and hot food.

For day trips, however, please remember that the gates close at 6.00pm, after which no vehicles are permitted in or out of the sanctuary. Private tour companies also arrange for trips and tours to the sanctuary.

Entry ?170 Timings 7.00am6.00pm Vehicle fee ?2580 Cell 09442201690 Email infoatecocare@gmail.com, parambikulamsanctuary@gmail.com W parambikulam.org/

Kannimara Teak

One of the oldest and largest teak trees in the world, this 450-year-old tree is 6.57m wide and 48.5m high. This tree is the remnant of the wild teak which grew in the area before the teak plantations came up. The central government had bestowed the Mahavriksha Puraskar upon the Kannimara Teak in 199495, declaring it a healthy, historical and valuable tree. Situated 7km from Thunakkadavu, the route itself offers plenty of sights and sounds. There is a vayal (marshy grassland) on the way, where herbivores such as deer, sambar and gaur can be usually seen in large numbers.

Trekking Trails

The Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, with its hilly terrain, peaks and valleys, offers a large number of trekking trails for adventure seekers. Peaks such as Karimala Gopuram (4,718ft) and Vengoli peak (3,675ft) are favourites of visitors and not very difficult to climb. Treks also afford sightings of highly endangered animals such as the Nilgiri tahr, although it is more likely to spot tahr droppings.

Seven eco-development committees have been set up by the forest department in Parambikulam, to bring the benefits of tourism to the indigenous tribal communities. Visitors must get permission to trek from the Forest Information Centre at Annapadi, and hire a tribal guide; one guide can accompany groups of up to five people, while larger groups will need to hire more guides. Fees range from ?50 ?100 per head based on the difficulty of the trek. Routes can also be selected inside the forest, with overnight stays in machans and watchtowers. Birders will love these treks, as they offer the opportunity to spot up to 268 avian species.

Dams and Reservoirs

The three dams Parambikulam, Thunakkadavu and Peruvaripallam are all located inside the sanctuary on the Parambiar river. Rowboats can be hired for boating at Thunakkadavu and Parambikulam. Mugger crocodiles are often spotted in the water or sunning themselves on the banks.

Boating fee ?100 per hour

WHERE TO STAY

The days activities in Parambikulam come to a standstill by six in the evening, when the chains are drawn across key points on the roads and all traffic is halted. The pathways belong to fireflies and other creatures of the night. This is the time to relax on the lakeshore with steaming cups of hot tea.

The Forest Department Inspection Bungalow (Information Centre at Annapadi Cell: 09442201690/ 91; Tariff: ?900), located at Thunak-kadavu, overlooks the reservoir.

The bungalow has attached bathrooms and hot water is provided on request. A cook is also available.

There are two tree-top huts with attached bathrooms, one each at Thunakkadavu (Tariff: ?3,8505,500 per couple) and Parambikulam (Tariff: ?2,7503,300 per couple). The tree-top huts also overlook the beautiful reservoir.

There is also the Bison Valley Lodge (Tariff: ?200 per person) at Parambikulam, with three double rooms, each with an attached bath.

A special stay option in this area is the Vettikunnu Island Nest Cottages (Tariff: ?8,2508,800) situated on the Parambikulam reservoir, accessible only by boat. The cottages accommodate five people. The tariff includes boat charges and guide fee. Food must be carried from Parambikulam, though you can also cook food at Vettikunnu.

All the above should be reserved in advance via the Information Centre.

Another option is the PWD Inspection Bungalow (Tel: 04253-277223; Tariff: ?300) located at Thunnakadavu. It has five rooms, each of which are well furnished and have attached bathrooms. The cook-cum-caretaker will arrange meals for you, although you can get meals at the several restaurants and canteens located in the vicinity. There is also a watchtower situated near the bungalow for the beautiful views of the forest around.

WHERE TO EAT

Most hotels in Parambikulam have restaurants, canteens or kitchens. At some places, such as the cottages on Vettikunnu island, overlooking the Parambikulam reservoir, tourists have to prepare their own meals. Other than these, there are a few local eateries around the reserve, which offer basic South Indian food such as idli and dosa for breakfast, and spicy fish fry and chicken curry for lunch and dinner. The Honey Comb Restaurant at the Treetop Huts offers excellent fare as well.

GETTING THERE

State Kerala

Location In Palakkad District; within the Western Ghats; contiguous with the Anamalai Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu. To reach Parambikulam, one has to travel to Tamil Nadu first and then enter the sanctuary through the Anamalai Sanctuary

Distance 267km NE of Kochi

Route from Kochi NH47A and NH47 to Palakkad via Aluva, Angamali, Chalakudi, Thrissur, Vadakkancherri and Alathur; state roads to Annapadi checkpost via Sethumadai and Top Slip

Air Nearest Airport: Peelamedu Airport, Coimbatore (119km/ 2.5hrs). Taxis to Parambikulam (Cell: 09976494000) cost between ?2,500?3,700 approximately

Rail Nearest Railhead: Coimbatore Junction is connected to Thiruvananthapuram by the Cape Mumbai, Kochuveli, Kanyakumari, Kerala and Trivandrum Expresses; to Ernakulam by Kochuveli, Sabari, Ernakulam, Kanyakumari, Alleppey Expresses; to Bengaluru by the Lokmanya TT and Bangalore Expresses, to Chennai by Nilgiri, Chennai and Cheran Expresses; to Mumbai by the Cape Mumbai and Lokmanya TT expresses and to Delhi by the Kerala Express

Road From Palakkad, cross the Palghat Gap and drive 47km to Pollachi in Tamil Nadu. Turn right towards the Anamalai Sanctuary entrance gate at Sethumadai checkpost (30km away). Parambikulam is 30km ahead via Top Slip and the Annapadi checkpost Bus Two public transport bus services, run by the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC), run from Pollachi, starting at 6:15am & 3:15pm every day

FAST FACTS

When to go The sanctuary closes during the summer months from MaySeptember because of the danger of forest fires; the forest department declares the dates prior to closing. It is also advisable to avoid coming here during the monsoons

Wildlife offices

Forest Information Centre

Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary Palakkad

Annapadi (HQ),

Thunnakkadavu (PO)

Cell: 09442201690/ 91

Wild Life Warden

Parambikulam Wildlife Division

Anappadi, Palakkad

Tel: 04253-277233, Cell: 09447979102

W parambikulam.org

STD code 04253

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Mollem National Park http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/mollem-NP1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/mollem-national-park-2/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/mollem-national-park-2/ 2017-07-14T14:32:57+05:30 article This Goan national park is a part of a larger wildlife sanctuary and is home to a vast range of wildlife A trip to Mollem National Park brings together relaxation, adventure and stunning natural beauty to submerge yourself in. From jeep safaris to a dip in the cool Dudhsagar waterfall, this national park is a fantastic destination. What is interesting is that about 20 per cent of Goas geographical area (3,702sq km) is notified, and called the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary. The core of the reserve is called Mollem.

Notified in the year 1967, the reserve was first known as the Mollem Game Sanctuary. However, following the institution of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 , the provision for hunting blocks at Mollem was discontinued and the sanctuary was renamed Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary. Later in 1978, an area of 107sq km was demarcated from within the reserve and christened the Mollem National Park in 1978. In 1982, Tambdi Surla and the surrounding villages of Dhargem and Talade were excluded from the park area.

ORIENTATION

The Bhagwan Mahavir Sanctuary and the Mollem National Park together cover an area of 240sq km. The vegetation cover seen here varies from moist deciduous to evergreen forests. Three-fourths of the reserve area lies to the south of NH4A in the sanctuary. A well-connected network of village roads around the periphery makes a road journey to the reserve easy. For those proceeding from within Goa rather than from the Karnataka side, we recommend the route from Ponda to Bolconem via Dharbandora, Sancordem and Satpal. This will allow you to include a visit to the Lord Mahadeva temple at Tambdi Surla, on way to the sanctuary.

There is a 35-km-long dirt track inside the park area. Around 100sq m of this area has been earmarked as the tourist zone; most of this falls in the Mollem Park. The Bhagwan Mahavir Sanctuary has an area of 133sq km. Take the short route to Bhagwan Mahavir if you are already in Goa and then drive to Mollem town, where you have much better and cheaper stay options.

The Nature Education Centre, which doubles up as a Range Office, is close to the Mollem checkpost. The checkpost is the main entry point to the sanctuary and also the place where you get your tickets and vehicle permits. However, people travelling from Tambdi Surla can get their entry tickets at the Bolcornem checkpost and those from Dudhsagar Falls, at the Collem ticket counter. Keep in mind though that the route to Dudhsagar waterfalls closes at 3.30pm; its also closed for vehicular traffic during the monsoons (JuneSeptember).

Within the sanctuary area are an observation tower (just a short distance from the Mollem check-post), the Dudhsagar waterfalls (in the south-east), Sunset Point (off the highway, closer to the Karnataka side) and Devils Canyon, which is close to Collem village. Night excursions can be arranged on special request.

? Entry ?20 Timings 8.30am6.00pm Vehicle Fee Car/ Jeep ?75; Bus/ Tempo ?150 Photography Still ?30; Video ?150

Tip The same ticket is valid for both sanctuaries (for 24hrs). If you visit them on separate days, you need to buy two separate entry tickets

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

You need to be lucky and early to catch a glimpse of creatures such as the bison, chital, sambar, Malayan giant squirrel and wild boar in these sanctuaries. Birds, however, are easier to spot.

Dudhsagar Falls Tour

Ensconced in the Western Ghats, Goas highest and largest waterfalls come down an impressive length of 306m. Train passengers get a good view of the cascade the rail track from Londa snakes down south and passes by the falls before heading north-west in a wide curve to Collem. The packages that are offered by the Dudhsagar Resort include excursions to the waterfalls.

Travellers on their own can take their taxi only up to the Dudhsagar Falls Counter, from where they are compelled to hire a taxi of the Dudhsagar Waterfalls Operators Union, at the steep rate of ?400 per jeep-load of seven passengers, for the short and extremely bumpy ride to the falls. This mafia-like group does not allow any taxi, apart from their own, to approach the falls. If you have your own suitable private vehicle, you are allowed in.

Devils Canyon

An intriguing rock formation, the Devils Canyon consists of a zig-zagging, twisted mass of rock with underground passages, through which the waters of the Dudhsagar river forcefully flow during the monsoons. This sunset point gives you a commanding view of the sunset and moonrise at the same time on full moon evenings.

A mystic point, not mentioned in official brochures, is a hilltop from where you can see the Atli river. Find your way there from the Awademal watchtower in Mollem.

Hiking

There are two nature trails. One is a 2.5-km-long trail from the Tambdi Surla Temple area to a small waterfall and the other is a 5-km-long trek from near the Mollem Park gate to Kachond, where there is the 14th century Mahadeva temple.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

The Dudh Sagar Spa Resort (Tel: 0832-2612319, Cell: 09766334448; Tariff: ?3,5006,000, tents ?4,5007,000) is conveniently located just before the Mollem checkpost on NH4A. It has a restaurant, swimming pool, spa, gym and internet services. Backwoods Camp (Cell: 09822144939; Tariff: Rs. 8,500 per person for 3D/ 2N, including meals and taxes) is located at Matkan, Tambdi Surla. The camp has four rooms and six cottages. The proprietors possess a wealth of knowledge on birding.

Dudhsagar Plantation and Farmstay (Cell: 09765364456; Tariff: ?2,0003,000 per person, with meals) in Karmane village, is set in a tropical palm garden. On offer are a a tour of their plantation, a swim in the river nearby, and delicious home-cooked Goan meals.

The Farm House India (Cell: 09552575481/ 82; Tariff: ?2,5003,000) is a wellness retreat near the Mollem checkpost. It is an ideal place for meditation, walks and a lot of relaxation.

FAST FACTS

When to go NovemberJanuary is the best time for sightings of migratory birds

Go there for Birdwatching

Wildlife/ Forest Dept offices

Range Forest Officer

Wildlife, Mollem

Tel: 0832-2612211

Director (Wildlife and Eco-tourism)

4th Floor

Junta House

Panjim-403001

Tel: 2229701

STD code 0832

GETTING THERE

State Goa

Location At Mollem in Sanguem Taluka, close to the eastern border of Goa and Karnataka, on the forested slopes of the Western Ghats

Distance 58km SE of Panaji

Route from Panaji NH4A to Mollem via Ribander, Old Goa, Banastari, Boma, Mardol, Ponda, Khandepar, Tisk and Dharbandora

Air Nearest airport: Dabolim (55km/ 1.5hrs). Take the Dabolim-Quelossim-Ponda-Tisk-Mollem route to the park. If taking a taxi from here, make sure you insist on this route because its the shortest one. Taxi charges ?3,000

Rail Nearest railhead: Collem (6km from Mollem) Taxi costs ?300400

Road NH4A from Panaji leads to Old Goa via Ribander, Banastari and Ponda. From here, drive 6km northeast to Khandepar, and then to Dharbandora via Tisk along the same highway. From Dharbandora (13km northwest of Mollem), drive towards Goa-Karnataka border on NH4A

Tip Ask for directions as there arent too many landmarks here

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Perinthalmanna: An Antique Land https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/perinthalmanna1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/perinthalmanna-antique-land/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/perinthalmanna-antique-land/ 2017-07-14T14:08:55+05:30 article Once the capital city of the Valluvakonathiri royals, it's now a major trading centre There are many stories that are still very much alive in Malappuram today, where the roads are lined with ungainly bars and bakeries, and where ancient structures are often pulled down to make way for shiny, modern buildings. These tales have survived the ravages of time, even if the structures to which they refer to have not been left untouched or do not exist as they used to be. A large number of these tales can be dug up at Perinthalmanna.

Located around 40 minutes from Malappuram, Perinthalmanna was once the capital city of the Valluvakonathiris. Today it is known mostly as a trading centre. Most of the kovilakams (royal residences) are somewhat dilapidated, some still occupied with members of the royal family. The gardens are overrun with weeds and snakes, and the stables and storehouses are empty. Yet, some remanant of the splendour of an opulent past still remains, mostly untouched, rendering the rustiness in the air inconsequential.

It is difficult to ignore the stark contrast between tradition and modernity omniscient here. Every day, devotees can be seen climbing the hill to reach the Thirumandhamkunnu Temple, fresh flowers in hair, their silk pavadas (skirts) rustling in the wind, to ask for blessings. The road below is filled with the cacophony of blaring cars while the shops lining the temple road thrive.

At the foot of this hill stands a platform, where a signboard in Malayalam tries to rescue the Chaverthara from obscurity with no apparent success. This is the memorial for the Chaver soldiers of the Valluvanad Kingdom; year after year, they sat and prayed here for 41 days before setting off to kill the Zamorin King in missions doomed to failure. They are sometimes remembered as the suicide squad of the Valluvanad Kingdom. For the inquisitive traveller, one who is passionate about digging up myths and legends, Perinthalmanna is a veritable goldmine.

ORIENTATION

Perinthalmannas hotels and markets are at the heart of the town. The most convenient way to visit all these sights is to take a bus or hire a taxi. Nilambur (41km from Perinthalmanna) does not have decent stay options and visitors are advised to not only factor in the driving time but to reserve a full day to visit Nilambur. Also, visitors must keep in mind that the dress code for temples is, mundus for men and saris or salwar kameezes for women.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Much like the rest of Malappuram, Perinthalmanna also reflects the changes due to investing of Gulf money. However, it surprises tourists by consistently honouring and treasuring old, almost forgotten art forms. Even in Nilambur, where old houses are regularly dismantled, the rich past is a recurring motif evident in all sights. Those visitors who are able to meet the royal family are truly taken on a journey through the past, when the tree-filled Valluvanad Kingdom spread all the way to Ooty.

Thirumandhamkunnu Temple, Angadipuram

Thirumandhamkunnu, one of the most beautiful temples near Perinthalmanna, stands atop a hill, affording visitors a truly gorgeous viewofthesurrounding countryside. The origins of the temple can be traced to a legend about Lord Shiva rewarding King Mandhatha of the Surya Dynasty with a Shivalingam that was dear to Goddess Parvati. While returning from Mt. Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva, the King decided to stop at Thirumandhamkunnu (kunnu is hill in Malayalam) due to its scenic surroundings. The Goddess Parvati arrived here, furious, laying claim on the lingam. In the ensuing battle, the Shivalingam was split into two, between the goddess and the king. The goddess was pleased with the kings devotion and allowed him to keep both pieces of the Shivalingam. However, as she could not part with it, she decided to stay here as well.

This legend is depicted in the murals in the temple. Another artistic marvel to be found in the Thirumandamkunnu Temple are the sculptures carved onto the ceiling, portraying scenes from the Ramayana. At the entrance of the temple, below the hill, is a raised platform called the Chaverthara, where the Chaver soldiers prayed before their suicide mission to kill the Zamorins.

Location Angadipuram, 3km from Perinthalmanna, just off NH213 Timings 4.0011.00am & 5.00 7.00pm Main Festival The 11-day Thirumandhamkunnu Pooram in Meenam (MarchApril)

Mankada Kovilakam

Beyond the creaking gates and crumbling padippura (a shelter at the entrance of the residence, a common architectural element in old houses in Kerala) lies the kovilakam, its beauty carefully guarded behind lock and key.

The descendants of the Valluvanad kings, to whom the kovilakam belongs, live in the surrounding houses. The Mankada Kovilakam has a number of unique architectural features, including the splendid teak pillars in the verandah, the beautiful wooden ceilings, and the two courtyards, common in ettukettus (traditional houses).

This architectural style is characteristic of the four kovilakams in Malappuram, at Azhiramnazhi, Mankada, Manjeri and Kadannamanna, possibly because the architects of those days followed vaastu vidya almost religiously. Visitors are advised to remember that the kovikalams in Malappuram are still residences of the royal family; it is thus ideal to seek their permission before taking a look around.

Location Manjeri Road

Kadannamanna Kovilakam

This kovilakam is similar to the one at Mankada, but also distinguished by its unpolished red laterite walls. There is a small temple inside the kovilakam, which also houses ancient vessels and weapons. Additionally, this kovilakam overlooks two temples Vadakkinedath Temple and Thekkinedath Temple. The Vadakkinedath Temple can be accessed from the kovilakam itself, and houses idols of Lord Ayyappa and Lord Krishna. The Thekkinedath Temple, on the other hand, is located down a road to the right of the kovilakam. This temple has a remarkable conical roof, quite difficult to construct.

Location Ahead of Mankada, just off the road

Jamaat Mosque, Malappuram

While the Malappuram town itself has little to offer tourists, it is difficult not to be enthralled by the narrow lane lined with old houses where the 280-year-old Jamaat Mosque is located. Its white walls and blue doors add to the rich atmosphere. The mosques architectural style is consistent with that of a Hindu temple, perhaps because the mosque was built under the supervision of the Hindu Prana Nambi family. It is said that this royal family had usurped some property from the Muslim community once, and soon after became afflicted by an incurable illness. For relief, they were advised to build a mosque; the Jamaat Mosque stands today as a sign of their repentance. Architecturally, it also reflects the intercultural mosaic that is Keralas heritage.

Location Malappuram-Venkara Road

TIP Women are not allowed inside the mosque

Arya Vaidya Sala, Kottakkal

Before five-star hotels and spas spun glossy brochures of Ayurveda, and the word became a symbol for cures that modern medicine cannot promise, treatments were offered at this Arya Vaidya Sala by Vaidyaratnam P.S. Varier (18691944). What started off as a small dispensary in 1902 has grown both in stature and size, to such an extent that the name Kottakkal no longer stands for the town, but for the Arya Vaidya Sala itself

The scent of Ayurvedic oils permeates the premises, spread across several buildings. There are two hospitals, one free and the other non-charitable, which together offer treatments to over 5 lakh people each year only. The costs of these treatments can vary from?40,00060,000 for month-long retreats. Doctors can be consulted here between 9:00am to 12:30pm. It is advisable to make bookings for treatments in advance because of the huge number of people who flock here every day.

Location Tirur-Malappuram Road Tel 0483-2742216-19, 04832742210/572 Email mail@aryavaid yasala.com W aryavaidyasala.com

PSV Natyasangham Kathakali School, Kottakkal

Set up by the same doctor who established the Arya Vaidya Sala, the Natyasangham School is located down the road from the hospital. The late PS Varier was a patron of the arts and this school is one of his most enduring contributions to the promotion and preservation of Keralas culture. The students are usually happy to show you the costumes used for Kathakali performances; occasionally, they even stage performances for tourists. The best time to visit is when classes are held, from July to August.

Location One kilometre from the Vaidya Sala

Venkattathevar Temple, Kottakkal

At least 64 mural paintings are to be found on the walls of the sreekovil of the Venkattathevar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. These murals depict scenes such as saints praying to God and Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati in a forest. Dividing the murals are paintings of birds and flowers, known as pakshi mala (a garland of birds) and poovu mala (garland of flowers). Sculptures on the walls recount the story of Arjuna praying for the pashupati astra.

Location Next to the Kathakali school Timings 5.0010.30am, 4.007.30pm Main Festival Venkattathevar Utsavam in April

Nilambur Kovilakam

An open ground can be seen from the padippura of the now mostly dismantled Nilambur Kovilakam, at the centre of which is the Vettakorumakan Temple. This temple is dedicated to the son that Lord Shiva had in his kirata avatar (as a tribal), a local popular deity. A six-day music festival called the Nilambur Pattu Utsavam is held every January here, when the tribes from all the surrounding hills gather to partake in the festivities. Facing the temple are the only two houses that speak of the past. One now houses the billiards room, while the other, an impressive structure, has an open drawing room lined with pillars. The top floor has a room where the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, is said to have stayed.

Teak Museum, Nilambur

This museum, which claims to be the first teak museum in the world, tackles the unlikely subject of the history and life of teak trees. Apart from displaying the moods of a teak tree an exhibit as charming as its name the museum also showcases fascinating trivia as the age of the oldest teak tree in the world, located in the Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary

Entry Adults ?10; Students?5 Timings 10:00am5:00pm, Closed Mondays

KumbhamHandicrafts Village

This forgotten village, located in a hilly corner of Nilambur, has seen its share of rough times. Not too long ago, the Kumbharan artisans were struggling to make a living out of selling pottery items.

However, many were forced to look for alternatives when their art could not compete in the market. Some took to prostitution, and the village was dubbed a red-light area. However, under the initiative of K.B. Jinan, a social worker who visited the village, they revived their traditional craft form.

Today, terracotta furniture, wall hangings, sculptures, tiles and garden accessories can be found even in five-star hotels.

Location Aruvacode, off Ooty-Kozhikode Road W kumbham.org

Mrithika Studio

Artist Sherif Nilamburs Mrithika Clay Art Studio at Nilambur is also well worth a visit. Sherif sculpts detailed, gigantic clay figures using tools as varied as sea shells and fine bamboo sticks. His sculptures portray scenes from traditional Kerala life, the lives of Malayali women and religious themes.

Location Hospital Hill, Nilambur

SHOPPING

Perinthalmannas duty-free shops are bursting with electronic goods, and have led to a number of local showrooms shutting down. Clothes stores abound, great for purchasing traditional, cream-coloured Kerala saris. Some options are Firdous Bazaar on Ooty Road, Chandam Textiles on CLT Road, Silk Park in Shalimar Building, and Chamayam on Mannarkad Road. For handicrafts, head to the DRDA Shop next to the District Tourism Promotion Council in Uphill, Kozhikode Road.

There are plenty of souvenirs here, from clay elephants and Kathakali masks to Ayurvedic medicines and snake boats. Kottakkal makes its contri-bution to the shopping circuit with an urbane furniture shop called Tip Top Furniture, on the Kottakkal-Malappuram Road.

Flavours of Arabia

In a land where food is always prefixed with the word fiery, the broast chicken is something of a novelty. Lacking as it is in the richness of spices, the promising sizzle of red hot chillies and the reassuring flavour of coconut milk, its cult status in Malappuram is somewhat baffling. The broast chicken is a dish served at nearly all hotels in Malappuram,

Chefs will tell you that the popularity of this singularly Arabian dish is largely due to the Gulf Malayalis. The demand for this culinary import is so immense that most hotels in the region have bought the expensive machines needed for frying the chicken pieces.

Preparing the dish is also quite an elaborate affair. The chicken pieces have to be cut using a special machine, which is also imported. As a result, there are shops that specialise only in cutting chicken for this particular dish. These pieces are marinated in masalas, which can be spiced up on request, for about two hours. The chicken is then dipped in a powder made of maida (white flour), cornflour and garam masala, and fried in the machine. A white sauce is prepared with garlic, potatoes, milk, sunflower oil and eggs, to be served along with the fried chicken. The broast chicken is usually eaten with kubboos, a chapati-like bread from the sands of Arabia.

WHERE TO STAY

KPM Residency (Tel: 04933-227590; Tariff:?8004,000) has Internet, a restaurant that serves everything from Chinese to Punjabi cuisine and the rooms have cable TV.

Hiton Hotel (Tel: 222200/ 33; Tariff:?2,5007,000) on Calicut Road offers good rooms, restaurant, gym and Ayurveda. Blue Mont Residency (Tel: 257100, Cell: 08129505070; Tariff:?7001,350) opposite Thali Temple offers 18 rooms.

Green House (Tel: 270015, Cell: 09447767358; Tariff: ?1,500, with two meals) is a good homestay option with home-cooked Kerala and Moplah meals.

WHERE TO EAT

While the restaurants in Malappuram are not glamourous, visitors will be spoiled for choice due to the repotoire of food that is on offer in this small place.

Perinthalmannas KR Bakery, which has outlets on Mannarkad Road, Kozhikode Road and Ooty Road, has built its reputation on its delicious and highly affordable chicken wings. Also worth sampling are their varathadu chicken (fried chicken) and halwa. This place is a must try for visitors.

Hotel Hitons Hi-Food Restaurant is well-known for its Continental, Chinese, Arabian, mughlai as well as Kerala cuisine. The dishes are delicious and worth trying.

Hotel Presidency Parks restaurant, where pathiris are prepared right before their patrons eyes, is famous for its broast chicken. KPMs restaurant has a similar menu. TPDC Hotel and Garden Restaurant on Kozhikode Road serve decent food as well.

FAST FACTS

When to go Between October and March, before the summer heat and after the monsoon

Tourist Office

District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC), Uphill Malappuram, Tel: 0483-2731504
W malappuramtourism.org/, STD codes Perinthalmanna 04933, Malappuram 0483, Nilambur 04931

GETTING THERE

District Malappuram

Location Perinthalmanna, the most developed town in Malappuram, is near the districts southeast border, next to Palakkad District

Distance 82 km SE of Kozhikode

Route from Kozhikode NH213 to Perinthalmanna via Kondotty, Manjeri and Malappuram

Air Nearest airport: Kozhikodes Karipur Airport (52km/1.5hrs). Pre-paid taxis to Perinthalmanna will cost around ?1,500

Rail Nearest railhead: Kuttipuram (35km/ 1hr) and Shoranur Junction (40km/ 1hr) are both served by most trains that stop at Kozhikode. Taxis from Kuttipuram and Shoranur to Perinthalmanna will costs around?1,300 and?1,400 respectively

Road Perinthalmanna is on NH213, which links Kozhikode to Palakkad (60km away via Mannarkad). Perinthalmanna is 91km from Kozhikode via Kondotty and Malappuram.

Bus Perinthalmannas KSRTC Bus Stand (Tel: 04933-227422, 227342) on NH213 has services to Kozhikode, and Palakkad. Buses leave every 20 min to the Malappuram (Tel: 0483-2736240) and every 60 minutes to the Nilambur (Tel: 04931-223929) KSRTC stands

 

 

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Glamping in Nagaland https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/featured-image-4.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/glamping-in-nagaland/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/glamping-in-nagaland/ 2017-07-14T13:33:57+05:30 article The Ultimate Travelling Camp takes glamping to a whole new level Last December, I found myself under an unblemished cerulean sky in an eastern corner of the country. The air was as crisp as an apple. The breeze carried the exhilarating sound of drumbeats from somewhere in the distance. It could not have been more perfect.

Earlier in the afternoon, my guide Roko had picked me up from Dimapur airport. For the duration of my stay, this handsome Angami youth remained a beaming, watchful presence, unfurling an umbrella here, translating a sentence there. A student of, hold your breath, western classical music, he wasnt a professional guide. His warmth was genuine and he brought a refreshing perspective to our chats. There are many little touches that make a stay with The Ultimate Travelling Camp (TUTC) special. Training and using local talent is just one of them.

After ringing applause for their Ladakh camps, TUTC has been pitching tent in Kohima for a few seasons now. Although they set up camp for only two weeks around the Hornbill Festival, they rent the campsite for the entire year to ensure it stays pristine (and to prevent it from turning into a potato field).

The campsite, in Kigwema village, enjoys a forest setting under the gentle gaze of Nagalands second-highest mountain, Japfu, far from the din of Kohima. The Hornbill Festival is held at the Naga Heritage Village in nearby Kisama.

I turned around and surveyed my kingdom. To say that my quarters were comfortable would be an understatement. Done up in muted safari tones, the spacious, high-ceilinged tent, imported from Kenya, could be knocked down completely and packed into a few trunks after the season. The furniture, made with the finest wood and leather, was fully foldable. This camp really did travel (in fact, it had completed the long journey from Ladakh just a few weeks ago). The bathroom was surprisingly spacious as well, and came with a large wash basin, WC and a running hot and cold shower. I had my own Man Friday, and a mobile phone to summon him with. There were langur motifs everywhere. Im glad TUTC chose such a playful mascot, because camping, above all, is about loosening up a bit and having fun. Its not for nothing that #artofglamping is their official hashtag.

If the blue sky by day was to die for, the night sky was another beast, billowing with stars and galaxies. The daytime nip in the air had turned into something deliciously cold. The staff had set a crackling fire going, around which an interesting cast of characters had congregated. There was the Leica-wielding photographer, Jon Nicholson. There were the vegan British couple for whom the drive from Dimapur to Kohima had been the high adventure of their lives. There was my friend, Shoba Mohan, of RARE. There was Rupert Winchester, the resident blogger (yes, a lovely job like that does exist). Writer Simon Winchesters son, hes a fine writer in his own right. Along with his wife, they played camp hosts, chatting up guests, offering local insights, recommending excursions and generally being lovely and reassuring. I think, like me, they found the change from their home in Cambodia quite salubrious.

An important way in which luxury camping sets itself apart from the dal-chawal variety is through food: elaborate four-course menus in the middle of nowhere are an impressive achievement. At Kohima Camp, you could choose between European, Indian and, occasionally, Naga cuisines at any meal. All, as I discovered, were excellent. A Ladakhi staffer told me about a guest who said everything was perfect, except if only there had been lobster for dinner... Next day, they flew one down from Delhi and served it at dinner time. At TUTC, no whim is too big to be indulged.

On my way back from the dining tent, I found the path lit with lanterns. There was a tiny metal box on the bed, inside which was the tastiest morsel of chocolate. And, ah, the joys of a memory foam mattress.

I settled into a pleasant rhythm. There were two outings daily, one to the Hornbill Festival and the other for some sightseeing or cultural immersion. In the evenings, there were rock concerts in town, but I never felt the need to stir out of the comfort of camp.

The Naga Heritage Village in Kisama was a hop, skip and a jump away. The setting of Nagalands most famous festival, its main arena sees folk dance and music performances all day, while the morungs, traditional tribal homes of the tribes, are where tribal customs, costumes and cuisines are showcased. The Naga wrestling championship is also held here. When not taking horse cart rides, trigger-happy tourists were busy clicking selfies with tribals in their finery. I washed down a bowl of fried grubs with some rice wine. I sampled some excellent local coffee (Nagaland is making fledgling forays into coffee growing). Then I hit the multi-meat Chakhesang buffet, the festivals best. But if I told you what I ate there, I would have to kill you.

One of my excursions was, of course, to Kohima. It is an unbelievable sprawl. Most tours sidestep the chaos and begin in the serene environs of the WWII Cemetery. That war put Kohima on the world map. In 1944, British and Japanese forces clashed in Kohima. The Japanese were eventually beaten back. A decisive offensive was the Battle of the Tennis Court, fought on the grounds of the Deputy Commissioners bungalow (its now the cemetery). Standing on that tennis court, its difficult to avoid the goosebumps. The terraced cemetery is an oasis of calm, and offers excellent views of Kohima. Some of the graves, tragically, belong to the very young. The youngest of them all was 16-year-old Ghulam Muhammad of the 2nd Punjab Regiment.

A highlight of my trip was the WWII Peace Rally, which saw vintage Willys jeeps swooping gracefully into Kisama to the invigorating sounds of a military band. There was even a beautifully restored Japanese jeep in the fray.

Another excursion found me on a lushly forested drive, heading deep into the hills to Khonoma. As I walked up the steep paths of this 700-year-old village, large swathes of terraced fields sprung into view. A local lady had rustled up the tastiest meal for me, and I relished it with copious quantities of wild apple wine. On the way back from Khonoma, we stopped for an eye-popping demonstration of traditional Angami martial arts and wrestling.

There was a lot going on at the camp itself. Sadly, I missed a fireside performance by the legendary Tetseo Sisters. Belonging to the Chakhesang tribe, they are famous for Li, their traditional songs, which they sing in Chokri. But I consoled myself with a CD from the camps small but intriguingly stocked boutique.

 

Why more travellers dont head out to Nagaland has to be one of the enduring mysteries of our time. This mountainous Northeastern state with a border with Myanmar is home to 16 major tribes, which hold on to their colourful rituals and customs with pride and all the attendant flair. Nagaland is blessed with extraordinary natural beauty. The food is to die for. And they dont go around collecting heads anymore.

But all good things come to an end. After a short flight, I was back among the savages.

P.S.: Over lunch at Jade, the superlative Chinese restaurant at the Claridges in Delhi, the always nattily dressed COO of TUTC, Rajnish Sabharwal, revealed that the travelling camp is planning to travel to some new destinations soon. I cant give away too much but, hopefully, with something in the lower Himalaya and something in one of the most spectacular heritage destinations in South India (where, until recently, decent accommodation was legendarily not easy to come by), there should be a camp for every season.

THE INFORMATION

There are several hopping flights from Delhi to Dimapur. The campsite in Kigwema is 85 km from the airport (3hr drive to Kohima, and then 30min to Kigwema). Kohima is also an 8hr drive from Guwahati. Indians need Inner-Line Permits to visit Nagaland and TUTC will organise these for you prior to arrival.

The Camp

This year, TUTC will operate 13 luxury suite tents in Kohima from November 29 to December 12, 2017 at its six-acre forested camp under the Japfu Peak. Tariff for the upcoming season ranges from ?2,72,000 per tent for 2Nto ?6,50,000 for 5N (double occupancy rates, government taxes extra).

The itinerary varies based on the number of nights, but theyll customise it for you. There is a vehicle at your disposal and, on your excursions, youll always be accompanied by an English speaking guide. Contact: +91-8010902222, tutc.com

What to See & Do
The TUTC itinerary includes visits to charming Naga villages like Khonoma and Jakhama as well as daily trips to the Hornbill Festival.

At the festival, apart from traditional dance and music performances, youll also be able to witness indigenous activities like chilli-eating contests and greased bamboo pole dancing. The venue is home to the WWII Museum. Difficult as it may seem, do skip a meal or two at the camp and sample cuisine from different tribes at their morungs instead. The Chakhesang stall is highly recommended. Theres loads of retail therapy as well at the festival. Look out for bamboo handicrafts, Naga shawls, machetes, assorted pickles (chilli, silkworm, etc) and fruit wines.

In Kohima, apart from the WWII Cemetery, Kohima Cathedral (also known as the Mary Help of Christians Cathedral), built with Japanese funds in 1991, is also worth a visit. Kohimas Mao Market has assorted creepy crawlies, frogs and small, furry creatures on sale for culinary use. Its a good place to stock up on the worlds hottest naturally occurring chilli, the formidable Naga mircha (aka bhut jolokia or Raja mircha), in both fresh and dried versions, as well as a host of local specialities like bamboo shoot and anishi (dried and ground yam leaves).

If you have time to spare, do plan an overnight visit to the nearby Dzukou Valley.

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Jerusalem: Sukkoth Special Offers https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Mamilla-Jerusalem.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/jerusalem-sukkoth-special-offers/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/jerusalem-sukkoth-special-offers/ 2017-07-14T13:17:33+05:30 article Explore a unique Jewish festival with this offer from Mamilla Hotel Sukkoth, the first harvest festival of the Jewish calendar is a great time to experience the rich history and culture of the Jews of Israel. The festival will be celebrated from October 4 to October 11 this year and the Mamilla Hotel is offering just what you need to enjoy the week-long festivitiesaSukkoth special package that includes a complimentary festive meal for a couple, in each stay of 3 nights or above per room. A 3-night stay at Mamilla Hotel starts at $560. This offer is available fromOctober 4 to13, 2017. The hotel offerslovelyviews of the Old City walls, the Tower of David, Jaffa Gate and is located right next to the citys finest shopping and entertainment areas. For more info visit mamillahotel.com

 

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Satpura National Park http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Satpura1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/satpura-national-park/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/satpura-national-park/ 2017-07-14T13:16:16+05:30 article Located in the densely forested Pachmari plateau, Satpura is one of Madhya Pradesh's premier parks The 524sq km Satpura National Park forms the core zone of the Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve, which includes two additional units Bori Wildlife Sanctuary and Pachmarhi Wildlife Sanctuary as the buffer zones. Together, the three sanctuaries stretch across an area of 1,427sq km. In fact, Bori Sanctuary was the first forest to be brought under conservation in the country in 1882, which interestingly led to the creation of the Indian Forest Department.

Satpura, located in the Pachmarhi Plateau, was notified as a Tiger Reserve under Project Tiger in 19992000. It has a rugged terrain, comprising gorges, sandstone mountains, waterfalls, streams and forests. Elevations here range from 290m to 1,352m.

Satpura is a haven for the true naturalist. The park is home to over 1,300 species of plants. Trees commonly found in the park include teak, sal, tendu, mahua, bel, bamboos, grasses, lantanas, medicinal plants, mango trees as well as some endemic ferns.

The Satpura National Park is one of the most picturesque parks in India. The Satpura forest is dense and has many rivulets that add to the beauty of the forest.

The park can be accessed via the kuchcha road from Pachmarhi to Panarpani and Neemghan. To get the most out of your trip, plan at least four days to visit the entire Pachmarhi Biosphere circuit, with night halts in Churna or Maghai villages. Churna is best approached from Pachmarhi, but you can also reach it from Itarsi.

Things to See and Do

Unlike other national parks, the Satpura National Park is still relatively free from the likes of loud day-trippers, and you can easily spend a few restful days exploring the wilderness on a safari. The silence is interrupted only by the engine of your vehicle or the denizens of the jungle.

The park is home to several animals, including tigers, leopards and striped hyenas. The most commonly sighted animals, however, are the Indian bison, chital, small Indian civet and golden jackals amongst others. Birders can spot the crested serpent eagle, honey buzzard, black eagle, Malabar pied hornbill, ruddy shelduck, herons and the rare Asian paradise flycatcher.

Visitors who believe that a trip to a wildlife park is incomplete without a glimpse of the king of the jungle, may get lucky here. The big cat has been spotted often enough in Satpura, especially at Madai, Churna, Dhal and Paraspani, and you can lie in wait at these places.

Alternatively, drive the Tawa-Dhoopgarh circuit 60km (5 hours), which begins from the edge of the Tawa Reservoir in the plains of Churna to Dhoopgarh (1,352m), the highest peak in the Satpura Range. The Satpura National Park is open for visitors from 16 October to 30 June. Dont forget to carry your camera, as the boat ride would offer you wonderful photography opportunities.

Jeep Safari

Your hotel can book a safari for you, or you can head to the Forest Departments counter at Madhai Gate near Denva river. Booking starts at 6.00am. You can also make the bookings online (W mponline.gov.in). You are not allowed to get off from the jeep except at designated points. Keep in mind that animal sightings in this park are best at sunset.

? Entry ?2,7003,500, upto 6 pax, vehicle and guide fee

Elephant Safari

Elephant safaris are not as common in Satpura as in other sanctuaries of Madhya Pradesh. Safaris are organised by the park management with written permission from the Field Director of Satpura National Park. You will have to fill a requisition form, pay the fee and submit it to the Department Office far ahead of the required dates. However, there is still no guarantee that you will get permission as it depends on availability.

? Safari ?750 per pax (1hr)

Timings 6.0010.00am

Boat Rides

The Denwa river, which originates in the southeastern part of the Hoshangabad District and flows from east to west direction before joining the Tawa river at south of Rainpur, is the lifeline of the park.

The Tawa dam has been constructed at the confluence of the Tawa and Denwa rivers. All these rivers are the tributaries of the mighty Narmada river.

The management offers boating for a fee on the Denwa river, as do a few resorts. Boating is a good way to spot marsh crocodiles, birds, and a variety of animals. It also offers wonderful opportunities for those interested in photography.

? Boating ?950 for 2 pax Motorboat ?2,200, per hour, upto 10 pax

Tip Taking a forest guide is mandatory here

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

A few good options for boarding are Denwa Backwater Escape (Tel: 0124-2570404, 2571404; Tariff: ?15,00030,000) and Satpura Jungle Retreat (Cell: 09425310444; Tariff: ?4,5005,500; W satpurajungle.com). Food options are limited here. It is best to have your meals at your hotel.

GETTING THERE

State Madhya Pradesh

Location In Hoshangabad District, surrounded by the Satpura Hills

Distance 180km S of Bhopal

Route from Bhopal Via NH12 to NH69

Air Bhopal Airport (180km/ 4hrs) connected to Delhi, Mumbai and Indore. Taxi ?3,500 to Madhai (drop)

Rail Nearest railway stations are Itarsi, Hoshangabad, Pipariya and Sohagpur

Road From Bhopal, take the NH69 to Dhodra Mohar and Suplai

Bus MP state transport department runs buses between Bhopal and Pipariya, which is the closest bus stand to Satpura National Park. For more information regarding bus schedules, check W mptransport.org

FAST FACTS

When to go October to March, when the weather is pleasant

Wildlife/ Tourist offices

The Field Director

Satpura National Park

Hoshangabad Circle

Tel: 07574-254394

MP Tourism

Paryatan Bhavan

Bhadbhada Road, Bhopal

Tel: 0755-2778383

Toll free: 1800-233-7777

STD code 07574

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Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Karavalli9_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/dandeli-wildlife-sanctuary/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/dandeli-wildlife-sanctuary/ 2017-07-13T18:15:07+05:30 article A birdwatchers' paradise, Dandeli in Karnataka is home to a large variety of wildlife Reputedly the oldest game reserve in the country an area of 204sq km was declared a reserve in May 1956 Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary is spread over an expanse of 450sq km. It comprised a larger area that was unfortunately lost due to the pressures of habitation, mining and industrialisation. Hence, tourists should remember that while a visit to Dandeli is about experiencing the great wilderness, there is no guarantee that one will spot big animals. Elephant, gaur, sambar and chital all live here for sure, but not in as large numbers for them to be spotted unfailingly like in most other forests of south India.

Dandeli is also home to that most mysterious of the big cats in the tropics the black panther. Official records say that eight of them exist here and there are people who have actually seen them. There are also arboreal creatures such as the flying squirrel, flying snake, flying lizard and different kinds of hornbills. Not to forget the slender oris, locally known as van manav (jungle man), which makes a sure-shot appearance soon after sunset.

ORIENTATION

Dandeli is the closest town to the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary. To enter the sanctuary, you have to come via Haliyal to the Range Office at the Kulgi Nature Camp (run by the Forest Department), about 11km from Dandeli town on the Ambika Nagar-Yellapur route. It has a Nature Interpretation Centre with a museum. Entry tickets can also be bought here. Entry to the sanctuary proper is 3km from the Kulgi Nature Camp, which offers accommodation and adventure activities.

? Entry ?40 per person Jeep safari ?400 Guide ?500 Safari timings 6.008.00am; 4.006.00pm Photography Still free; Video ?200

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

The chief attractions of the sanctuary are crocodile-spotting in coracles on the River Kali, rafting, birdwatching and hiking.

Crocodile Watching

Imagine going down a river in a coracle and then suddenly being surrounded by over 150 crocodiles! Thats exactly what happens if you go down the Kali river to a place just outside Dandeli town. It is said that the crocodiles congregate at this spot (known as Kerwad) to eat the pulp waste released into the waters of the Kali by the West Coast Paper Mill, set up in the 1950s. Over the years, the crocodiles, have apparently become habituated to eating the industrial waste!

Birding

If you seek adventure, then hop onto a rubber dinghy and attempt to tame the furious rapids of the Kali. Or get into a coracle and gently sail along the river. Watch the cormorants drying themselves on rocks, kingfishers fishing and egrets waddling on the river bank.

Gowli Villages

The gowlis are graziers who live around the Tavaragatti (24km) and Kalbhavi (16km) areas. They are dependent on cattle and sell milk products for a living. Their dwellings are unique and consist of bamboo walls smeared with a combination of mud and cow dung.

WHERE TO STAY

The Kulgi Nature Camp (Tel: 08284-231585, 291831; ?1,0001,200) is located 3km before the entry gate of the sanctuary on the Ambika Nagar-Yellapur route. It has 12 tents, log huts and a dorm with 15 beds. Safaris, guides and treks can be arranged at the camp. The in-house cook prepares meals. The Range Office is also located here. Bookings are made at the office of the Director, Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve in Dandeli town. The camp closes during the monsoons. The Jaladar Shini Forest Rest House (Haliyal Tel: 220128; Tariff: ?800) in Dandeli has four rooms and a cook. Bookings are done at the Haliyal Deputy Conservator of Forests (Territorial) Office. Near the Dandeli Bus Stand is the Jungle Lodges property, Kali Wilderness Adventure Camp (Tel: 230266; Tariff: ?4,0545,543, with meals). It has 14 rooms and 11 tented cottages and offers buffet meals, coracle rides, river rafting and safaris. Bison River Resort (Tel: 08383-256539; Tariff: ?6,000, with meals) in Ilva has 33 cottages.

AROUND DANDELI

Kavala Caves (25km)

Not too far from Dandeli, in the middle of the Western Ghats tree canopy, are the ancient caves of Kavala. The caves are at the end of a dirt trail. Youll have to make a pit stop at the Phansoli Village Range Office (Deputy RFO Cell: 08762498387) to pick up your entry permit. For more information, contact Kulgi Nature Camp (Tel: 08284-231585).

From the last point where vehi-cles are allowed, the caves are a 2-hour-long walk. Get ready to brave a climb of 540 steps on the way to the caves, from where, after a tour through the narrow, winding passages, youll come across a natural rock formation that resembles a Shivalinga. Forge on ahead to come out into the forest. The forest department offers a daily tour of the caves, from 7.00amnoon (Tel: 08284-231585; Fee ?600 per person). Taxis charge ?2,0003,000 from Dandeli to Phansoli. For the journey from Phansoli to Kavala, hire a jeep (Rs. 1,500 for a six-seater jeep).

GETTING THERE

State Karnataka

Location Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in Uttara Kannada District, near the Kali river

Distances 480km NW of Bengaluru, 52km SW of Dharwad

Route from Bengaluru NH4 to Dharwad via Tumkur, Chitradurga and Hubli; district road to Supa via Haliyal; district road to Dandeli

Air Nearest airport: Belgaum (105km/ 2.5hrs). Taxi to Dandeli costs about ?1014 per km

Rail Nearest railhead: Dharwad (52km/ 1.5hrs). Taxi charges ?1014 per km, depending on the vehicle

Road Luxury buses run overnight from the KSRTC Bus Stand in Bengaluru to Dandeli. But its an 11-hr-journey on roads that are rough in parts. The more convenient thing to do is to take a flight to Belgaum or train to Dharwad and then, a taxi to Dandeli

FAST FACTS

Best time to visit All year round, except during the monsoons

Go there for Black panthers

Wildlife/ Forest Dept offices

Director, Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve

Dandeli

Tel: 08284-231585

Dy Conservator of Forests (Territorial)

Haliyal

Tel: 220128

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Kolhapur: Modern Temple Town http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Kohlapur3_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/kolhapur-modern-temple-town/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/kolhapur-modern-temple-town/ 2017-07-13T18:08:48+05:30 article Kolhapur is a city of magnificent temples and the famous kolhapuri chappal Steeped in history and heritage, replete with stories of conquests and valour, and boasting of multiple cultural influences, Kolhapur is today a prosperous, industrial city. Taking pride in its well-maintained monuments and embracing modernity at the same time, Kolhapur is where the past and the future meet. The city of about 5,50,000 residents is located in southwest Maharashtra on the banks of river Panchaganga, nestled in the Sahyadri ranges.

HISTORY

Like India itself, Kolhapur was ruled by a succession of regimes, each leaving its impact on the city. So significant was it in ancient India that it was known as Dakshin Kashi (Kashi or Benaras of the South). It also finds mention in ancient texts such as the Padmapurana and the Skandapurana.

Kolhapur was the centre of power for the Shilahara dynasty between 940 and 1212 CE. Many of the magnificent Hindu and Jain temples in and around the city were built during this glorious period. The Hindu era lasted till 1347, followed by the Muslim rule which was from 13471700.

Kolhapur came to be the last trace of the lineage of the Maratha warrior Shivaji, who died in 1680 CE after dealing several blows to the Mughul empire. The line descending from Shivajis younger son took control of the Southern Maratha territory and established their capital at Kolhapur. It was in 1707 that Tarabai established the Kolhapur state, following which the Marathas controlled this area until 1849 when the British took over and Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj was installed as the ruler of Kolhapur.

It was under Shahu that Kolhapur flourished. He extended his patronage to theatre, music, painting, sculpture, wrestling and the arts. He is also credited with establishing several educational institutions and hostels as well as creating employment opportunities for students belonging to the so-called backward class. He continued to be the ruler of Kolhapur until his death in 1922.

After Indias independence in 1947, the Maharaja of Kolhapur acceded to the dominion of India and later merged with Bombay state in 1949.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Kolhapurs famous sights include its palaces, temples and lakes, while its must-have experiences include shopping for saris, jewellery and its fabled leather chappals as well as savouring its spicy food.

Mahalaxmi temple

Kolhapur is intrinsically linked to Mahalaxmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity. A mythological tale says that it was Mahalaxmi or Ambabai who slayed the demon Kolasur and granted his dying wish to have the city named after him.

The Mahalaxmi Temple is probably Kolhapurs most visited tourist attraction, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors as well as devotees each year. Over the years, members of several royal families have sought blessings of the goddess. The temple has artistic structures and houses temples of other deities such as Kashi Vishweshwar, Kartikaswami, Sheshashayi, Siddhivinayak, Mahaswaraswati, Mahakali and Rama.

The temples construction was initiated in seventh century CE by the Chalukya ruler, Karandev. Later on, in the ninth century, the Shilahara Yadavas beautified it further.

The goddess 3-ft stone idol, a monolith, is said to weigh 40 kg. It is mounted on a stone platform and is said to be composed of uncut diamonds and precious stones.

While a palanquin procession of the goddess is organized every Friday, the years biggest celebrations take place on the festivals of Chaitra Poornima and during Navratri, when devotional music concerts are organized on the temple premises.

The temple is one of the shaktipeethas (or places associated with Shakti, the goddess of power) in India.

Devotees can stay at the nearby dharmshala (boarding house) for a nominal fee.

Timings 4.0011.00pm

Temblai Temple

Situated atop a hill, Temblai temple honours goddess Renuka. A tank Tarkateertha used to be located nearby and is still partially visible. It is now called Takala. The idol in the temple is said to be swayambhu (self-manifested) and made of black stone. The idol has its back turned towards the Mahalaxmi temple and there is an interesting legend to explain this. It is said that Renuka and Mahalaxmi were sisters. Renuka helped Mahalaxmi defeat the demons, but after the war, Mahalaxmi did not accord due respect to Renuka, because of which she got angry and settled on this hill. This is why her idol faces the east while that of Mahalaxmi faces the west. A huge idol of Lord Ganesh has been installed at the centre of the hilltop and a garden has also been developed at the spot. The view of the city from the hilltop is quite magnificent.

The Old Palace

While the Bhawani temple is its main attraction the Old Palace by itself is worth lingering. Built way back in 1788, it has been maintained well. It is located behind Mahalaxmi temple and has beautiful filigree work in stone. The Nagarkhana, Darbar hall and horse stables are some of the Old Palaces other attractions. In 1830, the palace was partially burnt in an invasion by Mughals. It was restored and maintained much of the old-world charm.

The New Palace (Chhatrapati Shahu Museum)

A majestic building in black stone, the New Palace was built between 1877 and 1884. It has extensive premises with a garden, fountain, wrestling house, zoo and a lake. The palace is octagonal with a tower in the centre over which a clock was mounted in the year 1877. Although the palace is still the residence of the descendents of the royal family, a large part of it has been converted into the Chhatrapati Shahu Museum. The ground floor houses a fine collection Kolhapur rulers memorabilia such as costumes, weapons, jewellery, games, embroidery and so on. A part of the museum also has several stuffed animals including tigers, lion, black panther, Himalayan black bear among others. The darbar hall has stained glass paintings depicting scenes from the life of Shivaji.

Timings 9.30am6.00pm, on all days except Monday

The Town Hall Museum

This impressive Neo-Gothic style building, completed in 1876, was built as the citys town hall. Now converted into a museum, it holds Satavahana period items discovered during excavation at the nearby Brahmapuri hill. The items include pottery fragments, coins and beads. Old sculptures, filigree work in sandal wood and ivory and paintings of master artists of the region are all displayed here.

Binkhambi Ganesh Mandir

The Binkhambi Ganesh Mandir, built in 1882, is visited by archaeology as well as architecture students to study its sanctum that has been built without the use of any pillar. The idol of Lord Ganesha in the temple was found while repairing a well.

Rankala Lake

The lake gets its name from the Rankabhairav temple locted in its centre. Prior to the eighth century, the lake is believed to have been a stone quarry. An earthquake in the ninth century opened up an underground water source due to which the water body was formed. The lake has a temple nearby with a huge statue of the Nandi bull, the vehicle of Lord Shiva. The beautiful Shalini Palace that was recently converted into a hotel is situated on one of the banks of the lake. The municipal corporation has beautified this area by developing a garden and a lake side pathway.

SHOPPING

Kolhapur is well-known for its textiles and cottons, in particular Kolhapuri saris. But it is, of course most famous for its jewellery and leather sandals or Kolhapuri chappals. The jewellery from Kolhapur is known to dazzle the beholder and is beautifully crafted with delicate embossing and workmanship. Some traditional jewellery items include saaj, thushi, manchali and jijamata haar. Mahadwar and Shivaji Roads are good places to shop. You can find a good variety of Kolhapuri chappals and other leather goods on Bhausinji Road. Shetkaari Bazaar is the cheapest place to shop and is popular among the villagers from surrounding areas.

WHERE TO STAY

Located on Old Pune-Bangalore Highway, Kawala Naka, Sayaji Hotel (Tel: 0231-4006666; Tariff: ?3,500 5,500) has executive rooms and suites. Theres also a multi-cuisine restaurant. Hotel K Tree, in Shivaji Park, (Tel: 2526990; Tariff: ?2,7004,000) has rooms in deluxe, super deluxe and theme suite variants.

Hotel Victor Palace (Tel: 2537001- 08; Tariff: ?4,3807,103) at Rankala Lake is a good option. Hotel Pearl (Tel: 6684451; Tariff: ?2,5005,500) in New Shahupuri lives up to its name and is the pick of the mid-range hotels. Hotel Panchshil (Tel: 2537517; Tariff: ?3,20010,000) in Shivaji Park is clean but cheerless. Hotel Vijayraj (Tel: 2651124/ 04; Tariff: Rs. 9751,400) in Tarabai Park offers clean rooms and is the best budget choice in the city.

WHERE TO EAT

If you are looking for authentic Kolhapuri non-vegetarian thalis, Padma Guest House is highly recommended. Tucked in a lane near Padma Talkies in Laxmipuri, this unpretentious eatery serves lip-smacking chicken and mutton dishes with tambda and pandhra rassa. The mutton pickle as well as biryani are must-have items too. Located on National Highway 4, Parakh is another place that serves nonvegetarian thalis. Many recommend this place for authentic Kolhapuri food. Aahar Misal is a Mangalwar Peth-based joint, established in 1948, which started serving misal pav in 1968. The owners served a spicier version of the dish to stand out from other joints. Located in Udyamnagar, Phadtare Misal is a modest eatery that serves a Jain version of the misal, apart from the regular variety.

Know your Kolhapuri

The genuine Kolhapuri is stitched completely by hand without the use of nails or glue. Its made of hard leather and is always flat, with little difference between designs for men and women. The colour is a deep tan.

Over the years, the humble Kolhapuri changed its shape and size to meet the demands of the market. Today, it is available in heels, and four more colours have been added to the tan palette white, black, mustard and deep maroon. The maroon looks quite attractive against your feet, but beware, the colour has a tendency to rub off on your feet might be difficult to scour off. Some of these chappals have a thin, attractive golden zari stitching on the top. An authentic Kolhapuri can be bought for anything between ?300 and 700.

FAST FACTS

When to go SeptemberApril is the best time to visit Kolhapur when the weather is very pleasant. The monsoon season (JuneSeptember) can be best enjoyed by nature lovers when hotels offer huge discounts

Tourist Office

MTDC
Kolhapur
Tel: 0231-2652935
W maharashtratourism.gov.in
STD code 0231

 

GETTING THERE

State Desh

Location A city in the Panchganga River Basin

Distance 237 km S of Pune

Route from Pune NH4 via Satara

Air Nearest airport: Belgaum (120 km/2 hrs). Taxi costs ?4,2004,500

Rail Kolhapur Railway Station

Road It is a long drive from Mumbai to Kolhapur through the Expressway to Pune, NH4 to Kolhapur via Satara.

Bus Plenty of ST and Volvo buses from Mumbai and Pune ply to Kolhapur. Log onto W redbus.in for bookings

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Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/wayanad-WLS1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/wayanad-wildlife-sanctuary/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/wayanad-wildlife-sanctuary/ 2017-07-13T17:59:42+05:30 article Wayanad Sanctuary's vast forests shelter a great variety of wildlife The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is bounded by the protected areas of Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu and Nagarhole and Bandipur in Karnataka. Established in 1973, the sanctuary forms an integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, the first of the 14 biospheres in India, which includes Silent Valley National Park and the Nilambur forest. The sanctuary was brought under Project Elephant in 199192.

Spread across 345sq km of land, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is split into two parts Upper and Lower Wayanad by eucalyptus and bamboo trees grown here. As these plantations stand amidst a vast forest, animals often enter them and the human settlements in the area, for food.

There are 96 human settlements in the 345sq km sanctuary and foraying tigers have been creating a scare in the region. In February 2003, a violent clash had taken place between police and the villagers, following a state government initiative to free the forest of humans. The villagers had protested that promises made to rehabilitate them were never fulfilled. As a result, the settlements grew in number and today, forest guards conduct daily patrol in the sanctuary to locate tigers raiding villages.

ORIENTATION

Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary lies in the Wayanad District, in the Western Ghats. The district has three main towns Sultan Bathery, Kalpetta and Mananthavady.

Sulthan Bathery is considered the headquarters of the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. The Upper Wayanad Sanctuary or Tholpetty is 70km from Sulthan Bathery, while the Lower Wayanad Sanctuary or Muthanga is 15km away. Tholpetty can also be accessed from Mananthavady, which is 25km away.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

The only attraction of this sanctuary is wildlife spotting. They are best done just after sunset or just before sunrise. Prior permission from the forest department is mandatory, and one must always hire a local guide.

The Drive

In the course of a day-long drive, you can expect to see elephants, gaur and deer in large numbers. If you are lucky, a tiger or leopard might also cross your way. The sanctuary is also home to panthers, jungle cats, Indian civets, monkeys, wild dogs, bisons, deer, bears, monitor lizards and a variety of snakes. One thing to bear in mind is that elephants in the Wayanad forests are more temperamental than their counterparts in other sanctuaries. Experts say that this is because of human-animal conflicts that are common in these forests. It is particularly important, therefore, to observe the rules strictly while you are in the forest. Wear dull-coloured clothes, maintain silence and never get off your vehicle.

You can either bring your own vehicles or sign up for jeep safaris, arranged by the forest department. Private jeeps can be hired at Muthanga and Tholpetty checkposts, and also at Sulthan Bathery (at ?500 per trip).

? Entry Indians ?110; Foreigners ?300 Timings 6.0010.00am; 3.006.00pm Jeep Safari ?300 Vehicle entry fee ?75 Guide fee ?180 per hour Photo-graphy Still ?38; Video ?225

Birdwatching

The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is a paradise for birdwatching. You can spot a variety of them around the inspection bungalows itself. A short walk in any direction from here will lead you to many more.

The forest is home to the crested-hawk eagle, king vulture, crested serpent eagle, Malabar grey hornbill, Malabar lark, Bonellis eagle, Tytlers leaf warbler, Nilgiri pipit, orange flycatcher, jungle bush quail, black-chinned laughing thrush and white-bellied shortwing amongst others. Do not forget to carry your camera and binoculars.

Outside the sanctuary, in Kalpetta, is Pookate lake (8km) and Chembra Peak (14km). There are a few waterfalls on the way to Kalpetta, which provide a perfect setting for photography.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

The inspection bungalows are the only option for stay within the sanctuary, but you can choose from a variety of options available in the nearby towns. For Tholpetty Wildlife Range, stay at Mananthavady and for Muthanga, stay in Sulthan Bathery.

Inside the sanctuary

The Forest Wood House (Tel: 04935- 250853; Tariff: ?1,500) at Tholpetty, and the Forest Wood House (Tel: 220454; Tariff: ?1,500) at Muthanga, are known as serambi, which means verandah in Malayalam. And the two-storeyed serambi is indeed, just a building with one large room upstairs and one small room below, each with a spacious verandah.

A wooden staircase provides access to the top floor. There is no electricity or running water, but one can make do with candles. Prior permission must be obtained from the Wildlife Warden, Sulthan Bathery Division (Tel: 04936-220454) to stay in these places. Remember too that these bungalows are meant to accommodate touring forest officials on duty. So if one of them arrives unannounced, you will have to vacate the room, even if you had the reservation. The watchman cooks simple food for a small fee. There are basic eateries near the checkpost. The forest department also runs a dormitory (188 beds, ?30) at Muthanga.

In Mananthavady

Pachyderm Palace (Cell: 09847044688; Tariff: ?3,0004,500, with meals) is located opposite the entrance gate at Tholpetty. It has five rooms and a multi-cuisine restaurant. It also arranges safaris and trekking.

Manasa Saras Elite Tourist Home (Tel: 04935-240236, 240408/ 09; Tariff: ?1,0001,500) is an old establishment with nine rooms. It is located half a kilometre from Mananthavady on the Thalassery Road.

In Sulthan Bathery

Orchid Resort (Tel: 04936-262844, Cell: 09447160510; Tariff: ?3,9009,100) is located 12km from Sulthan Bathery, off NH212 en route to Muthanga. Its an eco-friendly resort with eight rooms, six cottages, a tree house, a restaurant, a swimming pool and an amusement park.

Edakkal Hermitage (Tel: 221860/ 178, Cell: 09847001491; Tariff: ?4,950), near the Edakkal Caves, offers seven cottages, tent, restaurant and plenty of sightseeing. Isaacs Hotel (Tel: 220510/ 11; Tariff: ?1,5002,800) has rooms with TV, a restaurant, a beer parlour and a coffee shop. It also organises safaris and car rentals.

Restaurants in Sulthan Bathery serve good food. Jubilee Restaurant (Tel: 220245) on NH212 is pocket friendly and quite popular.

GETTING THERE

State Kerala

Location In the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, bordering Karnataka and Tamil Nadu

Distance The Upper Wayanad Sanctuary (Tholpetty) is 25km NE of Mananthavady, 129km NE of Kozhikode, 115km SW of Mysore; Lower Wayanad Sanctuary (Muthanga) is 15km E of Sulthan Bathery, 94km SW of Mysore and 125km NE of Kozhikode

Route from Kozhikode to Upper Wayanad Sanctuary NH212 to Kalpetta; SH to Kartikulam via Mananthavady; district road to Tholpetty Route from Kalpetta to Lower Wayanad Sanctuary NH212 to sanctuary via Sulthan Bathery Route from Bengaluru SH to Mysore via Maddur and Mandya; NH212 to Sulthan Bathery via Gundlupet

Air Nearest airport: Karipur International Airport, Kozhikode (125 km/ 3.5hrs to Sulthan Bathery/ Mananthavady). Taxi costs Rs. 1012 per km

Rail Nearest railhead: Kozhikode (100km/ 3hrs)

Road Frequent deluxe (fare ?150) and express (fare ?180) buses connect Kozhikode to Kalpetta, Sulthan Bathery and Thirunelly

FAST FACTS

When to go The sanctuary is open all year round, except in the monsoon season (AprilSeptember). Best sightings are from DecemberFebruary

Wildlife/ Forest Dept offices

Phanindra Kumar Rao

Wildlife Warden

Wayanad Wildlife Division

Sulthan Bathery. Tel: 04936-220454

Cell: 09447979105

Deputy Conservator of Forests

Upper Wayanad WLS

Mananthavady

Tel: 04935-240233, 220455

Cell: 09447979074

STD codes Sulthan Bathery 04936, Mananthavady and Tholpetty 04935

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Ahmedabad: India's First Heritage City https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Sar-1.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/ahmedabad-indias-first-heritage-city/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/ahmedabad-indias-first-heritage-city/ 2017-07-13T17:27:17+05:30 article Ahmedabad's unique multicultural heritage makes it India's first Unesco Heritage City Walking through Ahmedabad, one of the busiest cities in Indias western-most state Gujarat, for a visitor, it is easy to miss the Pols. Maybe the shine has left most of the Pols. You may walk right through one without realising that they are part of the citys living heritage. Yet it is the Pol that has been one of the key reasons that earned Ahmedabad a much-prizedUnesco honour. On July 8, 2017, Ahmedabad (or Ahmadabad as Unesco spelled it) was inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage List, the first Indian city to be thus honoured. So, why Ahmedabad? Actually, it turns out, the city is a treasure trove of heritage sites.
The couple-of-centuries-old neighbourhoods that dot the earlierparts of the city are an example of community living. Usually a gate marks the entry to a Pol. Narrow lanes lined by buildings with wooden faades converge on a central square. Since each Pol was occupied by people belonging to the same religion or caste or profession, the houses reflect architectural stylestypical of the community. The open square has a religious structure, a community well and a place to feed the birds. Ahmadabad city's planning in a hierarchy of living environment with street also as a community space is representative of the local wisdom and sense of strong community... the Unesco citation said. You can find some of the Pols in Dariyapur and Kalupur area.
The walled city, with more than 20 monuments protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and other attractions, including several key museums, preserves within itself a rich architectural heritage and cultural legacy, which is an integral part of the local lifestyle.
The walled city of Ahmadabad, founded by Sultan Ahmad Shah in the 15th century, on the eastern bank of the Sabarmati river, presents a rich architectural heritage from the sultanate period, notably the Bhadra citadel, the walls and gates of the Fort city and numerous mosques and tombs as well as important Hindu and Jain temples of later periods, said Unesco in its introduction to the city. The city continued to flourish as the capital of the State of Gujarat for six centuries, up to the present.
Architectural diversity is a key attraction of Ahmedabad. Although much of the late 15th century wall built to fortify the city had to be later dismantled to allow the city to expand, a short section of thewallalong the Sabarmati River and the original 12gatesbearing carvings and calligraphy, some with balconies, still exist.
Some of the key attractions that reveal the Indo-Islamic architecture are the Jama Masjid, Teen Darwaja, the Bhadra Gate, the Kings and the Queens tombs, etc. Buildings from the Maratha period and the colonial era also survive in the walled city.
The King's Tomb or theBadshah no Hajiro, lying to the east of Jama Masjid, and connected by a doorway, houses the tombs of Ahmed Shah I, his son Muhammed Shah II and grandson Ahmed Shah II. The four corners of the central hall has smaller domed chambers with perforated stone screens set in arches. Women are not allowed here. The Queens Tomb or theRani no Hajirolies across the street. The tomb lies enclosed within a courtyard. The road to the Tomb is known for its market selling womens clothing and accessories.
Not to be missed is the 16th centurySidi Sayeed Mosque. The intricately carved stone jaali work, especially along the windows of the western wall, look as fine as lace patterns. Though of much later vintage, the 1848Hutheesing Jain Temple, dedicated to 15th Jain Tirthankar, Shri Dharmanatha, is an example of how the architectural legacy has been carefully preserved. Merchant Sheth Hutheesing employed the Salat community, traditionally known master craftsmen, to build the temple.
Ahmedabad too is home to severalstepwells, locally called Vav, a key feature of old cities of Gujarat. Two of the most popular stepwells are the Adalaj Vav and the Dada Harir Vav. These richly carved step wells too served as community meeting grounds. It is believed that people would come here to fetch water, offer prayers to the divinity carved along the walls, spend time here to beat the summer heat, etc. According to experts, this Vav is an example of Indo-Islamic architecture and design. A harmonious play of intricate Islamic floral patterns seamlessly fusing with Hindu and Jain symbols. Dada Harir Vav, besides the usual carvings, also has Sanskrit and Arabic scripts carved on the walls.
The 15th centuryBhadra Fort(not to be confused with the Bhadrakali shrine built much later), renovated by the city municipality in collaboration with the ASI, contains royal palaces with beautiful carvings on them, mosques, gates and open spaces. It has Ahmads Mosque to its west. The Maidan Shah or the Kings Market is to the east. The 17th century palace, the Azam Khan Sarai, meant as an inn for travellers, served as a hospital and jail during the British period.
Home to Mahatma Gandhis Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad also played host to Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore has even lived in the city and produced some of his most poetic writings here while living in the mansion built by Moguls on the river bank, mentions the Unesco citation quoting KV Soundara Rajan.
Although about eight km away from Ahmedabad, another not to be missed site is theSarkhej Roza. Grouped around a great stepped tank is the tomb to the saint, Ahmed Khattu Ganj Baksh (1445), the mosque, the tombs of Mehmud Shah Begada and his queen, and palaces and pavilions. The buildings are remarkable for the complete absence of arches and the use of pierced stone trellises throughout (source: Gujarat Tourism website).
The museums of Ahmedabad offer a clue to the citys diverse cultural heritage. Another key criteria that made Unesco rule in the citys favour is its legacy of textile manufacturing. The city's culture has been replete with traditions of its enterprising communities which were frontline traders and merchants, irrespective of the irreligious bearings. The major economic dependence of the cities merchant class was on the textile production in later centuries, the citation said. Apart from browsing through the citys markets, a visit to theCalico Museum(calicomuseum.org) is worth the time.
Interestingly, according to Unesco, The immediatecomparison available to Ahmadabad is the historic town of Melaka - Georgetown in Malaysia and the historic city of Lyon in France. This also is because of the similarity in Melaka's founding period which dates back to 15th century. Lyon is more historic but its substantial expansion dates back to 15th century. Like Ahmadabad, Melaka- Georgetown and the historic city of Lyon are merchant and trading towns, though the geographic locations differ in its character the population's main economic base has been similar, that is trade and commerce. Melaka and Lyon both since their founding have been multi-cultural towns like Ahmadabad and were also planned similarly with each community having their own defined settlements. The evolutionary trends in these towns also are comparable where the cities retained their homogeneity and traditions and graduated into their evolving phases retaining their traditions.
If you find exploring the citys heritage a tad difficult on your own, you may join the Heritage Walk (ahmedabadcity.gov.in) conducted by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. For more information, seegujarattourism.com
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Myanmar: Belmond Governor's Residence https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Yangon-featured-image.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/myanmar-belmond-governors-residence/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/myanmar-belmond-governors-residence/ 2017-07-13T16:37:22+05:30 article This hotel in Yangon exudes a wonderful old world charm If the phrase 'Burma teak' sends shivers of anticipatory delight down your spine, you need to treat yourself to the Belmond Governors Residence, Yangon. Youll be in Burma, surrounded by the best quality old teak. If it werent already a thrill to be in this fabled land, your stay here will be the embodiment of one. The handsome 1920s colonial mansion was once the residence of the official authority over the countrys southern provinces. Beautifully restored, the accommodation features fine silks, traditional effects, plenty of space and soothing verdure, and, of course, teakwood furniture. Romance is candlelit dinners by lotus pools. The spa is gorgeous. The food is a refined take on flavoursome local. Tariff $240 doubles Contact +951229860, belmond.com/governors-residence-yangon

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Tamil Nadu: A Quick Guide to Kanyakumari https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/kan.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/tamil-nadu-quick-guide-kanyakumari/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/tamil-nadu-quick-guide-kanyakumari/ 2017-07-13T16:34:42+05:30 article The southernmost point of the Indian peninsula is a fascinating area to explore The Kanyakumari Amman Temple, located in the southern side of Kanyakumari town, was built in the 8th century CE. The idol of Goddess Parvati stands holding prayer beads, with a dazzling diamond on her nose. There are lots of stories about the diamond, that it shone so brightly that it was mistaken for a lighthouse, that pirates once stole it and it ended up in Europe as the Orloff diamond, the present one being a replacement.

Entry Free Timings 4.30-11.45 am and 4-8 pm

The philosopher Vivekananda swam out to the rocks off Kanyakumari where the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea meet and contemplated on the teachings of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. The Vivekananda Rock Memorial here is now dwarfed by a 133-foot-tall statue of Saint Thiruvalluvar, the Tamil poet who wrote on virtue, wealth and love. You can take ferry rides (?20) to all these places or view them from the shore.

Clean places to eat are Sharavanas and Arya Bhavan, opposite each other. If you want to stay here, one option is Hotel Tamil Nadu (Tel: 04652-246258; Tariff: ?400-2,500), located near the lighthouse. Another option is Sparsa Resorts (Tel: 247041-42; Tariff: ?4,000-6,000), which has a bar, restaurant and is close to the beach.

NH47 takes you to Kanyakumari (2 hrs approx) via Padmanabhapuram (11/2 hrs) and Suchindram from Thiruvananthapuram. Buses leave regularly for Padmanabhapuram and Kanyakumari from the Thampanoor Bus Stand. KTDC offers a day-long guided tour to the Padmanabhapuram Palace and Kanyakumari. Be warned that the tour rushes you through the palace at Padmanabhapuram, gives a confused half hour at Suchindram and strands you in Kanyakumari for hours.

KTDC tour fee ?700 per person Non-AC taxi fare Approx ?1,500-1,800

PADMANABHAPURAM

The Padmanabhapuram Palace Complex is in Thuckalay Junction, southeast of Thiruvananthapuram. The Kalkulam Palace, built in the latter half of the 16th century, was rebuilt and renamed as Padmanabhapuram Palace by Marthanda Varma. The tour of the complex of 14 palaces, spread over 61/2 acres, starts with the poomukham (entrance hall), which has carved flowers on the ceiling and a granite cot. The Thaikottaram or Mother Palace is the oldest building in the complex. Its most splendid feature is the puja room, with a glowing red oxide floor and a pillar carved from a single jackfruit tree.

The 10th-century tower, called the Uppirikka Malika, contains the royal treasury on the ground floor, the kings private rooms on the first and second floor and the prayer room on the top floor. The cot, on the first floor, made of 64 pieces of medicinal wood, was apparently gifted by the Dutch to Marthanda Varma. The queens chamber is remarkable for its twin swings hung not with chains but with iron forged to resemble coir ropes.

The Ambari Mukhappu or bay window is an elegant feature of the long corridor, from where the king watched religious processions and marching troops. The tall windows and doors of the more European 18th-century Indravilasam Palace reflect its purpose, which was to accommodate foreign guests. The various floors of the palace are truly remarkable, the glossiest finish being seen in the kannadithara or mirror floor of the Navaratri Mandapam.

Entry fee ?25 Timings 10 am-5 pm, Mondays closed

Visitors must remove their footwear and be accompanied by a guide

SUCHINDRAM

The Sthanumalaya Temple in Suchindram (31 km south-east of Padmanabhapuram complex, on the way to Kanyakumari), built some time between the 7th and 8th centuries CE, is surrounded by quiet agraharams and a simple tank. The main idols here are Shiva and Vishnu in an impressive inner sanctum, and Brahma represented by proxy as Moodu or the Great Ganapati. Built in the Dravidian style, the temple was renovated and embellished by several rulers. The result is a baffling array of 30 shrines, hundreds of sculptures and musical pillars.

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