Move over, Barcelona. Lisbon is now the latest go-to place, consistently making it into the top five must-visit destinations in millennial surveys this year. The city of time-worn Moorish tiles, custard tarts, yellow trams and cobblestone streets, Lisbon has four aspects making travellers flock to the city: it is extremely, extremely social media friendly (you do want your followers to be wowed when you dig into a pastel de nata); it is reasonable to travel well in, unlike other European cities; the local dishes are bursting with flavour (try the seven gastronomic wonders of Portugal, as voted by residents); and the country is going out of its way to promote local sights and tours. Did you know that over 12 million people visited Portugal last year? There’s the historic Alfama, where cobblestoned streets and old-fashioned trams are the order of the day. The look-out points or miradouros around the city give you panoramic views of red tiled roofs and the gorgeous blue Tagus River, hilly roads and winding streets, old baroque-style churches and important landmarks. If you haven’t yet booked your tickets, we urge you to do so now.
Travelling to Petra is often billed as a ‘trip of a lifetime’. Not much is known about the Nabateans, the original inhabitants of the ‘Rose City’, but the raw beauty of the desert kingdom attracts travellers by the thousands to this architectural wonderland. Rock-faced façades (the Monastery and Treasury are most photographed, and extremely popular on social media), pink sandstone temples and tombs (don’t miss out on the elegant Silk Tomb with its stunning swirls of pink and white natural patterns), an extraordinary irrigation system among other wonders—it’s all nestled deep inside a narrow gorge, accessible only through the kilometre-long Siq walkway. Flanked by soaring cliffs, the entire journey to Petra is a visual treat. One of the most popular times to visit is at night, the area lit up by candles on the desert floor and stars in the cloudless sky. No wonder Petra is Jordan’s most popular tourist destination. It can take up to a week to explore what this site has to offer; at least the parts open to visitors. Rediscovered by Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt in 1812, Petra’s secrets are still buried deep. Meanwhile, archaeologists are working hard to unearth the other mammoth structures that have been hidden by shifting sands over the last 2,000 years.
In early 2019, a tech company’s research of more than one million social media posts showed Colombo as the location travellers want to most take pictures of. After all, if it’s not on social media, did it happen at all?As the world’s ‘must-photograph’ destination this year, it’s not hard to understand the tag. Natural beauty, ancient charm, architectural heritage—Colombo is a traveller’s dream. But why just restrict one’s self to Colombo? The entire island country of Sri Lanka has something for every kind of traveller. A diving enthusiast can check out wondrous marine life and exceptional shipwrecks, a heritage lover’s heart will be content seeing the ruins at Sigiriya and Dambulla, the curries and hoppers will leave a foodie’s soul satisfied, and for the adventurous, there are plenty of wildlife safaris, treks, rafting and camping activities to choose from. And let’s not forget the warmth of the local people that make your holiday incredibly special. Earlier this year, bombings on Easter Sunday across the island rocked the nation and the world. But the people have bounced back and are calling out to travellers to come visiting again. With free visa-on-arrival for Indians and a possibility of a waiver for 48 other countries, Sri Lanka is ready to welcome you.
Picture a valley bathed in vibrant green, flanked by rolling hills, and covered in pine and bamboo forests. Perhaps, if you moved a bit you would spot paddy fields or the small homes at the edge of the valley. Like a treasure waiting to be uncovered, the Ziro Valley in Arunachal Pradesh is quaint, isolated and serene in every sense of the word. While winters bring in heavy snow, the rest of the seasons make for pleasant weather, cool winds, and sometimes, a balmy respite. As a Unesco World Heritage Site, Ziro Valley offers a peek into the lives of the Apatani people, famous for their face tattoos and other striking body modifications. Immerse in the indigenous culture in the nearby villages of Baro, Hong, Bula and Hari. There are also plenty of hiking and trekking options, for instance, to Midey known for its blue pine trees. Or to Tarin Fish Farm where local high-altitude fish are bred. The fish fingerlings are sold to the paddy farms, where fish and rice are grown together. Beyond these, visit Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, a biodiversity hotspot or the 5,000-year-old Meghna Cave Temple. To make the most out of your experience, we suggest you visit Ziro during the indie celebration that is the Ziro Music Festival, in late September.
While each Silk Road city is a cultural crucible, it’d be a crime to miss one that’s UN-recognised as a ‘Creative Gastronomy’ hub. Almost half of this Turkish site’s enterprises are dedicated to food—we hear the meatballs, called köfte, are sublime. Vegetarians, do pause before you scoff and skip this paragraph. It’s true that there’s a bounty of heart-stopping meat recipes here, but Gaziantep is also one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. This cosmopolitan nature delivered a mix of Mediterranean grains, herbs and vegetables that makes its way into both traditional and haute cuisine in Gaziantep’s kitchens today. Spice, especially the Aleppo pepper, is central to local grub.The city centre is ideal for smaller vegetarian samples: think dried aubergines with stuffing, or the pomegranate reduction known as nar eksisi. If you prefer nutty confections like baklava or the cheese-stuffed künefe, Gaziantep is home to some of the finest pistachio orchards in the world. In fact, its baklava was the first Turkish product to be granted an European geographical indication tag. Antep fÄ±stÄ±gÄ±, the Turkish word for pistachio, also arose from the city’s old name. If you’re in Anatolia this October, do visit the city’s flagship pistachio festival. It’s the perfect dive into the farm-to-table phenomenon.
This coastal haven in Kerala shot to international prominence in the 1970s as a hippie stopover on the way to Sri Lanka, and part of that alternative spirit lives on in Kovalam’s surfing culture. With rocky outcrops that keep underwater sandbars constant, the tidal waves at Kovalam’s three beaches are just mild enough to not lose energy, and feature a combination of beach and point breaks. India’s first artificial reef was installed here almost ten years ago to tackle erosion, and has further helped calm the waters. We hear that surfing’s possible all year round, but the best time to paddle past the whitewater is between June and September. Having an existing relationship with the sea certainly helps—many riding the swells are fishermen working in the area. Note that Indian beaches don’t have a uniform lifeguard programme to keep an eye on novice surfers, so we’d advise you to either go through a surf school, or buddy up with locals. Classes are affordable, with instructors teaching in English, Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi and a smattering of European languages. If you vibe well, dry up and continue the revelry with seafood, reggae, sunbathing and spa treatments.
Laid-back streets, antiquated culture and a city that’s over 700 years old—Chiang Mai is a traveller’s delight. Founded as the capital of the Lan Na kingdom, Chiang Mai lies in the north of Thailand. Somewhat ironically, the area’s name actually translates to ‘new city’. Despite being the capital of the Chiang Mai province, the city is less of an administrative bustle and more of a cultural capital. But don’t mistake it for being monotonous—the serenity of the mountains, the vibrancy of the hills and locals, a night bazaar for shopping enthusiasts and a night zoo for those scouting for something extra, Chiang Mai promises travellers an enviable nightlife. Oh, and let’s not forget delectable local street fare to keep the stomach happy. Despite being more than seven centuries old, Chiang Mai is the perfect amalgamation of the ancient and the contemporary, and an alluring, breezy alternative to the traffic-choked and glitzy capital of Bangkok.
Where beach vacations once meant Goa, Gokarna in Karnataka quietly emerges from the unexplored lot—feet soaked in the warm sand, a gentle sea breeze and the quiet thump of music filtering in from the lined shacks. While Gokarna is known for its ancient temples, and is primarily a pilgrimage destination, the beaches in this town are magnificent. They require a trek to reach, but the work is worth the relaxation. The sunsets are lovely, and the waves are adept for surfing. Try jet skiing, beach camping, scuba diving and dolphin watching. With a picnic at Lalguli and Sathodi waterfalls ticked off from your list, take some time out for the yana rock formations. These 61 limestone formations are a majestic sight. But that’s not all. If one were to time themselves right, then they would have one less item on their bucket list: travel to Gokarna during full moon and do a night trek to Paradise Beach. In the dark, with only the moonbeams to guide the way, the coast lights up with twinkling blue lights. The beaches in this town are one of the few spots in the country where one can glimpse the magic of bioluminescence, where microscopic organisms called phytoplankton light up the shoreline. Gokarna is serene and romantic and works well as a weekend getaway spot.
From far away, the Rann of Kutch is a blanket of white that seems to stretch to the horizon and beyond. But a closer look will reveal the colours hidden in between, of the reflected skies, of life in Gujarat’s deserts, of the many, many festivals and cultures that bring this place together. Given its location near the Indo-Pak border, to visit the White Rann of Kutch one must go through the Border Security Force (BSF). As one of the world’s largest salt deserts, the Great Rann attracts many tourists, who not only wish to experience its vast nothingness, but are also vying for the perfect photo opportunity. During the monsoons every year, the desert becomes a wetland and goes underwater, but in the winter, under the full moon, the salt flats come alive for a truly spectacular sight. A visit to this star attraction can be coupled with trips to nearby villages, to sample the local cuisine and shop for handmade beaded jewellery, vibrant patched quilts, Rogan-printed art and bandhani prints. In November every year, the Rann Utsav brings further joy to different locations within the desert and transforms it into a glamping destination. Enjoy vivid fairs, folk music and dance, and even go for a hot air balloon ride, all under the winter sun.