Women-only journeys have taken off in a big way in the past decade. It is one of the most requested niche and specialty travel categories in the industry. And as the pandemic-induced lockdown eases, women are looking for options for journeys they can take with their BFFs. The choice of destination for an all-women vacation depends on a simple combination. It must be a place where you feel safe and one that gives you the space to unwind and do whatever you want.
We spoke with five women travellers about their most memorable travel experiences. What makes their travel stories stand out is the fact that all of them had a specific reason to travel, very different from the usual sightseeing trips people undertake.
From tracing a beloved ancestor's footsteps in Goa to trekking in Kashmir’s valleys, their experiences will inpire you to think differently, and perhaps help you choose destinations for upcoming trips. Here’s the first part of the series.
Appreciating Monastery Architecture in Spiti
Spiti is known for it unique landscapes and peaceful environs, but for architect Anila Surin and her girlfriends, it was the indigenous architectural style that led them to plan a trip to the valley. “I had read a lot about Spiti valley, especially about Kibber village and the monasteries on the hills.” She was particularly fascinated by the ancient murals in Key monastery which she was keen to visit. And Tabo monastery which is the oldest (and still functioning) monastery in the Himalayas. “Tabo is a spectacular piece of architecture, and refelcts so much history. It's been standing since 996 CE, and it is still so well maintained." What fascinated Surin was the fact that the monastery is made of mud, and still going strong as an outstanding example of indigenous mud architecture in harsh climatic conditions.
She was also struck by the houses of Kiber, one of the highest villages in the world with a motorable road. “They are so well organised, like a beautiful painting with their similar windows, parapets, and patterns on lintel and doors.”
Surin and her friends also visited Dhankar village which is home to a fort and monastery. Located at a height of 3,900 ft on a hilltop, the monastery is made of mud and in need of preservation.
Other major highlights of their Spiti trip were Nako and Kaza. While Nako is home to a serene lake, Kaza serves as the gateway to the Ki Monastery.
She recounts the generous hospitality of the locals. “Spiti river was frozen and hotels were shut, but our driver from Nako managed to get us a room in one of the hotels. And every house we went to for meals treated us as if we were family. The homestays were all closed, yet they would let us in and prepare some food for us. We really loved having the local dishes like madra, thingmo, cha meat, and the excellent pahadi-style chicken.”
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Running and rolling around in the snow on their way to Kibber, silently listening to the wind, was one of the most memorable moments for Surin and her friends. “I will never forget that beautiful winter afternoon."
Tracing Grandma’s Footseps in Goa
Not all trips are taken to ‘sightsee’, some are taken for the emotional connection that people have with places. For Business Analyst Lavina Dsouza, visiting Goa was more about tracing her grandma’s routes than partying at the beach. Dsouza grew up hearing tales of candles flickering in the well near the Basilica of Bom Jesus, visible to only those who were blessed, hanging around on the beach having choriz pao, or buying fresh fish and frying them to have with a glass of homemade wine.
When she visited Goa, she yearned to recreate these memories from her childhood. “I remember spending an hour staring at the well near the Basilica, hoping to see a candle flicker. This place was special to my grandma,” she recounts.
She spent a few days of her trip visiting her grandma’s brothers and their kids in the temple towns of Khadepar, Ponda and Shiroda near Carambolim. “The neighbours joined us for meals consisting mainly of delicious Goan fish curry with the local, red unpolished rice. Other favourites that we devoured were sanna, xacuti, and sorpotel made with homemade ingredients like Goan vinegar and palm sugar.”
Dsouza spent her time exploring the area, and visiting Shree Shantadurga temple, a few kilometres away. This was followed by visits to the Sahakari spice plantations, catching a ferry to go to Divar and Vanxim islands, exploring unknown churches like the Igreja do Santo Cristo in Vanxim, and catching crabs by the Mandovi river.
Her days would end with charming sunsets at nearby beaches. “If time permitted, we’d shop for local goodies like pinarga and perad in the markets of Margao, arguing about which stall sold the best rosary sausages,” Dsouza fondly recalls.
What made her trip special was the fact that all the places she visited traced the footsteps of her grandma when she was living in Goa.