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India
Delhi
    A Transition through Time - As you walk along the narrow bylanes of this city of dreams, tread softly. Every crumbling wall has a story to tell. Every yesterday is replete with history. Rulers have come and gone. The city has lived through wars and resurrection, repeatedly rising from the ashes. PLACES OF INTEREST ARE: Safdarjang's Tomb: This marble domed mausoleum was the last famous Mughal monument built in Delhi in 1753-54, by the son of the second Nawab of Oudh. It is a son's tribute to his father, the Wazir of Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah. Purana Quila (Old Fort): Purana Quila, the old fort. The fort was built by the great Afghan ruler Sher Shah Suri in the 16th century A.D. aptly on the banks of the river Yamuna. Now Boating facilities are available here. A Sound and Light Show depicting 5000 years of Delhi's past is held by Delhi Tourism every evening both in Hindi and English. Lodi Tombs: Evidence of the sixth city, said to have been built by the Sayyid and Lodi dynasties is found only in the tombs and mosques in the famous Lodi Gardens, which is a favourite point for early morning walkers from the posh south Delhi colonies Humayun's Tomb: The Tomb was built by Humayun's widowed Queen Haji Begum, in the 16th century AD. Architecturally the forerunner of the Taj Mahal, it stands in Nizamuddin which shows the Mughal architecture at its best Red Fort: Delhi's most magnificent monument, the Red Fort, was built by Emperor Shah Jehan, in 1638 A.D. Enclosed in this glorious Fort is Diwan-i-am, the hall meant for public audiences; Diwan-i-Khas, where private audiences were granted; Rang Mahal, the water cooled apartment of the royal ladies; the Pearl Mosque, a lovely, ornate dream in white marble. The Prime Minister of India addresses the nation from this age old Fort, on the auspicious day of India's Independance. Qutub Minar: The Qutub Minar made of red sandstone rising to the height of 72.5mts is an architectural marvel of the 13th century. Also a must is the visit to Ashoka Pillar dating back to the 5th century. Though made of iron it has with stood the weathers of time. A very interesting belief is assigned to this pillar- Stand with your back to the pillar, and if you can hold your hands around it, then make a wish and it will surely come true. Try it! India Gate: India Gate is a majestic high arch, 42 meters high, built as a memorial to the Indian soldiers killed in the World War I. Beneath it burns an eternal flame. From the base of the arch one can get a good view of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The Bahai's House of Worship (Lotus Temple): This distinctive lotus shaped marvel in marble is surrounded by a landscaped garden and is a symbol of peace. Ferozshah Kotla: It is the site of the city of Ferozabad built in the 14th century by Emperor Ferozshah Tughlaq. The famous 14-meter highly polished sandstone Ashoka Pillar carrying Emperor Ashoka's message of peace stands here. Lakshmi Narayan Temple: Popularly known as Birla Mandir, it is a large Hindu temple built in 1938. People of all faiths can enter and worship but one must walk barefoot into the courtyard and further on. Parliament House: This circular shaped colonnaded building houses the two Houses of Parliament- the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. Its domed Central Hall is 90 feet in diameter. Chandni Chowk: It is the nerve centre of commercial activity. The narrow lanes have kept alive the traditional workmanship which makes Delhi famous. A market place right from the times of Mugals, this market still hosts the descendants of royal chefs as also the famous Chudiwali gali and the parathe wali gali. Spend the most enjoyable evening in the Chandni Chowk. Shahjahanabad: The most splendid of Delhi's old cities, built by Emperor Shah Jehan, is now a part of old Delhi. It was surrounded by a wall 8.8 km in circumference with 14 massive gates; Five of these still stand: Delhi Gate, Kashmere Gate, Turkman Gate, Ajmeri Gate and Lahori Gate. Raj Ghat: On the banks of the river Yamuna is the Raj Ghat where the father of the nation Mahatama Gandhi was cremated in 1948, soon after India attained it freedom. Jama Masjid: Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India, and stands across the road from the Red Fort. Built in 1656, it is an eloquent reminder of the Mughal religious fervour. Its spacious courtyard holds thousands of the faithful who offer prayers. Jantar Mantar: Jantar Mantar is an astronomical observatory with masonry instruments, built in 1724 by Jai Singh, the mathematician and astronomer king. The Samrat or Yantra supreme - the largest structure shaped like a right-angled triangle, is actually a huge sun-dial; the other five instruments are intended to show the movements of the sun, moon, etc. Cultural Centre: Mandi House is the nerve centre of cultural activity in Delhi. Close to Connaught Place, the complex has a number of auditoria and cultural institutions where regular performances take place. The other main cultural centre is the Siri Fort auditorium near the Asian Games Village. Lal Kot: Lal Kot, a mosque built by Qutub-ud-din Aibak the first Muslim ruler of Delhi, marks the foundation of the Qutub Minar. The first city of Delhi, was built around 1060 AD by the Hindu Tomar King Anangpal. This was enlarged by Prithviraj Chauhan, the celebrated Rajput. Later, the first Muslim ruler of Delhi, Qutab-ud-din-Aibak, built Quwatul-Islam mosque and laid the foundation of the Qutab Minar.
Bangalore
    The Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore is a melting pot of multi-linguistic cultures whose life is centered on the posh techno city offices. Bengaluru, as the city is officially called, is the final word in the IT field, as the city is the hub of multinational companies making the city their base. Home to various public sector undertakings, software companies, heavy industries, telecommunications, aerospace, heavy equipment, machine tools, and defense organizations, Bangalore has developed into one of India's foremost fiscal centers and is referred to by CNN as one of the "finest places to do business in the hyper world". Since Independence, Bangalore has shown an impressive growth in its educational institutions to commercial businesses making it the most sorts after city to relocate to. The city has also gained the acclamation of being the second literate metros in India. With its gorgeous parks, boulevards, cinema complexes, bustling shopping bazaars & historical monuments, Bangalore is indubitably sparkling with life and vigor. Though a contemporary, busy city and a vital business center, Bangalore remains one of India's most appealing cities. One can get a sense of authentic traditions & celebrations along with the scurry of urban life. Situated at an altitude of 920 meters, its cool evening breeze, well laid out parks and gardens, tree flanked avenues, magnificent buildings and bustling bazaars, its one city which lures the traveler with so much in its kitty! Must See/Do: Lal Bagh, Cubbon Park, Vidhan Soudha, Bangalore Palace, Tipu Sultan's Palace
Chandigarh
    Sukhna Lake: This man-made lake is the favourite recreation spot in Chandigarh, created by damming a seasonal spring in Chandigarh. This lake is shaded by well-tended trees and is a great place to walk. Paddle-boats and yachting are other pleasant options or you can lay back and relax at the several cafes run by the Chandigarh Tourism Development Corporation. The lake is also well known as a good spot for bird watchers. From December through February, aside from scores of local species, you would find many species of aquatic birds from Central Asia and Siberia. Leisure Valley: Another great recreation spot in Chandigarh, the Leisure Valley is a must visit. Running through the entire length of the city, it comprises of several interesting gardens, forests and trees. Sector-1 houses the Rajendra Park, which has round canopied trees and evergreen plants. Sector-3 has the Bougainvillea Garden, which has scores of unusual bougainvilleas growing in them. The Fitness Trail is located in Sector-10 and is popular for long walks and exercise sessions. Several cultural programmes are also organized here. The most popular garden in Chandigarh remains the Rose Garden, located in Sector-16. Over 1600 varieties of roses are grown here and the annual Festival of Gardens is a great chance for all to view these beauties. Located adjacent to the Rose Garden is Shanti Kunj, so called because of it being a noise-free are. There is a natural stream here, which divides the garden into five different areas. These five areas are dedicated to growing distinctive trees, like medicinal plants, vertical shaped trees, flowering trees, trees for shade and environmentally suitable trees. Visit Sector-23 for the Children Traffic Park, where roads have been constructed and traffic lights been installed for the safety of children learning how to cycle. The Hibiscus Garden in Sector-36 has over 40 different varieties of Hibiscus growing. Another marvelous construction is the Garden of Fragrance, also in Sector-36, known for its different varieties of fragrant plants, including Jasmine, Demask Rose and Champa. An interesting visit would be at Smriti Upvan, where trees have been planted in memory of the departed. The Terraced Garden in Sector-33 is the venue for the annual Chrysanthemum Show. The highlight here would be the illuminated musical fountain. Especially favourite with children is the Topiary Park, where shapes of animals have been created out of bushes and creepers. Rock Garden: A fine example of artistry, the Rock Garden is the brainchild of Nek Chand, who created creative artifacts out of broken bulbs, ceramic pieces, bottles tubes and bangles. Also located inside is the Magic Garden, which has been created out of useless stone pieces. Open from: 9.00 am-1.00 pm; 3.00 pm-7.00 pm Government Museum & Art Gallery: Located in Sector 10, the museum houses a fine collection of stone sculptures of the Gandhara period and various other artifacts. Apart from the sculptures, there are hundreds of miniature paintings not only from Punjab but some reflecting Persian, Mughal and Rajasthani work. A small collection of objects in stucco, terra cotta metal, ivory, lacquer, ceramic and enamel are on display. The museum is also the place to check out prehistoric fossils and artifacts along with modern art. Open from: 10.00 am-4.30 pm (closed on Mondays) Museum of the Evolution of Life: The Museum of the Evolution of Life located in Sector 10 will take you on a trip 5,000 years back. From the Indus Valley Civilization to present day, the museum has on display a vast variety of evolutionary items and facts. Open from: 10.00 am-4.30 pm (closed on Mondays) International Dolls Museum: Located in Sector-23 the International Dolls Museum has an interesting collection of dolls and puppets from all over the world covering the variant art of more than 25 countries. Open from: 10.00 am-4.30 pm (closed on Sundays)The Secretariat and the Vidhan Sabha: This is a modern building that handles the general administration of the city. As you enter the complex, you would come across a huge Open Hand sculpture which stands as the logo for the city, a symbol of unity Chandigarh Golf Course & Driving Range: Adjacent to the lake, is the popular Golf Club. The Chandigarh Golf Club boasts of a serene atmosphere, lush green fairways and a beautiful club house with both indoor and outdoor seating. Located near the golf course is the Driving Range below the steps of the Sukhna Lake. This newly built Driving Range is beautifully laid out and driving around is worth the experience. Panchkula: This is a tiny town located almost 10 kms from Chandigarh. Visit the temple of Goddess Chandi, from where Chandigarh is said to have derived its name. Nearby is the temple of Mansa Devi. The temples are built in the North Indian style of architecture and are truly impressive. In Panchkula you can come across the Panchkula Cactus and the Botanical Garden, which houses over 2,500 varieties of cacti and other succulent plants from all over the world.
Agra
    Famed with one of the Seven Wonders of the World - Taj Mahal, Agra is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. Agra is a virtual fort of history and architecture located in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. Historical monuments, architectural grandeur ventures and the beauty of marbles, Agra thrives as one of the tourist destination in India. While Agra's heyday was as the capital of the Mughal empire between 1526 and 1658, the city was founded much earlier. The earliest reference to Agra is in the ancient epic, the Mahabharata, while Ptolemy was the first person to call it by its modern name. The recorded history of Agra begins around the 11th century, and over the next 500 years, the city changed hands between various kings, both Hindu and Muslim. In 1506, Sultan Sikandar Lodi, the ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, moved his capital from Delhi to Agra. His son Ibrahim Lodi was the last ruler of the Lodi dynasty, as he was defeated in 1526 by Babur, the first Mughal ruler, in the battle of Panipat. Agra fell too, and became the capital of the Mughals, whose rule over Agra was uninterrupted except for a brief period between 1540 and 1556. In 1540, Sher Shah Shuri overthrew Humayun became the ruler of much of North India, including Agra. After Sher Shah Suri's death his descendants proved unequal to the task of ruling the kingdom, and Hemu, a Hindu general of Suri became the effective ruler who would later crown himself King Hemachandra Vikramaditya just as the kingdom was facing an assault from the reinvigorated Mughals. In 1556, Hemu would be defeated and killed in the second battle of Panipat, and the Mughals regained Agra. Mughals were great builders. Babur built the Aram Bagh (garden of relaxation) modeled after the garden of paradise, where he was eventually buried after his death. His grandson Akbar refurbished the Agra fort and built the Fatehpur Sikri, an entire city just on the outskirts of Agra. He also renamed Agra after himself, and the city was known as Akbarabad while it was in Mughal hands. Akbar's grandson Shah Jehan would give Agra its most famous monument, the Taj Mahal, which is the mausoleum of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj is constructed in white marble. It took 20 years to construct, and is now universally known as a monument to love. Legend has it that Shah Jehan wanted a replica of the Taj constructed in black marble that would be his final resting place. There is no actual support for this theory, but even if it were true, it would have been unlikely to be eventuated. His son Aurangzeb was austere and pious, and had no time or inclination for the ostentation of his forefathers, preferring to spend his money on wars in South India. In any case, even during Shah Jehan's reign, which was the period when the Mughal empire was at its height, the construction of the Taj put a strain on the resources of the empire and caused a min-famine around Agra. Shah Jehan was eventually buried in the white Taj, next to his beloved Begum. Shah Jehan, in addition to giving Agra its greatest claim to fame, was also responsible for beginning its decline, as decided to shift his capital to Shahjehanabad, which we now know as Old Delhi, in 1658. Though Aurangzeb ordered a move back, this too was short lived, as he moved his headquarters down south to Aurangabad to be focus on his wars. Agra declined, and so did the Mughal Empire. The city was eventually captured by the Marathas, who renamed it back to Agra. In 1803, it came under the British, who situated the Agra Presidency there, and when India gained independence, the city was incorporated into the state of Uttar Pradesh, and did not gain even the limited honour of being the state's capital, that distinction going to Lucknow, further east. It is now a tourist town, known for the Taj and a couple of other monuments. Anyone interested in reading a novel based on the remarkable story behind the Taj Mahal's creation should consider Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors. Beneath a Marble Sky is an international bestseller, has won multiple awards, and is being made into a movie by Hollywood. Other book (historical fiction) is The Taj by Colin De Silva. Agra, a medieval city, was assumed to be built in 1475, had been found its place even in the epic Mahabharatha as Agraban (means paradise). The renowned second century geographer Ptolemy spotted this place as Agra in his world map. Agra was the capital of many dynasties including Lodhi and Mughals. Located at the banks of River Yamuna, Agra offers the tourists the richest of the man made beauties including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites - Agra fort, Fatehpur Sikri and Taj Mahal. It is the haven of Mughal art, culture and architecture. Agra is the foremost tourist spot in India and has been equipped with all kinds of infrastructure facilities for tourists. The city with multi colored illuminations providing a marvelous view at night offer hearty welcome to its tourists. Many high standard hotels and resorts add the enjoyment of the vacation and picnic to its pinnacle in Agra.
Ajmer
    Just over 130 km south-west of Jaipur is Ajmer, a burgeoning town on the shore of the Ana Sagar Lake, flanked by barren hills. Historically, Ajmer had considerable strategic importance and was sacked by Mohammed Gauri on one of his periodic forays from Afghanistan. Later, it became a favourite residence of the mighty Mughals. One of the first contacts between the Mughals and the British occurred in Ajmer, when Sir Thomas Roe met with Jehangir here in 1616. The City was subsequently taken by the Scindias and, in 1818, it was handed over to the British, becoming one of the few places in Rajasthan controlled directly by the British rather than being part of a princely state. The British chose Ajmer as the site for Mayo College, a prestigious school opened in 1875 exclusively for the Indian Princes, but today open to all those who can afford the fees. Ajmer is a major centre for Muslim pilgrims during the fast of Ramadan, and has some impressive Muslim architecture. However for most travellers, Ajmer is essentially just a stepping stone to nearby Pushkar. It can make a convenient base if you can't get accommodation in Pushkar during the Camel Fair. PLACES OF INTEREST ARE: Dargah Sharif: At the foot of a desolate hill in old part of town, this is one of India's most important places for Muslim pilgrims. The Dargah is the Sufi saint, Khawaja Muin-uddin Chishti, who came to Ajmer from Persia in 1192. Construction of the Shrine was complete by Humayun and the gate was added by the Nizam of Hyderabad. Akbar used to make the pilgrimage to the Dargah from Agra once a year. You have to cover your head in certain areas so don't forget to take a scarf or caps. As you enter the courtyard, removing your shoes at the gateway, a mosque constructed by Akbar is on the right. The large iron cauldrons are for of ferigs which are customarily shares by families involved in the shrine upkeep. In an inner court there is another mosque built by Shah Jahan. Constructed of white marble it has II arches and a Persian inscription running the full length of the building. The saint's tomb is in the centre of the second court, it has a marble dome and the actual tomb inside is surrounded by a silver platform. The horseshoes nailed to the shrine doors are offerings from successful horse dealers! Beware of 'guides' pestering for donations around the Dargah using the standard fake donation books or 'visitor register' you'll have to pay a generous donation if you sign up. The tome attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year on the anniversary of the saint's death, the Urs, in the seventh month of the lunar calendar. It's an interesting festival, but the crowds can be suffocating. As well as the pilgrims, Sufis from all over India converge on Ajmer. Ana Sagar & Foy Sagar: This artificial lake was created in the 12th century by damming the River Luni. On its bank is a pleasant park, the Daulat Bagh, containing a series of marble pavilions erected in 1637 by Shah Jahan. There are fine views from the hill beside the Daulat Bagh. Another reservoir Foy Sagar was constructed in 1891-1892 A.D. by the Ajmer Municipal Committee. Foy was the Executive Engineer in-charge of the project. Adhai-din-ka-jhonpra: A remarkable structure, this is a masterpiece of indo - Islamic architecture located on the outskirts of the city, just beyond the Dargah As the legend goes, its construction took two and a half days (Adhai-Din) to complete. It was originally a Sanskrit college, built within a temple. In 1193 A.D., Mohammed Ghauri conquered Ajmer and converted the building into a mosque by adding a seven arched wall in front of the pillared hall in just two-and-half days (adhai-din) and hence the name. The distinct pillars and arched "Screen" with its ruined minarets make it a splendid architectural masterpiece. Taragarh Fort: Taragarh, also known as Garh Beetli, is a circumvallation of the crest of the hill which overhangs the town of Ajmer and commands a view of it from every point. The principal strength of the fort lies in the ruggedness and acclivity of the hill. The space within the walls of this hill fort was about 32 hectares with several tanks. From 1818 to 1832 A.D., a company of Native Infantry occupied it, but the fort was dismantled in 1832 A.D., from 1860 to 1920 A.D., other accommodation on the hill was used as the sanitarium for the European troops stationed at Nasirabad. It is now in a dilapidated and forlorn state though the hill still commands a majestic view. Mayo College: lord Mayo, the Viceroy of India, in a Darbar held in 1870 A.D. at Ajmer, which was attended by several ruling princess of States of Rajputana, placed before them a proposal to set up an institution at Ajmer for the education of princess and sons of nobility. Its foundation stone was laid in 1878 A.D. and its building, constructed in white marble in Indo Saracenic style, was inaugurated by the Maruis of Dufferin, in 1885 A.D. Sometimes known as the Eton of India, the institution had the distinction of enrolling several ruling princes, not only from Rajputana States, But from outside as well. It is now open to all sections of society and is still one of the best schools in the country. The Circuit House: The former British Residency, overlooking the artificial lake Ana Sagar, has now been converted into the Circuit House. The Ana Sagar Lake and the cenotaph and the shrine of Hindu reformer Swami Dayanand, founder of the Arya Samaj movement in India, can be viewed from here. Nasiyan (Jain Temple): Buiilt in 1864-1865 A.D., this Digambar Jain Temple is commonly called Lal Mandir (Red Temple) due to its colour. Behind the temple is a Swarna Nagari Hall containing gilt-edged wooden representations from Jain mythology, which were prepared at Jaipur.
Allahabad
    Allahabad Travel Allahabad is one of the renowned cities of Uttar Pradesh in India. It is the seventh most populated city in the state. The city's original name was Prayaga or "place of sacrifice", as the city is situated at the sacred union of the holy rivers Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati. The current name was given to the city by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1583. As the second oldest city in India, Allahabad plays a vital role in the Hindu scriptures. Interestingly, Allahabad is also known as the "City of Prime Ministers" as post independence 7 out of 13 prime minister of India belonged to Allahabad. Allahabad Tourism Allahabad is among the oldest and most important pilgrimage centers of India. The place has special sentiments attached for Hindus as well as Muslims. The city is said to be holy, as it is among the four main pilgrimage sites of the Hindus. Thus, the place is mainly famous for its religious tourism. Allahabad is famous for the Kumbh and Ardh Kumbh Melas held here every twelve and six years, respectively. During this time millions of devotees come to Allahabad and take a bath in Ganges to wash away all their sins. Allahabad is a very traditional city and is also a heritage site. There is an evident increase in the number of visitors visiting this city every year. Although the city's economy was built on tourism, its main revenue nowadays comes from real estate and financial services. Location Allahabad is located in the southern part of Uttar Pradesh and stands at the confluence of the rivers - Ganga and Yamuna. Allahabad has many suburbs and stands at a strategic point both geographically and culturally. It is located at around 202 km (125 mi) south-west of the state capital Lucknow. Tourist Places in Allahabad Allahabad Fort Triveni Sangam Khusrau Bagh Anand Bhavan Allahabad Museum Allahabad Planetarium Allahabad University Alopi Devi Mandir All Saints Cathedral Pratisthan Pur (Jhunsi) Someshwar Mahadev Temple Demographics State Uttar Pradesh District Allahabad Coordinates 25.45°N 81.85°E Elevation 98 meters (322 ft) Area 63.07 sq km Population 1,216,719 (As per Census 2011) Languages Spoken Hindi, English, Urdu Time Zone GMT/UTC + 05:30 Hour Pin Code 211001-18 STD Code +(91) 532
Bhubhneshwar
    A walk through the winding lanes might pop up a question - could this be Khajuraho? And the reason is clear when you watch the Kamasutra carvings that define the walls of temples. The temple complexes are such graceful structures that it is tough to imagine that Bhubaneswar was once the site of one of the bloodiest battles in the history of India - the Kalinga War, which of course, softened and transformed King Ashoka into one of the greatest antiwar kings. All said, the Bhubaneswar that your see today is distinctly metropolitan - in the swanky five star hotels, modern coffee houses and multiplex movie halls. But even this has a charm and all metropolitan wonders fail to take away the essence that these stories in stone render.
Bikaner
    The royal fortified city with a timeless appeal. Lying in the north of the desert state, the city is dotted with many sand dunes. Bikaner retains the medieval splendour that pervades the city's lifestyle. More popularly called the camel country, the city is renowned for the best riding camels in the world. Bikaner's history dates back to 1488 AD, when a Rathore Prince Rao Bikaji - a descendent of the founder of Jodhpur (1459 AD), Rao Jodhaji, established his kingdom here. Rao Jodhaji had five sons but Rao Bikaji was the most enterprising of them. Bikaji chose a barren wilderness called 'Jangladesh' and transformed it to an impressive city, called Bikaner after the founder's name. The strategic location of Bikaner on the ancient caravan routes that came from West/Central Asia, made it a prime trade centre in the time of the yore. Bikaner stands on a slightly raised ground and is circumscribed by a seven km long embattled wall with five gates. The magnificent forts and palaces, created with delicacy in reddish pink sandstone, bear testimony to its rich historical and architectural legacy. Undulating lanes, colourful bazaars and bright and cheerful folks make Bikaner an interesting experience. PLACES OF INTEREST ARE: Junagarh: Just over five centuries old, Bikaner was founded by a scion of the house of Marwar (Jodhpur). The fort of Bikaner, Junagarh, however, was built in 1593 by Raja Rai Singh who also served as a general in the army of Emperor Akbar. Made from red sandstone and encircled by a moat around which the modern city of Bikaner has spread in a somewhat erratic fashion, Junagarh consists of several palaces and apartments in a remarkable state of preservation. The art of mason and sculptor is most obvious in the recreation of delicate stone screens, kiosks, pavilions and series of arched entrances to buildings reached from corridors that have windows overlooking the city beyond. Some of the palaces are among the most richly decorated in Rajasthan and include Anup Mahal, Chandra Mahal and Phool Mahal. They give the impression of rich inlay of pietra dura, though in fact the apartments are merely richly painted. The paintings have been preserved as good as new because of extremely dry heat conditions of the desert town. Another palace, Badal Mahal recreated painting of clouds on its walls, a reminder of the monsoon that often failed the settlement. The Anup Mahal courtyard has a throne set in a pool of water. Bringing alive the sensitivity the rulers showed in their building environment. Lallgarh Palace: the architectural masterpiece in red sandstone, the palace was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the memory of his father Maharaja Lal Singh. The palace has beautiful latticework and filigree work. Sprawling lawns with blooming bougainvillea and dancing peacocks make it a not-to-be missed visual treat. Part of the palace has been converted into a luxury hotel and a museum known as Shri Sadul Museum. Gardens and Parks: Gaga Public Park with a Zoo, Ratan Bihari Temple Park and Tessitory Park are some of the lovely parks in the city, surely worth a visit.
Goa
    Beaches at North Goa Arambol: Located close to Mapusa, Arambol is the site of several adventure activities in Goa. The beachfront is lined with shacks and stalls that offer Goan snacks and great shopping options. Visit the Paliem Beach, which also has a tiny freshwater lake, fed by springs located at the base of the hills. The Keri Beach is palm-fringed and has several shacks and food stalls lining it, making it the apt picnic spot. You also the options of indulging in some great adventure sports including dolphin-spotting, windsurfing and paragliding, which are arranged by the clubs located on the beach. An interesting site you can visit is the Tiracol Fort located north of Arambol, now converted into a hotel. The St Anthony’s chapel is open for guided tours and the ramparts offer splendid views of the region. Open from: Tiracol Fort – 6.30 am-9.30 pm for 30 minutes tours Mandrem-Ashwem-Morjim: These three beaches are divided by tiny creeks and constitute the quieter of all other beaches. Mandrem is best explored on foot; you must visit the Organic Farm, which grows and sells fresh organic fruits and vegetables. There isn’t much of watersports options except occasional dolphin and crocodile spotting excursions. Ashwem Beach, with its profusion of shacks, budget hotels and local restaurants is home to backpackers. It would be a particularly exciting trip to Morjim Beach, which is the breeding ground for the Olive Ridley Turtles, managed by a group of volunteers. Vagator: This is known for the Chapora Fort, which dominates the skyline of the beach. The site of many Bollywood film shots, Vagator Beach is marked by red cliffs and fresh water springs, against the backdrop of stalls selling trinkets, t-shirts and sarongs. Explore the area of Ozrant, which has an interesting stone carving of Lord Shiva’s face. Vagator’s most defining structure is the Chapora Fort, which is accessible from the sea-face. The fort, which offers breathtaking views, is not maintained too well, so you need to be careful when exploring the ramparts. The Chapora Village is set away from the beach and has tiny shops and stalls selling fresh fruits, vegetables and breads. Closeby is the Chapora Fishing Jetty, where you can try your hands on some angling and indulge in dolphin-spotting activities. Anjuna: This is one of the most frequented and hip beaches in Goa, and you would find all kinds of people coming here. Anjuna’s best highlights are the beach parties that happen on full moon nights and its Wednesday Flea Market, where a whole world of trinkets and souvenirs are available. The beach is overlooked by a red cliff and is full of rough stones and boulders set amidst swirling waves. There isn’t much watersports activities, except occasional snorkeling when parrotfish and mullet might be visible. Also located closeby is Siolim Village, which is known for its annual Sangodd and Zagor Festivals. Calangute: The discovery of hippies, Calangute is said to be the Queen of Beaches in Goa. The Baga-Calangute-Candolim stretch is frequented by tourists and shops selling a whole range of interesting buys. The Calangute beach is a haven for watersport activities, including parasailing, water-skiing, banana and bump rides. You can also contact the boat operators who organise crocodile and dolphin spotting, fishing and trips to nearby islands. Also accessible from the Anjuna Beach, Baga is lined with restaurants and shops, and is home to the famous Club Tito’s and Café Mambo. Arpora Village near Baga is known for its exciting Ingo’s Night Market, where, along with the usual trinkets, you also have options of tattoos, body piercing, tarot-reading, wood carvings and sculpting. Candolim is a relatively quiet beach and is home to the Chapel of Saint Lawrence, dedicated to the patron saint of sailors. The stark white Candolim Church is dedicated to Our Lady of Hope and has stained glass panels. Other quiet beaches near Candolim include Coco Beach, Reis Magos and Queg de Velim Beach. All these beaches have selective hotels where you can stay and some well-spread shacks offering great Goan cuisine. Miramar-Dona Paula: Miramar Beach is the site of the confluence of the Mandovi River and the sea and is full of tourists and picnickers every evening. The Gaspar Dias Circle was home to a fort by the same name, which used to guard the Mandovi River entrance. The single-steeple Cabo Chapel is open to the public for Christmas Eve midnight mass. Made up of three beaches, Dona Paula offers sailing activities and great views of the Mormugao Harbour and Arabian Sea. At the base of the hillock is a sculpture depicting a man facing west and a woman facing east. Beaches in South Goa Bogmalo: This is one of Goa’s more attractive golden beaches bound by green hills. A little before you reach Bogmalo, visit the little cove and beach of Issorcim, which is an extremely secluded beach and the only place where plate coral grows. Of course, these are visible only when the water is clear. The Sao Jacinto Island is home to old quaint houses and a beautiful chapel. The Chicalim coastline is known for its huge number of fresh clams, which are collected for the coconut milk curry. Too many watersport activities are not available here, though you can try your hand on basic diving activities. Velsao-Betalbatim: This is the quietest of all beaches in Goa and only features Sunday picnickers as the crowd. The Velsao Beach is made of green hills and coconut groves, lined with fishing huts and sardine fishing options. Velsao is best explored on foot and you must visit the Velsao Chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Cures, and which also offers great views of the sunset. The Arossim Beach is home to the Cansaulim Village, Cansaulim Church and the well-preserved house Casa dos Roldao de Souza. Majorda Beach is a larger village, though accommodation is limited. The Utorda Beach is located 1 km from Majorda and has quite an interesting range of hotels. The Betalbatim Beach gets its name from the demon Betaal, whose temple once existed at Fardo Village. Betalbatim is also home to the recently renovated Church of Our Lady of Remedios. Colva-Benaulim: Colva is South Goa’s most happening beach, especially for shopping and nightlife. The beach is full of shacks and restaurants serving vindaloo, xacuti and feni, and boat clubs offer dolphin-spotting activities. The Colva Church is dedicated to Our Lady of Merces, and its most striking feature is the image of the Infant Jesus, which is believed to have miraculous powers. If you must have a dip, do so at the relatively isolated Sernabatim. Benaulim Beach is similar to Colva with its lines of shacks, where you can chill out with a beer or feni. The village houses the St John the Baptists Church, which is notable for its pure white marble interiors. In Benaulim, you’d find ornamented wooden altars and idols or saints at every church and house, which are the handiwork of the local carpenters. Palolem: Palolem Beach is located in the Canacona region of South Goa. This is also one of the best areas for catching glimpses of the dolphins. Palolem Beach has a large cup-shaped rock called Pandava’s Drum, so named because of the sound it emanates when you throw a stone of it. Located a little away from the beach, Figueiredo House is an old beach house built in the 20th century. The Island at the end of the beach offers great snorkeling opportunities, where you could find mussels, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. Located closeby, enjoy interesting watersports at the Patnem-Colomb Beach. Rarely visited, but just as peaceful are the Agonda Beach, Cola Beach and Canaguinim Beache. Panjim: This is possibly your base to exploring the treasures of Goa. Panjim is best discovered on foot, as you walk in the old-world lanes, past heritage houses and ancient markets selling an amazing range of goodies. Located centrally in Panjim, Altinho offers spectacular views of the city. It is one of the quietest areas and only has a few ancient houses, the Bishop’s Palace and the Jogger’s Park. The Bishop’s Palace is especially beautiful during Christmas, when star lanterns are hung on the trees and a huge mass is conducted. The Jogger’s Park also offers spectacular views of the city and has a Maruti Temple, which is lit up in the evenings. Panjim’s most recognized feature is the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, which has double staircases rising from the main church square. The interiors are beautifully done and two gilded and carved altars are placed before the main altar. The church bell located in one of the towers is said to be among the largest in the world. The Fontainhas is one of the prime cultural centres, which houses evidences of the life and history of Goa. The Kala Academy houses two mini theatres, which conduct regular workshops, a music library, an art gallery and exhibition rooms. While in Panjim, also try and get a boat cruise through the River Mandovi and you just might be lucky to spot a dolphin or two. Open from: Kala Academy - 9.30 am-5.45 pm; Cruise – 6.00 pm-7.00 pm, 7.15 pm-8.15 pm, 8.30 pm-9.30 pm Goan Churches: The entire landscape of Goa is dotted with a number of churches, each with a story of its own. Among the most popular is the Basilica of Bom Jesus, which houses the relics of the Goan saint, Francis Xavier. This church is intricately carved in a baroque Renaissance-style. The relics of the Saint are housed in a protected casket and put up on public display once in 10 years. The Sé Cathedral, with its distinctive Tuscan exterior houses the famous Golden Bell in one of the towers and exquisite filigree work adorn the screens. Built in Indo-Portuguese style, the Church & Convent of St Francis of Assisi sports bold floral designs, a gilded altar and inscribed tombstones. Within the church is an Archaeological Museum, which houses portraits of Goan viceroys and governors and other memorabilia of the Goan life and times. Close to the Francis Assisi Church is the Chapel of St Catherine, which is another Renaissance-style chapel with square towers. The Church of Our Lady of the Rosary is particularly interesting for its Indian motifs, like cashewnuts, mangoes and flowers that adorn its walls. Another architectural marvel is the Royal Chapel of St Anthony, which has a distinctive fort-like appearance and is extremely ornamented from within. Also visit the ruins of Church & Monastery of St Augustine, which only has the belfry of its once 150-ft tower remaining. Open from: Basilica of Bom Jesus – 6.00 am-6.30 pm Sé Cathedral – 7.30 am-6.00 pm Church & Convent of St Francis of Assisi – 7.30 am-6.30 pm Goan Temples: Among the better-known temples is the Mahalsa Temple in Mardol, which is dedicated to Mohini, the female form of Vishnu. Its highlight is the 21-tiered deepmal, placed atop the tortoise. Elaborate carvings adorn the temple walls and heavy woodwork defines the Shikhara. The Mangueshi Temple in Priol was originally dedicated to Lord Shiva; today it houses quite a few gods of the Hindu pantheon. Painted white and yellow the deepmal here is a stunning seven-storey. One of the most popular temples is the Shantadurga Temple, dedicated to Goddess Parvati. Done in white and red, a four-storey domed tower adorns the temple top. A 5-storeyed deepmal is located inside the complex and huge chandeliers are suspended from the ceiling. Also visit the Ramnath Temple in Kavlem, which houses a lingam within. Especially watch out for the silver screen in the sanctum, which has elaborate carvings of animals and floral motifs. Goan Forts: Fort Aguada is one of the most important forts overlooking the Aguada Bay and Mandovi River. This fort once had almost 79 cannons and the arched entrance has a citadel and lighthouse. Also check out the prison cells, which are located at the lowest level of the church – these, however, are kept locked. The Reis Magos Fort was used as a prison and offered great views of the sea. Overlooking Panjim, the Cabo Fort was one of the most imposing structures. However, today only 3 large cisterns remain. The Mormugao Fort originally had 5 prisons, a chapel, rooms for the guards, 20 bulwarks and 3 magazines. However, today, all you would find the chapel and a part of the boundary wall. Also visit the Cabo Da Rama, which though in ruins, affords awesome views of the sea. Vasco Da Gama: Vasco houses the Dabolim Airport and is one of the most active areas in Goa. The Pilot Point is the best area to catch unhindered views of the place. One of the few natural harbours in India is also located here, called the Mormugao Port. You can also hire the services of the ferries who engage in sightseeing activities. The Japanese Garden is located close to the Pilot Point and houses the ruins of the fort. The Garden has steps leading to the beach. En route you’d come across a temple dedicated to Durga and another dedicated to Lord Shiva. Don’t miss the Naval Aviation Museum, which has on display aircraft and weapons used by the Indian Navy. Especially interesting would be the Super Constellation and a Sea Hawk with folding wings. Also available are flight simulator video games. Open from: Naval Aviation Museum - 10.00 am-5.00 pm (Mondays closed) Entry fee - Rs 15 Margao: Margao is one of the best old-world areas in Goa, complete with bright green fields against the backdrop of hills. Interesting features of Margao include the Town Square, which has a Library housing books in Hindi, English, Konkani and Portuguese. The Church of the Holy Spirit was done in baroque-style architecture and features a dome and towers on either side. The Grace Church features the crucifix of the resurrected Christ draped in a shroud. Temples in Margao include the Damodar Temple, the Hari Mandir and a more recent Ram Mandir. Mapusa: Mapusa is more synonymous with the Friday Market, which is definitely a not-to-be-missed scene! Brightly dressed women travel here from far and near with a whole range of interesting articles for sale. These include utterly cheap clothes, fresh organic fruits and veges, Goan red rice and the absolutely yummy Goan sausages. A much-revered temple here is the Bodhgeshwar Temple, whose main deity was believed to have miraculous wish-granting powers. The Swiss Chapel is a rather modest structure sporting a cream and blue altar and shrine, and is the site of a Holy Cross Feast towards the beginning of Lent.
Jaipur
    Jaipur, the ‘Pink City’, has been the capital of erstwhile Jaipur state since its inception in 1727 AD, It was founded by Sawai Jai Singh II, a great ruler as well as renowned mathematician and astrologer. Vidhyadhar Bhattacharya, designed Jaipur as per the Hindu treatise, Shilp Shastra. In 1876 Jaipur dressed itself in pink to welcome Prince Albert, consort of queen Victoria, and earned the epitaph ‘Pink City'. The excellent handicrafts of Jaipur are exquisite gold jewellery enameled or inlaid with precious stones, blue pottery, carving on wood, stone & ivory, block print & tie & dye textiles, handmade paper etc. PLACES OF INTEREST ARE: Amber: The Kachhawahas ruled form Amber, 11 km from Jaipur, for seven centuries. With a history so old, it is not unexpected that there is a lot of the past that can be traced in its archaeological history. While many of the very early structures have either disappeared or been ruined, those dating from the 16th century on are in a remarkable state of preservation. Amber as it exists now is the handiwork of three of the kingdom's rulers that include Man Singh and Jai Singh I and II. Approached from a steep ramp, visitors ride up on elephant back, entering through the grand Singh Pol gateway and continuing to Jaleb Chowk, the courtyard where they disembark from the pachyderm. From here, they are faced with two flight of steps, one leading to the Shila Mata complex with its enshrined image of the goddess, and the other to the main palace complex. Within the complex, Ganesh Pol, an imposing gateway painted with images of the elephant-headed God, Lord Ganesha, takes pride of place. Also a part of the complex is the Diwan-I-Am or hall of public audience with its spectacular display of pillars. The typical merging of Rajput and Mughal architectural styles is captured in the Sukh Niwas and Jas Mandir Apartments, and the Charbagh garden with its perfectly proportioned landscaping. A highlight is the pierced screen windows which offer views from points of vantage, as well as the shimmering mirrors encrusting the wall of the Sheesh Mahal. Several other gardens and pavilions within the sprawling spread of the ramparts offer enough scope for investigating medieval lifestyles at leisure. Beyond the ramparts, the old city, once the abode of the aristocracy, has a wonderfully medieval flavour, though it has few buildings of majestic proportion that are still extinct. However, a walk though the rambling lanes will reap rich reward for the curious. Besides a large number of temples, there are also stepwells, memorials and townhouses. Gaitore: Located off the Jaipur-Amber road, Gaitors is the final resting place for the maharajas of Jaipur. Set in a narrow valley, the cenotaphs of the former rulers consist of the somewhat typical chhatri or umbrella-shaped memorials. Of special mention is Jai Singh 2nd chhatri because of the carvings that have been used to embellish it. Jaigarh: One of the few military structures of medieval India, retaining its ancient splendour in palaces, garden, reservoirs, a granary, an armoury, a well planned cannon foundry, several temples, a tall tower and a giant mounted cannon the Jai Ban, one of the largest in the country are preserved here. The extensive parkotas (walls), watch tower and gateways of Jaigarh dominate the western skyline. Nahargarh: The third of the hilltop forts that guard Jaipur, and in a state of majestic ruin, it has some lovely gardens and pavilions added after the capital had shifted to Jaipur. The members of the royal family often used it for summer excursions and picnics. Jal Mahal: Jal Mahal was built by Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 AD in the midst of the Man Sagar Lake as a pleasure spot. The was formed by constructing dam between the two hills by Sawai Man Singh I. During winter months once can see a large number of migratory as well as residents birds at the lake. Hawa Mahal: Located to one side, but a part of the City Palace complex, Hawa Mahal is best viewed from the street outside. If is were not for the bustling bazaar all around, it would have been easy to mistake it for a film set, so exquisitely is it proportioned, and so incongruous is its delicacy. Hawa Mahal consists of five tiers of corridors on the inside, with pierced screen windows that overlook the street below. It is believed the women of the royal zenana would sit concealed behind these screens to see life in the city beyond the walls of the palace. City Palace: As may be expected, the City Palace complex lies at the heart of the city. Getting in is simpler than it once was. Though the erstwhile maharaja and his family and close friends use the triple-arched Tripolia Gate to enter their section of the palace, most visitors are ushered in through Atish Pol which is located close to the royal stables, cross from here to Chandni Chowk or Moonlit Square and then on to Gainda ki Deorhi. At the heart of the complex is seven-tiered Chandra Mahal where the erstwhile royal family is still in residence, though only a small part of the apartments are occupied. However, it is only the buildings around Chandra Mahal that are open to the public, and these also form part of a museum which includes everything from Grand outfits (including one with 18 kilos of golden thread woven into it) to swords and two silver urns that are believed to be the largest silver objects in the world. These are housed in the Mubarak Mahal, and the Diwan-i-am respectively. Through Singh Pol, visitors can approach the Diwan-i-am, where the maharaja's private and public courts would be held. The architecture seems to consist of a number of arched, pillared halls, while courtyards with painted doorways are prominent feature. Jantar Mantar: A stone observatory, part of the city palace complex, Jantar Mantar is one of several other astronomical observatories created by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh 2nd (other are in Delhi, Banaras, Ujjain). These concrete masonry instruments were used to measure everything from altitude to time, and map the movement of the planets and the stars. Jai Singh 2nd had a passion for astronomy and used astronomical inventions from different of these observatories, the largest of which in is Jaipur. Govind Dev Ji Temple: The most popular spireless temple of Jaipur dedicated to Lord Krishna. It is located in the central pavilion of the Jai Niwas Garden to the north of Chandra Mahal. The image of the patron deity Govind Devji, originally installed in a temple of Vrindavan, was reinstalled here by Sawai Jai Singh 2nd as his family deity. Sargasuli: Also known as Isar Lat, this tower was erected in the mid-18th century by Maharaja Ishwari Singh to commemorate a battle victory. Ironically, Ishwari Singh was ostracized for his lover of a common girl, and he is the only Kachhawaha Maharaja who has not been commemorated at Gaitor. Galtaji: An ancient pilgrimage centre, lying beyond the gardens amidst low hills. Temples, pavilions and holy kunds (natural spring and reservoirs) along with lush landscape make it a delightful spot. The small temple of the sun god, built by Diwan Kriparam on the top of the highest peak is visible from all parts of the city. Sisodia Rani Ka Bagh: In the 18th and 19th centuries, the royals and the nobles laid out summer gardens at Ghati ki guni, a valley at beginning of the Jaipur-Agra road which traps the breezes and wafts it through pleasantly. Sisodia Rani ka Bagh was laid for one of the queens from the lake city of Udaipur, to cure her of her homesickness. It consists of pavilions with water channels that run down in tiered gardens. Vidyadharji ka Bagh: The exquisite, tiered garden laid for the private pleasure of the architect of the city, it has delicate pavilions bordered by water channels, and a larger pavilion overlooking the whole complex. Located at Ghat ki Guni, it is now let out for private picnics. Jain Temple: one of few example of Jain architecture in Jaipur, located on the Agra Road, it has 19th century frescos that are exquisite. Ram Niwas Bagh: A lush spacious garden with a zoo, an aviary, a greenhouse, a herbarium, a museum and popular sports ground. It was built by Sawai Ram Singh 2nd in 1868 A.D. as a famine relief project. The Albert hall, fine example of Indo Sarcenic style of architecture designed by Sir Swinton Jecob, was opened later with an exquisite collection of sculptures, paintings, decorative wares, natural history specimen, an Egyptian mummy & celebrated Persian carpet. Recently, the Rabindra Manch with an auditorium, a modern art gallery and an open air theatre, has been added to promote cultural events. Laxmi Narayan Temple: A new temple, built entirely of marble, this is a showcase of the continuing skill of the mason and the sculptor. Moti Doongari: A small palace, this is a replica of a Scottish castle, and perched on a hilltop. Once occupied by Maharaja Madho Singh's son who was confined here, it was also for a while home to Maharani Gayatri Devi. Statue Circle: A busy crossing, this has a life-size statue in marble of Maharaja Jai Singh 2nd. It is a recent addition to the city's attractions.
Jammu
    Places to Visit Gulmarg : Gulmarg's legendary beauty, prime location and proximity to Srinagar naturally make it one of the premier hill resorts in the country. Originally called 'Gaurimarg' by shepherds, its present name was given in the 16th century by Sultan Yusuf Shah, who was inspired by the sight of its grassy slopes emblazoned with wild flowers. Gulmarg was a favourite haunt of Emperor Jehangir who once collected 21 different varieties of flowers from here. Today Gulmarg is not merely a mountain resort of exceptional beauty - it also has the highest green golf course in the world, at an altitude of 2,650 m, and is the country's premier ski resort in the winter. The journey to Gulmarg is half the enchantment of reaching there - roads bordered by rigid avenues of poplar give over to flat expanses of rice fields interspersed with picturesque villages. Depending on the season, nature's colors could be the translucent green of spring, summer's rich emerald, or autumn's golden hues, when scarlet chilies festoon windows of village homes. After Tangmarg, the climb to Gulmarg begins through fir-covered hillsides. At one point, known simply as View Point, travelers generally stop their vehicles for a few minutes and look out a spectacle of snow-covered mountains, almost within touching distance. Pahalgam - The Valley of Shepherds : Situated at the confluence of the streams flowing from SheshnagLake and the Lidder river, Pahalgam (2,130 m) was once a humble shepherd's village with breathtaking views. Now it is Kashmir's premier resort, cool even during the height of summer when the maximum temperature does not exceed 250C. A number of hotels and lodges cater to all preferences and budgets, from luxurious hotels to unpretentious trekkers' lodges, including J&K TDC's huts. Around Pahalgam are many places of interest, and because the resort is set between fairly steep hills, it is worth hiring a pony rather than walking. Pony fares are posted at prominent locations. The most beautiful of these is the huge, undulating meadow of Baisaran, surrounded by thickly wooded forests of pine. Hajan, on the way to Chandanwari, is an idyllic spot for a picnic. Filmgoers will recognize it instantly as it has been the location of several movie scenes Sonmarg - The Meadow of Gold : The drive to Sonamarg is throughthe Sindh Valley which presentsyet another spectacular facet of countryside in Kashmir. Situated at an altitude of 2730 m, Sonamarg (‘The meadow of gold’) has, as its backdrop, snowy mountains against a cerulean sky. The Sindh River that meanders through the valley abounds with trout andmahaseer. Ponies can be hired for the trip up to Thajiwas glacier, which is a major local attraction during the summer months. Sonamarg is the base of a major trek that passes along several mountain lakes –Vishansar, Kishansar, Gadsar, Satsar and Gangabal. Sonamarg is also the take off station for the drive to Ladakh across the Zojila, a major pass in the Great Himalayan Range, through which the Srinagar-Leh Road passes.
Kashmir
    Kashmir the Paradise on Earth Set like a jewelled crown on the map of India, Kashmir is a multi-faceted diamond, changing its hues with the seasons - always extravagantly beautiful. Two major Himalayan ranges, the Great Himalayan Range and the Pir Panjal, surround the landscape from the north and south respectively. They are the source of great rivers, which flow down into the valleys, forested with orchards and decorated by lily-laden lakes. The Mughals aptly called Kashmir ‘Paradise on Earth’ where they journeyed across the hot plains of India, to the valley’s cool environs in summer. Here they laid, with great love and care, Srinagar’s many formal, waterfront gardens, now collectively known as the Mughal Gardens. Anecdotes of four and five centuries ago describe their love for these gardens, and the rivalries that centred around their ownership. They also patronized the development of art & craft among the people of Kashmir, leaving behind a heritage of exquisite artisanship among these people and making the handicrafts of the land prized gifts all over the world. Kashmir is a land where myriad holiday ideas are realized. In winter, when snow carpets the mountains, there is skiing, tobogganing, sledge-riding, etc. along the gentle slopes. In spring and summer, the honey-dewed orchards, rippling lakes and blue skies beckon every soul to sample the many delights the mountains and valleys have to offer. Golfing at 2,700 m above the sea, water-skiing in the lakes and angling for prized rainbow trout, or simply drifting down the willow fringed alleys of lakes in shikaras and living in gorgeous houseboats are some of the most favored ones. he valley of Kashmir is as rich with history and political controversy as it is with culture and natural phenomena. Sample exquisitely spiced native cuisines and festive teas, then walk off your meal along the rugged trekking routes to the north. Marvel at the famous houseboats of Srinagar and take a spiritual moment to reflect at one of the many pilgrimage sites and religious shrines that dot the region. Of course, native craftsmanship makes for excellent souvenirs—carpets and textiles are an especial shopping must.
Kolkata
    One of the four great urban centres of India, KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) is, to its proud citizens, the equal of any city in the country in charm, variety and interest. As the showpiece capital of the British Raj, it was the greatest colonial city of the Orient, and descendants of the fortune-seekers who flocked from across the globe to participate in its eighteenth- and nineteenth-century trading boom remain conspicuous in its cosmopolitan blend of communities. Despite this, there has been a recent rise in Bengali nationalism, which has resulted in the renaming of Calcutta as Kolkata (the Bengali pronunciation and official new name), which has yet to be universally embraced – leading English-language paper The Telegraph continues to use Calcutta. Since Indian Independence, mass migrations of dispossessed refugees caused by twentieth-century upheavals within the Subcontinent have tested the city’s infrastructure to the limit. The resultant suffering – and the work of Mother Teresa in drawing attention to its most helpless victims – has given Kolkata a reputation for poverty that its residents consider ill-founded. They argue that the city’s problems – the continuing influx of refugees notwithstanding – are no longer as acute as those of Mumbai or other cities across the world. In fact, though Kolkata’s mighty Victorian buildings lie peeling and decaying, and its central avenues are choked by traffic, the city exudes a warmth and buoyancy that leaves few visitors unmoved. Kolkata is expanding rapidly, with shopping arcades, restaurants and satellite towns springing up all around the city. The downside of all this development, however, is some of the worst air pollution in the world, while the increase in traffic has seen the roads become some of the most dangerous in India. In terms of the city’s cultural life, Kolkata’s Bengalis exude a pride in their artistic heritage and like to see themselves as the intelligentsia of India. The city is home to a multitude of galleries and huge Indian classical music festivals, with a thriving Bengali-language theatre scene and a tradition of cinema brought world renown by Satyajit Ray. Though Marxists may rule from the chief bastion of imperialism (the Writers’ Building, which has changed little over the decades), visitors still experience Kolkata first and foremost as a colonial city. Grand edifices in a profusion of styles include the imposing Victoria Memorial and the gothic St Paul’s Cathedral, while the collection at the eclectic Indian Museum, one of the largest museums in Asia, ranges from natural history to art and archeology. Among numerous venerable Raj institutions to have survived are the racecourse, the reverence for cricket and several exclusive gentlemen’s clubs. Kolkata’s climate is at its best during its short winter (Nov–Feb), when the daily maximum temperature hovers around 27°C, and the markets are filled with vegetables and flowers. Before the monsoons, the heat hangs unbearably heavily; the arrival of the rains in late June brings relief, but usually also floods that turn the streets into a quagmire. After a brief period of post-monsoon high temperatures, October and November are quite pleasant; this is the time of the city’s biggest festival, Durga Puja. Kolkata’s crumbling, weather-beaten buildings and anarchic streets can create an intimidating first impression. With time and patience, though, this huge metropolis resolves itself into a fascinating conglomerate of styles and influences. The River Hooghly, spanned by the remarkable cantilever Howrah Bridge, is not all that prominent in the life of the city. Instead its heart is the green expanse of the Maidan, which attracts locals from all walks of life for recreation, sports, exhibitions and political rallies. At its southern end stands the white marble Victoria Memorial, and close by rise the tall Gothic spires of St Paul’s Cathedral. Next to the busy New Market area looms the all-embracing Indian Museum. Further north, the district centred on BBD Bagh is filled with reminders of the heyday of the East India Company, dominated by the bulk of the Writers’ Building, built in 1780 to replace the original structure which housed the clerks or “writers” of the East India Company; nearby stand St Andrew’s Kirk and the pillared immensity of the GPO. A little further out, the Armenian church stands on the edge of the frenetic, labyrinthine markets of Barabazaar, while the renowned and influential temple of Kalighat is away to the south. Across the river, south of the marvellous Howrah railway station, lies the tranquillity of the Botanical Gardens.
Lucknow
    Lucknow city is popularly known as the 'the city of Nawabs'. Situated on the banks of the river Gomti, it dates back to the time of the Suryavanshi dynasty. Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, was founded by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula. In the olden times, it served as the capital of the nawabs of Awadh and it is one of the reasons why it is also called as the city of the Nawabs. The era of the Nawabs bestowed Lucknow with the courteous culture as well as mouthwatering delicacies for which it is famous today. Travel to Lucknow with us to find more information on this interesting city! Even after witnessing tremendous modernization, Lucknow has managed to retain its age-old charm and glory. The warmth, the hospitality and the formality of the city have still not been lost. The era of the nawabs also gifted Lucknow with the literature, music, dance and arts and crafts that draw tourists here. Infact, it was in the streets of the city only that Tabla and Sitar were born. Lucknow tourism brings one closer to the glorious days city, through a visit to its numerous monuments and ruins. Even after witnessing tremendous modernization, Lucknow has managed to retain its age-old charm and glory. The warmth, the hospitality and the formality of the city have still not been lost. The era of the nawabs also gifted Lucknow with the literature, music, dance and arts and crafts that draw tourists here. Infact, it was in the streets of the city only that Tabla and Sitar were born. Lucknow tourism brings one closer to the glorious days city, through a visit to its numerous monuments and ruins. The city of Lucknow has a magical charm surrounding it. Be it its delicious cuisine or its heart melting culture, the city leaves an everlasting impression on its visitors. It is one of the few places where one can still find people saying 'aap', 'janab', 'pehle aap', etc. Even though flats have replaces Nawabi mansions, the city is still as charismatic as before. So, visit Lucknow and lose yourself in the magic and allure of the city.
Manali
    A picturesque hill station encircled by snowy mountains and dense pinewoods with the meandering Beas River, Manali in the state of Himachal Pradesh is famed for its aesthetic beauty. Lying at an altitude of 6260 feet, Manali is the premier hill station in the Kullu valley, whose splendor lies in the ever flowing Beas river with conifer gradients and crop orchards hiking up to the snow clad knolls of Himalayas. This awe inspiring hill resort is sandwiched between the imposing peaks of Pir Panjal and Dhauladhar. A land, which is the holy abode of numerous goddesses and gods, this gorgeous hill resort is puffed up with colourful festivals, fairs and pretty shrines. Renowned as the queen of valleys, this beautiful hill station in the lower Himalayas is close knit with the legendary law giver of ancient India, Manu. It is believed that, Manali is the place where the ark of Manu found its resting after a great flood. Manali, which literally means the abode of Manu, has got remarkable significance in the ethnic culture and tradition of India. With skyscraping mountains bounded by blizzards and deep rock spread ravines Manali presents a distinguished holiday spot for all. The chunky afforests with cool gentle winds, vast expansion of meadows, small quaint settlements and lovely orchards, give a majestic look to the serene ambiance of Manali. Besides the splendor of its natural vista, a lot of other interesting activities are in store in Manali. A trendy holiday spot, Manali offers outstanding opportunities in mountaineering, trekking and skiing. The unexplored hilly route to the adjacent valleys is an awe inspiring experience.
Mumbai
    Mumbai, earlier known as Bombay, is the capital of Maharashtra and the largest city of India. Mumbai initially was the accumulation of seven islands on the Konkan coastline, which with the passage of time joined to form island city of Bombay. It further joined Salsette islands in the neighbourhood to form Greater Bombay. Bombay got its name from Bom Bahia, meaning "Beautiful Bay", given by a Portuguese. This was later popularised as Bombay state by the British. Current name of Bombay is Mumbai. More so, many say that Mumbai happens to be its original name, which is derived from "Mumba", a local Hindu Goddess "Mumbadevi", and "Aai", means "mother" in Marathi. However, its name was on the records changed from Bombay to Mumbai in 1995. Mumbai undeniably is the business capital of India and one of the major port cities in the country. Mumbai has a diverse nature and multi-cultural lifestyle. On one hand, this city is the hometown of Bollywood, and on the other, this city has India's largest slum population. With the huge inflow of migrants, this city welcomes all with open arms. The city developed its identity from these communities that are settled in here. The culture here is a fine amalgamation of festivities, religions, music, food, music and theatres. Mumbai is said to have most active nightlife in comparison to other cities. This city celebrates the festivals of every religion with grandeur and fervour. The popular festivals celebrated in Mumbai are Diwali, Holi, Eid, Christmas, Navratri, Good Friday, Dussehra, Moharram, Ganesh Chaturthi, Durga Puja and Maha Shivratri. Fairs and fests add on to the glitter of the city; Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is an exhibition that displays works of various renowned artists in the fields of music, dance, theatre, and films. Also, Bandra fair is an annual fair that begins on the next Sunday after September 8 each year. This festival commemorates the nativity of Mother Mary on September 8. This city has a lot to offer in terms of attractions, for those who want to explore this vividly colourful place.
Pune
    Shaniwarwada: Once the stately mansion of the Peshwas, this seven-storey structure was almost reduced to ashes by fire. What remains now are the fortifications, five gateways and nine bastions that enclosed the palace. The main gate is Dilli Darwaja, and the other gates are called Mastani or Alibahadur Darwaja, Khidki Darwaja, Ganesh Darwaja and Narayan Darwaja. The walls of the palace are adorned with paintings depicting scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata. A 16-petal lotus-shaped fountain stands in the courtyard, an exquisite work of architecture. A light-and-sound show held daily depicts the life and times of the Peshwas. Open from: Light and sound show – 7.15 pm – 8.10 pm (Marathi Show); 8.15 pm – 9.10 pm (English Show) Entry fee - Rs 25 Book tickets between 6.30 pm - 8.30 pm daily Sarasbaug Temple: Located on the foothills od Parvati Hill, this temple houses the idol of Shree Siddhivinayak, manifestation of Lord Ganesha. It is a site of tremendous faith and worship, and receives almost ten thousand visitors daily. In fact, the number coolly increases to almost eighty thousand on Ganesh Chaturthi, as devotee’s line up for His blessings. Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum: Established as early as 1962, the museum houses almost 20,000 artifacts, collected over time by Baba Kelkar, the founder. Located on Bajirao Road, the artifacts date to the Mughal and Maratha period and comprise of paintings, nut crackers, Ganpati’s guns, carved doors, pottery and musical instrument. Its highlight is the Mastani Mahal, which is actually a section of the original palace built by Bajirao for Mastani. It is believed that Baba Kelkar discovered this ruined palace and transported its parts to his museum. The carved wooden pillars, colourful paintings, chandeliers, carved ceilings and different musical instruments depict the grandeur of the Peshwa period. The museum also houses household items, including artifacts made of terracotta, copper and brass. Idols of Ganesha, Shiva and Parvati, together with paintings depicting scenes of Ramayana, armours made of fish scales and crocodile skin, daggers, swords and small cannons adorn the first floor. Other marvels include Inkwells made of glass, terracotta, copper and brass, wooden artifacts and temple doors, richly ornamented fabrics and artifacts made of ivory and brass. For music lovers, there is a musical gallery with instruments donated by P.L. Deshpande and Ustad Kadarbaksh Khan. You will also find a tortoise shaped veena and a gramophone belonging to the early 20th century. Open from: 9.00 am-6.00 pm Entry fee: Rs 15 Agakhan Palace: Built by the president of the League of Nations in 1938, this palace witnesses a large number of visitors who pay homage to the samadhis of Mahadevbhai and Kasturba Gandhi. The museum within houses memorabilia depicting Gandhi’s life and times and owing to its close association to the freedom struggle, it celebrates a whole range of functions in their memory. The picture gallery depicts events in the struggle and houses the utensils, clothes, chappals and mala of Gandhi. The rooms used by them for dining, science lessons and the letter written by Gandhiji on the death of his secretary are some of the other attractions. A special cenotaph honours Kasturba Gandhi and a shop nearby sells khadi and cotton handloom garments and textiles. Open from: 9.00 am-6.00 pm (Lunch: 12.30 pm-1.30 pm) Entry fee – Rs 5 adults, Rs 2 children Parvati Hill: This is one of the most scenic locations at a height of 2100 ft offering breathtaking views of the cityscape. This is also the site of several temples dedicated to Parvati, Vishnu, Ganesh, Kartikeya and Devadeshwar. Climb to the top via the 108 steps and catch an aerial view of the city. Besides the temples, there is a museum here, which houses artifacts spanning the Peshwa period, including old manuscripts, ancient paintings, arms and old coins. The Parvati Hill and Temple is said to have housed an idol carved out of pure gold, which was stolen and replaced by a silver idol painted in gold. Close to the museum is the Samadhi Sthan of Shrimant Nanasaheb Peshwa who took his last breath here. Vishrambaug Wada: This 3-storeyed mansion is famous for its exquisite entrance and balcony carved in wood. Once a stately palace, it was ruined in fire, but was somewhat restored by contributions made by the public and government. Osho International Meditation Resort: Pune’s most defining structure, this ashram is located at Koregaon Park. This lush 40-acre meditation resort is beautifully created in white marble, complete with pathways, black buildings, lush foliage and a huge swimming pool. An ideal retreat for those who wish to relax and meditate, it is visited by people from across the world. The institute holds trainings in Osho Active Meditations and imparts training in techniques to relieve stress, bodywork and massages. Open from: 5.30 am onwards Entry fee – Full day meditation pass Rs 475 Mahatma Phule Wada: The former residence of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, today it has been converted to a museum housing photographs of Mahatma Phule and his wife. The wada has a well inside, which is said to be open to all, irrespective of class and creed. The courtyard also has a statue of Mahatma and is well-shaded by lush trees. Katraj Snake Park: Located in Katraj, this is home to a number of snakes and reptiles of different shapes and sizes. Before proceeding to the park, you can glean all possible information about the reptiles from the library inside. A recently created zoo makes it particularly interesting for children. The park also hosts festivals and special programs for spreading awareness about these species. Especially at Nagpanchami, events are held for providing information about them. Open from: 10.30 am-6.00 pm (Wednesday closed) Entry fee - Rs 3 Film and Television Institute of India: Located in the spacious garden of the former Prabhat Studios, it is made of a number of buildings. The Institute offers courses in direction, editing, screenplay, photography and music. This institute was established by the Indian government for imparting training in the art and techniques of film making. Some of the known personalities who have completed film courses are Mani Kaul, Shabana Azmi, Feroz Chinoi, Subhash Ghai, Jaya Bachchan and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Note - If you are not a student, please obtain prior permission to visit the campus Konark Park: Located on the outskirts of Pune, this hosts the private collection of Dr. Suhas Jog, collected over 30 years from across the world. This aviary-cum-birds research centre will overwhelm you by the exotic collection. It includes species like the Bare-eyed Cockatoo from Australia, Yellow Golden Pheasant from China, Ring Oiet Pheasant from Kenya and the Ostrich and Emu. For children, there is a playground and a pond with ducks. Remember, photography is not allowed inside the park. Open from: 10.00 am-10.00 pm National Defence Academy: Situated in Khadakwasala, this is a joint services academy, where the cadets of three wings, Army, Navy & Air Force undergo training before they depart for their respective academies. The three-year compulsory program includes all subjects required for a University Degree and also the basic training of fundamental military sciences. Permission is required to visit the institution, which us set is lush greenery and which hosts the sailing championships in the Peacock Bay. Note - It is open for visits only on Sundays. Guided tours may also be provided for a large group Pataleshwar Caves: Located on Jungli Maharaj Road, these 8th century caves temples are dedicated to Lord Pataleshwar, Lord of the Underworld. It is believed to have been cut out of a single rock and is adorned with massive pillars. Shrines are also dedicated to Shiva and the Nandi Bull. The caves also house grand statues of Sita, Ram, Lakshman, Ganesh, Lakshmi and a huge Shivlingam. There is a museum next to it, which houses a wondrous exhibit – a grain of rice engraved with almost 5000 characters! Open from: 8.00 am-5.30 pm Tribal Museum: Located near Don Bosco Bridge, this is the best place to catch a view of the life and times of Maharashtrian Tribal Communities. The museum houses excellent documentation as photographs and artifacts of the life and customs of the tribal people of Maharashtra. Open from: 10.00 am-5.00 pm Bund Garden: Located on the banks of the Mula-Mutha Rivers, these gardens are home to the migratory birds in winter. Boat rides are also available in the river and a jogging track enables people to view these are leisure. Shinde Chatri: This is home to the samadhi of Shrimant Mahadji Shinde. Also located in the courtyard is a Shiv mandir, which is designed beautifully with intricate carvings. Open from: 6.00 am-9.00 pm Entry fee - Rs 2 Chaturshringi Temple: Located atop the hill overlooking the city, the temple is dedicated to Chaturshringi, a manifestation of Goddess Durga. The temple is 90 ft high and 125 ft wide and hosts the Navratri festival in October or November.
Shimla
    The Mall: This is the heart of the city, the hub of all social activities. Always busy with a tourists and locals alike, The Mall is lined with bright shops selling all possible wares, the clubs, banks, hotels and post office. It remains especially crowded during the peak season and is extremely neat owing to the fact that no vehicle is allowed here. The Scandal Point here joins the Ridge Road towards the west of the Mall. The name of this point is derived from the story that a British lady eloped with the Maharaja of Patiala! Also located here is the Gaiety Theatre, where a number of popular film personalities have performed. Today it is used by the schools here as a centre for performing arts. The Kali Bari Temple is dedicated to Goddess Kali and houses a wooden image of the goddess. Also worth watching is the Town Hall, which, in its well-preserved grandeur, is reminiscent of the British era. The Ridge Road provides an easy access to Lakkar Bazaar, a market where wooden arts and artifacts are available. Christ Church: Located on the Ridge end of the Mall, this distinctly yellow Church is famed to be among the oldest churches of North India. Built majestically, it is known for its stained glass windows that have illustrations representing faith, hope, charity, fortitude, patience and humility. St. Michael's Cathedral: Another Roman-Catholic Church worth taking a look at is this church, also known for its splendid stained-glass paintings. This is the only church with five marble altars transported from Italy. Especially watch the central window, which carries a unique depiction of the crucifixion of Christ. Also located inside are idols of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Theresa. Jakhoo Hill: Said to be the highest peak in Shimla, it naturally affords superb views of the town and of the sunrise and sunset. At its peak is an ancient Jakhoo Temple dedicated to Hanuman. Watch out for the numerous monkeys that play around this area as if keeping guard over their favourite god! Bhimakali Temple: Believed to be over 800 years old, this temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga. Built in typical Tibetan-style, it showcases both Buddhist and Hindu elements and has a slanted roof, golden towers, a pagoda and a silver carved door. This temple is especially popular during Dussehra. Sankat Mochan Temple: Dedicated to Hanuman, this temple complex also includes idols of Lord Rama, Lord Shiva, the Navagraha Temple and a Ganesha Temple. Also visit the 3-storey Langar Hall, where prasad is distributed every Sunday. Also located here is a Marriage Hall and residential quarters for priests and temple staff. Tara Devi Temple: Dedicated to the Goddess of Stars, this temple is located on the hill by the same name. The temple provides spectacular views of the surrounding region. Shimla State Museum: Started in 1974, this museum houses a fine collection of miniature Pahari paintings, sculptures, bronzes wood-carvings and folk costumes, textiles and jewellery of the region. Indian Institute of Advanced Study: Housed in the Viceregal Lodge, this institute facilitates and promotes studies in the areas of Humanities, Indian Culture, Religion and the Social and Natural Sciences. The building is distinctly British and has spacious gardens bordered by pine trees. Also housed within is a library and documentation facilities. Summer Hill: Also known as Potter's Hill due to the number of potters who used to gather here to collect clay, this hill is known for its scenic walking tracks. Almost entirely covered in pine and deodar trees, the hill houses the ancient home of Rajkumari Amrit Kaur. This place was also frequented by Mahatma Gandhi when he was visiting the Himachal Pradesh University. Annandale: Also called the playground of Shimla, this spot is located almost 3 kms from the ridge and is known as a popular picnic, cricket and polo spot.
Varanasi
    The Ghats : The Ghats at Varanasi are plenty and constitute the most important feature of this holy city. There are almost 100 ghats in Varanasi and all of them are forever busy with pilgrims taking a dip, meditating or simply soaking in the splendid views. Among the most important ghat is Dasaswamedh Ghat, which derives its name from the legend that ten horses were sacrificed here by Brahma. It is one of the oldest ghats and the best to catch splendid views of the flowing river and sadhus meditating on its banks. Especially interesting is the evening aarti, when thousands of diyas (lighted lamps) are set afloat on the river from this ghat. Manikarnika Ghat is the main cremation ground of the city, hence one of the most sacred. It is believed that a cremation here grants an entry to heaven and frees one of the cycles of life and death. This ghat has a sacred well called Manikarnik Kund, which is believed to have been created by Vishnu during the creation of earth. There is also a shrine dedicated to Vishnu and a Tarakeshvara lingam, making it one of the busiest ghats. Remember that photography is strictly prohibited here and you must maintain absolute silence. The Tulsi Ghat is considered important for the fact that the great Hindu poet Tulsidas spent his last days here. His house, samadhi, pillow and the idol of Hanuman he worshipped have been preserved here. This ghat is also believed to be the site of the first Ramlila, hence a temple dedicated to Lord Rama has been erected here. The waters flowing through this ghat are supposed to have curative powers from diseases including leprosy. The Assi Ghat is located at the confluence of the Ganges and Assi River and is known for the shivalingam it houses under a peepal tree. Another important lingam is the Asisangameshwar Lingam sited in a small marble temple near the ghat. Pilgrims are required to take a bath at this ghat before proceeding to pray here. The Kedar Ghat is one of the brightly painted ghats known as the site for devotees taking a dip early morning. It is also home to a Shiva temple and a Parvati Kund whose waters have healing powers. Extremely popular with Jains is the Bachraj Ghat, which houses three Jain temples near the river bank. The Rana Ghat has several cafés and is an important centre for yoga. Similar to the Manikarnika Ghat, Harishchandra Ghat is also a cremation ghat, owing its origin to King Harish Chandra, who once worked here to epitomize truth and charity. Similar to its predecessor, a cremation here is also said to grant salvation. The Hanuman Ghat is famous for the Hanuman Temple believed to have been established here by Sage Tulsidas. Shivala Ghat is known as one of the important bathing points. It is home to a 19th century mansion, a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and the spiritual centre Brahmendra Math. Birthplace of Agni, the Scindia Ghat is known for its almost submerged Shiva Temple and the several important temples located above it and the Bhonsale Ghat has red sandstone houses and terraced hostels. Built by the king of Jaipur, the Man Mandir Ghat is home to an 18th century ornate observatory, a stone balcony and the lingam of Someshwar (Moon God). The Lalita Ghat is home to the wooden Ganga Keshava Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It also houses an image of Pasupateshwar, a manifestation of Lord Shiva. The Mansarovar Ghat, deriving its name from Lake Mansarovar at the foot of Kailash Mountains, was another construction by the King of Jaipur and houses a stone balcony and a small observatory. Panchganga Ghat is one of the most sacred ghats and bathing points and is the site of the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Kirana and Dhupapa. Kashi Vishwanath Temple: Located on the Western Bank of Ganges, this is one of the most famous temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, worshipped as Vishwanatha. Its 15.5 mt high gold-plated vimana has earned it the name Golden Temple. The temple complex is made of several smaller shrines that line the Vishwanatha Gali. The main linga is black in colour and housed within a smaller shrine in a silver square. Smaller shrines dedicated to Mahakala, Dhandapani, Avimukteshwara, Vishnu, Vinayaka, Sanishwara, Virupaksha and Virupaksh Gauri are also present within the complex. You’d also find a Nandi Bull facing what was once the original shrine. Enter the temple well in time to view the offerings of milk, Ganga water, lotus flowers and garlands made by devotees. Open from: 5.30 am-12.00 noon; 4.00 pm-8.00 pm Note – Cellphones, handbags and camera are strictly prohibited within the temple complex Bharat Mata Temple : This is the only temple dedicated to Mother India in Varanasi and was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi. The main idol is built in marble and depicts an undivided India, complete with mountains, plains and oceans. The highlight of this temple is the absence of the usual gods and goddesses and instead housing a map of India in marble. Durga Temple : Peculiarly known as the Monkey Temple, this 18th century temple is red in colour and sports a multi-layered spire. The idol within is believed to have appeared on its own, hence held in great reverence. The profusion of monkeys in the temple precincts grants it the name Monkey Temple. This temple is the site of great activity during Navratri. Non-Hindus can enter the courtyard but not the inner sanctum. Tulsi Manas Temple : Dedicated to Lord Rama, the Tulsi Manas Temple is located close to the Durga Temple. This white marble construction is believed to be the spot where Tulsidas wrote the epic Ramcharitamanas. In fact the walls of the temple are inscribed with verses and scenes from this epic. Open from: 6.30 am-11.00 am; 3.00 pm-9.00 pm Sankat Mochan Temple : Located near the Benaras Hindu University, this temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman as the reliever of all sufferings. This temple is especially busy on Tuesdays when thousands of devotees line up to offer prayers to the lord. Pilgrims smear their foreheads with vermilions and offer the lord his favourite food of laddoos. Bharat Kala Bhavan : Located inside the BHU campus, this museum is a treasure house of paintings dating to the Mughals, varieties of textiles and Hindu and Buddhist figurines. A particularly popular sculpture is of Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhan Mountain – depicted by a man standing on one leg and listinf a mass of stone above with one hand. The museum is divided into several sections, including Mahamana Malaviya Gallery, Nicholas Roerich Gallery, Chhavi Gallery, Sculpture Gallery, Nidhi Gallery and Decorative Art Gallery. Open from : 11.00 am-4.30 pm Jantar Mantar : Another creation of Maharaja Jaisingh of Jaipur, this observatory is similar to the ones in Delhi and Jaipur. The Jantar Mantar at Varanasi has several instruments made of stone, which were used to record the motion, speed and behaviour of stars and planets and to study such accurate astronomy that can still be used today. Benaras Hindu University : One of the oldest educational centers in India, the Benaras Hindu University was built in 1917, as a centre for the study of humanities, social sciences, science, technology, medicine, fine arts and performing arts. Spread over a vast expanse of landscaped gardens, it houses a temple, an airstrip and beautifully designed buildings. Popular centres include a medical college, an engineering institute, a hospital and a sports complex. The highlight of this university is the fact that not only Indians, but a large number of foreign students who attend the university. Ramnagar Fort : Built in the 18th century, this was once the ancestral home of the former Maharaja of Varanasi. Located south of the city, the fort is built in typical red sandstone and houses within a temple dedicated to Ved Vyasa and a museum within the grounds. An interesting array of ornate palanquins, gold-plated howdahs, vintage cars, ivory artifacts, antique clocks and weapons are some of the artifacts on display in the museum. Also present inside is a Durga Temple and a Hanuman Temple. Check out the huge clock within the fort – it displays year, month, week, day and astronomical calculations about the sun, moon and the stars! Yoga : Varanasi has always been a great centre of ayurveda and yoga and several such centres imparting education on these have been established here. Among the better known centres are BHU, Man Mandir Ghat, Kashi Yoga Sangh at Sankat Mochal Temple and International Yoga & meditation Centre at Nagawa. Sarnath : This is one of the closest excursions from Varanasi, known as the place where Buddha delivered his first sermon. Sarnath is one of the most revered Buddhist centres and the presence of several Buddhist monuments establishes the fact. The Sarnath Museum houses an interesting collection of Buddhist artifacts, including a statue of Buddha seated with his eyes cloed in meditation and a halo around his head. Another important structure is the Ashokan Pillar with its four lions, an inverted lotus and 24 spoked Dharma Wheels with four animals. The Mulagandhakuti Vihar is the main temple in Sarnath, said to be the place where Buddha used to stay during his visits. Fine paintings done by a Japanese artist adorn this temple’s walls. The Dhamekh Stupa is the most important structure here, deriving siginifance from the fact that Buddha delivered his first sermon here. Other significant stupas are Dharmrajika Stupa and Chaukhandi Stupa.
Darjeeling
    The Mall: Essentially a market place, it is one of the most defining areas of this town. The Mall is the center of the town and is lined on both sides with shops that sell Tibetan hand-knitted sweaters and souvenirs, curios, Himalayan artifacts and antiques. This hive of all activities leads to the Chowrastra or town square, where you can hire ponies for trotting around or simply catch views of the Kanchanjunga Range. Â Observatory Hill: This is the oldest site in Darjeeling where most of the high end hotels are located. Legends have it that a Red Hat Buddhist Monastery called Dorje Ling, or 'Place of the Thunderbolt', from where Darjeeling derives its name, stood at this spot, which was later destroyed by the Nepalis. The famous Bhutia Basti Gompa was located here before being shifted near Chowrasta. Today, a Kali Temple sacred to both Buddhists and Hindus is located here. Himalayan Mountaineering Institute: This Institute was founded and managed by the late Tenzing Norgay who conquered Mt Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. Today, it has on display records of some major expeditions undertaken. Next to this is the Everest Museum, which traces the history of different attempts on the world's highest peak. You may also contact the institute for mountaineering courses for all levels. And a one-off rock-climbing session can be taken at the Tenzing Norgay Rock, located on the northern fringes of Darjeeling. Open from 9 am-4.30 pm Entrance fee: Rs 6 Darjeeling Rangeet Valley Passenger Ropeway: Located at North Point about 3-km from the town, this is the first passenger ropeway in India. Temporarily under restoration, it connects North Point to Singla Bazaar over the Rangeet River in the valley. Open from 8 am-3:30 pm Ghoom Monastery: One of the renowned monasteries of Darjeeling, Ghoom is located at 8000 ft, 8 kms from Darjeeling and belongs to the Yellow sect of Buddhists. It is home to the 15 ft high statue of the Maitreya Buddha. Painted in gold, the statue is said to be coated with precious stones. The rooftops and facades have colorfully painted figures intended to scare away evil spirits. The external walls are lined with prayer wheels, which are spun during praying and the internal walls are lit with butter lamps. Also check out the several thangkas on the walls. The monastery also houses the Tibetan translations of some of the most famous Sanskrit works by literary geniuses. Bhutia Basti Gompa: Situated 1 km out of town, this monastery is built against the spectacular backdrop of the Kanchenjunga Mountains. The shrine located here, earlier stood on the Observatory Hill. It is built in Tibeto-Nepalese architecture and is a storehouse of ancient Buddhist texts and artifacts, including the original volume of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Tiger Hill: This is the highest point in the area and is located about 14 kms from Darjeeling. The best time to visit it is early morning, when the first rays of the sun create a dramatic effect on the distant Himalayan peaks. And if you're lucky you just might also catch a glimpse of Mount Everest. Carry your camera and some warm clothing, since the altitude makes it bone-jarringly cold. Darjeeling Toy Train: Built in the late 19th century, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is today a World Heritage sight, only the second railway to have made it to that list. Built through a zigzag of tracks, the distance of almost 87 kms between Kurseong and Ghoom takes almost the entire day. And it's worth it! En route, you pass through rhododendron slopes, rolling hills and spectacular views of the Kanchenjunga, and cross villages with quaint names like Margaret's Hope, and chug past the front doors of houses that have red-tiles and potted-flowers. Gardens: As picturesque as Darjeeling is, head out to the numerous gardens and parks. Head out to the Shrubbery, behind Raj Bhavan, and the Lloyd Botanical Gardens that offers several varieties of flowers and orchids. Also you can catch a view of the Kanchenjunga Range and Singalila Valley. The Bengal Natural History Museum is excellent for garnering information on the varied Himalayan fauna and Bengal wildlife. Open from 10am-4pm Entry fee: Rs 2 Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park: Other than the usual animals here, this zoological park is home to the Snow Leopard Breeding Center, the only place in the world where breeding of snow leopards in captivity has been successful. Led by Kiran Moktan, who dedicated his life to this program, catching a glimpse of the adorable cubs gamboling with their mother, is an ultimate experience. Remember to maintain silence when visiting the enclosure. While walking out, keep an eye on the trees nearby to sight the elusive red panda! Open from 10am-4:30pm Entry fee: Rs 10
Guwahati
    Kamakhya Temple: This is one of the most revered temples dedicated to Goddess Kamakhya or Sati located on the Nilachal Hill. It is an improvement on the original structure and has beehive-like towers with sculptures of Ganesha and other Hindu gods and goddesses carved on the external walls. The temple is divided into 3 chambers, out of which the western chamber is not accessible to the public. The central chamber contains a small idol of the goddess, images of Naranarayana and other religious inscriptions. The main hall of the temple shaped like a cave is accessible through the middle hall. This sanctum does not contain any idol, but has a natural underground spring emanating from a huge rock. The temple is known for its annual 7-day Ambubachi Festival held in June, when the goddess is said to undergo her menstrual cycle. Open from: 6.00 am-1.00 pm; 3.00 pm-9.00 pm Note - Only Hindus are allowed within the temple Navagraha Temple: Located on the Chitrashal Hill, this is a red beehive shaped temple dedicated to the nine planets. Within this temple are nine shivalingams covered in cloth of different colours representing the nine planets. These shivalingams surround another larger shivalingam, which represents the sun. Open from: 4.00 am-1.00 pm; 3.00 pm-9.00 pm Other Temples: Located above the Kamakhya Temple is the Bhubaneshwari Temple, which offers splendid views of the city. The Umananda Mandir is located on Peacock Island and dedicated to Lord Shiva. Accessible by a boat, the temple has intricate rock-cut carvings of Surya, Ganesha, Shiva, Devi and Vishnu. Another ancient temple is the Ashvakranta Temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna as Vishnu. Here, Vishnu is shown reclining on the Adishesha serpent and Brahna seated with a lotus emerging from his navel. The idol of Vishnu is flanked by rows of naga kanyas, who appear worshipping him. The Tamreshwari Temple in Sadiya is a site for tantric worship. Also known as Khajuraho of Kamrup, Madan Kamadev Temple is located in the Kamrup valley area. The temple has interesting images carved out of a monolith. The main deity is Lord Shiva and other idols present include Uma and Maheswar, a six headed Bhairab, a 4 armed Shiva, demons, men and women.
Gwalior
    Gwalior Fort: Nestled on an enormous sandstone hill, the fort is definitely the most recognized structures in Gwalior. The walls of the fort that encircle it stand over 10 m high and are absolutely solid - hence impenetrable. The fort is accessible by a steep road, whose sides are marked by beautiful Jain statues. Out of the three main entrances, only the eastern and western are accessible. The eastern end is guarded by the Urwahi Gate and six gates guard the western entrance. The Urwahi Rock inside, has two sides leading to a sharp fall in the valley and which is home to almost 22 Jain rock carvings. Among the most interesting structures is the Gujari Mahal, now converted to an Archaeological Museum. This museum has on display an extensive collection of rare and exquisite stone carvings. Particularly worth seeing is the statue of Shalbhanjika the tree goddess from Gyraspur. This statue is made visible only on request. The Man Mandir Palace is another impressive structure showcasing extensive use of bright colours, motifs and design. This palace is also known as the Chitra Mandir or the Palace of Paintings because of the tiled and painted decorations of peacocks and other birds. Most of the designs and patters are adorned appropriately and ornately with carved animals, flowers, and the human form. Also within this palace is the dancing hall bounded by a balcony and a courtyard. Suraj Kund is particularly noted as the place where Sage Gwalipa cured Suraj Sen of leprosy from the waters of this pond. Interestingly made are the Saas-Bahu Temples, which are a group of two temples located adjacent to each other and derive their names from the difference in their sizes. The larger of the two (Saas Temple) is profusely sculpted with graceful figures and intricate patterns. Both are designed in a similar style and date between the 9th and 11th centuries. The Saas Temple with its ornate base is dedicated to Vishnu while the Bahu Temple is dedicated to Shiva. The Teli-ka-Mandir is believed to be the oldest in the fort. It exhibits a Dravidian style of architecture and the sculptures are distinctly North Indian. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the Garuda bird can be seen on top of the 10-metre-high doorway. The fort also houses the beautiful Scindia School, which is one of India's finest educational institutions. Open from: Temples & Palaces within - 8.00 am-5.00 pm (Saturday - Thursday) Tomb of Mohammad Ghaus: This famous structure is dedicated to the Islamic saint Mohammad Ghaus. The stone carving for which the skilled artisans of Gwalior were justly famous is apparent in the huge panels of lacy screen work, which combine with an interesting architectural design to create a delicate, ethereal appeal. Memorial of Tansen: Adjacent to the tomb of Ghaus is another small white, austere tomb dedicated to Tansen, a famed musician, and one of the nine gems in Akbar's court. Held annually here is the Tansen Sangeet Samaroh, a world-renowned music festival, which draws in scores of tourists. Surya Mandir: This famous temple is said to have been built in a similar design as the famed Sun Temple at Konark in Orissa. Jai Vilas Palace and Museum: This is an opulent structure, set in carefully laid lawns. Part of the palace functions as residence of the royal family while the other has been converted into a museum that effectively documents a more leisurely and princely lifestyle. The museum exhibits, consisting of collections of the Scindia family, include such things as chandeliers weighing several tons, a silver toy train whose wagons were used as serving dishes and a glass cradle from Italy used for Lord Krishna at Janmashtami. Open from: 10.00 am-5.00 pm (Wednesday Closed) Kala Vithika: Situated near the Gwalior Railway Station in the heart of the city, Kala Vithika is a good place to venture into if you are looking for some information on the history and culture of Gwalior.
Hyderabad
    Hyderabad, which is almost 500 years old, is the capital city of Andhra Pradesh. It is located on the Deccan Plateau. The city has an average altitude of about 500 m above the sea level. Most of the regions have rocky terrain. Originally, the city of Hyderabad was established on the southern banks of the river Musi. Now, the so-called original Hyderabad city is called as the historical Old City. The Old City is the dwelling to the Charminar and the Mecca Masjid. Many constructions – government buildings and landmarks – are going on in the city center, particularly on the south side of the Husain Sagar Lake. The fast development of the city, along with the development of adjoining city Secunderabad and adjacent municipalities, has resulted in the creation of a huge and densely populated metropolitan region. With various software firms, call centers, and business process outsourcing (BPO) companies being set up during the early 1990s, Hyderabad has become one of the key areas for such information technology (IT) and IT-enabled service set-ups. Many pharmaceutical companies like Aurobindo Pharma Limited, Divis Labs, Dr Reddy's Laboratories, Hetero Drugs Limited, Matrix Laboratories, and Vimta Labs are located in the city.
Ooty
    Gardens: One of the most popular picnic spots, the Botanical Garden consists of well maintained lawns, rare tree species including the monkey puzzle tree (so called because monkeys cannot climb this tree!), a 20 million year old fossilized tree, an Italian- garden lining a clear pool and rare flowers like orchids. This garden is the hub of activity during the annual Flower Show held in May. Another popular haunt, especially with children is the Mini Garden, which has a children's amusement park within. Located in the city centre, you must also make time for a visit to the Rose Garden, which has the largest collection of roses in the country. Hybrid Tea Roses, miniature roses, Ramblers and unusual colored roses like black and green are some of the highlights here. Open from: Botanical Garden - 7.30 am-6.00 pm, Entry fee - Rs 5 Rose Garden - 8.30 am-6.30 pm, Entry fee - Rs 10 Doddabetta: Located 4 kms from Ooty, Doddabetta is the highest mountain in the Nilgiris. Literally meaning Big Mountain, the entire range is covered with thick shola trees, rhododendron bushes and shrubs. Atop the peak are two telescopes to let people enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding vistas. St. Stephen's Church: Located on the Club Road, this is a tiny gothic church, one of the first colonial structures to have come up in Ooty. It's pews are remarkably done and there are stained glass paintings inside, depicting Mary holding baby Jesus and the crucifixion of Christ. The Western Wall has a huge painting of the Last Supper. Watch the wooden beams inside, which was transported from Tipu Sultan's palace. If you can, visit the cemetery closeby, which houses the grave of John Sullivan, founder of Ooty. Also popularly visited are the Gothic and Tudor churches, Union Church and Holy Trinity Church, which have huge stained glass windows, carved pews and plaques carrying names of British battalions. Tribal Research Centre: This was established as a plan to promote growth of the tribal of the Nilgiri area. This centre is concerned with conducting studies on the lives of the communities, imparting training and education on their development abd to develop a tribal museum for maintaining records of their times. For this, you must also visit the adjoining Library and the Special Cultural Museum, which safeguards several important literatures and structures of their evolution. Government Museum: The Government Museum on Mysore Road has on display tribal items, the ecological details of the town and several sculptures and crafts of Tamil Nadu. Lalith Kala Academy: Situated 2 kms from Ooty, this houses a vast collection of contemporary paintings and sculptures from across the country. Ooty Lake: One of the prime highlights of this city, the lake appears in an L-shape. Artificially formed by John Sullivan, the far end of this has the Boat House, where you can hire boats for excursions on the lake. In fact, this lake is the centre of attention during the annual Boat Race and Boat Pageantry. Close to the Boat House is a children's amusement park and a toy train. Next to it is a deer park and adjacent to it is a mini-garden. The entire perimeter of the lake has well-paved roads, which is frequented by walkers and ponies. Pykara Falls: Located 19 kms from Ooty, this is a beautiful picnic spot. Located closeby are shola growths, Toda settlements and green fields. Also enjoy a session of boating with the Boat House located nearby. Charring Cross: This is the most happening areas of Ooty, since this is where the main vegetable and fruit markets are located. Fernhill Palace: The erstwhile summer palace of the Maharaja of Mysore, Fernhill Palace is a beautiful construction of carved wooden boards and ornamental cast iron. The palace grounds abound in well-tended gardens, firs trees and cedars. Also visit the badminton court inside, which resembles a church! Today, this palace has been converted into a heritage hotel. Trout Fishing: Kamaraj Sagar is a popular picnic spot set amidst old trees and green shrubs and offers great avenues for trout fishing. Similar to this Upper Bhavani Lake is also rich is trout fishing and set amidst great shola shrubs. A huge dam constructed over this lake has also facilitated tea cultivation. Located 28 kms from Ooty, Avalanche Lake is surrounded by a thick forest and is another trou-rich river. Remember to seek prior permission before you venture trout fishing. Wenlock Downs: This vast land is a popular picnic spot made of rolling hills. Offering breathtaking views of the valley below, it today houses the Gymkhana Club, Hindustan Photo Films Factory and the Golf Club. Also located nearby is a Government Sheep Farm. Ketty Valley View: Located en route to Coonoor, this is a picturesque village with a wonderful climate. The region abounds in tea plantations and it is believed that tea cultivation was first introduced in this region. Glenmorgan: This is another popular tea estate, 25 kms from Ooty. There is a beautiful lake located here, which supplies water for the Pykra powerhouse. Also located in its vicinity are Toda settlements. The Mukkurthi Peak and National Park: Located about 40 kms from Ooty, Mukkurthi is a beautiful peak offering great views of the region. Located nearby is the Mukkurthi National Park, which is established to protect rare wild animals. The Mukkurthi Lake here abounds in several water-birds and ducks and boating facilities are also available. Needle Rock View Point: Located 12 kms en route to Ooty, this offers beautiful views of the Gudalur and Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary. Also visible from here is a mountain called Aanakkallu or Sleeping Beauty, so named because of its shape of a sleeping woman. Deer Park: One of the few high altitude parks, this offers a great opportunity to observe wildlife from close quarters.
Srinagar
    Dal Lake: This could well be Srinagar's lifeline and the favourite site of all honeymooners. And why not? Its claim to fame is the Victorian-style wooden houseboats built as hotels, and shikaras that are perfect to take a tour through the waters. In fact, these shikaras plying the length of the lake are actually floating markets, selling everything from vegetables to fruits and flowers. The lake itself is full of flora that includes lotus and water lilies, and avifauna including kingfishers and herons. Get onboard one of the shikaras to go around the lake - they come with really pretty names, example - Honeymoon Lovers, The Paradise, Love Heaven and the likes! Along the shoreline is the boulevard that is home to numerous shops, hotels, gardens and parks. Pather Masjid: Located on the bank of Jhelum across the Shah Hamdam Mosque, this is a typical Mughal construction built of limestone. The mosque itself is not in use anymore, though you can take a walk through its gardens. Shah Hamdan Mosque: This is one of the oldest surviving mosques in Srinagar. Made in wood, it is located on the bank of Jhelum and is noted for its papier-mâché work that adorns its walls and roof. Another striking observation is that no nails or screwes were used for its construction. Jama Masjid: Definitely one of the most active mosques in Srinagar, Jami Masjid owes its origin to 3 Mughal rulers. It is also created in wood and is noted for its 370 towering pillars supporting the roof, each pillar made of one deodar tree truck! Enter the mosque through its south gate and take a walk through the spacious green garden. Hari Parbat Fort: Another Mughal construction, it stands on the hill by the same name and commands an awesome view of the city. It speaks the legend of how the demon Jalodbhava was crushed under this hill, when Goddess Sati dropped a pebble on his head, which expanded to become the massive Hari Parbat. As such it is also home to several religious shrines, including the shrine of Makhdum Sahib. Located a little away from this is the Masjid of Akhund Mullah built in limestone. So revered is this site that locals believe that over 30 crores Hindu Gods and Goddesses reside here! Nagin Lake: Literally meaning, Jewel in the Ring, Nagin Lake is located a little away from Dal Lake, at the foot of the Zabarwan Mountains. It is bordered by willow and poplar trees and offers good options to hire a shikara and take a ride through its deep blue waters. Hazratbal Mosque: Undoubtedly the most important Muslim shrine, the white marble Hazratbal shrine is located on the left bank of the Dal Lake, and is reflected in its waters. Its significance comes from the fact that it is home to a hair of the Prophet, which is displayed to the public only on special occasions. Hazratbal has a distinct architecture and is the only domed mosque in Srinagar. Shankaracharya Temple: Located on the Shankaracharya Hill, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is accessible by a flight of stairs. It overlooks the Kashmir Valley and its inner sanctum has Persian inscriptions. The original dome-shaped ceiling has been replaced by a more modern ceiling. Other Temples: The Khanqah of Shah Hamadan is located on the banks of River Jhelum and is a beautiful wooden structure. Its interiors has carved eaves, brightly painted walls, antique chandeliers and hanging bells. Chhatti Padshahi Gurudwara is especially important for Sikhs and was built at the site where the 6th Sikh guru preached sermons. Don't miss a trip to Martand Temple, which is a temple dedicated to the Sun God. The complex has 84 coloumns, a colonnaded courtyard and commands a breathtaking view of the Valley. Located at Tula Mala Village, Kheer Bhawani Temple is a marble temple dedicated to Ragnya Devi, who is symbolized as the sacred spring that flows here. It derives its name from the kheer offerings made to the spring by pilgrims. Awantipur is home to two imposing temples - one Siva-Avantisvara, which today is reduced almost to ruins, and the other Avantisvami-Vishnu, which is a better preserved temple. Shalimar Bagh: Built by Jehangir for his wife Nur Jehan, Shalimar Garden is a wonderful combination of gardens and lakes. It has four terraces, rising above each other as steps and has a canal, built with polished stones, that is supplied water from the Harwan. Harwan: Located near the Harwan Village, this garden has remnants dating to the Buddhist era. The ornamented tiles placed here have depictions of the attire of people, as trousers, caps and turbans.
Udaipur
    City Palace Complex: Located on the east bank of Lake Pichola, the City Palace with its 11 palaces could just as well be the largest palace complex in Rajasthan. It is particularly beautiful when you watch the cream stone walls and towers reflected in the lake. Get your hands on the guidebook to maneuver your way through this mazelike sprawling complex, or hire the services of a guide, and set aside at least 3 hours to walk through it. Exploring the entire palace is worthwhile - its highlights include the huge peacock motifs in the Mor Chowk, the mirror-encrusted Moti Mahal, glass and porcelain figurines at Manak Mahal, miniatures of Lord Krishna at Krishna Vilas, the palace of the queens or Zenana Mahal and the Chini Mahal with its exquisite Chinese and Dutch ceramics. Out of the 11, the last 2 palaces, Shiv Niwas and Fateh Prakash are open for visitors who wish to stay overnight or enjoy a dining experience fit for kings! Fateh Prakash in particular is worth visiting for its Durbar Hall, which is the royal portrait gallery and houses massive chandeliers and Venetian mirrors. The Crystal Gallery is strikingly beautiful with its crystal furniture, fountains, bowls, decanters, perfume bottles and crystal jewellery collected by Maharana Sajjan Singh. The palace grounds have the Classic Vintage Car Collection of the Mewar royal family - definitely a sight! The palace windows also provide super views of the Lake Palace and the Jag Mandir, which seem to float on the Lake when the water levels are high. Open from: 9:30 am-4:30 pm, Gallery: 10.00 am-1.00 pm, 3.00 pm-8.00 pm Entry fee - Jagdish Temple - Rs 50, Camera - Rs 200, Crystal Gallery - Rs 300 Vintage Car Collection viewing: 9.30 am-5.30 pm, Rs 100 (with beverage), Rs 130 (includes a veg thali) Note - Photography is not allowed in the Crystal Gallery Lake Pichola: The central system of the city, Lake Pichola is most enthralling during the rains when water fills it up completely. It houses within the beautiful Lake Palace created in marble, today a converted heritage hotel. Another island palace is the Jagmandir Palace, which has intricate carvings of elephants and a carved chhatri in grey and blue. There are several ghats, which can be accessed by boat. These island palaces and the Aravalli Hills are reflected in the lake when water fills it up creating a pretty picture. The lake is also home to a number of crocodiles, which are visible when the lake is relatively dry. A must-activity here - catch splendid views of the landscape against the setting sun in a boat. Fateh Sagar Lake: An artificial lake, it is located north of Lake Pichola and houses within it in the centre the Nehru Island, a boat shaped café and an islet bearing The Udaipur Solar Observatory. It is particularly enthralling because of the views of the Aravalli Hills reflected in the waters. Jagdish Temple: One of the largest temples in Udaipur, this temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, whose black image it houses within, complete with four arms. This shrine is flanked by four other shrines dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Goddess Shakti, Sun God and Lord Shiva. The temple is three storied and has beautiful carved pillars, carved ceilings and painted walls. The central spire has sculptures of dancers, elephants, horsemen, celestial beings and musicians. The entrance is flanked by two stone elephants and a brass idol of Garuda. Open from: 5.00 am - 2.00 pm, 4.00 pm - 11.00 pm Other Temples: Udaipur is home to several important temples dedicated to every possible Hindu god you can think of! One of the most popular of these is the Eklingji Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, whose four-faced idol is crafted out of black marble. The temple is double storyed, with a pyramidal style roof and a silver image of the Nandi Bull. The central Shivalinga is surrounded by Goddess Parvati, Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikay. Within the temple complex are idols of Goddess Yamuna and Goddess Saraswati. The Jagat Temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga, and is beautifully carved on the inside and outside. A highlight of this is the central mandap, decorated with motifs. Carved with images of celestial dancers and horses, the alcoves in the façade contain images of Durga in her several manifestations. The famous Nathdwara Temple is designed simply and dedicated to Lord Krishna as Srinathji. An idol of the god is carved out of black stone and is shown with its hand holding the Govandhan Mountain. Worth visiting during Janamashtami, when Lord Krishna birth is celebrated with great fervour. Another Jain pilgrimage spot is the Ranakpur Temple, dedicated to Lord Adinatha. These temples are renowned for their intricate carvings, replete with pillared halls and domes supported by columns. The complex has several temples, including Chaumukha temple, Parsavanath temple, Amba Mata Temple and Surya Temple. Its special feature - no two columns within have the same design. Saheliyon ki Bari: The garden was a popular relaxing retreat for royal ladies and is a striking picture of well-tended lawns, marble artwork and fountains. The garden also has a museum showcasing ancient pictures and memorabilia dating to the royal period. The garden has a lotus pool and a sitting decorated with paintings and glass mosaics. Sajjangarh Fort: This is possibly one of the best places to catch picturesque views of Udaipur city and Aravalli hills. The Sajjangarh Palace was the monsoon retreat for the royalties, and this white palace has high turrets guarding it. Also located here is the Sajjangarh Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a natural sanctuary of the Chital, Sambar, Wild Boar, and Blue Bull, along with several varieties of reptiles and birds. Open from: 10.00 am - 6.00 pm Entry fee - Rs 10 ShilpGram: This village houses craftsmen, expert at creating terracotta wares and wooden carvings, which you can purchase as souvenirs. If you're visiting it during winter, don't miss out on the Craft Festival, which showcases these arts and crafts. Bagore ki Haveli: Located on the Pichola waterfront, this old building had over hundred rooms and displays of costumes and modern art. The haveli interiors are done in glass and mirrors and the Queen's Chamber has walls done in exquisite Mewar Painting. The palace contains beautiful glasswork, the finest example of which can be found from the two peacocks created in coloured glass. Don't miss the traditional Rajasthani cultural performances that take place in the evenings against the backdrop of Lake Pichola. Open from: 10.00 am - 7.00 pm Entry fee - Rs 15 Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal: This museum of folk arts offers interesting puppet shows done in true Rajasthani culture. Open from: 9.00 am - 6.00 pm
Ujjain
    Mahakaleshwar Temple: Located near the lake, this temple is dedicated to Shiva’s manifestation of Mahakal. Built in five levels, including an underground level, the temple is surrounded by a spacious courtyard and huge walls. The lingam is believed to have been formed on its own and the entire temple is lit up by brass lamps. The tower (shikhara) is finely sculpted as are the balconies, and the walls have adornments of sculptures, motifs and statues. The sanctum also houses images of Ganesha, Parvati, Kartikeya and Nandi Bull. The main roof in the sanctum is adored with 100 kg silver Rudrayantra. The huge Jaladhari (vessel of water suspended over the shivalinga) is also made in silver. A particular event you should not miss is the Bhasma Aarti or ash-smearing ceremony, in which hot ashes from the cremation grounds are smeared on the shivalinga. This event is believed to symbolize the fact that life and death are inseparable. Open from: Bhasma Aarti – 4.00 am-6.00 am Bade Ganeshji Ka Mandir:Located near the Mahakaleshwar Temple, Bade Ganeshji ka Mandir houses a huge statue of Ganesha. A unique element you’re unlikely to find elsewhere is the presence of a five-faced Hanuman in the middle of the temple. This temple is also an institute for imparting education in astrology and Sanskrit language. Chintaman Ganesh Mandir: Of considerable antiquity, the Ganesha idol is believed to be a swayambhu or self-made idol, like the shivalinga in Mahakaleshwara Temple. The temple showcases finely carved pillars in the main hall. The white sanctum houses the main idol flanked by his consorts, Riddhi and Siddhi. Gopal Mandir: Dedicated to Lord Krishna, this beautiful marble temple is situated in the main market area. The sanctum houses a two feet tall idol of Krishna covered in silver and placed on a white marble altar with silver-plated doors. Harsiddhi Temple: Another shaktipeeth where Sati’s elbow is said to have fallen, the dark vermilion idol of Goddess Annapurna is the presiding deity here. Highlights of the temple include two towering lighted iron lamp, which are especially bright during Navratri, when hundreds of lamp are lit. Another interesting feature is the Yantra or Nine Triangles depicting the nine names of Goddess Durga. Before you enter the temple, you would come across a rock smeared with turmeric and vermilion. This is believed to be the head of King Vikramaditya, which was offered to Goddess Durga. Kalbhairav Temple: This temple is dedicated to Bhairava, a manifestation of Shiva as the Destroyer. The temple also has sculptures of Vishnu, along with other Hindu gods and goddesses. The main shivalinga is placed under a banyan tree opposite the Nandi Bull. The temple is particularly active during the Shivratri festival. Kaliadeh Palace: This historical palace is said to have been built over a Hindu Sun Temple on an island in River Shipra. The bridge connecting the island to the mainland still has remnants from the Sun Temple. The water from the river is transported to the palace, where it cascades over carved stone screens. Navagraha Mandir: This temple is dedicated to the nine ruling planets and located on the Triveni Ghat of the Shipra River. The idols are covered with different coloured cloths and offerings of flowers, coconuts and vermilion are made by devotees. Pir Matsyendranath: This structure was built in the memory of Matsyendranath, a famous Shaivite leader of the Natha Sect. Set on the banks of River Shipra, this is a simply created white structure marked by a dome and four small minarets. Sandipani Muni’s Ashram: This Ashram is dedicated to the Guru Sandipani, who imparted training and instructions to Lord Krishna. The Ankapata area near the ashram is believed to have been used by Lord Krishna for washing his writing tablets. You’d also find numbers from 1 to 100 engraved on the stone, believed to have been done by Guru Sandipani himself. Adjacent to the ashram is the Gomti Kund, which is a stepped water tank. Legend has it that Krishna directed the waters from holy places across the centres, so his Guru would not have to travel. Vikram Kirti Mandir: houses the Scindia Oriental Research Institute, an archaeological museum, and an art gallery. The Scindia Oriental Institute has a rare collection of old palm-leaf and bark-leaf manuscripts. Dedicated in the memory of King Vikramaditya; the much honored King of Ujjain it’s a well known cultural centre. There is an illustrated manuscript of the Srimad-Bhagavatam in which gold and silver were employed in the paintings. There is also a rich collection of old Rajput and Mughal style paintings. Vedh Shala: This is an observatory designed by Maharaja Jai Singh, similar to the Jantar Mantar in Delhi and Jaipur. You can get a guided tour of how the instruments were used. Samrata Yantra was used to calculate time, Nadi Walaya Yantra calculated the position of the sun and equinoctial days, Dignasha Yantra was used to mathematically calculate the position of stars and planets and Bhitti Yantra was used for calculating the declination of the sun and distance of the zenith. If you’re interested, you can also purchase a copy of the yearly position of planets. Bhartrihari Caves: This is said to be the caves on the bank of River Shipra, where the scholar-poet Bhartrihari stayed and meditated.
Kerala
    Overview Kerala is a beautiful state that conjures up the image of pristine green foliage, interlinked channels of canals, backwater and rivers, fishing boats returning at sunset, rich temples with its traditional practices and one of the most friendly, jovial and laid back people in India. These are just a few reasons which make the state a popular tourist destination of Indiaand World. This socialist state is a successful model of socialism in India and its proper implementation sees the highest literacy rate in India. The geographical diversity is vast as the state is blessed with sheer cliffs of Western Ghats in theNorthern Malabar and the eastern portion is covered by Nilgiri and Palni Hills. The southern region is full of green foliage and a channel of interlinked canals, rivers and lakes all separated from the Arabian Sea by narrow strip of land and some of the most pristine white sand beaches of World are present here. The rich diversity resulted in vast tracts of precious natural ecological parks where one can see many endangered variety of wildlife and is a heaven for nature lovers. The state has its own cuisine and culture, which may sometime look similar to the rest of the south Indian states but; yet very distinctive from them. The demographics include people of ethnic Arabic Muslims, Syrian Christians, and Traditional Hindus. The state capital is Trivandrum and is one of India’s most well maintained cities. Other important cities like Cochin, Kozhikode, Alleppey, Kottayam are now growing at a fast pace. The state is rich in culture and heritage; full of churches, mosques, temples and heritage buildings. All result of a unique cultural fusion which is evident in all parts of the state. Ayurveda treatment and spa is spread in every nook and corner of the state. Kathakali, a traditional and classical Indian Dance form is highly revered by the locals and is the most famous cultural export of Kerala. Kalarippayattu is one of the world’s ancient martial arts and is quite gravity defying and is a must watch thing of Kerala. This is a place where whatever you do you are rest assured of a memorable experience. Cruise along the pristine backwater of Alapuzha in houseboat or watch the most magnificent sunset bathed in an orange tinge; Enjoy the vast stretch of pristine white sand beaches covered with swaying palm trees like Varkala and Kovalam or enjoy fresh coffee while admiring the beautiful hill station of mist clad Munnar. Enjoy a river cruise in Periyar River admiring the rich flora and Fauna of the state or simply relax and rejuvenate with a traditional Ayurveda treatment. Visit the local temple and shared the deep beliefs of devoted Hindus, watch a charming cultural performance of Kathakali and Mohiniyattom, learn about the gravity defying stunts of Kalarippayattu and savour the local cuisine. Kerala will be an experience of lifetime for any visitor. This is why the Kerala takes pride in calling itself as ‘the God’s own country’.