Month: January 2015

5 Recommended Zoos in India

Posted on

Our country boasts of a variety of flora and fauna making it one of the most preferred destinations for watching and studying a wide range of species. The concept of zoo or zoological parks started way back in the 19th century in London for the first time and since then it has come a long way. Setting up zoos in India has helped conserve both rare and endangered species. Moreover, zoos play a major role in research and education sector for the study of the animal kind along with plant life. From travel perspective, zoos happen to be a great resource of enlightenment for the explorers, wildlife lovers, family groups and especially kids. Summer has already set in and schools are about to close for summer holidays. So why not take your kids to some of the popular zoos of our country. Here are some of our recommendations:

Mysore Zoo

Mysore Zoo

The City of Palaces, Mysore attracts tourists from all corners of the world. While the stories of valour and courage of the Sultan of this kingdom bring people here, the zoological park is no less than any of the famed attractions of the city. Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Garden, as it is known to the locals, was setup way back in 1892 and enjoys its name in the list of top 25 zoos in the continent. It is also the nation’s best zoo, a position it has attained by TripAdvisor due to the continuous efforts of the authorities.

Chennai Zoo

Chennai Zoo

The Chennai Zoo holds the stature of being the first public zoo of our country. Dating back to 1855, it has an estimated number of 2500 species of plants and animals. It has been in news for having achieved a name for its Conservation Breeding Program for endangered species. Chennai Zoological Park is the perfect place to make your kids aware about different kinds of flora and fauna. Vacationers coming along with kids should not miss the Elephant safari here. Apart from the zoo, make sure you visit a whole lot of attractions present in the city. Visit our Chennai Travel Guide for more information.

Hyderabad Zoo

Hyderabad ZooKnown for its rich history, culture and heritage, the city of Hyderabad is one the most popular places to visit in India. Spread over an area of 380 acres of land, the Hyderabad Zoo gets its name after the first Prime Minister of India, Pt. Jawahalal Nehru. Featured among the best zoos in India, it offers the opportunity to enjoy elephant rides, children terrains and tiger safaris along with a display of numerous rare species of animals.

Delhi Zoo

Delhi Zoo

While South India may have received an upper hand when it comes to conserving wildlife, the north doesn’t really seem to have left behind. The Delhi Zoo is undoubtedly the most visited Zoological Park in India. Spread over huge acres of land at the proximity of India Gate, Delhi Zoo is a common destination amongst school kids and toddlers. Be it a weekend outing with family or a school picnic, Delhi Zoo can be visited for multiple purposes round the year. In order to reach the zoo, get down at Pragati Maidan metro station and take a rickshaw or an auto thereafter.

Darjeeling Zoo

Darjeeling Zoo

Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park or Darjeeling Zoo is spread over an area of approximately 68 acres. It is named after the daughter of Sarojini Naidu who was the former Governor of the state of West Bengal. The zoo is globally recognized for its contribution in the conservation of Himalayan Newt, Red Panda, Snow Leopards, Tibetan Wolf and a number of endangered species of the Eastern Himalayan region. Darjeeling Zoo has also been rewarded for having the highest number of mountain species in India.

If you are planning a summer holiday in any of these cities, then make sure you include these popular zoos in the travel itinerary for unlimited fun and a day full of adventure.

 

International Yoga Festival 2016: A Holistic Approach to Life

Posted on

Yoga

You must be aware of the benefits of doing yoga, I bet! Thanks to Baba Ramdev and yoga videos of bollywood actresses like Shilpa Shetty and Bipasha Basu, everyone from teenagers to adults, is going gaga over yoga. So, for all you fitness enthusiasts, there is an exciting event coming in the first week of March. Yeah, you’re right, it’s the annual International Yoga Festival, which is jointly organised by the Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board, GMVN (Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam) and Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh.

Yoga

When: 1st March 2016 – 7th March 2016

Where: Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh

What to Look-out For?

  • More than 70 presenters from 20 countries will give nearly 150 classes, from 4:00 am to 9:30 pm.
  • Spiritual leaders including Swami Divyanand Teerthji, Swami Ramdev, Prem Babaji and Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji will be the honorable presenters.
  • 60 different forms of yoga viz. Raja, Ashtanga, Bhakti, Kundalini, Vinyasa,  Bharat etc. will be performed throughout the week.
  • Classes in meditation, Sanskrit chanting, mudras and Indian philosophy along with spiritual discourses, which will be held by respected spiritual leaders from India and abroad.
  • Regional dance/music performances and international performances by musicians from Australia, Israel and the U.S.

Yoga

Daily Schedule of International Yoga Festival

  • Classes start from early morning at 4:00 am.
  • One hour yoga class is held at 6:30 am, followed by a simple breakfast.
  • Choose any one of the several two-hour yoga sessions which starts at 8:30 am.
  • Inspirational lectures by revered saints on a variety of topics are organised at 11:00 am.
  • Traditional Indian lunch is served between 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm.
  • Three Yogasana classes are held from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm.
  • Ganga aarti is performed from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm.
  • Dinner is served at 7:00 pm, followed by special evening programs, that end at 9:30 pm.

Where to Stay?

Since Rishikesh is a popular tourist destination, a lot of luxury as well as budget hotels are easily available. However, the place is going to be crowded during the fest henceforth, it is best to book beforehand in order to avoid any last minute hassles. Get to know more about budget hotels in Rishikesh here.

So, start planning for your trip to Rishikesh, now!

(With inputs from Anita Bhandari)

GoExplore: Masinagudi- a Tryst with the Wild

Posted on

Explore with Hidden Gems

In the first edition, we will feature the lesser known weekend destination, Masinagudi, located in Tamil Nadu. Named after the Goddess Masaniamma, Masinagudi is a cluster of hamlets like Theppakadu, Bokkapuram which are dotted with resorts and home stays that are nestled in the woods, or high up in the trees. The dense thick jungles and the surrounding mountains beckon you. And when you hear the call of the wild, all you have to do is to pack your bags and leave.

If you are wondering why Masinagudi should be on your bucket list, here are the five reasons.

1. Neither a Hill Station nor a Wildlife Destination

Masinagudi
Explore the beauty of Masinagudi

Masinagudi is a bit of both. Located at the foothills of the Nilgiris, Masinagudi treats you with every scenic bit of nature. The Blue Mountains are in a veil of mist, streams and lakes interrupt your journey, a carpet of greens stretch out in front of you and the mysterious woods take you into the deep jungles. A cluster of villages, Masinagudi is home to several homestays and resorts, tucked away in the wild. Coffee plantations greet you amidst the dense greenery, but be warned– you may find an elephant shrouded by the wilderness and hence it is not advisable to walk or trek into the forests.

But it is an understatement to say Masinagudi is beautiful. Dense forests surrounded by the imposing Nilgiris, lakes overflowing with water, bamboo trees skirting the paths, wild coffee and spice plantations merging with the lush forests – Masinagudi is a paradise tucked away somewhere in the hills.

2. Wildlife Haven

Masinagudi
Wildlife haven in Masinagudi

Masinagudi is surrounded by national parks– Mudumalai and Bandipur, a contiguous stretch of forests that is home to elephants, tigers, leopards, sloth bears, wild boars, langurs. You do not need to go on a safari to see the wildlife. Very often, they meet you on the road, as you drive into this quaint wild town. I discovered Masinagudi rather through serendipity, a few years back. Driving through the Bandipur forests, I crossed the border from Karnataka into Mudumalai, Tamil Nadu only to discover this wild secluded stretch. A deer darted through the bush. A wild boar glared at me. And the silence was punctuated by the sharp cries of the birds who probably announced our arrival. We were the only people driving on the stretch and suddenly we were interrupted by a herd of elephants who crossed the road.

Very often, it is not the destination so much, but the journey which is exciting. And so it is with wildlife trips and safari tours. The official safari is at the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, but sometimes you meet wildlife while just driving along the town. It is not advisable to drive in the nights as you interfere with the path of the elephants and gaurs. However, my experience at Masinagudi has always led to some interesting encounters, right on the road.

3. A Birder’s Paradise

Masinagudi
Masinagudi- a birder’s paradise

You may not be a bird watcher, but you just cannot help getting addicted to watching them, singing out to you and flying around you. Painted in every colour designed by the creator, you see them in hues of red, blue, green, yellow, orange flitting around trees and bushes. A pretty jungle fowl met me while I was driving through the forests, but it was a little stream that turned out to be the haven of birds. An entire family of paradise flycatchers had made it home, while a Tickell’s blue flycatcher kept a silent watch. I sighted close to 50 species in less than an hour with the ioras, the sunbirds, the parakeets, the white eyes, the warblers, the flycatchers, the thrushes, the bulbuls all giving me company. The bird of the day was the Indian pitta, walking along the dry stream, chasing the orange headed ground thrush away and indifferent to our presence. It hung around for a long time, posing for our cameras, while foraging in the ground for its breakfast. I had to finally tear myself away from the bird, only when the orange headed ground thrush called out to me. The Nilgiris is home to nearly 350 species of birds and a few of them are endemic or found only in the region. Take some time off and go on walks with a naturalist and sight as many birds as you can, feasting your binoculars on them.

4. Hairpin Your Way to Ooty

Masinagudi
On the way to Ooty

Masinagudi may be just 36 kms from Ooty but it is the journey driving through 36 hairpin bends that makes the trip worthwhile. Feast on some home made chocolates in Ooty, spend some time at the Botanical Park, head to Coonoor or Kotagiri, meet some todas and buy some shawls from them, drive through the lush tea plantations and sip some hot tea in the highway. If you have time on your hands, then take a train journey through the mountains and chug along in the old fashioned quaint Mountain Railways.

5. An Ideal Weekend Destination

Masinagudi
Enjoy the natural beauty of Masinagudi

For lazy holidayers, Masinagudi is just the idyllic destination where you can simply relax, walk around in nature, listen to the birds, watch the mist float over the mountains, gaze at the pools of water and look out for wildlife. However for those looking for some exciting road trips, several destinations are located around Masinagudi. There is Wayanad in Kerala, Bandipur and Gopalswamy Beta in Karnataka and Coimbatore and Valparai in Tamil Nadu. There is more to Nilgiris than just Ooty. But whatever be your destination, the call of the wild cannot be ignored. So go ahead, pack your bags and backpacks and head to the outdoors. The mountains and the forests are waiting for you.

Where to Stay?

I have stayed in several properties in Masinagudi – from a tree house to an estate in the jungles to resorts nestled in the woods. But if you are looking at travelling this weekend, then head to Goibibo and plan your trip. You can choose lots of resorts in Masinagudi . But here are some great suggestions.

  1. Club Mahindra Masinagudi – This is one of my favourite properties in Masinagudi. I have stayed here twice and it is one of the best properties for bird watching. With quaint comfortable cottages, streams flowing around, a dense canopy of trees – you almost get a feeling that you are in the wild. Visit Club Mahindra Masinagudi  if you are planning a trip now.
  2. Wild Inn Stone Cottage – A cottage inside the woods, this property offers the experience of staying in a bungalow in the wild. A stay at Wild Inn Stone Cottage Hotel will ward off every burden you carried back at work.
  3. The Nest Inn – As cozy as it sounds, the property offers comfortable furnished rooms and dormitories as well. Seems like an ideal getaway this weekend.  The Nest Inn in Masinagudi is particularly the best accommodation option this long weekend.

How to Reach?

Masinagudi is a border town and can be reached from either of the three southern states. From Tamil Nadu, the closest airport is Coimbatore at 140 km and the farthest is Chennai at 575 km . From Ooty it’s about 36 km and Mettupalaym , about 80 km . If you are driving like us from Bangalore, its a distance of 260 km .and 106 km from Mysore and it takes about five hours. From Kerala, the closest airports are Kochi at 212 km and Kozhikodu at 123 km . Vythiri in Wynad is 93 km away . An ideal weekend getaway from any of these cities, Masinagudi is closest to Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary at 15 km and Bandipur at 25 km. Buses are found aplenty from Coimbatore, Mysore or Gudalur (a town enroute to Bandipur from Mysore) but the roads at some stretches are bad.

Swachh Bharat–Hotels take up the challenge

Posted on

Swachh Bharat Campaign

In our previous blog, we talked about various celebrities involved in Swachh Bharat campaign. Now in part 2, we bring you a list of hotel chains who have join PM Narendra Modi’s Clean India mission. Around hundreds of employees of luxury and budget hotel chains like Oberoi, Taj, ITC, Leela, Carlson, Sarovar Group and the Park have started cleaning roads around their hotels as part of Swachh Bharat Mission.

Modi’s Clean India mission
Photo Courtesy : economictimes.indiatimes.com

When it comes to Travel & Tourism industry, especially hospitality industry, cleanliness plays an important part. Be it high-end travellers or budget travellers, everyone wants to stay in a hotel which has clean rooms and premises. A neat and clean location always attracts a large number of tourists/customers. Therefore, giving importance to the customer’s needs, 230 hotels have come forward to support Swachh Bharat Campaign.

These 230 hotels include 170 major hotels under the Hotel Association of India. All of them have pledged that more than 500 of their employees will clean about 230 kms of road around their hotels as well as 53 monuments in the country.

The luxury 5 star hotel ITC Maurya, Taj Palace Hotels in Delhi ,InterContinental Hotels Group and  The Leela in Mumbai are some of best example of hotels who have practiced cleanliness drive for years. But now these hotels are planning to take cleaning practice to the next level which include to cover more than just the hotel area.

InterContinental Hotels Group-swachh Bharat
Photo courtesy : ihgplc.com

An interesting feature about this hotels’ participation is the fact that each hotel is working on the cleanliness project as a single unit by setting its own individual goals. While some hotels like Taj Hotels have given the power to general managers to plan cleaning activities, others have assigned the task to staff members to clean surrounding areas, nearby railway stations or public toilets around monuments. Moreover, some hotel chains have advised each of their hotel to maintain hygiene of  the nearby streets and the surrounding roads.

Jaisalmer Desert Festival: Glory of the Golden City

Posted on

Jaisalmer
Decorated camels in Jaisalmer Festival | Photo Courtesy: twitter.com

When we think about the golden sands, the name that instantly crops up in our mind is Jaisalmer. The ‘Golden City’ as it is popularly known attracts tourists from all across the globe. Situated in the Thar Desert, Jaisalmer is famous for its sand dunes, folk dance, culture and tradition and of course the Fort. The name of place stands for ‘Fort of Jaisal’ wherein Jaisal or Maharaja Jaisal Singh happens to be the founder of the city. While the destination witnesses vacationers all the year round, it is during the Jaisalmer Festival that it encounters the maximum crowd. In order to taste the local culture at its best, one must take a Jaisalmer tour during this time of the year.

Significance of Jaisalmer Festival

Jaisalmer
Photo Courtesy: indiantravelpictures.wordpress.com

There’s always a reason behind every event that takes place. Similar is the case with this fest. It is said that Lord Krishna who belonged to the Yadav community had made a prediction as per which a successor of his clan would rule the Trikuta Hill. When King Jaisal took over the land in the 12th century, the prophecy came true leading to a grand celebration among the locals. Since then, the festivities during this time are conducted with much enthusiasm and vigour.

Events under the Jaisalmer Festival

Jaisalmer
Photo Courtsey: http://www.rajasthandirect.com

The Jaisalmer Desert Festival is a cultural showcase of the local activities, cuisine and talent. The folk dances of the place especially the Gair and Fire performance along with the music is surely going to win your hearts. A Rajasthan tour is incomplete without a camel ride. Since they are an integral part of the Rajasthani lifestyle, a camel race is pretty much synonymous to the fest. The colourful turbans tied in the typical style is surely mesmerizing and a competition about one is a must see. Moreover, the longest moustache showcasing event and a tug-of-war puts in a great contribution towards offering entertainment in the better way. The festival ends with a trip to the Sam sand dunes.

Date of the Festival: 20th to 22nd February 2016

Hotels in Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer
Photo Courtesy: twitter.com

When it comes to accommodation, there is no dearth of good hotels in Jaisalmer. Ranging from budget options to high end haveli stay, the royal city has it all. Hotel Royal Haveli, Hotel Lalgarh Fort & Palace and Fort Rajwada are some of the best hotels here. For more options, travellers can browse through a list of hotels on Goibobo.

Places to Visit in Jaisalmer

 Jaisalmer
Photo Courtesy: happytrips.com

The city of sand dunes has a lot of attractions such as The Jaisalmer Fort, Desert Cultural Centre and the Gadsisar Lake. Some must see places in Jaisalmer also include the intricately designed Jain temples. Known for their Dilwara paintings and exclusive architecture, these Jain temples are located in the fort itself and are dedicated to the Jain Tirthankars. To get an in-depth information about the city, visit our Jaisalmer Travel Guide.

Why to Visit Delhi This Republic Day?

Posted on

Republic Day

That day of the year when entire country comes together to celebrate unity and fraternity is approaching. I am talking about 26th January, India’s Republic Day. Since 26th January, 1950, India is celebrating this prestigious to mark the commencement of action of the Constitution of India. The prestigious parade of Republic Day in India is in fact one of the biggest parades in the world, which every Indian must undertake to show their dedicated love and respect towards the nation and its citizens.

If you have not yet been a part of the Republic Day Parade in Delhi, then take part this year to experience the most glorious journey ever. Goibibo shares with you some interesting facts and information of India’s Republic Day event.

Republic Day

The Event Initiation

With the arrival of honourable President of India accompanied by ceremonial winter dressed bodyguards on horseback, the event gets a kick start. The moment when the President pays respect and lays flowers on Amar Jawan Jyoti is one of the most solemn and touching moments of the day.

What’s Next?

I can guarantee now you are going to witness the most memorable and eventful flag hoisting ceremony. With the National Anthem at the background, the President unfurls the India flag. President’s Bodyguard’s National Salute and 21 Gun Salute takes place at the same time, giving an energetic and encouraging start to the event.

Is There An Award Ceremony?

Yes! On the eve of Republic Day, officials and civilians on various accounts are honoured. Bravery awards like Ashok Chakra and Kirti Chakra are announced for Armed Forces, followed by awards for young children. The award ceremony is undoubtedly an event of utmost pride.

What Happens at Republic Day Parade?

Republic Day

The most interesting thing about Republic Day parade is that every Indian state is showcased prominently. Initially, regiments of Indian Navy, Army and Air Force march past the crowd in their official finery. The display of 30 floats unique to each and every Indian state is a brilliant watch. Then there is display of national attire along with cultural folk music symbolic to every state leaves everyone speechless. School kids take part of cultural performances as a part of the parade.

To take part in the parade, get dressed in winter wears. Don’t carry any electrical items and try to reach early to get a better position.

What is Daredevil Acts?

Republic Day
Photo Courtesy: media.sacbee.com

Motorcycle units of Armed Forces perform stunts on motorbikes and make it a thrilling sight to watch. Jets and helicopters fly overhead for a visual spectacle high up in the sky.

The Beating Retreat is the official end of the parade held in Raisina Hills and Vijay Chowk areas. Against the backdrop of Rashtrapati Bhavan, Beating Retreat of the bands from Army, Navy and Air Force marks an exciting end to the ceremony.

What’s New This Republic Day?

US President Barack Obama is going to be the chief guest of the 2015 Republic Day parade. He will be seated in open air on Rajpath to watch the two hours’ grand parade. So those of you who are going to take part in the parade, can get a chance to see Mr. Obama with your own eyes.

Republic Day

Exploring Delhi during Republic Day is real fun. Iconic places like Red Fort, India Gate and Qutub Minar get stunningly decorated with India flag to mark the festivity. However, do not miss on other attractions in Delhi like Chandni Chowk, Lotus Temple and Qutub Minar.

To buy Republic Day parade ticket, contact India Tourism Development counters at Ashok Hotel or Janpath Hotel or Delhi Tourism counters in Dilli Haat, Coffe Home, Chandini Chowk, etc. Ticket is priced from Rs. 300 to Rs. 20 per head.

Republic Day
Photo Courtesy: hindustantimes.com

So, be ready to attend the most eventful festival of India.

 

Taj Mahotsav 2016 – Explore India’s Cultural Richness

Posted on

Taj Mahotsav

In the land of the magnificent ever dazzling Taj Mahal, Taj Mahotsav was born in 1992 to celebrate the cultural glory and vibrancy of India. When the rest of India flows with daily chores of life, Agra gets dressed up in color and vibrancy to celebrate Taj Mahotsav, a 10 day carnival that brings into limelight India’s rich art, craft, cuisine and culture. This cultural extravaganza brings artisans into prominence and promotes handicrafts and local produce of different Indian regions. The festival is organized by Uttar Pradesh Tourism Department and is witnessed by thousands of Indian and foreign tourists. To taste India’s authentic cuisines, experience India’s traditional dance forms, purchase the best handicrafts made by regional artisans and immerse in the country’s vibrant multicultural hue, plan a trip to Agra during Taj Mahotsav.

For your convenience, Goibibo has listed some of the important facts of the festival. Scroll below and have a look.

When is Taj Mahotsav Celebrated?

Every year this festive bonanza is celebrated for 10 days. It opens its door on 18th February and extends its flamboyance till 27th February. The cool pleasant weather of Agra during this time gives rise to a perfect setting for the event.

Taj Mahotsav
Taj Mahal

Where is Taj Mahotsav Celebrated?

The festival has a close touch with Agra’s Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. So, within the heart of the city, at a distance of around 500 metres from Taj Mahal’s east gate is Shilpagram, where the festival is celebrated.

 Taj Mahotsav

Where to Stay During Taj Mahotsav?

There are lots of accommodation options in Agra. These accommodations range from basic budget to luxury categories that cater to all class of travellers. There are hotels near Shilpagram too where tourists can stay to get easy accessibility to the festival. Luxury accommodations like Radisson Blue, Oberoi Amarvillas, JP Palace and Taj Gateway are located at the vicinity of Taj Mahal and the venue. Budget travellers can opt for hotels like Taj Plaza or The Retreat during their trip to Taj Mahotsav.

Taj Mahotsav

What to See in Taj Mahotsav?

Taj Mahotsav is a giant platform that exhibits the artistic skills of artisans from all parts of India. The best varieties of Chikan work of Lucknow, wood/stone carvings of Tamil Nadu, wood and brush carvings of Saharanpur, Kantha stitch work of West Bengal, cane work of North east India, Kashmiri embroidered shawls and carpets from Kashmir, blue pottery of Khurja, all are exhibited here. Apart from these attractive handicrafts, tourists will also get a chance to enjoy cultural events in the form of folk dance and classical music, significant to different states of India as this year’s theme revolves around ‘Hum Ek, Sanskriti Anek’.

Along with these, Taj Mahotsav is a must visit carnival for food lovers. Delicious Lucknawi kabab, Amritsari naan, Delhi’s aaloo tikki, Hyderabadi Biriyani, Kashmiri Chai, and several other lip- smacking dishes are found here.

Taj Mahotsav

How to Reach Taj Mahotsav?

Agra is well connected by road, rail and air from major Indian cities. Kheria Airport (or Agra Airport) connects Agra to all major cities of India. There are five railway stations in the city and trains from all parts of India ply to Agra regularly. For Taj Mahotsav, Agra Cantt station is the ideal one. The city is well connected by buses from Delhi, Jaipur, Gwalior, Kanpur etc. Agra Interstate Bus Terminus (ISBT) is around 12km away from Taj Mahal.

So, if you haven’t made any weekend plans yet, guess I’ve helped you in making one!