Month: January 2016

GoNews: Government of India Announces List of 20 Upcoming Smart Cities

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On January 28, 2016, the Union Government announced the names of the first 20 urban areas that will be developed as smart cities under ‘Smart Cities Mission’. Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu, while announcing the list, said, “Implementation of smart cities plan will showcase integrated planning. The investment of Rs 50,802 crores has been proposed in selected smart cities and towns during the five-year period.”

Smart cities
Photo Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bhubaneswar_smart_city.jpg

Following is the list of 20 smart cities:

1. Bhubaneswar, Odisha

2. Pune, Maharashtra

3. Jaipur, Rajasthan

4. Surat, Gujarat

5. Kochi, Kerala

6. Ahmedabad, Gujarat

7. Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh

8. Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh

9. Sholapur, Maharashtra

10. Davangere, Karnataka

11. Indore, Madhya Pradesh

12. New Delhi Municipal Council area

13. Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu

14. Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh

15. Belagavi, Karnataka

16. Udaipur, Rajasthan

17. Guwahati, Assam

18. Chennai, Tamil Nadu

19. Ludhiana, Punjab

20. Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

What is a Smart City?

A ‘smart city’ is one which is highly advanced in terms of overall infrastructure, sustainable real estate, communications and market viability. Some of the main features of these smart cities include assured water and power supply, efficient urban mobility and public transport, sanitation and solid waste management, strong IT connectivity, e-governance and citizen participation and safety of its citizens etc.

Few Facts:

  • These 20 names were selected from a list of 98 cities, submitted by the state governments, during a competition held last year.
  • There are five capital cities in this list.
  • These 20 cities were shortlisted based on certain criteria like feasibility of the proposal, cost-effectiveness, result orientation, strategic plan, citizen participation etc.
  • The government will invest approximately Rs.50,802 crore in these chosen smart cities, over a period of five years.
  • The second phase of this plan is supposed to engulf the next 40 cities.

So friends, gear up for a smarter India!

A Rendezvous with Rajasthani Food in Jaipur

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Tucked between rugged hills and besieged walls and speckled with traditional erstwhile monuments, Jaipur boasts of fairy-tale grandeur. However, apart from its majestic forts and royal havelis, it has more stories to unfold. Along with its impressive architecture, Jaipur is a striking name for foodies too. Elaborate meals served on huge impressive thalis and typical Rajasthani food churned in royal kitchens illustrate indigenous traditions typical to the state. On my visit to Jaipur on New Year, this is what I discovered. Its food angle is worth experiencing and appreciating. My 48 hours trip was an epicurean tour with my friend that took me from old traditional restaurants to modern cafés. Come, let’s live those memories for a while.

Chokhi Dhani

Rajasthani food
Traditional Rajasthani thali at Chokhi Dhani | Photo Credit: Debatree Saha

Ahh! Jaipur and Chokhi Dhani is inseparable! Nestled around 21 km away from city centre, this ethnic village captures the vibrant spirit of Rajasthan. Food is an integral part of Chokhi Dhani and dining over majestic thalis is a lifetime experience. My platter had Bajre ki Roti with dollops of butter, Chawal, Daal, Gatte ka Sabzi, Bajra Khichda, Kadhi, Lehsan ka Achar, Dhaniya Chutney, Salad, Roasted Papad, Moon Dal Halwa and Bati Choorma. Golgappas and hot milk on earthenware glasses were also available in food stalls. My tummy was super-saturated! We had chosen the Traditional Rajasthani Dining Hall, but options like AC Royal Rajasthani Dining and Multi-cuisine Buffet Dinner can be tried too.

Laxmi Misthan Bhandar

Rajasthani food
Daal Bati Churma at Laxmi Misthan Bhandar | Photo Credit: Debatree Saha

To be frank, reaching there from MI Road was difficult. We drove past narrow alleys, old lanes and distant hills to reach the age-old sweet shop cum restaurant in Johari Bazaar. The doorman with his long moustache made way to an over-crowded sweet shop. Huh!! How can I forget it was 1st January? After waiting for long, we managed to get a seat and ordered Daal Bati Churma, Sweet Lassi and Virgin Mojito. After all, LMB is known for its authentic Daal Bati Churma cooked with heaps of desi ghee. It tasted heavenly and the lassi was an icing on the cake. Pack along Rajasthani specialities like ghewars, milk cake, and definitely, Payaz Kachori.

Rawat Misthan Bhandar

Very close to Sindhi Camp Bus Stand on Station Road, Rawat Misthan Bhandar is the only choice for food lovers like me. And being a tourist, how can I miss their lip-smacking Payaz (onion) Kachodi. Thanks to our auto-wale bhaiya for introducing us to Rawat. The crunchy golden Dal and Onion kachoris stuffed with lentils and onions taste delectable when consumed hot. Treat your tongue with Rawat ka Kachori before bidding adieu to Jaipur, just like me.

Peacock Restaurant

Rajasthani Food
The delicious Laal Maas | Photo Credit: Debatree Saha

The rooftop restaurant near Vidhakpuri Police Station will initially surprise you with its scenic setting, graceful ambience and astonishing views of the surrounding. My platter had only Laal Maas (traditional spicy lamb curry) and tawa roti, because Peacock is famous for this Rajasthani non-vegetarian delicacy. Like all, I too had to wait to get a seat. Apart from the taste of the food, its decent pricing surprised me too. If you are a meat lover like me, do visit the Peacock Restaurant for its authentic Laal Maas.

If you favour Italian and Chinese, then also Jaipur is ideal for you. Here are two of my favourite picks:

The Chocolate Room

Me and my friend, both were aliens to Jaipur, but food is what we died for. While exploring the newly opened World Trade Park at Malviya Nagar, Jaipur, we had to stop at The Chocolate Room. The small aesthetically decorated Italian Café (not to mention 100% veg) at the food court spread aroma of fresh cakes, sizzling pastas, pizzas, pancakes, toasts, coffees, smoothies and more. We started with sipping the delicious smoothies- yogola mix and very berry and gradually shifted to Mediterranean Pasta. Well, if you ask about price, I would say, ‘be ready to feel a bit of pinch in your pocket’. Nevertheless, getting hold of an authentic Italian café in Jaipur is not an easy affair. Give it a try!

Marigold Restaurant

Rajasthani Food
Schezwan Salt and Pepper Chicken at Marigold Restaurant | Photo Credit: Debatree Saha

The in-house restaurant of Golden Tulip hotel (where I stayed) at MI Road is a haven for food-lovers. Not to forget is its widespread buffet breakfast that offers American delicacies to Indian favourites like Aalo Parantha, Poori sabzi, Idli, Uttapam, Daal Pakoda and lots more. Marigold too expertise in Laal Maas. Thanks to the chef for making our New Year dinner a gourmet affair, one with Schezwan Salt and Pepper Chicken and veg Hakka Noodles.

They all looked royal and tasted yum! In fact, the trip is to be remembered more for our culinary experience. You too can plan one soon!

Best Travel Hacks to Help You Enjoy an Economical Trip

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Well, for some, travelling is sheer fun- just pack your bags at the drop of a hat and wander off. But for those who take travelling a bit more seriously and do indulge in rigorous brainstorming before-hand, we have jotted down few important tips, just to help you plan your vacation better. When the thought of travelling becomes more taxing than fun, what you need is a slight dose of ‘travel hacks’ relief syrup.

Now, we all think that going on a vacation means heavy expenses, from booking of flights and hotels to shopping, eating or touring. But, little do we know that with slight planning and management, we could do all of what we want to and that too, well within our budgets, with these easy and simple travel hacks. 

Travel hacks
Graphical representation by Priyanka Sharma

Airfare Does Not Cost a Fortune

    • The first thing to do is book cheap flights. Now the best way to do this is by analysing fares on different flight comparing sites. There are ample sites to choose from, so be wise.
    • Before booking, carry out a general survey on those days in a week when cheap tickets can usually be availed. Well, Tuesdays and Wednesdays have just turned great!
    • Find off-peak flights, if possible, ones that will force you to either get-up in the wee hours of the morning or keep you awake till late hours (reward- cheap airfare).
    • If you are not tight on schedule, then go for flights with long layovers. Not only will the flight price be low but you get the added advantage of a mini-visit of a new place (of course with a visa and if your ticket permits).
    • Well, if you have already racked-up thousands of frequent flyer miles and points by signing-up for credit cards or shopping through online portals or swiping cards at restaurants, it’s your chance to redeem those miles and points for a more affordable travel.
    • And if you are the one who is always on the move, then you could sign-up with frequent flyer groups as well to avail free flights.
    • It is not advisable to book tickets way too much in advance, well you might regret missing out on occasional discounts.

Make Smart Accommodation Choices

    • When it comes to lodging, stop flooding hotels. You could opt for home-stays or family-run businesses as well. You would not only end-up saving on some cash but enjoy a different experience altogether.
    • In today’s world, where everything and everyone has gone e-smart, it is no big deal to find accommodations where free WiFi can be easily availed. This will help you save a considerable amount on internet packs.

Travel the Desi Way

    • So you are in this new place and hungry. Eager to try-out something nice but have no idea where to go. Just relax, several food apps are there to guide you to the restaurant of your choice.
    • Once done with your pett puja, you would be ready to tour the city. Instead of zooming away in AC cabs, try walking, cycling (if possible) or otherwise avail public transports. This way, you meet more people, get a chance to talk to locals and learn more authentic and interesting facts about their city.

      Travel hacks
      Explore new places on foot | Photo Credit: Sudipta Basu
    • Avoid organised tours. No point in mechanically moving in a pack and being guided everywhere. Stick to your group (no matter how less or more you are in number) and travel at your own pace.
    • Carry empty water bottles. Refill where-ever possible. Maybe you won’t save a fortune but then you would simply keep adding to your nest egg.
    • Try off-beat destinations and travel off-season.

      Travel hacks
      Try offbeat destinations like Chopta | Photo Credit: Indraneel Biswas
    • Pack smart, carry light. Mix-n-match your apparels.

Finally, Few More Handy Tips

      • Buy travel insurance.
      • Plan your finances before-hand.
      • If you are travelling abroad, check currency rates in advance.
      • Prefer rails. Try avoiding ‘no-frills’ airline policy cause most flights will offer you practically nothing except a seat and take you to and fro more remote airports, which ultimately will be more physically taxing for you.

So friends, here’s a thumbs up to a more planned, organised, tension-free and pocket-friendly vacation. Do drop-in to share your experiences.

Happy Travelling!

GoNews: 2016 Edition of Goa Carnival to Start on February 6

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Goa Carnival, which is about to take place between February 6 and February 9, 2016, is expected to be the most colourful and vibrant editions of the festival. The carnival is believed to be the biggest highlight of Goa as well as rest of India. It not only aims to promote unity, harmony and peace, but also showcase Goa’s glorious past and long drawn traditional practices.

Goa Carnival
Street decorations in Miramar at the Goa Carnival 2013 | Photo Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:GOA_CARNIVAL_2013_03.JPG?uselang=en-gb

The carnival will be held across four places in the state- Panjim, Margao, Vasco and Mapusa. This year the state is working in close association with Brouhaha International, an arts organization located in Liverpool, United Kingdom, to make its 2016 edition titled ‘Destination Carnival’ a premier state tourism event. There will be an elaborate exchange of ideas across countries like UK, USA, South Africa and India.

Anticipating a larger tourist footfall this year, the state authority has made elaborate safety measures, like increased deployment of police force across all tourist spots, to ensure complete security during the carnival.

Goa Carnival
Beach front in Goa | Photo Credit: Bhawna Grover

Let us also take a quick glance through some adventure activities and additional services that are about to be launched by Goa Tourism Development Corporation soon:

Amphibian Tours: Goa will be the first Indian destination to introduce amphibious vehicles in the country. Service of these vehicles is expected to resume from February and will take tourists on exciting tours like duck tours to the hinterlands of Goa. Already experienced this in Singapore or London? Now try in India too!

Heritage Boat Cruise: Goa is set to introduce two heritage boat cruises on its backwaters. The four-hour cruise will include lunch/dinner and typical Goan live music and dance extravaganza.

Motorised Paragliding: The adventure sport is expected to be operational in Goa from the first week of February.

Hop-on Hop-off Bus: The bus service is about to start very soon in Goa. It is expected to make travelling in Goa convenient and will also provide easy access to other tourist attractions.

Come, experience a safe and pleasant stay in India’s beach capital during the four-day gala carnival.

GoNews: Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, Becomes World’s Best Hotel of 2016

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Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, bags the best hotel in the world award by TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice of hotels 2016. The hotel has proudly bagged maximum number of awards (7) across different categories. Also, this is the very first time that an Indian hotel has won the honour.

Umaid Bhawan Palace
The grand complex of Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur | Photo Credit: Gaurav Das

Built between 1928 and 1943 for Maharaja Umaid Singh, the royal palatial hotel, now managed by Taj Group of Hotels, proudly holds the status of the ‘best hotel in the world’. Equipped with 347 luxury rooms and decorated by 26 acres of lush gardens, this massive Indo-Colonial styled hotel has remained a hot favourite amongst luxury travellers from across the world. Also, the extravagant palatial hotel is the hottest spot for palace wedding amongst celebrities. From the wedding ceremony of Bollywood couple Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan to the 50th birthday celebration of Nita Ambani, the hotel has been the witness to many such unforgettable events. Its immaculate architecture, magnificent décor and luxurious hospitality contributed to its prominence.

Umaid Bhawan Palace
Swimming pool at Umaid Bhawan Palace Hotel, Jodhpur | Photo Credit: http://www.umaidbhawan.com/picture_gallery.htm

As the name suggests ‘Travellers’ Choice Awards’, the hotel has been recognized and appreciated by global travellers for its impeccable service, traditional hospitality, luxury, grandeur and value for money. Umaid Bhawan Palace has been chosen the winner on the basis of reviews, ratings and opinions posted by millions of travellers in one year.

It is not only Umaid Bhawan Palace that has left an impeccable footprint on Indian Travel and Hotel Industry, but other names like Oberoi Vanvilas, Taj Rambagh Palace, Orange County Resorts and Bougainvillea Guest House have also made their ways to the world’s best hotels. Rajasthan remained at the top position amongst all Indian states followed by Kerala and Karnataka.

Best Indian Destinations to Enjoy Bachelor Party with Your Friends

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Breaking the rules, drinking beer, reckless plans with friends is kinda old fashioned! Gear up folks, it’s time to celebrate your freedom once and for all with your Gang of Wasseypur! 🙂 This investment of celebrating love, life and your bachelorhood is worth every penny you are about to spend.

This time around, go for a theme party that suits everyone’s interest. Here’s my pick:

1. For those party animals in your gang, hit the party capital of India aka Goa, and enjoy the last few days of your freedom like never before. Plan the trip such that those awesome parties popularly known as ‘Full moon’ parties are not missed. These parties can also be witnessed at the breathtaking islands of Andaman and the hippies spot, Mcleodganj at just pocket-friendly rates.

Bachelor Party
A still from Dil Chahta Hain

2. For those adventure freaks in your gang, gear up to experience the thrill of your lifetime. You don’t have to plan big and spend much on international tours. One can experience world-class treks in India like the famous Roopkund trek. Celebrate in style with leather jackets, sunshades and heavy metal bikes on the road to Leh. Adventure sports followed by bonfire and camping can be relentlessly enjoyed at Rishikesh and Manali. A visit to Seven Sisters on bike is one adventure one shouldn’t miss, especially those high on thrills!

Bachelor Party
A still from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

3. For those homies in your gang, visit places like never before, try the untried. So if in the capital, do not forget to pay a visit to the PCO Bar, Hauz Khas village, shopping streets and chill the desi way. A gym and steam visit with your gang for a day would be rewarding just before a week from your wedding.

Bachelor Party
Hauz Khas Village | Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hauz_Khas_Complex

4. If you have a silencer in your gang, choose  nature walks to picturesque and private places for spending your days away from the heavy touristy destinations. Visit Sula Vineyards in Nashik and enjoy India’s only wine company with a chance to see the making of wine. You could also enjoy a cup of tea amid the flavours and aroma of tea plantations in Assam. Coorg in Karnataka with its serene ambience could be another option to relax. Enjoy being you!

Bachelor Party
Sula Vineyards, Nasik | Photo Credit: Aparna Saha

5. For history buffs in your gang, a visit to the country’s most architecturally-rich places, entangled with rich heritage and culture would be a great idea. Rajasthan is where you can enjoy in royal style. A quick tour can also be made to South India, where your spiritual and historical yearnings are satiated at par.

Bachelor Party
A still from Rang De Basanti

These places offer more than you can ask for! So pick your gang and head-straight to your preferred destination to celebrate the final innings of your bachelorhood. Write to us so that we can help you plan your perfect holiday, at pocket-friendly prices. Get set, go!

Well, we think these destinations in India are great for a bachelor party. If you would like to add more to this list, feel free to comment.

GoNews: Dilli Haat Gears Up For The Great Indian Food Festival

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Eat, dine and make merry! After all, it is food that unites us all.

The Great Indian Food Festival being held at Pitampura, Delhi, on January 23rd and 24th, 2016, is all about local street food delicacies brought from different parts of India. Delhi is crazy about street food and with this festival, you will get a glance of how other Indian states too savour their road side dishes.

Food Festival
Traditional Indian Thali | Photo Credit: http://www.facebook.com/GreatIndianFood/photos_stream

Great Indian Food Festival is going to feature vendors with generations of culinary experience. Be a part of this food fiesta in the heart of the capital and get lost in the aroma of tandoori chicken, Lucknawi kebab, Amritsari kulcha, dhokla, petha, daal-bati churma, Hyderabadi biriyani, rasam-vada and much more. Places like Amritsar, Lucknow, Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Gujarat and Jaipur, which you have always heard of and their street food delicacies you always wanted to eat, will now be available at your doorstep.

Food Festival
Pav Bhaji in the making | Photo Credit: http://www.facebook.com/GreatIndianFood/photos_stream

Both foodie and non-food lovers, bring along your friends and relatives to this gala gastronomic affair. Remember to come early, because those plates overloaded with chole bhature and dahi bhalla tastes great when served fresh. Need not worry, entry is 100% free.

Some quick check outs of the Great Indian Food Festival:

Location: Dilli Haat Pitampura, Delhi

Date: January 23, 2016 – January 24, 2016

Time: Jan 23, 2016 at 11:00 AM to Jan 24, 2016 at 11:00 PM

Entry: Free

With winter hovering during that time, the festival is expected to be a real hit.

Top 4 Picks for a Peaceful Long Weekend

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If the excitement of another New Year has hushed down and you have already drowned in your routine life with the sudden winter chills just leaving you all the more wrapped, then it’s time for some warm-up. With the second long weekend just round-the-corner (well, the Republic Day is on a Tuesday and your manager has been kind enough to give your Monday an off, as well), you are in for a long, four days off. Yaay!

So, that means four days of sleeping, watching movies, eating and … sleeping! Right… No wrong. Oh, come on! You could use these four days to explore some of the more beautiful and lesser frequented destinations around the national capital. And being the perfect guide that we are, have listed for you four places and possible routes that could be taken via road to ensure you enjoy a vacation worth remembering. So get ready friends for your  upcoming, long weekend travel.

Delhi to Rohru

Now the first reason for anybody to really leave Delhi would be for some peace of mind, some solitude and a whole lot of rejuvenation. Rohru, in Himachal Pradesh, for most is exactly this. This little town, located on the banks of the Pabbar River, has a bouquet of attractions that leave people asking for more. It serves as the base for a trek up to Chansal Peak via Chansal Pass where-from one can enjoy an amazing bird’s eye view of the entire valley down. And you could be lucky enough to enjoy a lovely snowfall as well. Apple orchards, forests, trout fishing, classical temples of Hatkoti, picturesque spots of Kharapathar and Giriganga or the Shikhru Devta Temple make way for some aesthetic bliss.

Long weekend
Calm your senses in the greenery of Rohru | Photo Credit: Sahil Badhan

Where: Himachal Pradesh

Altitude: ~1550m

Distance from Delhi: ~510km

How to Reach:

  1. Delhi- Ghaziabad- Meerut- Muzaffarnagar- Roorkee- Biharigarh- Dehradun- Paonta Sahib- Rohru
  2. Delhi- Ambala- Kalka- Shimla- Theog- Narkanda- Kharapathar- Rohru

Where to Stay: PWD Rest House at Rohru, HPTDC Hotel Chansal on Hatkoti-Rohru road

What’s Special: Trout hatchery, handmade clothings made of sheep wool and best quality Red Rice

Nearest Railhead: Shimla

Tips: Start early from Delhi to avoid traffic. For most part, the road is smooth barring few bad patches. Since it’s winters, heavy woollens are suggested.

Delhi to Binsar

If the odd-even formula hasn’t soothed your senses then Binsar definitely will. The crisp mountain air, dense thickets, majestic views of the mighty Himalayas and loads of greenery, this secluded hill station, though sleepy, is an absolute delight to the senses. If you are an ardent nature-lover, then those serene walks in the fresh and scented air of Binsar will help you savour the prolific beauty of nature. A walk uphill the Jhandi Dhar (also known as Binsar Hill) offers splendid view of Almora Town, Kumaon Hills and the greater Himalayan valley. But the main attraction of the town is the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary which is home to nearly 200 species of birds, barking deer, musk deer, Himalayan bear, leopard fox, porcupine, chital among several others.

Binsar
On the way to Binsar | Photo Credit: Bhawna Grover Bagai

Where: Uttarakhand

Altitude: ~2400m

Distance from Delhi: ~400km

How to Reach:

  1. Delhi- Moradabad- Kashipur- Bazpur- Kaladhungi- Nainital- Almora- Deenapani- Binsar
  2. Delhi- Moradabad- Rampur- Bilaspur- Rudrapur- Haldwani- Kathgodam- Nainital- Almora- Binsar
  3. Delhi- Moradabad- Rampur- Udhamsingh Nagar- Haldwani- Bhowali- Garampani- Almora- Binsar

Where to Stay: KMVN Guest House at Deenapani (roughly midway between Almora and Binsar), Khali Estate (near Ayarpani village in Almora), Itmenaan Estate

What’s Special: Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, views of Chaukhamba, Panchachuli, Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot and Kedarnath Peaks from Zero Point, bird watching and wildlife photography

Nearest Railhead: Kathgodam (3½ hours from Binsar)

Tips: Don’t miss out on your binoculars and heavy woollens. Leave at the wee hours of the morning to avoid Delhi and U.P traffic. If you are taking the first route, then avoid the direct road from Moradabad to Bazpur, instead cover few extra km via Kashipur. It might take you more time but will surely save you from discomfort.

Delhi to Kanatal

Well, for most, Mussoorie is the preferred choice for a vacation while the scenic and breathtaking Kanatal gets a miss as usual. Now firstly, Kanatal should not be your call if you are an adventure freak, it is specially for those who desire tranquillity. It definitely comes without any thrills and frills, but the natural sights, lush expanses of green, scenic setting, apple orchards, temples, chirping birds, colourful butterflies, floating clouds and the narrow roads fringed by pine, rhododendron and deodar trees surely capture your memories for a lifetime and make for some amazing clicks. Don’t you think Kanatal is perfect for yoga and meditation?

long weekend
Landscape view on the way to Kanatal | Photo Credit: Debatree Saha

Where: Uttarakhand

Altitude: ~2590m

Distance from Delhi: ~310km

How to Reach:

  1. Delhi- Meerut- Muzzafarnagar- Saharanpur- Dehradun- Mussorrie- Dhanolti- Kanatal
  2. Delhi-Meerut- Muzaffarnagar- Roorkee- Haridwar- Rishikesh- Narendranagar- Chamba- Kanatal

Where to Stay: Mahindra Resorts, Kanatal Camps, Kanatal Spa and Resorts

What’s Special: Surkhanda Devi Temple, Kodia Forest, Tehri Dam, views of Bandarpunch, Trichul and Chaukhamba Peaks, snowfall during winters. Shops selling artefacts and local handicrafts made of nettle weed fabric and bamboo.

Nearest Railhead: Haridwar (~100km from Kanatal) and Dehradun (~~70km from Kanatal)

Tips: Don’t forget to grab a bottle of rhododendron juice as souvenir, made from locally grown rhododendron flowers, which is something that you won’t find anywhere else. There are no food joints in Kanatal, so try to be happy with whatever is offered in the in-house restaurants of the hotels that you would be lodging in.

Delhi to Munsiyari

What is the first thing you could expect from a place whose name literally means ‘the place of snow’? Of course, snow. And that is exactly why you should be here this winter. Stunning views of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks, Panchachuli, which is undoubtedly the star attraction of Munsiyari and serving as the base to numerous glacier treks, this comely hamlet remains eternal for its impeccable beauty.

Long weekend
Panchachuli Peaks, Munsiyari | Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munsiyari

Where: Uttarakhand

Altitude: ~2298m

Distance from Delhi: ~650km

How to Reach:

  1. Delhi- Moradabad- Rampur- Haldwani- Kathgodam- Bhimtal- Bhowali- Khairna- Almora- Chitai Temple- Dhaulchina- Sheraghat- Thal- Birthi Fall- Kalamuni Top- Munsiyari
  2. Delhi- Moradabad- Kashipur- Kaladhungi- Nainital- Bhowali- Almora- Kosi- Someshwar- Kausani- Baijnath- Bageshwar- Vijaypur- Chaukori- Udiyari Bend- Thal- Kalamuni Top- Munsiyari
  3. Delhi- Moradabad- Kashipur- Jim Corbett- Mahaan- Marchula- Manila- Dwaraghat- Kausani- Baijnath- Chaukori- Thal- Munsiyari

Where to Stay: KMVN Rest House and Hotel Zara Resort (near main market), Hotel Johar Hill Top Resort (on Munsiyari-Thal Road).

What’s Special: Milam, Ralam and Namik Glacier treks, Panchachuli Peaks, Hand-woven carpets and Himalayan tree saplings

Nearest Railhead: Kathgodam (~275km)

Tips: BSNL has a wide coverage over the area, to help you stay connected with your family and friends. It’s advisable to get your fuel tanks refilled at Dwaraghat since there are no petrol pumps after Thal and even limited fuel is available at Thal due to shortage in supply. Also, if time permits, you could go to Darkot, a heritage village, ~8km ahead of Munsiyari to buy its famous Pasham (mountain rabbit) shawls and some local herbs like Jambo, Thoya and Tehmur.

So, gear-up friends and get ready to hit the road. Also do not forget to share your experiences.

Happy & safe travelling!

Five Offbeat National Parks in India to Visit this Winter

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Like December marks the end of a year, it also marks the advent of another season. Enchanting fallen leaves, supple snow, flora at their misty best and refreshing cool breeze-welcome winter, the only time when our holiday mood is fully charged up. In a country like India, where green patches dominate the landscape, we cannot afford to miss out trips to wildlife sanctuaries during winter. Apart from common names, there are many national parks whose unknown tracks lead to mystic depths of abundant flora, inviting a traveller to hear the roar of the wild. Here are our top picks of offbeat national parks in India, which are brilliant to be explored with drop in temperature:

Manas National Park, Assam

national parks in India
Manas National Park in Assam, India | Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manas_National_Park

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Manas National Park, at the foothills of Himalayas in Assam is a protected shelter for Assam Roofed Turtle, Pygmy Hog, Hispid Hare, Wild Water Buffalo and Golden Langur. The green paradise is also a project tiger and elephant reserve. With more than 380 species of rare and common birds, reptiles, mammals and amphibians, Manas National Park takes pride in being one of the best kept wildlife sanctuaries yet to explored by wildlife photographers, nature lovers and animal enthusiasts.

Best Time to Visit: November to March

Accommodations: Rest houses at Bansbari and Mothanguri

Jungle Safari: Jeep and elephant safaris.

Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh

national parks in India
Dense green covered Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh | Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namdapha_National_Park

One of the largest bio diversities in the Eastern Himalayan region, Namdapha National Park is an exclusive offbeat getaway for wildlife tour in India. Namdapha is known for many rare flora and fauna. The rarest and most endangered Blue Vanda and a local medicinal plant Mishimi-Teeta is found here. Four species of big cat family, leopards, snow leopards, clouded leopards and tigers, happen to dwell here. With temperature dropping down to 8-20 degree Celsius, the sanctuary is just perfect to be explored under winter sun.

Best Time to Visit: November to March

Accommodation: Forest Rest House

Jungle Safari: Jeep Safari

Mudumalai National Park, Tamil Nadu

national parks in India
Entry to Mudumalai National Park | Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mudumalai_National_Park

This approximate 321 sq km forest reserve in the foothills of Nilgiris is one of the first elephant reserves in India. Wealthy in flora and fauna, Mudumalai is known for the striped royal Bengal tiger. As many as 50 tigers are believed to lurk from the depths of thick green bushes and lucky ones can spot a one. The pride of Tamil Nadu, Mudumalai National Park is the home to other creatures like deer, peacocks, wild boar, langurs, giant Malabar squirrels and Indian bison. Misty climate blanket the park during winter to give it a stunning look and open doors to catch a glimpse of the wild from close quarters.

Best Time to Visit: November–March

Accommodations: Forest department has cottages in various locations and best stays are found in Bokkapuram village.

Jungle Safari: Elephant and van Safari.

Panna National Park, Madhya Pradesh

national parks in India
Panna National Park in Madhya Pradesh, India | Photo Credit: http://www.pannanationalpark.com/gallery.html

The lesser known Panna National Park serves as a perfect stopover on a trip to Madhya Pradesh, especially Khajuraho. With temperature drop during winter, the otherwise hot dry climate of Madhya Pradesh turns favourable to explore the forest reserve. Though the sanctuary is the home to lesser number of tigers, yet one can spot other endangered species like wolf, sloth bear, spotted deer and sambars every easily. Teak and acacia forests, majestic waterfalls, igneous rocks and dense greenery lend a picturesque sight to Panna National Park.

Best Time to Visit: November–April

Accommodations: Resorts and safari lodges in Panna hotels in Khajuraho.

Jungle Safari: Elephant safari

Rajaji National Park, Uttarakhand

national parks in India
Rajaji National Park near Rishikesh, Uttarakhand | Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ogimogi/284517677

Tucked along the Himalayan foothills of Shivalik ranges, Rajaji National Park is ideal for those in search of an offbeat adventure holiday. It houses the largest population of wild elephants in the state. It is also the safe abode to tigers, sloth bears, hyena, king cobra and Himalayan kingfisher. Song and Ganga rivers flow through the park. The colourful sight of migratory birds and fishes here is a delight to the eyes of wildlife lovers.

Best Time to Visit: November- May

Accommodations: Cottages and tents near Gohari range, AC tourist houses of GMVN and forest rest houses.

Jungle Safari: Jeep and elephant safari.

If you are done with the common names, then come along to travel through the hidden paths of some best kept offbeat national parks in India this winter.

GoNews: Tamil Nadu is India’s Only Destination in NYT’s “52 Places to Go in 2016”

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Unusual, strange, but after all true! None other than the New York Times has listed Tamil Nadu from India as the only Indian destination to visit in its list of ’52 places to go in 2016′. The southern state is placed in the 24th position and is believed to be the one that holds rich ties with Indian history, culture and religious activities, some of which are yet to be discovered.

Tamil Nadu
The majestic complex of Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu | Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamil_Nadu

While the northern part of India is applauded for its Mughal era forts and palaces, the south serves as a great gateway to historical Hindu temples. Rich in history and architecture, the temples magnificently draw the cultural brilliance of our country. The sprawling complex of Meenakshi Temple in Madurai and the Chola dynasty constructed Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur are some examples of intricate art carvings and ancient Indian architecture. Not only for this, but also for the breathtaking Western Ghats, Nilgiri Mountains, aromatic coffee and spice plantations and palm kissed beaches, Tamil Nadu is enlisted as the only Indian destination to be visited this year. Authentic South Indian food cooked with local spices and served on banana leaves spread the popularity of Tamil culture and traditional practices all across the world.

Tamil Nadu
Shore Temple in Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu | Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamil_Nadu

Other destinations included by New York Times in its list of ’52 places to go in 2016′ are Mexico City, France, North Dakota, Toronto and Abu Dhabi among others.

You can reserve Goa, Kerala or Rajasthan for later and as of now plan a vacation anywhere in Tamil Nadu.

GoNews: Goa to Get Eco-Villages to Promote Hinterland Tourism

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Here is another reason why you should visit Goa again!

eco-villages
Fishermen at Colva Beach, Goa | Photo Credit: Jatin Behl

After being successful in charming travellers with its exotic sun-kissed beaches and glitzy nightlife, Goa is now going to surprise you with beautiful eco-friendly villages. The state forest ministry is working on the grounds of developing environment friendly villages to promote the beautiful hinterland areas of Goa to global travellers. Goa forest minister Rajendra Arlekar stated that such villages will help to balance revenue generation, render youth employment, restore environmental balance, de-congest beaches and promote eco-tourism in rural Goa.

eco-villages
Sahakari Spice Plantation, Ponda, Goa | Photo Credit: Swati Parvatham Ghosh

What’s in Store?

Goa is one of the most sought after beach destinations in India that attracts millions of domestic and international travellers every year. Establishing eco-villages is just one of the measures to promote the hidden beauty of the hinterland and help tourism achieve greater heights. To promote the concept of hinterland tourism, successive governments in Goa have promised to develop entertainment facilities like backwater cruises, spice farm tours, kayaking, white water rafting, ornithology etc.

eco-villages
At the beachfront, Goa | Photo Credit: Chirag Sharma

Villages in Goa are still unexplored. So, once you will be done with beaches and booze, you can make a move to these hidden locales and get refreshed by their tranquil setting, green surrounding and warm traditional hospitality. It will then be apt to say, Stay in Goa, the real Goan style!

GoibiboQnA – The End to All Your Hotel Related Queries

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“Ask the right questions if you’re to find the right answers.”  ~ Vanessa Redgrave

  • Planning a holiday but confused where to go?
  • Shortlisted a destination but unsure which hotel to book?
  • Selected a hotel but doubtful if it serves vegetarian food?
  • Wondering if the wi-fi in your hotel room is complimentary or chargeable?
  • Want to check-in early, but not sure if the hotel allows?
  • Booked a hotel in Goa but uncertain if the room is sea-facing?

Put an end to all such hotel related queries with Goibibo’s brand new initiative – QnA. With the QnA feature in place, customers can easily ask any hotel or destination specific questions directly from Goibibo’s hotel page (app or web) and get answers in real time. These answers are either given by the hotel or fellow travellers who have stayed in the property. So say goodbye to endless phone calls, emails, doubts and all delays in planning your vacation.

qna

Why Use GoibiboQnA?

  1. QnA helps you stay in direct touch with hoteliers, community members, customers and Goibibo.
  2. QnA lets you get quick response to your queries regarding any chosen hotel, mostly in real time.
  3. QnA helps you with the smallest of queries about a hotel, its location, amenities, hotel staff etc.
  4. QnA sets no limit to the number of questions you ask.
  5. Also, you can make your opinion count by answering questions on QnA and helping community members take a conscious decision.

How to Use GoibiboQnA?

Step 1: Go to Goibibo app/website.

Step 2: Open the Hotel or Review page.

Step 3: Ask questions.

Step 4: Browse all answers by fellow community members.

Step 5: Browse all questions by fellow community members.

Step 6: Answer as many questions as you want.

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Simple! Isn’t it? Just download the Goibibo app or visit our webpage and let the QnA make your hotel booking experience better, smarter and reliable.

P.S: Goibibo cares about you, your comfort and the money you spend on travel and accommodation. We want you to make the best decisions for your stay and get the best experience possible. So go ahead, clear all your doubts and worries by asking questions before you make a booking. If you are happy, our job is well done.