June 2019

The White Peaks – Property Review

Posted By : Aarti K Singh/ 220 0

ON TOP OF THE WORLD

Well, a headline like that could be misleading. The White Peaks is not really that high in altitude to make one feel on top of the world. But in terms of holiday experiences, it is quite there. This quaint homestay in Gagar, Uttarakhand is a place that will make you feel absolutely at home for as long as you stay there – whether it is the cozy fireplace, or within-reach-from-your-bedside bookshelf or the endless cups of amazing adrak chai that the ever-smiling caretaker-cum-cook, Mohan will produce like ambrosia every now and then. Situated amidst glistening silver oak forests on all three sides, it is a charming little private cottage making it an ideal place to enjoy the simple pleasures of life away from the city noises. The only sounds you will hear are the chirping of birds, chanting of cicadas and the gentle mountain breeze.

The cottage itself has just two rooms – the Magpie Room and the Woodpecker Room and can accommodate a maximum of four adults. The two rooms in the cottage are cozy, intimate and exude a subtle elegance.  The two rooms in the cottage are cozy, intimate and exude a subtle elegance. As you step onto the courtyard, be prepared to be hypnotized by nature’s embrace around you. For yoga aficionados there is a small, private balcony overlooking the valley which could be used as a yoga space and for all those who want to be one with Nature there are endless walking trails in the adjoining oak forests which will inspire even the laziest of souls to stay outdoors.

Food and the way it is cooked form an integral and sacred part of the cottage. You will love the home cooked food at this cottage as the ingredients used are fresh and organic and sourced locally. Do try the local version of a vegetable soup that has a wasabi-like flavour to it. The local yellow dal, cooked in mustard oil is also a must try.

The resident staff is quite helpful and can arrange for a walk to the nearby market in Ramgarh, which was once home to the legendary poet Rabindranath Tagore. In fact, The White Peaks can be a peaceful base camp for you to explore the more touristy parts of Kumaon. Quite a few day trips can be planned from here.

You could explore the walking trails in the forest – trailing bird songs, sitting still, admiring the woods, feeling the wind in our faces. Or you could head to Ramgarh – which is a nice hour-long walk. Ramgarh was also the residence of Rabindranath Tagore for a while and has a buzzing market full of history and you must sample the samosas and pakoras here. The neighboring towns of Mukteshwar, Sitla and Nathuakhan offer a lot of opportunity to try and grab a view of the elusive leopard. Mukteshwar, about 25 kilometres from The White Peaks, is surrounded by thick pine forests, known for its fruit orchards. The 350-year-old Shiva temple in Mukteshwar is an attraction, and so is the spot where Jim Corbett shot the infamous man-eating tiger of this region. Mukteshwar also offers splendid views of the valley and some of the major Himalayan peaks like Nanda Devi, Panchachuli and Trishul. Do stop by at one of the many kiosks selling local produce – litchi honey, apple jelly, pear jam, hand-knitted goodies, and of course the fresh herbs that will elevate the status of your culinary delights.

Nainital is a 45-minute drive from the cottage. For lovers of the Himalayas, Binsar, at an altitude of 8000 ft, offers unobstructed and virginal views of the greater Himalayas including the snow clad peaks of Kedarnath, Chaukhamba, Trishul, Nandadevi, Nandakot and Panchachuli.

If you are lucky, you could also spot the barking deer or even leopards and civets. You could also plan trips to Almora, Ranikhet and Kilbury.

All seasons can be enjoyed at the White Peaks irrespective of the time you choose to be there. Spring is a riot of colours at Gagar with the cottage surrounded with Rhododendron blooms in bright bursts of red whilst peach and apple blossoms flaunt hues of pink and white. Summers are breezy and pleasant, just perfect for exploring the numerous walking trails in the forest. Monsoons are misty with the clouds serenading the mountains while winters are special here with the little village of Gagar covered in a sheet of snow.

  • The cottage has a good collection of books for those who love to read.
  • Carry good walking shoes to make your trekking expeditions comfortable.
  • Packed breakfast or packed lunches can be provided, on request, free of charge.
  • Carry adequate woolens, in every season – after all, this is the Himalayas.
  • An umbrella will make sure you are not caught unawares.

To make your reservations, write in to contactwhitepeaks@gmail.com, call at (+91)98100-50514 / (+91)9810053380.

Website: www.thewhitepeaks.com

Your Ultimate Packing Guide for Ladakh

Posted By : Escape Route/ 442 0

The land of high passes, the cold desert, the toughest terrain there is, the land of surreal landscapes, and so on – there are many reasons for you to go to Ladakh and all are just. But one must note that neither travelling to Ladakh (by road) or staying in Ladakh is easy for it is not easy for everyone to acclimatize to this region. But the right set of packing gear to accompany you can assure a comfortable experience, and rest is always up to us to explore.

We have collated a list of things you will need in Ladakh, some of which you must pack along to be prepared to explore the cold desert:

  1. Luggage – Do not carry big bags / trolleys to this region. It is ideal to pack light in a suitcase / trolley or a big rucksack, so that you can drag the trolley and carry the rucksack on your shoulders wherever you go. Pack as much as you can lift all by yourself, and also remember to pack smart. You will not have help everywhere you go with your luggage.Tips for Ladakh Packing
  1. Clothes – Ladakh is the only place where you can get a sunburn and a frost-bite at the same time. A lot of people misjudge the climate at Ladakh. The temperature fluctuates between 20 degrees Celsius to under zero degrees, all in a day. And if you catch a cold easily, it will be prudent to stay covered all day. Please carry warmers, woolen socks, high ankle walking shoes and jackets to keep you covered throughout the day and night. Hats / caps / beanies, mufflers, shawls, gloves etc. come in handy in this region. Flip-flops / chappals will be required too while you rest indoors.
  1. Medication – Ladakh is not an easy terrain as the roads are bumpy and the long drives will make you feel sick. Also the deficiency of Oxygen has multiple effects on your body. Also, since you do not get the food you are used to for days at a stretch, your stomach getting upset is a possibility too. Keeping these things in mind, do carry all the medicines prescribed to you by your doctor.

Diamox is used commonly to fight AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). It is advisable to take basic medicines for headache (Saridon); body ache (Combiflam); body ache with fever (Crosin/Paracetamol); loose motion (Roko/Dependal); cough and cold (Waterbury’s compound); stomach ailments (Pudin hara); altitude sickness (Avomine); vomiting (Stemetil); dehydration (Electrol); energy (Glucose); and for wounds – cotton wool, bandage and antiseptic.

  1. Vanity – This dry area will make your skin go dry and over-exposure to the sun will leave you with a bad tan or sunburn. Some moisturizer, and Vaseline for dry lips is essential. It is a good idea to keep your hair oiled for some days and keep it covered to have at least one good hair day through the duration of the trip. Do not forget your sunglasses (carry a couple of them atleast).
  1. Self-help tools – Anybody can be the X-Man or X-Woman in Ladakh just with the help of the right tools at the right time. A swiss-knife, garbage / trash bags, thermos, multi-point chargers, external battery pack, thermos, portable umbrellas, windcheaters, pocket knife, tyre inflator, GPS Navigator, torch, headlamps etc. come in very handy during this trip. Wet clothes do not dry soon, so some extra zip locks, and plastic covers in different sizes to carry your wet clothes is a good idea.
  1. Toiletries – Go overboard on this one. Some of the must-haves are Sunscreen – SPF 50, body lotion, face cream, moisturizer, Vaseline, lip balm – SPF, shampoo & conditioner, hair oil, shower gel, face wash, toilet paper, toothbrush & toothpaste, mouthwash, wet wipes, dry tissues, sanitizer, deodorant, soap strips, hair brush, ear-buds etc.
  1. Water bottle – Please carry your own water bottle, preferably a metal bottle. This will not only be your personal bottle throughout the trip, it will also help reduce the plastic waste being added by tons each day in our mountain valleys. The water in Ladakh is scarce but the drinking water quality is good and feel free to fill your bottles from houses or restaurants.
  1. Quick bites – You will feel hungry at a lot of spots and multiple times during the day. Please keep some nuts / dry fruits handy, some protein bars, tea and coffee sachets, gluconD and Electrol for dehydration, granola bars, dry muesli and some chocolates with you throughout the trip.
  1. If a local kid asks you for money, which is sadly a truth because our fellow travelers find the Ladakhi kids ‘cute’, please do not offer any money. Just offer a few chocolates and share the love.
  1. Documents and IDs – Some places in Ladakh are out-of-limits for foreign nationals due to security concerns near the border areas. However an Indian can reach anywhere with the right set of documentation. You would need a national photo ID like an Aadhar Card, or a Driving License etc. If you are travelling by your own vehicle, you need the attested photo copies of the Registration Certificate (RC), Pollution Control Certificate and Insurance as all times. You will need green permit while crossing over from Manali to Ladakh and will need inner-line permits to travel in and around Ladakh. The same can be obtained from the DC office at Leh.
  1. Be ready – Do not expect to find money at every ATM or even to find an ATM in the first place. Keep your cash handy starting from your hometown and be responsible. It will be wise to budget in your days and expenses and stay prudent on the road atleast. If you save enough, you can go bananas at the Leh shopping market!
  1. Camera equipment – If you are carrying DSLRs, be sure to carry them in an organized DSLR case with your lenses, memory cards, tripods, mono-pods, selfie stick for the selfie enthusiasts, extra batteries, charges and multi-point plug chargers etc. You will have electricity at Leh and a few spots to be able to charge your equipment so carry extra batteries.
  1. Network – Your city network operator may not be functional in Ladakh. Most of the pre-paid or post-paid sims stop working the moment you cross Rohtang Pass and will only work in Leh. If you want to stay in touch while on the move, do take a BSNL post-paid sim along for the journey.

Additional tips for girls by StreetTrotter:

“3 years back I invested in couple of tank top warmers with attached bra pads from Uniqlo. Till date they have been my best winter + travel buys. While the warmer keeps you warm on the inside, with the added bra support all in one – makes you feel light with so many layers on your body in extremely cold places like Ladakh,” adds Shraddha Gupta, Founder of StreetTrotter. Here are some more travel tips for girls from her personal experience:

  1. Carry your pack of sanitary pads, with extra disposal options such as some old newspapers, or disposal bags.
  2. Finding a clean bathroom at every stop could be tricky, so carry a pack of soft wet wipes, your own toilet paper, and a hand sanitizer as a must.
  3. As mentioned earlier, Ladakh can surprise you with fluctuating temperatures – so keep your makeup on the minimal side. Avoid base foundations and keep your skin as clean and basic as possible. Carry face tissues, face cleanser, and a face cream/gel with a higher moisturizing content to keep your face fresh and less dry during the trip.
  4. If you are picky about hygiene while sleeping, carry your own light and foldable bed sheet.
  5. Ladakh is also a tricky terrain. So replace that hand purse by either a backpack or a handy side sling. Make sure to keep your hands free at all times.
  6. Other than a cap, its good to carry a warm headband to save your head and your ears from the biting cold.
  7. Trusting your instinct and carrying a pepper spray are just some extra precautions that never harm!

It is important to book your first trip with an experienced road-captain or a travel company of your preference. This way you can focus less on planning and more on having fun and exploring the place without any hassles.

Moscow

From Russia, With Love

Posted By : Aarti K Singh/ 175 0

Moscow has something for everyone – whether you want to spend the night in a Bohemian art café or be in a nostalgia-rich beer club, says Aarti Kapur Singh

Moscow is a city held by its denizens as being limitless. That can also be said about the nightlife here.Whether you are a jazz aficionado, a hardcore clubber, or just a plain old alcoholic, Moscow has an amazing array of nightlife options and a scene for. A night out in Moscow can be rather dizzying. All the ‘rules’ of going out in other cities don’t seem to apply in Moscow. But giving into it, and letting yourself be swept along by all the excitement, can be a very exhilarating experience in itself.

Since the nightlife is so diverse, it is hard to arrive at generalisations. But even then there are some things that if a traveller becomes familiar with, nightlife in the bustling city will be a breeze.

The-Hungry-Duck

Firstly, a bar or nightclub in Moscow is rarely just that. Nearly every drinking venue in Moscow doubles up as an eatery too and some also multi-task as a bowling alley, snooker room, casino and even a bookshop. This is probably so because Moscow is such a vast metropolis, and getting around in cabs so expensive, that owners want to provide their customers with a ‘one-stop-shop’ for nightlife entertainment – rather than send them out into the, often bitter, cold night for a bite to eat!These multi-purpose venues often charge a cover, but rather it’s best to choose your spot for the night and stick with it. Moscow’s nightlife is also highly-charged. From the newly rich flashing their cash in seriously expensive and snazzy clubs to the more humble citizens in downright seedy bars, everyone seems to be slaking their thirst as only Muscovites know how. Clubs tend to be on the pricey side – and full of people admiring themselves. Some of the more recent additions have melded great international music with the less sophisticated pop fare for which the city used to be known. Moscow’s bouncers are famous for exercising what’s known as ‘face control’, a rigorous screening of people trying to get into their clubs. The best advice to get past would be to dress up a little more than usual. Many travellers are slightly disconcerted by the extent to which lap-dancing clubs are considered acceptable. A number of mainstream clubs that you’d never have thought to be strip joints even offer private suites for those with the money and the inclination.There are some places that one should definitely not miss.

beer-barrels-in-Kamchatka

Put on your dancing shoes

Gipsy

Thanks to its big summer terrace with a picturesque view of the Moscow River, Gipsy remains one of the most popular party locations. A big indoor dance floor with a bar in the middle, disco balls hanging from the ceiling and walls upholstered in fake cheetah skins help sustain the party atmosphere. The Gipsy’s public is rather pleasant and includes plenty of gorgeous girls. Some of the city’s best techno jams take place here on Fridays, while Saturdays are reserved for mash-up and alco-dance music. During the day, Gipsy transforms into a good restaurant, which we highly recommend visiting in summer for lunch on the terrace.

Solyanka

Solyanka is widely believed to be Moscow’s central nightclub. Once called a “hipster stronghold”, Solyanka is located in an antique mansion in the centre of Moscow. To enter the club, one has to climb up a marble spiral staircase leading to the first floor.The dance floor is the last of the rooms and also the most spacious. Parties are held from Thursday to Saturday (and sometimes on Sundays, too) and the music ranges from techno and house to funk and hip-hop. The club also hosts interesting guest performances on a weekly basis. Special mention should be given to the Love Boat party run by famous fashion blogger Vitaly Kozak.

During the day, Solyanka transforms into a trendy and quite affordable restaurant and the Thai curries are particularly good.Part restaurant and part club, Solyanka also has its own designer accessories shop and a fashion magazine on site. Spread across the second floor of an old mansion, parties here have the feel of a giant house party, albeit one where your friends are all unusually stylish and good-looking and don’t give a damn about jumping all over the furniture.

Sit Back & Relax

Muscovites are not always on some sort of hyperactivity trip. Some of them like to have laid back evenings as well and you can give them company at several places.

Kamchatka

Darling I’ll Call You Later

The Darling I’ll Call You Later chain consists of three Moscow bars that combine rock-n-roll, delicious beer at $6 and a home-like atmosphere. Here you can enjoy a tasty breakfast or lunch while watching a cinema masterpiece or a music show.

In the evening, major sports events are broadcast and football tables are installed for those willing to play. On Fridays and Saturdays, the bars throw parties, where famous TV presenters, editors-in-chief of glamour magazines and next-door music fans can all spin the turntables. A typical lunch here costs $20.

Kamchatka

Kamchatka is a city centre pub in a prime location right in front of the city’s most luxurious department store, TSUM (the local version of London’s Selfridges or Milan’s Rinoscente).This two-storey bar, meticulously decorated in Soviet-style, is a must-see for any foreigner interested in the drinking and eating habits of Communist Russia: Kamchatka’s menu complements its interior quite harmoniously. The 1980s and 1990s Soviet pop songs are played non-stop and the prices are quite affordable. The house speciality beer is called Kamchatka.

Sin City

The Hungry Duck

No guide to Moscow’s nightlife is complete without paying lip service at least to its most notorious venue. The Hungry Duck has seen some very raucous action in its time, and although it might not be quite the no-holds-barred haven of hedonism it once was, there’s still plenty of life in the old bird yet.At the peak of its popularity, “the Duck”, as it was known, was an icon of Moscow hedonism until it was closed in 1999 after complaints from members of the Russian State Duma. The bar was reopened in 2012.The bar was known for it’s uninhibited sexual and sometimes violent atmosphere. Its “Ladies Night” is especially notorious, with male strippers entertaining a packed bar filled with women paying almost no entrance fee and consuming free drinks.

Now that you are all sorted, get set to say dobryyvecher Moscow!

This article was written by Aarti Kapur Singh on http://www.gypsyonexploration.com/from-russia-with-love/

5-asian-hotels-for-a-budget-friendly-holiday

5 Asian Hotels For A Budget-Friendly Holiday

Posted By : Aarti K Singh/ 106 0

Travelling is an escape, a medium to get away from your daily mundane life. And you want to indulge in this luxury of travelling to some really exotic and tropical places, sipping on some bourbon with a great view. But we all want these fancy-dreamy trips at an affordable budget that doesn’t burn a hole in our pockets. Well, it is possible to have the cake, and eat it, and keep some in the fridge for tomorrow.

Here’s the best of both worlds – 5 Asian Hotels for A Budget-Friendly Holiday. These are places that are exotic and luxurious but under the budget of INR 50,000! Yes, it is for real, on this awesome website called www.escapesclub.in.!

Mövenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The magical city of Dubai has something for everyone

Brought to you by one of the world’s most iconic hotel brands, you can enjoy a memorable escape to the glamorous Arabian city of Dubai, where sun-kissed beaches meet exotic medinas, glittering architecture and world-class restaurants. Indulge at the palatial Mövenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel Dubai with daily buffet breakfast, a welcome drink, 20% discount on Spa treatments and a leisurely late 4pm checkout. All this is available for 3 nights @₹20,574/room; all inclusions are valid for two people.

Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park, Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok is a cosmopolitan city buzzing with shopping, dining and nightlife

Soak up the electric atmosphere of Bangkok, staying in five-star luxury at Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park – perfectly positioned to enjoy the city’s shopping, dining and nightlife. Access exclusive M Club Lounge privileges including daily breakfast, nightly free-flow drinks and canapes and much more, and a welcome drink each at the hotel’s spectacular ABar Rooftop boasting panoramic views across the city skyline – plus, two kids 11 years and under stay free! All this is available for 3 nights @₹25,451/room; all inclusions valid for two people.

Saranam Resort & Spa, Bali, Indonesia

Experience a five-star wellness getaway in the centre of Bali. Nestled between an unspoiled landscape of volcanoes, tranquil waterfalls and scenic rice paddies, Saranam Resort & Spa is located just one hour from Ubud. Enjoy five or seven nights of tranquility in this all-meals-included escape featuring a private transfer to or from the airport, daily minibar refill, two 60-minute massages and two 30-minute reflexology treatments to share alongside daily meditation and yoga classes. Plus, there are no blackout dates! All this is available for 5 nights @₹52,290/room!

Sofitel Luang Prabang, Luang Prabang, Laos

Laos has many ancient Buddhist temples to explore

Discover the timeless beauty of Laos with a sophisticated stay in a century-old colonial mansion. Explore the ancient Buddhist temples and charming local villages of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Luang Prabang while staying at the five-star Sofitel Luang Prabang, enjoying daily breakfast, a traditional cooking class, an exotic dining experience at 3 Nagas Restaurant where you can sample authentic Lao cuisine, a daily cocktail and a lavish afternoon tea. Plus indulge in a relaxing 60-minute massage each, a foot ritual on arrival, airport transfers and more! The cost for 4 nights is ₹45,795/room!

Beyond Resort Khao Lak, Khao Lak, Thailand

Treat yourself to the ultimate romantic getaway at Beyond Resort Khao Lak, a relaxing adults-only haven set on a beautiful white sand beachfront. Surrender to complete relaxation in this palm-fringed oasis and indulge with daily buffet breakfast, two exotic buffet dinners, a daily cocktail or beer, two 30-minute massages per person, an exclusive invite to the resort’s management cocktail event with free-flow drinks and canapes, a Thai cooking class followed by lunch and a convenient airport pick up from Phuket. Enjoy this awesome holiday for 8 nights @ ₹50,719/room!

Wild Planet Jungle Resort, Nilgiris, India

An escape to a luxury hotel in the lap of nature is just the best thing

If you want a quick getaway within India to disconnect from the rest of the world, don’t look beyond the lush Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu with an exclusive stay at Wild Planet Jungle Resort, an intimate and secluded resort surrounded by nature. Spend two nights in a Valley View Cabin, offering splendid views over the wilderness, with breakfast, lunch and a romantic candle lit dinner included in your Escapes Club’s package – @₹21,977 /room for two nights for two people.

All these exotic destination vacations can be taken under the budget of INR 50,000. Flight costs for these destinations cost approximately within INR 15,000 to 30,000. So, it’s time for you to plan your next trip to one of these destinations. So get down those bags from your attic, take out your fancy vacation hats and fasten your seatbelts as you take off for your vacation to these 5 star properties in Asia- Happy travelling with Escapes Club!

5-awesome-backpacking-trips-to-undertake-this-year

5 Awesome Backpacking Trips To Undertake This Year

Posted By : Aarti K Singh/ 88 0

Whether you are trotting down a rustic ‘road’, jostling for seat space in a rickety rickshaw, or digging into local curries, a backpacking adventure in India is an education like no other!

If you branch out the beaten paths, that is. Backpacking is not everyone’s load to carry. It is only those carefree souls that are willing to experience places that are yet relatively (or more so) unaffected by the onslaught of mass commercialised tourism. Here are three really unusual destinations that offer lots of unusual sights, sounds and adventures – and allow you an authentic immersion into the vibe.

Pushkar

pushkar

Pushkar is that place with a mythical past where time tends to just stand still. Much like the lotus that Brahma, the Creator, is said to have dropped that led to the genesis of this town. Another legend alludes Shiva’s sorrowful tears for his wife Sati to have created the holy lake in the bang centre of what is believed to be one of the oldest towns of India. Yet another myth explains how a bird carrying the nectar of immortality dropped some at this spot – and so a holy dip is worth taking a chance for!

From mandatory camel rides to discovering mythological tales or unearthing royal secrets, there is so much to do. And the labyrinthine bylanes hide flavours that you may never have experienced. There is just so much to do in Pushkar. Do make the pre-sunrise trek to Savitri Temple – you can have the sun and the moon both in your sky. While walking around the temples, do wear closed shoes as snakes also love the heavenly vibe of Pushkar. Best season to visit Pushkar is between October to March as the weather is pleasant and cool. April to June are unbearably hot.

Because of Pushkar’s numero uno status among backpackers, there are a lot of budget options where you can stay while you explore Pushkar. Keep one thing in mind though – during the camel fair, prices multiply up to three-fold or more, so do book several weeks ahead. To reach Pushkar, you need to get a train to Ajmer. From Ajmer, Pushkar is a 45-minute bus journey.

Dharamkot

Dharamkot does not have the touristy kinds looking for nirvana. In fact it feels more like one’s own backyard because of the large number of people of Haryanvi and Punjabi descent. Even the language is a version of Punjabi. Trek through the cool forests in the region and get introduced to pristine and pure nature. Being on the base of Triund, in the Kangra valley in the Himalayas, possibly the most accessible snowline in the Himalayas, this area promises some serious hiking and trekking. Please don’t come here looking for luxury. And there is a serious amount of walking to do. In fact, this village doesn’t have any roads, except for a single road that leads to it. But the sounds of mountain birds, the whistling of air though deodar tree leaves, the distant smells of farm animals mixed with herb based cooking will awaken all your senses. Aimless walks through the village to various other view points, rocks, waterfalls and some treks will certainly help you find purpose in life. Do visit and spend some time with the children at Tibetan Children’s Village, that runs a school and training institute for about 2000 children (mostly orphans). Dharamkot is gorgeous all year round, though monsoons can pose a few accessibility issues and winters can be especially punishing. The quaint multicultural cafes serving fresh pita, orange cakes and a host of goodies certainly add to Dharamkot’s charm. Do try the Bhagsu cake – a crunchy pie crust, layered with sticky caramel toffee sauce and topped with dark or white chocolate. Homestays are the best option to crash in for a night, and in case you are staying for a month or more (yes, people do get charmed by this quaint destination), you can rent a whole house from the locals. You can reach Dharamshala and Dharamkot is a picturesque two kilometer walk.

Hampi

Hampi

This erstwhile capital of the Vijaynagar Empire is an open-air museum now, carved out of stone, for intrepid travellers. The stone ruins, the lamps lit by the priests in the temples, among the verdant greenery and the serenity of the Tungabhadra river, will take the strain off backpacking. The mystical stone formations keep you wonderfully awestruck. While one side of Hampi is dotted with architectural marvels, the other side, across the river, is a hamlet welcoming backpackers from all over the world.

A night spent playing hide and seek with the moon on the banks of the Tungabhadra is a serene experience. You could rent a bicycle for as little as Rs 50 a day or motorcycles at Rs 200 a day and gallivant all you want. Daroji Bear Sanctuary and the Elephant Stables are other attractions, at a stone’s throw from Hampi. November to February are the best time to visit Hampi. Hospet is the nearest railhead to Hampi and you can take the Hospet Passenger train from Bengaluru. From Hospet, autos or taxis take an hour to get to Hampi.

Varkala

Varkala, bordering Trivandrum is another backpackers’ haven with a delectable combination of peace, natural beauty and calm. This seaside destination is popular among backpackers for its sun bathing opportunities, swimming, water sports, seaside walks or just watching time go by, sitting on the beach, raising a toast to the setting sun. Then there are always the done-things to strike off from your list such as the Janardhana Swamy temple, Varkala beach, Anjengo fort, Kappil beach, Sivagiri Monastery and so on.

While the weather is hot and humid during most time of the year but December to February offer some reprieve with moderate weather. Do hire a scooter – it really is the best way to explore this unusual beach. Varkala Bus Station is well connected to all major cities of India. Varkala is just 47 km away from the NH 47. Though, this place is connected with all cities and towns, but if you wish you can avail bus from Kochi and Trivandrum to reach the destination.

Pondicherry

Pondicherry

This well-known destination is not just India’s version of the French Riviera. It is also a backpackers’ haven with colonial history and more than enough international appeal. The 2-kilometre sea-facing promenade that runs parallel to the Goubert Avenue is a miniature version of Mumbai’s Marine Drive. This is where locals and tourists gather every evening to dance to the tune of the waves. Pondicherry is a melting pot of activities. You can volunteer at any of the NGOs or in Auroville, surf the waves, explore the depths of the ocean with scuba diving – there is just so much to do! The stunning architecture of the houses, heritage hotels, chic boutiques and Parisian-style cafes will tempt you to just stand outside buildings and stare! The museums and the Botanical Garden (the setting of Life of Pi) are must-visits! For travelling within Pondicherry, opt for a local bus or the tempos. Try avoiding the rush hours unless you know you can make it the local way. You can also rent a bicycle for Rs. 50 a day to ride around the city and nearby places.

There are several buses that ply frequently from Chennai, Thanjaur, Trichy, Coimbatore, Bangalore and Madurai to Pondicherry.

What you waiting for? Now that you have the list, just pack your backpack and get going!