India Travel: Must-Visit Places In India

India is an enormous and diverse country, and you will never cover all of it in one trip. Yes, you will have to come back again and again. Depending on your wishlist, our travel experts will customise the perfect trip for you up and down the length and breadth of the country. But to help you ask the right questions, here's an essential guide to must-see destinations that you need to tick off your bucket-list. DelhiWe kick off proceedings with Delhi - India’s national capital. A seat of a power struggle for many centuries, the city is a complete entertainer that swings between Old and New Delhi, with its overwhelming amount of history, culture, life, food, temples, and everything else you can possibly imagine. Take a tour of this multifaceted city and discover countless historical sites dating back to the 10th century AD, from the gorgeous flower-shaped Lotus Temple to Qutub Minar, the tallest brick minaret in the world.Don't miss out on the famous Red For and Humayun's Tomb, testaments to the design capabilities of Mughal engineers. If you’re a die-hard foodie, we strongly recommend you savour the scrumptious street food platters at Chandni Chowk (a key gastronomic highlight of India) on a guided tour.RajasthanThe land of colors, traditions and immense beauty that evokes India in every sense. This is Rajasthan, home to lavish palaces, beautiful fortresses, some of India's most colorful medieval history, the legendary Indian hospitality and possibly the finest food you will ever eat.  From desert safaris to great insider experiences in its forts and palaces, and/or meeting the lovely, colorful tribes and dancing to their folk-music, our experts have it all covered.Explore the best of Rajasthan - the jewel in India's crown, including the capital city of two Kingdoms – Jodhpur and Udaipur. Experience traditional local life with nights at a tribal village and desert camping. Enjoy private tours of the region's fascinating historical forts and palaces including the 15th century Meherangarh Fort and the opulent Udaipur City Palace. Don't miss the camel festivals in Pushkar and Nagaur – two of Rajasthan's many festivals.AmritsarIf you are in the northern province of Punjab, then a visit to The Golden Temple (a prominent highlight of India) in Amritsar should be on top of your bucket list. Take a tour around the holiest shrines of the Sikh faith; easily one of India’s most spiritual temples, its lake and a general sense of cleanliness and orderliness is an inspiration in itself. Steeped in history and lore, the place is a testament to devotion and the legacy of a proud and noble people.Once your cultural excursions are done, have our experts take you on a guided tour of Punjab's finest and most mouthwatering food, on the streets and in its iconic restaurants, cooked fresh for you.AgraAgra - home to the iconic Taj Mahal needs no introduction. The white marble beauty is truly a magical building, every bit as beautiful as you have heard. Go on a private history tour of the world’s most sentimental symbol of love. Built between 1632 and 1635 by a lovelorn Mughal emperor, the affection and devotion are evident in every tile and detail. Take your time, revel in the heart-rending story, walk its lush gardens, and fall in love all over again.In addition to the Taj Mahal, our travel experts will demonstrate how the Mughals poured out their love for art and architecture, with masterpieces like Agra Fort, Itmad-Ud-Daulah’s Tomb, Mughal gardens, the ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri and much more. Discover handicraft bazaars and delight your taste buds with delicious snacks and famous sweets like Petha (translucent soft candy from North India).KeralaIt doesn’t matter whether you are a nature lover, a romantic couple or someone seeking tranquility, a visit to the sylvan backwaters of Alleppey in the state of Kerala is a must. Dubbed the ‘Venice of East’,  the Kerala backwaters are home to many incredible species of birds and aquatic life. Enjoy a luxury houseboat tour on the criss-cross channels amidst lavishly green paddy fields and soul-soothing village vistas, or stay in a Kettuvallam - a traditional rice boat converted into a floating hotel. Take a wild tour of these virtually uncharted waterways; pamper yourself with ayurvedic skin therapies, massages and enjoy Kerala’s coconut based cuisine, one of India’s most delicious, on the boat that will make your experience worthwhile.Apart from the backwaters of Alleppey, as part of our - The Ethereal Magic of South India trip, walk through the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and Tiger Reserve with poachers-turned-guides; view wildlife (elephant, bison, antelopes, langurs, and sambar) from a boat on Periyar Lake, and explore the myriad spice plantations from our fabulous boutique properties. And if you think of yourself as a chai (tea) connoisseur, then a walking tour of the amazing tea plantations in Munnar should definitely be your cuppa tea.Puducherry Visit Puducherry and you'll wonder if you're in India or France. The French departed a long time ago but left behind a legacy of quintessential French culture. Unique in every way, this quaint coastal town of Tamil Nadu is perfect for travellers looking for serenity and sanctity in its true sense.Bask in the sun on its golden beaches, take a surfing lesson with perfect beginner waves, walk through the town’s Indo-French uniqueness, sample the Franco-Tamil cuisine, and immerse in the tranquility of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.MysoreOn a southern tip of India, you must include a tour of the city of Mysore. Once the capital of the Wadiyar dynasty, is best known for the magnificent Mysore Palace, the hilltop guardian temple of Goddess Chamundehswari, and the sprawling canvas of Brindavan Gardens (which we strongly recommend you see at night as well by day).After you’re done wandering around the magnificent structures, don’t forget to head towards the incredible Devaraja Market where you can browse through stalls, where a plethora of beautiful silk fabrics and sandalwood carvings await you.HampiIf you’re looking for a peaceful getaway, then Hampi will steal your heart!  The fairy-tale landscape covered in ruins, palm groves, giant boulders and miles of undulating terrain is enough to occupy your attention. It is easy to get lost in the royal capital of the former Vijayanagara Empire, the richest city in the world back in the 14th century, and which refuses to give up on its magnificent past. Take an exclusive guided tour away from the masses, explore lively bazaars, visit the incredible Virupaksha Temple, and try some delicious Indian cuisine before wandering around the ancient city, re-discovering bits of heritage in every nook and corner. VaranasiHindus call Varanasi their holiest city. Colorful and fascinating, suprises lurk around every corner in this heady concoction of deep devotion. Often touted as the oldest existing city, its civilisation dates back to 2000 BC. Join the ranks of sadhus and pilgrims alike, who throng here in dedication to the Holy Ganga; walk around the famous concrete platforms (ghats) and alleyways to witness colourful, mellifluous pujas and rituals at the famous temples - Kashi Viswanath and Sankat Mochan. Or simply take a boat ride along the holy river at sunrise, when the whole place is bathed in a mysterious dewy glow.KhajurahoFamed for its stunning temples which display exceedingy artistic (and erotic) aspects of Indian cuture, the small town of Khajuraho, amidst the lush green settings of Madhaya Pradesh has summoned herds of art and architecture lovers from every corner of the world. Built by the rulers of Chandela Dynasty in a short span of hundred years between 950 AD to 1050 AD, the temples are divided into three groups – the western, eastern and southern. Each group provides a completely different and enchanting experience. Have our local travel experts take you on exclusive guided tour and explain the depiction of these erotic sculptures preserved through the works of extremely talented artisans. Truly, strolling down the corridors of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, conjures images of timeless beauty and serenity.KutchIf you are planning a trip to the west coast of India, we strongly recommend ‘The Land of the White Salt Desert’ in Kutch. Witness the pristine beauty of nature come alive in the warmth of its people, delicious food, and colourful handicrafts. Divided into two sub-regions, Great Rann of Kutch and Little Rann of Kutch, this destination is a treasure trove of culture which includes exquisite handicraft, melodious folk songs and foot-tapping folk dance.If you want to experience the true essence of Kutch, then let your local travel expert plan a trip between the months of November and Febuary to experience the annual Rann Utsav – a celebration that displays a range of cultural shows, from folk music performances to dances that will give you an insight into the heritage of Gujarat and its people. Enjoy your stay in luxurious tents and witness the crystal clear salt-laden flatlands of Kutch Desert suddenly turn multi-coloured during the 3-month long carnival. KashmirFrom the breathtaking Himalayan views to the picturesque rivers that course past meadows of colourful flowers, to the serene, lily-dotted lakes of Srinagar, Kashmir is, indeed, beautiful. It is a heaven on Earth in all seasons where you can enjoy steady shikara (houseboat) rides around the famous Dal Lake.To add to the picture perfect scenery, Kashmir is renowned for shopping, with a wide range of interesting handicrafts in shops and bazaars spread across the state where you can pick up beautiful collectibles that are exclusive to the region.Head out to Ladakh, stark and beautiful as a lunar landscape, with stunningly beautiful blue lakes, heady mountain passes, and the friendliest Tibetan Buddhists you will ever meet. We recommend a home-stay to truly understand these hardy, gentle folk that inhabit these lands.DharamshalaIcy peaks and lofty mountains make for an awe-inspiring backdrop to the home of Dalai Lama. It is the peaceful ambience and the myriad meditation centers that make Dharmashala one of India's favorite destinations. Immerse into the facets of Buddhism and the Tibetan culture. Enjoy the stunning scenery of the Dhauladar Range and the beautiful Kangra Valley as you let the solitude and serenity of the place embrace you.North East Tribal AreasThe northeast region of India is an untouched paradise, untouched by mass tourism. Gifted with splendid mountains, lush green paddies and wild rivers, the region is home to over 200 tribes and tribal groups spread across the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Nagaland. Each tribe follows its own distinct culture and speak different langauages.Let our travel experts take you through a tribal tour of North East India to explore the varied landscapes inhabited by some of the fascinating tribes of the region. Take this opportunity to interact with host communities, learn and observe their simple methods of life and witness a lifestyle that is rare in today’s rapidly changing world.Ajanta & Ellora CavesThe epitome of exotic rock-cut Buddhist sculptures and and ancient frescoes (said to be the birth of Indian Art), the caves of Ajanta and Ellora are prime examples of unmatched artistic and engineering excellence. A quick walkthrough will bring out the sheer beauty and size of the caves. Walk further and you will see murals depicting battlefields, sailing ships, city streets, jungles and mountains. Learn more about the historic factoids of these caves that once served as living quarters, kitchens, and sleeping cells of the monks that lived here.RishikeshA melting-pot for spirituality, yoga, pilgrimage and peace of mind, Rishikesh is the abode of the Gods for a spiritual traveller. Follow nature’s breathtaking trail around peaceful forests and lakes of a region where every corner is redolent with history and mythology. Visit the Maharishi Yogi Ashram, once visited by the Beatles, and thought to be the inspiration for their iconic Sgt. Pepper's album. But it’s not only the spirituality of this holy place which attracts travelers; Rishikesh is now also the adventure hub of India. With activities like whitewater rafting, kayaking and bungee jumping, there is plenty to do along the holy waters of the Ganges.Whenever India appears on your travel-radar, try to strike-off these astonishing must-vist places from your travel bucket list.

Things To Do With Kids In Japan

­­­Japan is a land of contrasts; there is nowhere else on earth quite like it: a centuries-old rich culture that is today a pillar and path-breaker of technological innovation. What’s more, everything in it seems to have been designed for bright, active and imaginative minds to enjoy; no wonder kids love it! Home of manga, anime, sushi, Pokemon and Nintendo, it is guaranteed to leave them wanting more.  This list is by no means exhaustive; there is no better person to help you plan your trip than our local experts. Here are just a few of the quaint offbeat things that you can enjoy with your kids and make the most of your trip to Japan.  Bathe with Monkeys at Jigokudani Yaenkoen (Yamanouchi, Nagano Prefecture) Well, maybe not exactly WITH monkeys, but pretty damn close. This Snow Monkey Park’s main attraction is the all-natural hot spring (onsen) in which Japanese Macaques love to have a relaxing warm-water bath (not unlike  humans, actually).The park is open throughout the year, although the number of monkeys definitely goes up in the winter. Be prepared to walk a little in the snow, and carry extra warm socks. During spring and autumn, the area can get a little muddy so its best to choose footwear that you don’t mind getting dirty, and that which will prevent you from slipping.In the interests of monkey-conservation, the Japanese have made this particular hot spring monkey-only. Think of it as an open-air sanctuary, where you can get up close with these delightful simians outside of the constrictive confines of a zoo. For your own body-soak, head down to Shibu Onsen (2.5km away) and enjoy your bath in one of its nine famous, all-natural hot springs.  Find your zen with owls at Akihabara's Owl Café (Akihabara, Tokyo) Cited by many as the best Owl Cafe out there (we didn’t know there were so many, either), Akiba Fukurou is definitely a great offbeat addition to your to-do list with kids in Japan.The cafe is the ideal place to relax and try something new at the same time, and each one-hour slot here is structured to give its young (and old) guests a “healing experience”. There are about 30 owls, varying in size, with their own distinct names and in some cases, distinct personalities; and yes you are allowed to touch them and have them perch on your head or shoulder!Entry to the café is by reservation only, with the ticket costing 2000 Yen (~$18) per person (children under 3 aren’t allowed).  Although slightly on the pricey side, the café is well worth it and you also get to take a home a laminated photo of you and an owl of your choice!  Dive into the reel world of Manga animation at the Ghibli Museum (Mitaka, Tokyo)If your kids are a fan of ace-animator and Manga Comics supremo Miyazaki (which modern day kid isn’t?) - think iconic animation extravaganzas like Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke – then the Ghibli Museum is an absolute must-visit during your stay in Japan.  The museum, designed by Miyazaki himself, is dedicated to the art of animation and is a delight for kids. While the young ones are occupied, adults can browse the technological wing (showcasing the fascinating behind-the-scenes stuff of the animation-world) and the fine arts museum, making it perfect for people of all ages.Tickets have to be booked in advance; adults get in for 1000 Yen, and kids from 100 to 700 Yen, depending on age.  Your ticket is valid for the whole day, so it is recommended that you book a morning slot to get a full day’s worth of experiences (it’s also slightly less crowded in the morning).At the entry to the museum, these tickets are exchanged for 35mm filmstrips each showcasing a scene from one of Studio Ghibli’s many films.  Feed deer at Nara Park (Nara)Let your kids meet Bambi in real life at the Nara Deer Park, an hour’s journey from either Osaka or Kyoto. The park is graced by over a thousand deer waiting to be fed their favourite snacks, “shika-senkei” (deer crackers). Legend says that a Japanese deity was carried into Nara by a divine white deer, and since then all the deer in the area have been granted “divine” status. Although the status was removed later on, the deer are still considered a national treasure and cherished by the Japanese. For the most part they are very docile creatures; just show them you’re in command, and you’ll be fine. The Nara Park also includes the Nara National Museum and various temples, including the Todai-ji- the world’s largest wooden building which house a 50ft tall Buddha statue.  Stroll through a Bamboo forest at Arashiyama (Kyoto) We’ve all seen bamboos at some point in our lives, but it’s usually the kind that goes into little pots that sit at the centre of your dining table. Prepare to be mesmerized at Arashiyama, home to a forest of bamboo at least 20 meters tall, and a fascinating must-see highlight of Japan. A well-constructed path runs for about half a kilometer through the forest, the air full of swooshing sounds of towering bamboos; it has been well-known to mesmerize kids too. After the short walk (or cycle ride - you can rent cycles), head to the Tenryuji Temple and Nonomiya Shrine just off the path.The Bamboo path is open all year round, with no admission fee and can be accessed by via the Arashiyama and Saga-Arashiyama train stations.The town of Arashiyama is also most famous for the Togetsu-kyo Bridge, a wooden bridge that is scenic tourist-attraction throughout the year. Dine amongst Ninjas at Ninja Akasaka - a Ninja themed restaurant (Akasaka, Tokyo)It’s every kid’s dream to have a set of super-cool almost out-of-this-world skills. While this themed restaurant in Tokyo won’t give your young ones superhuman strength, it will give them (and you) the feeling of dining amongst these deadly assassins at a secret location. You enter through a maze of corridors, at the end of which you are greeted by a ninja and given a secret password. Said ninja will stay with you and put up a show of tricks to keep the theme going and the family engrossed.  The cuisine is Japanese, along with several popular international food options (if your kids are fussy eaters). Best to reserve ahead to make sure you get in.  Witness bioluminescence at the Hotaruika Firefly Squid Museum (Namerikawa, Toyama Prefecture)Firefly squids are a delicacy in Japan, and this is the only museum of its kind in the entire world! The museum provides valuable information on these rare three-inch long creatures and their weirdly alien ways. During the off-season, from around the end of March to May, you will even get the opportunity to hold the squid in your hands.You also have the opportunity to take a boat tour that starts right next to the museum; the only downside is it happens at 3:00 AM, in order to witness live glow-in-the-dark action.  Spend the day at Ueno ParkUeno Park is one of Tokyo’s top attractions- a 300 acre park filled with museums, temples, street food stalls, some schools and even the Ueno Zoo.There’s something here for everyone; whether you want to have a little Hanami party under the cherry blossoms, learn about history at the Tokyo National Museum, enjoy some street food......or see some Polar Bears frolic in their natural environment at the zoo. The park is also home to Ueno Daibutsu – a giant Buddha statue whose face is all that remains, but is still a sight worth seeing.  Spend the day with Mickey Mouse at Disneyland (Tokyo)If all else fails, visit the good old Disneyland in Tokyo (the first one to be built outside of the United States). Designed to mirror elements of the Disneyland in California and Magic Kingdom in Florida, the park consists of seven themed areas that are sure to keep the kids busy and entertained throughout the day!Its next-door neighbor, Tokyo DisneySea is a nautical exploration theme park that is unique to Japan and was designed to appeal to a more grown up audience, but is still wildly fascinating for kids.To know more about how to incorporate these into your itinerary, contact our trip advisers here.

A Guide to Iceland's Most Beautiful Beaches

When you think of a beach vacation, you would arguably picture white sand, beach umbrellas, and lots of sun-block. The various-hued (black, white, gold, red!) sandy beaches of Iceland are probably not the first things on your bucket list when you’re planning a trip here, but we strongly recommend them nevertheless for their surreal beauty not found anywhere else on this planet! Apart from being famously known as the land of Fire and Ice, there is a growing fan-base of travelers who can't get enough of Iceland's shoreline. Here’s your guide to the hidden gems of this marvelous island country.Nautholsvík Geothermal BeachImage Copyrights: Helgi HalldórssonIf you’re spending time in Reykjavik (highly recommended), then be sure to explore the paradise that is the golden-sand beach at Nautholsvik. There are geo-thermal pools all around to plunge in, but you can also do it like the Vikings do: swim in the refreshingly cold Arctic sea water, warm up in the steam bath and enjoy the view from the longest hot tub in Iceland along the sea shore at Nautholsvik Bay.Diamond BeachIf you take a boat-tour along the iceberg-studded shores of the southern Iceland, you will come upon a sandy beach on the Jokulsarlon coast (a prominent highlight of Iceland),  that looks strewn with glittering objects. It's not a wonder, then, that it's called Diamond Beach, even if the glittering objects, on closer scrutiny, turn out to be super-frozen ice chunks calved off from glaciers and polished by ocean waves. All shapes, sizes and colours are on display here; it's like nature's art installation. And if you are fortunate enough to visit the Diamond Beach on a sunny day, the play of light on ice, a blaze of refraction and reflection, is a sight to behold.Reynisfjara BeachIf you do find yourself in the South of Iceland then make sure you visit the world-famous Reynisfjara shore, near the village Vik in Myrdalur on Iceland's South Coast. With its long stretch of black sand and dramatic rock formations; you certainly won't need your lotion and sun-hat for this beach, widely regarded as one of the most impressive sights in Iceland. Even if you are inclined to plunge into its icy waters, pay heed to warning signs about where you can or cannot swim; Reyinsfjara Beach has a reputation for severe undertows. Alftanes BeachImage Copyrights: Ólafur Gísli AgnarssonWhile black sand has its own peculiar charm, there is also the rare white sand beach to be found here, almost tropical to look at, until of course you step into the water. Head out to Alftanes Beach, situated close to Reykjavik; the solitude and calm that this shoreline exudes is worth an afternoon (or even night, in summer!) away from the bustle of the capital city.Raudasandur (Red Sand Beach)Take a break from black, white and gold, and visit the famous Raudasandur (Red Sand Beach) located in a remote area in the Westfjords. The sands put on an impressive display of changing colours with the shifting Icelandic light; it can go from red to yellow to white, back to red to on to black (yes, not strictly red!), depending on weather, sun and cloud formations on any given day. Favoured by shutterbugs, and adored by both tourists and Icelanders, Raudasandur simply delights with its fairytale aura and veritable symphony of colors. Plus it's brlliant for some sand 4X4'ing.Kirkjubol BeachImage Copyrights: Salbjörg Rita JónsdóttirThe lovely beach at Kirkjubol draws fewer crowds, is extremely quiet and relaxing, and is the ideal location for the outdoorsy family. While the waters are safe to swim and frolic in, liesurely walks and hikes around the beach make for spectacular scenic experiences. And if that weren't enough, there's something for nature enthusiasts too: the birdlife of the area is rich (puffins!), and seals sometimes make an appearance to soak up the sun.So go on, give it a whirl. Beach culture so close to the Arctic Circle; only the Icelander's could pull that off with panache! Raise eye-brows of folks back home when you show off your photos of this yet another (understated) feather in the cap of this country's stunning landscape. And remember that a warm cap and scarf may be more relevant than sun-block!  

Best Luxury Boutique Hotels In India

When you plan your vacation through Tripifini, our India travel experts will have already hooked you up with finest hotels to suit your budget. But if you are looking for the hidden gems of India’s boutique-hotel/spa world, here’s a guide to get you started with these beauties that have not only won awards but have been voted the best in luxury, service and class by the world’s top shelf press.Because we believe that where you stay should be as important as your planned activities in any vacation destination. 1) Ananda In The Himalayas (Voted Conde Nast Traveler India Number One Best Spa Destination 2015)The name itself evokes luxury, and in the lap of one of India’s most exotic and sought-after regions, the Himalayas, no less. Spread out over 100 acres of an erstwhile Maharaja’s palace grounds, this unique boutique luxury spa resort is all alpine forest, with suites and villas tucked away discreetly among rustling Sal trees, each living space a retreat into solitude, a haven you will never want to leave. Pamper yourself with India’s oldest therapies for body and mind, from Yoga to Ayurveda massages, from Vedanta discourses to organic farm-to-table cuisine. You may be tempted to spend all your vacation time here and never leave the property; travel experts consider this to be a highlight of a trip worthy of mention, along with other activities they may line up for you. All this serenity and luxury has the added advantage of overlooking the lush Ganges River valley, at the foot of which lies Rishikesh, one of India’s oldest and most spiritual cities, which has lately become an adventure hub for avid white-water enthusiasts.   2) Raas, Jodhpur (Winner Of The 2013 WAN Hotel Of The Year Award)Jodhpur’s latest pride and joy comes in the form of its first ever boutique hotel, marrying architectural styles ranging from original 18th century Haveli (four of the original buildings) to the clean, modern lines of contemporary design (3 additional new buildings). Combine that with a royal courtyard that promises royal luxury (and delivers), a spa you will never want to leave, and you have a the perfect union of old and new, fitted out with utmost love and attention to detail, causing it to be voted Conde Nast Top 100 hotels in the World; a trip to Jodhpur would not, in fact, be complete without a stay here.A stunning view of the 15th century Mehrangarh Fort from all its rooms (Time Magazine voted it Asia’s Best Fortress) is a bonus that cannot be overlooked.  3) Glenburn Tea Estate and Boutique Hotel, Darjeeling, West Bengal (Voted One of the 6 best boutique hotels in India – Harper’s Bazaar UK)This is luxury on many levels; it begins with 8 exquisitely elegant suites, arrayed over 1600 acres of a lush tea-estate, once the proud provenance of Scottish colonialists, and now in the expert hands of one of India’s largest tea families. The views of Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest peak, in the Eastern Himalayas, might alone be worth the price of a ticket to get here. Add to that carefully curated tea-tastings, along the lines of the world’s best vineyards, bird and butterfly watching, mild adventure treks in the great alpine outdoors, and gorgeous camping experiences by a river, complete with candle-light dinners and barbecues, and you have yourself a world-class property that makes for a world-class experience on your Eastern Himalaya vacation escapade.  4) Sujan Jawai, RajasthanIn the jungles of Jawai, Rajasthan, where leopards still roam wild and free (and keep to themselves), is this 9-luxury tent property that will take your breath away with its chic and elegant setting which completely blends into its surroundings. Opulence and eco-conservation don’t often go together, but the dynamic husband-and-wife team have effortless managed the union here. Set in a landscape of towering granite formations, ancient caves and pristine sandy riverbeds, you will retain that palpable sense of a Rajasthan safari-adventure even as you sink into the lap of luxury, with every detail of décor and furniture meticulously overseen by the owners.  5) Sujan Serai100 acres of an exquisite desert oasis can be a sight of great beauty in the colourful landscape of Rajasthan, and it is made even more beautiful by this magnificent desert camp and spa that evokes the ancient caravans of the region, seeming to grow out of the landscape like it has always belonged there. The princely city of Jaisalmer is right next door with its golden fortress (a UNESCO site), although we think you may be content with just staying put, staring up night after night at the clear Rajasthani sky and being entertained Manganiyar folk musicians, who are direct descendants of the same minstrels that once entertained kings and queens centuries ago.  6) Samode Safari Lodge There may be no better accommodation suited to the viewing of the rare and endangered Royal Bengal Tiger than the magnificent Samode Safari Lodge, set in the thick of the 400 sq kilometre of Bandhavgarh Forest. Private villas surround the main building, well-spaced from each other and hidden away in the thick foliage to give you that tranquility and sense of privacy. In between tiger-spottings, go for nature walks with an expert naturalist, cycle around, swim, soak in the pool, or visit nearby villages. Indian jungle safari experiences are seldom so luxurious. 7) Chhatrasagar, RajasthanIt took all the efforts (and deep pockets) of a Rajput king to bring prosperity to his kingdom by damming a seasonal stream that ran through his property, which, 100 years later became the setting for one of India’s finest tented camps slap in the middle of a lush desert oasis. These are not quite tents as mini-palaces that, despite their opulence, have a minimum impact on the ecology of the area. Get ready for that royal experience under the great big Rajasthan sky, evoking an era of sporting parties and banquets of a bygone era.  8) Vythiri Resort, Wayanad, KeralaLuxury in the thick of a rainforest? You bet. And right up in its canopy too. Each of these 5 exquisite tree-houses of the Vythiri Resort up in the forests of Wayanad, North Kerala, have been constructed by local tribes with local material and topped up with the finest luxury amenities, a combination of nature and opulence that somehow blends in perfectly with the near-continuous soundtrack of bird-calls and gurgling streams. Set on a 150-acre property, it’s all majestic trees, wild tropical plants lining stone walkways, and even a gentlty swaying rope-bridge over a fast-flowing stream that leads to an outdoor pool.  9) Niraamaya, Kovalam, KeralaThese exquisite 31 heritage cottages are built in style of Kerala’s coastal tropical architecture, with spacious, airy interiors outfitted with elegantly weathered wood furniture. All this raw earthiness is topped off with slick contemporary luxury, creating the perfect blend of old-world charm and modern comfort. Shower in open air bathrooms, lounge by the pool, sample the palette-tingling fresh coastal catch-of-the-day, or merely sit back on your verandah and watch a string of gorgeous Arabian Sea sunsets heralding jasmine-scented nights.  10) Orange County Hampi 14th century royal grandeur and 21st century cutting edge luxury: the combination is mesmerizing and head-reeling and it all comes together brilliantly at Orange County, Hampi. Conveniently situated just 4 km from the UNESCO World Heritage monuments and surreal boulder-strewn landscape of the ancient city of Hampi, this regal and imperial resort is all about fort-like archways, stone-paved walkways, fragrant foliage and airy chambers that once housed the royalty of the region. We recommend you sign up and experience it for yourself.There you go; pockets of luxury in this vast landscape of India, designed to get you away from the bustle of your planned itinerary, places where you can return at the end of the day and be treated to the finest hotel-experiences comparable to anywhere in the world. Because, as we mentioned, where you stay is as important as what you do at your vacation destination.  

An Essential Guide to Peruvian Cuisine

There's no better way to immerse yourself in a country than to eat its food! Rooted in several cultures all over the world, Peruvian cuisine marries some of the planet’s top flavors with the best local ingredients. Plan a trip to Peru and witness its wealth of indigenous ingredients and a wide range of delicious dishes; there is always something new to delight your taste buds when in Peru.Having been nominated as the best culinary destination in South America at the World Travel Awards, Peruvian cuisine is emerging onto the world gastronomy stage. For foodies who haven’t been here, this guide to the best of Peruvian food will surely tempt you to go.OverviewPeru’s food is very regional, roughly divided into three large areas: coastal, Andean and Amazonian. Each is as distinct from the other, focussing on the freshest ingredients, sourced locally from the region.The main staple ingredients in Peruvian cuisine are corn, chili peppers, and potatoes in its many varieties.Combining native Incan recipes and food habits with European, Asian and African influences (brought into the country via immigrants), Peru’s cuisine is truly in a world of its own.Depending on which part of the country you’re visiting, menu options can vary drastically. Where do you begin your Peruvian Food Tour? Here are some of our regional favorites: -CevicheIf you plan a trip along the coast of Peru, then you have a wide range of seafood choices to try. One of the most popular ones is ceviche – the cream of the crop. This dish is made of fish, shrimp, squid or scallops, or all of these at once, marinated in freshly squeezed lime juice combined with chili peppers; for a dash of pizzazz, it is served with sweet, potatoes, corn and onions. We encourage all foodies to participate in workshops where you are taught the secret behind the best ceviche (just ask our local experts). Watch master chefs in action as they lead you step-by-step through the intricacies of Peruvian gourmet creations. As a bonus, we recommend you take home some precious Peruvian pink salt, for your domestic attempts back home.Lomo saltadoIt’s not often you find french fries in a stir-fry with rice and potatoes served in the same dish. However... ...a boom in Chinese immigration to the coastal destinations of Peru during the 1800s brought a new wave of cooking and flavours (called shifa), which led to birth of Lomo Saltado(stir fried beef), which is marinated in vinegar and stir-fried, sautéed with onions, tomatoes, hot peppers and other spices, then topped with French fries. Yes, fries, because they soak up the heavenly juices of the dish. Take a bite and you will discover the magic of Peruvian and Asian flavors.Arroz Con PatoOther than seafood, the coastal population in Lima, a mix of Spanish and indigenous descendants known as Creoles, have a wide selection of rich-tasting dishes. Try Arroz Con Pato (rice with duck) - a signature dish in Peru. Rice is cooked in cilantro paste, herbs, and dark beer, giving a deep, earthy flavor to the vegetal grain. A roasted thigh and leg or—if lucky—crisp-seared duck confit is added on top of a heap of the green rice. Add some beer to the dish and you have a winner!The dish is so popular, it has found its way in almost every Peruvian family table as well as at the best restaurants in Lima; like much of Peruvian cooking, it has been personalized into innumerable variations of rice mixture, texture and duck parts—and even with chicken or other poultry.PachamancaOnce you're up in the Andes, the food employs more vegetables and tends more towards the 'fresh and spicy' than the rich sauces of the coastal dishes. Highland cooking still maintains a pagan relationship with the earth, a belief that permeates through all local celebrations. The most typical Andean dish is the Pachamanca, which is cooked in a hole in the ground over hot stones.According to their cooking method, ingredients like potatoes, sweet potatoes, meats (beef, pork, lamb, guinea pig, alpaca, chicken marinated in spices), herbs, corn, leaves, chilies, and beans are layered between more hot stones. Everything is covered with leaves and fresh soil for around 2 to 4 hours in this earth oven (yes, that is exactly what this big hole dug in the ground is).Juane When you’re in the jungle regions of Peru, be ready to be challenged to the extreme and try something new. You can start off with Juane, a dish regional to the Amazon. It consists of a bowl of rice filled with meat, boiled egg, black olives, and spices. All the ingredients are wrapped up in Bijao leaves (which look like banana leaves) plucked from the jungle, and boiled and served fresh. You will also see Juanes frequently sold in street stalls and savored by locals for any meal of the day.Mistura Food FestivalCome and experience the biggest food festival in Latin America, a one-stop destination that highlights the very best of Peruvian cuisine, from traditional dishes based on ancestral recipes to modern takes on classic Peruvian recipes. Set your taste buds tingling and enjoy the most delicious dishes gathered from every corner of Peru at Mistura. Held typically in September, the dates are yet to be confirmed for 2017, so be in touch with your travel operators for further updates.PiscoThe desert region of Peru, famous for the Nazca Lines, is also the prime destination for the production of red wine and a Peruvian brandy known as ‘pisco’, a national drink with firewater potential. When mixed with other ingredients, it plays the leading role in the "Pisco Sour" a popular cocktail. Take a private winery and pisco tour with a local expert; learn how Pisco is produced, along with all the factoids about its interesting traditions.Picarnoes We aren’t done yet; no cuisine is complete without desserts. While Peru has a wide selection of sweets, you must try Picarones. It kind of resembles a sweet, sticky, dripping doughnut. The dough is prepared from sweet potato flour and tossed into a fryer for about 2 minutes until golden brown and crispy. It is then topped with honey mixed with cinnamon, essence of orange, and other spices. A popular street vendor treat, Picarones make for the perfect indulgence while exploring Lima or Cusco on a calm evening.When in Peru, do not forget to try these mouth-watering offerings, which are relished with great joy by locals and tourists alike. Exotic and mouth-watering, there is something for everyone in the world of Peruvian gastronomy.

Things to do in Iceland during winters

As the locals already know, any season is the right season to visit Iceland. And winter is no exception for this diverse landscape fringed with volcanoes, iced with glaciers and heated by geothermal pools. There is plenty to pick and choose from while you’re here; winter doesn’t stop you from missing much of Iceland at all, in fact, it may actually add to the wonders. Trust us, you'll have your hands full trying to decide what to do next. While most people fancy to visit Iceland during the summer, when days are long and weather allows for leisurely hikes, a winter trip could be just as memorable — and a lot less crowded.SightseeingOne of Iceland's greatest highlights is its natural beauty and astonishing landscapes, and in winters conditions can be equally stunning. Sure, Iceland always looks like a mysterious fantasy land, but its frozen waterfalls and colorful rows of houses rising up from a blanket of pure white; now that’s a sight seen only in winter.Plan a tour with the family in a rugged camper van through The Golden Circle, all of the south coast, Reykjanes peninsula, Snæfellsnes peninsula and Akureyri; all are easily accessible during winters, and most can be done in a day tour from Reykjavík. Explore Geysir Hot Spring, Gullfoss waterfall, and Thingvellir National Park. Drive into the valley of Landmannalaugar and Thorsmörk; walk on the Solheimajökull glacier,  and visit the historic valley of Thjorsardalur. Your travel operator will provide full back-up and make your trip as luxurious as you wish it to be. Go wherever you desire, and in total privacy; Iceland's terrain awaits you.Catch the Northern LightsThe Northern Lights are one of the biggest draws of visiting Iceland in winter. Also known as the Aurora Borealis, this is the staple on any traveler's bucket list. Nature’s most glittering show could be a hit or miss, but you can increase your chances by booking a hotel nearby or renting a camper-van. You're local travel expert in Iceland will help you with this.Blue LagoonWinter isn't all about ice and snow! It is quite romantic to watch the sun set over the lava fields while soaking in the warm waters of the blue lagoon, Iceland’s most visited attraction. The mineral-rich, geothermic waters feel especially pleasing following a mad dash in a bathing suit from the lagoon’s spa complex through freezing temperatures, and you’ll be pampered for your efforts with salt scrub stations and an in-pool bar serving drinks.Reykjavik NightlifeThere are no lonely nights in Iceland; 18 hours of darkness gives Icelanders plenty of reasons to let their Viking hair down as the sun disappears below the horizon. The best thing about partying in Reykjavík is that you have everything in one place, bars, pubs, restaurants serving delicious Icelandic cuisine, they are all within walking distance from each other. Once you’ve got on your high heels and party hat, you should have no problem finding a suitable place to join in the fun and revelry. Bar-hopping is a very popular sport in Reykjavík, so don’t worry if you don’t like the first place you visit. You just hop to another with a friendly local nightlife guide by your side and experience the very best of what Reykjavik’s nightlife has to offer through exclusive cocktails, premium Icelandic beer, and the legendary Black Death (just Schnapps, folks, that tastes like licorice).Adventure ActivitiesWinter in the land of ice and fire may be short on daylight, but it is never short on adventure. There are amazingly many activities to choose from: horse riding, snowmobiling, glacier walking, husky sledding, ice fishing, kayaking, 4x4 jeep tours, even whale watching and snorkeling (dry-suits are recommended!). Just make sure you carry warm clothes. Like they say in Iceland, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.PhotographyIceland, a dream destination for photographers. With its incredibly colorful landscapes, immense glaciers and towering volcanoes, it’s a shutterbug’s dream come true. The daylight hours in Iceland in winter are really short (around 4-5 hours) so you should plan your excursions wisely. Although during the daylight, the sun does not rise very high above the horizon, it lingers low, for a long time, leaving behind stunning soft golden lighting. It doesn’t matter if you are a professional or amateur photographer, your pictures will look spectacular anyway!Iceland will seduce you with its winter sights, we guarantee it. Get active and explore Iceland in a more physical way – it’s worth the effort!