Many people go to Greece to visit ancient temples and look at historic landmarks. Some people, however, go to Greece to enjoy the sand and surf.
If you are a beach lover and are planning to visit Greece with a partner or with family, you might be looking for hotels close enough to the beach so you can maximize your time by the water.
Want to stay by the beach in Greece and spend more time near the water? Here are 4 beautiful beach hotels in Greece you might be interested in.
Delfinia Hotel, Corfu
Delfinia Hotel is a hotel on Corfu Island that rests amidst the lush wonders of nature just north of the Moraïtika resort’s commercial end.
Its style is an elegant rendition of Meditteranean architecture, with three wings surrounded by an assortment of trees that frame the way down towards the hotel’s private and well-catered end of the beach.
The hotel has 185 rooms including many family-oriented suites. Further encouraging families to come over, the hotel provides a fully dedicated children’s play area, along with fitness facilities, a restaurant and a bar for adults only.
Lindos Blu Hotel, Rhodes
Lindos Blu has an “adults only” policy, making it a great vacation spot for couples who can manage to get away from their children for a little while.
Situated 30 miles from Rhodes Town, this picturesque resort sits on the hills overlooking Vlýha Bay. Its interior is minimally designed, with a monochromatic blue outlay that is calming to the eyes.
All of its 74 rooms and suites come with balcony views of the bay that go as far as Haráki. The hotel has a fully equipped spa and fitness centre and offers regular free yoga classes for its guests.
Adorno Beach Hotel & Suites, Mykonos
Adorno beach is only 1.5 miles from the Old Town of Mykonos, making its namesake hotel an excellent choice of residence for those who want to get as much beach action as possible while in Mykonos and still be close to the many awesome sights and activities in town.
The hotel keeps things traditional, from its architecture to its breakfasts, and each every room is gorgeous, they either have a view of the private pool or one of the sea.
Adorno is welcoming to single guest as well as couples and families, and they encourage intending visitors to make reservations at adornosuites.com.
Skiathos Princess, Skiathos
The Skiathos Princess is among the most impressive beach hotels on the island and is located 5 miles from the Old Town of Skiathos, nestled by the beach of Agia Paraskevi Bay.
Beyond the grand marble lobby, the rest of the hotel gives off a relaxed vibe that gives its guest permission to get comfortable. The hotel has two swimming pools, which are framed by an expansive lawn which in turn leads down to the beach.
Also, a great hotel to take children, there is a kid’s club and play area. Adults are not left out as there is a small gym, and there are two yogalates classes offered daily.
These are only four of the hundreds of beach hotels that beautiful Greece has to offer. If you are planning a trip to Skiathos, Mykonos, Corfu or Rhodes, consider visiting one of the hotels on this list.
Planning a weekend getaway from Mumbai or Pune? Have you considered visiting Mahabaleshwar?
A small, peaceful hill station, located in the Satara district of Maharashtra, Mahabaleshwar has long been considered a summer getaway destination by vacationers since British colonial rule.
It was, in fact, regarded as the summer capital for the Bombay (now Mumbai) province during those times.
Mahabaleshwar offers a soothing climate to travellers all year round. However, in the monsoon, it does experience quite heavy rainfall.
In summers, you can easily spend a weekend chilling out in some of the most beautiful resorts and hotels located in Mahabaleshwar, far away from the hectic city life of Mumbai and Pune.
In this article, we list some of the best places to visit in Mahabaleshwar for a family vacation. These Mahabaleshwar points of interest are characterised by picturesque views, lush green vegetations, historic sites, and an overall sense of rejuvenation.
Even if you are planning for a 5 to 7-day vacation, you will not fall short of places to see and things to do.
Before we get into the details of Mahabaleshwar tourist spots, let us give you an idea about recent developments in Mahabaleshwar tourism.
Eco-Tourism in Mahabaleshwar
Recently, the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has taken the initiative to develop eco-tourism by providing bicycles for tourists in Ganpatipule and Mahabaleshwar.
Cycling posts have been created with the help of local tour operators, where the tourists can hire bicycles to move around at the rate of INR 20 for an hour, and INR 100 for 24 hours.
Gear bicycles are also available for tourists at the rate of INR 100 for 1 hour, keeping in mind the hilly terrain of Mahabaleshwar.
This step towards preserving sustainability has been lauded by all, as it is believed to have an impact in reducing pollution in the region. So, if you’re planning a Mahabaleshwar trip, don’t forget to include cycling gear in your luggage.
Top 10 Can’t-Miss Mahabaleshwar Attractions
Here’s a list of 10 of the best places to see in Mahabaleshwar.
The Mapro Garden
If you’re visiting Mahabaleshwar with your children, the Mapro Garden should be the first place you see.
Established in 1959, this scenic garden park has its own chocolate factory, a separate children’s play area and a restaurant serving delicious cuisine. It is best to visit the Mapro Garden in Easter, because of the Annual Strawberry Festival held during this time.
The strawberry pizzas, bhel, and sandwiches available here will leave you yearning for more. Besides, hundreds of farmers bring their fresh produce and offer them to tourists for free.
The Venna Lake
Built by Shri Appasaheb Maharaj, a descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, in the year 1942, this serene lake, surrounded by lush greenery on all sides, covers an area of 28 acres.
One of the most popular places on the Mahabaleshwar points list for tourists, it offers exciting activities, ranging from boating to horse rides.
Although it was primarily built by the ruler to cater to the water needs of the area, it has become a tourist hot spot since independence.
One of the best Mahabaleshwar picnic spots, the Connaught Peak (1,400 metres) was renamed after the Duke Connaught, as it was initially called Mount Olympia.
With no entry fee, you can enjoy panoramic views of Krishna Valley, Venna Lake, Panchgani, Pratapgarh, and Pasarani, not to forget the amazing sunrise and sunset views that can leave you spellbound.
The Mahabaleshwar Temple
Lord Mahabaleshwar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, has been a holy shrine for the Maratha warriors.
Its 6-foot long ‘Shiva Lingam’, and the belongings of Lord Shiva like his ‘damru’, his bed, his ‘trishula’, carvings of the sacred bull and ‘Kalbhairava’, are the main attractions for Hindu pilgrims from all over the country.
However, the temple’s serene and spiritual environs, which depicts the calmness of the Great Lord is also a remarkable experience for general tourists.
Your trip to Mahabaleshwar will be incomplete without visiting his fascinating point, the Chinaman’s Fall, named after the Chinese prison located nearby.
In the monsoon season, the breathtaking view of the descent can leave you awestruck. It is also a favourable picnic spot for families with children. However, do not forget to carry extra clothes for your toddlers, in case they get wet.
Elephant’s Head Point
Sightseeing in Mahabaleshwar is incomplete without visiting the Elephant’s Head Point (also called Needle Hole Point), especially because of its green surroundings and the ecstatic views of the Sahyadri range.
The rocks on this site take the shape of an elephant’s head and its trunk, giving the tourist hot spot its unique name. Founded in 1930 by Dr Murray, the site is considered to be one of the best picnic spots in the region.
The temple is known to be the origin of the Krishna River, whose significance in the Hindu culture is overlooked by many.
This serene and beautiful temple in the woods looks best in the monsoon when it is covered in moss with lush green vegetation all around. You have to take a walk through the woods, following the trail from the Panchaganga temple to reach here.
Mostly preferred by filmmakers for its marvellous views and soothing weather conditions, the Tableland plateau is considered the second longest one in Asia.
It is covered by evergreen vegetation, a treat to the eyes of the nature lovers, and it is also regarded as a ‘trekker’s paradise, because of its pleasant climate.
One of the most popular places to visit near Mahabaleshwar, the Pratapgad Fort is located at a distance of 20 kilometres from the Mahabaleshwar hill station.
The ruins of the fort, which was built by the fierce Maratha rulers in 1665, lures tourists because of its exotic location on the top of a hill, its historic value and the breathtaking views it offers.
Also known as Mini Kashmir, Tapola is located at a distance of 25 kilometres from Mahabaleshwar and boasts of rich scenic beauty.
It is picturesque, serene and well-maintained throughout with a lake called the Shivsagar Lake, which is the main attraction of the place.
You can enjoy some water scooters, boating, kayaking and even swimming in the lake. Tapola also offers an exotic jungle trek to Vasota Fort, if you wish to opt for some adventure along the way.
There are plenty of good hotels and resorts in and around the Mahabaleshwar hill station to stay with your family. Many of the resorts in Mahabaleshwar offer exquisite natural views from most of the rooms.
Some of the best hotels in Mahabaleshwar are located on the Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani road and the Satara road. However, if you’re an explorer by heart, you can always go camping and live in tents to satisfy your adventurous spirit.
Travelling when pregnant can be an interesting learning curve, especially when it’s your first baby. If you’re asking, “Is it safe to travel during pregnancy?” the answer is yes, as long as you take a few precautions and plan for it.
Travel for pregnant ladies can be easy enough and shouldn’t impact your holiday too much, but there are also a few important rules to keep in mind if you travel during pregnancy.
Pre-plan for pregnancy travel
Pre-planning any holiday is a sensible thing to do, but pre-planning for pregnancy travel is absolutely necessary.
Depending on your travel destination, you’ll need to look into vaccinations. Most which use live vaccines or bacteria is not recommended in pregnancy (for obvious reasons), but always make sure to check with your GP prior to booking.
It’s also worth checking for any recent disease outbreaks at your chosen destination before entering those credit card details on the booking site, just in case, and you’ll also need to consider travel and medical insurance options.
Choose a suitable destination
When deciding on a destination, you’ll want to consider things such as, how much will you be moving around and what the day-to-day itinerary entails.
Is it a beach holiday, where you can be glued to the sun lounger from dawn until dusk, or is it a city break, where there’ll be lots of sightseeing and things to do?
Fresh air and gentle exercise are great for wellness in both mind and body during pregnancy, but you don’t want to overdo it, after all.
Most people on a babymoon enjoy a full-on relaxation mode destination. Taking time to just relax for a week or so in the sunshine with a mocktail in hand can be just what you need for some serious R&R prior to the birth.
On the other hand, if city sights are more your thing, that can be just as relaxing for some.
Select the right trimester
Can pregnant women fly? Well, when it comes to trimesters, the third is the only one where it’s not always recommended to fly, mainly after 37 weeks.
If you’re considering air travel during pregnancy, you should know that many airlines will ask for a letter from a medical professional after 28 weeks, confirming you’re not at any risk before flying.
Any time before then is usually considered perfectly safe for flying when pregnant. The only thing you need to focus on is your comfort throughout travelling and the flight itself.
It’s worth pointing out the further on in your pregnancy, the more tired you’re likely to feel; another factor in deciding which trimester to travel within.
If you’re reclining on a Caribbean beach, it’s probably not a problem, but if you’re going to be up and about it might have an impact on your activities.
Food and drink
One of the best things about travelling is being able to sample all the delicious local food and drink, and this shouldn’t have to change during pregnancy. You just need to remember to be cautious when it comes to particular foods.
Firstly, avoid tap water, and opt for bottled water instead. It’s worth avoiding ice, too, depending on the country. Or you can buy and add your own ice if you know it has come from a bottle.
Raw foods are a no-no and don’t risk any foods which could be served undercooked, seafood and sushi for example.
It’ll also help you from feeling too tired in the heat. And, above all, remember to keep eating fresh, healthy food, and enjoy yourself above everything else!
Holidays are for relaxing and taking time out from hectic everyday life, but that’s not to say you can’t stay active with some gentle exercise at the same time. And when abroad, there are so many options for keeping in shape.
Obviously the most popular will be swimming (bonus if you have a beautiful beach at your hotel doorstep).
Alternatively, you can choose from jogging, cycling, prenatal yoga, or simply just wandering around exploring your destination.
Remember it’s also fine to feel tired during the day, especially if you’ve been partaking in some light exercise.
Your partner will completely understand if you need to take time out and just rest for an hour or so before dinner.
If you come here at the beginning of August, you can enjoy the festival and car show dedicated to the most famous highway on the planet.
Come to visit the ‘heart’ of the Ozarks Mountains and feel the unique mix of amenities typical for a big city and warm hospitality of charming, small town.
If you’re trying to figure out what to see in Springfield Mo, here’s what you should visit first in this Springfield Mo visitors guide.
Things To Do In Springfield Mo
Want to know what to do in Springfield Mo and which places to see in Springfield Mo? Here’s a list of 6 fascinating Springfield Mo attractions that first-time visitors can’t miss.
The Fantastic Caverns, Springfield Missouri
Do you know that Fantastic Caverns, an otherworldly attraction located 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Springfield, are the only caves in the whole North America which you can entirely ride through?
The caves in Springfield Missouri were made in ancient times when a river carved a path you can travel down nowadays.
Since John Knox discovered this place in 1862, while was walking around with his hunting dog, it has become a favoured destination for numerous explorers and even the music venue in the 50s.
Just take a seat in one of the Jeep-drawn trams and enjoy a spectacular 55-minute tour of the caves.
Admire stalagmites rising from the floor and stalactites hanging from the ceiling at the constant temperature of 60 F (15.5 C). Keep in mind that the cave is closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Thanksgiving Day.
The Pythian Castle
If you’re interested in Springfield Mo history, you must visit the Pythian Castle, a 0.9-acres (0.36 ha) large fortress that is considered the home of Missouri.
As the “Ghosts of the Pythian Castle” episode by the Paranormal Task Force in Springfield, Missouri, notes, this monstrous limestone castle has stood tall for the last 100 years.
Knights of Pythias (an international fraternal order) built this place in 1913, having a plan to make an orphanage and retirement home for the members of their families.
In 1942 it was commandeered by the US military and was a prison. Within these walls lie a theatre, a ballroom, a bowling alley, a dungeon and even an interrogation room used for Nazi prisoners and other enemy soldiers during WWII that many are probably unaware of.
It was renamed the “Enlisted Men’s Service Club” and later became a hospital for recovering injured war veterans. It served as a general hospital to help rehabilitate injured America troops during World War II.
This recognizable ominous building takes place on two lists, on the US National Register of Historic Places and an unofficial list of haunted castles.
Nowadays, it is a private property where you can come to catch a feel of ghost-tour, dungeon-tour, creepy murder-mystery-tour, and historical-tour as well.
They also organize private and holiday events, theatre performances, and weddings. Grab the opportunity and enjoy this unique venue no matter if you believe in ghosts or not.
The Springfield Art Museum
The Springfield Art Museum is the oldest cultural institution in this town.
It was founded in 1926 when a few women decided that their beloved town deserves such a place. They wanted to educate new generations and to teach and inspire citizens to appreciate art.
Some of my favourites are the Art of American water media, but you can also admire the Art of the Midwest and European pottery, for example. Moreover, this inspiring place often hosts travelling and rotating exhibitions.
When you visit this museum, you’ll even get a bonus in the form of the fascinating Outdoor Dr Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden that is definitely worth exploring.
Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield was the site of the famous battle fought on August 10, 1861. It was the first major American Civil War engagement west of the Mississippi River.
During that battle, the Union general Nathaniel Lyon was killed, as the first high officer who lost his life in the Civil War. The video below shows Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, which preserves the site of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek.
Nowadays, we can visit this National Park and show respect for our ancestors who lost their lives on this particular battlefield. Don’t miss going to the Ray House, the only original house which remained after the battle.
Mother’s Brewing Company
If you want to taste probably the best craft beers in the US, come to the locally-owned brewery in Springfield. Mother’s Brewing Company has been brewing beer in the heart of the city since 2011.
Just go downtown to South Grant and try my favourite Three Blind Mice as well as some seasonal beers like Spring Batch or Oktoberfest.
If you like antiques, as I do, I highly recommend you to visit Relics Antique Mall which offers vintage collectables and antiques on impressive two acres (90 000 ft2 or 8360 m2).
When you get hungry, stop in the old tearoom and enjoy their made cuisine and an excellent cup of coffee or tea.
Where To Stay In Springfield Mo
If you’re looking for cheap Springfield Mo lodging, there’s no dearth of motels in Springfield Mo. And if you want luxury hotels in Springfield Mo, you’ll find plenty of options.
From a Motel 6, to a Holiday Inn, and 5-star hotels in Springfield Mo, like the DoubleTree by Hilton Springfield, you’ll find a number of motels and hotels in Springfield Mo for all budgets on Booking.com.
Useful Tips For International Travelers To Springfield, Mo
If you one of the international travellers from a country under the Visa Waiver Program who decided to visit the US for tourism in Springfield Mo, you don’t need a visa for visitors anymore.
Just fill the ESTA application established by the US government on January 12, 2009, and you will get a right to spend 90 days in this beautiful country no matter of the reason for visiting.
Check for the valid, digital chipped passport and credit card, add the correct contact information, and submit the ESTA form.
Keep in mind that you will be adequately pre-screened and the US authorities reserve the right to require additional specific security features if needed.
After passing all the necessary procedures, you can board a plane or a boat and begin your exciting American adventure.
I hope this Springfield Mo travel guide will help you enjoy your Springfield Missouri sightseeing tour to the fullest during your Springfield Mo vacation.
Dubai is a home to the world’s tallest buildings, biggest man-made islands, and largest shopping malls.
But there’s another addition to this list of superlatives – IMG Worlds of Adventure – the world’s largest indoor theme park. It took around three years and over 1 billion dollars to construct this park.
The park is huge and it measures about 1.5 million square feet in size. It can accommodate over 20,000 guests in one day and includes many roller coaster rides and special attractions to fascinate visitors.
It is located in the City of Arabia, alongside Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road, and sports a slogan that says, ‘Live the epic adventure.’ It was opened in 2016 and since then it has offered great experiences for visitors all year round.
Theme park rules:
Every visitor to the IMG Worlds of Adventure Dubai needs to follow certain rules. These include:
Once tickets are pre-booked, there are no refunds
You must show a valid ticket to enter the park
All kids below 12 years should be accompanied by an adult
A valid proof is required for re-entry into the park on the same day
Tickets with no date mentioned are invalid
Every visitor needs to go through a security check. Some of the items not allowed are weapons, illegal drugs, glass bottles, explosives, alcoholic beverages, skateboards and more.
There are plenty of adventure zones in the amusement park. The four major ones include:
If you’re a fan of Marvel superheroes such as The Hulk, The Avengers, Spider-Man, you’ll love this zone. This is the action-packed area of the park with some amazing rides.
They include Avengers Battle of Ultron, Hulk Epsilon Base 3D, Thor Thunder Spin, and Avengers Flight of the Quinjets. There are dining options and restaurants here too.
This is a fantasy world dedicated to the dinosaurs. There are magnificent rides and special attractions for the people who wish to explore the Lost World.
Some of the rides include Forbidden Territory, The Velociraptor, Dino Carousel, Predator, and Adventure Fortress. Here also, you’ll find some restaurants.
If your kid is a Cartoon Network fan, they’ll love this zone. Some excellent rides include Ben 10 5D Hero Time, The Amazing Ride of Gumball, Lazy Town and more. There are also shopping sites, hangouts, and eating joints here.
This is a combination of thrill and leisure. The attractions include a haunted hotel, popcorn factory, flavours of Arabia, samosa house, and the coffee house.
Movies at IMG Worlds of Adventure
NOVO Cinemas is a 12-screen multiplex in the IMG Worlds of Adventure amusement park located at just a distance of 15 minutes from the Dubai central.
This movie zone offers a 7-star experience to visitors with 3D IMAX technology. If you’re a serious movie buff, you’ll probably never want to leave.
It has state-of-the-art-technology to give audiences a real-life experience and includes some dining and shopping too. Overall, it is an amazing experience to watch movies here.
Dining at the world’s largest indoor theme park
Besides the adventures at this park, there is no dearth of dining options. Every zone of the park has restaurants with different themes and offering unique cuisines.
Some of the places you can enjoy food include:
Hotdog Express: Obviously for hot dog lovers.
Captain Scoop: For ice-cream lovers, yo.
Downtown Shawarma: Love shawarma like Iron Man. Get yours here.
Smoothy: The yummiest burgers!
The Candy Palace: Get your sweet tooth on.
Spice Valley: For tandoor and roasted meat lovers.
360 Burgers: More burgers and hotdogs
I challenge you to not pick up some memorabilia from this fun place on your way out. You’ll be spoiled for choice with all the merchandise available.
A few places for some retail therapy are:
Empire News and Comics: Comic book lovers can buy comics and souvenirs here.
Avengers Exchange: Get all the toys you like from The Avengers Warehouse
Cartoon network classics: Small toys of your favourite cartoon characters
There are many more shopping zones like the ones mentioned above.
Why You Should Visit IMG Worlds of Adventure, Dubai
If you’re in Dubai, you cannot miss this extraordinary theme park. It could end up being a fun outing for your family where you can spend quality time and create some great memories. After all, it’s not called the world’s largest theme park for nothing.
How To Travel To Dubai?
There are a lot of flights available at Cleartrip that connect to Dubai from different countries. All you need to do is choose the best airline for your trip to Dubai.
Dubai offers a lavish experience to visitors so don’t pass up the opportunity to spend a vacation here. Try to book your flight ticket in advance to get the lowest price.
The mist rolled down over the hills, green and wet with the rain. Little waterfalls burst forth from the verdant foliage as we drove past on the expressway from Pune to Lonavala.
Treasure Island Resort, Lonavala, is just on the outskirts of Lonavala town. You have to pass another toll naka (post) and a few roadside dhabas (restaurants) before you see the massive sign signalling you inside the gates.
It was over 20 years since I stayed at the Treasure Island Resort, Lonavala. The last time I stayed there was before my kid was born.
I didn’t remember much of what it looked like back then, except for this pool with a waterfall in the centre of the resort. Every time we crossed the corridor passing by the pool, our noses were assaulted by the stench of chlorine.
I booked a week at the resort in July 2018, because a week of my RCI timeshare was expiring and I had to use it or lose it. That’s one of the curses of owning a timeshare you don’t use as often as you should.
Even though we were entitled to stay for a week, we decided to cut short our stay and return to Pune after the weekend, because the hotel had no Wifi, the data network was bad and we wouldn’t have been able to get any work done.
Our stay was very pleasant though. The hotel had upgraded us from a studio apartment to a 1-bedroom suite, so we had plenty of place to lounge about and a massive bathroom that made me very happy. I love hotel rooms with big bathrooms.
We spent a very pleasant afternoon watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – the delightful 1971 musical with Gene Wilder, not the creepy 2005 Tim Burton remake with Johnny Depp.
Arun and I drove around Lonavala a bit. It had a lot of memories for us. But the dreadful traffic and lack of parking on weekends made us stick close to the Uphill mall in Lonavala, where we picked up a meal from McDonald’s.
Our evenings were spent enjoying cocktails at the Tavern, the lounge at the 5-star Fariyas Hotel. We also preferred having our evening meals there.
The food at Treasure Island Resort was reasonably-priced, tasty and well-made. But it was pure vegetarian (obviously targeted at the Gujarati community), and the room service was understaffed and unmotivated.
We had to waste a good deal of time trying to get through to them on the intercom, convincing them to serve us meals in the room.
Lonavala is a town and hill station about half-way between Mumbai and Pune. It’s one of the few places where weary Mumbaikars can hang up their hats on a weekend.
Punekars are somewhat more fortunate, having access to many more weekend getaways, like Lavasa, Mulshi, and Mahabaleshwar, besides the forts and hills near Pune city that attract so many trekkers.
It’s hard to get lost in Lonavala. If you can’t find your way, just follow the “Maganlal’s Chikki” signs. You can read more about the famous Lonavala chikki here.
Before we returned to Pune, I tried to buy a pack of the famous Cooper’s chocolate and walnut fudge, but the long lines outside their shop made me opt for the fudge and chikki from Frend’s chikki nearby. It tastes just as good.
There are plenty of blogs about the Taj Mahal, and many of them are rather negative. I visited the Taj in November 2016 and thought it was a beautiful monument.
But, like many visitors, I was less than thrilled with my experience of it. Here are some of the things I loved and hated about the Taj Mahal.
It started with the long lines to buy a ticket. Painful, but couldn’t be avoided. It was one of the times I felt privileged to be Indian, because I had to shell out so much less for my ticket than the foreigners.
Unfortunately, the man at the gate insisted I show him my Indian ID (he thought I was a foreigner trying to sneak in). That was rather unpleasant and brought to my mind some choice Hindi gaalis (expletives). But that wouldn’t have helped me get in.
Then there were the crowds and the scaffolding, which made the experience less magical.
Being November, there was quite a bit of smog and pollution, but the weather was cool and pleasant and the mist around the Taj gave it an ethereal look that I loved.
Stupidly, I fell for a tout’s spiel and agreed to let him take photos of us. It was the only way I could get photos of my kid and me together. I’m not a fan of selfies.
I paid him a considerable amount, only to realise that the photos I took with my phone camera were way better. But how else could I have taken embarrassingly touristy poses like this one on the Diana seat?
So we went into the inner sanctum, where Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan’s tombs lie, and found some obnoxious tourist clicking photos despite a sign forbidding it. Really? Can you not read the “Photos Forbidden” sign?
I must admit, at this point, that I hate crowds and having to work my way through them tires me out very quickly. The only thing I can think of doing after that is running off to find a quiet spot, which we did.
By this time I was touristed out, so we didn’t bother visiting the Mosque and the Mehman Khana, the two sandstone buildings that flank the Tāj on either side.
We spent about half a day at the Taj Mahal and I came away both loving and hating it. Loving the architecture and the exquisite relief carvings (munabbat kari), and hating the crowds and obnoxious tourists.
I was not as lucky as Liz here, who had a marvellous time and wrote a hilarious blog about it (thanks for the laugh, Liz). I was a bit underwhelmed and all I could think of was getting out of there pronto.
Then again, my primary reason to visit Agra was to visit Wildlife SOS, a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organisation that does some amazing work in Mathura, an hour from Agra.
Visiting the Taj Mahal was more of a bucket list trip that I just wanted to tuck away in my “been there, done that” list. Being Indian, it was embarrassing having to admit to foreigners that I’d never seen the thing.
What I did love about the Taj Mahal was its stunning art and architecture, which never fails to move me. That someone can create a monument of such beauty makes me marvel at the depth of human ingenuity and creativity that went into its making.
As the story goes, it was built to fulfil Shah Jahan’s promise to his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, that he would “erect a monument to match her beauty,” as she lay on her deathbed. Having seen the Taj, I can only imagine she must have been a very beautiful woman.
In early November 2011, I was fortunate to go on a 10-day trip to Kashmir, a state at the very north of India, that has since been overrun by terrorism and violence.
During our sightseeing tour of Kashmir, our guide, Parvaiz bhai, took us way off the usual tourist route to see some gems of Kashmiri architecture that very few people get to see. One of these was the Martand Sun Temple that lies 8 kilometres (5 miles) from Anantnag.
History Of The Martand Sun Temple In Kashmir
Martand is another Sanskrit name for the Hindu Sun-god, Surya. It was built during the 8th century A.D. by the third ruler of the Karkota Dynasty, Lalitaditya Muktapida, and destroyed by Sultan Sikandar Butshikan in the early 15th century.
Now only the ruins remain to tell the story of this excellent specimen of Kashmiri architecture, blended into the Gandharan, Gupta, Chinese, Roman, Syrian-Byzantine and Greek forms of architecture.
Situated on top of a plateau, one can view the whole of the Kashmir Valley from this temple. The courtyard has a primary shrine in its centre and is surrounded by 84 smaller shrines, incorporating a smaller temple that was previously built.
According to Wikipedia, the primary shrine is located in a centralized structure (the temple proper) that is thought to have had a pyramidal top – a common feature of the temples in Kashmir.
A number of wall carvings in the antechamber of the temple proper depict other gods, such as Vishnu, and river goddesses, such as Ganga and Yamuna, in addition to the sun-god Surya.
Many other carvings, like this one depicting a lone musician playing the flute, can be found among them.
In a straight line from the central shrine, was a carving of what looked like a flower, but is more likely the sun.
Strangely, this stone carving is no longer visible in any of the later images of the Martand Sun temple online. Was it destroyed or stolen by vandals? I would really love to know what happened to it.
Another carving that I have not seen anywhere else online is this Shivling (Shiva Lingam depicting Lord Shiva’s male organ) with a reddish, barely discernable Sanskrit ‘Om’ symbol painted on it long ago, that lies forlornly in the lawns of the ruins. Shivlings are worshipped all over India as a sacred Hindu symbol of creation.
There are some more fascinating relics of the ancient civilization that built the temple, like this motif displaying the ancient Śāradā script.
Although the Martand Sun Temple is a site of national importance and appears in the list of centrally protected monuments as Martanda (Sun Temple), these relics of a lost dynasty are lying in ruin today and there seems to be no motivation to restore them.
When we went, there was no security guarding the ruins. We could just walk in and out without anyone stopping us. I guess that’s why it’s so easy to vandalise these ancient sites.
I imagine that, with all the unrest in Kashmir, the Archaeological Survey of India can’t do much to preserve these ruins. However, they were recently in the news recently for a much more undesirable reason.
The Martand Sun temple was used as the backdrop for the song Bismil from the Bollywood movie, Haider, in which it was controversially shown as a place of evil. You can watch the video below.
As a lover of ancient ruins and architecture, I considered myself lucky to get a glimpse of this striking example of Kashmiri architecture in 2011, at a time when the Kashmir valley was still relatively peaceful and tourism was flourishing.
Most people who have dealt with Indian travellers will have realised that we’re not the best of tourists. We’re cheap and can be uncouth, but as far as the Indian tourist’s behaviour is concerned, we’re hardly the world’s worst tourists.
No, the award for the worst-behaved tourists goes to… domestic tourists.
However, things are changing in India, and Indians seem to be getting more adventurous and generous with their travel budgets.
Encouraged by its pace-setting 7% GDP global growth rate, rising personal income levels and changing lifestyles, huge middle class as well as the availability of low-cost air fares and diverse travel packages, India is rapidly becoming one of the fastest growing outbound travel markets in the world, second only to China.
Here are some facts that will thrill and delight tour operators who deal with Indian tourists.
At present, around 25 million tourists from India travel abroad.
Outbound Travel from India is growing at 15-18 per cent annually.
India will account for 50 million outbound tourists by 2020.
31 per cent of Indian tourists were willing to spend over Rs 50,000 on a trip.
Total outbound spending will cross the $28 billion mark in 2020.
India has 28 million passport holders, all of whom are potential travellers.
By 2030, the value of India’s business travel market is expected to reach $93 billion.
When travelling abroad, Indian tourists are among the world’s highest-spending globetrotters. Their spending power has been estimated to be four times that of the Chinese and Japanese.
The average Indian traveller spends $1,200 per visit as compared with Americans who spend about $700, and Brits who spend $500.
These are compelling statistics, so if you haven’t been targeting Indian tourists so far, perhaps it’s time to do it now. To learn what Indians want from their travel experiences, keep reading.
What Are Indian Travellers Looking For?
The top rated reason Indian travellers take a vacation is to rejuvenate, followed closely by spending quality time with family and taking time away from city life.
40 per cent of all outbound trips by Indians are for business purposes, leisure, visiting friends and relatives (VFR) and others account for 20 per cent.
City tours and shopping are the most preferred activities across domestic and international locations. Three in four travellers exploring new destinations and over 60% of honeymooners, too, chose city tours as their most preferred activity.
Adventure travellers ranked water sports as a favourite, with a large share picking water sports and scuba diving.
Indians said they liked to buy food and drink items at airports. While designer clothes and jewellery are a close second for women, male travellers said they liked buying perfumes or colognes from airport stores.
Over half give high priority to the availability of restaurants and cafes when picking a new destination to visit.
Festivals are new travel days with the most popular travel weekends being Maha Shivratri, Holika Dahan and Good Friday.
While the preferred choice of accommodation remained budget hotels, Indians want to spend more on experiences and exploration of the destination as well as shopping, food, and drink.
Tip: Indians are price-conscious when it comes to accommodation, but will spend on shopping and food. Plan your tours to cater to these preferences. Plan your marketing campaigns around festivals and major holidays, like Diwali.
More Indians Are Travelling Sustainably
Surprise, surprise! Indians are some of the most mindful and environmentally conscious travellers out there. (yes, I’m surprised, too)
There are always exceptions, and to visit India would make it seem like we’re not the most civic-minded people in our own country. But the facts below can’t be denied.
Around 97 per cent of Indian travellers want to travel sustainably in 2018 with 88 per cent of them willing to pay a premium.
While 73 per cent of current Indian travellers always or often opt for sustainable travel, around 32 per cent are willing to pay at least 15 per cent more to ensure as low an impact on the environment as possible.
The sustainable activities most enjoyed by Indians during vacations are buying locally made products instead of mass-produced tourist souvenirs, using public transport instead of a taxi and to find a local restaurant that only uses local ingredients.
Indians also like skipping tourist highlights in favour of less busy and often more rewarding sights and opt for a place to stay that is a certified eco-accommodation over a traditional hotel
Most Indians were motivated by impressive natural sights, including rainforests, coral reefs, among others.
About 72 per cent also felt motivated by the positive effect sustainable tourism had on local people.
Tip: Include more eco-friendly options in your tour packages. Eco-lodges and homestays are a great option for the price-conscious Indian traveller, especially those that give back to the community. Avoid elephant rides and cruel animal attractions, and promote sustainable practices. For example, providing reusable water bottles with your logo is a cheap way to promote sustainability and get free branding to boot.
Indians Are Family Travellers
Indians are the most family-oriented globally and prefer destinations that offer fun activities for all.
Sixty-four per cent of Indians feel the availability of family fun activities are the most important factor when choosing a holiday destination
Visits to amusement parks and boat rides are high on priority among international travellers.
Tip: As an Indian, I know that many Indian couples like to travel with parents and kids in tow. Provide a multi-generational experience and include activities (not necessarily together) that are enjoyable for seniors as well as youngsters, and your tours will be a favourite with Indian travellers.
What Are Indian Travellers’ Favourite Destinations?
Indians love to explore places of historical and cultural significance. They also love to shop and eat out.
When deciding on a destination for holiday, Indian travellers cited scenic beauty, convenient place to travel to, and affordability as their top factors.
Travellers from India also said they will choose destinations based on historical landmarks and great shopping choices.
Up to 97% of Indian respondents said they’d travel within the country for their spiritual needs.
Beaches and hills topped the list, catching the fancy of approximately a third of all vacationers.
Beach destinations like Goa, Mumbai, Port Blair and Kochi are a popular option for weekend getaways.
Goa, Delhi and Kerala were the most popular domestic destinations among Indian travellers.
Globally, Indian travellers are most likely to travel to Dubai, Thailand and Singapore.
Singapore, Dubai and Bangkok are ranked as the three most popular international destinations for weekend getaways in 2018.
Four in 10 were most likely to choose foreign destinations for their honeymoons.
Four out of the top five destinations for honeymooners were countries in southeast Asia, with Indonesia leading the pack.
Europe commands an estimated market share of about 20 per cent of all Indian outbound departures.
24 per cent of Indian holiday-makers picked Paris as the top dream destination in Europe followed by London.
While 41 per cent picked Oxford Street as the top shopping destination in London, 30 per cent said they would go for malls for discounted luxury goods.
Tip: Make sure your tour options include restaurants that serve vegetarian or vegan food since many Indians do not eat meat.
How Do Domestic Tourists Get Around?
The bus is the most common mode of transport for India’s domestic tourists. This is true in both rural and urban areas. It accounts for 33.5% of travel in urban areas and 49.9% in rural areas.
Trains and hired transport are the two other major modes of transport in both areas.
Air travel is limited to 1.9% for urban and 0.1% for rural travel.
Tip: I don’t see this changing anytime soon since paying airfare for an entire family can cost a small fortune. However, Indians love a discount or two. They also love perks, like upgrades to business travel. Throw in some freebies and you might get more to take the bait.
Indian Travellers & Timeshares
Indians are warming up towards timeshares.
Timeshare owners are typically married 45 to 65-year olds. They have kids who are more than 6 years.
They generally have their own business, have a monthly income of more than Rs 76,000 to more than 1 lakh.
They start planning almost 1- 4 months in advance and prefer going on group tours.
Tip: As a single mom, I’ve been staying in timeshares for almost all of my kid’s childhood. They’re family-friendly and provide safe accommodation for single moms travelling solo or with kids. They also provide free, in-house entertainment options that parents like me love. Consider these demographics when you promote your timeshare offering.