Category Archives: Travel Blog

Kashmir’s Martand Sun Temple: Intriguing Ruins Of A Lost Dynasty

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.

The kids roaming in the ancient ruins

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.

Greek style pillars line the smaller shrines surrounding the courtyard

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.

Primary Sanctum of Martand Sun Temple Kashmir

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.

Hindu god and goddess carved into the walls

Many other carvings, like this one depicting a lone musician playing the flute, can be found among them.

Musician playing the flute

In a straight line from the central shrine, was a carving of what looked like a flower, but is more likely the sun.

Carving of the sun in the floor of the temple

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.

Shivling in the temple grounds

There are some more fascinating relics of the ancient civilization that built the temple, like this motif displaying the ancient Śāradā script.

Motif displaying the ancient Sarada 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.

How To Reach The Martand Sun Temple?

The best way to go here is to hire a taxi from Srinagar or Anantnag. On the way, you can visit a few other sights like the Kokernag Botanical Gardens and the Verinag Springs.

Watch the video below for more photos of our visit to Kashmir’s Martand Sun Temple.

Also, read:

Nepal Adventure Tour Packages: 9 Things To Do Near Kathmandu

At the Himalayan Travel Mart 2018, inspiring mountaineers like Tashi Tenzing Sherpa, grandson of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, and adventurer, Adrian Hayes, shared their experiences of climbing Everest and many other peaks. They also offered recommendations for sustainable adventure tourism in Nepal.

Although I went to Kathmandu on a FAM tour that had to do more with Nepal’s architecture destinations and didn’t involve any trekking or adventure tourism activities, most people go to Nepal with the express intention of experiencing one or more of the activities below.

Had I been younger or more sprightly, I might have opted for a more adventurous tour. If you’re looking for adventure tour packages in Nepal that you can do near or from Kathmandu, check out the links below.

1. Bungee jumping from 160 metres near Kathmandu

This trip will take you 4 hours outside Kathmandu and just 19 km away from the Tibetan border. You’ll jump 160 metres off Nepal’s only privately owned bridge to the longest free-fall in the world.

This steel suspension bridge is specially designed for bungee jumping with a 4x-safety factor and has a loading factor of 41,500 kg or 4.5 tons according to Swiss measurements. The bridge is situated above a tropical gorge with the Bhote Kosi, one of Nepal’s wildest rivers raging below.

Click here to book the bungee jumping package

2. Canyon Swing from 160 metres near Kathmandu

Opt for a Canyon Swing if you want twice as much free fall from the same location as the bungee jump above. You’ll be fitted with a chest harness, attached to their twin rope swinging system.

Cables attach you to the pivot point of a pendulum-like system and you swing at its end for a total of about 12 seconds. What a great rush!

After your Canyon Swing, you can retire to the Karmabar site, and bond with other swingers over a glass of beer and some daal and bhat (rice and lentil soup) for lunch. You can also enjoy the resort’s sauna treatments at an additional cost.

Click here to book the Canyon Swing package

3. Overnight canyoning excursion near Kathmandu

The Last Resort offers excellent opportunities for canyoning adventures away from the crowds. The resort is located amidst sprawling terraced gardens, surrounded by a dense jungle and pristine forest, and suspended in isolation on a high cliff top gorge, above the Bhote Kosi River.

This spectacular location is also the ideal place to be based for canyoning adventures from the end of February to the end of May in spring and the first of September to end of December in autumn.

With some of the world’s most beautiful canyons right on the doorstep, the canyon you’ll explore will depend on the weather conditions, water levels and the skill level of the group.

Click here to book your canyoning excursion

4. Rafting down Bhote Kosi, Kosh River in Nepal

Experience some of the most exciting rafting, kayaking and canyoning adventures in Nepal on the Bhote Kosi River. The scenic drive to the rafting spot will bring you into view of Himalayan Mountain ranges such as Langtang, and Dorje Lakpa.

This rafting excursion is quite possibly one of the best short whitewater outings offered anywhere in the world and is an ideal outing for those looking for short whitewater escapade.

Click here to book your rafting excursion in Nepal

5. Poon Hill sunrise trek from Kathmandu

The Ghorepani Poon Hill trek is the perfect family trek in the Himalayas. A laid-back but intense, 12-day trip, it doesn’t require extreme fitness levels. Kids and even seniors will be able to enjoy it.

You’ll experience the superb Himalayan scenery of the Annapurna mountain range and pass through Gurung villages, rhododendron forests, and terraced fields in the mid-mountain region of west Nepal.

Click here to book your Poon Hill sunrise trek

6. Annapurna Base Camp trek from Kathmandu

Trekking up the Annapurna Base Camp, this 14-day Annapurna tour allows you to experience the lively culture of the Gurung and Thakali people and natural hot springs along the trail.

Annapurna Base Camp, or the Annapurna Sanctuary, is north of the Pokhara Valley. Experience beautiful landscapes, encounter amazing people and share their vibrant culture. Enjoy panoramic mountain views and blooming rhododendron forests along the way.

Click here to book your Annapurna Base Camp trek

7. Everest base camp trek from Kathmandu

The epitome of all trekking experiences, the Everest base camp trek attracts people from over the globe who want to experience the highest mountain in the world up close.

Spending your nights in mountain lodges called “tea houses”, you’ll pass by the Tengboche Monastery, Sherpa villages rich with culture, Buddhist chorten, and the famous Kala Patter, where climbers gear up for their final ascent to the summit.

Click here to book your Everest base camp trek

8. 14 day Kailash Yatra via Lhasa hike in Nepal

If you want to make the challenging Kailash Mansarovar Yatra pilgrimage to, the easiest way is via Lhasa. This amazing 14-day excursion lets you explore Tibetan culture and the most important Tibetan sites before reaching the sacred Lake Mansarovar and holy Mt. Kailash.

By Yasunori Koide – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

You’ll start by flying over Mt. Everest to reach Lhasa – an adventure in itself. You’ll start with a visit to the Pashupatinath Temple where you can pay homage to Lord Pashupatinath, an incarnation of Lord Shiva.

The next day, you’ll fly to Lhasa and visit the picturesque Barkhor market. After acclimatizing your body, a scenic drive will take you through several Tibetan cities until you reach Lake Mansarovar.

Click here to book your Kailash Yatra via Lhasa

9. 23 day Kailash Trek via Simikot Humla hike in Nepal

If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can opt for the 23-days long Kailash Trek via Simikot Humla. Considered sacred and the centre of the Universe by Hindus and Buddhists alike, the holy peak Mount Kailash (Kangrinpoche) is situated at the western part of Tibet.

After flights to Nepalgunj and Simikot, you’ll begin trekking, passing barren land, lush green valleys, snow-capped peaks and pristine blue lakes. The Mt. Kailash Kora starts at the village of Darchen which opens up at the base of the Kailash massif. The highlight of this Trek is the trekking route itself, which is about 54km.

Click here to book your 23-day Kailash Trek via Simikot Humla

Kathmandu, Bhaktapur And Panauti: My FAM Tour Of Nepal For #HTM2018

The lightning flashed and crackled outside the window. I was flying Nepal Airlines flight RA 202 into Kathmandu and we were caught in a thunderstorm.

A massive rain cloud was shooting forks of lighting as large and scary as Thor’s Mjolnir. It was an electrical party in the sky with the clouds all around us providing their own personal laser light show.

A lightning storm is an orchestra of electricity that I like to call “God’s Own Theatre,” and being in the middle of one, up in the air, is the closest I’ll ever come to having a religious experience.

It was exciting and scary all at once and I felt a twinge of disappointment when the pilot announced that the weather was clearing. The plane lurched and shook as we began our bumpy descent. The lights of Kathmandu twinkled below like diamonds strewn carelessly on a bolt of black velvet.

For me, the descent is the scariest part of the flight and I can’t relax till tire hits tarmac, the brakes come on and the flaps open up. Our crew had navigated us safely through a thunderstorm and I was grateful.

From the exhilarating flight into Kathmandu to the FAM Tour and the International Travel Bloggers & Media Conference (ITBMC), my hosted trip to Nepal to attend the Himalayan Travel Mart 2018 was an experience to cherish.

Here’s a photo I took from the plane of the moon rising above the tail of the plane. Like the song Bad Moon Rising, it did bring us plenty of lightning, but unlike the song, we survived and reached safely.

Like the song Bad Moon Rising, the moon brought us plenty of lightning

When I reached Kathmandu airport, I was welcomed by a bunch of the nicest young people – hotel management students who are part of the PATA Nepal Student Chapter.

They gave me the traditional Nepali welcome by placing a silk scarf around my shoulders. As we chatted, we found we had something in common – our love of Comic-Con and Marvel movies.

Nepal is very much like India

One of my big surprises was finding that Nepal is very much like India – from the language to the culture, and even the food. Nepali women are voracious consumers of Indian soap operas and Bollywood movies, so they can also understand and speak Hindi.

The Nepali language is not very hard for Indians to understand and the script is the same script we use (Devnagiri) so we can read it easily, even if we don’t understand all of it.

But one thing that shocked even me, an Indian, were these Medusa-like wires hanging over the streets of Kathmandu and Bhaktapur.

Medusa-like wires hanging over the streets of Kathmandu

For the life of me, I have never seen anything like this in India and I think the Nepal government needs to clean this up and put them underground as soon as possible if they want to be seen as a modern nation.

And while they’re at it, can they please clean up Kathmandu’s air pollution? It was quite disturbing to see so many people wearing face masks.

Staying at the Traditional Comfort Hotel in Kathmandu

PATA Nepal arranged for my fellow-delegates and me to stay in the Traditional Comfort Hotel in Kathmandu.

Buddha welcomes us at the entrance of the hotel
Newari design and wood carvings

The rooms were very comfortable and the Wifi was excellent. I loved the Newari designs and wood carvings in the lobby, a result of employing local artisans in the design and construction of the hotel.

Traditional Newari motifs decorate the pillars
Angled ankhi-jyaal windows that cast geometric shadows

The breakfast was pretty good too. I tried out some traditional beans from Lukla, a place in north-eastern Nepal.

Traditional beans from Lukla for breakfast

I also love it when a hotel employs responsible environmental practices like using glass bottles, instead of plastic bottles, to provide drinking water in the rooms.

I love it when a hotel uses glass bottles instead of plastic

A Whirlwind Tour Of Kathmandu And Bhaktapur’s Attractions

Over the next couple of days, we visited a few of Kathmandu’s many attractions – the Great Boudha Stupa, the Pashupatinath Temple, the Hanuman-Dhoka Durbar Square and Thamel, Kathmandu’s touristy shopping centre, along with our tour guides from PATA Nepal Chapter, Mr Badri Nepal and Ms Sushila Kumari Baral.

Uma Maheshwara temple
The Great Boudha Stupa

Mr Badri’s explanations of Nepal’s culture, religious ethos and community life left us spellbound. But my favourite part of the tour was watching and photographing the animals – pigeons, dogs, goats and monkeys – that live in the shrines.

Pigeons, Pigeons everywhere
Brownie Rinpoche catching flies
Cute spaniel in Bhaktapur Durbar square
Mountain goat precariously perched on a temple ledge

As an art lover, I also loved the colours and sophistication of the elaborate Tibetan Thangka paintings – Buddhist paintings on cotton, silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala.

Painters creating exquisite Tibetan Thangka paintings

We also visited Nepal’s cultural city, Bhaktapur, and Patan Durbar Square, a centre for fine arts. I could have spent all day photographing the exquisite wood carvings, idols and sculptures in Patan’s Tibetan Buddhist ‘Golden Temple’ (Hiranya Varna Mahavir).

Exquisite wood carvings in Patan’s Golden Temple
Deities in Patan Golden Temple

I really wish I could have spent more time taking photographs, but we were in a mixed group consisting of travel agents, travel writers and a videographer (who went off by himself to take videos), and every time I stopped to take photos, I would get left behind.

Buddhist ceremony in Patan Golden Temple
My fellow-travellers and me on our FAM Tour of Kathmandu

As a huge Marvel fan, I was also thrilled to discover that both, the Pashupatinath Temple and Patan Durbar Square were locations for shooting Kamar Taj in Marvel’s Dr Strange movie.

Kamar Taj from Dr Strange?

In 2015, Nepal was hit by the devastating Gorkha earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people and injured nearly 22,000. Many of its ancient temples and historical structures were damaged in this earthquake, some beyond repair.

Scenes of devastation in Kathmandu

Three years later, scenes like this one are still common and the country is slowly and painfully rebuilding and repairing many of these historical structures.

Rehabilitation of historical buildings in Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square

However, there are many that were undamaged or only lightly damaged and these are definitely worth exploring. I will post a detailed blog of our Kathmandu tour soon.

Our Community Homestay in Panauti Village

After our tour, we were scheduled to stay at a community homestay at Panauti Village, around 1.5 hours from Kathmandu. We were all welcomed at the Community Hall by a group of women in bright red sarees who greeted us with garlands and vermillion tikkas.

Being welcomed by the women Homestay owners of Panauti

My German friend, Katrin and I opted to stay together at the Homestay of a lovely lady called Sabita, who has a house at the top of a small hillock. We found our accommodations very comfortable and our hostess was a wonderful cook.

Getting to know our hostess, Sabita and her daughter, Monika

Panauti, situated at the confluence of the two rivers Rosi and Punyamati, has been regarded as an important religious site since very early times.

The confluence of two rivers in Panauti

We visited the Indreshwar temple, one of the largest and tallest pagoda style temples in Nepal. It was originally built over a lingam in 1294, making it the oldest surviving temple of Nepal.

Indreshwar temple in Panauti
Some more scenes from Panauti museum and town

In the evening, after our tour of Panauti, splashing through the small village roads that had been turned into slush by the rains, we helped our hostess make aloo parathas for dinner.

Helping our hostess prepare aloo parathas for dinner

We also learned about her life and about CommunityHomestay.com, an organisation that is helping women in Nepal empower themselves by earning an income hosting travellers in their homes.

Read more: How Community Homestays Are Empowering Women In Nepal

The next day, on the way back to Kathmandu, the rains played havoc with our plans to visit the Namobuddha Monastery by turning the roads into a swamp. Afraid that our bus would get stuck in the mud, we turned back and returned to Kathmandu without seeing the shrine.

Road turned to slush on the way to Namobuddha Monastery

The same evening we were treated to an authentic Nepali Dinner Reception at the  Bhojan Griha restaurant, a 150-year-old heritage building which housed the late Royal Priest of the King of Nepal.

It was hosted by Mr Bharat Basnet, founder of The Explore Nepal group. We tried the local rice wine (potent stuff!) and the food was prepared from local organic sources grown on their own farm.

Nepali rice wine was served in these little cups

My favourite dish was a delicately-flavoured mushroom preparation whose name I didn’t get. Our food experience was enhanced by folk dances of Nepal performed vigorously by local dancers.

In the next few posts, I discuss the Himalayan Travel Mart 2018, that began the day after our hosted dinner. More detailed posts coming on Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Panauti, too. Subscribe to receive them in your inbox.
Also read:

5 Websites That Offer Free (And Discounted) Accommodation For Travellers

From completely free stay options to home-sharing and discounted hotel accommodations, this list of websites will help you save on your accommodation when you travel the globe.

Accommodation is one of the most expensive purchases for travellers. And despite the fact that I love Booking.com’s ease of use and easy cancellation options, their hotels’ stays can cost you a pretty penny.

Just like you, I’m always looking for ways I can save on my stay, so I have more money to spend on sightseeing and activities in the places I’m visiting.

In this article, I’ve listed 5 ways to save on your accommodation – and even stay free – when you travel the globe.

Here they are, starting from completely free stay options to home-sharing and discounted hotel accommodations.

1. Homestays, Guest Houses & Apartments

Homestays are definitely cheaper than hotel accommodation and you can stay with a local host family in over 160 countries. If you love authenticity in travel, homestays can help you discover rustic, authentic and unspoiled gems.

You get to do what the locals do, eat where they eat and experience the realness of the place you’re visiting. You can also save money by staying in the best guest houses in your favourite locations. And if you’re looking for a home away from home, you can also choose the apartment that’s right for you.

Besides being cheaper than hotel rooms, you can also get assistance and advice from the owners of the guest house or apartments to help you find your way around. Many of them can advise you on where to buy things cheaper, how to travel and the best tourist attractions to visit.

Click here to book a homestay.

Click here to book a guesthouse.

Click here to book an apartment.

2. Wanderful (Women-Only)

As a Chapter Organiser of Wanderful Pune, I just love this identity-verified home sharing community exclusively for women travellers looking for a safe place to rest their head.

Members can rent private rooms to one another for a fee, or just take each other out for a cup of coffee or provide a friendly face at the airport. Right now Wanderful is just in 20+ cities around the world, but are rapidly adding new members and chapters.

Each member (both the hostess and the guest) completes a two-step identity verification process and may opt for a background check for enhanced safety.

Wanderful is committed to trust and security and goes beyond home sharing to create a collaborative and inclusive community of women of all ages and backgrounds who help one another travel the world.

Wanderful Chapters connect locals and travellers together over brunches, workshops, day trips, and events like the Women in Travel Summit (WITS) and Wanderfest, to build positive connections and lasting friendships.

Signup on Wanderful here and join the women-only Facebook groups for India and Pune below.

3. BeWelcome

BeWelcome is a hospitality exchange network. Most members of BeWelcome offer hospitality to travellers and/or can show them around. Every member of the network has a profile. Members can search for other members at their travel destination, check out their profiles and send them a message.

Joining and being a member of BeWelcome is free of charge but you must be over 18 years old. The open-source website is run by BeVolunteer, a non-profit organisation of volunteers who created BeWelcome to promote “friendship and better understanding across boundaries.” They are not-for-profit, open-source, and exclusively run by members in a transparent and democratic way.

BeWelcome is a great way to meet friendly and like-minded people from all over the world. This website is also a significant resource for travel information and provides many tools that can help you to plan your next trip or document a previous journey. Read their FAQs to learn more.

4. Airbnb

Airbnb really needs no introduction. As one of the pioneers of the sharing economy, it allowed homeowners to rent out their homes by the night, to travellers weary of paying for expensive hotel stays.

Not only do these options cost less for travellers and digital nomads who might want to spend an entire month in a certain location, but the website allows us to find and stay in homes that offer unique and exclusive experiences, ranging from a Seashell House in Casa Caracol to a Secluded Intown Treehouse in Atlanta.

5. Enjoy Housesitting with Pets? Check HouseCarers and TrustedHousesitters

If you love animals and enjoy spending your vacation taking care of someone else’s pets, house sitting may be the job for you.

Pets are far happier when staying at home than in a kennel and when they get someone like you to stay home and care for them, it’s a win-win situation.

You get to stay free in a new city or country, and the pet owners get to travel without having to pay for expensive pet boarding services. Of course, you must make sure their pets are well cared for or you won’t receive a good rating.

Here’s how to get started with House Carers:

  1. Register with House Carers.
  2. Subscribe to receive house-sit opportunities matching your desired locations and preferences.
  3. Get found in search results and get chosen to housesit.

House Carers will help you with tips and guides on how to land the house-sit and give yourself the best exposure on their website.

If you decide to use TrustedHousesitters, here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Join as a sitter or owner for an annual membership fee.
  2. Members swap-free accommodation for free pet care.
  3. Sitters stay for free & owners travel without worry.

As a veteran house sitter, Ryan Biddulph notes in the article here, “House sits pulled us to places like Cyprus and Qatar; countries we’d never think to visit until sitting jobs popped up in these areas. Sitting is rent-free living contingent on caring for pets and keeping homes tidy. Easy peasy and the ultimate travel hack for me and my wife, for experiencing exotic spots.”

House Carers will help you with tips and guides on how to land the house-sit and give yourself the best exposure on their website. If you find the idea of house sitting interesting, consider buying Ryan’s book, How to Land the Best House Sits Easily.

Please note: We have not included Couchsurfing.com in these options because we do not feel it is a safe option for women travellers, especially in light of the incident here and the many controversies around its functioning.

16 Must-Watch Travel Movies That’ll Inspire You To Plan Your Next Trip

Movies are like the first rains. They touch your consciousness and awaken a yearning to travel to places unexplored by senses other than your eyes. A movie is a window to some place where you could be, or you should be.

Some make you laugh, some make you weep and some make you question your existence. And some infect you with the travel bug, considered a dangerous entity to the mundane. A magic so potent, that you will be compelled to satiate it.

The travel bug is a demanding and uncomfortable creature. It ships you firmly out of your comfort zone. You could be chilling at home watching the very movies that inspire you, but something compels you to go step out and even forgo luxuries if you must.

In the end, it’s worth it to gain the memories of these slices of life where you immerse yourself in the essence of a place foreign to you.

I am often asked why I watch movies that resemble nothing in real life. That’s because movies are a very compelling medium. And I think they deserve this unreserved attention considering the effort and resourcefulness employed in recreating a fantasy world for us.

To this effect, I want to share this list of movies that inspire me to plan my next trip.

  1. Into The Wild

This movie follows the trail of Christopher McCandless on his soul-searching journey into the wild. Desperate to avoid the pitfalls of civilization, he leaves his family behind to make life meaningful. Destiny whisks him away to different places for adventures and meeting new people.

The locations and cinematography leave the viewer spellbound and with the irresistible urge to travel around the world and discovering new places. He finally sets up base at Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve for a while and lives in an abandoned bus, which he dubs ‘The Magic Bus’.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mwx3RvDWvDM

Ultimately, Chris McCandless perished in Alaska, unable to survive the deprivations that wild living entails, but his vision and journey will forever remain an inspiration for those of us yearning for a life beyond the attractions of materialistic living.

  1. The Secret Life Of Water Mitty

 Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), a negative assets manager of Life magazine, finds himself on a sudden trip when he realized the negative 25 is missing from the bunch of negatives sent by photojournalist Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn).

In an effort to locate Sean, Walter follows the clues in the negatives that he did have. After a series of mishaps and misses that take him to stunning locations, like for Yemen and Greenland, he finds Sean O’Connell in the Himalayas in Afghanistan, although the actual filming happened in Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland.

One of the most memorable scenes is when Walter imagines Kristen Wiig singing Space Oddity to him in a little bar just before he jumps into the helicopter in Greenland.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oQO-kGU2lA

Breathtaking and profound,  Mitty’s journey is an unforgettable tale that keeps the viewers enticed till the very end.

  1. Wild

 Healing, love, self-discovery, loss and survival are the main themes in this movie based on the book by Cheryl Strayed. Armed just with her determination, Cheryl decides to go on a hiking trip to discover herself after her drug addiction and cheating destroyed her marriage with Paul.

Along the way, Cheryl pays the price of her inexperience but is lucky enough to meet people who help her get on track. From the hot sands of the Mojave Desert to the soft snows of Northern California, Cheryl stumbles along her path to a destination she does not know.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tn2-GSqPyl0

The people she meets help her take the steps to heal from the grief of her mother’s death. It’s an inspiring tale, especially for solo travellers who want to plunge into an adventure. The charm of places in solitary times, as well as the beauty of meeting kind strangers, is what makes this movie so special.

  1. The Big Year

A 2011 American comedy film starring Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson, The Big Year was based on the nonfiction book The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession by journalist Mark Obmascik.

It followed three men on a quest for a Big Year – a competition among birders to see who can see and identify the greatest number of species of birds in North America in a calendar year.

The film uses more or less same premise and entertains us with its unusual setting and the unique comedic talents of each of these actors. You’re taken on a wild ride through some of the most stunning locations in North America.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCBAP2wId5M

Their personal journeys are equally poignant and memorable. Exciting and extremely funny at times, this is a movie that will make you want to pack your bags and take your binoculars along.

  1. The Bucket List

This is a story that touches your heart. Thespians, Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, play a mechanic who wanted to be a historian and an introverted healthcare tycoon, slated to die of cancer.

They meet in a hospital room owned by Nicholson and decide to go on an adventure around the world to cross off items on their bucket list, as they discover life anew and deal with issues long buried.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vc3mkG21ob4

Their camaraderie is fun to watch and, of course, the two protagonists are a treat to watch. You’ll be inspired for places to visit and experiences to be had.

  1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Were you absolutely charmed by the stunning locations of the movie adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey? Hobbiton, New Zealand gives life to Tolkien’s splendid visions.

The hobbits are a merry and simple folk that live in homes burrowed into hills. The countryside is an amazingly idyllic paradise.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAQo84A7Hkc

Interestingly, Hobbiton was once a marshland that was manually transformed into a field. Now it gives life to fertile imaginations. This trip over a land of 5.5 hectares, lasting for the duration of two hours, must be booked in advance.

  1. Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings mesmerizes with its beauty and grace. Among all the wonderful lands described in Middle Earth, it is Lothlorien that has my heart. This beautiful gorgeous beech forest was shot in Glenorchy, New Zealand on the road to Paradise.

A lovely lake and river add to the charm of the greenery and lovely beech forests. In fact, when you’re at Glenorchy, the grass is always greener on your side!

In the movies, Lothlorien is the realm of Elf royalty Galadriel and Celeborn. The Fellowship of the Ring was given refuge in this little pocket of paradise until they were ready to return to the real world to fight the dark forces.

It’s also the place where Aragorn met Arwen, an elven princess, and eventually pledged his love for her. Lothlorien is a happy place with unsurpassed beauty and the heart yearns to feel as Aragorn and company did.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3TglKQnl3Q

Fan or not, Glenorchy definitely transports you to a beautiful, mystical realm and must not be missed. Travelling there would be music for your soul.

  1. Doctor Strange

This article would be incomplete without the charismatic presence of our favourite Time Traveler and genius incarnate, Doctor Steven Strange. The movie, Doctor Strange, has some of the best visuals I have seen.

The old-world, magical feel of the fictional Kamartaj is well translated to the big screen with gorgeous locations in Nepal. The Pashupatinath and Swayambunath temples are featured in the film lending their ancient personality to the vibe of the movie. Some streets from Kathmandu were even replicated in Longcross.

There is beauty and art involved in replication of such a place and it would be intriguing to view both in person. All of the locations in Doctor Strange so enchanted me that I was smitten. Methinks Doctor Strange is lucky to be able to visit places just by jumping through a window.

  1. Harry Potter

It’s been years since Harry Potter captivated us so and put a permanent charm on us. No matter how involved we are in our day-to-day lives, a part of us still remains at Hogwarts, groaning in potions class, hexing people in between classes and getting lost because of the moving staircases.

It’s a way of life now. The craze is unbelievable and this sun does not seem to be setting any time soon. It was inevitable that places which cater to this culture would pop up.

The most fascinating of them all is the LARP, the College of Wizardry in Czocha, Poland, based on Harry Potter and is the closest thing you’ll get to being a witch or a wizard. LARP stands for Live Action Role Playing.

LARP is a wonderful thing that lets you step into the shoes of your favourite character and live out their fantasy lives. Apart from LARP, it’s a dream to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Studios in Los Angeles.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfjuBaWTLO4

Just imagine entering the Great Hall with the floating candles, or going up to the top of the Astronomy Tower or even visiting Hogsmeade. It’s hard not to pack my bags already!

  1. Dil Chahta Hai

This list would not be complete without some of my favourite Bollywood movies. Dil Chahta Hai (What The Heart Wants) is a coming of age movie about three friends who think they are inseparable.

Fate has different plans for them, however, and ends up taking them down different roads where they are nudged to find meaning for themselves and discover what is important.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m13b25V0B10

The solid camaraderie between the friends is infectious and their obvious zest for life and adventure instil the same spirit in you. It’s a cute, contemporary love story that is beautifully set in scenic locations in Goa and Australia and it’s a trip you will definitely want to take with your friends.

  1. Queen

Queen is an inspirational story about a jilted bride, ably played by Kangana Ranaut, who decides to go on her honeymoon alone. Initially shy and terrified, her indomitable spirit gets a chance to bloom and we see her living it up with new found friends.

Queen was an unusual movie, especially in a conservative country like India, and refreshingly different in that it doesn’t glorify marriage as the be all and end all of a woman’s existence.

This movie makes me want to travel because of that same spirit. Solo travel, especially for women, is a daunting task, no matter how much it is romanticized, and her courage makes one want to venture out and grab every chance to enjoy life instead of waiting around for that perfect mate.

  1. Eat Pray Love

You’ll either love or hate this movie, but it won’t leave you unmoved. Based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, the 2010 movie is an American biographical romantic comedy-drama film starring Julia Roberts. Though panned critically, it was a financial success.

An unhappy, lost, newly-divorced woman, Gilbert steps out of her comfort zone, to embark on a journey that changes her life and takes her on a voyage of self-discovery. During her travels in Italy, Bali and India, she discovers the true pleasure of nourishment, the power of prayer, and the inner peace and balance of true love.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0OizK9JmkM

Although she may be someone with first-world problems, Liz Gilbert’s protagonist struck a chord in many young women who proceeded to go on their own Eat, Pray, Love journeys to travel the world and find themselves in the process.

  1. The Beach

The Beach is a 2000 English-language drama film based on the novel of the same. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tilda Swinton and Robert Carlyle and was filmed at the gorgeous Maya Beach, on the Thai island of Koh Phi Phi Leh.

It tells the story of a young American man seeking adventure in Bangkok, who comes across a map that leads to an isolated and hidden beach and lagoon. When Richard and a couple of friends he picks up along the way finally reach the Beach, they discover a hippie commune on the island, living in supposed bliss.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXpLVlJLHp8

But everything is not as it seems and soon more sinister aspects of island life come to light. In real life, too, the popularity of Maya Beach, after it was made famous by The Beach movie, led to environmental damage caused by tourists.

It was finally closed to allow to allow the island’s battered coral reefs and sea life to recover from the effects of mass tourism. More than three-quarters of Thailand’s coral reefs had been damaged by rising sea temperatures and unchecked tourism.

  1. A Walk in the Woods

Starring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson, A Walk in the Woods is a 2015 American biographical comedy-drama film based on Bill Bryson’s memoir of the same name. Redford plays the author, Bryson, who, in his 60s decides to hike the Appalachian Trail and is joined by Stephen Katz (played by Nick Nolte).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOF2LIAp9bw

The movie is an entertaining and often hilarious account of their trip, along which they encounter much younger hikers, get into some sticky situations related to bears and jealous husbands, and learn to accept their limitations.

  1. The Motorcycle Diaries

Starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Rodrigo de la Serna, this road movie chronicles the motorcycle road trip that 23-year-old Ernesto “Che” Guevara and his friend, Alberto Granado, went on in their youth.

With a highly romantic sense of adventure, the two friends leave their familiar surroundings in Buenos Aires on ‘The Mighty One’ — a rickety 1939 Norton 500. Although the bike breaks down in the course of the eight-month journey, they press onward, hitching rides along the way.

The film recounts their 1952 expedition, initially by motorcycle, across South America, where they witness, firsthand, the injustices that the destitute faced across the land.

As well as being a road movie, the film is a coming-of-age film, where Guevara finds himself transformed by his observations on the life of the impoverished indigenous peasantry.

This sowed in him, the seed of radicalization, and he went on to become internationally known as the iconic Marxist guerrilla commander and revolutionary, Che Guevara.

For the traveller, the movie brings the message, “Let the world change you, and you can change the world.”

  1. On the Road

Based on the generation-defining novel by Jack Kerouac, On the Road is an adventure drama film based on the years Kerouac spent travelling the United States in the late 1940s with his friend Neal Cassady and several other Beat Generation figures, including William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg.

It stars Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen, Garrett Hedlund and Kirsten Dunst, among others. In the movie, young writer Sal Paradise has his life shaken by the arrival of free-spirited Dean Moriarty and his girl, Marylou.

The two men spend intense nights of drinking, dreaming of another world, and forming a friendship that will take them on a trip across America. As they travel across the country, they encounter a mix of people who each impact their journey indelibly.

The movie is a visual treat thanks to Eric Gautier’s cinematography that made great use of superb and diverse locations like Quebec, Alberta, New Orleans, Montreal, San Francisco, Argentina and Chile.

Of course, there are many more movies which open up to many more worlds to choose your next excursion too. Are these movies in your list of favourites? We’d love to know about the movies that inspire you to travel. Do share them in the comments below.

21 Amazingly Useful Travel Websites We Can’t Do Without

This article lists 21 of the most useful travel websites that caught our discerning eye. Check out these useful websites for travel and plan your next trip.

The experiences of travellers have been thoroughly and extensively documented and are now easily available at the click of a button. Blogs, vlogs, websites, magazines are but a few of the ways through which the information may be accessed.

You name what you need and it’s probably already waiting to be found in the alleys of this virtual labyrinth. We are just here to point the way to the myriad shortcuts that are available to you.

This article lists websites that caught our discerning eye for various factors like usefulness, user-friendly interface and authenticity. Discover what tools are available to make your trip perfect.

1. Google Flights

No matter your destination, Google Flights helps you buy flights within your budget. The website makes it easy to compare multiple airfares and pick the one best suited to your needs.

Google Flights can help you find small local airlines that will ferry you to your destination much more cheaply than big carriers. You can also compare rates for other airports nearby and find cheaper flights. You can also monitor the lowest price for your trip, and receive price alerts and travel tips by email.

A simple and functional design with no frou-fra, Google Flights is efficient in finding itineraries, competitive prices, maps, calendars and more according to your needs. Set alerts to track your flights so you can buy when prices are at their lowest and you’ll save a lot more than you expected.

For more Google flights hacks, check out these posts on CNtraveler and Upgraded Points.

2. XECurrency Converter

If you aren’t a finance wizard, you may need help to ferret out reliable information about currency and exchange rates. XE.com simplifies the information for your understanding and offers you appropriate tools to calculate travel expenses, credit card charges etc.

3. Booking.com

You’ve chosen your destination and booked your tickets, but to make your trip hassle-free, it is preferable to arrange for accommodations that suit your requirements. Booking.com does just that.

One of the best things about Booking.com is that it allows free cancellations on many of the booking options. And if you’re willing to confirm your booking, you might just end up saving more.

As a Genius Rewards member, you can get an extra 10% off at thousands of popular properties worldwide. Just look for the Genius logo when you search. Geniuses also get free travel perks such as late check-out and free airport shuttle.

4. WorldNomads.com

Unexpected cancellations, lost baggage or travel mishaps can throw a spanner in your plans and result in considerable discomfort and loss. Health emergencies can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses abroad.

WorldNomads offers a way to circumvent the effects of being caught by surprise. They also come highly recommended by some of the best travel experts.

Backed by a suite of strong, secure, specialist travel insurers who provide you with comprehensive cover, 24-hour emergency assistance and the highest levels of support and claims management when you need it most. And their prices are some of the most competitive online.

5. momondo

Want to take off on an impromptu trip or follow the love of your life without obstacles to bar your way? Following your heart can sometimes be tough if luck is not by your side. momondo is a price comparison and travel inspiration site comparing billions of cheap flights, hotels and car hire deals. They come highly recommended by CNN, The New York Times and Forbes.

They are not a travel agency and do not sell flight tickets. They are managed by KAYAK. Their latest travel tips, expert hacks and industry insights to help make your journey one to remember. With its clean, simple and user-friendly interface, you can navigate momondo easily. So don’t wait, just click and go.

6. Yapta.com

Yapta’s sole focus is to save our customers money. It is guided by technology experts and veterans of the travel management industry who know what it’s like to balance travel budgets, wondering whether it’s better to book now or wait and see.

To find the greatest savings, they developed FareIQ™ and RoomIQ™ Intelligent Price Tracking™ services for corporate travel and Yapta price tracking technology for personal travel.

Airfares are dynamic and ever-changing as dictated by the market and some airlines are thoughtful enough to give you a refund if the price drops. If the price of your flight drops below what you paid, Yapta helps you get a refund for the difference.

It does this by tracking the fares and walking you through the process of collecting your refund. All you have to do is enter your flight details at Yapta.com. Definitely a very useful little site, this one.

7. Priceline

The perfect deal awaits you at priceline.com. Go crazy with the fabulous discounts on hotels, cars, flights, packages and cruises. Pick and choose what suits you best because here you will be spoilt for options.

You can even name your own price for flights and car rentals. Once you specify the details, your price can be negotiated down to a whopping 60 %.

8. Roomer & Cancelon

Even the best-laid plans go awry and you may find yourself with a flight/hotel/cruise/car rental booking that you cannot use. Luckily there are other people looking for a ticket and there are sites that connect you to them.

Cancelon and Roomer are two reliable ones that help you in your quest. With their aid, you can find a buyer at a slightly lesser price than what you paid

  1. Tip: Set your price below 20% of what you paid and you’re good to go. While Roomer will switch the reservation to the buyer’s name, Cancelon requires you to do it yourself. 

9. TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor hosts crowdsourced reviews on various hotels around the world. Reviews by the millions are available to help you choose your accommodation according to the kind of trip you intend to take.

A host of options are available for business trips, pleasure trips, family trips, luxury and more. Professional and amateur travellers have pooled in their experiences to create a safe path for the people who follow.

Tip: Filter the results with keywords and focus on the reviews with mid-ratings as they are likely to be more authentic.

10. Homestay.com

Would you like to stay with real people and families, and experience the local community and culture of the place you’re visiting? Homestay.com features hosts that are real people, sharing their homes, offering guests a unique window into life in a new place and earning much needed extra income.

At the core of the homestay experience is the host being present to welcome the guest into their home. Before allowing you into their home, the hosts can get to know you using the website’s messaging system and video call feature to ask more questions.

Hosts are required to offer a light breakfast to guests such as cereals, pastries, tea/coffee, juice. Even if they don’t serve it themselves, they can just let you know where everything is.

11. HomeExchange.com

HomeExchange.com allows home swapping here you can actually trade places with fellow adventurers.

It covers 65,000 active exchange members in 150 countries swapping primary and secondary homes, apartments, rental properties, timeshares, B&B and hotel guest rooms, yachts, houseboats, cottages, tree houses…. really, anywhere you can sleep. Members even swap cars.

12. Airbnb

Feel like a home away from home? Thanks to the sharing economy, sites like Airbnb.com offers a rather delightful service that allows hosts and superhosts to list their homes as possible accommodations for travellers.

There are many people who prefer the appeal of a home, and the conveniences of being able to do your own laundry and cooking, to the impersonal aura of a hotel.

Travellers can look up the available amenities and reviews of people who have stayed before to make their choice. For families travelling together, this is a better option than booking a number of hotel rooms or suites.

13. BeWelcome

BeWelcome is a hospitality exchange network. Most members of BeWelcome offer hospitality to travellers and/or can show them around. Every member of the network has a profile. Members can search for other members at their travel destination, check out their profiles and send them a message.

Joining and being a member of BeWelcome is free of charge but you must be over 18 years old. The open-source website is run by BeVolunteer, a non-profit organisation of volunteers who created BeWelcome to promote “friendship and better understanding across boundaries.” They are not-for-profit, open-source, and exclusively run by members in a transparent and democratic way.

BeWelcome is a great way to meet friendly and like-minded people from all over the world. This website is also a significant resource for travel information and provides many tools that can help you to plan your next trip or document a previous journey. Read their FAQs to learn more.

14. TurboPass.com

Want to save money on sightseeing? Instead of spending a fortune on tickets and entry passes for separate attractions, get the day pass for more than 60 museums and attractions, including metro.

Get an all-inclusive sightseeing pass to experience Paris, Berlin and many other cities. See more and spend less at 60+ top attractions and museums, skip the lines, and travel for free on public transport.

15. Cruisecompete.com

A smooth-sailing cruise is not an impossible dream even if you think you’re anchored by your budget. Cruises can be magical experiences or not depending on the ship you choose. CruiseCompete.com is a free, anonymous way for cruisers all over the world to get the best cruise deal.

For the people drenched in wanderlust, Cruisecompete.com does not let high prices dampen your enthusiasm. A plethora of deals, offers and services just await you. And what’s more, your personal information remains quite secure with no one the wiser about your identity.

In just a few moments, you can create your account and request quotes. Independent travel agents will respond with their best cruise values. You can enlist the help of live agents from more than 300 travel agencies to guide you through the booking processes via chat or phone calls. Bon Voyage!

16. Hotwire 

Get the lowdown on the hottest deals in car rentals in town or whichever town you plan to visit. Hotwire has eight rental car company partners that are at your service to provide you with that sweet ride that will make your trip perfect.

You can also avail of ‘hot rates’ from companies that won’t be identified until you make your payment. But what’s life without a little mystery right? Especially, since the risk here is minimal. The website is easy to use and a tremendous boon for travellers.

17. Eurail

For the European trippers, Eurail is your Gandalf when you need to check timetables and book tickets. The easy-to-use interface is a point in its favour apart from the awesome offers and promotions.

Rail passes, exclusive benefits and the works are available for travellers who choose to book through Eurail. Come to think of it, Raj and Simran might just have had an easier time of it if only they could have referred to this app.

18. FlightStats 

Even with the best airlines, your trip could be less than perfect simply because of factors like weather conditions. Flightstats.com gives you an advantage by giving you close to accurate information on the best times to catch a flight depending on the destination and other factors like weather, airline etc.

Also, find out which terminals to avoid connecting flights. Furthermore, the site keeps you updated with flight delays and phone alerts.

19. Tripplo

Are you looking for travel deals and travel discount codes? Then you should definitely visit Tripplo.com. This website lists discount codes and offers from some of the most popular online travel agencies, hotel booking websites and airlines, but also from online stores selling travel gear and guide books. Tripplo.com has a really good travel blog with great travel tips, travel information and interesting travel statistics.

20. AwardWallet

AwardWallet is a one-of-a-kind service that helps you track all of your loyalty points including frequent flier miles, hotel points, dining rewards, and shopping rewards.

If there is a loyalty program that offers you incentive points, they will help you track your points. Best of all, they alert you when your balances change and before points expire.

21. Epassportphoto

Lost your passport or need a passport photo in a pinch? Save yourself the hassle of going to a photo studio to get a passport-sized photo. Instead, you can upload a picture from your digital camera and get it appropriately sized on the Epassportphoto website, after which you can use your printer to get copies.

You can save time, energy and money because this service is available just for $1 whereas a professional photo can cost you up to $15.

11 Of Our Favourite Indian Travel Blogs To Get Your Wanderlust On

Imagine your office space to be on a beach, watching the azure blue waves lap up to the shore. The breeze carries a hint of salt in it and water sprays on to your face.

It could also be on top of a hill with rolling greens for miles around, birds providing the live music for your entertainment. This isn’t heaven but it surely comes close to the person who has a wanderer’s spirit.

In this age of awakening, people are ditching the idea of a 9 to 5 (or 9 to 12) job imprisoned in a cubicle, staring at a screen and doing something that does nothing for the soul. They’re embracing their calling and they’re doing it smart.

We’ve been raised up to the ‘work hard and get rewards’ ideology which is not relevant in contemporary times which calls for ‘work smart’. In a transitioning culture where you’re expected to earn good salaries but also be true to yourself, balance is hard to find.

Yet, travel blogging is one of the fields where such a utopia is possible. So let’s have a look at the people who have managed to achieve this. What’s their secret? Read on to know.

Be warned though, it is not all fun and games. Blogging requires a lot of hard work too. Among a plethora of wandering souls stricken with wanderlust, there were a few that stood out for their uniqueness and ability to transport readers to the places they visit. Here they are:

  1. The Shooting Star

Shivya Nath’s blog is a double helix of poignant discernments about life and her travails, two interconnected and parallel ribbons that give the reader a unique experience. Within these, you’ll find a world of information, history, answers and questions.

The Shooting Star is as much about people as it is about places. The posts are full of anecdotes, stories and observations that set this blog apart from the others. With a different perspective, your own experience takes on so many hues and tints.

It is said that no two people watch the same sunrise or sunset. Our perspectives are unique, subject to our own interpretations and I look forward to others taking inspiration and painting their own lovely pictures for us like Shivya does.

  1. Inditales

From the IT industry to become a travel blogger who is one of India’s best, Anuradha Goyal’s journey has been an exciting one.

Inditales is a colourful blog with the variety of experiences that have been beautifully presented. It’s a virtual bazaar of sorts where all kinds of experiences in different shapes and sizes clamour for your attention.

You get a unique glimpse into the numerous possibilities available to a traveller whether its international destinations, attractions closer to home, walking trails, stories, inspirations and much more. Immerse yourself in the colourful experience.

  1. The Wireless Wanderer

Many of us have the yearning to travel but the first step of the journey can be daunting. All sorts of thoughts plague your mind especially the expenses. Arnab Maity’s blog, The Wireless Wanderer, lets you know that the finances may not be as impossible as you might imagine.

There are many ways to travel on a budget if only you knew how! And while it may be scary, you need to let go of your inhibitions. He started the blog to keep his mother, a wanderer herself, updated on his whereabouts and his experiences (awwww). The posts are short and sweet, and well peppered with pictures. Always an enjoyable read.

  1. Miss Wanderlust

Mithila Mehta is a Formula One enthusiast and a wizard with words. Her blog reflects her travel experiences with hints of her own personality and thoughts shining through, making it such a compelling read.

She has so much to express in terms of the people she meets, lifestyles she experiences etc. Tons of stories are tucked into the different sections of the blog just waiting to enrich the reader.

It’s definitely a blog you’ll want to follow if you’re looking for unique insights into different places.

  1. The Wanderer

Want to know how to be an Instagram travel star? Follow Siddhartha Joshi’s story to find out how he gained a massive amount of followers organically.

Also get tips on taking good pictures and presentations that will help you in this quest as evident by Joshi’s own blog with its well-shot photos and crisp writing style.

What I love about this blog is that it gives you hidden insights about lesser known places. You get to see the bigger picture and enjoy a place in its entirety. This is another blog that you don’t want to miss if you love secrets!

  1. Travel With Lakshmi

It is easy to see why Lakshmi Sharath’s blog has won so much appreciation and many accolades. Her blog has been declared the best travel blog of the year by the Indibloggies.

Her writing style is what makes her blog such an engaging read. Rather than being just a collection of pretty words, her writing reaches out to you and indulges your senses, making you feel like you’re actually there.

It gives you a pretty good idea of what you can explore in any place. The blog includes handy tips for bloggers and travellers alike. Plenty of beautiful pictures accompany her pieces, making it a pleasant experience.

  1. India Backpack Motorbike

Like many others, Venkat Ganesh too left a comfortable job behind to realize his dream. His posts answer many questions that you may have and are especially helpful to those just beginning what could be a life-changing journey.

He gives you a good idea of what you can expect when you travel. An enthusiastic motorbike traveller, he offers backpacking advice and firmly advocates responsible travel.

  1. The Wandering Soul’s Wander Tales

The first thing that struck me when I came across this blog was the blue! So many different hues of blue! Adventurer Neelima’s talent in photography is evident in the gorgeous pictures. Since the topmost post was on a Monday, my immediate thought was that this gives a whole new meaning to Monday blues!

Imagine a world where Mondays were not the dreaded monster they are. Neelima is one of the lucky few who can wake up on a Monday morning and smile. Her writing is enchanting and a joy to read. Whether you’re a seasoned traveller, a beginner or you just enjoy experiencing travel online, this is not a blog you should miss!

  1. Supriya Sehgal

The thing I love about Supriya’s blog is that each post had something unique to offer. You could say, each post is like meeting a different person, full of quirks and idiosyncrasies that make a place more lively and interesting.

A guide to the lesser known places or quotes from the people she meets, every article employs a unique way to attract your attention.

Clearly, Supriya is a person with a good eye for detail which is reflected in her writing. The passion and determination are in plain evidence and inspires you to follow your own dreams.

  1. A Soul Window

A soul window is Abhinav Singh’s peek into the treasures the world has to offer. His story is similar to many of ours. A job that was unsatisfactory, suffocating and did the soul no favours.

It took a while for him to admit the truth to himself that he wasn’t like his peers at all. Abhinav’s posts are candid, holding nothing back as he lets us experience his adventures with simple words and pictures.

Since 2008 he has been listed several times as a top travel blogger. His passion and joy is infectious and soon you’ll wish you could have a travel blogging job too. But he cautions you, what worked for him might not work for everyone.

  1. Kunzum

Author, blogger and photographer extraordinaire, Ajay Jain’s life revolves around the intricacies of travel. A travel junkie, he constantly seeks out new routes to explore.

This Delhiite has been hopping all over the world in search of unique experiences and meeting new people. Ever since his first journey to the Kunzum La pass in the Himalayas, there’s been no looking back.

Through his portraits of the people he meets, he aims to show oneness across people of all cultures, colours and religion. This maverick also aims to bring forward #100greatjourneys on this planet by 2020.

Inspired yet? Leave your doubts behind and your travelling will be much lighter!

P.S. The blogs were not chosen in any order of preference because all of them are amazing in their own right. Each has been picked for something unique or creative that it offers or that quality that sticks with you and makes it memorable. Remember, if you plan to have your own blog, you must make it outstanding. It should possess a definable characteristic that keeps people coming back for more.

11 Famous Travel-Inspired Novels That Will Turn You Into An Explorer

If you stumbled upon this article, you’ve probably had your nose buried in a travelogue, your mind running helter-skelter to choose a place to visit. We have a different suggestion that may help you choose from this labyrinth of choices. Read a book!

Yes, I’m serious. Books create a yearning in us to be explorers and adventures. A book has the magical quality of making any place seem extra special. They can transform even the most ordinary-seeming place into a magical one. Or show you a beauty that has been long overlooked and is waiting to awaken to the touch of your regard.

Books inspire wanderlust in most of us who may be adventure-abhorring Bagginses, but also secretly possess the spirit of a Brandywine and are just awaiting Gandalf (150 points if you got the reference).

So put on Sophie’s boots and read on. Wait…what are Sophie’s boots, you ask? It is a reference to Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones;  a story about this young girl called Sophie Hatter who, on being cursed by a witch, turns into an old woman.

She finds herself in the castle of Wizard Howl and decides to appoint herself as the new house help. In due course, she finds a pair of boots. But these are no ordinary boots! These are magical and can cover a great distance with a single step and I’m talking about miles, perhaps even an entire city.

Don’t you wish you had such boots? Just imagine the possibilities. You would be able to visit any place you ever wanted. Exciting, isn’t it?

While those haven’t been invented yet, think of this blog as a pair of virtual magic boots that will take you to faraway places in an instant. You can be certain that books can add a dimension to your travels that enrich your experience many times over.

Ignite your wanderlust with our must-read list of famous travel-inspired novels, across different genres, that can transform a bookworm into a travel bug.

1. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

Dan Brown is known for placing his stories in different locations around the world. Mixed in with the lure of mythology, we’re transported back in time, superimposing images of histories past on to modern day monuments that stand testimony to them.

Imagine the plight of protagonists Robert Langdon and Vittoria as they deal with the death of her father and the conspiracy surrounding it.

Get immersed in the knowledge that comes cascading down on them, giving them clues to save their lives.

The richness of the treasures at the Vatican, the enchanting beauty of the Piazza Navona, the majesty of ancient monuments, are all more than capable of arousing an incurable wanderlust.

2. Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Heroes of Olympus, The Kane Chronicles and other works by the author are a fount of information on the various mythologies of the world.

An urban fantasy series, the books are an eclectic mix of old world mythology with modern renditions of the pantheon. The events take place in monuments around the world.

Delve into the worlds of Roman Architecture, Greek myths, Egyptian monuments along with the contemporary technology of the real world.

Visiting these places will never be the same once you’ve read the books. Each place will have a memory and a story attached to it and that makes it so much more poignant.

3. The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho

The Alchemist follows the travails of Santiago through the locales of Andalusia and onward to the Pyramids in search of treasure.

One of the most loved books in the world, Santiago’s journey has caught so many readers’ imaginations that they can’t help but harbour a desire to experience his expedition through their own eyes.

4. The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes by Jamyang Norbu

After Holmes’s assumed death from falling off a cliff, he finds his way to India and Tibet. Once more, he clashes with his nemesis in the unlikeliest of places.

His journey draws us in like a moth to a flame, drawing vivid pictures of the cold and remote beauty of Tibet and the quaint life of people in the Himalayas.

Your favourite detective was enchanted with the mystique of the mystics in Tibet, and if you have the courage for it, you can explore that mysticism too.

5. The Best Of Ruskin Bond

The Best of Ruskin Bond comprises a collection of much-loved stories know for their simplicity and poignancy. The stories are set in scenic and mountainous locations like Mussoorie, Rishikesh and Dehradun. The more famous touristy spots are left to the travel magazines.

Ruskin Bond takes you on a trip to little-known places in the Himalayan valleys of Mussoorie and Dehradun. These otherwise unnoticed locations are introduced to the reader in an endearing manner. The beautiful descriptions make you long to visit these places for yourself and lose yourself in their charm.

Ruskin Bond himself is often to be found at the Cambridge bookstore in Mussoorie, where he loves having conversations with fans. He is known to be extremely down-to-earth and humble so your trip will be rewarding in more ways than one.

6. Wings by Danielle Steele

Wings is my favourite Danielle Steele novel and I found myself perusing its pages more than once, or at least a hundred times.

Pat O’Malley prayed hard for a son who would be a pilot like him. However, the answer to his prayers was Cassie O’Malley with her natural instinct and talent for flying matched with sheer daredevilry.

From her humble beginnings to being America’s sweetheart and hero, her journey is fascinating and colourful.

The deserted field that was her father’s airstrip near Chicago to the glitz of California to an island with no escape, Cassie sees it all. The pleasure she feels at flying makes the reader want to be a passenger on her plane, if not fly to all the places she has been.

7. The Eleventh Commandment by Jeffrey Archer

Chief assassin, Connor FitzGerald, from a secret, off-the-record department of the CIA is set up to die so that CIA director, Helen Dexter, does not take the fall for ordering unsanctioned assassinations. The so-called mission takes FitzGerald to Russia, where he lands in jail.

He manages to escape with the help of a friend who tenders a deal with the Russian Mafia. Even after he’s free, he tries to complete his assignment as he is convinced that it was ordered by the President.

His struggle to get back to his family and protect them takes him hopping to diverse places around the globe. I was most fascinated by the chapters revolving around the Redskins and the Cooke stadium (now called the FedEx stadium).

While I’m not fundamentally a football fan, I found this place intriguing because of the events that take place here. It is a place steeped in history and emotion. For some reason, it has stuck in my mind all these years and I definitely want to visit it sometime.

8. Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Heidi is one of the classics that many of us grew up with. Right from the beginning, I fell in love with this picturesque tale for its colourful descriptions of life on the stunning Swiss Alps.

Heidi is a little girl who grows up with her recluse grandfather, tending two goats high in the mountains. She’s plucked from her beloved home by a twist of fate, which takes her to the city of Frankfurt. Despite the luxuries of a city, Heidi misses her home in the Alps. Who wouldn’t?

The gorgeous sunsets over the Schesaplana and Falknis, the greenery, the whispers of the fir tree, cries of the eagle and the riot of flowers are too beautiful to trade for buildings, roads of concrete and unforgiving housekeepers.

Heidi’s own innocent view of the world, love for goat cheese and her absolute zest for life are infectious and make the Swiss Alps a very attractive option for any wannabe explorer. In fact, there is a place called Heidiland in Eastern Switzerland based on the locations in the book. You can even follow a Heidi path to a Heidi hut! Can it get any more enchanting? I don’t think so.

9. Crossings by Danielle Steele

Set in the background of impending World War II, the ultra-luxurious ship Normandie sets sail from Washington DC to France. Liane De’Villiers accompanies her husband Armand, who is the French ambassador to the US.

On the trip, she befriends Nick Burnham, an American steel industrialist, and encounters his wicked wife Hillary. Isolated from land and ocean for miles, the atmosphere on a cruise shape takes on a different and enchanting hue.

We get a peek into this alternate realm of life aboard a cruise ship that makes you long to experience it for yourself.

10. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere is a fantasy novel by the inimitable Neil Gaiman. Personally, it is my favourite of all of his remarkably imaginative works. The novel follows Richard Mayhew who, by a quirk of fate, finds himself in London Below, where all the misfits and the forgotten of London dwell.

London Below has a culture and rules of its own and Richard must navigate its danger-ridden alleys to get back his old life, because once you have seen London Below, you are invisible to everyone in London Above.

It adds an extra bit of intrigue and mystery to one of the world’s most famous cities. I imagine it will be fun to walk the streets of London and wonder if your favourite characters still roam around in London Below!

11. The Drifters by James A. Michener

Set in the hedonistic and troubled period of the Vietnam era, against exotic backdrops including Spain, Morocco, and Mozambique, this novel weaves together the heady dreams, shocking tribulations, and heartwarming bonds of six young runaways who converge in the Mediterranean resort town of Torremolinos, Spain.

This becomes a reference point for the characters as they travel, allowing us a fascinating look at these places, so well described that it cannot fail to ignite wanderlust in its readers.

Of course, in the decades since, life has changed in places like Torremolinos, that were described so evocatively in the novel. But most readers can relate to the longing it evokes, of trying to find oneself in a new land, amidst strangers who end up becoming family.

So, now that you know you’re spoilt for choice, are you ready to read with your travelling boots on? We’d love to know which books you choose and why.