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Exploring Mountains, Monasteries and Tea Gardens of Darjeeling

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An absolute paradise on earth, Darjeeling is one the most sought-after destination of North East India. The beautiful hill station is a mix of splendid mountains of the Himalayas draped in snow, alluring tea gardens, colonial architecture, ancient monasteries, enjoyable ride on the toy train, and other cherished experiences

Courtesy to the magnificent mountain backdrop, Darjeeling has earned a name as the “Queen of the Himalayas”.  What more is the hill town is perfect for vacations with family, a romantic honeymoon; a holiday to discover the unexplored North East, or anything you wish, Darjeeling fits all requirements. In fact is Darjeeling and Sikkim tours are the perfect getaway in North East India.

Here’s our checklist of the best of Darjeeling Tours (North India Tour Packages)  

Tiger Hill: The sunrise point

The outstanding panoramic view of the Himalayas, especially the mighty Mt. Kanchenjunga, the Tiger Hill stands at an astonishing height of 2,500 meters. The tourist puller showcases the best view at sunrise. The view of the sun rising over the Kangchenjunga is spectacular and something to cherish throughout the lifetime. The best time for the incredible views from the Tiger Hill is from mid October to mid January.

Ghoom Monastery: Darjeeling’s oldest Tibetan Monastery

A scenic tourist attraction, the Ghoom Monastery is one of the must-visit places of Darjeeling. A holy shrine of Buddhists built in 1875; it is one of the popular monasteries in North East India. Home of a 15-ft high statue of ‘Maitreya Buddha’ the monastery complex has many treasures of the goodness of religious bells, intricately decorated thangkas, drums and more. Walk through the holy shrine and feel the serenity, interact with prayerful monks, and participate in Buddhist rituals.

Japanese Peace Pagoda: A serene farewell

Another pilgrimage site for Buddhists, the Japanese Peace Pagoda was built atop a hill overlooking the mountains in 1970. The white marble shrine is an icon of peace and harmony. According to the Buddhist Lotus Sutra the structure has the four avatars of Lord Buddha. Mystical music of drums, chants of prayers and the serenity imparts all visitors to new heights to divinity.

Happy Valley Tea Garden: Oldest tea estate of Darjeeling

The beautiful tea gardens of Darjeeling are a unique beauty. Darjeeling tea finds mention among the elite collection of a tea connoisseur. Valleys and rolling hills of the town are covered in a layer of budding tea gardens.

Walk amid the lush estates, watch the workers pluck fresh leaves to brew and there are also options to learn the entire process of tea-making. Darjeeling’s Happy Valley Tea Garden is worth exploring. Stretching across 437 acres area, this is the oldest tea estate of Darjeeling and a popular tourist attraction.

Himalayan Mountaineering Institute: ‘Aim to climb from peak to peak’

The mighty mountains of Himalayas always capture the attention. Be it adventure enthusiasts, nature lovers or a holiday seeker, mountains are always inspiring, The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute allows to capture the mighty heights. Founded in 1954 in the memory of Tenzing Norgay who was the first to climb the Everest, the mountaineering institute helps you aim to climb from peak to peak. The instituer comprise of a tall climbing wall for training purpose, museum, souvenir shop, eatery and an auditorium, which features movies, lectures, and workshops on mountaineering.

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR): A joyride with the Toy-train

Inscribed with World Heritage Status by UNESCO, the Darjeeling Toy train is not just an icon of incredible engineering but also a marvelous ride. The train starts from the plains and rises to 2050 meters above sea level. The toy train passes through some of most beautiful views of the mountains, lush jungles, sheer drops and amazing bridges and more. A trip of the Darjeeling Toy Train is one of the best experiences of tours in India and not just the breathtaking North East India.

Batasia Loop: Darjeeling’s spiral railway

Along with the Darjeeling Toy Train, the Batasia Loop is one of the must-visit attractions of the hill station. Spread across an area of 50,000 square feet, the railway track assists the Toy Train to journey around a circular loop that ultimately takes you to the mighty heights of Darjeeling. Besides its beauty, the site is an engineering marvel that makes it possible for the train to get to the heights.

With lush gardens, eateries and incredible vistas of the panorama, Batasia Loop is an amazing site to soak in the pleasures of Darjeeling.

The Mall: A leisure stroll

To truly experience Darjeeling, the Mall Road is the place to not miss out. Located in the heart of the town, the lane is full of markets and the best eateries. Savor the best of Nepali, Tibetan, and other cuisines. Shop for handicrafts, carpets, metal figurines, shawls and other local wares at the many stores on the Mall road.

Darjeeling tours are an experience of a lifetime. To make it all the more special, stay at the best hotels of the hill station. Choose to stay at the Glenburn Tea Estate to experience the bliss of tea gardens. For the colonial feel, there are many other choices. The Elgin Hotel is a 120-year-old residence, reminiscent of the days of the British Raj. Windamere Hotel is one of the three Jewels of the Raj.

Trekking in Darjeeling is one of the best adventures to try. Sikkim tours is also a wonderful addition with Darjeeling.

 


Best Places for Jungle Safari in India

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India abounds in jungles and with it the exciting thrill of wildlife safari. The vast and diverse country is home to many wild species of the animal kingdom. Jungle safaris are very popular in India as you enjoy a wide diversity of flora and fauna. While most species of the animal kingdom abound in the landscape, there is a particular fondness for Tigers. Along with spotting the wild species in their natural habitats, get to enjoy at eco-friendly wildlife resorts, campsites, treehouses, etc. Go for jungle treks, bird watching, elephant rides, jeep rides and even boat rides which adds to the fun of the wildlife holiday.
 To enjoy the pleasures of wildlife tours in India, here are the top choices:

1.    Bandhavgarh National Park

The most popular wildlife sanctuary in India, Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh has the highest density of  tigers the country’s national animal. Besides the Royal Bengal Tigers, this park was also famous for white tigers. Other animals inhabiting the jungles are sambar, chital, wild boar, wild dog, Indian fox, leopard, bison, blue bull, antelope, nilgai and others. 
Wildlife safari in Bandhavgarh includes options of jeep or elephant rides, stay at the jungle resorts, visit to the Bandhavgarh Fort and certainly exciting memories. 

2.    Ranthambore National Park

Once the hunting grounds of the royal family of Jaipur, Ranthambore National Park is the most popular option for wildlife safaris in India. The favourite resident of the jungle, tigers bring visitors in huge numbers from all across the globe. The many water sources in the jungle are home to a huge number of crocodiles, nilgai, sambhar, birds and more. Stay at the heritage jungle resorts, the very ones used by the royalty on their hunting trips is particularly exciting as is exploring the 10th century Ranthambore Fort atop a hill overlooking the wilderness. 

3.    Gir National Park

The exclusive home of Asiatic lions in the natural habit, Gir National park in Gujarat is among the most visit places for a wildlife getaway. Besides, the king of the jungle, there are many inhabitants such as leopards, jackals and the Indian fox. Jeep safari brings you close to the lions.  4.    Kanha National Park

Said to be the inspiration of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, Kanha National Park lures quite a huge number of wildlife lovers and animal enthusiasts. Apart from spotting tigers, you can find gaur, palm squirrel, striped hyena, chinkara, mouse deer, black buck, jackal, porcupine, sambhar and others. The best way to spot tigers is by taking the early morning elephant safari from Mukki entrance of the park.

5.    Keoladeo Ghana National Park

The bird sanctuary with a status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Keoladeo Ghana National Park, earlier known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is one of the best places to go for jungle safari in India. Bird watching is a pleasure here as the nature reserve is home to more than 450 species of birds including migratory species that fly in for a winter visit as far as from Siberia and other cold countries. Keeping the natural beauty intact and noises at the minimum, safari at the bird paradise is available only on cycle rickshaws.
 
6.    Periyar National Park

Settled in God’s Own Country of Kerala, Periyar National Park is one of the most popular places in for wildlife safari in India. Elephant’s and tigers are the most popular residents but there is the Indian wild dog, sambar, wild pig, barking deer, mouse deer, Nilgiri Langur, Nilgiri Tahr and others.
 
Early morning safaris are known for the decent chance of getting close to the wildlife as is boating in the Periyar Lake where the beasts come to quench their thirst. Eco-lodges and treehouses are popular options to stay while the national park also offers the chance to explore spice plantations of Thekkady.

7.    Jim Corbett National Park

The oldest wildlife sanctuary in India, Jim Corbett National Park is settled on the mighty foothills of Himalayas. The residents of the jungle include tigers, sloth bear, goral, fishing cat, leopard, chital, barking deer and others. The best way to spot tigers is jeep safari in the Bijrani zone while some glimpse of the wildlife is also available from the watchtowers in Dhikala and other regions.


Head to International Yoga Festival at Rishikesh the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’

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Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, by the sacred River Ganges, Rishikesh is known as ‘Yoga Capital of the World’. Tucked away in Uttarakhand, the town has been dubbed one of India’s most spiritual hubs and a holistic wellness experience. The location plays a key part in contributing to the positive spiritual energy. Since the ancient times, it has been the abode of rishis, yogi and ascetics. Above all, the fresh air of the mountains and the soothing melody of the flowing river creates an ideal escape.

The best of wellness experiences in India, Rishikesh and the Yoga Festival has many compelling reasons to not miss out. The many ashrams, temples and the river banks are a notable spot for both first time and returning visitors to India. In fact, Rishikesh has earned a position among the most-sought tours in India.

Yoga Capital of the World

Since the dawn of civilization in India, Rishikesh has been home to many enlightened souls. Yoga is not merely for our bodies, but also for minds, and souls. Yoga literally means “Union”. The union of mind with the body transcending to union of the self with the divine. The ancient science leads to health in the body, peace in the mind, joy in the heart, and liberation of the soul. Yoga is one of the most sought reasons to travel to India.

International Yoga Festival -1st to 7th March at Parmarth Niketan Ashram

The International Yoga Festival held from 1st to the 7th March is an annual celebration of yoga. Every year this festival brings together yoga enthusiasts from all over the world. It is an opportunity to embrace every major style of yoga and learn from the world’s best enlightened Spiritual Leaders, Master Yoga Teachers, Evolutionary Thought Leaders, and Wellness Specialists. The weeklong event is an ideal getaway to awaken to the best version of self and ignite inner light.Experience Life of Yogi at an Ashram

In Rishikesh, the experience of life at an ashram is truly life-changing and a must-try. Stay at an ashram or join a yoga or meditation class to experience the yogic life. The best part about Rishikesh is that you do not need locking yourself away from civilization, everything about the holy town is spiritual bliss.  Go temple-hopping, visit the river ghats, interact with locals, and learn about the culture of India while add a unique spin of adventure.Temple Visit and Ganges Aarti ceremony

Spirituality and traditions are two sides of the same coin in India. Rituals are so closely entwined with the culture that one give insight into another. The ritual of Ganga Aarti is an insightful cultural experience. It helps understand the importance of Rishikesh and the Ganges. The holy River Ganges is worshipped as a Mother Goddess and every day for centuries the ritual of offering earthen lamps and flowers are practiced. In the evening, when the sun has set and lamps have been lit, make way to the river ghats to stroll. Hear the temple bells ring, hear the chants and watch the worship ritual.

A dose of adventure

With yoga, Rishikesh also elevates moods with a dose of adventure. The option to go white water rafting along the fast-flowing Ganges is an adrenaline-filled adventure. Camping at one of the riverside campsites too is therapeutic. The heavenly view of the starlit sky is a memory to cherish.Stay in the spiritual bliss of Rishikesh

While ashram life is the major appeal of Rishikesh, there are also amazing resorts in the town that imbibe the spirit of wellness. Prominent names include Ananda in the Himalayas, Taj Rishikesh Resort & Spa, Dewa Retreat, Aloha by the Ganges and many more.


Khajuraho Dance Festival- Fiesta of Classical Dance Forms of India

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The Khajuraho Dance Festival is a cultural extravaganza. Celebrating Indian classical dance forms, it is one of the most-anticipated of festivals in India organized by the Kala Parishad of the Madhya Pradesh. The 7-day festival is held against the backdrop of the charming Khajuraho Temples and the upcoming one is to be held from the 20th to the 26th of February 2020.

Poetry in Stone- Khajuraho Group of Temples

Known for the masterpieces of erotic sculptures, The Khajuraho Group of Temples in Madhya Pradesh were built by the rulers of the Chandela Dynasty somewhere between 950 and 1050 AD. Out of the original 85 temples only 25 survive today.

Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in India, the Khajuraho temples are a matchless treasure. The temple sculptures represent the importance of Kama, or sexual desires, as an important part of the human life. These temples also impart a universal lesson that beyond the worldly pleasures lies the divine. While the temples are outwardly carved with erotic masterpieces the inner sanctuaries are bare and without much adornment, symbolizing a visitor needs to leave behind worldly pleasures to enter divine bliss. Approximately only 10 percent are erotic sculptures rest depict scenes from mythological stories, and some scenes from the daily life of a common man.

Celebrating dance

Dance is a quintessential part of Indian culture and history and even Mythology. Lord Shiva worshipped as Nataraja, the God of Dance is a prominent icon of the holy Hindu texts. Shiva’s Tandava, known as the dance of destruction, Krishna’s Raas-Leela with his Gopis and the dances of the beautiful Apsaras, like Meneka and Urvashi are the renowned dances in our culture. Aslo in the courts of great kings, it was a tradition of having a court dancer who was respected for her performances. In fact, every festival in our country is incomplete without dance and music.

The seven-day long dance festival celebrates Indian cultural heritage of classical dance forms. The promote dances include Kathak, Satiriya, Kathakali, Bharatnatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Manipuri and Mohiniyattam. Renowned classical dancers perform in front of the Chitragupta (The Sun God’s Temple) and the Vishwanath Temple dedicated to the celestial dancer Lord Shiva. Traditionally bedecked dancers, the backdrop of beautiful temples, melodies of classical music and instrumental compositions leave a lasting impact.

The Khajuraho Dance Festival commences at seven in the evening and goes on till late at night and is free for everyone. The temples and the festival has earned a prominent position among India tour packages.

How to get there

The city is well connected by air, railways and road. There is a domestic airport which is just 12 kilometers away. The city of Khajuraho also has its own railway station. Taxis and other travel services are easily found in the vicinity of the airport as well as the group of temples.

The dance festival is bound to leave the travellers with an experience of a lifetime. While people are there to witness the dance festival, they can also explore the Khajuraho temples with an expert guide, Orchha, Panna Tiger Reserve, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bhimbetka caves and Sanchi Stupa.


The Desert Comes to Life with Jaisalmer Desert Festival

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Rajasthan captures the very essence of India teeming with history, heritage, culture and grandeur. The Thar Desert adds to the charisma. The Jaisalmer Desert Festival is a celebration of the desert. The annual event is a showcase of the colourful cultural heritage that has passed on through the generations of this state. The folk music, dance, attire, traditions, festivities and everything else are something to be cherished for a lifetime. Adding glamour to the Rajasthan tour packages, the festival is one of the best reasons to explore the desert in winters.

The Desert Festival is held amidst the beautiful dunes of the Thar Desert in the Sam Sand Dunes, 42 kilometers from Jaisalmer. The 3-day celebrations happen in Hindu month of Magh three days prior to the full moon. In 2020, the dates are from the 7th to 9th February. Romantic, remote and unspoiled, the desert comes to life with the Jaisalmer Desert Festival.

The roots of the festival are mostly unknown. The Tourism Department organizes the vibrant festival as an international event to lure visitors to the Desert City. The celebrations of this festival make the desert come alive with colors and excitements.

The Jaisalmer Desert Festival commences with a procession from the Jaisalmer Fort to the Shahid Poonam Singh Stadium on the first day in the morning of the festival. The grand parade displays Rajasthani arts, folk dance and music by local performers many of which are local tribes dressed in traditional and bright costumes. The parade has an amazing display of jugglery performances along with the famous dance forms like Gair and the folk fire dances. The star performers are the Kalabaz or the Nat’s, nomadic community, natives to Jaisalmer known for their gymnastic acts. Poignant folk music and recitals are the creations of Bhopa’s Langhas and Manganiars.

Other exciting activities include camel races, unique contests like the Turban tying contest, the longest moustache contest, Mr Desert pageant, etc. For those seeking for adventure, there are options of camel rides, polo matches, and desert safari ride on camel or jeep over the sand dunes. As the festival commences on the full moon night the folk music and dance performances celebrating the desert under the ethereal sky and the golden dunes is a memory to cherish.

Stay near the sand dunes in luxury camps on the desert equipped with all modern amenities enjoying the festivities closely. The desert festival is a hub for foodies as well as a shopper’s paradise. The delicious Rajasthani fare is a must try. Bargain for intricate handicrafts, handloom artifacts and exquisite pieces of attires and other creations of local craftsmen.

Jaislamer Desert Festival is one of the best times to explore the Thar Desert. Along with the Golden City, explore other cities of Rajasthan or combine the visit with a Golden Triangle Tour for the best memories.