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  • Veda5 - A Review of Ayurveda & Yoga Wellness Retreat in Rishikesh, India

    Health is the greatest wealth that one can possess. And with travelling, managing a healthy routine often takes a backseat. Having realized that quite early on, we were always looking for an alternative way of traveling, where the objective of the holiday/vacation is to look out for our physical and mental health. Our search led us to Veda5 on our recent trip to the mythological towns of Haridwar and Rishikesh in Uttarakhand, India. Veda5 is a luxurious Ayurveda and Yoga wellness retreat located at the foothills of the Himalayan ranges, just 10 kilometers outside from the hustle and bustle of Rishikesh. The property is surrounded by lush green forests and overlooks a tributary that joins the Ganges. Rishikesh, also referred to as 'Yoga capital of the world' is perfectly placed to practice yoga and focus on holistic wellness. Veda5 Rishikesh is not your regular wellness retreat. It’s a journey down a healthy lane, with Ayurvedic therapies, yoga, meditation, fitness, recovery, Sattvic food, relaxing stay surrounded by ample nature, and much more – all adding to a sense of tranquillity. Our 8-day Ayurveda and Yoga wellness retreat at Veda5, Rishikesh was a journey towards healing. Suggested reads Red Hills Nature Resort, Ooty, India Poovar Island resort, Poovar, South Kerala, India Rockholm at lighthouse beach, Kovalam, South Kerala, India Dudhsagar Plantation & Farmstay, Goa, India Kahani Paradise, Gokarna, India Table of Contents Reaching Veda5 Rishikesh Arrival at Veda5 Rishikesh Rooms at Veda5 Rishikesh Ayurvedic Therapies at Veda5 Rishikesh Yoga and Meditation at Veda5 Rishikesh Food at Veda5 Rishikesh Other Amenities/Activities at Veda5 Rishikesh Staff at Veda5 Rishikesh A Typical Day at Veda5 Rishikesh Reaching Veda5 Rishikesh: Nearest airport, Jolly Grant International Airport, Dehradun is connected to major Indian cities. If you are coming by air, it may take around 1 hour to reach Veda5 though the distance is only around 31 kms. They can pick you up from airport, cost for which is included in your stay and wellness package. We were picked from Rishikesh in a chauffeur-driven car and transferred to Veda5. It roughly takes half an hour to reach Veda5 from Rishikesh but the journey isn’t for the weak hearted; especially the last one kilometer, which is extremely steep and curvy route to drive on. If you are driving on your own, call them in advance to understand the route and any chances of landslides (frequent in monsoon). Arrival at Veda5 Rishikesh: On our arrival at Veda5 Rishikesh, we were warmly greeted with a tilak and given a Rudraksha mala and a silk scarf. While downing a refreshing welcome drink at the reception, we were informed of all the amenities and were given a weekly schedule of the treatments and activities, including the timings of restaurant, yoga and meditation classes, and Ayurvedic doctor consultations While our luggage was taken directly to our room, the staff escorted us to our room while showing us the place. On the way we realized the resort was setup on a slope of the hill and hence had few levels. If you consider the reception as lowest level, the restaurant is at next level, this is followed by swimming pool and Ayurvedic spa followed by next level where 2 storeyed buildings containing most of the rooms are present. Due to these levels, you always have good hill views, open spaces and fresh breeze around you. Rooms at Veda5 Rishikesh: All rooms at Veda5 Rishikesh are spacious and beautifully done with pleasing interiors. Staggered across the mountain, each room either has a small garden or a balcony. We were appointed one of the best rooms with panoramic mountain and river views from our spacious balcony. Large roof-to-ceiling windows in the room ensured we had immense natural light and ample chances to immerse in nature’s proximity. Rooms at Veda5 Rishikesh feature a king-sized bed with lamps on the side tables, a sofa and a center table, a closet, a tea/coffee maker, a perfectly appointed bathroom with adequate toiletries, and a geyser. We were impressed with the quality of room servicing; every day when we returned to our room after yoga and Ayurvedic treatments, the entire room was cleaned and reordered. There are also room options with 3 beds or family rooms where 2 rooms are combined. Ayurvedic Therapies at Veda5 Rishikesh: Our Ayurveda and Yoga wellness retreat at Veda5 Rishikesh began with a consultation with a senior Ayurvedic doctor. The doctor gave us a simple and small questionnaire to fill, checked our pulse, and diagnosed the physical, mental and emotional imbalances of the Ayurvedic doshas in our body. He drew up a schedule for the Ayurvedic treatments and suggested us a diet to balance those doshas. We were then given a breathable, cotton uniform consisting of a T-shirt and a pajama, which we were free to wear whenever we wanted, but especially during treatments so we don’t spoil our regular clothes. The Ayurvedic therapy center at Veda5 Rishikesh is designed to meet each individual’s need and health goals. It offers age-old authentic Ayurvedic therapies and other holistic treatments. Through the week, we indulged in different types of massages and treatments, followed by steam and sauna. All the therapists and masseuse at Veda5 Ayurvedic centre are well-trained in their areas of expertise. The treatment rooms are spacious and designed with a great attention to detail to make the guests feel calm, relaxed, and de-stressed. We received varied treatments each day, including Abhyanga (full body massage with medicated oil), Shirodhara (slow dripping of medicated oil/butter milk on forehead), Udhwartana (body massage with a herbal paste), and Potli massage (massage with heated herbal pouches). The center also specializes in providing other different therapies like reflexology (applying gentle pressure on various points to ease stress), naturopathy (acupressure or water-based treatment using natural herbs and oil), and Soundarya treatment (to improve complexion and texture of skin). Yoga and Meditation at Veda5 Rishikesh: The yoga and meditation hall at Veda5 Rishikesh is vast with glass windows adorning the walls, which allow guests to feel one with the surrounding nature. Every time we entered the hall, it felt like we have entered a stunning theatre-like setting with yoga mats, blocks, and blankets strewn all over the floor for the guests to use. Our main aim to join the Ayurveda and Yoga wellness retreat at Veda5 was to bring flexibility in our body and to understand each asana in a proper way. Two classes of yoga were held at Veda5 Rishikesh every day: early morning yoga class for beginners and late morning yoga class for intermediates (focused on a specific body part - back bending, hip opening, shoulder opening, arm strengthening, and likewise). These classes helped us achieve our goals, learn new asanas, and better our postures without injuring ourselves. Our yoga instructors were experienced, professional, and friendly. We made the most of the yoga classes and learnt so much from them. Thanks to the meditation classes at Veda5 Rishikesh, we emerged from the retreat much calmer. Our meditation coach had a very calming and soothing voice, and her quiet words during practice drew us closer to a spiritual place of our own. We practiced different types of meditation, including Chakra meditation, Trataka meditation, Transcendental meditation, mantra chanting meditation, and likewise. These made us more aware of our thoughts and emotions and helped us connect with ourselves and experience the peace within us. Food at Veda5 Rishikesh: The restaurant at Veda5 Rishikesh serves pure vegetarian Sattvic food (without garlic and onion). But let this not deter your plans to book a retreat with them. All the dishes prepared by the chefs at Veda5 are finger-licking delicious. Every food item is prepared fresh, using natural whole food, and includes a balanced composition of nutrients (carbohydrate, protein, fiber). Neither too spicy nor too bland, the food is so nicely presented that it’s a joy to dine at Veda5. They customize and quickly fix the meals as per your dietary preferences based on the assessment of your Ayurvedic doshas and body type. The restaurant staff is highly organized and well behaved. Each dish served at Veda5 Rishikesh has a nutritional information connected to it, which states the calorie count in each serving and the grams of proteins, carbohydrates, and fat. But that doesn’t mean you’ll crave for desserts; in fact, they serve drool-worthy desserts. Be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner, we were always spoilt for choices. The dining hall at Veda5 Rishikesh promotes health with the usage of copper utensils and quotes on healthy eating adorning the walls. From freshly squeezed juices, flavor-infused water, nutrient-rich fruit/vegetable salad, to savory sprouts, everything they served was healthy and tasty. The chapatis and dosas were customized and made fresh. The restaurant staff also organized barbecue nights at the stunning outdoor pavilion. Other Amenities/Activities at Veda5 Rishikesh: There are a range of activities at Veda5 Rishikesh that you can indulge in while enjoying your wellness retreat. They have a super-nice swimming pool that overlooks the surrounding mountains with lots of greenery; best used after an intense session of yoga. The indoor play area at Veda5 has some interesting games like table tennis, carrom, chess, etc. To keep the kids occupied, there are a few board games and a separate painting area, where they can draw and color. There’s also an outdoor play area equipped with swings and slides for children. The music room at Veda5 Rishikesh is equipped with some interesting musical instruments like drums, harmonium, keyboard, guitar, drum boxes, sound bowls, and happy drums. The in-house guests are free to use these instruments anytime as per their liking. The small yet resourceful library at the property features books from all genres, be it self-help, story books, novels, fiction, non-fiction, history, mythology, or spirituality based. Adventure seekers can hike up the hill behind Veda5 for some great views or head to the natural meditation cave to spend some time in silence and tranquillity. For others, there are several beautifully decorated sit outs across the Veda5 campus, where you can spend time and enjoy splendid views. If you want to spend some time meditating in absolute peace, they also have a meditation cave and a meditation hut. You could sit here in stillness and silence as long as you want with a Buddha statue. Multiple sit outs throughout the property allow you to share moments with other guests while soaking the sun. Staff at Veda5 Rishikesh: Everything at Veda5 Rishikesh is top class and at par with the highest quality standards, but what really sets the retreat apart from others is their staff. Every person working at Veda5, right from the housekeeping staff, the restaurant staff, the trainers, the therapists, to the staff at higher levels of management, is incredibly warm and welcoming. We were greeted with a ‘Namaskar’ 100 times a day; always with folded hands and a friendly smile. The staff celebrates all festivals with their guests, and we were lucky to be there on the Indian Independence Day, which was celebrated with great pomp and grandeur. From time-to-time, various staff members, including chefs, doctors, and receptionists, will ask how everything is and if there’s anything they can help us with. We had engaging conversations with all levels of management, and were so well looked after and pampered that while departing, we felt like we are leaving a family behind. A Typical Day at Veda5 Rishikesh: This is more or less how our days looked like during our Ayurveda and Yoga wellness retreat at Veda5 Rishikesh. The schedule can ofcourse change while you plan to be there. The schedule for next day is put up in restaurant and at reception which you can simply click to refer later. 06:30 AM – Wake up, get fresh, and spend some time in balcony with nature 07:30 AM – 1 hour yoga class for beginners 08:30 AM – Breakfast and networking 09:30 AM – Get back to the room, take a shower, relax 11:30 AM – 1 hour yoga class for intermediates 12:30 PM – Lunch followed by a session of Yog-Nidra (Restorative yoga) 02:30 PM – 1 hour Ayurveda therapy 04:00 PM – Participate in daily activities organized by the staff (dance, tambola, cooking class, lectures, movie-screening, etc.) 05:00 PM – Tea/Coffee time 05:45 PM – 1 hour meditation session 07:00 PM – Evening Aarti (a worshipping ritual) 07:30 PM – Dinner, network with fellow guests, and retire So, you see how busy yet relaxed they kept us! We had lots of free time in between all these schedules, when we just relaxed, read books, got around in the campus, spent time in the balcony (our favorite place!), and talked to other guests. Not even once through our weeklong stay, did we feel like getting out of the campus to sightsee or visit Rishikesh market! We highly recommend booking your wellness retreat with Veda5 Rishikesh. However, if you are not a mountain-person, they also have a similar center in Kerala and Goa, and we hear that those are right by the beach!!! Book your journey to healing with Veda5 and let us know how your experience was.

  • Kaziranga National Park: Famous for One-Horned Rhinos, Awesome Assam

    Kaziranga National Park is a wildlife sanctuary nestled in the lush green landscapes of the state of Assam in North east of India. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, tucked between the Golaghat and Nagaon districts in Lower Assam, is home to the world’s largest population of rare, great one-horned rhinoceros. Spread across 1000+ square km area, live around 2500+ beautiful one-horned rhinos along with many other species of birds and animals. Kaziranga National Park has long been on our must-visit list. Luckily, we recently had the chance to experience Kaziranga's wildlife wonders for ourselves on an open-top jeep safari adventure. Kaziranga seriously amazed us with its diverse animals lurking around every corner. The national park houses over 2000 animals, including tigers, Asian elephants, hoolock gibbon, capped langurs, sloth bears, and of course, one-horned rhinos. All we can say is, get your cameras ready for an adventure of a lifetime! In this blog, we'll share everything you need to plan your own memorable trip to Kaziranga National Park. Ready? Let us show you how this animal lover's paradise in northeast India can dazzle you. Table of Contents Reaching Kaziranga National Park in Assam Best Time to Visit Kaziranga National Park Types of Safaris in Kaziranga National Park Kaziranga National Park Elephant Safari Kaziranga National Park Jeep Safari Price of Safaris in Kaziranga National Park, Assam How to Book a Safari at Kaziranga National Park Our Jeep Safari Experience Other Things to Do in Kaziranga Enjoy Leisure Time at Kaziranga National Orchid and Biodiversity Park Visit the Kakochang Waterfall Take a Tour of the Tea Estates Shop for Traditional Souvenirs Visit Assamese Tribal Village Where to stay in Kaziranga Reaching Kaziranga National Park in Assam Whether you're a wildlife enthusiast, nature lover, or simply looking for a unique travel experience in India, a visit to Kaziranga National Park should be on your bucket list! Located in Assam - the largest state in North east of India, the park does not have direct air or rail connectivity. However, it can easily be accessed through the nearest airports, train stations, and roads. By Air The closest airport is Rowriah Airport in Jorhat, located 97 kilometers from Kaziranga National Park in Assam. There are regular flights to Jorhat from major cities like Delhi and Kolkata. We hopped on to a shared taxi from the Jorhat town to reach Kaziranga, which took us about 2.5 hours. Though flying to Jorhat is an easy option, the more well-connected option is Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati, 217 kilometres away from Kaziranga National Park. From Guwahati, you can take a private taxi, shared taxi, train, or a bus to cover the 5-6 hour journey to Kaziranga. By Train The nearest railway station to Kaziranga National Park is Furkating Junction in the Golaghat district, which is about 80 kilometers away. Regular trains connect Furkating to Guwahati and Upper Assam. The onward journey to Kaziranga National Park by taxi or bus takes 2-3 hours. Guwahati railway station, 240 km away, has connectivity across India. Take an overnight or day train to Furkating to continue your onward journey. By Road Kaziranga is located just off NH-37 connecting Guwahati, so there are regular buses between Guwahati and Kohora town (main town in Kaziranga) near the park entrance. The 230 km journey from Guwahati takes about 5-6 hours by bus. Shared taxis are also available from Guwahati, taking 4-5 hours. The nearby city of Tezpur in North Assam is 180 km away and is well connected to Guwahati and Upper Assam. Best Time to Visit Kaziranga National Park Winter: The winter months from November through April are the best to visit Kaziranga National Park. The weather is just perfect - sunny days, cool nights, not too hot or cold. Better than the humid summers! With clearer skies, winter brings a ton of cool migratory birds alongside Kaziranga's usual feathery residents. Grab your binoculars because it's a birdwatcher's paradise! More importantly, February to April is when you'll spot the most animals. The grass is shorter, so the Kaziranga rhinoceros, elephants, and maybe even a tiger are easier to spot as they hang out in the marshes and grasslands. The water is lower too, so there are lots of animals gathering around the few watering holes that are still filled. And the cute baby animals are super playful this time of year! Monsoon: The park closes due to flooding in monsoon months - May, June, July, August, and September. Pro tip - Aim for November or April if you can. The national park officials cut the grass shorter in March, hence spotting animals in April becomes easier. Mid-winter (read, December) gets really crowded. Unless you don't mind the crowds and love a good Indian festival: The Magh Bihu celebrations, mid-December is also fine to visit Kaziranga National Park! Types of Safaris in Kaziranga National Park Kaziranga National Park offers a plethora of activities to immerse yourself in the treasure trove of wildlife. You can indulge in elephant safaris or adventurous jeep/gypsy safaris to truly explore the rich biodiversity the park harbors. To safeguard and manage this precious wildlife gem, the park has been divided into four zones: the Central/Kohora zone, the Eastern/Agaratoli zone, the Western/Bagori zone, and the Burapahar zone. Each range presents unique opportunities to witness diverse flora and fauna. Jeep/gypsy safaris are conducted in all zones, whereas elephant safaris are limited to Bagori and Kohora gates. 1. Kaziranga National Park Elephant Safari While we do not promote elephant safaris, the elephant ride allows visitors to traverse through various vegetation types, including tropical semi-evergreen, alluvial savanna woodlands, and tropical moist mixed deciduous forests. The chances of spotting one-horned rhinos are higher during elephant safaris, adding to the unique experience of exploring Kaziranga National Park in Assam. The mammal takes you on a guided tour on the periphery of the national park. Timings for Elephant Safari: Twice every morning (1 hour ride): 5 AM to 6 AM and 6 AM to 7 AM (Elephant safari slots are to be booked one day prior to your safari date) Note: Elephant safaris run only from the Bagori gate (for Indians) and Kohora gate (for foreigners and VIPs) 2. Kaziranga National Park Jeep Safari One of the most exciting ways to explore Kaziranga National Park in Assam is Kaziranga jeep safari. These guided tours allow visitors to cover expansive ground throughout the park in search of diverse wildlife. The jeep safari takes you to the heart of the dense national park. Cruising in 4x4 vehicles provides prime wildlife spotting opportunities. Knowledgeable naturalist guides expertly navigate the dirt trails, stopping frequently when animals are sighted. Kaziranga jeep safari goers can hope to encounter iconic species like the Indian one-horned rhinoceros as well as elephants, tigers, wild buffaloes, and a myriad of birds. Timings for Jeep Safari: Twice each day (2 hour ride): 7:30 AM to 9:30 AM and 2 PM to 4 PM Note: The early morning ride from 7:30 AM to 9:30 AM is ideal for viewing active wildlife against the sunrise. Each elephant seats 2 passengers on its back. Price of Safaris in Kaziranga National Park, Assam Here is a quick insight into the cost of Safaris in Kaziranga National Park. However these could have changed and would request you to check the latest rates. Disclaimer: Jeep/Elephant safari timings and rates change from season to season. Also note that separate camera charges may apply. How to Book a Safari at Kaziranga National Park The most convenient way for Kaziranga National Park safari booking is through your accommodation. Most resorts/hotels have safari help desks that can make all arrangements for you. Share your preferences with the staff and they will organize the vehicle pickup, entry permits, taxes, guide, etc. Payment is also handled via the hotel/resort. And no, they don't tend to charge you more. Just a couple of bucks extra. You can also head to the official Kaziranga National Park Safari booking office located opposite to the park's main entrance gate (Central/Kohora gate). Go to the ticket counters to check availability and reserve your slots. Rates are displayed on a signboard outside. Tip: If you are not in a group (maybe a couple/ solo traveller) and the entire jeep is expensive for you, wait at the ticket counter to share the jeep with other passengers. The jeep seats 6 passengers. Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to departure to complete formalities. Carry ID proof and a mosquito-repellant. Set out early to catch the best wildlife action! Our Jeep Safari Experience We do not promote/encourage animal riding. So, from early on we knew that we wouldn’t opt for elephant safari. Hence, we booked an early morning 7:30 AM open-top jeep safari through our resort in Kaziranga National Park in Assam. Our driver arrived at the hotel entrance to pick us up in a 4x4 vehicle right on time (around 7 AM). He had already handled purchasing the permits, taxes, and fees, so we just showed the entry tickets at the gate before cruising into the park. We had opted to enter through the Central/Kohora gate. Our enthusiastic naturalist guide cum driver reminded us to have cameras ready as he expertly navigated the bumpy dirt trails. It wasn't long before we spotted our first wildlife - a large herd of Indian elephants with playful young calves staying close to their mothers. We stopped for 15 minutes as they crossed the road, admiring their graceful movements through our zoom lenses. Further along, noisy monkeys were shaking the tree branches and peering down curiously at our jeep and massive wild buffalos wallowed in a marsh nearby. After about an hour spotting varied species of wildlife, our driver brought us to a wooden tower. We eagerly climbed up the platform, which offered an incredible 360-degree view over the vast grassland expanse. In the distance, we finally spotted two rare greater one-horned Kaziranga rhinoceros peacefully grazing by a wetland. A thrilling sight! We spent quite some time at the tower-top, admiring the rhinoceros with our camera’s zoom lens. Just before exiting the park, we caught a glimpse of a lone adult rhino bathing in a marsh, dangerously close to the road. We held our breath as the massive beast slowly emerged, allowing us to admire its intricate skin texture and prominent horn up-close before it snorted and retreated into the tall grass. Inside Kaziranga National Park, you are not allowed to disembark from the jeep, with the exception of specifically designated areas, such as the viewing tower and a lake. Despite this restriction, our overall experience was delightful, and we were fortunate enough to spot some Kaziranga one-horned rhinoceros during the safari. Other Things to Do in Kaziranga 1. Enjoy Leisure Time at Kaziranga National Orchid and Biodiversity Park The Orchid Park in Kaziranga is a really cool spot that any nature lover should check out. They've got a super impressive collection of rare orchids. They also have vegetable garden, cactus garden, nursery, bamboo garden, museum, souvenir shop, restaurant and more. The best part is wandering through right before sunset when all the flowers are blooming - it's gorgeous! Besides the orchids, they also have traditional music and dance shows at night. Grab a seat and watch the colorful costumes twirling around. It's thrilling to see the local culture. And you can't leave without trying the tasty tea they serve. There's also a nice little restaurant if you fancy a huge lunch/dinner platter. Do not forget to try out authentic Assamese thali to taste the local cuisine. Kaziranga National Orchid and Biodiversity Park is an awesome spot to really experience Kaziranga National Park's natural beauty and cultural traditions up close. After spending the day on safari spotting rhinoceros and other wildlife, it's the perfect place to kick back amidst the gorgeous flowers, sip some chai, and absorb the local vibe. 2. Visit the Kakochang Waterfall Kakochang Waterfall is a serene escape hidden in pristine wilderness in Kaziranga town. You can also admire the ruins of the historic Numaligarh fort from this picturesque spot. The natural beauty of the falls is enhanced by the surrounding vistas of lush tea plantations blanketing the landscape. The trek to reach the waterfall's base takes you on an enchanting journey through untamed nature at its finest. 3. Take a Tour of the Tea Estates Exploring the sprawling tea gardens surrounding Kaziranga offers an unforgettable experience for the senses. These gardens are exquisite gems that fill the region with immense pride and charm. Globally famous for producing Assam's distinctive, bold black tea, these plantations contain one of the largest tea growing areas in the world. For any tea lover, walking through the seemingly endless rows of lush green tea bushes, learning about cultivation practices, and sipping fresh brews at local factories promises a one-of-a-kind tea tourism adventure. 4. Shop for Traditional Souvenirs Kaziranga offers many unique opportunities to shop for traditional Assamese souvenirs - each infused with artistic flair and cultural symbolism. Chat with friendly shopkeepers to learn about tribal designs and the stories behind the crafts. Haggle for deals on these wonderful handmade treasures to take a piece of Assam’s rich artistic heritage home with you. 5. Visit Assamese Tribal Village Visiting the tribal villages near Kaziranga provides a fascinating glimpse into traditional local lifestyles and culture. You can get an authentic understanding of indigenous communities' daily existence and way of life. Witnessing their artistic talents firsthand is truly captivating - residents craft intricate handicrafts brimming with cultural meaning and creativity. Where to stay in Kaziranga You can find various types of accommodations in Kaziranga to suit your needs. From luxury resorts to budgeted homestays, all these accommodations should be able to arrange a visit to national park for you. We would suggest booking a suitable accommodation in advance, at least during peak seasons (November to April). If you are visiting in peak season, it is also advisable to call them in advance to ensure there is no double booking or any other issues with your stay. Below table gives you some shortlisted stays across different price ranges that you could consider for stay in Kaziranga. Click on icons to check availability and current price. Kaziranga National Park showcases India's incredible wildlife and natural heritage. Safaris offer adventurous ways to admire exotic species roaming freely in their native habitat. We highly recommend adding this UNESCO site to your travel bucket list! Save this pin if you find this article useful and would like to save it for later. Save this Pin

  • Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir, India

    Robert Frost, in his narrative poem ‘The Road Not Taken’, mentions that when he is faced with a choice between two roads, he elects to travel the one that appears to be less worn, and that made all the difference. Isn’t that what offbeat or unexplored travel is all about? But nowadays the words ‘offbeat’ and ‘unexplored’ are used very cursorily. I’ve seen places like Gulmarg, Sonmarg, and Pahalgam being included in the list of offbeat places to visit in Kashmir, India. These places are visited by lakhs of tourists every year since decades! So, when we got a chance to do a true ‘Offbeat Kashmir’ tour, we decided that we will make a genuine list of ‘Unexplored places in Kashmir’. This list of offbeat places to visit in Kashmir is based on data like less tourist footfall, little/no information on the internet, and relative lack of chitter-chatter on social media. Although some names might be a bit familiar, you are going to come across names of places that you may have never heard of. We were able to visit some extremely unheard-of nook and corners of Kashmir, thanks to Cliffhangers India. Some of these places do not even have resorts or hotels, but only homestays or JKTDC accommodations. However, these destinations will surely offer you the much sought-after desolation (read peace) and will keep you away from the tourist radar. So here we go with the list of most unexplored places to visit in Kashmir. Scroll till the end to find an ideal ‘Offbeat Kashmir itinerary’. Suggested read Travel Guide to Srinagar, Kashmir Best places to stay in Srinagar, Kashmir Table of Contents Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir 1. Daksum 2. Kokernag 3. Verinag 4. Yusmarg 5. Doodhpathri 6. Bangus Valley 7. Lolab Valley 8. Athwatoo 9. Naranag 10. Other offbeat places to visit in Kashmir a. Dachigam National Park b. Saffron fields of Lethpora and Pampore c. Martand Sun Temple d. Achabal Garden e. Manasbal Lake f. Wular Lake g. Gurez Valley h. Aru Valley Cliffhangers India - Our Travel Partner Offbeat Kashmir Itinerary Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir 1. Daksum Located in the Kokernag district, about 100 kilometres away from Srinagar, Daksum is a hardly inhabited, virginal spot surrounded by Pir Panjal Mountain ranges. This offbeat place to visit in Kashmir is situated in Brengi or Bringhi River valley and houses a wide grassy meadow (part of which was covered in snow when we visited in March), several nomadic shepherd cottages, and an ever-green coniferous forest. The Indian hill trout fishes spawn and thrive in the fresh and cold-water streams of Bringhi River. Daksum lies on the trekking route towards Kishtwar and is often used as a base by trekkers who wish to cross the Sinthan Pass (Sinthan Top) at 3750 metres. The road to Sinthan Pass was closed due to heavy snow at the top when we visited, and hence we weren’t able to drive to the pass and enjoy panoramic view of the valley. However, we enjoyed our short time in Daksum village by playing in snow, making snowman, and sipping hot Kashmiri Kahwa sitting on the banks of the gurgling Bringhi River. We also happened to visit the Rajparian Wildlife Sanctuary known for inhabiting the Van-Gujjars and Bakerwals - amongst the oldest tribes residing in Kashmir, who are sheepherders. This sanctuary houses a quarantine facility for imported Australian Merino sheep that were brought to J&K to improve the fineness of wool production in Kashmir. We were lucky to spot a flock of these sheep pasturing the natural resources - grassy meadows of the sanctuary. Apart from a few homestays, the only tourist accommodation facility in Daksum is the government-run JKTDC tourist bungalow; however, we opted to stay in JK tourism cottages in Kokernag (about 15 kilometres away from Daksum). We also heard that during summer, tourists pitch their camps on the banks of the Bringhi River and enjoy a day of trout-fishing, angling, and sleeping under the blanket of stars. While staying in Daksum, you can revel in the warm hospitality of local Gujjars and be a part of their cultural traditions. Daksum is certainly amongst the most beautiful unexplored places in Kashmir and should be a part of offbeat Kashmir itinerary for the ones who seek peace and quiet in the company of nature. 2. Kokernag Kokernag is a famous tourist spot, but still is amongst the lesser known, unexplored places to visit in Kashmir. Located about 80 kilometres away from Srinagar, Kokernag falls on the way to Daksum. The place houses the Kokernag spring, the Kokernag botanical garden, and one the largest trout fish farms in Asia. We stayed at the J&K tourism run accommodation right inside the Kokernag botanical garden. Early in the morning, when we decided to stroll the Kokernag botanical garden, we were greeted by some rare species of birds. With not a soul around, and only the sound of the gushing waters of Kokernag spring that’s known to possess medicinal properties, we meandered through the garden developed around the springs, crossing the many beautiful wooden bridges built on the water. The botanical garden is bigger than what we had thought and showcases a diverse collection of trees and flowering plants. The colours spread by majestic Chinar trees must be a sight to behold in the autumn season! And the sweet fragrance of pine filled the air as we collected a few pinecones that fell beneath the huge conifers. From the botanical garden, the Kokernag spring water rushes down to the trout fish breeding farm, which is located adjacent the garden. The cold weather of Kashmir and the fresh and freezing spring water provides perfect temperature for the trouts to breed. At the breeding farm, one can partake in fishing trouts from the stream channelized in different raceways and then buy the caught trouts. The lack of crowd in Kokernag was a blessing as we could sit around in the lawns and soak in the warm sunlight without any disturbance. The J&K tourism have done a commendable job creating and maintaining a garden that rivals the beauty of even the Kashmiri Mughal gardens. Do not miss out on including this intrepid jewel if Kashmir in your offbeat Kashmir itinerary. Also remember, the best way to explore Kokernag is by staying at the JK Tourism cottages and visiting the gardens early in the morning or late in the evening, when the local crowds and the day visitors have left. 3. Verinag Verinag is located around 85 kilometres away from Srinagar and about 20 kilometres away from Kokernag. We drove to Verinag after visiting Kokernag and were thrilled to see the Pir Panjal range up-close from a few viewpoints (Lisser viewpoint and Titanic viewpoint) on the way. Verinag is the place from where a spring originates, which is believed to be the major source of the Jhelum River. After meandering through a major part of Kashmir including Wular Lake, the Jhelum River meets Pakistan to join the Chenab River. An octagonal base is built at the spring, surrounding which is a Mughal Garden constructed by Emperor Jehangir. From the entrance of the Mughal Garden, the walkway took us to the octagonal pool. Verinag spring water is clear as crystal is deep turquoise blue green in colour. The octagonal pool can be approached through a 24-arch colonnade. The water comes from the spring deep below the pool, which then flows to the small channel from the axial reservoir towards the Mughal Garden. The Mughal Garden surrounding the Verinag spring is clean and well-maintained. It has lots of trees, especially huge Chinar trees and we can’t stop wondering how beautiful this place might be in autumn, covered under multi-coloured hues! While the Verinag spring reservoir was constructed by Emperor Jehangir, the garden is believed to be laid out by his son, Shah Jahan. Both the spring as well as the garden are recognised by the Archaeological Survey of India as monuments of national importance. We found our way to the top of the 24-arch colonnade surrounding the octagonal pond and the view from there was a sight to behold. The Mughal Garden at Verinag is equal to (if not better than) the other gardens in Kashmir. Verinag is truly an underrated place, and it receives a minimal tourist footfall, which makes it one of the best unexplored places to visit in Kashmir. 4. Yusmarg or Yousmarg The word Yusmarg is an amalgamation of two words: Yus or Yous (referring to Yisu meaning Jesus) and Marg (meaning meadow) - thus literally translating to ‘Meadow of Jesus’ in local Kashmiri language. Its legend is that Jesus passed through this valley (and even stayed here) and hence the name. A slightly different version says Yus refers for Yusuf / Yousuf. True or not, Yusmarg valley is so beautiful that it definitely must have been laid out by God! Yusmarg is located only 50 kilometres away from Srinagar, making it an offbeat, yet easy-to-reach destination in Kashmir. Yusmarg valley lies at the end of the road from Charar-e-Sharif, the holy shrine of Shiekh-ul-Alam, the famous Sufi-poet, spiritual guide, and an Islamic preacher. Shiekh-ul-Alam spread his teachings mostly through poems, the most popular one being “Ann poshi teli yeli wan poshe” which translates to “Food will thrive only till the woods survive.” He is also credited with translating Quran into Kashmiri language. Even before reaching the Charar-e-Sharif dargah, we were able to spot in afar from the road. With intricate wooden carvings and massive chandeliers, the shrine is as magnificent from inside as it is from the outside. There are picturesque trekking trails in any direction you choose to walk from the parking lot in Yusmarg Valley. Several pony riders surrounded us to take us to the trail of our choice (there were 17 trails listed on a sign board). Since we have a ‘no-animal riding’ policy, we decided to hike to one of the easier trails instead of taking a pony ride. The vast, open valley was blanketed in a white sheet of snow. Due to shortage of time, we only had a few options out of the 17 trails listed. We chose to trek to Doodhganga River, which is an easy walk of about 1.5 kilometres. While walking towards the river, we met a guide who convinced us that instead of Doodhganga River we should hike to Burgah Valley. And we are glad that we changed routes because Burgah valley is dream-like! As we started our descent to the promised valley, the thickness of snow sheet kept increasing and we were soon walking in ankle-deep snow. We passed a few nomadic Gujjar huts, which were abandoned due to heavy snow, and soon entered a pine forest. We now reached a higher ground, which again opened to a huge valley - the Burgah Valley. Burgah valley is raw and pristine, seldom visited by any tourist, making it one of the best unexplored places in Kashmir. We were awed by the dome-shaped structure resembling an ice stupa right in the middle of the valley. Surrounded by pine forests and snow-covered mountains, we clicked photographs, had a fun-filled snowball fight, and returned to the parking lot. Wish we had more time to hike the other trails - bookmarking Doodhganga trail and Nilnag trail for the next time. Apart from the tourism board-run JKTDC Resort, there are very few accommodation options in Yusmarg. However, we opted to stay in Tribe Homestay in Nilnag village, about 5 kilometres away from Yusmarg Valley. It was a truly unique accommodation with rooms and common areas designed in tribal-hut style. The highlight of the stay was a wooden attic that offered outstanding views of the Pir-Panjal Mountain ranges, especially in the evening when the peak shines golden. The next morning, the homestay’s host took us on a short hike to the adjacent hill and then down to the river. 5. Doodhpathri Doodhpathri is another stunning valley located almost 45 kilometres away from Srinagar. We had read and heard from locals that it’s amongst the most beautiful unexplored place in Kashmir and should be a part of offbeat Kashmir itinerary. However, when we visited Doodhpathri in March, the valley had received fresh snowfall, and hence the place was full of tourists who had come from Srinagar for a day trip. We stayed at the JKTDC Resort at Doodhpathri, which is the only option here apart from one another recently built hotel. So, when the day-trip travellers left late in the afternoon and before the nest set of tourists arrived from Srinagar in the morning, we literally had the entire place to ourselves. Doodhpathri, translating to ‘Valley of Milk,’ is named so as two rivers pierce through the valley - Shaliganga and Sukhnag, and the fast-flowing water of both these rivers give a milky appearance when it strikes against the rocks. About 4 kilometres from the car parking, the road snakes down the hill to the bowl-shaped valley. This distance can be walked, or one can take a pony ride. Since we had booked our stay at JKTDC resort, we were allowed to drive our car down till the last point, that saved us a lot of time and a long walk. Even in mid-March, Doodhpathri valley was covered under an immense amount of snow. Snow activities like skiing, sledding, and ATV rides were being offered at the touristy points. After crossing the wobbly wooden bridge over the Shaliganga River, we tried to move away from the tourists and hiked a steep hill towards the Dikshal trail. The trail gradually ascended and we walked some more into the towering pine and deodar trees to reach a large snow-covered meadow, where we laid our picnic mat and built a snowman. Such excited were we, we spent close to 3 hours there, running up and down the slopes and playing with snow to our heart’s content. Several hiking trails emerge from Doodhpathri valley. You can either rent and ride a pony or trek on foot to wherever you choose to. Back at JKTDC Resort, we stayed in an igloo cottage in the middle of the snow. In the night, the snow shone bright like flickering stars under the moonlight, and it was magical. Offbeat or not, Doodhpathri definitely doesn’t receive as many tourists as Gulmarg and Sonmarg do, and its beauty is comparable to both these places if not more! 6. Bangus Valley Bangus Valley is another offbeat place in Kashmir, which is hidden in the northern region of Kupwara district of J&K. Located about 100 kilometres away from Srinagar, Bangus Valley lies very close to India’s most disputed border. There are 3 ways to reach Bangus Valley - from Mawer (Reshwari), Rajwar, or Chowkibal. Most tourists drop the idea of visiting Bangus Valley because of the rough terrain and poor road conditions. We took the Mawer/Reshwari route, which passed through a forest range. From Reshwari, the approach road to Bangus Valley is still under development. A government-run JKTDC tourist rest house is located in Reshwari, where we opted to stay. The accommodation is right on the banks of Mawer River and is surrounded by unlimited natural beauty and sound of the flowing river. We had pre-hired a guide to explore the valley but were disappointed to learn that the approach road to Bangus, which is anyway not in a good condition, is covered under thick layer of snow, and hence is non-driveable! Our guide, however, took us on a nature walk in snow. We crossed the Kashtwar Nallah steel bridge, located only 7 kilometres from the Line of Control, and further to forested pine- and deodar-covered hills. We used a wobbly wooden bridge over the Mawer River, where small streams enhanced the valley’s charm. Later, we spent a lovely evening on the banks of the river close to the tourist rest house, enjoying its fluidity and vitality. 7. Lolab Valley Located in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, Lolab Valley is by and large an unexplored place in Kashmir. Almost 120 kilometres from Srinagar, Lolab Valley is well connected to the state’s capital city. Locally known as ‘Wadi-e-Lolab,’ the valley is a treat of nature with thick, verdant forests and sprawling pastures. Immediately after check-in to our hotel in the Lalpora area, we met our guide and headed-out for sightseeing. We first drove to the Forest Adventure Park in Diver Village. This park is recently built; however, some parts are still under construction. Surrounding the park is a dense deodar forest. We walked through the forest’s periphery and reached Kairwan Lake. Though the water was a bit smelly and brown in colour, it mirrored the reflection of nearby mountains quite well. From the park, we drove ahead to Dorusa Dam, located in the middle of pine and deodar forest. The place did not seem like a tourist place. The view was just okay. We slowly walked over on the outstretched metal walkway on the dam to get to the centre. The view from there was just okay. We wouldn’t recommend tourists with children to get to the centre. In the interest of time, we decided to drive to our next destination - Chandigam, another town in Lolab Valley. A JKTDC Guest House is located in Chandigam, which is also a good place to stay. In Chandigam, we stopped by a beautiful lake to click pictures, and again got in the car to get to Kalaroos Valley. Kalaroos gets its name from Qile Roos, which means the ‘Fort of Russia’. Kalaroos caves, located up on the hill in Kalaroos, are considered to be secret tunnels, which lead to Russia. Our guide knew the terrain well, and we soon started a 30-minute hike to reach Satbaran Rock - the Seven Doors! We recommend wearing a good pair of hiking shoes. The Satbaran Rock is a huge monolithic rock with seven sculpted chiselled niches. The rock is half-buried and has several fables wrapped around it. It’s believed that idols of Indian Gods and Goddesses once adorned each niche. The view of Lolab Valley, in its full expanse, from the Satbaran Rock is breath-taking. Kalaroos caves are a 20-minute further climb from the Satbaran Rock. The caves were dark and narrow. We went into one of them, which further opened into a big cavern. The path seemed endless, but we didn’t risk going beyond a point as the caves were infested with bats (also, we didn’t want to reach Russia!). Kalaroos caves are rich in several minerals, especially copper. With the sun setting, the walls of the caves shone in golden colour. We climbed up to an opening in the cave to watch the sunset. Exhausted and thirsty, we filled up our water bottles from the fresh streams flowing down the hill and took some rest. Our journey back to the car was uneventful. All in all, Lolab Valley excelled in its beauty, and we surely would like to return some day for a longer stay. 8. Athwatoo Out of all the less explored places that we visited in our Offbeat Kashmir tour, Athwatoo was the most offbeat. Though not very far from Srinagar (only about 70 kilometres away), Athwatoo felt like an out-of-the-world place. The place is in the north-eastern side of Bandipora district. The term Athwatoo loosely translates to ‘confluence of eight roads.’ From Bandipora town, the road to Athwatoo is quite narrow, bumpy, and curvy. We took a wrong turn and lost our way from Bandipora town, had to make a complete U-turn, and return to the town to find the right path. We suggest not relying much on Google Maps and asking your way around to the locals who are always helpful. We don’t know why Athwatoo isn’t on the tourist map. The place lies amongst the mountains, besides a fast-flowing river stream named Madhumati, and surrounded by thick forests. Madhumati stream originates from the high-altitude Harmukh mountain. With not a soul around and no noise pollution, all we could hear was the flowing stream water. We were the only travellers in Athwatoo. Even the locals looked bewildered on our arrival. The tourism board has recently constructed a beautiful property - the Athwatoo Resort, on the banks of the Madhumati stream, but we stayed at an even unbelievably stunning and unique accommodation. Ours was a one-bedroom tree house built on a walnut tree. The balcony of our room faced the rushing stream! Till date, this is the most unique accommodation we have stayed at. Our room on the treetop is made of premium wood and is warm and cosy. We were told that in summers, the tree is fully laden with walnuts and one can pluck fresh walnuts right from the room’s balcony. The tree house is surrounded by a large veranda with lots of hang-out spaces and viewpoints adorned with Kashmiri carpets, floor mattresses, and comfortable cushions. We spent some quality time at these little hang-out spots, dipping our feet in the cold water. The property is well-looked after. There’s even a fish breeding centre on the premises, which is full of trout fishes, hence giving ample opportunities for fishing and angling. We were offered fruits and biscuits with Kashmiri Kahwa on arrival and the caretakers cooked delicious meals. We slept to the sound of flowing river. We are sure that, on clear days, one could even spot the Milky Way clearly. There is no mobile network, internet, or wi-fi in Athwatoo, which gives a chance to connect with the locals and the loved ones. This place is ideal for people who love solitude, who want to meditate, or who is just seeking some peace of mind. From the treehouse, we had opportunities to go trekking to the upper forest area, however, we were so content with the place, we never felt a need to venture out. Athwatoo village has an abundance of pastures for shepherds. A folklore says that, after fleeing Egypt, Prophet Moses spent time in Athwatoo village. Our guide took us to the place where he dwelled. Though not very well maintained, this place is now covered with colourful flags and has lots of monkeys. It is often visited by Jews who happen to visit Kashmir. Note - If you are fascinated by the stories of Jesus and Moses visiting Kashmir and living in India, there is much more. There is even a place called Rozabal shrine in Srinagar which many believe is the actual tomb of Jesus Christ! Interesting? This is not just some story that some locals believe in. It is well documented by various historians and scholars across various faiths. You can read more about these stories in many books that could be bought on Amazon. 9. Naranag Naranag is only about 50 kilometres away from Srinagar but is a by-and-by different world altogether. Located in the Gandarbal district, Naranag is a small yet beautiful village, which acts as a base camp for several treks in Kashmir. The famed ‘Kashmir Great Lakes’ trek starts in Sonmarg and ends in Naranag. Other trails that start here are the Naranag-Dumail-Marchoi trek and Naranag-Gangabal Lake trek. But apart from trekkers, Naranag is seldom explored by tourists travelling to Kashmir. The Wangat River flows through Naranag and is adorned with a big glacier on one of its banks. Naranag is also a pilgrimage centre with a cluster of ruined Hindu temples divided in two groups - the Western Group and the Eastern Group. Due to years of neglect, the ruins are in a sad state of affairs. In the Western group, the main temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The roof of this temple is long gone and is covered by a layer of tin sheets. This temple is surrounded by several smaller ones. In the Eastern group, the largest temple is dedicated to Lord Bhuteswara (again Lord Shiva) and it houses a big Shiva Lingam. Further ahead is a large basin, where a spring flows. Crossing the Naranag temple complex, we walked on the Marchoi trail running along the Wangat River, that lead us to the glacier. We found several abandoned Gujjar houses and towering pine and walnut trees on our way. We went to the riverbank to see the glacier up close. A waterfall from the top pierced through the glacier before joining the river. It was quite a sight. The highlight of our visit to Naranag was our stay with a local family. There are no hotels or restaurants in the village. Guest house or homestay is the way to go. We stayed in a simple house with the family of our guide. Our hosts were warm and friendly and treated us with utmost affection. They served delicious home-cooked meals and we all sat together to eat around a heated Bukhari (fire chamber) to stay warm. We had a heart-to-heart conversation about Islam, Kashmiri way of living, and how media is responsible to have stained Kashmir’s image as an unsafe destination. 10. Other offbeat places to visit in Kashmir Here are few other offbeat places in Kashmir you could plan on visiting. Some of these places can be covered along with already listed places above while some may require you to head out specifically to visit this place. a. Dachigam National Park (20 kilometres from Srinagar) This national park was formed after relocating ‘10 villages’, and hence the name. It is a protected reserve, which can be easily covered as a day trip from Srinagar. Dachigam National park is known for the endangered Kashmiri stag - the only species of red deer to be found in India. Other animals and birds that you may spot includes bear, leopard, flycatcher, wild goat, golden oriole, falcon, griffon vulture, golden eagle, paradise flycatcher, monal, Eurasian eagle owls and more. b. Saffron fields of Lethpora & Pampore (15-25 kilometres from Srinagar) Lethpora and Pampore villages in Kashmir are renowned for their saffron cultivation, and visiting during October - November is a treat for the senses. One can marvel at the picturesque landscapes adorned with vibrant saffron blossoms in full bloom, painting the fields in hues of purple and gold. Immerse yourself in the aromatic ambiance and witness the meticulous process of saffron cultivation. From the delicate handpicking of precious saffron threads to the sun-drying techniques, you'll gain insight into the rich traditions behind this prized spice. A visit to these saffron fields offers a truly unique and sensory experience, combining natural beauty with cultural heritage. c. Martand Sun Temple in Anantnag district (70 kilometres from Srinagar) This temple is not visited as much as it should be. Martand Sun temple is a grand temple, which is now in ruins, but after visiting it, you can imagine how grand it must have been during its peak days. You can club visiting Martand Sun Temple along Saffron fields of Pampore and Lethiport and Achabal Garden, as they are located in the same direction on the way to Kokernag and Daksum. d. Achabal Garden in Anantnag district (70 kilometres from Srinagar) This was the first Mughal Garden we visited in Kashmir, and we simply loved the beauty of Achabal Garden’s. This garden was commissioned by Nur Jahan, the wife of Emperor Jahangir, during the Mughal era in the 17th century. It was designed as a pleasure garden and served as a retreat for the royal family. The garden showcases the distinctive features of Mughal architecture and landscaping, with terraces, water channels, fountains, and vibrant flower beds. Its historical significance and regal charm make it a must-visit destination for those seeking a glimpse into Kashmir's rich cultural heritage. Pro Tip: Visit Achabal Garden in autumn for a colourful exploration. e. Manasbal Lake (~30 kilometres from Srinagar) Having derived its name from Mansarovar lake, Manasbal Lake is known for its tranquil surroundings, pristine waters, and scenic beauty. One of the deepest fresh water lake in India, Manasbal lake is often referred to as the "supreme gem of all Kashmir lakes" due to number of aquatic birds that flock here and lotus blossoms seen in July - August. Visitors can enjoy boating, birdwatching, and exploring the scenic walking trails that surround the lake. A mughal garden called Jarokha bagh was buillt by empress Nur Jahan further adds to the captivating charm of the lake. f. Wular Lake (50 kilometres from Srinagar) This lake might not be as unexplored as the other places that are mentioned in this article, but it is definitely less visited and should be explored. Wular Lake is actually the largest freshwater lake in India. It spans an area of approximately 189 square kilometers and is located in the Bandipora district of Jammu and Kashmir. The lake is surrounded by picturesque mountains and is known for its rich biodiversity, serving as an important habitat for numerous bird species and aquatic life. Wular Lake offers a serene retreat for nature enthusiasts and bird watchers alike. The lake is best viewed from the Wular Vintage Park and the Durkei Lut viewpoint. g. Gurez Valley (130 kilometres from Srinagar) Road to Gurez Valley (that includes crossing Razdan Pass at 3560 metres) closes for about 6 months due to heavy snowfall, hence the valley can only be visited during summer and autumn months i.e., April-September/October. Do not miss out on viewing the pyramid shaped Habba Khatoon peak that turns golden in colour at the time of sunset. Travellers generally enjoy camping and trekking in Gurez Valley. h. Aru Valley (105 kilometres from Srinagar) Nestled amidst the majestic Himalayas, Aru Valley in Kashmir is a serene haven for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. With its picturesque landscapes, snow-capped mountains, and gushing rivers, the valley offers a perfect escape especially between May to September when meadows are green. Visitors can embark on lovely treks to explore the surrounding glaciers and alpine lakes, or opt for leisurely walks through pine forests and alongside meandering streams. Cliffhangers India - Our Travel Partner Exploring offbeat Kashmir isn’t an easy feat. Venturing alone may prove difficult/dangerous for several reasons. Since the above-mentioned places aren’t a part of general tourists’ itinerary, not many local drivers of Srinagar are aware of the routes or are trained in driving in the back-breaking terrains. Booking accommodations is complex and reaching out to the guides or stay hosts’ is even more difficult. Some places are restricted and may require a permit to visit. Due to these reasons, you may want to hire a travel agent. And hands down, there’s no better travel agent for exploring offbeat Kashmir than Cliffhangers India. Cliffhangers India is a decade-old travel agency registered with J&K Tourist Department. They specialise in separating a traveller from a tourist, with a keen eye for unexplored locations and deeper travel experiences. The owners, Adil and Arif, are avid travellers and trekkers themselves, which means they are clearly in the profession for the journey, and not just the destination. They curated and customised our entire itinerary as per our requirements and booked all our accommodations, some of which were pretty unique. They are local Kashmiris and hence have plenty reliable contacts who know the region in and out. Cliffhangers India also hired local guides for us in some of the offbeat places in Kashmir, who took us around their villages/valleys and offered us an immersive travel experience. They stayed in touch with us each day of the tour and ensured that we just sit back, relax, and enjoy the trip. Cliffhangers India offers tailor-made itineraries to meet individual agendas and budgets and provide the best Kashmir tour packages - whether its adventure sports, trekking across mountain ranges, camping under the night sky, or luxurious tours. You can book your tour with Cliffhangers India through their official website. Offbeat Kashmir itinerary Our 10-day offbeat Kashmir itinerary was curated by Cliffhangers India and it we think it is an ideal itinerary for anyone seeking to visit the unexplored places in Kashmir. Day 1 - Land in Srinagar, check-in to a houseboat, enjoy a Shikara ride Day 2 - Srinagar to Kokernag. Visit Achabal garden on the way. Explore Kokernag Day 3 - Kokernag to Daksum and explore Daksum. Daksum to Verinag to Srinagar Day 4 - Srinagar to Yusmarg and explore Yusmarg. Visit Charar-e-Sharif Masjid on the way Day 5 - Yusmarg to Doodhpathri and explore Doodhpathri Day 6 - Doodhpathri to Bangus and explore Bangus valley Day 7 - Bangus valley to Lolab and explore Lolab valley Day 8 - Lolab valley to Athwatoo and explore Athwatoo. Visit Wular Lake on the way Day 9 - Athwatoo to Naranag and explore Naranag Day 10 - Naranag to Srinagar and fly back If you have more days, you could add few places that we mentioned earlier such as Gurez valley or include a night stay around Wular lake. You could also plan to spend couple of nights in places like Doodhpathri or Yusmarg rather than one allowing you to have a little more relaxed trip. In case you are strapped for time, you could consider bucketing above listed places across different trips. For example Achabal - Kokernag - Verinag - Daksum could be 2-3 days trip, Yusmarg - Doodhpathri could be combined into one trip of 3-5 days, Bangus - Lolab could be combined into another trip, Athwatoo can be covered with Gurez valley in a separate trip. Based on how much time you have, you can use above information to curate your own itinerary. Save this Pin The real beauty of Kashmir lies in these above-mentioned quaint little spots that have still managed to stay hidden from the travellers who frequent the union territory. We have unlocked these places with a hope that you, as a reader and a traveller, will treat these destinations with respect, shower them with the care they deserve, and keep them clean. All these places can be reached in a few hours’ time from Srinagar. Of all these unexplored places to visit in Kashmir, which ones will you put in your travel bucket list? Let us know in the comments section below.

  • Top 10 Tranquil Escapes of Pakistan

    Pakistan is one of the most tranquil and underrated destinations in Asia. It is an often-overlooked and seldom-visited country. From pristine mountains to emerald lakes, epic adventures to archaeological sites, and diverse culture to incredible hospitality, Pakistan has it all! With Serene Air, Pakistan’s premium airline, offering comfortable and cheap travel to several destinations in Pakistan, the country is moving towards a tourism boom. Here are the top 10 tranquil escapes in Pakistan that you must definitely include in your itinerary. 1. Kaghan Valley Kaghan Valley is an alpine Valley located in the Mansehra district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. River Kunhar flows through the valley, which is surrounded by green mountains covered by alpine trees and snowy tops. Kaghan Valley is known for the nearby beautiful lakes namely Saif-ul-Malook Lake and Lulusar Lake that change colour depending on the sunlight and the time of the day. Babusar Pass which connects Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with Gilgit Baltistan is the highest point of the Kaghan Valley and is open from June to September. 2. Hunza Valley Often called the hidden gem of Pakistan, Hunza Valley is located in the Gilgit-Balochistan province. The best viewpoints to enjoy the entire Hunza Valley view are the Baltit Fort and the Eagle's Nest. The stunningly shimmering Attabad Lake should not be missed when visiting Hunza Valley. This turquoise water lake was formed after a massive landslide hit the area in 2012. Other must-visit attractions in Hunza Valley are the Hussaini Suspension Bridge, Passu Cones, and Borith Lake. 3. Kalash Valley Bunched up on the Afghan border in the far northwest of Pakistan, Kalash is an indigenous group of people who still lived as our ancestors lived centuries ago. Kalash Valley’s landscape is spectacular and the villages bloom with enchanting culture. Here, you can live with a local Kalash family in their homestays, learn about their culture, and eat Kalash food. The tribe speaks its own language, practises its own religion, and wears traditional dresses. You can also try your hand at several treks in the region. 4. Swat Valley Rightly labelled as the ‘Switzerland of India’ by Queen Elizabeth II, Swat Valley is amongst the most scenic valleys of Pakistan. Located in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan and once under the Taliban stronghold, Swat Valley is now a safe place to visit. In Swat Valley, hike to the Spin Khwar Lake, explore the Buddhist ruins around Mingora, visit the Mahodand Lake, tour the Marghazar White Palace, and enjoy adventure sports in Malam Jabba. 5. Neelum Valley Located in the northernmost district of Azad Kashmir, near the capital Muzaffarabad, Neelum Valley is home to freshwater streams, crystal-clear rivers, and verdant forests. Because of the Indo-Pak tension at the Line of Control, this valley remained out of tourist radar for a very long time, making it one of the most offbeat places to visit in Pakistan. The valley offers some wonderful hikes for alpine trekkers, like trekking to Naran and Ratti Gali Lake. Visitors can also explore the remains of Sharda Peeth, a notable temple and enjoy water sports. 6. Fairy Meadows Located in the Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan province, Fairy Meadows is blessed with matchless beauty. The meadows are at the base of the Nanga Parbat Mountain. Although challenging to reach, Fairy Meadows offers an incredible view of the Nanga Parbat. The place is not for the faint-hearted as you need to undertake a death-defying ride in a jeep for 1-2 hours, followed by a 3-hour hike to reach here. But once you reach here, the journey will seem worth it. Fairy Meadows is a paradise for trekkers and nature enthusiasts. 7. Ranikot Fort Also famously known as the ‘Great Wall of Sindh’, Ranikot Fort is the world’s largest fort with a circumference of approximately 32 kilometres. Located in the Jamshoro district of the Sindh province, the fort is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Ranikot Fort stands in the middle of nowhere and defends nothing, which is a little mysterious. The fort structure is constructed out of stone and lime mortar. Ranikot Fort makes for a perfect day-trip destination from Karachi. 8. Hingol National Park Hingol National Park is situated in the Lasbela district of the Balochistan province in Pakistan. The national park is a treasure trove of natural attractions. Covered in drift sand and surrounded by strange rock formations, Hingol National Park seems like another planet. Due to erosion caused by changing weather, many natural structures have popped up here, like the Princess of Hope and the Lion of Balochistan (sphinx of Pakistan). However, the most amazing geological feature is the mud volcanoes, which are also considered holy. 9. Deosai National Park Deosai National Park is a fertile plateau in the Gilgit-Baltistan province of Pakistan. Known for its lush greenery, Deosai is the world’s highest plateau located at an altitude of 4114 metres. The plateau is home to endless grasslands that are only accessible from June to September. During the peak wildflower season in July, the plateau is blanketed under a sheet of flowers of every shade imaginable. Sheosar Lake is one of the main attractions in Deosai National Park, where locals flock to picnic. 10. Khewra Salt Mine Situated in the Mianwali district of Punjab Province, Khewra Salt Mine is the world’s second-largest salt mine. Discovered back in the time of Alexander the Great, the salt mine is known for the ‘Himalayan rock salt’. Back in the day, the Britishers built a rail line to take the tourists inside the mine, which is still operational today. Inside the mine, you can walk through tunnels having salt icicles and stalactites. Various monuments made of colourful salt blocks are on display, like motifs of the Badshahi Tomb and Minar-e-Pakistan. The Khewra Salt Mine is an easy day trip from Islamabad or Lahore. Serene Air booking options are available to both of these destinations. Pakistan’s immense natural beauty is attracting more and more tourists every year. If you want these incredible places to yourself, now is the best time to visit. Many travel portals offer quick and easy Serene Air booking options. Go ahead and book your flights! We hope this blog inspires and helps you plan a travel itinerary for Pakistan.

  • Best Places to Stay in Srinagar

    Srinagar, the largest city and the summer capital of the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, exemplifies beauty and romance. Srinagar is located on both sides of the Jhelum River in the core of Kashmir Valley. We spent few weeks in Srinagar hopping around different areas with a single objective in mind – to discover and share the city’s best kept secrets in terms of stay and local experiences. In this article we help you understand different stay options available in Srinagar, recommend some places to stay and share with you some highly rated accommodations for you to consider. Suggested read Travel Guide to Srinagar, Kashmir Offbeat places to visit in Kashmir Table of contents Where to stay in Srinagar? What are the Prime areas to stay in Srinagar? Should you Stay in Houseboats in Srinagar? What to expect from Houseboats in Srinagar? So should you book a houseboat stay on Dal Lake or Nigeen Lake? Recommended places to stay in Srinagar based on our experience Mascot Houseboat Naivasha Ladakh House The Cottage Nigeen Other Highly-Rated Places to Stay in Srinagar High end luxury chain hotels in Srinagar Boutique hotels in Srinagar Houseboats in Srinagar Homestays / AirBnBs in Srinagar Hostels in Srinagar Suggested travel partner for Kashmir - Cliffhangers India Where to stay in Srinagar? Finding the right places to stay could be quite confusing in a place like Srinagar which has more than 1500 stays listed online, and out of that more than 200 stays have more than 4 star reviews out of 5. The prices for these accommodations range from Rs.500 per night to upwards of Rs.30,000 per night. It becomes all the more complicated, as seasoned travellers might notice, that many properties and house boats have high ratings on google that are paid for or bought. Let us help you break this problem down. What are the Prime Areas to Stay in Srinagar? Our travel guide to Srinagar highlighted all the places of interest summarized in map below. If you just zoom in and see where most hotels are located in Srinagar, you would find 4 areas that are pretty concentrated. You can plan on staying in one or more of these 4 prime areas based on your preference and purpose. 1. Around Boulevard road As you enter Dal gate, you would find yourself on a buzzing and beautiful lake side road called Boulevard road. On your right, you would find hotels, restaurants, and shops, and on your left across the water, you would find houseboats lined up. This area is very popular amongst tourists who like to stay in happening busy areas. While the Boulevard road goes on for ~13 kms, we refer to first couple of kms here till around Nehru park area. 2. Around Nishat Bagh & Shalimar Bagh As you continue driving on the Boulevard road on the lake side, you will find the crowd fading. Once you get closer to some of the popular gardens, you will see many accommodations popping up on the hill side. This area has some well known names in hospitality as well as a number of new hotels/guest houses/homestays located in and around towns of Nishat and Shalimar (While these names are famous as gardens, they are also towns where these gardens were made). These areas are far more peaceful than the areas around the Boulevard road, yet have easy access to Dal lake. Also, you should have your vehicle pre-booked if you are staying in one of these areas. On-the-spot booking of cabs or autos for transportation can be challenging in some of these areas. This is a good area to stay for long term. 3. Nagin Bagh and Nasim Bagh area If you visit the western side of the Dal Lake, you will pass quite busy and trafficky area called Rainawari, and then find a bridge, where on the left lies Nigeen Lake and on the right lies portions of Dal lake. Beyond this bridge, is the Nagin Bagh area, where you will find a number of stay options from Kashmiri houses converted into guest house/homestays to Kashmiri houseboats. Moving further, beyond Hazratbal, lies the Nasim Bagh area, which primarily is an area where you will find more locals than tourists. This area still has quite a few hotels, resorts, and homestays. Hence, this could be a good area to stay for long term as well. Both these areas are ideal to stay if you want easy access to both Nigeen and Dal Lake. Also, these are peaceful areas without many hawkers and commercial haggling. 4. Around Raj Bagh and Lal Chowk area Both Raj Bagh and Lal Chowk are slightly away from the lakes of Srinagar. Raj Bagh is one of the most posh residential localities of Srinagar, while Lal chowk is a commercial market area and historically significant city square. Both these areas have a number of hotels and some homestays to stay. The general rates for Raj Bagh hotels, as you would expect, are on a higher side than a similar hotel in Lal Chowk. These areas are ideal if you tend to spend a lot of time in shopping and are okay staying a little away from the lakes. If you are using Srinagar as a base to do day trips to nearby destinations, staying in these areas will help you enter and exit the city much more swiftly than the other areas avoiding many trafficky parts. Should you stay in Houseboats in Srinagar? As a central point for tourism in Kashmir, Srinagar is fairly urban and has all types of accommodation options. From backpacking hostels to high end luxurious chain of hotels, from cozy homestays to boutique accommodations, you will find a number of options to stay in Srinagar. A unique kind of stay that you will find in Srinagar is a houseboat. What to expect from Houseboats of Srinagar? It’s a no-brainer that if you are in Srinagar, you must spend at least one night in a houseboat. Houseboats are not just accommodations, they are an experience in itself! The houseboats on Dal Lake and Nigeen Lake are the best places to stay in Srinagar if you want to experience the local way of life. Based on how basic or luxurious houseboat you have chosen, you would find traditional wood carvings, carpets, chandeliers, and décor. Note that the houseboats in Srinagar are anchored and they do not move as the houseboats in Kerala do. You may not realize you are on water till you gaze outside or a motorboat passes that creates strong ripples that you may feel. You would usually have to reach a ghat (few steps leading to the lake) and ring your houseboat host. They arrange for a shikara boat to pick you up along with your luggage. Note that, while booking, you confirm if the cost of the pick-up is included in your room rate or not. Most houseboats have common areas, such as drawing or TV room, dining area, small kitchen, followed by rooms depending on the size of the boat. The rooms tend to have common walls and hence they can have less privacy, as these are wooden structures without much sound proofing. So, should you book a houseboat stay on Dal Lake or Nigeen Lake? We stayed in houseboats in both Dal Lake and Nigeen Lake and can tell you all about the stark difference we observed in the two. Dal lake is huge but most houseboats are concentrated in a small area. On Dal Lake, houseboats are anchored vertically and they are so many in number that they are placed very close to each other and packed bumper to bumper. When you try spending some leisure and relaxed time on the deck of the houseboats on Dal Lake, you are constantly approached by hawkers selling little trinkets in their small boats. So many that, after some time, they interfere/ruin your peace and you start getting irritated. It will also help if you check with your host beforehand, the ghat number where you should reach to get on to the houseboat. Dal Gate (point where the Dal Lake starts) is Ghat 1, and till about Ghat 12, you will find the area pretty busy. On Nigeen Lake, many houseboats (not all!) are anchored horizontally, which means you get the view of the lake not just from the deck of the houseboat, but from every room, including the bedroom. Though much smaller in size, Nigeen Lake has far less houseboats and is more peaceful and serene than Dal Lake, making it one of the best places to stay in Srinagar. You can enjoy time with your friends and family here without any interruptions, as there are very less or close to no hawkers in this lake. We highly recommend booking rooms in a houseboat in Nigeen Lake, but if you are in Srinagar for a very short duration and Nigeen Lake is not a part of your itinerary, renting a houseboat in Dal Lake is also satisfactory and not that bad. Just try to stay away from peddlers. Recommended places to stay in Srinagar based on our experience While areas around Dal Lake still remain the most popular areas to stay in Srinagar for the tourists, we ventured out two to three lanes beyond the touristy circle and found some wonderful gems in terms of stay. We recommend booking a stay at one of these accommodations and explore the Srinagar city amidst warm hospitality. Mascot Houseboats There are plenty palatial tourist accommodations on land. There’s even a ‘Palace on Wheels’ - the luxury tourist train run by Rajasthan Tourism Department. But have you heard of a ‘Palace on Water?’ We have found one for you - Mascot Houseboats in Srinagar. This is an ultra-luxurious houseboat that matches, and in some cases, exceeds conventional 5-star stay experiences. You can easily call it a ‘piece of art.’ Mascot Houseboats is one of the best places to stay in Srinagar. It is a group of 3 houseboats, located in a remote, quiet corner of the Nigeen Lake with the best views of surrounding mountains. It is a family business run by one of the oldest travel companies in Srinagar. They have rooms that cater to all types of budgets. A complimentary Shikara ride brings you to Mascot Houseboats from the ghat of the Nigeen Lake. Mascot Houseboats are made of superior quality cedar (deodar) wood and the attention to detail that has been put to build these houseboats is commendable. Firstly, the houseboats are massive with a large deck, a huge living room, a spacious dining room, a small kitchen, and enormous bedrooms. It additionally features an upper deck offering stunning views of Nigeen Lake and surrounding mountains. Over and above that, every corner of the houseboat is pure art with exquisite intricate carvings, royal crystal chandeliers, gorgeous Khatamband ceilings, classic draperies, fine craft work on all furniture, and through-and-through Kashmiri carpeting. Every nook of the houseboat oozes Kashmirism. Each room in Mascot Houseboat is themed and can be differentiated based on the style of the wood carving and décor. We stayed in one of the suites with latest comforts that one would have least expected in a houseboat. The rooms are centrally heated/air-conditioned with a temperature controller in each room. They have huge windows overlooking the lake. The bathrooms are big with bathtub, a separate bathing area, and rich toiletries. These features stand out to make Mascot Houseboats a best place to stay in Srinagar. Mascot Houseboat is amongst the most lavish accommodation you would find and is one of the best places to stay in Srinagar. We never felt a need to step out to explore Srinagar while staying there. What did we do? Well, a lot! Mornings were spent at the upper deck watching the rising sun cast a rosy hue across the sky, followed by a wholesome breakfast, after which we lazed around either on the front deck or upper deck with a book from their interesting book collection. We spent afternoons besides the window in our bedroom, watching the shikaras and the fishermen boats pass by, and enjoying the changing colours of the Nigeen lake. Evenings were again spent at the upper deck soaking in the dramatic surroundings as the Mahadev Mountain peak and the lake water glowed with golden colour cast by the setting sun. What really differentiated our experience at Mascot Houseboats was the service. The host, Mr. Shoukat, made sure we had everything we wanted. He is extremely hospitable. He was enthusiastic in giving us a tour and explained every detail of the iconic houseboat. We’re sure he’s congratulated quite often for his dedication towards building this artistic accommodation. The delight with which he described Kashmiri culture is nothing but commendable. On learning that we are vegetarians, he instructed his kitchen staff to prepare us a vegetarian Kashmiri Wazwan, which was served in salubrious courses. We still miss the food we enjoyed on board. Not to forget, the generous servings of tea and Kahwa with homemade cookies and delicious breads. As we retired to our comfortable beds in the night, after watching the innumerous stars lit the sky, we felt at home. We urge everyone visiting Srinagar to stay with Mascot houseboats and experience the most authentic Kashmiri hospitality with artistic surroundings. Book Mascot houseboat from their website or any of the online travel portals below - Naivasha Ladakh House Are you an authentic traveler who cares more about the experiences while travelling than ticking-off sightseeing spots? Do you crave for genuine conversations and prefer living with the locals irrespective of the centrality of the location? If your answer to these two questions is ‘yes’, then go ahead and book your stay with Naivasha Ladakh House in Srinagar. After having stayed at Naivasha Ladakh House, we are confused how to categorise this accommodation. Well, for us, it was a one in all - a homestay, an apartment, a boutique stay, a retreat, an orchard stay, and a home away from home. It has earned our respect as one of the best places to stay in Srinagar. Naivasha Ladakh House is Fozia and Siddiq’s house and they are kind souls to share their heavenly abode with visitors. We found this gem on AirBnB as they only take booking from this travel website. No, you won’t find it anywhere else, not even on Google Maps, and that’s what makes this place all the more special. The hosts rent out 2 apartments housed in their premises to guests - both fully furnished with an attached kitchen. Their orchard in the backyard is the best part of the accommodation. Our booking with Naivasha Ladakh House was pretty last minute, but Fozia ensured that the studio apartment type room is ready when we arrived. The place instantly felt like home. The bedroom is quite spacious and furnished with an eye for detail. There’s a large double bed, two lounge chairs, a centre table, a wardrobe, and a study table with a revolving chair. The washroom was large and clean and we were provided with quality toiletries. The fully-functioning kitchenette had a burner stove, an electric kettle, a refrigerator, all basic utensils, and spices. Fozia had kept a loaf of local bread, jam, butter, and some fruits for us in the kitchen. So very thoughtful! Not just this, our room also had hot water bags, iron, and a hair dryer. They have high-speed WiFi that works flawlessly in their entire property. Electric blankets, heater, and 24 hours hot running water ensured that we stayed warm and cosy. What more can you ask for?! A few highlights of our stay at Naivasha Ladakh House are having all our meals in their garden with company of several species of birds, our interesting conversations with Fozia about Kashmiri culture and beyond, walking to the Dal Lake every evening (15-20 min walk), and learning a thing or two about gardening from their gardener. Fozia is knowledgeable, well-read, and an excellent host. She suggested us places to visit and local cuisines that we must try, and we were not disappointed with any of her recommendations. What made our experience better staying at Naivasha Ladakh House is the keenness and interest with which Fozia spoke to us about Kashmir, its issues, its art and craft, and its culture. Fozia and Siddiq are setting great standards to make guests feel at home and hence is one of the best places to stay in Srinagar. Each night as we returned back after dinner, it felt like coming back home. The stay is a little away from the central sightseeing locations, but if you like living like a local, don’t think twice and book your stay with them. You can book them from Airbnb. The Cottage Nigeen The Cottage is a beautiful homestay located on the banks of Nigeen Lake in Srinagar. The two-storey house is old, but very thoughtfully re-furbished keeping tourists and their comforts in mind. As we entered the secluded narrow lane while driving towards The Cottage Nigeen, we were a bit skeptical, but once we reached, we were surprised to see the homestay’s gate open up to an expansive garden, in the middle of which is the building we will soon call home! The Cottage Nigeen houses 5 bright and comfortable rooms and a seating room, on the first and second floor. The ground floor accommodates the reception, a kitchen, a living room, and a dining room. The house is surrounded by well-maintained garden on all sides. We visited Srinagar towards the end of winter season and all the trees and ground were barren, but at The Cottage Nigeen, we surprisingly found greenery. They have planted plenty evergreens in their garden. It felt like coming home to spring! The Cottage Nigeen is fully carpeted, filled with traditional decoration, and promises you a delightful Kashmiri experience. Largely built of wood, the house is warm and cosy on the inside and green and peaceful on the outside. The rooms are larger than most you will find in Srinagar, clean, well-maintained, have a large double bed, chairs with a center table, lots of storage space, floor-to-ceiling mirror, and are equipped with a heater. The washrooms have toiletries and 24-hour running water. All rooms have great views of the surrounding garden. We spent 2 nights at The Cottage Nigeen and the highlight for us was spending time in the covered sit-out in the garden, enjoying the fresh, sumptuous, home-cooked meals prepared by Tahira, flicking through and reading books in their cosy vintage common living room on the first floor, and having fruitful conversations with Mr. Muslim, our host, about Kashmir and beyond. Everything in the house, right from the architecture, the books, the paintings, to the photographs, took us on a trip to old Kashmir. If you look to enjoy the essence of Kashmir while in Srinagar, like the tall evergreens, Chinar trees, orchards, furniture with intricate carvings, and regional hospitality, then book your stay with The Cottage Nigeen without a second thought. It’s a perfect play to stay in Srinagar if you seek peaceful atmosphere and wish to avoid touristy hustle in the surroundings. The homestay is located in interiors of close to NIT, Srinagar and at walking distance from Hazratbal Masjid. Though located very close to Nigeen Lake, there’s no short way to walk to the lake. But they do have a deluxe room on the top floor which provides lake view. Book The Cottage Nigeen from the online travel portals below - Other Highly-Rated Places to Stay in Srinagar Apart from the accommodations we have recommended above, below are a few other highly-rated places to stay in Srinagar that you may consider depending on your budget and requirements categorized based on type of accommodation. You can also click on icons below to see the prices, reviews and book the stay. Here is an interactive map showing all the places listed above for you to get an idea of the location - Suggested travel partner for Kashmir - Cliffhangers India You may have felt that planning a trip to Srinagar or Kashmir is very daunting. The number of amazing places to see in Kashmir are just too many, and hence it is always a good idea to have a local travel partner who knows each and every place in detail. We found a perfect travel partner in Cliffhangers India who made it easy for us to explore various offbeat places across Kashmir. We also used their expertise to understand and visit the old city of Srinagar. They managed our stays based on our budget and curated our itinerary, which helped us enjoy our tour without any stress. Cliffhangers India is a Srinagar-based travel agency that specializes in showcasing Kashmir like no one could. From adventure sports to treks, culturally immersive experiences to relaxed vacations, and offbeat explorations to casual staycations, you name it and they can arrange it for you. Check out their official website - Cliffhangers India to explore a wide range of experiences in Kashmir. We highly recommend visiting Kashmir with them and seeing Kashmir through their eyes. They could definitely find the best stays for you as per your needs, but they could also do a lot more to make your trip memorable. It’s no surprise that Srinagar is filled with travellers all year round. Always remember that the place of stay is crucial when it comes to the satisfaction of a trip. So, if you envision one of these places to stay in Srinagar, make sure to book ahead of schedule. We hope this article will help you experience the true flavours of Kashmir through its amazing stays. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let us know in the comment section below or drop us a mail. Don’t forget to share your views about the best places to stay in Srinagar or how your experience was visiting the city. If you know an accommodation that we should experience in Srinagar, feel free to contact us. Pin this image

  • Travel Guide to Srinagar, Kashmir

    No other place in the world has so widely been referred to as paradise, as Kashmir in India. Srinagar, the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and a beautiful valley set with lakes, brooks and exquisite gardens, is a wonderful first-hand rendition to what Kashmir truly is! We arrived in Srinagar smack in the middle of Spring Equinox, just when the winter had loosened its hold on the valley and the delicate fragrance of almond blossoms filled the air. This article will act as a complete travel guide on Srinagar that’ll highlight places to visit and stay in Srinagar, local delicacies to try in Srinagar, best restaurants/cafes in Srinagar, what and where to shop in Srinagar, and what an ideal Srinagar itinerary will look like. Suggested read Best places to stay in Srinagar, Kashmir Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir Table of Contents About Srinagar, Kashmir Is it safe to travel to Srinagar, Kashmir? How to reach Srinagar? Air Rail Road Best time to visit Srinagar Places to visit in Srinagar Gardens of Srinagar Tulip Garden Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Botanical Garden Nishat Bagh Shalimar Bagh Badam Wari Other Gardens Lakes of Srinagar Dal Lake Nigeen Lake Higher points giving 360-degree views of Srinagar Shankaracharya Temple Pari Mahal Hari Parbat Fort Old City of Srinagar Naqashband Sahab Shrine Jamia Masjid Budshah Tomb Pathar Masjid Kadals/Bridges Khanqah-e-Moula Hazratbal Mosque Other places to visit in Srinagar Floating Post Office Museums Places to visit near Srinagar Where to stay in Srinagar? What to eat in Srinagar (Local delicacies)? Best restaurants/cafes in Srinagar What and where to shop in Srinagar? Local conveyance in Srinagar Srinagar itinerary About Srinagar, Kashmir Located at an altitude of 5200 feet above sea level, Srinagar is nestled in the Himalayas, forming the northernmost part of India. Blessed with beautiful lakes, fertile land that blooms every year, historical gardens, and River Jhelum that forms the lifeline of Kashmir, the landscapes of Srinagar are reminiscent of what one would fancy painting in childhood. Historically, Srinagar has been a major trade center connecting Persia to Central and East Asia. As Kashmir has been ruled by different religious monarchs over the last 2000 years, namely Buddhist rulers in Ashoka’s and Kushana's time, Hindu rulers in medieval times, Islam rulers for most of the last 600 years, Afghani rulers for shorter durations, and Sikh rulers during Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Srinagar has become a cauldron of all these cultures. Tourism as well flourished in between 1950s to 80s when Kashmir used to be most visited place in India by foreign travellers. In fact from what we were told by some locals, the famous houseboats of Srinagar where introduced by foreign tourists who legally could not own anything on land which was immovable and fixed. But they could venture into building and buying houseboats on Jhelum river. River safaris used to be a popular concept where one would travel across Kashmir in these boats. Slowly locals realized the income potential of these houseboats and moved their base to Dal lake. All of this however came to a halt with exodus of Kashmiri pandits in early 90s as political unrest took control. Tourism slowly started again in mid 2000s and since then has been on a rise. Is it safe to travel to Srinagar, Kashmir? While one may still feel safety could be a concern while visiting Kashmir, times have changed. In our 3rd trip to Srinagar across 9 years, we could definitely see how most people have left the past behind and are embracing the future. Srinagar feels like any other developing city of India. Education and economic prosperity are at the forefront of people's mind. Though you might still see Army personnel all around, we never for a second felt unsafe in our 3-week trip across Kashmir. The innate welcoming nature of Kashmiris is unparalled. Their humility and friendliness have always existed. While many things have changed, as travellers we need to change our perception as well. How to reach Srinagar? You can reach Srinagar by either of these 3 routes: Reach Srinagar by air The Sheikh ul-Alam Airport in Srinagar is an international airport and is well connected with regular flights from Delhi, Mumbai, and Chandigarh. You can book connecting flights to Srinagar airport with a few hours layover at any of these airports. Srinagar airport is located about 15-20 kilometres from the centre of the city. Reach Srinagar by rail Udhampur railway station (150 km away from Srinagar) and Banihal Railway Station (100 km away from Srinagar) are the two nearest railway stations to Srinagar. These railway stations are connected by a network of trains to the major cities in India via Northern Railway Line. You can reach any of these stations and then hire a private taxi or take a government bus to reach Srinagar. Reach Srinagar by road Srinagar is the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir state. The city is very well connected with National Highways to major Indian cities like Delhi (800 km), Chandigarh (570 km), Leh (420 km), and Jammu (250 km). There are decent bus services and cab rentals available from these cities to Srinagar. Best time to visit Srinagar We are often asked this question and it is the most difficult one to answer! All the seasons are very prominent in this part of India. The spring season (late March to April) is all about new blossoms and varied colours (especially white, pink, and yellow). Asia’s largest Tulip Garden opens for about a month during spring and is visited by thousands of tourists. During this time, there’s still snow in high-altitude areas near Srinagar (like Gulmarg, Doodhpathri and Yusmarg), but spring has made it’s way in the city. So a trip to Kashmir at this time will allow you to enjoy best of both seasons (winter and spring). In the summer season (May to August) everything turns green. The weather is pleasant, various trek routes open up near Srinagar (like Great Lakes trek starting from Sonamarg and ending at Naranag), the valleys bloom with beautiful flowers, saffron blooms cover the entire area near Srinagar in purple coloured flowers, Dal Lake is covered in pink coloured lotuses, and the apple, pear, and plum trees are laden with fruits. Also, the inaccessible valleys and passes that receive high snowfall in winter (like Bangus valley, Gurez valley, Sinthan Top in Daksum), open up for visitors in summer time. However, this is also the peak season, when lakhs of tourists visit Srinagar/Kashmir (especially May-Jun which is summer vacation in most schools in India); hence if you choose this time, make sure you make all the bookings in advance and be ready to face a lot of crowd. As autumn season arrives (September to November), the valley shifts its colour to amber, orange, brown, and reds. The leaves of trees, especially the Chinar trees, shed and cover the ground in magical colours. It’s amongst the best time to visit the Mughal gardens in Srinagar (as well as in Kokernag, Anantnag, and Verinag), which are full of Chinar trees. In the winter season (December to February), the valley is covered under a white sheet of snow. Snow in Srinagar city only lasts for about a fortnight, but you get to experience snow in almost all the nearby areas like Sonmarg, Gulmarg, and Pahalgam. If you are into snow sports like skiing, sledging, snowshoeing, and ice-skating, this is the best time to visit Kashmir. As you may have realised, each season gives you a different flavour in Kashmir. The best time to visit Srinagar/Kashmir depends on what season you enjoy the most, what you want to see, and what exactly you are looking to do. Note that Jul to Sep could also see some rains. However over time, rains have become quite erratic like many other places across the world and off-season rains also happen very often. Places to visit in Srinagar Most tourists arrive in and depart from Srinagar during their Kashmir tour. However, in a run to visit the touristy places (like Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and Sonamarg), they fail to visit the gems of Srinagar. Following is the detailed guide on all the places to visit in Srinagar that you must spare time for: Gardens of Srinagar - There is no shortage of scenic gardens in Srinagar. With evergreens, ornamental trees, and perennial flowers that have different bloom times, the gardens in Srinagar have something to offer the visitors every season. All gardens have an entrance fee of INR 24 per adult except Tulip garden which has a fee of Rs.50 per adult. Tulip Garden Tulips are among the first flowers to bloom after a prolonged spell of winter in Kashmir. The tulip blossoms last only for 4-6 weeks in the months of March end and April. Srinagar’s Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden is Asia’s largest tulip garden, where you can see display of millions of tulips in full bloom, in 20 acres of land painted with different colours of the flower. The dates could slightly vary each year and is published beforehand. Note that due to limited timeframe, it is usually full of visitors. It is highly recommended you avoid weekends when locals and tourists in equal numbers flock the garden. Weekdays in morning at the time it opens (around 8:30-9 AM) is the best way to avoid crowds. Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Botanical Garden Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Botanical Garden is located just besides the Tulip Garden and is worth a quick visit. The garden surrounds a huge pond and is filled with wide varieties of flowers and trees planted in decorative ways. The well-manicured garden is a great picnic spot, both for locals and visitors. Nishat Bagh Nishat Bagh, located on the banks of the Dal Lake, is the largest of all the Mughal Gardens in Srinagar. The garden has stair-typed shallow terraces with a water channel in the middle that carries fresh spring water from its source high up in the Zabarwan Hills. The garden has huge Chinar trees, which we’re sure might be a sight to behold in the autumn season. Nishat Bagh is also adorned with seasonal flowers and numerous fountains. Shalimar Bagh Built by Mughal emperor Jehangir for his beloved wife, Empress Nur Jahan, Shalimar Bagh is the most magnificent Mughal Garden of Srinagar. It’s also referred to as an ‘abode of love’ for the same reason. Built in the same architectural manner as Nishat, Shalimar Bagh also has several terraces with a canal flowing through the middle of the garden. During our visit, the daffodils and apricot trees were in full bloom, decorating the garden with vibrant white and pink colours. Badam Wari Badam Wari, meaning ‘garden of almonds’, is an almond haven which becomes an eye candy for visitors during the onset of spring season by covering 38 acres of land with white-coloured almond blossoms and some pink cherry blossoms. The locals come here during the spring with food, tea, and bread and spend time in recreation. Badam Wari is one of the most beautiful gardens on the banks of Nigeen Lake, which is less touristy and gives a more local feel. Other Gardens Apart from the ones mentioned above, Srinagar is home to several other well-maintained gardens that include Chashme Shahi Mughal Garden, Chinar Heritage Park, Naseem Bagh, and Nageen Park - each one quite unique and offering good views of the Dal/Nigeen Lake and providing a serene experience. Lakes of Srinagar Lakes in Srinagar are not just the usual water bodies that you find in other cities or areas, but they are the quintessential examples of Kashmiri beauty, with snow-capped mountains as scenic backdrop. It’s hard to believe that all the lakes in Srinagar, in fact in Kashmir, are connected to each other through narrow canals or rivers. Dal Lake Often referred to as the Jewel in the Crown of Kashmir, Dal Lake is a popular tourism and recreation spot in Srinagar and the second-largest lake in Kashmir (first one being Wular Lake). The lake’s shoreline is encompassed by a boulevard and is lined with Mughal gardens. Tourists can opt to stay on the Dal Lake in Kashmir’s indigenous houseboats, made of pure cedar wood, and those staying elsewhere on land can also enjoy the lake by taking a bedecked ornamental Shikara ride. In summers, lotus flowers grow in the Dal Lake, which turns a part of the lake ‘pink’. Dal lake has more than 30 ghats starting with ghat one at Dal gate. Ghat number is usually the reference point for sharing addresses of house boats. We recommend taking the Shikara Ride twice - First of course in the evening, when the setting sun imparts golden colour to the water of Dal Lake. There are many options based on how long you want to go around and how many points you want to cover. We opted for a 3-hour Shikara ride in the lake in the evening, where the Shikara-boy rowed the boat with heart-shaped oars and took us to 8 points in Dal Lake, including the floating post office, the Nehru Park, the Golden Lake, the Gurkha houseboat (where Mission Kashmir movie was shot), and the floating market - Meena bazaar (selling all kinds of Kashmiri handicrafts and trinkets) that can be accessed only by a boat. You would also find number of hawkers on boats coming by to sell all kinds of things such as Kahwa (Kashmiri Tea), Barbeque, handicrafts, flowers and even offering to shoot your photographs. Note that you might have to pay a higher cost for most items on the Dal Lake. We opted for a 3-hour Shikara ride in the lake in the evening, where the Shikara-boy rowed the boat with heart-shaped oars and took us to several points in Dal Lake, including the floating post office, the Nehru Park, the Golden Lake, the Gurkha houseboat (where Mission Kashmir movie was shot), and the floating market - Meena bazaar (selling all kinds of Kashmiri handicrafts and trinkets). We definitely suggest going for a Shikara ride, but note that you might have to pay a higher cost for most items on the Dal Lake. Another great time to enjoy a Shikara ride in the lake is very early in the morning, when the waters are still and reflections in water much better and hardly any tourists around. The added advantage of this time is getting a chance to see the lake dwellers buying and selling fresh vegetables at throw-away prices at the floating vegetable market known as ‘Raad’ in Kashmiri. Note that to witness this, you may have to start very early (around 5 AM) in your Shikara based on how far you you stay from this market. Nigeen Lake Leading from the Dal Lake is the smaller Nigeen Lake. This lake’s surroundings are more serene and and peaceful. The lake is surrounded by willow and poplar trees, whose reflections are beautifully mirrored in the water of the lake. Nigeen Lake is a nice getaway from the happening / chaotic (depends on how you see things) Dal Lake and acts as a perfect place to escape from the hectic and busy urban life. Without having to travel out of Srinagar, Nigeen Lake provides tourists a chance to unwind. We stayed in houseboats at both Dal and Nigeen Lake, and all we can say is that the lakes are completely opposite of each other. At Dal, you will be surrounded by a lot of hawkers selling over-expensive trinkets in their boats; who, after a point of time, start irritating you. However you can access the boulevard road easily that has hordes of shops, restaurants etc. At Nigeen, everybody mind their own business and that’s what makes it peaceful. Houseboats are spaced apart in Nigeen unlike Dal making it much more quite and serene. Higher Points Giving 360 degree Views of Srinagar Whenever we explore a city, we first try to get to its highest point to get a real perspective of the place, understand the geography, and of course to enjoy a birds eye view. Here are some places you can visit in Srinagar to get such a view. Shankaracharya Temple Situated at an altitude of 1100 feet above the surface level of city, Shankaracharya Temple is a renowned Hindu temple in Srinagar, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Adi Shankaracharya, who was a philosopher, stopped to stay at this very place in Srinagar about 1000s of years ago, hence the name. You will need to climb some 200 well-laid stone steps to get to the Shankaracharya temple. But from the temple premises, you get a stunning 360 degree view of Dal Lake and Srinagar city on a clear day; worth all the hard climb. Note that road leading to the hill gets closed at 4:30 PM itself and hence you will have to plan accordingly. Pari Mahal Pari Mahal (also called as ‘The Palace of fairies’) is the highest of all the Mughal gardens in elevation from the sea level, as its located atop a hillock in Srinagar. It has a total of seven shallow-terraced gardens built one above another that lead to a palace. Pari Mahal is different from the other Mughal gardens due to the absence of a water channel in the middle. Nevertheless, the garden offers a matchless view of Dal Lake and Srinagar city from its terraces. Hari Parbat Fort You can also get a bird’s-eye view of Srinagar from the Hari Parbat Fort, built under the reigns of Mughal emperor Akbar in 1590 AD. Hari Parbat Fort stands on a hillock and the topmost point of the fort provides breathtaking view of Dal and Nigeen Lakes as well as most of Srinagar city. The fort also houses a Hindu temple, few mosques, and a gurdwara, making it a symbol of the diverse religious and cultural history of the region. Hari Parbat Fort is maintained by the Indian Army and late in the evening, it is lit beautifully in tricolours. Old City of Srinagar If you want to see real Kashmir, you need to venture into the non-touristy areas (beyond Dal Lake and Mughal gardens) and visit the old yet culturally rich interiors of Srinagar city. And the best way to explore such areas is to enroll for a guided walking tour. We joined a Heritage Walking Tour organised by Cliffhangers India, who apart from organize adventurous treks and offbeat tours across Kashmir, also specialise in having intimate knowledge of the city and its history. Our walk started from Naqashband Sahab Shrine, a Sunni Muslim shrine, located amidst a garden. It’s believed that when the holy relic of Phophet Mohammad’s hair was brought to Kashmir in the 1690s, it was first kept in this shrine; which was later shifted to Hazratbal shrine. The Naqashband Sahab Shrine is made of wood with intricate carvings in the pinjra-kari style of work. The shrine also embraces a graveyard of martyrs who were killed by the Dogra forces in its surrounding gardens. The heritage walk then moves towards the Jamia Masjid, one of the most important mosques in Kashmir. Jamia Masjid’s construction is highly influenced by Persian architecture, with the traditional Chaar Bagh plan and a small water body in the middle. The mosque can accommodate up to 30,000 pilgrims during prayer time and has separate sections for women to offer their prayers. We then meandered through the Kashmiri Pandit areas, where we saw their abandoned shops and homes having projected balconies and arc-shaped doors. The heritage walk then opened into magnificent Sufi mosques and tombs like the Budshah Tomb, located on the banks of Jhelum River. The tomb is of the mother of the most benevolent ruler of Kashmir, Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin - the 8th emperor of Shah Mir dynasty that ruled Kashmir from 1339 to 1561. The tomb looked more like a grand mosque and is believed to be influenced by Persian architecture. Again on the streets, we moved towards Pathar Masjid, a Mughal-era stone mosque with several arches. Built by Empress Noor Jahan, it is amongst the very few structures erected by a Queen in Kashmir. The mosque really stands out with a lotus-like plinth and non-pyramidal roof. We crossed wooden bridges (locally referred to as Kadals), over the Jhelum River, a few times during the walk. The view of all the notable monuments from Ali Kadal and Zaina Kadal was breathtaking. We also separately walked to the Zero Bridge while staying near Dal Gate. It’s a beautiful wooden structure marvel. There are 7 old wooden bridges on River Jhelum that are named after the various rulers of the region and also in numbers 'zero to six'. Buzzing markets surround these bridges. Our walk ended at Khanqah-e-Moula, the most stunning Kashmiri monument decorated with papier mache art on the walls. The mosque is prominently green in colour with intricately carved wooden doors and windows. The inside is adorned with chandeliers and colourful walls. Khanqah-e-Moula has a huge pavilion, where the worshippers feed grains to hundreds of pigeons flying around in the complex. A perfectly marvellous end to our Heritage Walking Tour with Cliffhangers India. The Heritage Walking Tour was much more than a guided tour; more like an friendly walk with a highly knowledgeable person - Mr. Arif, who is not only passionate about Kashmir and its heritage, but is also well-read and keen to answer all our curious questions ranging from Kashmir to Islam. He was open enough to objectively view his own religion and history & paint an honest picture for us. As someone who has seen political aspects of this region only from a distance - this walk was a complete eye-opener for us and we highly recommend it to visitors who want to understand Kashmir beyond the tourist-traps. We also happened to visit the Hazratbal Mosque separately. It is actually a Dargah, which houses the holy relic of Prophet Mohammed. Hazratbal Mosque is located on the banks of Dal Lake and provides a great view of the lake from the backside garden. Made of white marble, the mosque is amongst the most respected Dargah in Kashmir. It’s fun to see thousands of pigeons cooing and playfully flying between trees in the backside garden. Other places to visit in Srinagar Floating Post Office The Nehru Park Floating Post Office located on the Dal Lake is the only floating post office in the world. The post-office is basically in a houseboat anchored close to Ghat No. 9 and easily accessible from the Boulevard road surrounding the lake. The post office generally sells postcards at the houseboat itself, but they are running out of stock since 6-7 months now. The nearest shop that sells postcards is near Ghat No. 1, so we had to drive all the way back to Dal Gate to get the cards. And disappointingly, the quality of the photos on the postcards that we saw were way outdated. Any tourist would have better photos with them, if only we could get them printed! With no option left, we bought those average cards at INR 20/postcard. Back at the floating post office, the post master stamped the cards (INR 5 stamp for India and INR 20 for foreign countries) and put a seal of 'a man riding a shikara' over the stamps. All-in-all, the service at the post office is smooth and quick, just get your cards from elsewhere. The red post box is hung right outside the floating houseboat and excitedly we dropped our cards in there, hoping they’ll reach the addresees. Museums If you are one interested in museums, Srinagar does not have many options. The best museum to visit in Srinagar is Sri Pratap Singh museum in Lal mandi which is located in summer palace of Maharaja Sri Pratap Singh, ruler of Jammu & Kashmir from 1848 - 1925. There are upwards of 70,000 artifacts here that enlighten visitors about the rich cultural heritage of the state. One can easily spend an hour here going through archaeological section, antiquities, coins and decorative arts. You can also visit craft museum in central market near Airport which houses various handmade artifacts such as Namdha carpets, copperware, sozni embroidery, Papier-mâché, clothing items etc. Places to visit near Srinagar Gulmarg (50 km), Pahalgam (90 km), and Sonmarg (100 km) are the most touristy places to visit near Srinagar and are often frequented by lakhs of visitors each year. We did an Offbeat Tour of Kashmir to lesser known places around Srinagar with Cliffhangers India. The Offbeat Tour included places like Daksum (100 km), Doodhpathri (50 km), Yusmarg (50 km), Bangus Valley (100 km), Lolab Valley (100 km), Athwatoo (70 km), and Naranag (50 km). Other places to visit near Srinagar include Gurez (130kms), Dachigam National Park (20 km), Wular Lake (65 km), Manasbal Lake (30 km), Aru and Betaab Valley (100 km). Where to stay in Srinagar? We were in Srinagar for few weeks and were hopping around different areas which helped us identify some great places to stay in Srinagar. You can read our detailed article on Best places to stay in Srinagar, but here is a quick summary of places we experienced and would recommend. Mascot Houseboats Undoubtedly the best luxury accommodation in Srinagar. Mascot Houseboats are a group of three houseboats located in a quiet corner of Nigeen Lake. They have palatial rooms with 5-star amenities and an upper deck, that offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Their Kashmiri hospitality is top-notch and food so yum, you will lick your fingers! Mr. Showkat, the host at Mascot, has built the iconic houseboats with great zeal and they truly are a marvel of intricate wooden artwork. Naivasha Ladakh House An apartment/boutique stay you should book if you prefer living with the locals irrespective of the centrality of the location. The studio apartment is spacious with a functioning kitchenette. The best part of Naivasha Ladakh House is the lovely orchard in their backyard, that was ready to bloom with flowers during our visit. We found this gem on AirBnB and are grateful that we got to stay here. Fozia is an excellent host and we had some extremely interesting conversations with her. The Cottage Nigeen Located close to the Nigeen Lake, The Cottage is a charming homestay with service staff that promises you an authentic Kashmiri experience. The accommodation is an old, re-furbished house with featuring five large rooms surrounded by a well-maintained garden. The Cottage Nigeen is a perfect place to stay in Srinagar if you are looking for a vintage Kashmiri house and home-cooked food. What to eat in Srinagar (Local delicacies)? Kashmir is known for its street food, so here’s a list of culinary experiences you must sample when you are in Srinagar. Wazwan The cuisine of Kashmir, Wazwan, is an aromatic feast with rice, lamb, and chicken forming the basis of the dishes. Our host at Mascot Houseboats was kind enough to prepare a vegetarian Wazwan for us, which included Kashmiri Haak (green leafy vegetables cooked in mustard oil, asafoetida, and local spices), Aloo-Bukhara (peeled apricots tossed in a spicy gravy), Nadru Yakhni (lotus stem cooked with spices and yoghurt), and Paneer tossed in two different gravys (spicy and sweet); everything served with local bread and rice, ending with Phirni (dessert made of rice, milk, saffron, and cardamom). Absolutely yummy! Nadir Monji This is a fried street food made by dipping lotus stems in rice and gram flour, and then deep-frying them in oil. The outer covering is crispy, but as you start chewing, the inner lotus stem gives a soft yet neutral flavour. Masaal This Kashmiri version of tacos is made by filling the local Lawasa roti (bread) with chick peas (a legume) and making a wrap out of it. Masaal is quite fulfilling and not just satisfies hunger, but taste buds too. It is served with radish chutney. Moong Masala A basic take-away healthy snack, where black gram and other Kashmiri beans are steamed with spices and salt and served hot. Halwa Paratha A much-loved Kashmiri street food. Halwa is made of semolina (sooji) and ghee and served hot with a portion cut from a huge (3-feet diameter) paratha made of all-purpose flour. Kahwa A soul-warming Kashmiri drink made by boiling green tea leaves with local saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, Kashmiri roses, herbal infusions, and lots of different nuts. It tastes yum when the brew is served hot. Noon Chai It is a traditional Kashmiri tea made with green tea leaves, milk, salt, and baking soda. The chai is pink in colour and tastes salty. Sometimes, butter and almonds are added to noon chai. Where to Eat in Srinagar or the Best Restaurants/Cafes in Srinagar? Having stayed in Srinagar for a fortnight, we hopped to eat in several restaurants and cafes each day. Here are the ones that we found the best. The Central Perk As the name suggests, this café is themed around the popular sitcom show - F.R.I.E.N.D.S. The interiors are bang on with the famous apartment blue door, the famous couch, and posters on the wall with each characters’ famous dialogues. The Central Perk majorly serves fast food, but there was also a small section of Indian cuisines. We ordered noodles, burger, and oreo shake; all served in good quantity and tasted yum. Highly recommend this café for food and photography. The staff is friendly and are willing to click pictures if you ask them. They also sell F.R.I.E.N.D.S-themed merchandise like notepads, coasters, magnets, cushions, and mugs. There’s another restaurant named - The Winterfell Cafe, themed around the Game of Thrones, in case you are a fan. Nathu’s Sweets If you crave for some authentic chaat, sweets, and fast food dishes while in Srinagar, do visit Nathu’s Sweets located on the Boulevard Road around Dal Lake. Nathu’s Sweets is basically a sweets and snack shop, but they also have an in-house restaurant serving mouth-watering, freshly-prepared food. We ordered Pav Bhaji, Sev Puri, Ras Malai, and a couple of drinks and everything we tried tasted awesome. We hear that they also serve amazing Pani Puri, but by the time we finished eating everything else, we were super-satiated! Not really Kashmiri delicacies but still highly recommended. Cafe Emerald Cafe Emerald is located on the Foreshore Road with stunning views of the Dal Lake. They have a first-floor seating that overlooks the lake and you can opt to sit outside in the balcony as well as inside. The place is creatively decorated with flowers and pot plants, and is beautifully surrounded by nature. Do try their coffee, mocktails, and vegetable rolls. The food is priced reasonably and the service was quick. Full marks for the location though! Books & Bricks Cafe This one’s a book themed cafe. Books & Bricks Cafe is very uniquely designed with a good collection of books across all genres. It’s ideal for a book lover, a foodie meeting friends, and even for someone who just wants to chill with a coffee and book, and work. We tried a Falafel Burger that came with cheesy garlic dip and with a good portion of French fries. Also ordered pasta that was served with two big portions of garlic bread. Their hot chocolate is yum and must try. All-in-all, great ambiance and good food! With best companion (books), of course. Apart from these, if you are non-vegetarian and looking for authentic Kashmiri cuisines, Ahdoos restaurant, Stream restaurant and Kareema restaurant would be places you must consider. What and Where to Shop in Srinagar? Srinagar’s markets are huge and sell all sorts of things. But these are the things that you should buy from Srinagar - Dry Fruits: The valley is full of walnut and almond trees and you sure will get high-quality of these dry fruits in Srinagar. There are several wholesale shops in Lal Chowk area in Srinagar that sell finest quality of dry fruits. Spices: Kashmiri saffron, the world’s most superior spice is grown in bulk in areas around Srinagar (Pampore and Lethpora). Apart from saffron, Kashmiri red hot chilli and Kashmiri jeera are the other spices that you should buy from Srinagar. You will find the spice shops in Lal Chowk area of Srinagar. Kashmiri Art: Kashmir is famous for art work like making of carpets, wicker baskets, papier-mâché, silk, copperware, silverware, Kashmiri shawls, and other embroidered garments. When it comes to buying art work, why not buy them directly from the artists. Cliffhangers India conducts a day tour named ‘Art and Crafts Safari’ in Srinagar, where they take you to places where artists work, you get to see and understand first hand how things are made, what materials are used, what skills are required, and then you may also opt to buy their art/craft pieces. For example, they take you to a carpet making warehouse, where you get to see how carpets are made, and likewise. Fruits: Well, since fruits are perishable, you can’t store them for long, but that shouldn’t stop you from sampling these superior Kashmiri fruits. You can buy apples, pears, plums, cherries, and peaches from any local market in Srinagar and savour on their delicious taste. You would also find related products such as jams, jellies, dried slices etc. Kahwa Powder: Kahwa also comes in powder form which simply needs to be mixed with hot water. Easy to make and also bring back home. Now whenever we make Kahwa chai, it’s flavour reminds us of our early morning Shikara ride to the floating vegetable market in Dal Lake. Cricket Bats: Kashmir is the largest exporter of cricket bats in the world. Willow trees grow at large, in and around Srinagar. The cricket bats are made out of this tree’s wood. There are lots of cricket bat factories in Bijbehera, a town in Anantnag district near Srinagar. You will find big stores on the highway to Anantnag that sell these cricket bats. Local Conveyance in Srinagar Cab aggregators like Uber and Ola do not have their services in Srinagar. The local conveyance is controlled by taxi union and travel agencies. You can either book a taxi with any of the travel agencies or ask your accommodation hosts' to help you with the cab bookings. In touristy areas, you can easily hail an auto-rickshaw to get from one place to other. But be ready to bargain as they quote exorbitant rates. We tried using cab/auto aggregator app named Jugnoo for getting around in Srinagar, and surprisingly, it worked extraordinarily well. You could also try Novo Cabs which is a local app allowing you to book cabs within Srinagar. We also rented a scooter for a weekend from one of the local two-wheeler rental agencies near Dal Lake. It generally costs upwards of INR 800 / day depending on what kind of two-wheeler you choose to rent. We rode the vehicle to all the sightseeing places in Srinagar without any issues. You could also use the vehicle to visit places bear Srinagar. Another way you can get around Srinagar is by renting bikes/bicycles. Though you can get the bicycles on rent through several local shops/agencies in the city (mostly located around Dal Lake), we also came across mobile-app based cycle aggregators like Curve Electric, who have several docking stations in the city from where you can take the cycle, leave it at any docking station, and the amount will be deducted from your app based on the duration you took the cycle for. Guide to Srinagar Itinerary You can find all the above listed places of interest in map below. You can use it to further plan your itinerary in detail. For Srinagar, we suggest spending a minimum of 3 nights which will allow you to explore everything listed above: Day 1: Land/arrive in Srinagar, check-in to your place of stay. Late afternoon, visit Nigeen / Dal Lake and take a Shikara Ride. Day 2: Full day sightseeing starting with the Mughal gardens - Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bagh, Chashme Shahi Bagh, Pari Mahal and then move on to visit the Shankaracharya Temple. While returning back, visit the floating post office. Day 3: Book a half-day Srinagar Heritage walking tour for this morning. Late in the afternoon, visit Hari Parbat Fort and Badam Wari. Day 4: Very early in the morning, go for a Shikara ride (booking to be done a day before) to the floating vegetable market in Dal Lake. The ride starts at 5 AM and you will be back by 8 AM, when you can check-out and move on to other places to visit near Srinagar. You could of course stay more and do things slowly. You might also get more time to shop, do art and craft walks or hop cafes. Pin this image That's all about Srinagar - best places to visit, stay, eat, and everything in between. If you have already visited Srinagar and have suggestions, please leave a comment below. Hope this guide on Srinagar helps you plan your trip.

  • Essential Key Things to Keep in Mind for Travelers Planning a Trip to Dubai

    In a world full of comparisons, Dubai city stands unique and unmatched. It is the city where you will find the world's tallest building, largest mall, largest artificial island, and most luxurious hotel. In addition to being the most visited city in the world, Dubai has become a popular destination for people looking for work and for remote workers. Whether you are planning to visit Dubai for work, meetings, family, or vacation, it is important to understand the UAE visit visa for easy planning. In this article, we will discuss essential key things to remember for travelers planning a trip to Dubai. Content: What expenses should travelers expect? Essential cultural and etiquette tips to keep in mind Which are the must-see tourist spots? How secure is the destination? Local cuisine and beverages to try How reliable is the Wi-Fi? What is the maximum duration of stay permitted? What Expenses Should Travelers Expect? First and foremost, the major expense you can expect when traveling to Dubai is accommodation. Depending on your budget, there are wide choices of places to stay in Dubai. However, you should know that Dubai can be one of the world's least expensive travel destination if you plan properly. If you are traveling on a budget, all you have to do is avoid staying at an expensive hotel, book a budget hotel, and cease luxury shopping. By doing this, you will enjoy your stay in Dubai without breaking your bank account. If you have enough to spend, there are luxurious hotels, uber-luxurious vacations, luxurious shopping, and many other things to do in Dubai. The currency you will be issuing in Dubai is Dirham or AED. As of March 28, 2023, the exchange rate is 1 AED = 0.27 USD or 1 USD = 3.67 AED. Accommodation The hotel prices drop in Dubai during the off-season, usually in summer when the sun is scorching and unfavorable for tourists. On the contrary, during peak season, which runs from October to May, hotel prices tend to be high because of the demand. Below are the hotel prices you can expect during the peak season in Dubai: Average hotel price: During high season, an average hotel in Dubai charges $225 per night. Luxury 5-star hotels: Luxury 5-star hotels in Dubai charge approximately $518 per night. There are also famous hotels, such as Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, which charge $2989 per night per room. If you’re on a budget: You will pay around $30-$60 per night for a bed in a hostel. Food The amount of money one spends on food in Dubai can significantly change from person to person, based on their preferences and hobbies. It will roughly cost around $80 for two people to enjoy a three-course meal at a mid-priced restaurant in Dubai. You can expect to pay approximately $11 for a supper at an inexpensive restaurant. A bottle of beer in a restaurant will cost you approximately $13, while a cappuccino will cost you approximately $5. Transportation Tickets for Dubai's public transportation are cheap, costing anywhere from $0.80 to $2, depending on how far the passenger is going. Taxi fares start at $3; for every mile driven, an extra $1.30 is added. Uber and Careem are ride-hailing services, but Uber charges a little more than Careem. Essential Cultural and Etiquette Tips to Keep in Mind The United Arab Emirates is an Islamic country, so tourists must respect local customs, especially outside hotels, entertainment venues, and places where people go out at night. Even though Dubai is known as one of the most modern cities in the Middle East, it is important to respect the city's traditional way of life. Even though the city keeps relaxing many of its rules to attract more tourists from other countries, visitors should still know what is expected of them. Dress Modestly When going out in public, it is expected that you cover your cleavage, shoulders, and legs in Dubai. You do not need to cover your entire body, but you should bring a scarf with you if you need to drape it over your shoulders. Avoid Public Display of Affection Public display of affection, for example, kissing or holding hands in public, are not allowed in Dubai. Even though people sometimes show affection in public, it's best to avoid touching your partner as much as possible. Refrain from Public Intoxication and Misconduct If you're out having a good time, you should take precautions to ensure your behavior doesn't get out of hand when you leave the bar or nightclub. Avoid Traveling During Ramadan Even though it is technically possible to take a holiday in Dubai during the holy month of Ramadan, it is not recommended. Even tourists are expected to follow the rules of Ramadan when they are out in public. This means they should refrain from eating or drinking between sunrise and sunset. Hotels and shopping malls often set aside parts of their restaurants so guests can eat there during the day, but many other places are closed. Which Are the Must-see Tourist Spots? Dubai Fountain The Dubai Fountain is the world's largest orchestrated water fountain. It is a part of the beautiful Burj Complex. This dancing fountain can reach up to 150 meters in height and moves in perfect sync with music from all over the world, such as Arabic and classical music. WET, a company based in California, made this fountain, which makes beautiful arcs and moves to the beat of the music. The Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas are also the work of WET. The show runs every night and the best way to get there is through the Dubai Mall. Burj Khalifa For those of you, who are interested in catching a city view from the world's tallest tower, the At the Top Burj Khalifa trip is a must-do. This tour gives visitors a mesmerizing perspective of the horizon from the very top of the building. The At the Top tour and the At the Top SKY trip will take you to one of the highest observation decks in the world. Both tours are designed while keeping tourists in mind from the very beginning. Dubai Mall The Dubai Mall is one of the largest shopping malls in the world. It is where the Dubai Shopping Festival takes place and is more than 500,000 square meters big. With more than 1200 stores, a large aquarium that you can walk through, a top-notch ice rink, 14,000 parking spots, and many fun things to do, this mall has much to offer. Dubai Frame The Dubai Frame, located in Zabeel Park, is the biggest frame structure in the world. It was made to look like the logo for the 2020 World Expo. The main things to see and do there are the galleries with audiovisual projections and models of the city's past, present, and future, as well as the glass bridge walkway. Through the frame, you can see a wide view of Dubai's old and new parts, from Deira's Old Town to the Dubai Marina! Miracle Garden Dubai The Miracle Garden is one of the world's most beautiful and large natural flower gardens. The park is in DubaiLand and is about 72,000 square meters in size. It is the world's biggest natural flower garden, with more than 45 million different kinds of plants and flowers. People looking for nature's beauty in the middle of the city will find paradise here. You can only get to the garden in the months of mid-November to mid-May. Museum of Future The Museum of the Future, located in Dubai's Financial District, bridges the gap between the present and the future by using new and old art forms. It has three parts: the empty space, the building, and the green hill. By bringing together researchers, ecologists, financiers, and environmentalists, the museum hopes to come up with solutions to problems that cities may face. It's the most recent architectural marvel is a seven-story building that opened in Dubai in February 2022 and has been a big hit with tourists ever since. Dubai Gold Souk The world's biggest gold market is in the Dubai Deira gold souk. Because the gold's quality and designs on sale are so high, this golden souk has become the most well-known and visited place in Dubai. At the Gold Souk, where there are more than 350 jewelry shops and shops that sell gold, at least 10 tons of gold are added daily. Palm Jumeirah The beautiful Palm Jumeirah in Dubai is an artificial island chain stretching into the Persian Gulf. When viewed from above, the archipelago looks like a palm tree with a circle attached to it. It was one of the first big tourist developments in the United Arab Emirates. It is now home to some of Dubai's most popular tourist spots, like Atlantis, the Palm, Aquaventure Waterpark, and the Lost Chambers Aquarium. Dubai Aquarium The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo is home to more than 33,000 marine animals and is situated on the ground level of the Dubai Mall. The tank contains 10 million liters of water and is home to the aquarium. The level above the tank is home to a one-of-a-kind underwater zoo that displays a wide variety of marine life native to the world's seas, rivers, and other water bodies. Visitors can learn about the diverse ecosystems that these aquatic environments support. The final part of the experience is known as the VR Zoo that provides exhilarating wildlife excursions in the form of realistically crafted virtual tours. Atlantis the Palm The Atlantis Resort is the first resort built on Dubai's Palm Jumeirah Island. The island has a private sandy beach and a lot of five-star amenities. This resort is based on the story of Atlantis and has beautiful views of the Arabian Gulf. Also, the resort's design has a few Arabian touches that make it stand out. Palm Atlantis is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Visitors can swim with dolphins and see an underwater aquarium there. How Secure is the destination? Dubai is always ranked as one of the safest cities in the world because of its low crime rate. Still, there are a few things that travelers should keep in mind when traveling to Dubai: Watch out for pickpocketers Keep an eye out for pickpockets, theft, and other forms of minor crime are frequent in tourist locations, especially on Jumeirah Beach. Be aware of riptides If you plan to swim at the beach, be aware of riptides. Riptides are dangerous, so you should try to stay away from them at all costs. Travel alerts The United States Department of State has put out a level 3 "reconsider travel" alert for the United Arab Emirates because missiles or drones could attack the country. Remember to buy travel insurance. Not only can it help you financially in case of a medical emergency, but a travel insurance can also help cover the costs of any accidents. Local Cuisine and Beverages to try Visiting new places and trying new food are one of the most enjoyable aspects of traveling. Don't allow yourself to leave Dubai unless you’ve tried at least one of the following: Khuzi is considered the national meal of the United Arab Emirates. It is traditionally prepared with either lamb or mutton and is served on top of rice, veggies, and nuts. Luqaimat is hot donut-like dumplings prepared fresh and served with a sticky date sauce and sesame seeds Camel milk ice cream is a thing you can buy, believe it or not! Machboos is a classic dish consisting of spicy rice with dried lemon and either prawn, chicken, or lamb. Khubz is an Arabic flatbread that is traditionally eaten with dips. Arabic, coffee-characterized by a light roast, is flavored with cardamom and is served in very small cups. Jellab, a chilled beverage, is typically served with pinenuts and raisins. It is produced by mixing grape molasses and rose water. Laban is a creamy buttermilk drink that is high in protein. Although Dubai has not traditionally been recognized for its plant-based cuisine, the city is increasingly catering to alternative diets, so vegans and vegetarians will have many options. Even though most places in Dubai don't serve alcohol, it's easy to find it in hotels, restaurants, and pubs that cater to tourists and ex-pats. How reliable is the Wi-Fi? According to Ookla, a service that tests internet speeds, the average download speed in Dubai for December 2022 was 184.66 megabits per second (Mbps) and the average upload speed was 25.77 Mbps. What is the Maximum Duration of Stay Permitted? Visitors from the United States get free 30-day tourist visas when they arrive in Dubai. Visitors will have to present a passport that is still valid for at least six months after the date they arrive. They may also have to prove they have a return ticket to leave the country. Through the Remote Working Program, U.S. citizens who want to stay in Dubai for a long time can do so for up to a year at a time. Digital nomads and people who work from home are increasingly moving to Dubai. About The Author Robeena Brown is a travel blogger & destination expert living in the UAE and works for local tourism companies like Arabiers. If you have been looking forward to touring Dubai, getting a visa, extending stays and exploring the city, you can follow her on social media.

  • Places to Visit in Majuli River Island, Awesome Assam

    Majuli is easily one of the most beautiful places we have travelled to in Assam, India. Majuli is an island, and for that matter, it is the largest inhabited freshwater river island in the world. The island is located on the river Brahmaputra in the north-eastern state of Assam in India. Imagine how big the expanse of Brahmaputra River is, that it is home to such a huge island. Apart from the unique experience of travelling and living on such an island, Majuli (formerly known as Majali) is replete with natural beauty, cultural experiences and interesting things to do. Read this complete travel guide to Majuli and how to plan a trip to the largest river island in the world. With a total area of 875 square kilometres, Majuli Island extends for a length of about 80 kilometres and spans about 12-15 kilometres from north to south. However, since the island is merely 85 meters above the mean sea level, climate change, flash floods, and heavy erosion along the Brahmaputra River, have said to shrink Majuli by one-third of its initial size over the past few decades. Majuli Island, Assam, houses a total of about 140 small and large villages and is home to about 1,60,000 people. Yes, it's that big! Due to this Majuli was declared a district and became the first island district of India. It has also been nominated to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. You wouldn't feel like you are on an island unless you visit the periphery. Table of Contents Where is Majuli located and how is it an Island? Best time to visit Majuli river island How to reach Majuli river island? How to reach Jorhat? How to reach Nimati Ghat from Jorhat? How to reach Majuli Island from Nimati Ghat? Ferry Charges from Nimati Ghat (Jorhat) to Kamalabari/ Afolamukh point (Majuli Island) How to commute within Majuli? Places to visit and Things to do in Majuli Where to stay in Majuli Data connectivity in Majuli Is Majuli river island worth visiting? Where is Majuli located and how is it an Island? Majuli river island is located in the north east India in the state of Assam. The island is formed as Brahmaputra coming from North east branches out as a Kherkatia Xuti river. This offshooting river then joins another river coming from North named Subhasini river. Together they join Brahmaputra back. The point where Kherkatia Xuti branches out is eastern end of Majuli while the point where the Subhasini river joins Brahmaputra is the western end of Majuli. Best time to visit Majuli river island Like all the other tourist places in Assam, Majuli Island is blessed with a moderate climate. Though the weather is always pleasant, irrespective of the time of the year, October to March is considered the best time to visit Majuli Island. However, you should plan your visit to Majuli Island based on what you want to experience. If you want to experience the festivities and the rich culture of Assam, the best time to visit Majuli Island is in November. The satras in Majuli celebrate the Raas Purnima on a big scale. There are dance and skit performances based on the life of Lord Krishna that you can witness. Another good time to soak in festivities is in April during Bihu – the harvesting festival. If you want to see the greenery in all its glory, the months right after the monsoon from October onwards would be a great time to visit Majuli Island. However, you should know that rains bring their own set of challenges to this river island, with flooding of the Brahmaputra river every year and waterlogging woes in the low-lying areas. Even the ferries to Majuli stop operating when it rains heavily and when the river gets flooded. How to reach Majuli river island? Like any other island, Majuli Island can only be reached via a ferry from the mainland of Assam. The nearest big town on the mainland is Jorhat; so the best way to reach Majuli is to reach Jorhat. Majuli is about 20 kilometres far from Jorhat. Ferry services connect Majuli Island (Kamalabari Ghat) and Jorhat town (Nimati Ghat). Note that one can also reach Majuli through north bank from places such as North Lakhimpur and Dhemaji. However this route is recommended only if you are already visiting these northern parts of Assam and would like to use Majuli as a pitstop while crossing Brahmaputra river. For most travellers, reaching Majuli via Jorhat would be ideal. How to reach Jorhat? Jorhat has a domestic airport that is connected with non-stop direct flights from Guwahati and Kolkata. So taking a connecting flight to Jorhat would be the quickest way to reach. If that's an expensive option for you, one of the options is to land in Guwahati. As Guwahati has an International airport and higher frequency of flights, connectivity and costs tend to be better. Check flights to Guwahati or Jorhat From Guwahati you can go to Jorhat by road or rail. You can choose to take a private taxi, shared taxi or buses (government and private) from Guwahati to Jorhat. From Guwahati, Jorhat is about 300 kilometres away by road. If you go by road, you can also cover Kaziranga National Park on the way. Rail connectivity is also good and you can find comfortable trains from Guwahati to Jorhat and back. It's also possible to fly to Dibrugarh in east Assam (about 140 kilometers away from Jorhat) and then take a private taxi, bus, or shared jeep ride to Jorhat (that's what we did!). Another interesting option we discovered was direct private buses that ply from Guwahati to Majuli. These are usually overnight AC pushback private buses that start from Guwahati late in the evening and drop you in Majuli early in the morning. How to reach Nimati Ghat from Jorhat Main Town? The passenger + vehicle ferries for Majuli Island are available from Nimati Ghat. This ferry point is about 15 kilometers away from the main Jorhat town. From Jorhat, you can reach Nimati Ghat via a public bus or a shared jeep. Note that the ferries leave right on time, so reach the ferry point 10-15 minutes before departure. Also, back calculate the time required to reach Nimati Ghat from Jorhat main town. This is because the road conditions are not that great, and it easily takes 45 minutes to reach Nimati Ghat from the Jorhat bus stand. How to reach Majuli island from Nimati Ghat in Jorhat? We booked our ferry tickets online from the Inland Water Transport website that belongs to the Government of Assam. Based on availability, you can also book the ferry tickets from the ticket counter at the ferry point. There are two ferry points at Majuli Island – Kamalabari point (mid-south) and Afolamukh point (southeast). Generally, tourists catch the ferry from Nimati Ghat to Kamalabari and vice-versa. Take the Nimati Ghat (Jorhat) to Afolamukh point (Majuli) ferry only if: You have not booked a ticket online, and you find that all ferries for Kamalabari are full You just missed the last ferry to Kamalabari Your accommodation is closer to Afolamukh point, which is usually rare The ferry tickets on the Inland Water Transport website open only a day before the journey. The first ferry leaves from Nimati Ghat in Jorhat to Kamalabari point in Majuli at 7:30 AM in summers and 8:30 AM in winters, and the last ferry leaves at 5 PM in summers and 4 PM in winters. A ferry is available almost every half an hour to one hour. So, if you miss one, you don't have to wait long for the next to arrive. However, ferry timings depend a lot on the weather conditions. It takes about 1 hour for the ferry to sail in the Brahmaputra from Nimati Ghat in Jorhat to Kamalabari/ Afolamukh point in Majuli. The passenger seating is separated from the 2-wheeler/4-wheeler docking area on the ferry. The seats are more or less comfortable. If the river is calm, you will be allowed to stand near the railings to enjoy the views, but if it's not, you will have to remain seated at all times. It is mandatory to wear a life jacket while on the ferry but it is common to find people violating this rule. Ferry Charges from Nimati Ghat (Jorhat) to Kamalabari/ Afolamukh point (Majuli) Since the ferries are government funded, the charges are pretty subsidized. Cost per passenger – INR 15 Cost per 2-wheeler – INR 30 Cost per 4-wheeler – INR 700 How to commute within Majuli? There are options of availing private/shared taxi or auto rickshaw to roam around in Majuli. One can also rent bicycles from Garamur, one of the larger villages in Majuli. Many hotels and homestays also keep bicycles and sometimes scooters for rent. We did not prefer bicycles since Majuli is so huge. Going around on bicycles can be fun but it would have taken too much time and effort to reach different corners of the island. So our preferred way was to take a rented scooter from Jorhat itself. There are many two-wheeler rental companies around Jorhat bus stand. Renting a 2-wheeler from Jorhat is also a convenient option to reach Nimati ghat from Jorhat main town and reaching your hotel/homestay after you arrive at Kamalabari ghat in Majuli. Places to visit and Things to do in Majuli river Island Majuli Island has a fairytale-like, magical old-world charm. There aren't too many tourist places in Majuli, but there are several experiences to gather and things to do in Majuli. We planned to stay here for one night but ended up staying three. Why? Read on to know more. You would also find a easy to follow map at the end of the article which would help you reach all these suggested places. 1. Phenomenal Sunrise and Sunsets The sunsets in Majuli are beyond magical. We happened to see three consecutive sunsets in Majuli, and they were amongst the most beautiful sunsets we have ever witnessed. We rode to different places each evening to catch the sight of the golden ball submerging into the still waters of Brahmaputra rivulets. Our favourite spot is the bridge near Luhit Ghat and the White sand beach. Watching the sun set on the distant horizon as the fishermen sailed back home with their prized catch of the day, leaving behind their Chinese fishing net setup, was fascinating. As soon as the sun sets, the whole sky explodes in a beautiful phenomenon of varied colours within minutes. This was quickly followed by the land slowly getting covered in a thick layer of winter mist and the twinkle of bright stars showing up in the dark sky. If the sky is clear and you're lucky, you'll even spot the Milky Way! Note: The sun sets really early (4 PM) during winter at Majuli Island. So, plan your day accordingly. 2. Centuries-Old Satras / Temples If you want to experience the Assamese culture at its best, visit Majuli Island. About 22 Satras (Hindu Neo-Vaishnavite monasteries) in Majuli are devoted to the teachings of Lord Vishnu and Lord Krishna. Such Vaishnavite culture in Assam was introduced by the great saint Srimanta Sankara Deva in 16th century. Besides being monasteries, these satras also act as hubs for fine arts and crafts of the region. Satras are present in many parts of Assam but those in Majuli are famous due to higher concentration. For visitors who are unaware of the concept of satras, you can consider these temples and just follow what the locals are doing! We paid a visit to the most notable satras of Majuli Island, namely Auniati Satra – Biggest satra of Majuli having a huge worship place and an artifact museum Kamalabari Satra – Specializes in boat making, literature, and classical studies; Samaguri Satra – Is a center of mask making in Majuli Dakhinpat Satra – Oldest of all satras of Majuli Visiting the satras will give you an opportunity to unravel the history of Assamese traditions and culture. 3. Mask-Making Traditions If you want to acquire some indigenous skills when visiting Majuli Island, plan on learning the art of mask making using natural elements from the expert artisans on the island. The art of mask-making has been passed down for generations in Majuli and forms an integral part of their culture. Samaguri/ Chamaguri Satra is the center of mask making on the island. Here, the artisans freely share their knowledge of this art form with interested visitors. The full-face masks are inspired by Hindu mythology and are made of natural elements like bamboo, mud, cloth, jute, cane, and cow dung. These are then painted using natural colours. All masks are displayed in a small museum sort of a place near the Satra. Majuli residents use these masks in grand theatrical performances all across the world. The scenes enacted in the play bring Indian mythical heroes to life. 4. Pottery Village The art and craft skills of artisans in Majuli do not end with mask making at the Samaguri satra. There's also a pottery village on the island where you can learn pottery. The earthen pots made at the Salmora village in Majuli are without the use of a potter's wheel. Brahmaputra river is known for a special type of clay soil named Kumar Mati by the Majuli residents. They collect this soil from the river bed and use it to make pots. These pots are handmade without the use of a wheel. They are then ferried across the river to bigger villages in exchange for paddy. It's unbelievable how Majuli residents are still practicing the barter system effortlessly. We visited a potter's family home and observed an old lady making the pots and other vessels without using a potter's wheel. She was kind enough to teach us her craft, and one of us decided to dirty our hands to make a small diya. We will not lie; it's a difficult craft! 5. Tribal Handicraft Weaving Apart from mask-making and pottery, Majuli residents are also skilled in traditional weaving. The Misings (an indigenous tribe in Assam) are excellent weavers. The tribal women learn the art of weaving using a conventional wooden machine from a very young age. All clothes that the Mising men and women wear are weaved in their very household. They spend a lot of time on their loin loom to produce high—quality hand-woven garments. These garments made by Mising women have a traditional design intertwined with the tribe's cultural identity. Though we saw women weavers across most villages in Majuli, we visited a center of weaver's co-operative named Rengam, where we witnessed the making of the garments closely. Rengam is a weaving centre cum store run and managed by Mising women to support their community. They had a wide variety of traditional garment stock for sale. 6. Majuli Bridges Majuli Island is a place that takes you on a rustic countryside voyage. The villages are surrounded by wetlands and rivulets that emerge from the Brahmaputra River. And on such small and large water bodies are unique bridges. Why do we call them unique? Well, while most are sturdy bridges, some are rickety wooden or bamboo bridges. In fact, the homestay that we stayed at was surrounded by a lake. It was an island in itself! So, every time we went in and out of the homestay, we had to walk on a bamboo pedestrian bridge that wobbled and creaked every time someone used it. The villagers depend on such bridges for their everyday commute. While we cautiously approached such bridges, we saw the residents driving their vehicles at full speed and children crossing the bridge on a cycle. These bridges made for a perfect photo-op, especially during sunrise and sunset. The sheer spectacle of the water bodies, green paddy fields, floating water hyacinths, sailing countryside boats, and the play of colour in the sky made our hearts flutter with joy. 7. Yellow Mustard Fields A sea of yellow greets those who visit Majuli in the winter season. The mustard crop has offered the island a ray of hope. The island residents live off farming and selling mustard. The beauty of the blooming bright golden yellow mustard seed flowers in vast fields left us stunned. Well, we can blame it all on the Yash Raj movies where the actors romanticize the yellow flowers of mustard fields, and we weren't able to stop ourselves from doing the same. But, oh, what a sight! The fields made a beautiful landscape with blue skies as the backdrop. 8. Migratory Birds Large and small wetlands, lakes, rivers, fishes, and lots of greenery – Majuli Island has all the right essentials to attract birds. Come winter, and you will see the island transform into a safe haven for migratory birds. The sun rises to the sound of hundreds of birds and sets with the music of cymbals. The water bodies on the island support a variety of birds, fishes, reptiles, and aquatic plants. We didn't have to travel to a specific area in camouflaged attire and wait for hours to spot the birds. In fact, the kingfishers, painted storks and cranes were easy to spot from where we lived in Majuli. We were also lucky to catch sight of pelicans, shelducks, geese, egrets, stork, moorhen, and waterhen. We think 2 types of people can stay for days and days in Majuli – nature lovers and birders. 9. Assamese Cuisine A tribal Mising meal, home-cooked and served inside traditional bamboo cottages built on stilts by a tribal family – what's more authentic than this! Both the food and the experience at these tribal houses in Majuli are par excellence. So much that they run on reservations and you have to book your meal slot a day before. A traditional Assamese meal has at least 7-8 items, including soup, rice, curry, vegetables, greens, chutneys, local drink, sweet, and sometimes roti. All the ingredients to prepare the meal are sourced locally from farms, and they taste absolutely delicious. We had the traditional Assamese thali several times during our stay at Majuli Island. The food is served with so much love and affection that it fills your heart (and stomach!). These experiences are must-try and should not be missed when staying at this river island. 10. Nothingness Okay, so we aren't sure if this is even an official word, but this is what we call it. Nothingness – is a form of photographing nothing! A thick layer of fog hangs over the water bodies on Majuli Island every winter morning. As the sun rises, this fog act as a magician covering the surroundings into a white blanket with silhouetted subjects. You have to see it to understand it. Winter mornings in Majuli are a photographer's paradise. We always wanted to click these pictures and finally got an excellent chance to do it in Majuli. A bonus tip A bonus tip we would like to share is an activity that you might enjoy - Boating. You would invariably pass a concrete bridge named Doriya bridge in Majuli. This bridge is built over a water body. Do visit this lake early in mornings. You would find fishermen who would also be ready to give you a boat ride for a nominal amount. Imagine sitting on a country boat creating ripples as you move forward in a still and serene lake, fluttering of some birds and splash of water would be the only sound you hear, with morning sun giving you warmth on a winter morning. Do we need to say anything more? Where to Stay in Majuli You will not find high-end luxuries or swanky resorts in Majuli. We highly suggest you visit the island with fewer expectations in terms of stay and facilities. That said, Majuli is known for its homestays and bamboo cottages built on stilts. Many of them, but not all, come with attached bathrooms. Since we visited Majuli in winter (when it gets too cold), we were apprehensive about staying in bamboo cottages. We went to the river island with a plan that if we didn't find the stay comfortable, we would take the next ferry and return to Jorhat. But, we ended up staying in the bamboo cottage for 3 nights. We stayed at Ygdrasill Bamboo Cottages, located in the most beautiful natural setting, surrounded by paddy fields and a lake. Our cottage was simple with just the basic facilities like an attached bathroom, a table, comfortable beds, and warm comforters. The walls and roof were bamboo-made, whereas the base and bathroom were cemented. The room opened to a porch facing the lake, where we spent a lot of time under the warmth of the sun. The blankets were thick; hence, we never felt too cold at night. They also had bonfires without any additional cost. With the island gaining popularity, endless homestays are popping up, so you have many options to choose from. The rates are usually on the lower side unless you go during times like new year. We would recommend finding a place which is centrally located so that all the places described in this article are not too far. Check hotels and homestays in Majuli Data Connectivity in Majuli Majuli has good phone connectivity in most of the villages. Data connectivity is also fine but can be patchy in few villages that lie in corners near the river. Note that most accommodations would not have Wi-Fi and you will have to manage with your mobile data. Most Indian network providers work well in major villages of Majuli. Is Majuli river island worth visiting? A 100% yes! With this. we complete our guide to Majuli Island. Here is a quick map guide which would help you navigate to all the places described in this article. Although we spent just a few days here, they were amongst the most memorable ones on our trip to Assam, and we are sure to return back. Sadly, this island will stop existing someday due to floods and soil erosion, and we hope that some steps are taken by the government to stop the rapid decline of this beautiful place. Should you have any questions on how to get to Majuli, tourist places to visit, or where to stay, feel free to ask us in the comments section below. Pin below image to bookmark this article for reference in future. Pin this image

  • Travel Guide to Sivasagar, Assam - Awesome Assam

    Sivasagar is a small heritage town in the Indian state of Assam. Nestled between the more famous districts of Dibrugarh and Jorhat, Sivasagar used to be the capital of Ahom kingdom which ruled Assam for 600 years. It used to be called Rangpur in those times and is now also referred to as Sibsagar locally. Sivasagar is hence also known as the ‘Heritage Capital of Assam’. Sivasagar literally means ‘Sea of Shiva; Siva means ‘Lord Shiva’, and Sagar means ‘sea’. Even the beautiful lake located in the centre of the town is called Sivasagar. There are quite a few historically significant places and monuments along with some beautiful lakes which makes Sivasagar a good halt while travelling from Jorhat to Dibrugarh or vice-versa. Table of Contents Sivasagar Location How to reach Sivasagar, Assam? By Air By Rail By Road Sivasagar History Tourist Places in Sibsagar, Assam Rang Ghar Talatal Ghar Kareng Ghar Charaideo Maidams Sivadol, Vishnudol, and Devidol Sivasagar Tank Joysagar Tank Where to Stay in Sivasagar, Assam How to get around in Sivasagar, Assam Is Sivasagar worth visiting? Note that in this article, we use we use Sivasagar and Sibsagar interchangeably. Sivasagar Location Sivasagar is located in Upper Assam, about 80 kilometres (2-hour drive) away from Dibrugarh city. From Dibrugarh, we took a shared jeep (INR 150 per person) to get to Sivasagar. The drive to this small town is wonderful, with glimpses of Assamese village life and acres and acres of tea plantations on both sides of the road (NH 2 and NH 27 highway). From Guwahati, the capital city of Assam, Sivasagar is 370 kilometres away. How to reach Sivasagar, Assam? By Air Jorhat Airport, located in Jorhat (65 kilometres away), is the closest airport to Sivasagar, Assam. Dibrugarh Airport (90 kilometres away) is the second nearest airport to Sivasagar. By Train Sivasagar Railway Station serves Sibsagar town. The closest railway junction is Simaluguri junction, 15 kilometres away from Sivasagar, Assam. It lies on the Tinsukia-Guwahati line. By Road Sivasagar is connected to the rest of the major cities in Assam by good runs. State-run buses connect the town to Jorhat, Dibrugarh, and Guwahati. In addition, shared jeeps also ply on these routes regularly. Sivasagar History Formerly known as Rangpur, Sivasagar was the capital of the Ahom Kingdom for 89 years, from 1699 to 1788. The Ahoms, who migrated from China to India in the 1200s, ruled Assam and Arunachal for around six centuries, from 1228 to 1821. This puts Ahoms among the longest ruling Kingdoms in India, longer than Mauryas, Mughals and Guptas. Infact, they are among the few kingdoms that defeated Mughals' attempts to further their kingdom in a strategic war known as Battle of Saraighat and Battle of Itakhuli, both in Guwahati. The rule of the Ahom dynasty ended after the Burmese invaded Assam in 1821. Under the rule of Ahom Kings, Sivasagar witnessed a glorious period during which giant water tanks, palaces, temples, forts, and several notable monuments were constructed. This construction was influenced by various cultures, traditions, and religions. Hence, you will find domes and arches (Mughal architecture) and characteristic rising towers (Hindu temple architecture) in the monuments at Sivasagar, Assam. Tourist Places in Sibsagar, Assam As the former capital of the Ahom Kingdom, Sivasagar is home to several historical ruins. Visiting the monuments will take you back in time to the glory days of the Ahom dynasty. Some remain dilapidated, but many are well-kept and give you a good idea of how striking the structures were centuries ago. A paste of eggs and rice was used in place of cement in building the monuments of Sivasagar. This has helped to keep the structures strong and intact to date. Here are some of the must-visit tourist places in Sibsagar – 1. Rang Ghar Rang Ghar is believed to be the oldest surviving amphitheatre and sports pavilion in Asia. It is the most-visited tourist place in Sibsagar. This double-storeyed building was built during the reign of Ahom Kings in 1746 AD. In the local language, Rang Ghar means ‘House of Entertainment’. The Ahom rulers and nobles watched sports like bullfights, buffalo fights, cockfights, dance forms etc., from the first floor of this monument. Rang Ghar is referred to as the ‘Colosseum of the East’. It displays typical Ahom architecture in its construction, comprising an oval amphitheatre with a ceiling in the shape of a long Ahom boat with crocodile ends. On the main gate, you will find statues of dragons on either side of the gate. Today, the monument serves as a viewing point and is surrounded by a beautiful, well-manicured garden. Entrance ticket: INR 25 per person 2. Talatal Ghar Located on the bank of River Dikhow, Talatal Ghar is regarded as one of the largest monuments built by the Ahom Kings. The monument served as a palace as well as an army base for the Ahoms back in the 1750s. The seven-storied palace has four storeys above the ground and three storeys underground. In fact, in the Assamese language, Talatal Ghar means ‘Underground Home’ or ‘House having several storeys’. Such was the foresight of the Ahom builders; they made two secret underground tunnels for the royals to escape in case of emergencies. One of the tunnels (3 km) is believed to have direct access to the banks of the Dikhow River, whereas the other (16 km) is said to be connected to another palace named Garhgaon Palace. Many parts of underground floors of the palace have been closed, and tourists are not allowed to explore the sealed-off storeys. However, you can go around the rooms on the upper floors that are interconnected by narrow passageways. Ensure you do not get lost in the maze-like passageways at Talatal Ghar. We recommend getting to the topmost floor of this tourist place in Sibsagar to understand the palace layout. You will also see some canons here. We spent slightly more than an hour exploring the nooks and corners of the palace. Entrance Fees – INR 25 per person 3. Kareng Ghar Kareng Ghar is located in a town named Garhgaon, about 13 kilometres away from the main town of Sibsagar. Kareng Ghar used to serve as a royal palace when Garhgaon was the Ahom Kingdom’s capital. Hence, it is also called Garhgaon Palace. One of the secret tunnels of Talatal Ghar is believed to connect to this tourist place in Sibsagar. Kareng Ghar is a four-storeyed monument with gradually receding floors. The top floor has a dome-shaped roof depicting Mughal architecture. The palace’s ground floor has three halls and several chambers, all interconnected with narrow passageways. These were meant for the servants of the royal family. You can climb up to the top floor of Kareng Ghar, where the King’s chamber is, and admire the beautiful views around the palace. Two out of four watch towers around the monument still stand strong. Entrance Fee – INR 25 per person 4. Charaideo Maidams Charaideo is one of the most unique places we have travelled to date. Located about 30 kilometres from Sibsagar town, Charaideo has a burial ground of the Ahom royals. It was believed to be a place of ancestral Gods of the Ahoms. The burial grounds are, however, not the regular ones you see. Instead, these are huge hemispherical earthern mounds covered by greenery. They are called ‘Maidams’. Charaideo was the first capital of Ahom Kingdom in Assam. In the Assamese language, it means ‘Hill on the top of the city’. The tombs or maidams in Charaideo seem to serve same purpose as Pyramids of Egypt. During the burial, the valuables of the royals were also buried with them. These spherical pyramid-style graveyards have drawn researchers from over the world to Assam. Around 31 king maidams and 160 queen maidams are present in Charaideo and adjacent districts of Sivasagar. The burial grounds are well maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. There are scores of distances between maidams in Charaideo; hence it becomes more like stroll in a garden with mounds. It is undoubtedly a must-visit tourist place in Sibsagar. Entrance Fee – INR 25 per person 5. Sivadol, Vishnudol, and Devidol As you set foot in Sivasagar, you will see a tall dome of a temple right from the main road. This is Lord Shiva’s temple, considered the tallest Shiva temple (105 feet) in India. An Ahom King’s wife, a devotee of Lord Shiva, got this temple constructed in 1734. Dol in local language means Temple. The huge dome at the top of Sivadol is called ‘Kosoloi’ and is said to be made of pure gold. The temple attracts thousands of tourists from across the country, especially during Shivratri when a big fair is organised on the temple premises. Vishnudol and Devidol are the two other temples located adjacent to Sivadol. They are all housed in a large elevated park on the banks of the Sivasagar tank. While Vishnudol is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Devidol worships Goddess Durga. Visit these temples early in the morning to offer peaceful prayers and find pigeons fluttering around you. All three Dols are the top tourist places to visit in Sibsagar. Entrance fee – Free of cost 6. Sivasagar Tank Sivasagar Tank is a large pond in Sivasagar that was dug by the Ahoms in the 18th Century. It is said that the entire 130 acres of pond area were dug (64 feet) in a single night, that too without the use of the present-day technological support. Interestingly, the tank’s water level never changes, not even in monsoon. As it is entirely manmade, it is referred to as a ‘tank’ instead of a lake. It is also called Borpukhuri in the local Assamese language. Sivasagar tank is located near the Dols (temples) in the centre of the town. Roads form a circle around the pond. Deities from Indian mythology are sketched and painted on the walls of the tank. During winter, migratory birds visit the Sivasagar tank, making it an ideal place for birdwatchers. A watchtower is built on the eastern bank of this beautiful tourist place in Sibsagar. 7. Joysagar Tank Joysagar Tank is one tourist place in Sibsagar that is still relatively lesser visited by travellers. This huge artificial pond was built in the year 1697 and covered about 320 acres of area. Interestingly, the water level of the tank remains 14 feet above ground level. There’s a beautiful park with a restaurant on the banks of the Joysagar Tank that you must not miss out on visiting. Several Hindu temples surround the tank, the popular ones being Joydol, Devidol, and Shivadol. You can admire the tank from various vantage points encircling it. It is another place for tourists to watch some migratory birds in winter. Where to Stay in Sivasagar, Assam Sivasagar receives quite a handful of tourist footfall every year. However most of these tourists are Assamese and may have family and friends in the city. Many other tourists visit Sivasagar as a day trip preferring to stay at nearby bigger cities of Dibrugarh or Jorhat. We felt the options in terms of hotels are relatively limited and most may not have enough positive reviews online. However our experience was that people in general are good and tried to do their best to make our experience better. There is also a tourist lodge in Sivasagar managed by the government tourism board. You can have your meals at the hotel you are staying at, or get to the town centre that houses several eateries. Click on below images to see available hotels / homestays in Sivasagar, Assam - How to get around in Sivasagar, Assam If you are visiting Sivasagar in a taxi from Dibrugarh or Jorhat, going around various tourist places would be easy. But if you are visiting Sivasagar using public transportation, only a few tourist places in Sibsagar are located at a walkable distance. Therefore, you will need to hire an auto-rickshaw to visit the other places of interest. However, you can easily flag down an auto from the main roads of the town. You can also request your hotel’s helpdesk to arrange an auto. To visit far-off places like Charaideo and Kareng Ghar, you can either take a bus to these towns or get on a shared jeep. You can also negotiate a full-day fare with an auto driver to take you around all the historical places to visit in Sivasagar. Note that you can get scooters on rent in Jorhat or Dibrugarh but not in Sivasagar. Is Sivasagar worth visiting? Certainly! Sivasagar, Assam, is not just a great tourist spot for history lovers but also for those interested in appreciating and understanding magnificent architecture, nature, religion, and culture. So, spend a night in this bustling town and admire this former Kingdom of Ahom. Pin this image Have you been to Sivasagar in Assam? If yes, how did you find it? Have we missed any of your favourite places? Let us know in the comment section below.

  • Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow - Recommended Stay in Dibrugarh, Assam - India

    Tea is more than just a morning beverage for the people of Assam. It is a way of life. And when it comes to the town of Dibrugarh, you can see lush green tea gardens as far as the eye can see. This colour of life and abundance was all we saw as we stood on the first floor of Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow – the iconic ‘Chang Ghar’ surrounded by tea gardens in Dibrugarh, Assam. This article is a review of our stay experience at the chang bungalow. Follow my blog with bloglovin The Chang Bungalows of Assam We all know how luxuriously and comfortably the Britishers loved to live in India. Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow is a classic example and an ideal representation of their lifestyle. When seen from afar, the bungalow seems to be floating over the tea bushes that surround it. Only when you get near will you find that it is supported on wooden stilts. Such bungalows are called the ‘Chang Bungalows or Chang Ghars,’ hence the name – Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow. Review of Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow Location of Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow is located on the outskirts of Dibrugarh town in Upper Assam, India. In 1970, it was bought from the British Indian Tea Company by the Jalans – the oldest tea-growing families in Assam. Through their company named Purvi Discovery, they converted the chang bungalow into a 6-room heritage guesthouse in 2001. 3 rooms are on the ground floor and 3 on the floor above, each named after a tributary of the Brahmaputra River. Until the late 1900s, the entire house stood on wooden stilts. This was done both to keep the house cool by allowing fresh air to blow from beneath and to keep animals and water out. But while the chang ghar was converted into a heritage guesthouse, 3 rooms were built on the ground floor. So, it is no longer all stilts, though we could still see plenty of stilts supporting the first floor. The entire chang ghar, as well as the décor and furniture, is made up of wood. One of the most interesting features is that even the nails used in the flooring are made of wood, not iron. These wooden nails are said to be handcrafted by traditional Chinese artisans. Reaching Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow As we approached the Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow, we passed through the impeccably manicured garden home to a more than 150-year-old giant rain tree. Driving on the gravelled road of the estate, we arrived at the grand entrance/ parking area, where our hosts warmly received us. Some quick check-in formalities, and after an appropriate serving of an iced tea, we were escorted to our room on the first floor of the chang ghar. Our room at Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow The rooms on the first floor of Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow are as old as the house and still ooze a sense of the by-gone era. Our bedroom was enormous, large enough to sleep an army. Cute box windows with floral curtains opened to the outdoor balcony-type seating area that eventually overlooked the lawn. Equipped with all modern amenities, our bedroom at Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow had a king-sized bed with warm and comfortable linen, bed-side tables and lamps, a unique wooden towel hanger, a coat hanger, a dresser, a study table, a full-sized mirror, a shoe-rack, a luggage rack, and an easy chair. The bedroom led to a small dressing room, which in turn led to a bathroom. Fitted with a bathtub, a geyser, and a cosy shower, the bathroom was as large as the bedroom. The floor-to-ceiling box windows that opened to the huge balcony/ sitting area outside the room were adorned with outdoor furniture to sit, relax, and enjoy the winter sun. The room was also equipped with a super-useful heater as we visited during the winter season. As a result, we felt extremely safe and snug in our modern yet historic British abode. Other rooms / areas at the Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow Besides the 6 rooms, Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow also has a lounge area, an indoor dining room, an outdoor breakfast area, and a snuggly library. Each of these areas is adorned with British-time maps on the walls, unique paintings, old photographs of the house, and quirky yet notable sit-outs. The chang ghar had all the elements that put you at ease and transports you to a period over a century ago. All these were surrounded by acres and acres of tea gardens where the staff used to work in an orderly manner, either pruning the tea plants or picking tea leaves. The active and loud humdrum in the far-away tea gardens never affected the quiet, splendid isolation of the chang ghar. Our experience at the Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow We spent most of our time lazing on the first-floor front side verandah of the chang bungalow, watching the labourers work in the tea fields. We even requested our breakfast to be laid there. Our morning started with a ceremonial tea made with utmost precision by the kitchen staff. Breakfast at Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow is entirely an English affair but with an Indian touch. There’s honey, fresh fruits, juices, cereals, toasts, and milk. Dinners at the chang ghar are communal, where all guests sit together on the large wooden table and chatter. The meals were elaborate, starting with soup, followed by starters, main course, sweets, and ending with a hot cuppa tea (of course!). We requested a traditional Assamese dinner one night and were served with mouth-watering, homely, authentic varieties that we still can’t get over. We also spent time in the sprawling garden right in front of Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow. The tall rainforest tree scattered the sunlight that filtered through it and provided excellent shade and warmth. The house looked even more beautiful from the surrounding gardens. Tea Plantations surrounding Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow We were allowed to move freely through the tea garden bordering the chang ghar. The tea leaves are plucked by the labourers living in the nearby village. These are then sorted, rolled, fired, and sent to the factory, where the tea is packed and labelled. The Jalan tea estate produces some of the best Assam Orthodox teas, made of shiny golden tips and appreciated by the tea-connoisseurs. This is then exported worldwide. We interacted with locals and learnt so much about tea while staying at Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow. The tea cultivated in the tea estate around Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow is organically grown and is free of pesticides and other chemicals. We loved walking in the tea gardens and understanding the entire process of tea making. Getting around Dibrugarh Purvi Discovery is a tourism company run by the Jalans that conducts trips to places to visit in and around Dibrugarh. In Dibrugarh, you should see the tea estates, DTP Dyke, Bogibeel bridge, Jokai Botanical Garden, Jagannath temple, and Jalan Mandir. You can also opt to visit the places near Dibrugarh like Namphake monastery, Margherita coal museum, Dibru Saikhowa national park, and Ahom ruins in Sivasagar. Please find detailed information about all these places in our article here. Other activities that Purvi Discovery offers include heritage tea tours, tribal tours, golfing holidays, birdwatching, etc. You can find their brochures in the library at Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow and pre-book tours of your interest. Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow is a retreat and not a traditional hotel. You can book the entire chang ghar or a room from any of the travel portals mentioned below or by directly contacting Purvi Discovery. Stay here for an unforgettable holiday amidst the comfort of a colonial lifestyle. It offers a perfect getaway from busy lives and hectic schedules. Pin this image

  • Places to visit in Dibrugarh, Assam - Awesome Assam

    Dibrugarh is a town located on the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra River in Assam. It is one of the easternmost parts of India. And because of its unique isolated location, it is, in a way, cut off from mainland India. With minimal industrial growth (except in the tea industry), Dibrugarh has a close connection to nature featuring crystal clear blue skies and pure oxygen to breathe. Located on the banks of mighty Brahmaputra river, this lesser known and as yet less explored town of Dibrugarh is home to vast tea gardens that provide a breath-taking landscape of lush greenery. So, let's explore this town together. Where is Dibrugarh, Assam, located? Dibrugarh town is the administrative headquarters of the Dibrugarh district in Upper Assam, Northeast India. It lies at a distance of about 444 kilometres away from Guwahati (the largest city of Assam) or about 435 kilometres away from Dispur (the capital of Assam state). The Brahmaputra river borders the entire town of Dibrugarh in the north. The Burhi Dihing, which is the tributary of Brahmaputra, slices through the district from east to west. How to reach Dibrugarh, Assam? Dibrugarh is well connected by airways, railways, and roads. In fact, it is also linked to other districts in Assam via waterways. Airway Dibrugarh airport is located 15 kilometres away from the main town in an area named Mohanbari. The airport is connected via direct flights with Shillong (Meghalaya), Guwahati (Assam), and Bagdogra & Kolkata (West Bengal) and New Delhi. The flights run daily, though the frequencies might be low. Railway Dibrugarh railway station is amongst the biggest railway station in entire northeast India. Through the eastern rail network, it is well-connected to major cities in India like Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi, Kochi, Kanyakumari, Trivandrum, and many more. Roadway National highways number 15, 17, 27, 29 and 37 link the state of Assam with other neighbouring states and cities. Since the completion of the Bogibeel bridge, Dibrugarh has been connected to the northern banks of the Brahmaputra, which eventually leads to Arunachal Pradesh. Government, as well as private buses, ply from Guwahati to Dibrugarh multiple times a day. You will also find shared tempo travellers running from Guwahati to Dibrugarh all day long. Waterway Ferry services link Dibrugarh to the areas of the Dhemaji district across the Brahmaputra River. Even luxury cruises sail from Guwahati to Dibrugarh and back. What is the best time to visit Dibrugarh, Assam? Dibrugarh is blessed with a moderate climate, and mostly the weather is pleasant irrespective of the time of the year. As such, October to March is considered the best time to visit Dibrugarh. However, you should plan your visit in line with what you want to experience. March and June months are the tea harvesting seasons. So, if you are interested in visiting tea gardens and having a cup of freshly harvested flush, these months are the best time to visit Dibrugarh. The tea gardens are closed between December to February for pruning and maintenance. But you can definitely still see them from outside. Dibrugarh receives heavy rainfall during the monsoon (April/May to September). If you want to see the greenery in all its glory, right after monsoon would be a great time to visit Dibrugarh. Remember that rains bring their own challenges with flooding of the Brahmaputra river and waterlogging woes in the low-lying areas. Even national parks/ safaris are closed during this time. If you want to experience the rich culture of Assam, the best time to visit Dibrugarh is during the Bihu festivities. Bihu is the harvest festival and marks the end of the harvesting season in Assam. It is celebrated with tremendous zeal and enthusiasm. Rongali Bihu is celebrated in April, Kongali Bihu in October, and Magh Bihu in January/ February. The dates are based on the Hindu calendar. What are the best places to visit in Dibrugarh, Assam? Brahmaputra and Tea estates are of course the main attractions within Dibrugarh town. There are few places as well that might interest you. 1. Tea estates 50% of India's Assamese tea crop is grown in the districts of Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, and Sivasagar combined. A drive through Dibrugarh will bemuse you with umpteen shades of green in a single expanse of a tea estate. Miles and miles of green land are covered by tea gardens. Owing to the Brahmaputra river, the soil of Dibrugarh is mainly fertile alluvial soil, which further assists good tea cultivation. Assam tea gardens are very different from the Darjeeling tea gardens when it comes to the style of growing. In Darjeeling, tea is grown on slopes that are 700-2000 metres above sea level. Whereas, in Assam, tea is grown on flat land (30-40 metres above sea level). To prevent damage to the tea plantations from scorching heat in summers, black pepper trees are grown between the tea plants that provide shade and keep the temperature cool. You will be surprised to know that Dibrugarh alone has more than 250 registered tea companies, and each company has acres and acres of land for tea cultivation! This is barring the small-scale tea growers. Tea tour is one of the reasons why tourists visit Dibrugarh. This includes a walk-through tea plantation and a guided visit to a tea factory where you understand the process of tea growing, harvesting, making, and trading. What better way to experience the tea cultivation of Dibrugarh than to live in between a tea estate! Chang Bungalows (built during the British colonial era) surrounded by tea gardens on all sides are renovated and refurbished by the Jalans (the oldest tea growers of Assam) for tourists to stay and get a feel of living in a heritage property in the middle of a tea estate (More on this in our upcoming blog). 2. DTP Dyke DTP Dyke is a riverside promenade in Dibrugarh built along the Brahmaputra banks. A major part of Dibrugarh town was eroded away in the earthquake of 1950 that caused severe floods. That is when the Government of Assam decided to build the dyke. It is used as a place for jogging, cycling, and walking by both the locals and the tourists. Entrance to DTP Dyke is free of charge, and you can spend as much time there as you want to. We recommend visiting the dyke early in the morning or late in the evenings to catch sunrise or sunset. These timings are perfect for photography. You will get an incredible view of the Brahmaputra glistening with golden colours because of the sunlight reflecting water. 3. Bogibeel bridge The Bogibeel bridge on the Brahmaputra River in Dibrugarh is India's longest rail-cum-road bridge. It is 4.94 kilometres long and has a double rail line on the lower deck and a 3-lane highway on the upper deck. Bogibeel bridge is located just 20 kilometres away from the state of Arunachal Pradesh. It hence is of strategic importance to India as it significantly eases India's ability to transport troops and supplies to Arunachal Pradesh, which shares a border with China. In our opinion, Bogibeel bridge is the best place to watch the sunset in Dibrugarh. We went to a restaurant named Kanchanjanga, located right below the bridge on the banks of the Brahmaputra River. The place has cottages for staying, a playground for kids, a unique concept restaurant, and a dolphin viewpoint. We actually were able to spot 3-4 dolphins galloping in the river within a span of 5 minutes. We opted for a 1-hour evening cruise in the Brahmaputra and watched the sunset from the boat which was without a doubt one the best sunset experiences we have had. The sky displayed an incredible array of colours with the setting sun, and getting to view such a magical phenomenon from the centre of the water was a fantastic experience. Bogibeel bridge lights up with colourful lights as the darkness surrounds, and all this light gets reflected in the river water below. All in all, the sunset cruise is perfect for everyone, be it photographers, family, couples, or children. Entrance fee for Kachanjanga – INR 30 per person Ticket for boat cruising Brahmaputra River – INR 500 per person that includes 1-hour boat ride, complimentary mix veg fritters and tea 4. Jokai Botanical Garden Located 12 kilometres away from Dibrugarh city centre, Jokai Botanical Garden is a storehouse for germplasm and endangered species of flora. The garden is divided into various zones like an orchid house, rainforest, medicinal plants, etc. Jokai Botanical Garden will give you a feeling of being in a tropical rainforest where you can wander amongst tall trees. It is a good place to visit for nature lovers especially if you have time. If you need to skip something in Dibrugarh due to lack of time, we would recommend skipping this. 5. Jagannath temple Jagannath temple in Dibrugarh is the exact replica of the one in Puri, Odisha. It is very well maintained, and along with the main Jagannath temple, there are several small temples dedicated to various deities in the temple complex. A quick visit to the Jagannath temple in Dibrugarh will leave you with peace and tranquillity. The temple is located very close to the tea gardens of Dibrugarh. 6. Jalan mandir Jalan Mandir in Dibrugarh is a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and Goddess Radha. The temple is made of white marble, and the surroundings are full of greenery with big lawns and tall trees. Unlike other temples, Jalan Mandir is seldom crowded, and hence you can spend some time in quietude here. What are the places to visit near Dibrugarh, Assam? Around Dibrugarh is where it becomes more interesting. There are quite a few varied places around Dibrugarh that ranges from interesting culture, paradise for birders and nature lovers, and some historically interesting places. 1. Namphake monastery Namphake monastery is a Buddhist monastery in Namphake Village in the Dibrugarh district of Assam. The monastery is located 60 kilometres away from the main Dibrugarh town. All the residents of Namphake village are Buddhists in religion and belong to the Tai-Phake community that migrated from Myanmar to Assam in the 1800s. They maintain their own unique culture. Namphake Buddhist monastery, situated on the banks of Burhi Dihing River, is said to have been established in the year 1850. It houses a giant statue of Lord Buddha along with numerous smaller statues. We lit candles and incense sticks inside the Buddhist temple. We also found a Buddhist Pagoda, an Ashokan Pillar, and statues of Buddha's disciples in the monastery campus. Colourful flags adorn the entire campus creating an extremely peaceful environment. Apart from the Namphake Buddhist monastery, also visit the nearby Namphake museum that is created as part of a restaurant. The museum showcases photos, utensils, attire, and unique households of the Tai-Phake tribe. A leisurely walk in the village allowed us to see the raised/ elevated bamboo huts, interact with the community, and understand their culture in a better way. 2. Joypur Rainforest Joypur (or Jeypore) Rainforest is located 65 kilometres away from Dibrugarh's main town. It is an evergreen forest marked by the rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. Spread across 108 square kilometres, the Joypur rainforest houses hundreds of species of orchids and trees as tall as 50 metres high. The forest also accommodates an incredible number of rare and endangered animals, including sloth bears, Assamese macaque, flying squirrels, and leopard cats. Every year, a Rainforest festival is organised at Joypur Rainforest that includes fun and adventure activities like trekking, camping, elephant riding, and bird watching. This festival attracts thousands of tourists from across India. 3. Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary About 50 kilometres ahead of Joypur Rainforest is the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary. Located about 100 kilometres from Dibrugarh town, this wildlife sanctuary is a major elephant habitat and has 47 different species of reptiles and mammals. It harbours the largest stretches of lowland rainforests in India, home to the rare white-winged wood duck – the state bird of Assam. To enter the sanctuary, you need to obtain a permit from the Forest Range Office in Digboi. It's best that you hire the services of a local guide who could take you deep inside the forest reserve; you might easily lose your way inside the thick rainforest. 4. Digboi Oil Centenary Museum Digboi is an oil town located 84 kilometres away from the main town of Dibrugarh in Upper Assam. In the early 18th century, crude oil was first discovered in Digboi, making it the birthplace of the industrial revolution in this region. The town houses the oldest running oil well in the world, and at that exact place, the Digboi Oil Centenary Museum is constructed. The museum showcases samples of different types of fuels, refined fuels, and by-products. A stroll through the museum will make you understand how the British discovered oil. Beside the Digboi Oil Centenary Museum, you will find a bunker used by the British Army during World War II. You will also find a well-maintained and well-documented war cemetery 4 kilometres away from the museum that used to be a burial ground of the bygone warriors of World War. Entrance fee for Digboi Oil Centenary Museum – INR 10 per person; Photography is prohibited inside the museum. 5. Margherita coal museum Just 18 kilometres south of the Digboi Oil Centenary Museum is the Margherita Coal Museum. This museum is established to preserve materials from over 120 years of coal mining in India. It showcases various instruments used in coal mining since the 18th century, including machines, tools, vehicles, engines, and pumps. The museum houses a replica of an actual underground mine which is very interesting to visit. Some locomotives on display are too cool to believe. Entrance fees to Margherita Coal Museum – INR 10 per person 6. Dibru Saikhowa National Park Located about 100 kilometres away from Dibrugarh town, Dibru Saikhowa National Park is bounded by the Dibru River on the south and Lohit and great Brahmaputra River on the north. The national park is the largest salix swamp forest in northeast India, attracting many endangered species. More than 350 species of birds have been spotted at Dibru Saikhowa National Park so far. Dibru Saikhowa National Park was established to protect the critically endangered species of white-winged wood duck and wild ferral horses. The river around the sanctuary is even frequented by dolphins. You will be able to spot a variety of fauna while on a boat safari in the river around the sanctuary. The other activities at the Dibru Saikhowa National Park include bird watching, trekking, river cruising, village touring, and night camping. How many nights should one spend in Dibrugarh, Assam? While touring Dibrugarh, you need to keep in mind that all the places of interest are located far off from each other. Along with road conditions, you will have to spend quite some time on road to cover all places around Dibrugarh. If you have to choose one place around Dibrugarh town, we would recommend covering the Namphake monastery and getting a different cultural insight. An ideal Dibrugarh itinerary will look like this: Day 1: Visit the Jagannath temple, Jalan temple, and DTP Dyke (in the evening) Day 2: Explore Tea Gardens early in the morning, followed by Jokai Botanical Garden, and then head to Bogibeel Bridge for the sunset Day 3: Full day excursion to Namphake monastery, Jeypore Rainforest, Digboi Centenary Museum, and Margherita Coal Museum (You will have to start early) Day 4: Trip to Dibru Saikhowa National Park Note: You can also plan to spend a night near Dibru Saikhowa National Park. The roads to the places mentioned on Day 3 are narrow and very okayish in condition, so consider the time spent on the roads. Where to stay in Dibrugarh, Assam? This one's a no brainer. If you visit Dibrugarh and don't spend time amongst tea estates, have you really explored the place?! That's why we chose to stay in a heritage house surrounded by acres and acres of tea estates. Choosing to stay at Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow was the best decision we took on our Assam trip. Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow was previously owned by the British Indian Tea Company and is an ideal representation of how the Britishers lived in the estates. The heritage bungalow is built on stilts (known as chang ghars in Assamese). The wooden bungalow has 4 large double rooms and 2 single rooms in the attached annexure. The chefs at Mancotta prepare authentic Assamese food, which is to die for! 5 stars for the service and hospitality. We were free to roam in the surrounding tea gardens and enjoyed every moment of our stay here. If you would like to checkout other options to stay in Dibrugarh, click on images below to see available hotels and homestays in Dibrugarh, Assam - Other important information: The biggest tip we would give to the people living in Western India and visiting Assam is to wake up super early, as the sun sets pretty early on this side of India. Every minute of the daylight counts. The sun rose as early as 5:30 AM in Dibrugarh and set by 4:30 PM when we visited in December. It gets pitch black dark by 5:00 PM (Daylight timings might vary in summer). Since we were just two of us, we rented a two-wheeler to get around in Dibrugarh. If you are on a tour where you have booked a car for the entire trip, that will work too. However, hiring a car on a daily basis may turn out to be expensive. Pin this image We hope this guide helps you plan a trip to Dibrugarh and to the nearby places. Should you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below, or you can directly mail us at

  • 10 Cheapest Countries You Can Travel to from Dubai

    Have you been planning a cheap foreign trip from Dubai? Since we began our journey as full-time travellers, we have always looked for cheap countries to travel to. We soon realised that travelling to cheaper countries is an excellent way to start our international travel odyssey. So, we have compiled this list of the cheapest top 10 travel destinations to travel from Dubai. It's no surprise that there are a lot of nations where Dubai travellers can go on a resourceful budget. And with low-cost airlines like FlyDubai, booking an affordable flight has never been easier. So, if you have plans to take a foreign trip from Dubai this year, here are the top 10 countries that we highly recommend you should explore. 10 Cheapest Countries You Can Travel to from Dubai 1. Iran (1 AED ~ 11529 IRR) After the 2020 pandemic, many countries are suffering from over-tourism. But Iran is one of the countries where tourism is low; hence you can have unique experiences across the country. Since Iran is always under some negative news, travellers feel that it isn't a safe country to visit. However, life in Iran is not what is represented in Western media. On the contrary, it is one of the most hospitable nations with locals who are absolutely welcoming and heart-warming. Iran will impress you with its stunning landscapes, magnificent architecture, vibrant colours, awe-inspiring shrines, and mouth-watering Persian food. 2. Uzbekistan (1 AED ~ 2965 UZS) Have you ever dreamt of exploring the ancient Silk Road regions? Well, stop by Uzbekistan, a short flight from Dubai, to visit the remains of the Silk Road in Central Asia. The country is yet another lesser-known travel destination and is a cheap nation to travel to from Dubai. Unlike Iran, Uzbekistan does not expect its travellers to dress a certain way. It is one of those Muslim-dominated countries that is still liberal when it comes to religion. Uzbeks are some of the kindest and friendliest people in the world. Travel to the popular cities of Khiva, Tashkent, Bukhara, and Samarkand in Uzbekistan and get charmed by the striking monuments. 3. Kazakhstan (1 AED ~ 130 KZT) Club your trip to Uzbekistan with Kazakhstan and save on your conveyance by flying only once. From Uzbekistan, you can travel to Kazakhstan by train. Kazakhstan is modern and is home to one of the largest steppes (vast land of grasslands) in the world, named the Kazak steppe. It also houses the third largest mosque in Asia, the Nur Astana Mosque, which is a must-visit. Also, have you heard of apple forests? Yes, the nation is known as the fatherland of apples. Visit Kazakhstan for endless deserts, majestic canyons, futuristic skyscrapers, and colossal glaciers. 4. Armenia (1 AED ~ 111 AMD) Armenia is a hugely popular destination to travel to from Dubai. You will love this nation if you are into places that are off the usual trail. Located in the middle of Asia and Europe, Armenia follows the customs and traditions of the two continents, making it an incredibly diverse country to visit. Armenia is dotted with Soviet-era relics, old churches and monasteries set in magical locations, and the highlands of the Ararat mountains. In addition, Armenia's cuisine is nothing short of spectacular. Step into the gorgeous countryside of Armenia and create unforgettable memories. 5. Sri Lanka (1 AED ~ 98 LKR) Except for some parts of Sri Lanka with political unrest, this island nation is peaceful and very welcoming towards travellers. The coastal country is home to incredible beaches and is a haven for water sports, like surfing, diving, snorkelling, and swimming. Not just the beaches, Sri Lanka also has some stunning waterfalls, majestic mountains, tropical forests, and fantastic wildlife. The country is also highly known for its excellent seafood. Explore the many UNESCO World Heritage sites, white sandy beaches, jungle safaris, and picture-perfect landscapes while touring Sri Lanka. 6. Nepal (1 AED ~ 34 NPR) Nepal offers a great backpacking experience and is an incredibly cheap country to travel to from Dubai. In addition, the nation is a trekker's paradise and provides ample opportunities for mountain explorations. In Nepal, you will wake up to beautiful Himalayan views each day and feel at home with the warm hospitality of the Nepalese. The country is home to phenomenal rice terraces, snow peaks, glaciers, and forests. Predominantly a Hindu country, you will be a spectator to unique customs and traditions in Nepal, especially while exploring Kathmandu. 7. India (1 AED ~ 21 INR) With a large number of ex-pats and labourers from India, frequent flights from Dubai ply to several cities of this nation daily and are often cheap. Only a few countries can offer diverse experiences to their visitors as India can. India is a perfect all-in-one destination for tourists looking to combine mountains, beaches, culture, traditions, deserts, jungles, and bustling cities. Visit the Taj Mahal in Agra, bathe in the Ganges in Varanasi, explore the beaches in Goa, get lost in the ancient ruins of Hampi, and find your inner self at the authentic Ayurvedic centres in Kerala. 8. Egypt (1 AED ~ 5 EGP) Home to Cairo, one of the most magical cities in the world, Egypt is only 4 hours away from Dubai. So, if Dubai starts feeling like a skyscraper forest to you, it's best to take a trip to Egypt to regenerate your body with its soulful food, vibrant places, and beautiful people. Among many other places to explore, do not miss out on visiting the Great Pyramids and cruising the Nile in Egypt. Learn the history behind the 500-year-old Egyptian civilisation, visit the Egyptian Museum, and book a sunset cruise on the Nile to make the most of your trip to this magical nation. 9. Turkey (1 AED ~ 4.7 TRY) Turkey is a perfect weekend getaway from Dubai and is worth every penny you spend on a few hours' flight. It is a fairytale nation with incredible mosques and souqs, decorated chapels, crystal clear lagoons and beaches, green mountains, and lively culture. Turkey has something for each kind of traveller – be it a backpacker, luxury traveller, or cultural addict. Explore the cave cities, visit the stunning Blue Mosque in Istanbul, stroll through the Roman ruins, and enjoy the delicious Turkish food while touring this breath-taking country. 10. Maldives (1 AED ~ 4 MVR) The Maldives is often tagged as an expensive destination because of its luxury overwater accommodations and the exorbitant rates of water activities. But it is easily possible to have a budget-friendly vacation in this country with careful planning and good research. The fear of cost should not deter you from exploring the turquoise waters and the aquatic life in the Maldives. Dive in the Banana Reef, gorge on the delicious seafood, stay on a local island, enjoy a sunset cruise, and watch dolphins while touring the Maldives. Low-cost airline to and from Dubai: With an excellent range of destinations and well-trained staff, Fly Dubai is an affordable and convenient airline to fly out of the Middle East. In addition, it is the only low-cost carrier to offer Business class services in its fleet of clean, modern Boeing 737 planes with and exceptional comfort. You can find great deals for FlyDubai booking on several travel portals, and enjoy a relaxing journey to these highly affordable countries to visit. Have you been to any of these countries? How much did you spend in that specific country? Let us know in the comments below.

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