Friday, August 31, 2012

Haridwar - The Holy Place For The Hindu

The city of Haridwar situated in Uttarkhand is a frequent destination for the Hindu community. It is located on the banks of the river Ganges. From the ancient scriptures of the religious books the location is mentioned quite a number of times. The writings from the texts refer to Haridwar as the place where nectar fell from the bird also referred to as Garuda. The particular spot is referred to as Brahma Kund.

One of the most revered places in the city is Har ki pauri where people take a dip in the waters to rid themselves of any sins to attain salvation. In the evenings one can catch a glimpse of diyas floating in the Ganges where people pray for their near and dear ones who have passed on.

The climatic condition in Haridwar is pretty pleasant throughout the year. In fact because of this and the need to catch up on spiritual discourse many tourists and pilgrims throng the arena.

There are many hotels in Haridwar which have different tariff. Restaurants in the area as well as hotels do not encourage the sale of meat. Cuisines are predominately vegetarian and meat eaters will certainly have to travel elsewhere to get their fill! A couple of the eateries to visit are Mohan's Fast Food, Chotiwala Restaurant, Aahar, Sindh Durg Bandar, Motel Rahi's Restaurant, Brij Matural Walla, to name a few. There is nothing sweeter than having a pure vegetarian meal sans the use of animal products.

When it comes to shopping in the area there are many markets that play host to the throng of constant visitors. Jwalapur is ideal to catch up with mementoes from the location to take back home along with sweets that are simply divine. Moti Bazar is another location to visit for the ardent devotee to grab a couple of idols, puja items, bangles, baskets, rudrakshas, agarbattis, etc. The Government owned handloom emporium offer everything possible for the traveler right from wooden carvings, paintings, sculptures and other items of importance.

It is in everybody psyche nowadays to get back to basics and keep in touch with nature and get closer to God. Every religion believes in peace, love and joy. While many aspects differ with the method of prayer the premise is that God is love and getting closer to Him at pilgrims works very well for everyone. The location of

Haridwar has been considered the holiest of holies for the Hindu religion. With this in order many people from the faith make it a point to visit the hub sometime in their lives. There are many temples that one must make a dash to while visiting Haridwar. The Bharat mata temple, Vasihno devi, Chandi devi is a few that always make the cut for the ardent devotee.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

If It's Istanbul, It Must Be Wednesday - An Idea for a Trip to Turkey

Most travel articles about visiting Istanbul will list the usual guide-book photograph sights. They are there and, especially in the case of Hagia Sophia, the cisterns and the hippodrome, they have been there a long time. The big sites of Sultanahmet - Justinian's church, Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque - are not going to disappear. Do visit them, along with the Süleymaniye mosque, the Prince's Islands, the jewel of the Chora church and the little but stunning Fethiye mosque and church. Go to Taksim Square, walk the shopping streets, do a Bosphorous cruise and take the ferry across to Üküdar, the city's eastern shore. It is all stupendous. But do more than this.

The realisation hit home in the queue for the cisterns, when a group of American tourists nearby audibly extolled the virtue of their chosen hostelry. It was right there, apparently, in Sultanahmet and meant that they did not waste any time travelling to see the sights of the main sites. Presumably, the big sight photos in their book were duly ticked through once visited, once seen. It's what tourists do, myself included. But please do more than this, especially on Wednesdays.

Wednesday in Turkish is Çaramba. A quick consultation of an Istanbul map will reveal a district of this name within the old city walls, on the north-facing down slope of the spine that runs almost parallel to the Golden Horn. The area, along with Balat and Fener that run all the way down to the ancient harbour, is adjacent to the Chora church and the walls. The Fethiye mosque is within its boundaries, as are other mosques and churches of note. It is a tourist centre in its own right, and not just because of its big sights.

But as a place to stay, as a tourist's base, it is also a convenient site for the big venues. There are regular buses along the Golden Horn to Eminonu, from where a tram lifts up to Sultanahmet, buses connect to myriad destinations and ferries run across the Bosphorus. In any case, a fit traveller can walk from Çaramba, Balat and Fener to the main sites and arrive with plenty of time to visit. Of course there are always taxis and it was one particular Istanbul taxi driver who, on a return trip to Çaramba, announced that there were just too many Muslims in that area. Anyone with an interest in modern Turkey can only be fascinated by such a comment. But then he was a taxi driver.

So why is Wednesday the day? Well, Istanbul is known for its bazaars, as well as its historical sites. There's the Grand Bazaar, of course, and the less well known Egyptian or Spice bazaar. There is the more lived in areas of Unkapani and Demirta, where business seems to be less obviously driven by tourism. And then there's Wednesday in Çaramba. The area is thus actually called Wednesday after its enormous market of that day. It's a street market, and perhaps nothing special. But that's the whole point as far as the interested traveller is concerned. It is genuinely local. It tells things as they are for the people who live in the area, and there are almost no tourists to influence or attract demands. The experience thus becomes both informative and memorable, as well as both interesting and fundamentally good-natured.

The Çaramba, Balat and Fener areas are not so salubrious. Further down the Horn towards the bridges sees the city take on its tourist nature. A couple of kilometres the other way in Eyüp, there's a gentler, almost suburban feel. But Çaramba, Fener and Balat have a run-down appearance, and there is a general air of decay and neglect. There is no doubting that it needs attention. But the Pantocrator Church and its surrounding areas are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an area that film and television directors regularly seek out to portray the authentic, the real. On two days of a recent visit lasting just a week, staying in Kiremit Caddasi, television crews moved in after dark trying to capture something of the historical inner city, some of the almost Dickensian authenticity of the place. Or should that be the Pamukian authenticity... ?

So, rather than devote an Istanbul stay merely to ticking off the big names, why not spend some time in Çaramba, Balat and Fener? Why not stay in the area? Initial shock at the state of the place will soon be replaced by a sense of authenticity and uniqueness, and involvement with shopkeepers, market stall holders will evoke a sense of involvement that cannot be bought or, indeed, organised. Çaramba's Wednesday - and the rest of its week - will live in the visitor's memory for much longer than most of the ticks across the guide book photos.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Take A Trip On The Alpine Pacific Triangle Touring Route

The South Island of New Zealand holds many scenic treasures for visitors especially in and around North Canterbury, in an area known as the Alpine Pacific Triangle. This area offers visitors a wide range of places to explore and activities to participate in all whilst experiencing this beautiful area of the country. You can explore this area by taking a guided tour if you are perhaps travelling alone, or if you are keen and fit you can cycle the route, however if this is not your style, then a self-drive option, whether in your own car, a rented vehicle, or the most ideal option, a motor home allows you to set your own pace, create your own itinerary, and explore at your leisure.

The Alpine Pacific Triangle touring route starts in the Waipara wine region, where you can avail yourself of some of the award winning wines created in this area of New Zealand. There are a large number of wineries in the region and you can take day tours or explore on your own, each one offers some unique for their guests.

From Waipara the route heads inland through a number of quaint rural settlements that have both historic and cultural significance, including Weka Pass where you will be fascinated by the ancient Maori rock paintings.

Continuing your journey you will then travel to Hanmer Springs, which has recently been publicly voted number one in the Top 101 Things To Do in New Zealand. The springs offers an array of activities suitable to for all ages. The children will have hours of fun in the AquaPlay area, whilst the adults can enjoy some quiet time in the private spa's. If you have mobility issues or are recovering from injury the resort style walk-in pool is ideal. There are also barbeque areas if you choose to stay all day, and if you are in need of a little pampering you can spend the day at the beauty spa. If adventure is more your style there are plenty of walking and hiking trails to explore, or if you are an adrenalin junkie then jet boating or bungy jumping should be on your to-do list.

If you can tear yourself away from Hanmer the triangle route leads to the beautiful coastal location of Kaikoura. Most famous for being the birth place of whale watching and along with whales you will also be able to see dolphin and a range of seabirds. Kaikoura is almost as famous for its abundant seafood and you'll find plenty of local cafes and restaurants in which to indulge in the catch of the day.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

There's a Lot to Consider When You're Evaluating Grand Canyon Helicopter Deals

West Rim and South Rim chopper tours are a great way to see the canyon's most majestic sights in a short amount of time. But, it's only natural to want the best price possible. You'll want to check out the terrific online Grand Canyon helicopter deals before you go ahead and book your flight. The discounts for booking online can be astonishing!

Starting Points

If your tour will be starting in Las Vegas, you can upgrade your package to include a scenic flight over Sin City in addition to the Grand Canyon. Helicopter tours of the South Rim treat visitors to scenic lookouts and other points of interest, but the highlight for most travelers is Dragoon Corridor - the widest, deepest part of the gorge.

Several tour operators offer Grand Canyon helicopter tours. Prices vary, so some research is in order to check out the different options. You can find out whether a tour operator is reputable by looking at some travel review sites, which will tell you about a tour operator's safety record, prices and overall quality.

A lot of people think the most expensive tour operators are the best, but I tend to disagree - at least up to a certain point. Yes, the 5-star tour companies offer an outstanding service, and if that's what you want their higher prices are worth it. But some of the other companies offer terrific values on Grand Canyon helicopter tours.


You should also consider a company's cancellation and rescheduling policies. The best tour operators will give you back the full ticket price if you cancel your tour at least 24 hours in advance. They'll also reschedule your flight if bad weather causes a delay. You'll have your choice of the next available tour or a tour on a different day if that's more convenient.

Take a tour's flight time into account as well. The best South Rim helicopter tours will give you between 30 and 60 minutes of time in the air. You'll normally get at least two hours of flight time on West Rim helicopter tours out of Las Vegas. Landing tours are only offered at Grand Canyon West, but they should give you a generous amount of time on the ground in addition to including lunch and all National Park fees and taxes.

Flights are normally scheduled for hourly departures throughout the day, but I suggest taking a morning helicopter tour. There's less air turbulence and the visibility is better than during afternoon flights. I also recommend sunset tours because the canyon's colors are made more vivid as the sun is going down.


Look at the helicopter's seating capacity. The largest choppers seat five plus the pilot. Some companies charge per passenger, while others allow a customer to determine how many passengers will be on their flight.

Normally, the pilot also serves as the tour guide. Good tour operators include a recorded narration of the trip (available in more than ten languages), but the pilot will describe the history of the canyon and point out some terrific photo opportunities. Good companies also include free passenger pickup and drop-off at Vegas Strip hotels. Many offer limousine service.

Helicopter tours are extremely popular, and they sell out regularly. The earlier you buy your tickets, the more options you'll have as far as dates and times are concerned.

In Sum

Above all, remember to book your tour on the Internet - that's where you'll find the best Grand Canyon helicopter deals and discounts. The best tour operators have safe, secure websites where you can book your trip directly. In order to qualify for great online discounts, you'll need to complete the entire transaction on your tour company's website. Don't lose those terrific canyon helicopter deals by phoning in your reservation!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Machu Picchu Day Trip: How to Get the Most Out of the Day

Machu Picchu is the largest tourist attraction in Peru and one of the most popular in world, so you want to make sure that you do everything you can to make the most out of your trip and to make it an unforgettable experience.

Most tourists will make a day trip to Machu Picchu from the Incan capital city of Cusco. Here are some steps to help you on your trip if you don't pay for a full day tour with a specialist tour operator. The most important things that I can advise is to get to Machu Picchu as early as possible to make sure you can do everything in the one day. Also you should buy your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu in Cusco to save you time when you get to Aguas Calientes, as you can no longer buy tickets at the entrance of the site.

Catch the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes

There are 4 train departure times from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and if you are not staying overnight the night before in Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu, I would recommend that you get the earliest train, which is normally around 6.30am and will get you to Aguas Calientes at around 10am. The train journey takes you through the Andes and along the Urubamba River of the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the scenery is truly breathtaking, so don't keep your cameras locked up in your bag.

Get the bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

Once you get off the train at Aguas Calientes it is very tempting to have a look around the town and go to the market, but you should do this on the way back from Machu Picchu. The train will stop at Puente Ruinas Station where there is a small booth selling bus tickets to the Machu Picchu citadel. There are regular buses at around 10 minute intervals leaving from here, so you don't need to book in advance. Please note if you have not purchased your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu then you have to buy it from the Machu Picchu Cultural Centre first before you get the bus to the site. The bus zigzags the steep climb up the mountain, which can be quite an adrenalin rush due to the bus driving along the edge of the cliff with a steep drop down into the forest. Keep your camera and/or video camera ready as there are some great shots to be taken on this short trip. It reaches the citadel in around 20 minutes.

Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu

If you want to climb Huayna Picchu (the main mountain that you can see in the typical pictures of the Machu Picchu citadel, shown below), as soon as you enter Machu Picchu you should walk over to the base of Huayna Picchu to get a free ticket to climb the mountain, as there is a limit of 400 people per day that can make the climb, which is down to preserving the area. This is done in 2 groups of 200. It takes roughly an hour to make it to the top and can be quite nauseating at some points due to the height, so take your time in walking and admire the views of the Incan ruins at the same time.

Once you have returned back to the foot of Huayna Picchu you can make your way back up to the main site and explore this magnificent city of the Incan Empire that will give you goosebumps for sure. You can go with a guided tour in different languages, which will take around 2 hours or alternatively you can just walk around yourself at your own pace. If you choose for the latter, make sure you buy a tour guide book to ensure that you don't miss anything whilst you are there. And of course, make sure you bring lots of spare batteries and memory cards for your camera, as you will definitely need them.


If you feel that you want to stay over to explore more of the area, then you can either stay in the luxurious hotel at the entrance to the site called the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge or alternatively head back down to Aguas Calientes to pick from one of the hostels or hotels there.