Darjeeling, “Land of the Celestial Thunderbolt,” was given to the British as a “gift” from the once-independent kingdom of Sikkim. Lying in the Himalayan foothills and entirely surrounded by snowcapped vistas, Darjeeling soon became the favorite summer resort of the British Raj during the heyday of Calcutta — when Mark Twain visited, he exclaimed it was “the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once by even a glimpse would not give that glimpse for the shows of the rest of the world combined.” Today, the incredible view of the world’s third-highest mountain, Mount Kanchenjunga (8,220m/27,400 ft.), is undoubtedly Darjeeling’s best-loved attraction, though the town has also acquired a global reputation for producing the “champagne of teas,” and retains some of its haunting Gothic Victorian ambiance.
Varanasi is another sacred Hindu city with a very old history. Known as the city of Lord Shiva, the god of creation and destruction, it’s believed that anyone who dies here will be liberated from the cycle of reincarnation. Even a wash in the Ganges River is said to cleanse away all sins. A visit to Varanasi, formerly known as Benaras or Benares, or as Kashi (meaning “resplendent with light”), is an experience unlike any other. This is the epitome of a holy city, inundated with religious pilgrims and sacred cows, yet it is also a city firmly grounded in the commerce and reality of day-to-day existence.
The fascinating thing about this mystical city is that its rituals are revealed openly to along the many riverside ghats, which are used for everything from bathing to burning the bodies of the dead. Yoga, blessings, massages, shaves, and games of cricket are among the other activities you’ll find performed along the river edge. Here are top 8 things to do while in Varanasi:
1. A Boat Ride along the Ganges
A dawn rowing boat ride along the Ganges is a quintessential Varanasi experience. The early-morning light is particularly inspiring, and all the color and clamor of pilgrims bathing and performing puja unfolds before you. An hour-long trip south from Dashashwamedh Ghat to Harishchandra Ghat and back is popular, but be prepared to see a burning corpse at Harishchandra. Early evening is also a good time to be on the river, when you can light a lotus flower candle and set it adrift on the water before watching the nightly ganga aarti ceremony at Dashashwamedh Ghat directly from the boat.
A secluded Shangri-La mired in myths and legends, the small state of Sikkim genuinely welcomes travelers and pilgrims from all over. Blessed by the great Guru Padmasambhava himself, embellished with natural pearls, lush tea gardens, ancient monasteries and people who seem as close as our kin, a visit to Sikkim will leave you with a nostalgic affection. Mountains, rocky terrains, waterfalls and adventure in harmony with religious faith and generous people, get around and be enthralled in Sikkim.
At a swooping height of 5,550 feet, the capital of Sikkim, crowned by a spectacular view of Mount Khangchendzonga (Mt. Kanchanjunga in Nepal), Gangtok is a buzzing cosmopolitan with a vibrant mix of people and their cultures, traditional and modern. The town is definitely your hotspot to chill before going around traveling through the state. MG Marg, the country’s first litter and spit free zone, allows no vehicles into the marg. Relax, reconnect, hop and shop around the chain of malls, parlors, cafes, and clubs!
Soak up the untainted culture, unravel the hidden secrets and experience the allure of North India from the beating heart of Delhi to the jewel of Mewar, Udaipur. North India is characterized by a great diversity in culture, geography, weather, food, languages and lifestyle. The fascinating north brings your rich history, gorgeous architecture, and breathtaking imagery. It is often said that to explore north India is like exploring different cultures with far too many places to see and explore.
Possibly the best way to discover the vibrant and colorful enigma that surrounds India, Golden Triangle circuit takes you through the historical and cultural brilliance of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. A prominent route that hosts many of India’s great cultural gems, Golden Triangle tour is the classic introduction to India offering a good spectrum of the country’s diverse people, culture and landscapes. On the map, these form a roughly equilateral triangle, some 200-250km along each side. This triangle has been dubbed “golden” for the extraordinary wealth of cultural and historical splendor on offer in each of the three cities.
An oasis of tranquility and natural beauty, Ladakh is an ideal retreat for those living in cosmopolitan cities. Set deep in the Indian Himalayas on the western edge of the Tibetan plateau, Ladakh, or “Little Tibet”, is one of the highest and driest inhabited places on earth. Yet for centuries it was home to a rich and self-sustaining culture. Stark mountains dotted with colorful monasteries, fluttering prayer flags, rocky ridges, dry plains and tiny settlements, this is Ladakh for you.