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Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary, Bharatpur

Also known as Keoladeo Bird Park, this bird haven is located in Rajasthan's Bharatpur district. Spread over an area of 28.73 km²...

Saturday, September 12, 2015

My top 5 travel destinations

Travelling thrills me and I admit being bitten by the ‘traveler bug’. I have travelled to quite a few places and dream to travel to many more, because I just don’t get enough of the “bug”. Sharing few top destinations of my choice-
Dalhousie- Visiting Dalhousie was on my wish list since a long time till the dream came true in April of 2014. An all-girls trip to this pretty hill station was fun and mesmerizing. Known for its beautiful landscapes, serene splendor of nature and amazing weather, Dalhousie charts as one of the most romantic places in hill stations. At a distance of 558km from Delhi, there is no direct connectivity of the places. We boarded an overnight bus from Delhi to Pathankot covering around 480 km and hired a taxi from Pathankot covering around 83km. The tiresome journey and patience finally paid us when we entered Dalhousie. The place is breathtaking. Before checking into our hotel, we detoured for Chamera Lake, a major boating point and hydroelectricity project for the district. The entire alley was scented with beautiful pink roses. The foggy hills, the lavish greenery, the sparkling waters, the cloudy sky, made us speechless. As the taxi ferried us to our hotel, I was absolutely stunned by the location of the hotel Silverton estate.Post a refreshing welcome drink and tour of the marvelous property built during British time, we headed for sightseeing. We covered Subhash Chowk, the little Gandhi market and Panchpula waterfalls on day 1. Every place is a must see for all.


Day 2 was trip to Khajjiar,DiankundandKalatop. Mind you, it was the 3rd week of April and was surprising chilly. Against our expectations, we experienced snowfall in Diankund. Ah it was a place to die for. Khajjiar, called the mini Switzerland of India was the cherry on the cake. A huge pastureland surrounded by coniferous trees and a little pond in middle, sheep grazing by, cold winds from the hills and an array of colorful flowers were remarkably astounding. One would be awed by the natural beauty of Dalhousie. A must see destination for nature lovers and a superb place for honeymoon

Agra- Every Indian must visit Agra, because it is has one of the Seven Wonders of the World and was declared UNESCO world heritage site. One does feel proud to see the great Taj Mahal that was built in 22 years (1631-
Taj Mahal
1653) with the orders of Shah Jahan, dedicated to his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The white marble structure stands as the symbol of love and clever architecture of an era without technology. Easily approachable from Delhi via Noida expressway, Agra is at a distance of 232 km only, which can be covered via bus, own vehicle, train or flight. As you spend around 3 hours in Taj Mahal appreciating the beauty and the grandeur of the bygone time, you would also feel sad for the depreciating structure and the physical harm done to the Taj. If only the authorities were not looking after the monument, it would have been in ruins today. Besides Taj Mahal, one must see Old Fort just 2.5 km apart. I was speechless the moment I entered it. The huge monument still stands tall with pride and sets a remarkable example of perfect ancient architecture. Be it the Deewan-e-khaas , Deewan-e- Aam , Jahangiri Mahal,Sheesh Mahal or the entry gates for the Army, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the fort comprising a blend of white marbles & red sand stones. The ancient engineering has no equals and nobody can reproduce the magic with the same grace and perfection. Some portions of the fort are not accessible to the public, of course for security reasons .The portions which are open for all, are masterpiece of creations.  Once you are in Agra, don’t miss trying various sorts of petha (angoori, pan, saada) and moth-kachori, a staple snack.It is out of the world! Avoid Agra during April to June due to peak summers.

Jaipur- Named as the pink city, Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is a seamless blend of History and modern lifestyle. Formed by Raja Man Singh, Jaipur offers some of the finest forts and palaces that attracts tourists from the globe. One of them is the Jaigarh Fort. Located at 400 meters above the Amer Fort,  the fort offered a bird’s view of the city to the army of Jai Singh. The main attraction of this fort is the giant canon, referred as Jai Vaana in Hindi.
Hawa Mahal

Its 20 feet long barrel that weights about 50, and has a diameter of 11 inches. With a range of 22 miles, the cannon is said was fired only once. The specialty of this cannon was its free rotation in any direction. Imagine mounting such a heavy piece on wheels and rolling up the hills during those that time! Beautifully carved at the mouth scroll and body, the cannon stands protected as a masterpiece made by the skilled craftsmen then.  Indulge in the royal Rajput architecture of the massive Amer Fort that takes more than 3 hours to stroll around. The fort houses artifacts of Rani Jodha’s paalki, the king’s lifestyle, handcrafted trunks, beds, entertainment rooms and many more. One can enjoy live puppet shows, an art that is slowly fading. Among the other must see things in Jaipur are Hawa Mahal, Rani Padmawati Mahal, Nahargarh Quila, Rajmandir (a movie theater built in British style) and Choki Dhani ( A modern reconstruction of old Rajasthan with culture, food and games on display). In 400 INR entry fees, Choki Dani offers you a lot more than what meets the eye. Because of connectivity to adjoining cities like Ajmer, Pushkar, Neemrana and Alwar, Jaipur contributes a lot to Indian tourism. Avoid visiting Jaipur during April to July when temperature soars higher than 50 degrees.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia- Apart from serious sports, Australia has great places too. The Great Barrier Reef is an absolute must visit for every human on this Earth. This water body on the planet is the largest structure visible from outer space! Need any more reason to be there?  This 2,300 km-long ecosystem encompasses countless reefs and islands made of over 600 types of hard and soft coral. The reef structure was built by tiny organisms coral polyps thousands of years ago. Sedimentation of rocky deposits, volcanic eruptions and other geological shifts formed the barrier reef which eventually became a popular tourist destination.

The barrier reef is home to a wide diversity of life. Among the seven natural wonders of the world, Barrier reef’s crystal blue offers breathtaking view of islands and marine life. The Great Barrier Reef is a breeding area for humpback whales, migrating from the Antarctic and is also the habitat of a few endangered species including the Dugong (Sea Cow) and large Green Sea Turtle. In recognition of its significance, UNESCO listed the Great Barrier Reef as a World Heritage Site in 1981. With activities like scuba diving, sky diving, sailing and many more, the natural wonders are experienced. Personally I feel awed by how much the creator has blessed us with so much to see and appreciate! This place has been on my travel list since childhood!

Amritsar- My workplace demanded me to travel a lot during the initial stage of my career. One of the destinations was Amritsar, Punjab.
Golden Temple
I have been lucky to visit the place twice and soaked in all that I could. Connected via Volvo and train, Amritsar sees a mahor footfall each day towards the majestic Golden Temple and Wagah Border. At a distance of about 450 km from Delhi, Amritsar boasts of a closely knitted culture along with hospitality and warmth in people. A memorial in Jallianwala Bagh speaks of the tragedy meted out to thousands of people by General Dyer which holds a very important place in History. These three places in Amritsar are major crowd pullers. As you start your day with a dip in holy water in Harmandir Sahab’s pond, the serenity of the Gurudwara instantly fills you with devotion. A long queue at the Gurudwara entrance is managed by the management very efficiently. It is believed that an ardaas (prayer) is always answered by the almighty if done with pure heart. The Gurudwara is home to several homeless and poor and thousands volunteer to participate in Gurudwara maintenance, as it is believed that sevaa to mankind is sevaa to God. Half a day at the Gurudwara spending peaceful moments followed by langar, again managed so efficiently, makes you come back here each time.

The retreat ceremony at Wagah Border every evening is something to watch for. Wagah border between India and Pakistan where high tension prevails, is guarded by Border Security Force (BSF). The borders are barred by gates where the flags of both the countries are retreated in the evening and thousands gather to watch the cultural ceremony that takes place with great enthusiasm. Mind you, one needs special permission or pass to sit in the VIP block and watch the function from a short distance. I have witnessed the entire saga that comprised an opening march by lady officers, dance on patriotic numbers, BSF soldiers’ aggressive salute, face off with Pakistan Rangers and roar of slogans from both the countries. The ceremony is a treat to eyes and certainly gives you goosebumps! The energy, the colorful life, great food and beauty of Amritsar keeps seeing me visit frequently.
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