Top 10 pilgrimage sites in India

With India holiday package, tourists can take a breather from their silly hectic lifestyle and go soul-searching to spiritual destinations. Thankfully, the country is inundated with pilgrimage sites and most of them have nature and history to offer as well. So, even if you are not into divine destinations, you can still visit them and have your kind of fun. Here are the top 10 pilgrimage sites in India (in no ranking order):

1. Jagannath Puri: Orissa’s Jagannath Puri town is well-known for its temple of Lord Jagannath and for its Swargdwar Beach. So, traveling to Puri involves both beach-time fun and temple-hopping.

2. Tirupati: Tirupati’s Tirumala Temple is an ode to Lord Venkateswara and is counted amongst the richest temples in the world. Situated in Andhra Pradesh, it is a temple which is visited by rich and poor alike, sportsmen and celebs in unison. Serene hamlets and quiet parks & waterfalls make this place a happy retreat for nature lovers as well.

Tirupati-Tirumala-Temple

3. Vaishno Devi: The caves of Vaishno Devi in the state of Jammu & Kashmir may entail a rigorous journey, but for the most pious men and women, these caves are amongst the places to visit in India before you die.

4. Haji Ali Mosque, Mumbai: Mumbai’s Haji Ali Mosque is a spiritual attraction as well as a tourist spot since this holy landmark stands on a narrow strip of land in the middle of the sea.

Haji Ali Dargah

5. Kashi Vishwanath Temple: Varanasi is one of the holiest towns in the country and its Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the major stopovers for a devout pilgrim in his journey to spiritual life.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple

6. Meenakshi Temple: Down south in Madurai, you will come across Meenakshi Temple, another beautifully engineered architectural piece which is entombed in divinity.

Meenakshi-Temple

7. Amarnath: Jammu & Kashmir again finds a mention for its sacred cave of Amarnath. It is difficult to reach the place and requires peak fitness, but young and old make the journey alive (or dead) at least once in their lifetime.

amarnath

8. Dakshineswar: West Bengal’s Dakshineswar is another pilgrimage site which is very famous. It is also steeped in Indian history and is the abode of Goddess Kali.

Dakshineswar-Kali-Temple-kolkata

9. Haridwar: India holiday package often recommends Haridwar to both local and foreign tourists for its fast-flowing Ganga, the crowded temples and the evening ghat aarti.

Haridwar aarti

10. Shirdi: The bhakts (disciples) of Sai Baba find the ultimate form of peace and salvation once they reach this small town in Maharasthra and pay their homage to Baba’s memorial.

Shirdi-Sai-Baba-Temple

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The Egypt You Don’t See

So you’ve decided to fly to Egypt and experience a little slice of ancient history. Yes, we all know of the Pyramids and we all know of the tombs, but what about the things you don’t hear about. What are these little bits of authenticity which you don’t usually read about that makes this holiday location a unique place to visit? This article will show just a few of the activities and places to visit that aren’t as well known as the main tourist attractions! Whether you’ve decided to stay in the smaller city of Hurghada or you’re staying in one of Egypt’s main cities like Cairo, this article will have you covered in this stunning country!

The Markets and How to Barter

Markets

One of the greatest places to go, day or night, is to one of the many markets dotted around every city or village. These are great places to pick up little bargains but don’t expect to go in and pay the asking price. You’ll be expected to barter/haggle for the price. It’s important that you get used to haggling so you don’t get ripped off. One of the tips I can give you is to not start off too low and offend the seller! Judging the price is where the skill and experience comes from. The bottom line, don’t be nervous and have fun!

The Shisha Bars

The Shisha Bars

One of the most common ways to smoke tobacco in the Middle East is to smoke it through a shisha pipe. Now if you have children with you on your holiday, this won’t be an option for you. However, if you’re travelling by yourself or a partner, you should check out these bars and experience smoking tobacco through a hubbly bubbly. Make sure you try as many flavours of tobacco as you can. I recommend the apple flavour as it has a strong a very distinctive taste!

The Safari’s

Hippo

With a great opportunity to get up close and personal with animals you’ll never get close to usually, Egypt safaris are a great way to see species such as Lions, Tigers and Hippos. The trip usually lasts a day so make sure you book it in advance and take plenty of water and food with you. By travelling in air conditioned jeeps, you won’t have to worry about getting too hot in the desert either. This is a great activity for all the family!

Where to Go for this New Year

Here are our pick for the best beaches this New Year’s eve:

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

New-Years-Rio

Second only to Carnival, Re’veillon (New Year’s Eve) will see around two million people descend onto the sands of the Copacabana. Arguably the largest New Year’s Eve party in the world, you will be guaranteed a wild, unforgettable night like no other. There will be fireworks and there will be beautiful people and you will be engulfed by the free spirit that is Brazil. Tradition calls for you to be donned in white, considered the lucky color to bring prosperity for the following year.

Miami, USA

Amazing weather, parades, fireworks and crazy party people! What better way to ring in the New Year. Miami parties the whole year and it only gets better at this time of the year. You have a whole horde of beach clubs to choose from with wacky themes and exotic entertainment, swaying to the music of top DJ’s from across the globe.

Phuket, Thailand

phuket

The celebrations here start well in advance with the Half Moon festival just before Christmas. This is followed by the customary Full Moon party on the 25th. In a lead up to the main event, there are beach football and volleyball tournaments, even a bikini contest. The Koh Phangan island is the place to be with the crowds arriving over 2weeks before New Year’s Eve itself. The actual New Years Eve party is a riot, the island is jam packed with a wide selection of clubs and beach parties to suit your need.

Goa, India

goa

Every December, tourists and backpackers from across the globe arrive at the quaint beaches of Goa to welcome the New Year. With it’s inherent Portuguese influences, Goa is laid back and has a handful of interesting beaches to explore. Goa hosts Asia’s biggest electronic dance music festival, Sunburn, for a couple of days just the big eve. You will find an eclectic mix of people to lose yourself in. And don’t forget to try the locally brewed fenny!

Cape Town, South Africa

captown-new-year-party

Cape Town is renowned for its Grand beach parties and first class entertainment on New Year’s Eve.

‘One Night of Pacha’ on New Year’s Eve takes place at the famous Pacha Ibiza and continues into New Year’s Day and ongoing celebrations at the beach.

party-lbja

Top 8 Backpacking Destinations for 2013

Backpacking is one of the most fulfilling holidays that you can ever take. Not only does it give you the chance to get in touch with local cultures and practices in ways that more luxurious forms of travelling would, it can also be done on a tight budget.

The hardest part of backpacking though is choosing your destination. Here, we look at eight of our favourites this year.

New Zealand

New Zealand is known for its breathtaking landscapes, and we’re all familiar with just how beautiful it is. The other plus point is that there is no language barrier, and living conditions are generally very good. This makes it a good choice for first time backpackers.

Greek Islands

Hopping around the Greek Islands is a perfect balance between culture and relaxation. You’ll find everything from deserted white beaches to lively and vibrant resorts that cater for young clubbers.

Peru

The Inca Trail is high up on the list for many backpackers, and for very good reason. There are many ruins along the way, not to mention Machu Pichu, that are as stunning as all the travel brochures with lead you to believe.

Serbia

If you enjoy skiing, Serbia is the ideal destination. On top of this, there are many museums and galleries to discover that give a fascinating insight into this corner of the globe.

India

India has a rich and colourful history, and there is no end to its delights. You’ll probably want to see the TajMahal, but beyond this, you’ll need to do your planning, It’s a vast country, and it can take over 24 hours to travel from one part to another. Be prepared for less than favorable travelling conditions, but know that it’s definitely worth it.

Thailand

Thailand is cheap, fun, and easy to get around. Whether you want to party or explore ancient temples and local markets, you’ll find plenty to keep you entertained. Many travellers love the opportunity to reconnect with their spiritual side whilst in Thailand.

Antigua

Antigua holidays can be a dream come true for backpackers. You’ll find a mix of coffee shops, pubs, international restaurants, and typical Spanish American culture. Taking a language class while you’re there can be particularly fulfilling.

England

England may not seem like the most exotic of choices, but it is a backpacker’s mecca in many ways. Transport systems are advanced and generally reliable, and you’ll find everything from rugged coastlines to bustling and diverse cities. The countryside in particular is something that must be explored.

Will you be backpacking in 2013? Which of these destinations appeal to you most?

This article was brought to you by Ruth Richards on behalf of The Holiday Place. The Holiday Place offers tailor made and multicentre breaks to some of the most captivating destinations in the world.

Top 5 places to visit in Mumbai with your kids

Mumbai, the metro city perched in western India, is a tourist’s paradise for its beautiful mix of history, culture, adventure and food. It is also a great place for your kids to forget their mundane studies and indulge into some unrestrained fun. If you are a parent and looking for a great place to take your child, then we present 5 attractions in Mumbai your kids will love:

i.    Essel World: Essel World is the biggest amusement park in the continent and one of the top places to visit in Mumbai. From water slides to bowling house, from skating ring to dance floor, this place has got it all.

Essel World Photo credit: esselworld.in

Essel World Photo credit: esselworld.in

ii.    Great Escape: An exciting place for game-lovers, this is a venue where both outdoor and indoor games are available. If your kid has got his head muddled up with studies and overburdened with inane history notes, then bring him to this place for a ‘great escape’ (from studies)!

Great Escape: Photo Credit greatescape.co.in

Great Escape: Photo Credit greatescape.co.in

iii.    Fantasy Land: Fantasy Land is another great venue for revelers of all age groups. From swinging dragons to pony rides to paddle boats, ‘Fantasy Land’ has got a lot to spoil your kid and the kid within you!

iv.    Sanjay Gandhi National Park: Sanjay Gandhi National Park is one of the most recommended places to visit in Mumbai for both adults and children. Since, it is a wildlife park with lots of animals just within sniffing distance, your kids are surely going to savor every moment spent here.

Sanjay Gandhi National Park: Photo credit: Wikipedia

Sanjay Gandhi National Park: Photo credit: Wikipedia

v.    Nehru Planetarium: For the geeky kid, this place offers him an escape into the stars and the planets. No doubt, children cajole their parents to take them to this place!

Nehru Planetarium: Photo Credit: nehruplanetarium.org

Nehru Planetarium: Photo Credit: nehruplanetarium.org

What to see in Old Goa

Old Goa brings before you the vintage India with its huge congregation of churches, cathedrals and chapels. In fact, you are going to get an inescapable overdose of churches at this heritage corner. At the same time, the serenity and quiet at this town can be beautiful and creepy at the same time.

Here are some famous attractions of Old Goa:

i.    Basilica of Bom Jesus: Basilica of Bom Jesus is one of the oldest and most pious churches in India. The prophetic St. Francis Xavier rests at this place which therefore receives huge number of footfalls from both pilgrims and tourists. Besides the spiritual beauty, one also derives joy from the nostalgia-evoking architectural style of the church.

ii.    Se Cathedral: Se Cathedral is one of the most popular places to visit in Goa because of its vastness and sheer beauty. With 14 altars, it is Asia’s most humongous cathedral. Stepping inside this church is akin to stepping inside the gothic age of history and wonderment!

iii.    Chapel of St. Cajetan: This chapel magnificently reflects the Portugal architectural style. The chapel was built around the early 16th century and revolves around some intriguing religious tales. The feeling one gets while entering its premise is quite unworldly.

iv.    Museum of Christian Art: This museum will give you a much-needed break from the endless church trail, and also fill you up with interesting trivia about some traditional arts.

v.    Church of Lady of Rosary: After a tryst with a visually impressive museum, you can get back to church-hopping and check out the famous Church of Lady of Rosary, another incredible structure of nostalgia, religion and serenity.

Other than these, other famous places to visit in Goa include names like Church of St. Augustine, Pilar Seminary Museum and Archaeological Museum and Portrait Gallery.

Switzerland Tour Packages: Board the Glacier Express For An Unforgettable Icy Journey

Running between Zermatt and St. Moritz, the widely famed ‘The Glacier Express’ is a train service which can send you on an unearthly voyage amidst the ice and the snow, the mountains and the sky, and heaven and paradise. The distinction between the real and the ethereal substantially diminishes when you are onboard on The Glacier Express which is one best way to explore and feast on the natural beauty of Switzerland.

Switzerland holiday packages offer you this mind-blowing journey which will:

–    Set up your rendezvous with the Swiss Alps, the rustic villages, the sky-touching hills, the silent valleys and the pellucid Rhone

–    Help you get goose bumps at the medieval era locales of old Chur

–    Give you all kinds of comforts and luxuries juxtaposed with the perfect sightseeing ambience

Other information: Switzerland tour packages offer this ride throughout the year, though the best time to board The Glacier Express is during the wintry months of December-April, when snow is at its full bloom. The total distance traversed is 275 kilometer and the passengers get to experience a rainbow of emotions ranging from thrill to excitement to ecstasy.

Switzerland packages allow tourists to make quick, easy bookings (it is advisable to make your booking well in advance). The trains are equipped with transparent, see-through windows so that the tourists can feast on the panorama outside. Both first-class and second-class seats offer complete comfort and facilities to the passengers.

The train timings and frequency are different in different seasons and are subject to change depending on the climatic vagaries.