A Magical Land Awaiting Discovery

From the mountainous north to the wet, monsoonal south, India is diverse. Its religions, its cultures, even its buildings are a conglomeration of many different influences. Take the Taj Mahal. It contains architectural influences from Persia, Turkey, India and Islam. The end result? One of the most striking monuments on earth. But that’s India. A land of beautifully striking contrasts that will either overload you … or delight you to the very bone.

One place that’s a particularly fascinating conglomeration of cultural influences is Goa. A tiny tropical paradise perched on edge of the warm Arabian Sea – it was adopted by the Portuguese 450 years ago.

Though they no longer rule here, the residual European flavour still permeates everything from the food – try a fish rice curry, or idli (steamed rice cake) and chai from a street-side hole-in-the-wall restaurant – to the festivals. In fact, even its official language, Konkani, is different to the rest of India.

So, don’t be surprised if, on one of your forays away from the beach, you find Portuguese churches sharing a wall with a Hindu temple. Or an Indian bazaar, in a European-style square.

And, yes, you’ll probably spend a lot of your time in Goa on the beach. After all, that’s what first made it famous as a winter vacation destination back in the 60’s. That’s not to say that there‚Äôs nothing worth doing inland. There is.

Hiring a motorcycle is a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. Meander through rice fields, whizz past Gothic churches or Indian temples, pause under the shade of a banyan tree, putter across rivers on a ferry, stop at ruined forts overlooking the ocean to watch the sun set.

In contrast, Hyderabad, a city with a deep-rooted past, lies on the banks of river Moosi. Its language and mannerisms still exude its rich and legendary past. The Nizam’s of Hyderabad were known to be one of the wealthiest royals of the past. The elegant buildings, marbled temples and monuments stand testimony to it.

This 400 year old city was named after Hyder Mahal wife of the ruler Quli Qutab Shah. Today Hyderabad is the capital of Andhra Pradesh and is a cosmopolitan city on the fast track.The fifth largest metropolitan city of India houses a great deal to keep holiday-makers occupied. The city features many attractions and activities including an impressive array of museums, parks, gardens, monuments and sanctuaries. This includes places like Charminar, Golconda Fort, and Falaknuma Palace.

Hyderabad is also famous as a backdrop of technological advancement. It’s worth having a look around Hitech city. The shopping malls are also great here. One can spend hours window shopping and find everything from the latest video games to a magic wand or an Alladin’s lamp.

Karnataka is one of India’s fastest growing tourism destinations and its major attractions include two UNESCO World Heritage Sites; five national parks and 21 wildlife sanctuaries; the protected area of Western Ghats, one of the planet’s major bio-diversity hotspots; 320 kilometres of pristine coastline, two waterfalls ranked among the Top 50 in the world and scores of historical monuments.

The Bandipur National Park is a beautiful forest reserve located in Karnataka. It lies in the shadow of the Western Ghats on the Deccan plateau, spreading across an area of about 875 square kilometres.The region is well endowed with vegetation and flora that ranges from dry and tropical deciduous and evergreen forests to open grassy woodlands.

The Moyar River runs through this national park and irrigates it, together with two other minor rivulets. The river also acts as a boundary between the park and the Madhumalai Sanctuary. Bandipur is one of the finest and most accessible habitats of the Asiatic elephant. Its vast open spaces make it a pleasant and convenient outing for visitors to see the elephant in its natural surroundings.

With the Arabian Sea in the west, the Western Ghats towering 500 to 2700 metres in the east and networked by 44 rivers, Kerala enjoys unique geographical features that have made it one of the most sought after tourist destinations in Asia.

A friendly climate; a long shoreline with serene beaches; tranquil stretches of emerald backwaters; lush hill stations and exotic wildlife; waterfalls; sprawling plantations and paddy fields – the landscape is rich and diverse. Here you can enjoy Ayurvedic health holidays; marvel at enchanting art forms and take part in Magical festivals.

Historic and cultural monuments at every turn, coupled with an exotic cuisine, mean that you a in for a totally unique experience when you visit Kerala.

The newly formed state of Uttaranchal is distinguished as the home to four of the most revered pilgrimage spots in the country – Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. Uttaranchal became the 27th state of the Republic of India on the 9th of November 2000. The State is carved out of Uttar Pradesh. It occupies 17.3% of India’s total land area with 51,125 square kilometres and shares borders with Tibet and Nepal.

With great views of the Himalayas, it provides a wonderful window to lesser known places and offers much in adventure activities, like skiing, yachting, trekking and mountaineering.

There are excellent ski slopes at Auli, Dayara Bugyal, Mundali and Munsiari. The season starts from end December or January and extends up to March.

Water sports such as rafting can be tried out on the Yamuna, Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, Bhilangana, Mandakini and the Mahakali. There is a sailing club at Nainital. The state offers excellent trekking terrain and some of the famous treks take you to the Valley of Flowers and Pindari, Sunderdhunga and Kafni glaciers.


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