An Insider’s view on Ras Al Khaimah

 

 

Everything the guide books or tourism websites won’t tell you about the place.

The Wanderers in conversation with Mohamed Khater

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i. One little known fact/trivia that everyone should know about when travelling to RAK?

Ras Al Khaimah is a unique destination for visitors of all ages. With its 416,600 population this rising emirate boasts of beautiful mountains, red sandy desert and lush green plains along with a series of creeks and lagoons. It has a rich heritage dating back 5,000 years, which manifests in numerous historical sites, forts and abandoned villages. The Emirati culture is omnipresent in Ras Al Khaimah and you will be welcomed with the warm Arabic hospitality wherever you go.

ii.What is a must buy when in RAK?

Arabic Coffee with Cardamom

iii.One take-away after a visit to RAK?

Colorful sand packed in bottles — sold as souvenirs

iv. What is your advice to first time travellers?

Whilst 80% of the population of the United Arab Emirates is made up of non-UAE nationals, it is good to remember that this is a Muslim country and local traditions and customs are recommended to be respected.

v. One thing to definitely pack when travelling to RAK

Swim-wear. And enjoy the best beaches in the UAE!

vi. One activity anyone travelling to RAK should not miss.

Prince Of Sea Cruise

vii. Where should anyone, travelling to RAK, definitely get their picture taken. Dhayah Fort.Ras Al Khaimah’s rich archeological legacy is distinguished by many unique features such as old forts and watch towers scattered along its coasts line. Dhayah Fort is one of only a few remaining hill forts still existing in the UAE. The fort was place of the last battle between local troops and the British in 1819.

Location: Al Rams

Free Access

viii. Which is the best place to get a panoramic photo?

Ras Al Khaimah – Dhayah Fort

Take a flight at Jazirah Aviation Club for a stunning photos over Ras Al Khaimah. It is truly amazing experience to fly lightweight airplanes or powered parachutes and please your eyes with the magnificent views of the desert, sea and city area of Ras Al Khaimah. This exciting experience is safe and suitable for everyone of normal health.

ix. Best place to enjoy sunset/sunrise? Definitely the beach.

x. Most romantic place to take a special someone to. Safran Tower.Celebrate magical Arabian nights with your beloved in the sphere of a resort sanctuary.Lean back and relax as your dedicated chef expertly prepares a tantalising spread of oriental specialties. The dramatic Safran Tower, constructed in the style of a traditional Arabian watchtower, provides you the perfect vantage point from which to absorb the beguiling sandscape of desert beauty.

xi. Best place to have local food? Al Marjan is an eclectic fusion of tradition and quirky modern interiors and the finest Middle Eastern Cuisine. With menus created by the famed Joe Barza from Lebanon and art created by Sasan Nasernia, this restaurant is truly a joy for all the senses. Appraise the elegant menu whilst enjoying various seating and lighting designs in the restaurant. Oversized settee seating under eccentric ceiling decorations, formal dining, intimate corners and a private dining room are complemented by sublime sunset views over the Arabian Sea.

xii.Your favorite local dish and drink that you would recommend. The range and scope of Emirati food was traditionally very limited since produce was scarce in this extremely arid environment. Bedouin survived on camel milk and dates on long treks through the desert. Fish was plentiful on the coast and any excess was salted and dried, finding its way inland to the desert and oases. Here, date palms flourished, some fruits, vegetables and cereals were grown, and sheep and goats were raised. Despite the fact that ingredients were few, Emirati cooks were inventive, concocting a variety of dishes from very little.Foreign influences also shaped the local cuisine: the dhows that carried pearls to India and elsewhere came back laden with spices and later rice. And so today, Emirati food is characterised by a unique spice mix bezr and usually features rice. Cumin seeds, cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, black peppercorns and chilies are the basic ingredients, but each family has its own ‘secret’ recipe.

Traditionally the bezr that was mixed inland was milder than that used on the coast. Considering the lack of ingredients, a surprisingly wide variety of breads were made, ranging from the pancake-like chebab to crispy, wafer-thin regag and leavened khmeer. This was the standard carbohydrate before rice became popular.

In many cases yeast was not available so dates were fermented in the sun to act as a raising agent. Bread was often eaten with butter, cream cheese made from goat’s milk, or honey. Arabic coffee (gahwa) flavoured with cardamom epitomised the hospitality of the desert where even your enemy was served at least one cup.

An expansive hospitality was also evident on festive occasions where food was prepared in large quantities for guests. Khuzi (a stuffed whole roast lamb or goat, on a bed of spiced rice) would have been served at the mansaf (traditional bedouin feast). This would have been the centerpiece of a selection of food which would have been placed on a mat surrounded by guests.

Today, dishes such as machboos (a delicious casserole of lamb or chicken with rice) is a particular favorite in the UAE. So too are diyai mashwi (grilled marinated chicken), hareis (slow-cooked wheat and lamb) and baryani (meat or fish cooked with Indian-style spiced rice). Dates, of course, are a standard staple and dibs (date syrup) is used to flavour both savoury and sweet dishes.

xiii. One place only the locals would know.

Digdaga Camel Race Track

Camel race is one of the cultural traditions in the UAE. In Ras Al Khaimah the Camel race takes place during the main season from late September until March or April. A fast camel can win its owner several 4x4s in a season and sell for millions of dirhams. However, in summer the adult camels are expected to rest. This ensures good health and increases the prospect of big wins next season.

xiv.The best pub and best place to catch up for a drink.

TRADER VIC’S MAI TAI LOUNGE

Enter the Home of the Original Mai Tai® and indulge in a true tropical Polynesian experience in Ras Al Khaimah. Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Lounge is a spacious chill-out lounge and restaurant where friends can sink into comfy sofas and sip the perfect combination of exotic concoctions. Choose from the best selection of island style tidbits, ideal for sharing, and take in the spectacular views.

xv. A local festival you feel more travelers should come and see

Awafi motor ride festival that is held annually. There are children play areas, bull fighting, camel riding, football tournaments, horse racing, 4×4 dunbashingesert off road competitions, motor cycling shows and heritage village.

xvi. The things guide books will not tell anyone about RAK  

Arabian Oryx,horns are so symmetrical that they appear as one if seen in profile, it is assumed that the Oryx was the origin of the legendary unicorn.

xvii. Is there any particular month you would not recommend travel to RAK and what would that reason be?

The emirate of Ras Al Khaimah receives year-round sunshine, little rainfall and nearly perfect winter temperatures. It enjoys a moderate, cool and refreshing climate for 8 months of the year between October and May. High temperatures can be expected for the remaining 4 months of the year. Rainfall is sporadic, falling mainly in winter (November to March) and averaging 12cms per year in most of the emirate. Temperatures range from a low of around 12°C (50°F) on a winter’s night, to a high of around 42°C (118°F) on a summer’s day.  The best time to visit Ras Al Khaimah is during winter and mid-season months. The weather is excellent, warm, sunny and generally pleasant.

xix. In one sentence, RAK is . Escape, explore and enjoy!

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I work in the region from 2009, I was in several positions in other Tourism Sectors and I joined Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority last March. I don’t know if this is helpful or not!

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An Insider’s view of Wellington

.Everything the guide books or tourism websites won’t tell you about the place..

The Wanderers in conversation with Jo Heaton

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Zelandia Eco-Sanctuary

i. One little known fact/trivia that everyone should know about when travelling to WELLINGTON?

Wellington has lots of quirky features to look out for including the private cable cars that take people up to their houses.  And for Indian travelers, I have to mention the Basin Reserve Cricket Ground which forms one of the world’s largest traffic roundabouts!

ii. What is a must buy when in WELLINGTON?

Tough question!  Wellington’s boutique fashion stores are great and if you’re visiting in spring or autumn, Icebreaker merino clothing will be perfect for layering.  Whittakers chocolate is made locally and available everywhere.

iii. One take-away after a visit to WELLINGTON?

The most common feedback I hear is ‘I wish I’d known – we would have stayed longer’.  So now you know – book a minimum two-night stay before sailing away on the ferry to the South Island.

iv. What is your advice to first time travellers?

Because Wellington is so compact, you can see and do a lot in a day.  I like to call Te Papa the museum for people who don’t like museums.  It’s all about hands-on interactivity, using lots of technology and the best thing is … it’s free!  Then take a short walk through downtown takes you to the historic Wellington Cable Car.  This will whisk you up the hill in just five minutes to the Botanic Gardens.  If you’re travelling with children, stop in at Carter Observatory.  And if you want to learn why your country got elephants, tigers and snakes and New Zealand got no mammals at all, take the free shuttle from the top of the Cable Car to Zealandia, one of the world’s most ambitious conservation projects.  If you’re short on time, this is my perfect Wellington day.

v. One thing to definitely pack when travelling to WELLINGTON

Gollum at the Wellington Airport

Pack comfortable shoes – you can walk from Parliament Buildings at one end of town, to the Courtenay Place entertainment district at the other, in under half an hour.

vi. One activity anyone travelling to WELLINGTON should not miss.

For the adventure-seeking, a half day quad-biking trip is a must do.  Start off down on the beach and power up into the mountains for views back to the city, harbour and as far as the South Island.  Adventure and 100% Pure New Zealand scenery wrapped up together!

vii. Where should anyone, travelling to WELLINGTON, definitely get their picture taken?

You’ll get great shots from the top of the Cable Car.  (This is how I go home at night!) 

viii. Which is the best place to get a panoramic photo?

Mount Victoria gives you great views over the city and harbor.

ix. Best place to enjoy sunset/sunrise?

Oriental Bay beach for sunrise, and the beanbags outside Shed 5 Bar and Restaurant with a cocktail in hand at sunset.

x. Most romantic place to take a special someone to.

Solace in the Wind is a beautiful bronze sculpture on the waterfront near Te Papa.  The location had been somewhere for the artist to reflect upon life during difficult times – a place of solace.  It’s Wellingtonians’ favourite sculpture.

xi. Best place to have local food?

I’m a big fan of the seafood from Ortega’s Fish Shack, the eight-hour roasted lamb at Duke Carvall’s and whatever’s in season at Floriditas.

xii. Your favorite local dish and drink that you would recommend.

New Zealand’s ‘culinary capital’ is said to have more bars, cafes and restaurants per capita than New York.  Start like the locals with a ‘flat white’ coffee in the morning.

xiii. One place only the locals would know.

There’s a lot of tucked away bars and clubs – Library Bar in Courtenay Place (up the stairs next to Burger King) is a long time favourite.  HashigoZake and Goldings Free Dive Beer Bars are fun too – ask a local for directions!

xiv. The best pub and best place to catch up for a drink.

Hawthorn Lounge

How about a palate cleansing beer from one of the dozen or so craft brewers around the city?  A tasting tray from the Fork & Brewer means sampling four small glasses from local brewers like Tuatara, Garage Project and Parrot Dog.

xv. A local festival you feel more travellers should come and see

You won’t see anything like the World of Wearable Art Awards anywhere else in the world.  It’s a mix of design, theatre – think John Paul Gualtier meets Cirque de Soleil.  Hard to describe, but a must see if you’re in Wellington during the three week show in late September.

xvi. The things guide books will not tell anyone about WELLINGTON

Lots of people know about New Zealand and The Hobbit, but lots of other movies get made in Wellington too, including TinTin, King Kong and Avatar 2&3.  There’s a new 45 minute Weta Cave Workshop Tour.  Your guide will be one of the talented artists working at the home of special effects powerhouse, Weta Workshop.

xvii. Is there any particular month you would not recommend travel to WELLINGTON and what would that reason be?

Wellington’s climate doesn’t get very hot in summer or very cool in summer, so it’s always a good time to visit.

xix. In one sentence, WELLINGTON is “the coolest little capital in the world”.  Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel said so, and of course we think they’re right!

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Jo Heaton is the Trade Marketing Manager for Positively Wellington Tourism and she travels extensively for work and pleasure.  Favourite destinations include Etosha NP in Namibia for wildlife,The Loire in France for cycling and anywhere in Italy for food.  She thinks Wellington is the perfect city and could only be improved by the addition of elephants.

 

 

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An insider’s view on Israel

Everything the guide books or tourism websites won’t tell you about the place..

The Wanderers in conversation with Madah Hassan

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i) One little known fact/trivia that everyone should know about when travelling to ISRAEL?

It is the lowest point on earth – The Dead Sea and also the Holy Land of three religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

ii. What is a must buy when in ISRAEL?

Floating on Dead Sea

Dead Sea products that contain ingredients that are healthy for the skin and souvenirs from Jerusalem.

iii. One take-away after a visit to ISRAEL?

Israel takes you back thousands of years and into the future that has all the new and innovative technologies.

iv. What is your advice to first time travelers?

Talk to the locals, they will be happy to assist.

v. One thing to definitely pack when travelling to ISRAEL

Pack your smile and your smartphone, you can also use travel apps as some of the cities have free Wi-Fi.

vi. One activity anyone travelling to ISRAEL should not miss.

Floating on Dead Sea and to be covered with mud.

vii. Where should anyone, travelling to ISRAEL, definitely get their picture taken?

Floating on the Dead Sea and one with the oldest city of Jerusalem in the background.

viii. Which is the best place to get a panoramic photo?

Jaffa

Mount Olivet in Jerusalem

ix. Best place to enjoy sunset/sunrise?

Masada near the Dead Sea for sunrise and Tel Aviv beach for sunset.

x. Most romantic place to take a special someone to.

The Galilee area in the north

xi. Best place to have local food?

Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, Carmel market in Tel-Aviv and flea market in Jaffa (Yafo).

Yafo Market

xii. Your favorite local dish and drink that you would recommend.

The orange juice from the Israeli oranges and the Falafel and Hummus of Israel.

xiii. One place only the locals would know.

You will see the locals eating and drinking at all the small places in the markets

xiv. The best pub and best place to catch up for a drink.

I can’t recommend one because you have plenty of them and can choose from depending on your mood.

At night the flea market in Jaffa turns into a gathering place for youngsters from that area to drink and dine and the bars in Dizengoff Blvd. is a place where Tel-Avivian meet to drink in the evening as well as at night.

In Jerusalem, people meet near Jaffa Blvd where most of the pubs and bars are placed.

xv. A local festival you feel more travellers should come and see

The Jazz festival in Eilat

http://www.redseajazzeilat.com/en/

xvi. The things guide books will not tell anyone about ISRAEL

It’s better to discover things on your own than to rely on guide books.

Tel Aviv: A sidewalk cafe

xvii. Is there any particular month you would not recommend travel to ISRAEL and what would that reason be?

You can travel to Israel any time of the year. Since, Israel is a very small country the temperatures vary from region- region. Like, it could be snowing in the north and at the same time people would be swimming in Eilat in the south.

xix. In one sentence, ISRAEL is.

Israel – Land of Creation. You will love it from the first Shalom (Hello in Hebrew).

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I was appointed as Director of the Israel Government Tourist Office in India, which opened officially on May 1, 2013. This is the first time an official IGTO was operating in the country.

 I was born in the Upper Galilee in northern Israel, in a small village but have lived in many other places: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Natanya, Herzilya and more. I have been serving at the Head office of the Israel Ministry of Tourism since 2008, and have been supervising marketing programs for tourism to Israel from North and South America before moving to India. 

In the previous role I was working in the tourism product department and through my work there I have travelled all over the country (which is easy actually in such a tiny place) and have visited all small and tiny sites and attractions

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Mongolia – a march to the Gobi desert

By Alifiya Calcuttawala

When you speak of Mongolia the first thought that strikes is of ‘Genghis Khan’. Most people only read about it in history but how many have actually thought of travelling to Mongolia? I got a fantastic opportunity to travel to this amazing country last summer with a small group of clients’ from Kolkata.

Mongolia is said to be the least densely populated country in the world- an isolated yet magnificent landscape untainted by the modernist hands of destruction and sprawl. An ideal canvas for those who enjoy basic and slow travel, Mongolia is off the beaten track at its very best.

As I flew over the Gobi desert and made my way to the capital city of Ulanbaatar, much of my time was spent in awe – looking out at and being within a staggering expanse of serene, undisturbed wilderness.

Ulaanbaatar is the usual starting point for your trip across Mongolia; the bustling capital city offers everything from temples, museums and public squares, to international cuisine and busy nightlife.

We drove through the seoul street and WOW who would expect such a sight in this far away land – Irish pubs , grill bars , karoke, youngsters walking in designer labels, night clubs in full swing…. It was endless. The Mongols definitely took their Friday night fun quite seriously!

As we headed back to the hotel – my impression of Ulanbaatar had completely changed in those 3 hours – from a city trying to be modern to the most happening city in this part of the world.

After a night of rest in Ulanbaatar my journey to explore the land of blue skies finally started.

My first destination was Hustai National Park – the land of wild horses. One should be prepared that the country doesn’t have a well-trodden tourist track. Dirt tracks are more common than paved roads and a 14 km distance can take up to 3 hours.

As I left the city, I moved through vistas of various colours and textures and was soon greeted by the sights of white ger camps against the backdrop of mountains.

Staying in a traditional ger is a unique and unforgettable experience. Complete with a toasty coal fire heating system it gives you the opportunity to sample local food and the 5 am wake up calls by horses and goats rustling around the outside walls.

Hustai National Park is world famous for the successful re-introduction of the Przewalski horse, Takhi, the only still living wild ancestor of the domestic horse. I spent some time on learning about these beautiful creatures, watching a documentary and as evening descended, I proceeded to see them in their spectacular natural surroundings. These horses do not graze when the sun is as it’s zenith – they usually come out in the open when it gets a little cooler, towards the evening. I have never seen such beautiful creatures – the shutter bugs in our group frantically clicked every movement of the animal. White horses , beautiful grasslands that stretched mountain after mountain, the setting sun.. all of this threw myriad hues of colours on the landscape which turned truly heavenly!!

My journey further continued to the capital city of Genghis Khan – the Karakorum. Although nature dominates, history remains in this ancient city. Be sure to check out the Erdene Zuu Monastery in Kharkhorin. The most important Monastery in the country, it is the first Buddhist monastery in Mongolia which once had over 100 temples and 1,000 monks before the Communist purges in 1937. Like many other scared sites, not much was left standing after this era of destruction, but the Mongolians preserve what is left of their history with great pride.

As the day passed, we shifted South from the mountains to the flat lands to make our way towards the famous red flaming cliffs in Gobi desert. We stopped in between at a massive stretch of green for a comfort break and were totally blown off by the strong winds. The landscape was desolate, not a single human being in sight for as long as you could see, not even an animal or a vehicle passing by – just long stretches of grasslands with rolling mountains in the distance and clear blue skies with small white tufts of cotton clouds and our vans romancing in this surreal landscape.

In the middle of the Gobi where the roads are non-existent with almost no civilisation, lies a tiny village – Ongi. The Ongi ger camp where we stayed the night  is nothing less than an oasis in the middle of this vast desert. With facilities like massage, Sauna rooms, restaurant, showers etc it is a true paradise for the travellers.

After a relaxed day at Ongi it was time to proceed for the last leg of my journey – the Flaming Cliffs site. Also known as Bayanzag, this region of the Gobi Desert in the Ömnögovi Province of Mongolia is an important place in archaeology as fossil finds have been unearthed here. The area is most famous for its first discovery of dinosaur eggs.

Sitting in the verandah, overlooking the unobstructed Gobi desert, I went back to the day my adventure trip started. Travelling through Mongolia is like travelling back into time- seeing surroundings that haven’t changed in decades or even centuries, where locals still live simply, inviting you into their homes with an eagerness to share their wonderful and unique way of life. Wandering through the distinct lack of infrastructure and amenities you realise you are a part of the Mongolian life.

The great outdoors await you with plentiful opportunities for walks, hikes and adventure. Clamber through rock formations, marvel at the hot to cold contrasts of Gobi desert or attempt the strenuous climb of the Khongoryn Els sand dunes, only for the excitement of running or rolling down them afterwards. Race the two-humped camels and soak in the dramatic scenery of the eagle valley.

What you hear about Mongolia with its green hues, herds of wild horses and the golden desert expanse..well, all of that is true. For me, it was an experience like no other. I lost myself for 10 days, embraced the beauty that came from simplicity, and indulged in the overwhelming sense of liberation that came only from standing in an uninhabited place.

(Alifiya Calcuttawala, Regional Director- The Wanderers Kolkata travelled to Mongolia in the summer of 2013 with a group of clients from Kolkata. She is an avid traveller,  always in search of a tryst with the sublime)  

 

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Summer Escapes This Season

Many travelers want to discover places across the world which are off the routine tourist circuit and experience magical moments drawn up from their wishlist. So, for those last minute vacation planners who are yet to decide we have chalked out some incredible vacations this summer from places as diverse as Mt. Kailash in Tibet to Tromso in Norway or Kalimantan in Borneo or Nubra Valley in Ladakh. From an experience as eclectic as a camping safari in Tanzania or an Adriatic cruise in the southern Dalmatian islands or a walk in an Andalusian city or a trek through thick forests in search of the mountain gorilla. Whatever experience the traveler seeks this season, our team of wanderers should be able to come up with something truly special.

For Adventurers

Biking, rafting, hiking, train ride through one of the world’s most beautiful natural scenery! All this and more you can experience with our 6 Days Wild Water and Mountain Experience in Norway.

With 5 Days Splashing Tromso in Norway you can take a long weekend of water fun in the Arctic! During this trip we will show you that sun, fun and water activities are also exciting above the Polar circle – and you won’t get burned like a steak. Welcome to Splashin’ Tromso!

With our 7 Days Canadian Rocky mountain adventure, get up close and personal in Canada with this self drive tour! You pick up your vehicle at Calgary and after that you go about exploring Western Canada at your own pace and time. From Calgary, drive through the magnificent Rocky Mountains to Banff. Stop when fancy takes you to admire the scenery. Explore Banff town and the National Park after which you drive down to the “Jewel of the Rockies” Lake Louise.

The 14 Days National Park Special and Gorilla Sighting tour is for those who love nature and love to see different aspects of it – be it the wild animals or as popularly called in Africa the ‘Big 5′, the colourful birds or the elusive mountain gorilla! This tour takes you to several national parks for game viewing. And takes you on a trek through the thick rainforest in search of Mountain Gorillas!

For offbeat explorers: Explore more of Norway with 4 Days Telemark Canal tour- This canal was opened in 1892 and is known as “the eighth wonder of the world”. Five hundred men worked for five years, blasting their way through the mountains.
Find out more about this trip!

With our 8 Days Adriatic Cruise, enjoy Southern Dalmatian islands, the peace and beauty of its secluded coves and crystal clear sea. Take a stroll along the streets of its medieval towns, taste a delicious Dalmatian cuisine and excellent wines.

In 14 Days Taste of Borneo… the mystical jungles of Borneo…the spectacular areas of rainforest, the National Parks, sighting of the wild man from Borneo” – the Orang-utan – either in the wild or in one of the rehabilitation centres in Sabah, Sarawak or Kalimantan, be in awe at the Clearwater Cave and head out Poring Hot Springs for treetop canopy walk.

8 Days Glaciers and Fjords – Eco -Friendly Tour! Fjords are the emblem of Norway and are world renowned. The fjords are divided by fjord ‘arms’ all of them offering a different type of charm.This tour allows you to discover un-imaginable beauty, majestic fjords, snow capped glaciers and mountains.

With 7 days Luxury Lemala Camp in Tanzania, we have a superb collection of seasonal camps set in stunning wilderness areas of Ngorongoro, Serengeti,Tarangire and Manyara, close to the finest game viewing locations. Wanderers explore the lush groundwater forest in the north, crossing rivers and pools to traverse stretches of acacia woodland and bushland, and finally emerge to sweeping views of floodplain grasslands, its thin strips of yellow and green blending into a soaring skyline. A must do trip if adventure in the lap of unadulterated beauty is on your agenda.

For culture lovers:

If you are keen on combining Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia at one go, the 14 Days Grand Indochina tour is perhaps what you are looking for. This fortnight long fixed date departure covers the best of the 3 countries.

In 5 Days Salamanca and Portugal tour, see the best of Portugal with its best of monuments, beautiful beaches, churches and diverse architecture. Start your trip at Avila, a world heritage city before moving on to Salamanca, known for its 2 cathedrals. Visit the headquarters of one of Europe’s oldest Universities in Coimbra. Attend a mass at the Shrine of the Virgin of Fatima at Fatima.

And don’t miss 13 Days Spanish Exotica – Spain with its different traditions and culture, glorious art and architecture and friendly people makes for a delightful experience. Starting with Madrid, the vibrant capital, home to bull fighting. Start your introduction to the history of this country with a city tour and visit to Toledo, the capital of medieval Spain until 1560, Cordoba, one of the most interesting cities in Andalusia. Find out more about this trip!

India escapes this summer:

If jungles, high mountains and unique culture excite you, our 8 Days Escape to North East India with time spent in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam is the perfect way of unwinding.

 

Explore the heritage village of Pragspur. Experience the mysticism of Jwalamukhi Temple and revel in the beautiful Kangra paintings in an old temple in Dada Siba”. Picnic by the river Beas and lunch at quaint dhabha which offer delectable North Indian cuisine. Explore the picture perfect retreat of Dharamshala – Dalai Lama’s abode and for nature lovers, visit the Kalatope Wildlife Sanctuary, all in our 9 Days Western Himachal package.

The highlight of 11 days passage to Leh tour starting from Delhi is the spectacular 485km journey from Manali to Leh crossing some of the highest passes in the world. Rohtang, Baralacha, LachlungLa and TanglangLa. Passes that are closed during the winter months open for a brief while during the summer months of June to September. It is arguably the most beautiful stretch of road in the Indian Himalayas!

Wanderers Trip of a lifetime: Kailash Yatra

Traveling overland from Kathmandu (Nepal) on this 14 day tour to Mt.Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, which lies in the Southwestern part of Tibet, is an incredible experience. It is an epic pilgrimage to the heavenly abode of Lord Shiva, that is considered the most sacred and revered pilgrimage for Hindus, Jains and Buddhists alike. En route you can see the world’s highest mountains, travel on the world’s highest plain, meet nomadic Tibetan pilgrims and walk amidst burning butter lamps and chanting monks of Tibet’s ancient and legendary Buddhist monasteries. The numbing cold at night, the harsh sun during the day, the bitter winds, the looming solitude and the everlasting dust are a constant companion.

We have just announced our 14 day trip over the Tibetan plateau to Mt Kailash and Lake Manasarovar via Kathmandu. Dep is on 27 July, 2012. We plan to take up to 16 people on this trip. The roads are much better these days as the highway to Kailash is mostly metalled, unlike in the past.

Wanderers Travel Diaries:

Walk in the Clouds- Sikkim, by Shubendu Banerjee

Shubendu Banerjee is a passionate traveler. From the misty mountains of Sikkim to the dense jungles of Bandipur in Karnataka he has traveled to give a free reign to his adventurous spirit. Now, settled in Bangalore with his wife and son he continues to wander into unknown territories as often as his job allows him to. Read More

Be a Guest Author – Be the Wanderer of the Month. If you’ve got an idea for a story to share, then write on – share your photos/videos: we would love to feature your work in our bi monthly newsletter.

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Fringe Festival, Edinburgh – by Farzana Haque (The Wanderers, Nagpur)

Aug 1st to 25th – Mark your dates for one of the best art and theatre festivals of the world!

Festivals… India’s so full of them, we must have one every day! As much as we enjoy celebrating them in our home country, it’s interesting to know that there are many festivals celebrated around the world, and amongst a few avid travellers a fetish to visit them. They are definitely not all Religious, while a few could have started with some tradition or the other, many are related to the customs of the place, the season, the sport, music genres, films, food, drink and even education! To name a few which would certainly ring a bell for most of you are the La Tomatina festival, Sundance festival, Mardi Gras New Orleans, Carnival of Rio de Janeiro, the famous Lantern festival in Taiwan, Oktoberfest.

In my visit to Scotland last summer in August, a family reunion of sorts, we were driving across the country from our base at Killin and ended the trip with a stay at Edinburgh. This was around the 18th of August. This Scottish town, famous world over for its University, its Arts and Architecture program and of course the Edinburgh castle, just bowled us over. What a beautiful town, a pleasure to explore on foot the many museums, historical buildings and markets. But what luck! We happened to be bang in the middle of the famous FRINGE FESTIVAL. It goes on from the 1st to the 25th of August and it’s the largest street art and theatre festival in the world! There are over 3000 shows to choose from around the world and the entire city’s restaurants, pubs and halls participate in holding these shows.

The most interesting part of the Fringe festival is that combined with the shows, is the street fair on The Royal Mile, an entire stretch of road that’s converted into a non-traffic zone with a full carnival atmosphere. All the participants from across the world are selling their shows on this street in the most innovative ways… you have human statues, actual scenes from Shakespeare being played out, music fests, gory scenes, comedy all of it showcased to gain your attention. A square at the Royal Mile is converted into a kind of stage and one of the best acts we saw was by an Argentinian comedian cum dancer, you can’t really get enough of it. Yes for sure Indians also participate, so there were some Indian acts too! Besides this there are a lot of quaint shops and stalls selling Scottish good, curios, bag piper, kilts, chocolates and antiquities. You hardly realize how you’ve passed the day meandering in between these and the show people.

In the snaps you see a blue colour lady statue, well she’s live and acting, most amazing. Each act is a total surprise.

If you are planning a visit to the UK this summer, especially in August… do drop into Edinburgh and catch the FRINGE, it’s certainly a must do on a long list of must see’s, must do’s of travel. You’ll not only have fun, but get to see so many cultures and theatre from across the world, it’ll only leave you wanting more.

 

Written by: Farzana Haque (The Wanderers, Nagpur)

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La Dolce Vita a Capri..

The Island of Capri has long been a popular day trip for travellers visiting Naples or the Amalfi Coast (Sorrento, Positano  & Ravello). The island can also be considered an excellent alternative to stay on as well.

Text by Shobita Louis, The Wanderers

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Location:

Capri is a pretty island in the Bay of Naples and has two towns – Capri and Ana Capri. The historical city centre (Piazzetta) is located in Capri.

How do I get there:

Ferries or speedboats, if however, you want, a helicopter transfer can be arranged.
Getting around the Island:

The city centre of Capri and other parts are car free. However, public transport is very efficient and taxis are available 24 hours. The easiest ways of travelling whilst on the islands are,

  1. Buses (they are actually minibuses)
  2. Taxis
  3. The Funicular railway
  4. Walking – for those inclined, you can actually walk from Capri to Anacapri (It is about an hour uphill)

When to go or not to go:

PEAK SEASON (July & August) – It is crowded and expensive and is better to avoid

HIGH SEASON (June – September) – Rates are lower than the peak season, however, can be a bit crowded

LOW SEASON (April, May & October) – This is a good time to visit as the rates are better and crowds less

REMEMBER – Most hotels are closed from November to about mid or end March. Many shops and restaurants are also shut. There are about two restaurants open during this time, mainly for day trippers. Ferries will have less service and the funicular is also closed usually in November and December for maintenance.

The Wanderers’ Take

  • Hire a ‘Gozzo’, a traditional Sorrentine wooden boat to take you around the island for the day. This allows you to swim at various locations and explore the rugged coastline, hidden caves and secluded beaches.
  • The island is a ‘walker’s hikers paradise’ and there are several amazing walks and hikes around the island. Even if you are not an enthusiastic walkers, this would be a unique and once in a life time experience because of the views!
  • A visit to the iconic Blue Grotto is a bonus for those staying on the island. Once the day trippers with their boats are gone, you may be allowed actually swim around the Blue Grotto cave!
  • If you are more adventurous, you could explore the coast on a canoeing trip
  • In the evening, once the day trippers are gone, the island is less manic and becomes a different place. Add a touch of pizazz to your holiday; dress up and relax in the glamorous and charming main square, in one of several cafes and bars, listening to the live bands that sometimes play there while you sip on a glass of wine.

 Who should go there:
- Someone looking for something different!
- Excellent for couples, honeymooners or someone celebrating an anniversary
- Families with teens – there’s history and also some fun outdoorsy things to do!

 

 

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*All images courtesy Capri Tourism

 

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High Tatras National Park – Slovakia

Alifiya Calcuttawala – Regional Director, The Wanderers Kolkata writes about her experience at the High Tatras National Park which she visited in December 2013..

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The way Tatras are today is a remnant  from the last glacial period. The first travellers who visited High Tatras came only about 200 years ago and believed that the Tatras were full of gold, silver and other gemstones.
The Tatra is the oldest and the most visited national park in Slovakia and is in the list of UNESCO biosphere reserve. Every year the park is visited by approximately 5 million people and it offers 600 kilometers of hiking trails. The High Tatras are spread over 341 sq kms, 260 sq kms of which are on the Slovak side and is rich with mountain lakes (approx. 190).

We drove from Krakow to The High Tatras National park and stayed in a ski village of ‘Stary Smokovec’ for two nights. This was a good break between seeing cities. In the 2-3 days that we were there we rode snow mobiles, did dog sledging and also took a horse carriage ride. The weather was kind, it was -7 degrees, but the two hours of bright sunshine in the morning gave us the courage to go all out and experience the outdoors.

By 03.30 pm it starts getting dark and obviously very cold. The Grand hotel where we stayed, was a delight since it had an indoor pool, sauna and jacuzzi,  giving an ample opportunity in the evenings to thaw out. :)

Interestingly, it was their peak season – after 2-3 days almost all the hotels were sold out for the New Year; and apparently Russians have their New Year after a week, so this is place is almost booked out till January 15!

This region is a playground for the affluent Russians who like to spend and have a luxurious stay complete with skiing activities, spa etc. (there aren’t many  luxurious and high end accommodation  option available in their country hence most of them come to the Tatra National Park and stay in Zakopane, Smokovec and Pleso etc.
High Tatras offer 22kms of well kept downhill courses – the skiing centres are among the top winter centres in Europe.

 

Winter activities..
Dog sledging, skiing, hikes with snowshoes, snow mobile excursions,  climbing the icefalls, avalanche courses, snow rafting, sledding and skating.

There is a winter fun park situated in Pleso where one can do snow tubing, air boarding, snow bags and zorbing.
And of course, you can also do sky adventures (sky diving, scenic flights, balloon flights and paragliding). These can be done throughout the year!

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In December 2013, Alifiya Calcuttawala travelled on a 12 days journey to Eastern Europe with a small group who wanted to see the Christmas markets. Her itinerary started in Munich, ended with Budapest and included Salzburg, Český Krumlov, Prague, Krakow and the high Tatras!
 
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“An insiders view of London”

..Everything the guide books or tourism websites won’t tell you about the place..

The Wanderers in conversation with Minaxi Mistry

 

 

One little known fact/trivia that everyone should know about when travelling to London

That the London Underground Tube service is excellent, efficient, and the fastest and easiest way to get around the City

 

What is a must buy when in London?

English Tea!

One take-away after a visit to London? 

British pomp and pageantry – no one does it quite like the British.

 

What is your advice to first time travellers?

Purchase an Oyster Card, it’s the fastest, smartest and most cost effective way to pay for travel around the City.

 

One thing to definitely pack when travelling to London

Jumper / Umbrella as you can never predict the down-turn in temperature

 

One activity anyone travelling to London should not miss..

Hop On / Hop Off Red Bus – excellent way to see all the amazing sights properly with guided information

 

Where should anyone, travelling to London, definitely get their picture taken?

Buckingham Palace

 

Which is the best place to get a panoramic photo?

By Big Ben / Westminster Abbey

 

Best place to enjoy sunset/sunrise?

London Bridge

 

Most romantic place to take a special someone to.

Duck & Waffle located on the 40th Floor of the Heron Tower – the highest restaurant in the UK !

 

Best place to have local food?

Any good old fashioned London Pub

 

Your favourite local dish and drink that you would recommend.

Traditional Fish & Chips served in newspaper and a refreshing Gin & Tonic

 

One place only the locals would know.

Camden Lock Market for it’s sheer funkiness and eccentricity……you will see sights here of the wackiest people that you will only ever see in London

 

The best pub and best place to catch up for a drink..

The Royal Standard of England – 900 years old making it the oldest Freehouse in England.  Wonderful food, dog friendly and very cosy.

 

A local festival you feel more travellers should come and see

Trooping Of The Colour Parade is the celebration of the Queen’s official birthday in June. You can watch it for free as it marches past Buckingham Palace and down The Mall, but the real spectacle takes place on Horse Guards Parade, where the Queen will take the salute from one of her Household regiments

 

The things guide books will not tell anyone about London

How Expensive just about Everything is in London from Food to Accommodation to Travel Expenses

 

Is there any particular month you would not recommend travel to London and what would that reason be?

January / February as it can be quite depressing – dark, dismal days

 

In one sentence,  London is .

London is innovative, dynamic, and outrageous, with history and culture leaking from every brick and individual style around every corner.

It’s a supremely cosmopolitan city , with excellent restaurants, quirky pubs, avant-garde shops, unparalleled museums – most of which are now free – superb theatre and attractions and a blitzing nightlife.

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Born in Lancaster in the North of England (near the Lake District) in the UK, Minaxi Mistry moved to London when she was 6 years old.  All her education and working life has been in London so she is definitely a Londoner through and through – accent and all.  For the last 25 years, she has worked in a sales capacity and always in the Travel Industry which she absolutely adores. Minaxi  has travelled extensively and her aim is to still travel lots more as nothing makes a person richer and wiser and gives more of a thrill than Travel!
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Wandering around Paris…

Paris has since long held a special place in the quintessential traveller’s heart. However, while most tourists are enamoured by the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Élysée and Musee du Louvre, Paris has much more to offer.  We bring you little known (among Indian travellers), yet highly recommended places to go to and things to do around Paris..

Text by Shobita Louis, The Wanderers

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Grevin Musee

Grevin Musee is a wax museum and very similar to Madame Tussauds™ and is housed in a very opulent building, which is very similar to an Italian opera house from inside. Thanks to its Baroque architechture, it has got a very French flavour. It houses a host of international wax statues in several themed rooms – The famed House of Mirrors, The Spirit of Paris, The Champions, The Discovery Tour, The Childrens World, History – Yesterday and Today. While it houses a number of exhibits from around the world, the only Indians whose wax models are exhibited here are of M.K. Gandhi and Shah Rukh Khan!
At the end of the exhibits, there is a workshop that shows how the figures are created. This is a part of The Discovery Tour.

Grevin Musee is located centrally in Paris. It is situated on Grands Boulevards, near the opera Garnier.

 

The Wanderers tip:
A visit to Grevin Musee is a must if:

  • You are a  second time visitor to Paris and who has been to Madame Tussauds™ before
  • Someone who has been to any Madame Tussauds in the world
  • You are visiting for the first time and want to do something fun. Also, you are fine if a visit to Grevin precedes Tussauds experience. (Grevin is cheaper than Madame Tussauds™)

 

USP

  • Cheaper than Madame Tussauds ™
  • It has a fun 8 min audio visual show at the entry hall
    A leisurely and comprehensive visit can finish in 1 ½ – 2 hours
  • The Wax figures at Grevin Musee are globally and locally famous, so it is better to read up on them

 

 

Parc Asterix

Parc Asterix is a theme park located North of Paris and as the name suggests, it is based on the iconic comic – Asterix!
There are 32 attractions, 08 shows and 06 different ‘worlds’, as opposed to 60 odd attractions at Euro Disney that are spread between Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios. Given its smaller size and the crowd being less, more rides can be done at Parc Asterix in a day than at the parks in Disney. However, it has the capacity to hold only about 07 – 08 thousand people as opposed to 80 thousand at Disney. The park has more exiting rides that are suited for older children and adults whereas, Disney’s rides cater to young children (and therefore ideal for kids aged 08 and younger).

It is located in the North of Paris – close to Roissy Charles de Gaulle! From Paris take a shuttle bus that leaves from a meeting point at the Louvre every morning at 08.30 Am. The buses depart from the park back to Paris at 06.30pm. Depending on the traffic, it can take about 45 minutes to an hour.
From Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport, there are shuttles that leave half an hour from an appointed point. They leave from 09.00 hours until 1 hour before Park closure. For the return journey from the Park to CDG, the shuttle is available every 30 minutes from 0930hours till an hour after the park closing time, i.e. 1800hours. Depending on traffic, it will take approx. 15 – 30 minutes

 

The Wanderers tip – Who should go

  • Anyone who is a fan of Asterix comics!
  • Clients who have already been to Disneyland
  • Adults and families with older children, especially not particularly enamoured with Disney and want a fun day out on roller coasters and other exciting rides

Other important info:

There is a hotel (3 star family hotel) - Hotel des Trois Hiboux – on the grounds of the park. The Dolphin shows happen every day at 01.00pm. The park is open from April to November. But remember, that the park is closed during winter.

 

Chantilly

The Chateau de Chantilly is a beautiful chateau and has been closely associated with French Royalty. The last private owner was the Duc d’Aumale (Son of the last French King Louis Phillipe). The Duc was a great collector of arts and books and his entire collection is housed in the chateau.
When he died in the late 19th century he left the chateau and his entire collection to an organisation called the Institut de France, which has now opened the grounds and chateau to the public. It is managed by Domaine de Chantilly and has received donation worth 40 million euros in the past from The Aga Khan for restoration work. The art collection and the Museum is said to be only 2nd in ‘greatness’ to the Louvre. The books and manuscripts are also said to be the 2nd greatest collection in Europe.

Located in the North of Paris, by train it takes 25mins from Gare du Nord to Chantilly station. Or you can take a private transfer from Paris to Chantilly.

Your tour can consist of the following:
A tour of the chateau, which will include the Grand Apartments and the Museum – Musee Condee ( the art works and books).  At an extra cost you can also add a visit to the Grand Stables that once housed 100 horses and hunting dogs. It now has 35 horses used for dressage! There is a horse dressage show that happens (at additional costs) which can be added depending on the schedule. There is a Relais Chateaux hotel – Auberge Du Jeu De Paume on the grounds. It is very romantic and perfect for Honeymooners

Important events:
Famous horse races happen in June and in September, which are very similar to Ascot. If you are planning a trip to Paris at this time, it makes sense to tie your visit to Chantilly.

Why Chantilly
Chantilly is traditionally famed for

  • Chantilly lace
  • Horses
  • Chantilly cream ( precursor to ‘whipped cream’)
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