THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA IN GULMARG, KASHMIR IS THE ULTIMATE LUXURY EXPERIENCE.

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The snow flecked Grand Exterior of luxurious The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir

THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA in Gulmarg, Kashmir has been one of my most luxurious stay with an unparallel view of snow clad mountains. I arrived in the second week of April which made Gulmarg a perfect snow destination. We passed through magical roads, the either sides of which were covered with snow. Fresh snow broke loose on the landscape of Gulmarg few days prior to our arrival. This was the second time I was seeing so much snow after the Roopkund trek and my visit to Rohtang Pass with parents.

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Snow everywhere in the luxury property- The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa in Gulmarg, Kashmir

As I arrived at The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa in Gulmarg, Kashmir I was impressed with its grand entry. We were ushered into Chaikash for snacks, kahwa (Local Kashmiri Tea) and of course hot towels. The welcome drink kahwa was so good that within few minutes of my arrival I had decided that I will be drinking their kahwa every day during my 3 days stay. Here is my review of The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa Gulmarg, Kashmir.

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The grand lobby of the luxury property- The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir

THE ROOM OF THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA, GULMARG, KASHMIR.

I stayed in the Khyber resort’s Luxury Balcony Room with Himalayan view. The moment I entered my room (Number 1015) at The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, what struck me the most was the sheer size of everything. Be it the size of room or bed or the mirror next to it, the size of washroom or the huge balcony, everything was grand. The large bed was soft and comfortable and decorated with assorted pillows. A pillow menu was also offered as part of the turn down service.  The many lighting options helped me alter the lights as per my mood.

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The Luxury Balcony Room with Himalayan View. At The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir

I never switch on TV whether I am traveling or not. And if the property is so gorgeous I would rather spend time enjoying the property than waste time on TV. That said, the TV installed in the room had huge screen and an added advantage for those who like to catch up on their favourite shows during travel. My favourite part of the room though was the foldable writing table fashioned out of wood from walnut tree. Every day, I would spend 2 hours (7 a.m. to 9 a.m.) writing my travel pieces in this place in absolute peace. I would keep the balcony open while writing to ensure that the fresh air and the chirpings of birds kept me inspired. The complimentary kiwis, apples and bananas kept me fuelled before I hit the buffet breakfast at 9:30 a.m. every day. The room was also stocked with crisp and delicious cookies. I am not a cookie person but I couldn’t help but devour all the delicious cookies during my stay. Cold Drinks and high quality nuts and chocolates were also stocked in the room.

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My luxurious bath tub with a view of snow clad mountains. Where else but in The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir.

 

THE WASH- ROOM OF THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA, GULMARG, KASHMIR.

The first thing that attracted my attention was not the room but the huge bathtub and the large balcony. But then that is what I check out the first thing in any hotel. As I entered the spacious dressing room and moved towards the washroom area, I was delighted to see the bathtub with a view of snow clad mountains. The bath tub was big enough for 2 people. Every morning, I used to lie down in the warm water, gazing at the white beauty dotted with conifers from the window. The washroom was well compartmentalized into W.C area/ shower area/ Bathtub/ wash basin and dressing room. The well lighted dressing room had big storage space to keep suitcase, making it easy for me to retrieve anything. There was ample wardrobe in the dressing room. The slipper provided was soft and warm. The toiletries stocked in the washroom were fragrant and of high quality.

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My balcony at the luxury property- The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir. Yes, its all snow. Bollywood Film Actress DEEPIKA PADUKONE stayed in the adjacent room.

THE BALCONY OF THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA, GULMARG, KASHMIR.

The balcony in the rooms of Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa needs a special mention. The views from here are so breathtaking that it makes the resort a destination in itself. I would sit here gazing at nothing but vast swathes of snow laden mountains with neatly arranged conifers. Small colorful huts in a distance would make it all the more picturesque. The size of the balcony made it a perfect place to chat with my friends who were staying in the other rooms. During my first night, as soon as I entered the balcony, I was so impressed with the view that I called up my friends in the other room and asked, “Have you checked the view from balcony in the night?” Beautiful lamps had lit the entire resort. The full moon made the white mountains look like silver cones. The entire setting was too gorgeous to describe in words. For a moment I thought if it’s for real. Having travelled to 150 destinations across India since 2008, I am still excited about travel because it still doesn’t fail to surprise me.

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View of snow clad mountains from the swimming pool. At the luxury property- The Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir.

 

THE L’OCCITANE SPA AND THE SWIMMING POOL AT THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA, GULMARG, KASHMIR.

The L’occitane spa at Khyber Resort turned out to be a pleasant experience. I had availed leg massage on the second day because it claimed to be ‘the best option for travelers’.  I loved the massage but somehow it left me craving for a full body massage. No wonder, on the third day, I opted for the Revitalizing Aromachologie Massage by L’occitane spa on recommendation by the personnel at the reception. The massage was a perfect combo of Swedish strokes, Balinese massage techniques and Chinese acupressure. The soothing music, dim lights helped me relive tension and lose myself in an hour of de-stressing  session. The essential oils like Tea Tree, Lavender etc helped me relax. The massage session calmed both my overactive mind and body. It also induced sleep in me. Though I didn’t swim but I spent good amount of time just admiring the views from the swimming pool of Khyber Resort.

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The Bath tub and the couple massage room with a view of snow clad mountains. Managed by L’occitane Spa at the luxury property- The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir.

RESTAURANTS AT THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA, GULMARG, KASHMIR.

Chaikash at Khyber resorts: It was a casual dining space which has the best views of the Khyber resort covered in snow. We always hogged the window seat for our leisurely conversations over almond rich and aromatic kahwa , the local Kashmiri tea. I sampled assorted fritters, many pastries and cheese chilly toast (My favorite) in snacks. Just opposite it is a cozy sit out area on the floor. We spent much of our time sitting here cross legged.

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Kashmiri Wazwan Platter. Includes Doon Chetin (Walnut Chutney), Nadur Yakhini (Lotus Stem curry), Muji Chatin (Radish Chutney), Dum Aaloo (Potatoes curry), Haak Saag, Rajma, Hara Bhara Kebab etc. It was served in a traditional Tarami platter in Kashmiri style. At Cloves restaurant. The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir. Luxury at its best. Incredible India!

Cloves at Khyber Resort: The lively restaurant is the largest F & B outlet in Khyber resort. It is open for both buffet and a la carte. Of the 3 breakfast buffets I enjoyed here, my favourites were South Indian delicacies like masala dosa, idli and vada. I stuck to these because it was filling without compromising on my health. Poha and Upma were my other favourites.  The fresh juices (Cucumber, carrot etc) kept me refreshed. On one of the lunches we were served Wazwan platter. The sheer variety offered to me was overwhelming. A big plate of steamed rice was served with doon chetin (walnut Chutney), Nadur Yakhini (Lotus stem in white sauce), Muji Chatin (Radish chutney), cottage cheese (paneer) in rich tomato gravy, dum aaloo (Whole potatoes in rich gravy), onion salad, haak saag (local green leafy vegetable), Rajma (Curried Kidney beans) and hara bhara kebab (With an innovative flaky crust). It was followed by a saffron rich Firni, a sweet dish par excellence. Needless to say, it was one of my most royal lunches. The vegetarian Wazwan was served in a beautiful tarami (meaning large plate)

The buffet menu was just as varied and rich. My favourite picks were: the exceptional kadhi-rice, mushroom do pyaza, assorted salads and mezze platters (Hummus, tabbouleh, baba ganoush served with pita bread) Desserts comprised of a variety of cakes, mousse, cut fruits and Indian sweets.

Note: I did not avail any service at the other F & B outlets Nouf and Calabash but they sure looked like a refined experience.

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The Cloves restaurant. At the luxury property- The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir.

THE FRIENDLY STAFF OF THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA, GULMARG, KASHMIR:

I reiterate, it is rare to find charming and genuinely warm staff at most luxury properties. Movenpick resort in Aqaba, Jordan was the last time I was impressed with the staff. Likewise, the staff of Khyber Resort exudes warmth, attentiveness, courtesy and a natural zeal to serve. Each of the staff members left a lasting impression on me. Whatever I demanded was presented to me within minutes, as if by magic. The staff spent quality time with me explaining the local dishes, crafts, culture etc. All my needs were taken care of with a big genuine smile.  Many of the staff is locally hired talent who stay near property.

THE CELEBRITIES WHO STAYED AT THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA, GULMARG, KASHMIR:

I was told that Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone stayed in a room adjacent to the room I was staying in. Other celebrities such as the Ambanis, Adanis, Raj Thakrey and Bollywood personalities like Saif Ali Khan and Sunny Leone had stayed in Khyber resorts.

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I stayed in one of these rooms facing snow flecked mountains. Luxury Balcony Room with Himalayan View. At The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir.

HOW TO REACH THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA, GULMARG, KASHMIR?

Khyber Resorts is just 50 kms away from Srinagar. It took us around 1 hours and 15 minutes to reach Khyber resorts by cab from Srinagar airport. Khyber Resorts is located in the heart of Gulmarg. It is walking distance from the famous Gondola ride in Gulmarg. It is also nearby major attractions of Gulmarg.

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The beautifully lit resort bathed in full moon night was ethereal. This picture is a big injustice to the real thing. View from Luxury Balcony Room with Himalayan View. At The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir.

THE BOTTOMLINE

I found The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg (Kashmir) to be an unparallel experience. I was told most of their guests are repeat customers and word of mouth customers. It has rooms which suit the budget of different travelers. The entire property is done up stylishly using the local elements. The wooden khatamband ceiling is made up of small pieces of Deodar fashioned in geometrical pattern. Wagu mats are creatively used as curtains of windows of L’occitane spa. Wagu mats, the native Kashmiri mats are made up of dried straw. Deodar wood is used in the construction of the hotel as it can withstand water and snow. Kashmiri style windows or jharoka, locally called dab is incorporated in the design of lobby. It reminded me of a real Kashmiri house I saw during the Heritage Walk in the Leh City.

I should sum it up with this: Every time I mention Khyber to people, their eyes light up. It is a dream for many. It is a habit for many.

The View From My #SoulWindow Is Classy!

Related Blogs:

Stories of Kashmiri Migrants in Leh, Ladakh

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View from my Luxury Balcony Room With Himalayan View. The Building on extreme right houses swimming pool and the L’occitane Spa. At The Khyber Himalayan Resort And Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir. Incredible India indeed!

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Ever sweated it out at a more scenic location? The Gymnasium with views of snow laden luxury resort. At The Khyber Himalayan Resort And Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir.

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

INCREDIBLE INDIA: 10 BUDGET FRIENDLY & FREE THINGS TO DO IN GANGTOK, SIKKIM WITH FAMILY

Recently Mr. Mahesh Semwal,  a travel blogger friend asked me about things to see in Gangtok. It reminded me that I have yet not written about my experience of traveling with family to Gangtok. What also makes Gangtok a family destination is the fact that it is cheap to visit Gangtok as most things to do in Gangtok are free. Mr. Mahesh himself enjoys travelling with family and I thought it would be best if I finally write about my travel to Gangtok with my parents.

Me and my parents booked a car from the Gangtok bus stop for the entire day. Here is how to see the best of Gangtok with family in 8 hours. I am writing down the exact time of our arrival at a particular point of interest.

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1) 1:25 p.m. – Do Drul Chorten, Gangtok:

Dense forest of birch trees, oak and magnolia hides the Do Drul Chorten. Do Drul Chorten is a stupa which dates back to 1945. Built by the Venerable Trulshi Rimpoche, head of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism, it is a calm place in the midst of a busy city. Devotees spin the 108 Mani Lhakor or prayer wheels around the stupa in a clockwise manner. Buddhists devotees chant aum mani padme hum meaning ‘Hail to the jewel in the Lotus’ while spinning the wheel. One must watch out for Chorten Lakhang and Guru Lakhang, where two huge statues of Guru Rinpoche are worshipped. You need to ask around or locate the downwards stairs which would lead you to the huge statues. (Photography in this section is not allowed) It is a place of worship and you must refrain from being noisy. Admission is free

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Traveling with my parents. Facing the museum at Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Gangtok, Sikkim.

2) 1: 45 p.m. – Namgyal Institute of Tibetology Gangtok :

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Museum at Namgyal Institute Of Tibetology in Gangtok, Sikkim. It is near M G Marg, Gangtok and Do Drul Chorten.

Inaugrated in October, 1958 and built in traditional Tibetan architecture, its museum is surrounded by 2 tower like structures on either side. The maroon and white façade of the building complements the dense green cover of the campus. Child monks goof around as the dramatic background of bougainvillea blooms enhance their charm. The museum houses some interesting artefacts such as a variety of ancient thangkas (Buddhist painting and embroidery on cloth), Buddhist wares, ancient coins, rare statutes. It also houses a casket which contains the relics of Kasyapagotra and Madhyama, the two great Asokan missionaries. Ancient manuscripts (some even belonging to 11th century) in Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese and Lepcha also find home in the ground floor museum. My favourite though was the eerie tantric skull-cap bowls and trumpets made from human thigh bones. You may climb up for the library and the views. It is located in Deorali and is around 2 kilometers away from the main town. Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is walking distance from Do Drul Chorten.

 

 

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Deorali Bazar Ropeway Station, Gangtok, Sikkim

3) 2:15 p.m. – Deorali Bazar Ropeway Station Gangtok

 

Just 5 minutes drive/walk away from Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, one can take the ropeway and enjoy the sweeping views of Gangtok city. I did not take the ride because neither my parents nor I were interested in it. We moved ahead for the views of valley at a nearby view point.

 

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Viewing Point near Deorali Bazar Ropeway Station, Gangtok, Sikkim

4) 2: 22 p.m. – Viewing Point, Gangtok-

We instead chose to walk up to the View Point, few minutes away. The winding stairs lead to a viewing point from where one can enjoy the view of the lush green, mist laden mountains, tiny houses and terraced fields. The pathway is decorated with Tibetan prayer flags. We bought some snacks along the way such as boiled and spiced chick peas.   Since my parents are not as fit as me, they took a little longer to navigate the stairs. But it was still easily manageable and was senior citizen friendly. Admission is free.

 

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Hanuman Tok, Gangtok, Sikkim

5) 3:05 p.m. – Hanuman Tok

 

When I arrived at Hanuman Tok, an enterprising family was cooking momos and selling it from the rear of a van modified to double up as a shop. I bought 2 plates of vegetarian momos for  throw-away price and explored the Hanuman temple at Hanuman Tok. The temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman, much revered God to Hindus, known to foreigners as the Monkey God. If you are lucky, you might get to view the Kanchenjunga range. 11 kms away from main Gangtok city, it is perched at a height of 7,200 ft. It is on located on a road near the Gangtok-Nathu la Highway. There is a gallery which shows important scenes from the Ramayana, the Hindu epic. There is also a famous shine of Sirdi Saibaba. It is senior citizen friendly. There are also benches for rest. I ring a bell, soak in the views and bid it adieu. Admission is free.

 

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Ganesh Tok, Gangtok, Sikkim. It is near Gangtok Zoo

6) 3:54 p.m. – Ganesh Tok, Gangtok:

 

We passed a gorgeous waterfall and arrived at Ganesh Tok. Located at an altitude of 6,500 ft on a gorgeous hilltop, it has a small temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha, known to foreigners as the Elephant God. It is near the tall TV tower and offers incredible views from a circular viewing gallery. On clear days, you can see Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, from Ganesh Tok.  Ignoring the gift and souvenir shop, the nearby zoo and the ‘Dress Like a Local’ Photo Booths, we headed to the cafeteria near the parking lot for a late lunch. The food is good and cheap. It is 6 kms away from the main city. Admission is free. It is just 4 kms away from Hanuman Tok.

 

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Deorali Orchid Sanctuary in Gangtok, Sikkim.

7) 5:05 p.m. – Deorali Orchid Sanctuary:

We arrived late here and the enclosed garden was closed. On my request, I was allowed to enter the indoor Orchid paradise. Located near Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, it houses over 200 species of orchids, including some rare ones. The bold colors and unusual shapes of flowers vied for my attention. The main blooming season is April to May, July to August and October to November. It offers different varieties in different seasons. Admission is free.

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Monk at Enchey Gonpa, Gangtok, Sikkim. Incredible India!

8) 5:21 p.m. – Enchey Gonpa, Gangtok:

As I entered the quaint Enchey Gonpa monastery with my parents, the absolute silence was gently broken by Buddhist chanting from an individual young monk. His was the only sound which reverberated through the conifer scented valleys. Intrigued, my slow paced walk soon turned into gallops. Soon the faint sound turned bolder as I followed the sound. In no time, my pace was slower than that of a snail-in-no-hurry, as soon as I was face to face with a child monk faithfully chanting his lessons for the evening alone. Few steps away from him a group of child monks were like regular kids, goofing around in their red robes while pretending to read their religious books. These kids alternated between serious education and goofing around at a monastery in Gangtok, Sikkim. Despite a strict routine, the kids had retained their ‘kidness’. They hit gently at each other and cracked jokes on each other between recitals of the holy text.

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Little Monks at Enchey Gonpa, Gangtok, Sikkim. Incredible India!

The 200 year old Enchey Gonpa aka Buddhist monastery is set in a lonely place. No wonder Enchey Gonpa’s literal meaning is ‘the solitary temple’. We were the only tourists there. It is 3 kms away from the main Gangtok city. If you are traveling to Gangtok in the month of January and February, don’t forget to catch the live Chaam aka Mask dance performed on the 18th, 19th day of the 12th lunar month of the Tibetan calendar. It is home to the monks of the Nyingma sect of Vajrayana Buddhism. Do check out the colorful windows. Admission is free.

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My parents chilling on a bench in M.G.Marg Market, Gangtok, Sikkim. Incredible India!

9) 6:00 p.m. – MG Marg Market, Gangtok:

MG Marg Market is located centrally in the heart of the Gangtok City. It was near our hotel, so it made sense to end the day in the vibrant markets of M.G. Marg. Visiting it during night made the experience all the more charming. It reminded me of the Leh market in Ladakh. Though M G Marg market is much bigger in scale than the Leh market but it resembled the look and feel. Also, both the markets are a no vehicle zone and are way too clean by Indian standards for a market as crowded as this. Despite the crowd, it is a pleasure to walk here due to the wide pathways. The open mall or boulevard square is lined with glittery shops, souvenir stores, grocery shops, fancy restaurants and even pharmacy shops. My parents checked out some outlets and shopped. Not a shopping fan, I utilized the time to stroll and fill my face with street food. It is a no smoking zone. Open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Restaurants are open for longer. Admission to M G Marg market is free.

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Gurudwara Sahib, Gangtok, Sikkim. Incredible India!

10) 8:26 p.m. – Gurudwara Sahib, Gangtok:

Gangtok, like other hill stations of India sleep early. I anchored my parents at the hotel and enjoyed the view of the glittery city from the hotel balcony. After I ordered food for my parents, I moved out to get a closer look of the beautifully lit Gurudwara Sahib. Located near the Gangtok bus stand, it is a beautiful Gurudwara (Worship place of Sikhs). The architectural style is unique and it looks all the more beautiful when lit. I walked alone on the adjacent walk way, sometimes looking at the Gurudwara sometimes looking at the starry city in far distance. Personal moments like these are why I travel. The next morning we moved to Darjeeling.

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Traveling with parents at Enchey Gonpa, Gangtok, Sikkim.

IS GANGTOK A SENIOR CITIZEN FRIENDLY CITY?

I found Gangtok to be a perfect place to visit with my parents. My mother has health issues and is wary of climbing anything. However much of Gangtok requires easy climbing. Hiring a car for entire day is the best way to travel with senior citizen in Gangtok. Most things to do in Gangtok are near each other and don’t require much of climbing stairs. The weather is pleasant which further makes thing easier. Food of all variety is also easily available, so rigid eating habits of parents are also resolved.

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Bird’s eye view of Gangtok city and Sikkim TV Tower from Ganesh Tok. Incredible India!

IT IS VERY CHEAP TO SEE GANGTOK AS MOST THINGS TO DO IN GANGTOK ARE FREE

As I mentioned in the story above, admission to most of the things to do in Gangtok is free which makes Gangtok a perfect family destination to travel to. A good idea is to hire cheap sight-seeing cars on arrival.  The rates are reasonable. Hotels of all budgets are also available.

HOW TO REACH GANGTOK FROM SILIGURI (AFTER A WONDERFUL TRIP TO BHUTAN WITH FAMILY)

I had planned Gangtok after a wonderful trip to Bhutan with my parents. As soon as we arrived in Jaigaon, the small town at India – Bhutan border, we booked a cab to Gangtok. We started at 2 p.m. from Jaigaon and reached the Coronation Bridge aka Sevoke Bridge at 5:50 p.m. We stayed over in a hotel near Bus Stand in Siliguri for the night.  Completed in 1941, the coronation bridge commemorates the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937. It is also known as Baghpul aka Tiger Bridge due to the 2 lion statues at one end of the bridge. It is also known as Loha Pul because it is made up of metal. Travellers pass through this scenic bridge on their way to Gangtok, Siliguri, Bhutan and Darjeeling. There is also a viewing point near the coronation bridge.  However beware of the traffic jams in the rush hour and of stray monkeys at all hours.  Avoid carrying any eatable in the open.

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Coronation Bridge aka bagh pul aka Loha pul aka Sevoke Bridge. It is near Bhutan, Darjeeling, in West Bengal and Gangtok in Sikkim. You can see Teesta river in this picture.

The next morning we caught a private non ac bus to Gangtok from the Siliguri Bus Stand. Many buses ply on this route and one can often get tickets without prior booking. We left Siliguri at 7:21 a.m. and reached the ‘Welcome To Sikkim’ gate at exact 10:00 a.m. Our bus was stopped at this point and we were asked to show our identity cards by the army. Before we arrived at this gate, the bus passed through scenic Teesta River. We came across many small metallic bridges. Some of the bridges near Sikkim were so narrow that we had to wait for the other vehicles to pass before making a move. Within 5 minutes of passing through the ‘Welcome to Sikkim’ gate, the bus stopped for refreshments in the middle of the city. I had my fill of different varieties of Bengali Mishti Doi (Sweet Thick and flavoured curd) and other Bengali sweets. We reached around 11:50 a.m. at the multi level Gangtok Bus Stand. We walked in and settled for a reasonably priced hotel near the Gangtok Bus Stand. It costed the 3 of us around Rs.1500 (With extra bed). I forgot the name of the hotel but most hotels on this lane are priced like that. This place is near the famous M.G. Market and other points of interest in Gangtok.

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My mother seems to be happy at Hanuman Tok, Gangtok, Sikkim

RESPONSIBLE TOURISM IN GANGTOK, SIKKIM:

  • Sikkim is a plastic free zone, so no plastic bags are allowed. It is best if you responsibly dispose all the waste you generated.
  • Many areas in Gangtok are No Smoking zone. Kindly Refrain.
  • While entering religious places, please maintain decorum and restraint yourself from shouting, running and other such ‘important tasks’.
  • Please don’t pluck flowers.
  • Please take off your shoes when entering religious places.
  • Ask for filtered water instead of plastic water bottles.
  • Don’t nag the authorities for clicking the picture of a statue/building or even monks if it is not allowed. Respect.

 

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The upper garden of Deorali Orchid Sanctuary, Gangtok, Sikkim

BEST TIME TO VISIT GANGTOK, SIKKIM :

  • Spring in Gangtok: I went in the month of April. The weather was perfect at that time. March and April is the best time to be there.
  • Summer in Gangtok: May and June is still comfortable.
  • Monsoon in Gangtok: July to August is when in pours in Gangtok. Landslides and heavy rains keep tourists away.
  • Autumn in Gangtok: October to November is also a great time to visit Gangtok. Might get chilly at nights.
  • Winter in Gangtok: December to February is very cold. Go if you can brave the chill.
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Buddhist Devotees chanting aum mani padme hum while spinning Mani Lhakor aka prayer wheels at Do Drul Chorten, Gangtok, Sikkim.

HOW TO REACH GANGTOK, SIKKIM

  • AIR: Nearest Airport is at Bagdogra, 124 kms away
  • RAILWAY: Nearest Railway station from Gangtok is New Jalpaiguri in Siliguri, 148 kms away.
  • BUS: Buses to Gangtok are available from Siliguri and Darjeeling, so you might want to club these destinations.

EXCURSIONS FROM GANGTOK, SIKKIM

Gangtok is close to many interesting places such as:

International destinations near Gangtok, Sikkim:

  • Phuentsholing in Bhutan
  • Ilam, Nepal
  • Nathu La pass near China border

Indian destinations near Gangtok, Sikkim:

  • Darjeeling
  • Rumtek Monastery
  • Gurudongmar Lake
  • Yumthang Valley
  • Lachung and Lachen
  • Yuksom
  • Pelling
  • Tsongmo Lake
  • Zuluk
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A waterfall which we saw between Hanuman Tok and Ganesh Tok, Gangtok, Sikkim. Incredible India!

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WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

VISIT JORDAN: MUST NOT MISS THESE TRAVEL TIPS AND A 7 DAY ITINERARY!

Jordan Overview

Located in West Asia, Jordan is bordered by Syria to the north, Iraq to the east, Saudi Arabia to the east and south, and Israel and Palestine to the west. Tourists can access the Red Sea through the southern port city of Aqaba. Amman, capital of Jordan is located in the northwest part of the country. While the majority of Jordan is desert, the northwest area is quite fertile and is part of the Levant region of the Fertile Crescent, which has been referred to as the “cradle of civilization”.

Etiquette Tips For Jordan:

Etiquette is very important in Jordanian culture. While Jordanians graciously tolerate behaviors from visitors that may not necessarily conform to their own standards of etiquette, you can show respect for Jordanian customs by following a few basic rules:

  • Stand when someone important, or another guest, enters the room.
  • Shake hands with everyone, but only with a Jordanian woman if she offers her hand first.
  • Don’t engage in any conversation about sensitive or personal topics unless you know the person you’re talking to well.
  • Most women don’t like to be clicked. Ask permission or avoid altogether.
  • Remove your shoes when visiting a mosque or a private house (unless you’re specifically told to keep them on).
  • Never interrupt someone praying.

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What to wear in Jordan:

I found Jordan to be a liberal country. However some religious places may have clothes restrictions. Here are my packing tips based upon my trip in May:

  • Smart Casuals
  • Casual trousers / jeans and T-shirts.
  • A warm but light jacket/and or a shawl for nights.
  • Walking shoes – You will be walking a lot in Jordan. Comfortable shoes are recommended. Flip Flops advised for the nights and the beach.
  • Some places like Wadi Rum are remote. It is advised that the travelers must carry basic medications along. You might waste time finding the brand you need. Worse still, you may not be able to find the same brand in Jordan.
  • Jordan is a heaven for outdoor enthusiasts. Sunscreen and Sun glasses are must!
  • It is a picture perfect location. Do carry a good camera and enough memory cards!

Pics above: Mars Like Wadi Rum was my favourite in Jordan

More Soul Window Tips for Jordan:

  • The water is safe to drink here but if you are still unsure you can buy bottled water
  • Take these things back home– Dead Sea products, Local Souvenirs, Mugs, Mosaics from Madaba, Different kinds of nuts, olives, spices to name few.
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Click to read why I ran out of Dead Sea as soon as I entered it!

Food Tips For Jordan:

Healthy food is available all over Jordan. The cooking standards are good. Most restaurants and take away outlets maintain hygiene and quality. It is a paradise for vegans as most of the mezzes and deserts are 100 % vegetarian and healthy.

Time Zone : Jordan

From the beginning of October to the end of March, Jordan is two hours ahead of Greenwich

Mean Time (GMT) and seven hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard Time (EST). Jordan switches to Daylight Saving Time in the summer, when it is three hours ahead of GMT between South Africa and its neighboring countries, or between the 9 provinces of South Africa.

Currency of Jordan:

The local currency is the Jordanian Dinar, commonly called JD. 1 JD = $1.41 USD (as on January 2017)

Denominations– 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 JD notes are in circulation. The Dinar is equal to 100 piasters (pronounced “peeaster”) of 1,000 fils. The piaster is the unit most commonly used. If you see prices written as 4,750, it means the price is 4.75JD. Currency can be exchanged at major banks, exchange agencies, and most hotels. Indians can withdraw JD at ATMs with their Indian Debit cards. My advice: Withdraw whatever amount you want to withdraw in Amman. It has more numbers of ATMs.

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Aqaba : The only coastal city of Jordan which borders Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel!

Best Time To Go To Jordan:

Jordan boasts almost year-round sunshine with temperate weather.

  • The Spring and Fall seasons: Mild and temperatures range from 60-70°F/15-21°C, with rain being more common in the Spring.
  • Summers are sunny with temperatures averaging 90°F/32°C in the day with cool evenings.
  • July and August are the sunniest and driest months of the year, especially in Amman and the Jordan Valley. In the desert areas, temperatures can reach 100°F/38°C.
  • The winter months from November to April can be cold, but snow is rare. Aqaba is an especially pleasant wintertime resort with the colder temperatures staying in the north. About 75%of the country can be described as having a moderate climate with very little annual rainfall.

I went in May. It was a pleasant time to be in Jordan. The days were breezy and conducive to walking. The nights were cooler (Just a shawl or light sweater is fine). Below is a lowdown on what weather is like in May in Jordan:

– Amman – 26°C – 32°C

– Petra – 22° – 26°C

– Aqaba – 31° – 35°C

– Dead Sea – 23° – 26°C

– Wadi Rum- 26° – 30°C

Average temperatures in Jordan by season:

Month Lowest Highest

January 40°F/5°C 60°F/15°C

April 54°F/12°C 77°F/25°C

July 66°F/19°C 97°F/36°C

October 55°F/13°C 84°F/28°C

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Amman Citadel : Click the link to read why this place is the cradle of civilizations.

Immunizations advice for Jordan:

 No vaccinations are required to enter Jordan, although preventive shots for hepatitis, polio, tetanus, and typhoid are recommended. Travelers with personal health issues should consult their physicians before traveling. Medications should be carried in hand luggage along with passport, tickets, money, and other important belongings. Carry a small carry-on case with change and other essential for the layover in Sharjah. Don’t check this piece in.

Electric Outlets available in Jordan:

The electrical system in Jordan is based on 220 AC volts/50 cycles and requires two-pronged wall plugs, similar to ones found in parts of Europe.

Religion in Jordan:

The main religion in Jordan is Islam with 92% of the population being Muslim, but all religions are free to practice. 6% of the population is Christian, with the remaining 2% being a mix of other religions including Druze and Baha’i.

Smoking advice for Jordan:

Smoking is much more common in Jordan than in Europe or the United States, and smoke-free accommodation is relatively unusual (with the exception of larger hotels). Smoking the traditional water pipe or nargileh, also known as hubbly bubbly, is an interesting experience that visitors can try in any coffeehouse and many restaurants. The tobacco flavor is mild and mostly fruit-flavored. Most restaurants have smoking and non smoking areas. When smoking on road, pls drop the ash tray attached to the poles (Yes, it is for real!)

Tipping Tips for Jordan:

As a tourism based economy, Tipping is always appreciated. A 10% service charge is often added in hotels and restaurants, and extra tips are discretionary. In restaurants, for example, tipping an extra dinar for breakfast and two extra dinars for lunch and dinner is customary.

In general, you should plan to tip guides, drivers, and anyone else who performs a service for you in the amount you deem appropriate for the service rendered. Having small bills on hand makes tipping more convenient.

How To Reach: Air Arabia runs economic yet comfortable flights from India via U.A.E. Check my review of Air Arabia Flight.

TURKEY VISA REQUIREMENTSimg_3602

The view from the Amman Citadel in Jordan

Below is a 7 day itinerary for Jordan. It is more suitable for luxury but adaptable for budget too:

DAY 1

  • Arrive at Q.A.I. Airport on Air Arabia
  • Check in at hotel in Amman Crowne Plaza Amman Hotel
  • Lunch inside the hotel Al Halabi Restaurant
  • Visit the site of Jerash
  • Visit Citadel
  • Visit Down Town Local Markets
  • Rainbow Street
  • Dinner Sufra Restaurant
  • Overnight Crowne Plaza Amman Hotel

DAY 2

  • Visit Royal Automobile in the morning
  • Carry Shawerma & Falafel as take away lunch
  • Drive down South to Petra
  • 5:30 PM Early dinner with cooking class Petra Kitchen Rest.
  • 8:30 PM Petra by night event
  • Overnight Petra Guest House Hotel

DAY 3

  • Half day visit to the site of Petra
  • Lunch at Al Qantarah Restaurant near Petra
  • Visit Little Petra
  • Afternoon Drive to Wadi Rum
  • Jeep tour in the desert. Visit the sun set point.
  • Overnight Dinner and music program at Al Captain Camp

DAY 4

  • Morning drive to Aqaba
  • Lunch cruise with Yasmina Boat
  • Check in Moevenpick Resort &Residences Aqaba
  • Dinner Royal Yacht Club
  • Shopping in the streets near the hotel
  • Overnight Moevenpick Resort & residences Aqaba

DAY 5

  • Morning drive from Aqaba to Dead Sea
  • Check in Jordan Valley Marriott
  • Lunch in the in house restaurant
  • Time at Leisure
  • Floating in Dead Sea
  • Dinner inside hotel Italian Restaurant
  • Overnight Jordan Valley Marriott Resort & Spa

DAY 6

  • Visit Baptism Site
  • Visit Mount Nebo
  • Lunch at Haret Jdoudna, Madaba
  • Continue the trip to visit Evason Mai’n Hot Springs
  • Time at Leisure
  • Dinner & overnight Evason Mai’n Hot Springs

DAY 7

  • Transfer to Q.A.I. Airport to depart

Jordan Tourism Details:

VISIT JORDAN WEBSITE

E-mail: info@visitjordan.com

P.O.Box 830688 Amman 11183 – Jordan Tel. (962 6) 5678294 Fax (962 6) 5678295

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Petra at Night is magical: Please click the link to read how it feels there at night. And of course for exclusive pictures!

YOU WILL LOVE READING THESE BLOGS ON JORDAN (EXCLUSIVE PICS AND TEXT):

DEAD SEA: WHY I RAN OUT SCREAMING AS SOON AS I ENTERED THE DEAD SEA

PETRA: THE SECRET OF THE CITY OF DEAD REVEALED

PETRA IN NIGHT: IS IT WORTH IT (EXCLUSIVE PICTURES)

AQABA- THE ONLY COASTAL CITY OF JORDAN WHICH BORDERS EGYPT, ISRAEL AND SAUDI ARABIA

WADI RUM- MARS ON EARTH?

AMMAN CITADEL- THE CONTINUALLY HABITATED WALLED CITY

Mövenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba- The Ultimate Luxury Experience in Aqaba!

AIR ARABIA- HOW TO TRAVEL TO JORDAN ON A BUDGET AND IN STYLE

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Click on the link to know all that you wanted to know about Petra – a UNESCO World heritage site and one of the 7 wonders of the world.

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Got any question/comments, ask in the comment section below so that it can benefit other readers.

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NOTE: I was invited by Jordan Tourism Board to Jordan on a Press Trip

WARNING: COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

 

2016, THE MIRACLE YEAR- HOW TRAVEL BLOGGING CHANGED MY LIFE!

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My social media grew in leaps and bounds this year. Instagram – Nearing 2000 followers, My Twitter crossed the much desired 5,000 followers. Facebook page saw more than 3100 followers and my You Tube Channel has 1,25,862 views as of now. It was a blessed year.  Do subscribe to my SM channels.

2016 AS A TRAVEL BLOGGER WAS A MAGICAL YEAR. More than 5 publications published me in the ‘Best Travel Blogger From India’ list. Times of India, I Diva, Indiatimes etc interviewed me amongst others. Though I had started Travel Blogging in 2014, I had not been able to write more blogs beyond 5. I was still a social media influencer. I have been traveling solo in India (150 destinations and counting) since 2008. 2016 was definitely the best year and my only successful year (yet) career wise. Of course, as a kid I have had better years but as a professional 2016 was nothing less than a miracle. It was my first active year as a professional travel blogger and I couldn’t have asked for more. As I hopped from one destination to another breathlessly, living my fantasy, I did not get time to analyze my growth. It is my most traveled year yet!

This blog is dedicated to my friends who saw my travel style change overnight and didn’t ask me anything about it. They have seen my journey since 2008. From dingy Rs.200 rooms, I was checking in 5 star hotels overnight. I was traveling non stop this year and did not get time to even understand the good things happening to me. Or convey them to my friends. I owe you an explanation.

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I express gratitude for the invite to attend Naropa festival in Ladakh. It happens once in 12 years.

My life had changed without me even realizing it. I traveled so breathlessly this year that I had lost track of my own personal and professional growth. I am overwhelmed because this is the first time I tasted success and I didn’t even work towards it. It came to me on a platter organically. Yup, miracles do happen.

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Petra In Night was Magical!

I did not shift to Delhi from Mumbai for blogging as many think. I came here to start something else. But blogging somehow took wings before I knew. When big brands like  Jordan Tourism Board (Trust me I had just 5 blogs till then but was very much of a social media influencer) and tourism boards of Punjab, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh started inviting me on Press Trips, I started taking blogging seriously. Skyscanner, Hard Rock cafe were other brands I enjoyed working with. Fellow Travel bloggers Manjulika, Parnashree and Dipanshu also motivated me to blog more when we were returning from Gunehar to Delhi. Rajiv Verma , a travel blogger himself and a techie, came to my rescue and improved my website, just the way I wanted it.

Iris Corbett will always be special. Fond memories.

6 of my articles were published in Railbandhu, India’s official railway magazine and Go air’s in flight magazine Go Getter. 4 of them were cover stories! Lonely Planet Magazine India also published an article by me along with my parents’ pictures. I had won a contest organized by them. Also, I made my photography debut in Marathi newspaper Pudhari.

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Hola Mohalla : I had never seen anything like this before!

TCBG (Travel Correspondent and Bloggers Group), a group for travel professionals helmed by renowned journalists Mrs. Alka Kaushik and Ms. Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu, also helped me hone my skills with useful workshops and educated me about Delhi and beyond, thanks to the exclusive heritage walks they organize.

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Bhutan : How much I love this nation!

THE BAD PART: THE ROSE COMES WITH THORNS!

More than a year has passed, I still miss (MY) Mumbai each and every day. I am grateful to Delhi for whatever it has given me in such a short span of time but somehow I fail to fall in love with Delhi. My yearning for Mumbai was a perennial theme all through 2016.

I missed my original solo travel style. During the beginning of the year I did manage a solo trip to Kila Raipur. In February, I had a spat at home and went to Haridwar sans any luggage and without informing anyone. Unfortunately, these were my only solo trips this year along with solo journeys to Karnataka and Mumbai later in the year.

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One of my most satisfying experiencing. Finding out what a Delhi girl Sanjana is doing in a remote village.

It was also the first time for me when I traveled with big groups. I had arguments in some of my group trips because my travel style was not aligned with the dynamics of a group travel. Gradually, I found my way out and learned to adjust to group travels. I also started to choose my company well because some people I traveled with were just plain unpleasant. Over time, I started to appreciate group travels.  It was a massive change for a solo traveler like me to try group travel.

Also, I found myself entangled in vicious traps. Certain section of insecure bloggers who were not too happy to see me getting invited everywhere attacked me, some openly, some surreptitiously. (It’s not my fault, buddies). I found myself amidst much negativity and there came a time when I wanted to quit blogging. I had even planned a closure line – ‘The view from my #SoulWindow is closed’. I had never faced such issues in life ever because this was the first time I had tasted success.I didn’t know how to react or respond. My face had turned pale and smile had vanished from my face. But then there are nice bloggers too. They showed me reason and guided me as to why I should not be bothered and do blogging even more aggressively. No wonder, from 5 blogs, my year end blog count was 80 blogs.  Being a person who never cared for perks or promotion (I was fired from my job for traveling too much!), it was difficult for me to respond to the negativity. Gradually, I learned how to take things in my stride and focus on my work. 1 year of professional Blogging taught me what 7 years of Corporate could not!

Jordan was like a Dream Come True!

Another minus point for me was that I also ended up doing some work which I did not believe in or enjoy. It was an experimental year for me. Having tried a lot of things, I am now in a better position to take right decisions and choose only good projects in 2017.

I also gained a lot of weight (20 kgs) in last one year. So from 75 kgs I crossed 95 kgs in one year. Blame the delicious Delhi food, eh! This explains why adventure enthusiast like me didn’t trek or indulge in much of adventure sports this year.

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Frank and we travel bloggers. Gunehar will always be special to me. It was my first professional trip as a travel blogger.

The problem with being an atheist is that you don’t even know whom to thank when good things happen to you. But I am grateful (To whomsoever it may concern). The success has humbled me and motivated me to work harder without compromising on my quality or values. I thank each and every one who made this journey possible. I convey special thanks to my parents for always allowing me to be whatever I want to be. Trust me it is rare to have parents like that! Oscar Speech over!

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I took a Hot Air Ballon ride near Taj Mahal. It was a first for me!

January: All through January, I would open my laptop, write 2 lines, shut it down and sleep all day like a log. This is what happens when you face Delhi winters after spending 7 years in Navi Mumbai. I did manage to attend a heritage walk to Nizamuddin Dargah and Chandni Chowk.

February: Solo Trip to Kila Raipur briefly made me thankful for shifting to Delhi. It was a fun trip. I ran from home; hid in Haridwar for 2 days. No extra clothes, no camera, no luggage.

March: My first professional trip Gunehar in Himachal will always be special to me. Next was attending one of its kind Hola Mohalla festival in Punjab. A heritage walk in Mehrauli Archeological Park was also useful.

April: A road trip to Phagwara & McLeodganj along with a pet dog highlighted April, A heritage walk to Hauz Khas was my last Delhi exploration in 2016.

May: Jordan (7 days) was magical- see my blogs under the Jordan tab and you will know why. Few days in Corbett with lovely company were fun.

June: It was my parents’ wedding anniversary and I took them on a relaxing holiday to Sursingdhar, Rishikesh and Haridwar. I made my father try flying fox and water scooter. A first for him!

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Traveling with parents to offbeat Sursingdhar near Rishikesh was a satisfying experience.

July: I returned to Kanpur after a long time. I grew up in this city and spent good time boating in Bithoor, reliving the old days with Neha, Abhishek and Preeti Dwivedi. Rest of the time was spent in Lucknow.

August: It was my second time in Bhutan. After spending 10 days in Bhutan, I love it even more. It also gave me a perspective as I kept comparing my previous personal trip to the professional trip. A quick trip to offbeat Landour and Mussoorie with parents also turned out well.

September: Mumbai! I waited for this moment for 10 months. I left Mumbai in November end, 2015 and moved to Delhi. This trip was like oxygen! Enough said! It was my first time in Ladakh (16 days). I was invited to cover the Naropa Festival which happens once in 12 years. Next was solo personal trip to Agumbe, Ikkeri, Kaledi, Shimoga, Jog falls in Karnataka. September was definitely my busiest month. Also the most rewarding!

October: M.P tourism invited me for Press trips to Satpura, Bhopal, Pachmarhi. I extended my tyrip to explore Sanchi, Sehore and Bhimbhetka. (7 days) A road trip to Lucknow on Diwali marked the end of October. (I wanted to cover Ayodhya and Faizabad but was too tired, wanted to just chill at home). I cancelled my solo trip to Kolkata because I was too tired of living out of suitcases and backpacks. I cancelled another solo trip to Surat due to professional commitments. It was the first time I went to a railway station with baggage and changed my mind and cancelled the ticket. That happens when you travel too much and neglect other commitments.

November: The year ended with a grand finale. U.P. tourism invited me for an exclusive (open to only 400 people) hot air balloon ride near Taj Mahal. And when I thought this will be my first year (since 2008) without some Goa air, Goa tourism invited me for a press trip. I almost kissed the Goan sand.

December: I had chosen to take a break from travel. A road trip to Lucknow was my only indulgence. By the way, I wrote a whooping 20 blogs in December. My highest for one month in 2016! I hope to keep the momentum high in 2017.

The view from my #SoulWindow is miraculous!

How was your year? Tell me about the places you traveled to and your most rewarding travel experiences of 2016 in the comments section below.

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Wadi Rum was my favorite in Jordan.

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Got any question/comments, ask in the comment section below so that it can benefit other readers.

Email me for collaboration : abhinav21@yahoo.com

Be a part of my journey on social media. The travel content I create there is different from this blog.

Pls subscribe/follow/like:

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WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

TIGER’S NEST AKA PARO TAKTSANG IN BHUTAN- QUICK TREKKING GUIDE AND TIPS!

The below article is in a chronological order, based upon my personal experience. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below and I will answer them.

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Creative shot of Tiger’s Nest Monastery aka Paro Taktsang.

TIGER’S NEST OR THE PARO TAKTSANG IS THE FACE OF BHUTAN. Most have nurtured a dream to climb up the monastery, which from a distance looks like it will fall anytime from the high mountains. I have been to Bhutan 2 times (Such is the pull of the country!) I could not visit the Tiger’s nest the first time in 2014 because I was traveling with parents for whom it was not possible to trek. The option of taking a mule up to the Tiger’s Nest was there but they were not too keen. I looked at it longingly from a distance and promised myself to return to Bhutan one day for realizing my dream of trekking up to Tiger’s Nest if nothing else.

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Paro Taktasang aka Tiger’s Nest Monastery peeping from the prayer flags

15th August, 2016: Perhaps I was destined to trek to Tiger’s Nest on the auspicious occasion of Indian Independence Day. As our van stopped at the base of the Tiger’s Nest, a touristy market welcomed us. Some of us bought a Rs.50 walking stick. We were 5 bloggers and 2 representatives from Bhutan Bookings.

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Beginning of Tiger’s Nest Monastery Trek- Of Pines and mules

7:35 a.m. Scores of pine cones lay scattered on the ground as we started the trek to Tiger’s Nest. Mules, waiting to be hired, rested nonchalantly. Tiger’s Nest looks like a tiny speck from here. A row of prayer wheels housed in small rooms built in traditional Bhutanese architecture was the first man made structure we passed. Powered by flowing water, it added to the tranquil atmosphere.

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Prayer wheel powered by water is housed in this room. En Route Tiger’s Nest Monastery trek

8:00 a.m. Clusters of tiny mushrooms cushioned the sides of pathways.  The view of Tiger’s nest was our constant companion. Half an hour later, we were rewarded with sweeping views of the valley below and misty mountains on the other side.

Pictures above (L to R) Way to Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Shadow of the quirky prayer wheels, Tiny mushrooms (Please click to enlarge)

8:41 a.m. There are benches built for those who want to rest. I preferred sitting on the stones during the breaks. Nearby is a large compartmentalized tank where the horses stopped for their water breaks.

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Me blowing the quirky prayer wheels fashioned out of bottles. En Route Tiger’s Nest Monastery Trek (Pic: Parnashree Devi)

8:57 a.m. We arrived at a giant prayer wheel surrounded by large boulders and prayer flags of all colors. I loved the quirky prayer wheel somebody fashioned out of bottle waters. It had ‘wings’ and was dependent on fast winds or a little blow by humans. Few minutes later, we entered a modern gate. 20 minutes later the muddy path had become rocky in patches.

Pics above (L to R) : Our guide Sonam resting on a bench en route Tiger’s Nest Monastery; Rocky patches

10:00 a.m. We arrived at a mysterious building. It was built around a cave. It’s door was locked but there was a wooden ladder which opened in the window. I climbed the ladder to see a dark room housing idols and prayer paraphernalia. Incense smell seduced my olfactory system as I pushed my nose against the metal net. Just when I thought there were no human inside, a monk looked at me from inside. A board told me that His Holiness JE Khenpo Geshey Guenden Rinchen was born here in a cave in 1926 (Fire Tiger year). People nick named him Dragphugpa (Cave man). He was a Buddhist scholar and for 10 years he served as the abbot of Tango Monastery in Thimphu. Just 3 minutes ahead is a view point where trekkers can safely take pictures of the Tiger’s Nest.

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The cave Temple just before the view point en route Tiger’s Nest Monastery aka Paro Taktsang

10:22 a.m. After a stop of few minutes we resumed trekking, this time on proper steps with metal railings. Few years ago this was a rough trail. The construction helped people navigate the tricky part of the trek. This stretch has the most ups and downs and perhaps due to this reason the steps were built. “It was pretty rough when I visited it solo many years ago! It’s quite easy now!” An American told me, who was trekking this time with his grown up son. 20 minutes later, I passed a cemented seating area. Skipping the rest, I moved on, impatient to reach the Tiger’s Nest. A Japanese pointed out to me a large formation on the rock below the Tiger’s Nest. It looked like a human form. He told me it is said to be a mythological figure.

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The waterfall. Tiger’s Nest Monastery aka Paro Taktsang is just an hour away!

11:00 a.m. We arrived at the most exciting part of the trek. A large waterfall cascaded from the high mountains. A bridge helped pilgrims cross the gushing stream powered by the waterfall. Prayer flags of all colors were tied in haphazard fashion everywhere as if celebrating something. Perhaps celebrating our arrival at the Tiger’s nest which was just an hour away! 10 minutes away was a cave where Khado Yeshi Tsogyal practiced Vajrakilaya. A powerful tradition which is practiced to removes obstacles; overpower evil forces and leads to compassion and spiritual cleaning.

Pics above (L to R): Can you identify the human image; the second cave temple just before Tiger’s Nest Monastery aka Paro Taktsang

12:20 a.m. We arrived at the steps leading to Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Cameras, Mobile phones, weapons, liquors, tobacco, drugs explosives and any inflammable object are not allowed beyond this point. We submitted our cameras, mobile phones, sticks, extra clothes and day packs in the locker and proceeded ahead after a security check. It is also not allowed to wear sleeveless outfits, shawls or Bermudas and half pants beyond this point.

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Paro Taktsang aka Tiger’s Nest Monastery

As I climbed the steep steps to the Tiger’s Nest monastery, I arrived at a dark room. The perfume of incense and juniper wafted in the air, lending it a mystical aura. I visited all the temples in the monastery, silenced and awed by its aura. The breathtaking views of the valley made it all the more soothing.

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Me unable to hide my happiness on coming so close to Paro Taktsang aka Tiger’s Nest Monastery. One more dream come true! (Pic: Parnashree Devi)

1:24 p.m. We arrive for lunch at Taktsang Cafeteria. A Bhutan Tourism outlet, it is a relaxing place to have lunch post the trek. It has both indoor and al fresco dining option. I suggest you sit at the outdoor benches for a view of misty Tiger’s Monastery. Lunch is buffet style. There are clean loos too.

Lunch Nu 390; Tea/Coffee with biscuits – Nu 100

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The cafeteria. We ate here while returning from Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Soul Window Tips:

  1. Eat a heavy breakfast. You will be burning a lot of calories.
  2. Wear loose cottons and comfortable shoes. Trekking shoes preferred though it is an easy (for me) trek.
  3. Carry light woolens. I did carry but I did not need it. (I trekked on 15th August)
  4. Don’t wear sleeveless shirts/tops and half pants. You will not be allowed inside the monastery.
  5. Carry water bottles (at least 2 liters per person)
  6. Carry Small snacks like dry fruits, cookies, health bars.
  7. Carry a light day pack to hold all the things.
  8. Walking stick helps, though it is not much required. In case you buy it from the shops at the base, it would be great if you could return it to them for free. This is what we did.
  9. Always give priority to the horses and let them pass the path before you do.
  10. Carry plastic to protect your electronic in case it rains.

MY MORAL POLICING ON RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING:

  1. If you are fit, there is no reason to hire a mule. It’s unpleasant for you as well as the mule. Trekking on foot also helps you observe a lot.
  2. Don’t litter. It is a sensitive zone. Though there are huge bins installed every few steps, I suggest you collect all the garbage in your bag and take them down yourself. If all the individuals take initiatives at their end, it makes a big difference at the end.
  3. Don’t talk loudly or scream. Let’s maintain the sanctity of the place.
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Tiger’s Nest Monastery aka Paro Taktsang

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE THESE BLOGS ON BHUTAN:

WHY THEY PAINT PENIS DESIGNS ON THE WALLS OF BHUTAN

DRAYANGS: THE DANCE BARS OF BHUTAN

THE HAA VALLEY: BEST KEPT SECRET OF BHUTAN

ALL YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT PARO

MUST DO THINGS IN THIMPHU: 30 EXCLUSIVE PICTURES

WHITE WATER RAFTING IN PUNAKHA: WHEN I JUMPED IN THE RIVER

Disclaimer: My trip was sponsored and all the logistics were taken care of by Bhutan Bookings. Click here to plan your vacation in Bhutan with them.

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Me en route Paro Taktsang aka Tiger’s Nest Monastery. (Pic by: Dipanshu Goyal)

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Got any question/comments, ask in the comment section below so that it can benefit other readers.

Email me for collaboration : abhinav21@yahoo.com

Be a part of my journey on social media. The travel content I create there is different from this blog.

Pls subscribe/follow/like:

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Dipanshu gaining height. This was shot half an hour after the trek to Tiger’s Nest Monastery began.

I was accompanied by travel bloggers – Dipanshu, Manjulika, Parnashree and Swati in the fun company of Sonam Karma and Dipanjan from Bhutan Bookings. Click on their names to read their stories from Bhutan.

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

6 reasons to do your research before travelling

Pic above : Taj Mahal, one of the 7 wonders of the world. Pre travel research helped me in locating the hidden gem of destinations around it.

Travelling requires bravery, commitment and a decent budget. My experience has taught me that it’s worth doing your research before setting off. It will help you make the most of what’s sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Ever since my first trip, I have always researched on the destination before stepping foot on it.

So, before you board the plane, consider these reasons for dedicating at least some time to browsing the web for advice:

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You don’t go to Jordan often. Do you know about the ‘Little Petra’ near the more famous Petra. (That’s me posing in Little Petra)
  1. You can prioritise

Having a look at where other people have visited, the places the loved and the attractions they hated will help you decide where to prioritise. Travel blogs are a great starting place to get honest opinions from which you can determine whether somewhere will be to your taste or not. It’s better to know these things beforehand, rather than waste your time. I often look up in Instagram to check out how a place actually looks like.

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My Everest Base Camp trek cost me a bomb! Pre travel research helped me save a lot!
  1. You’ll save money

 

Checking discount sites, being able to haggle, choosing the discounted flights, and being able to ditch the travel agent – all are named as top tips for saving money, but require you to do research. You’ll thank yourself, though, as it will pay off in the long run. Before I traveled to Ladakh I did a research which helped me save money. I planned my days in such a way so that waste is minimised.

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Wildlife expedition in Dudhwa gone wrong. Had I researched, I would have known it would be a foggy day with no wildlife sighting.
  1. You can ensure a safe adventure

 Turning up somewhere unprepared and expecting to scuba-dive, trek, bungee jump or take on any other adventure is possible. But it’s not the safest way of doing things. Being able to check out reviews beforehand ensures you have an enjoyable experience, rather than a worrying one. I have been in many dangerous situations. For safety advice for adventure travel, check out these tips for avoiding a Darwin Award.

 

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Do you know if the locals of the destinations you are traveling to are friendly? That’s me posing with happy go lucky locals during Hola Mohalla festival.
  1. You might find unexpected opportunities

 Did you know Patagonia isn’t a country – it is a distinct geographical region spanning the lower sections of Argentina and Chile, or that every day in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour there’s a world-famous light and music show? Well, the more you research, the more you’ll find out. For example, I would have missed out on sampling Rhododendron juice on Roopkund trek had I not known about it beforehand. Similarly, researching for my Everest Base Camp trek not only helped me prepare myself mentally and physically but it also made me alert on which things I should not miss eating en route.

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My research told me about the least visited temples of Ikkeri and Keladi near the famed Jog falls in Karnataka!
  1. Understanding different cultures

 It’s important to be a good traveler, not one who disregards the local customs. By doing bit of research on the social norms, you’ll endear yourself to the locals. Stunning Places give the example of appropriate clothing in the Middle East, but other instances include the importance of tipping in the US and slurping noodles in Japan. When I was in South India, I was clueless how to drink the famed filter coffee. After having committed faux paux, I seeked help from social media and did it right.

 

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When in Bhutan, be like a Bhutanese. Can you make out who is Indian (me) and who is Bhutanese here?

The view from my #SoulWindow is alert!

What have you learnt by travelling? Share your experiences with us to help others.

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Don’t you want to know beforehand where are they serving the best burgers in town. I had this memorable burger in Thamel, Nepal.

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Make new friends as you go. Like I did in Manali!

The content produced here is original and its copyright stays with Abhinav Singh. The same can not be reproduced without permission.