Six Unknown Architectural Wonders

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Palace of the Parliament, Romania
The world’s largest, most expensive and heaviest civilian administrative building, Bucharest’s Palace of the Parliament is truly an unknown wonder. “Built by hated communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu… the building is so huge that it is difficult to take a photograph that does its scale justice ,” said Jann Hoke, a lawyer who worked in the palace in the mid-1990s.

Built in 1984, the neoclassical building has 12 stories (with eight additional stories underground), and some 3,100 rooms covering 330,000 sqm. The project cost an unprecedented 3.3bn euros, but it also cost the people of Bucharest much of their city. To build the Palace of the Parliament, one-fifth of central Bucharest was razed, including most of its historical districts, more than 30 churches and synagogues and some 30,000 homes.

“The patterned carpets on the main level, which run through hundreds of yards of wide corridors, were woven inside the building during construction,” Hoke said. “Weaving them outside and bringing them in was not feasible due to their sheer size.

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Great Mosque of Djenne, Mali

Built in 1907, the Great Mosque of Djenne is the largest mud structure in the world, constructed almost entirely of sun-baked earthen bricks, sand and a mud-based mortar and plaster. It is considered one of the greatest achievements of the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style and was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1988.

The mosque’s three minarets are decorated with bundles of rodier palm, which double as scaffolding for the annual repairs – a tradition that’s become a local festival in April and May.

“The brutal North African summers bring out cracks in the mud and weaken it over time,” said  Abishek Lamba. “Before the yearly rains that follow, the locals get together and re-coat the entire building with clay from a dried up pond.”

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Chand Baori, India
One of the most overlooked landmarks in India, Rajasthan’s Chand Baori is a spectacular square stepwell, 13 storeys deep, with walls lined with scores of double staircases that descend some 30m to the bottom of the well, where a pool of emerald green water awaits.

The mesmerising maze of symmetrical steps “appears to form a never ending path deep underground,” said Vipul Yadav. With its 3,500 steps, Chand Baori is “one of the deepest and largest of its kind in the world”.

Built by King Chanda of the Nikumbha Dynasty between 800 and 900 AD, Chand Baori was designed to be as practical as it was pretty. Due to the structure of the well, the bottom of it remains cooler than the surface, critical in the hot, arid landscape of Rajasthan.

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Derawar Fort, Pakistan
A fortress of monumental proportions, Derawar’s 40 stunning bastions rise from the desert in a striking square formation. Combined, the fort’s walls form a circumference of some 1,500m and stand some 30m high.

This is a magnificent structure in the middle of the Cholistan Desert,” said Faisal Khan. “Many people don’t know about the Derawar Fort. Even most Pakistanis don’t know of it.”

And for good reason: to get to the fortress, visitors must hire a guide with a four-wheel drive vehicle to make the day-long trip from the city of Bahawalpur, Pakistan through the Cholistan Desert to the fort, where special permission from the amir, or local leader, is needed to go inside.

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Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Iran
Mona Khatam described the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque – an architectural masterpiece of Safavid Iranian architecture – as “a study in harmonious understatement”.

Located in Naghsh-i Jahan Square in the city of Isfahan, the stunningly elegant mosque was built between 1603 and 1619 during the reign of Shah Abbas I. It is named after the ruler’s father-in-law, Sheikh Lotfollah, a revered Lebanese scholar of Islam.

The mosque is unusual in that it features no minarets or courtyard. “This was probably because the mosque was never intended for public use, but rather served as the worship place for the women of the shah’s harem,” Khatam said.

As such, the prayer hall is reached through a long, twisting, underground hallway, and the decoration on the mosque is extraordinarily exquisite.

“The dome makes extensive use of delicate tiles that change colour throughout the day, from cream to pink,” said Khatam. “Inside the sanctuary you can marvel at the complexity of the mosaics that adorn the walls and the extraordinarily beautiful ceiling, with its shrinking, yellow motifs. The shafts of sunlight that filter in through the few high, latticed windows produce a constantly changing interplay of light and shadow.”

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Great Wall of India
“We have all heard of the Great Wall of China, but few know that India also has its own Great Wall, which has been long overshadowed by its neighbour to the East,” said Quora user Ayush Manu.

The Great Wall of India, also referred to as Kumbhalgarh, is the second-longest wall in the world, after the Great Wall of China. Located in Rajasthan, the wall is 4.5m thick in some areas, extends for 36km and has seven fortified gates.

Rana Kumbha, a local ruler, commissioned the wall in 1443 to protect his fort, situated on a hill above.

“Legend has it that despite several attempts, the wall could not be completed,” Manu said. “Finally the king consulted one of his spiritual advisers and was advised that a sacrifice be made, and a volunteer offered his life so that others will be protected. Today, the main gate stands where his body fell and a temple where his severed head came to rest.”

The wall was enlarged in the 19th Century and now protects more than 360 temples located within its walls, but it remains an unknown treasure to most of the world.

Courtsey : BBC, Quora

 

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INDIA’S MOST LOVED HILL STATIONS, A MUST FOR YOUR 2015 BUCKETLIST

DARJEELING

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Over a steep mountain ridge, surrounded by tea plantations and with a backdrop of white Himalayan peaks floating over distant clouds, the archetypal hill station of Darjeeling is rightly West Bengal’s premier attraction. The towering Khangchendzonga (8598m), colonial-era architecture, Buddhist monasteries and the snow leopards and red pandas at the nearby zoo, Tiger Hill, Batasia Loop and the War Memorial is what makes Darjeeling unique. A melting pot of Himalayan races from Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet and beautiful local handicrafts. This is the land of the flavoured Darjeeling tea revered by connoisseurs across the globe. This is the land of the world heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railway where the century old miniature steam engine still chugs uphill vying for space with the fast disappearing Land Rovers. It is certainly that Darjeeling in the post modern era comprises of six T’s -Tea, Teak, Tourism, Toy Train, Tiger Hill and Trekkers’ paradise.What should you bring home? Tea, tea, and more tea—and beautiful local handicrafts.

GULMARG

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Originally called ‘Gaurimarg’ by shepherds, Gulmarg was discovered in the 16th century by Sultan Yusuf Shah, who was inspired by the sight of its grassy slopes emblazoned with wild flowers. It was also a favourite resort of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Gulmarg’s legendary beauty, prime location and proximity to Srinagar naturally make it one of Asia’s premier hill stations. Gulmarg is also a world class ski resort and has the world’s highest gondola ski lift and not to overlook, the highest green golf course in the world. It’s not so much a town as a twisting 4km-long loop of road ringing the undulating ‘Meadow of Flowers’ for which it’s named. However, the main reason to come to Gulmarg for many is to venture up through the backing stands of mature pines towards the bald ridge of Mt Afarwat. This can be done on foot or with ponies but is easiest using the two-stage gondola cable car that whisks you to 3747m for outstanding clear-day views, reputedly encompassing Nanga Parbat (the world’s ninth-highest mountain across in Pakistan) Today, Gulmarg is not merely a mountain resort of exceptional beauty but also the country’s premier ski resort in winter when it is covered in snow and takes on the appearance of a picture postcard.

MUSSOORIE

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Established in the Himalayan foothills by a British Army officer in 1820, the “Queen of the Hills” stands above the rest, with its deep woods, favorable climate and Doon Valley views. It is perfect for long hikes, you will find lanes lined with pine trees and trails that lead up to gushing waterfalls inside oak-scented woods. Its name is derived from the berry-covered Mansur shrub found in abundance around this trekker-friendly area. The ghosts of its colonial past linger on in the architecture of the churches, libraries, hotels and summer palaces. The Savoy is a historic luxury hotel said to be haunted by ghosts from the past. Agatha Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was inspired by a murder committed in the The Savoy. For stunning natural sights, head to Gun Hill or Childer’s Lodge, the two highest peaks, or the famous Kempty waterfall. Perched on a ridge 2km high. When the mist clears, views of the green Doon Valley and the distant white-capped Himalayan peaks are superb, and in the hot months the cooler temperatures and fresh mountain air make a welcome break from the plains below.

SHIMLA

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The former summer capital of the British in India, and the present capital of Himachal Pradesh, Shimla has been blessed with all the natural bounties which one can think of. It has got a scenic location; it is surrounded by green hills with snow capped peaks. Bulging at its seams with unprecedented expansion, Shimla retains its colonial heritage, with grand old buildings, among them are the stately Viceregal Lodge, charming iron lamp posts and Anglo-Saxon names. The civic centre in Shimla is one of the only four heritage sites in India in the World Monument Fund endangered list. The Mall, packed with shops and eateries, is the centre of attraction of the town, and Scandal Point, associated with the former Maharaja of Patiala’s escapades, offers a view of distant snow clad peaks. Just a five hour drive from Delhi, Shimla is probably the most visited hill station in India

MANALI

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An array of chic restaurant openings has turned MANALI from a backpacker jaunt into a more savvy venue for modern travelers. No wonder the towering peaks and verdant terrain of Manali attracts adventure travellers, with skiing, hiking, mountaineering and river rafting the favored active pursuits. Come down from your endorphin high by breathing deeply at the four-story, wooden Hidimba Devi Temple, which sits in the middle of a nearby deciduous forest, or take a medicinal soak in the hot springs burbling from the ground a 30-minute walk from town. With super views of the Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal Ranges, and with mountain adventures beckoning from all directions, Manali is a year-round magnet for tourists. Backpackers come to hang out in the hippy villages around the main town; adventure tourists come for trekking, paragliding, rafting and skiing; and Indian honeymoon couples or families come for the cool mountain air and their first taste of snow on a day trip to Rohtang La. As the main jumping-off point for Ladakh, Spiti and Lahaul ,it makes sense to unwind here for a few days before continuing the long journey into the mountains.

UDHAGAMANDALAM

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Popularly referred to as Ooty, this gem among southern hill resorts is covered in eucalyptus and pine trees and coffee and tea plantations. Located in the Western ghats at a height of 2240m, Udhagamandalam is the headquarters of the Nilgiris district . Nilgiri is India’s first biosphere. It has been declared as one of the 14 ‘hotspots’ of the world because of its unique bio-diversity. On a clear day, it’s possible to see as far as the Mysore plateau from Dodabetta Peak, the district’s most prominent viewpoint. The Stone House, a landmark 1822 bungalow, and St. Stephen’s Church are remnants of the area’s first British settlement. Also noteworthy: formal botanical gardens, a children’s mini-garden and a contemporary art collection. Ooty combines Indian bustle and Hindu temples with lovely parks and gardens and charming Raj-era bungalows, the latter providing its most memorable (and generally most expensive) places to stay. The town was established by the British in the early 19th century as the summer headquarters of the Madras government, and memorably nicknamed ‘Snooty Ooty’. Development ploughed in a few decades ago, but somehow old Ooty survives. You just have to walk a bit further out from the centre to find it. The journey up here on the celebrated miniature train is romantic and the scenery stunning. Even the road up from the plains is pretty impressive.

MUNNAR

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Munnar is situated at the confluence of three mountain streams – Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala. 1,600 m above sea level, this hill station was once the summer resort of the erstwhile British Government in South India. Sprawling tea plantations, picture-book towns, winding lanes and holiday facilities make this a popular resort town. Munnar attract adventure travellers hungry for paragliding, treks to Anaimudi (highest peak in South India) and hikes originating at the confluence of the three mountain streams .Among the exotic flora found in the forests and grasslands here is the Neelakurinji. This flower which bathes the hills in blue once in every twelve years, will bloom next in 2018. The stone Christ Church, built by the British in 1910, is adorned with renowned works of stained glass, and Eravikulam National Park, about 10 miles away, is home to equally colourful wildlife, including the endangered Nilgiri Tahr (ibex), ruddy mongoose and 120 bird species. South India’s largest tea-growing region, the rolling hills around Munnar are carpeted in emerald-green tea plantations, contoured, clipped and sculpted like ornamental hedges. The low mountain scenery is magnificent – you’re often up above the clouds watching veils of mist clinging to the mountaintops.

NAINITAL

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Crowded around a deep, green volcanic lake, Nainital is Kumaon’s largest town and favourite hill resort. It occupies a steep forested valley around the namesake lake Naini and was founded by homesick Brits reminded of the Cumbrian Lake District in Britain. Plenty of hotels are set in the forested hills around the lake, there’s a busy bazaar, and a spider’s web of walking tracks covers the forested hillsides to viewpoints overlooking the distant Himalayan peaks. For travellers, it’s an easy place to kick back and relax, eat well, go horse riding or paddling on the lake. According to mythology Naini Lake is one of the emerald eyes of Shiva’s wife. Nainital is a glittering jewel in the Himalyan necklace, blessed with scenic natural spledour and varied natural resources . Dotted with lakes , Nainital has earned the epithet of ‘ Lake District ‘ of India . Nainital is only 350km from Delhi by road and well connected to Train. Making it a popular weekend destination for people living in and around Delhi.

GANGTOK

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Wreathed in clouds, Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim is located on a ridge at a height of 5500 feet. With a spectacular view of the Khangchendzonga, the town provides the perfect base for travel through the state. Once an important transit point for traders traveling between Tibet and India, it is today a busy administrative and business centre and presents an interesting mix of cultures and communities. Irreverent, laid-back and happy-go-lucky Gangtok, is mostly a functional sprawl of urban concrete interspersed with patches of forestry. True to its name (meaning ‘hill top’), the city perches along a precipitous mountain ridge, descending down the hillside in steep tiers. It reflects a unique ambience which derives from its happy blend of tradition and modernity. Alongside the deeply felt presence of stupas and monasteries, Gangtok also bustles like any other thriving town. Some of the key places to visit include Rumtek Monastery, Do-Drul Chorten, Enchey Monastery, Tashi View Point and the Lal Bazaar. Apart from the few sights of religious importance and an inspiring view of Khangchendzonga soaring above the western horizon, there isn’t much to see in town. That said, travellers love its relaxed grain and often linger here for a few days, soaking up the local culture while arranging their travels (e.g treks and tours) around the state.

Reference: State tourism websites, tripadvisor, lonelyplanet

For your trip to any of the most loved hill stations contact Road2travel

Kumbhalgarh – The Unbeatable Fortress

Kumbhalgarh, a small town in district Rajsamand is known world wide for its great history and architecture. It is about 90 km from Udaipur (about a two hour drive). Here lies the great Kumbhalgarh fort which was built during the 15th century by Rana Kumbha.

Under the rule of Rana Kumbha, the kingdom of Mewar stretched right from Ranthambore to Gwalior. The kingdom also included vast tracts of Madhya Pradesh as well as Rajasthan. Mewar was defended by about 80 fortresses from its enemies. Rana Kumbha, himself, had designed about 30 of them and Kumbhalgarh is the most famous of them all.

It was only once in the entire history that Kumbhalgarh was taken and its defenses breached. It was when the combined armies of Emperor Akbar, Raja Man Singh of Amber and Raja Udai Singh of Marwar attacked the fort of Kumbhalgarh. That too happened because of the scarcity of drinking water. A thick wall that is 36Kms long surrounds this remarkable fort. The perimeter of the wall is said to be the longest after the Great Wall Of China. The width of wall varies from 15 to 25 feet. It is mentioned in the various books of history that eight horses could run on this wall side-by-side. This wall runs through surrounding mountain cliffs of the Aravali range. The wall is a great example of architecture brilliance of Rajput Era. Its architectural brilliance is proved by the fact that in spite of being around 700 years old it is still intact and in a very good shape.

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The fort is about 1100m high from the sea level and offers a marvelous view of the surrounding area. The main attractions of the fort consist of mesmerizing palaces along with about 360 different types of temples inside it with 300 being Jain temples and the remaining being Hindu temples. The Badal Mahal Palace is right at the top of the fort. The palace has beautiful rooms and is painted in the colours of green, white and turquoise, thus providing an interesting contrast to the raw and grim fortress. 13 mountain peaks surround the fort of Kumbhalgarh, 7 huge gates guard the fort and immense watchtowers further strengthen it.

Kumbhalgarh is the same place where prince Udai was smuggled to in 1535. This happened when Chittaur was under siege. Prince Udai who later became the successor to the throne and also became the founder of the Udaipur City. The renowned Maharana Pratap, who fought against the army lead by Akbar in the battle of Haldighati in the year 1576, was also born at Kumbhalgarh.

There are a number of interesting ruins around the fort and there are many magnificent palaces and havelis. There are ancient remnants that you can explore while you decide to take a stroll through the ravines of Kumbhalgarh Fort. The adventurer can enjoy a horse safari and the thrill of riding and camping in the Reserve Forests around Kumbhalgarh.

The nature lovers could take a hazardous, barely jeepable track to the 586 square kilometer Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary. The main attraction here would be panther, sloth bear, wild boar, four-horned antelope or crocodiles.

The reserve forest is a delight for bird watchers. Good forest cover, jungle berries, fruits and nuts, water grasses, algae, and fish provide sustenance for thousands of flamingoes, sarus cranes, spoonbills, painted storks, cormorants, purple heron, egrets, duck, and rosy pelican in winter. One also finds plenty of chakor partridge, crow pheasants, jungle warblers, golden orioles, gray jungle fowl, and the usual peacocks; parrots, pigeons, and doves.

The best time for a trip to the land of the Rajput Warriors is October to March. Contact Road2Travel for information

Luxury Trains of India

THE PALACE ON WHEELS

The Palace on Wheels was the first of four luxury trains of Indian Railways. It was launched to promote tourism in Rajasthan and has been highly popular since its launch. It is one of the top twenty luxury trains in the world.

The concept of the Palace on Wheels was derived from the royal coaches of the erstwhile rulers of the princely states of Rajputana, Gujarat, the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Viceroy of British India. The original Palace on Wheels consisted of the personal carriages of these rulers of India, but the current refurbished cabins of the train are the replicas of the original carriages that are technologically advanced. The cabins have been christened after the princely states of Rajasthan.

The train has 14 saloons , all named after the different Rajasthan provinces like , Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur etc. All saloons are equipped with Channel Music, Intercom, Mini Pantry, attached bathroom and a personal attendant.

The train includes two restaurants, each possessing a stylish décor. The guests aboard can savor sumptuous food of Indian and other popular world cuisine ,such as Continental and European. These restaurants also have in- house bars, serving a variety of, alcoholic and non- alcoholic beverages of both Indian and International brands. A spa and a sitting lounge are also part of the train.

The Palace on wheels takes a seven night journey through the major heritage locations of Rajasthan and Agra, the home to TAJ MAHAL. October to March is the prime season to take this exquisite journey and feel like royalty.

Contact Road2Travel for more..

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MAHARAJA EXPRESS

Suffused with nostalgia and drenched in luxury, Maharajas Express rail tours transport you back into an era of elegant traveling reminiscent of the romance of Indian Maharajas. The train is considered to be the India’s answer to the Orient Express of the West. Flagged off in 2010, Maharajas Express offers 5 pan-Indian itineraries crisscrossing across some of the most fascinating terrains in India and covering some of the most prominent tourist destinations across country.

Maharajas Express can carry a total of 84 passengers in elegantly appointed cabins which include a lavish presidential suite spanning over an entire carriage. There are 2 restaurants, a lounge bar equipped with library and souvenir shop to indulge the guests during their journeys.  Maharajas Express comprises of 14 guest carriages. There are 20 Deluxe Cabins, 18 Junior Suites, 4 Suites and a plush Presidential Suite offering elegant living comparable to a 5 star hotel.

Some of the amenities that set Maharaja Express apart are the Wi-Fi internet, LCD TVs and direct dial phones in each cabin. Besides, spacious en-suite bathrooms with showers, private butler and 24×7 room service ensure that your journey never fall short of the high standards set by the train.

Gourmet dining on board the maharaja train is arranged in 2 dining cars which are named Rang Mahal (Color Palace) and Mayur Mahal (Peacock Palace). The plates are fine Limoges, edged with gold, the glasses Swarovski hand-cut crystal and the cutlery monogrammed with the letter M. Variety of cuisine are served on board. Impeccable interiors and gracious hospitality ensures that you get to dine like a royalty on board Maharajas Express.

Guests could engage in recreational activities inside the Rajah Club – Lounge Car. Rajah Club has a well stocked library with general books and pictorial guidebooks offering glimpses of Indian Maharajas who used rule their kingdom before India became democracy. Board games and card games could also be enjoyed in Rajah Club over sip of your favorite wine. At one end stands the bar and at the other stands a souvenir shop named Treasure Chest from where you could buy mementos of this royal train journey.

With the itineraries consisting of tasteful blend of heritage, culture and exclusive insider experiences, a journey on board Maharajas Express is one of the most fulfilling rail journeys in the world. From desert kingdom of Rajasthan to the Western Ghats in Maharashtra and from the holy Ghats of Varanasi to the Classical Khajuraho temples, each of the signature journeys offered by Maharajas Express is a treat to undertake.

The winter months of October to March are is the ideal for a royal journey on board Maharajas Express.  Contact Road2Travel for more..

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GOLDEN CHARIOT

The Golden Chariot train journey is the best way to experience the major and also offbeat tourism destinations of South India. It is named after the Stone Chariot in the Vitthala Temple at Hampi (World heritage site). It has recently been awarded the ‘Asia’s leading luxury train’ award at the World Travel Awards, 2013

This Indian luxury train comes equipped with state of the art amenities such as air conditioning, Wi-Fi internet, live television, wardrobe, vanity desk and en-suite washrooms having 5 star accessories. The total 44 Air Conditioned cabins in 11 inter-connected saloons are combination of 26 Twin Bedded Cabins,17 Double bedded Cabins & One Cabin for Physically Challenged. The train also comes with 2 dining cars, a bar & a lounge and fitness center and spa. The 19 coaches on the train are colored purple and gold, and sport the logo of a mythological animal with the head of an elephant and a body of a lion . With interior decor inspired from the Hoyasala and Mysore tradition of architecture, this luxury train transports the guest into a bygone era of elegant train traveling.

The Golden Chariot offers 2 tastefully crafted luxury train tours in South India. An adventure in comfort, a romance on rail tracks, with heritage & cultural destinations waiting for you to discover them. Very unique, customized itineraries have been developed that leave a resonance of the amalgam of culture of South India. World Heritage sites, Temples, palaces, relaxed beaches, a wildlife sanctuary, backwaters, there is something for everyone.

Embark on a voyage through the sand of times as you travel in style aboard this luxury train in South India. October to March is the running season for this train and you may contact Road2Travel for more..

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DECCAN ODYSSEY

Pack your bags and get all set to experience and witness the grandeur of the erstwhile Maratha Kingdom by going on-board another of India’s luxury trains, Deccan Odyssey.

A journey aboard Deccan Odyssey-The Blue Limousine on Rolling Wheels- is a superlative experience, with 10 meticulously designed itineraries at the disposal of tourists. Where else would you find a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an excellent vineyard, a palatial residence, lions & tigers basking in the glory of sun, sun-kissed beaches, tranquil backwaters and the holy abode of Sai Baba …… Each of the aforementioned destinations is traversed by this luxury tourist train. The luxury train journey aboard Deccan Odyssey is one of the most exciting and grand ways marked by sheer opulence and pomp. All the 10 journeys speak volumes about the ancient architecture, royal living and religious destinations among others.

Deccan Odyssey comprises of 21 luxuriously appointed coaches. Out of these 21 coaches, 11 are to accommodate guests and the rest are used for different purposes such as dining, lounge, conference car and health spa. Echoing the penchant of the erstwhile Maharajas, all the 11 guest accommodation coaches of Deccan Odyssey is outfitted with cozy furniture and personalized guest amenities. All the cabins are spacious enough where guests can roam freely. The decoration of each coach reflects a particular era of the Deccan milieu and is creatively outfitted with facilities like personal safe, telephone, attached bathroom, air-conditioning and a personal attendant, on the round the clock service of the guests. Complemented by the very best of personal services, traveling on the private cabins of this deluxe rail is a unique rail tour experience in India.

The ten thought fully prepared itineraries range from 2N/3D to 7N/8D and the train runs throughout the year on a fixed schedule. For more on schedule, itineraries and prices contact Road2Travel.

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ROYAL RAJASTHAN ON WHEELS

The luxurious Royal Rajasthan on Wheels takes you through a seven day exploration of the vibrant Rajasthan. The magic of the splendid journey begins at New Delhi and prepares you to weave the fabric of delightful imagination becoming reality over the next seven days. Your royal journey begins from Delhi and takes you through various erstwhile princely states of Rajasthan like Jodhpur, Udaipur, Chittor, Swai-Madhopur, and Jaipur. After experiencing multifaced Rajasthan you will visit Khajuraho temples unique gift to the world and then Varanasi, The holy city and city of temples and ghats,. In the end, The Taj Mahal, at Agra. This journey will come to an end at Delhi.

Each of the 13 luxury train cabins of the train has an amazing décor and is adorned with contemporary services and amenities such as channel music, attached bathroom with plush toiletries, in-room safe, Wi-fi connectivity, temperature control remote, upholstery and more.

The salons of the Royal Rajasthan on Wheels  have been segregated into Bravura Suites and Extraordinary Suites. As the passenger capacity is limited, you can enjoy a comfortable stay while on-board. The train has a common lounge where the guests can interact with each other. This lounge also has Wi-fi connectivity. There is also a Spa aboard the train where the guests can relax their tired senses. Get your hands on some amazing gifts and knick-knacks for the loved-ones back home from the Souvenir shop.

The train has two restro bars- Swarn Mahal and Sheesh Mahal, serving cookery delights of Indian and popular world cuisines. You relish dishes of Rajasthani, Indian, Continental and Chinese cuisines. Both the restaurants have a great ambience. Rest assured that the modern amenities on board, gracious hospitality and sumptuous cuisine will leave you pampered, impressed and yet wanting.

The running season for Royal Rajasthan on Wheels is from October to March. For more information contact Road2Travel

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Worlds Largest Stepwell: Chand Baori

Building stepwells (Baori in Rajasthan) has been a necessity under northern India’s hot summers. These wells acted as rainwater harvesting systems and they were a cool oasis in the parched hot summer of this area. The temperature difference between the surface and the lowest depths of these wells could be 5 to 6 degrees. The earliest were made around 550 AD, but famous ones like Chand Baori were made during medieval times. And from those times, over 3,000 stepwells were built in India’s two northern states. Rajasthan and Gujarat.

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Chand Baori in Abhaneri, near Jaipur, Rajasthan is propbabaly the largest step well in the world and perhaps the most visually spectacular stepwell. Chand Baori is an incredibly geometric sight; it is a deep four-sided structure with an immense temple on one face. 3,500 terraced steps march down the other three sides, 13 stories, to a depth of 100 feet. The construction dates to the tenth century, and is dedicated to Harshat Mata, goddess of joy and happiness and is believed to have been built by King Chand, ruler of Abhaneri and a Rajput from the Chahamana dynasty.

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Chand Baori is also well known for being the location where Batman gets imprisoned in the “ The Dark Knight Rises” and for the movie “The Fall”. A version of the game “Minecraft” is also based on the Chand Baori.

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Chand Baori Minecraft

Snake boat races of Kerala, India

Snake boats are traditional boats of Kerala and are so called because of the huge sterns of these boats that looks like a hood of a cobra raised in anger . The local populace call these boats “Chundan Vallam”, which literally means beaked boat, for it has a pointed prow which stands four feet above the water and gives the impression of a beak. Designed by an architect named Devanarayana, the snake boats were originally conceived as war boats. Though the wars were resolved later, people wanted to keep up the spirit of this wondrous multipurpose boat. Hence started the spectacular sport of snake boat race.

In the centre of the snake boat, which was earlier the place of the canon , stand two people who beat the odithatta (fire platforms) with poles and sing the vanchippattu (songs of the boatmen) to maintain the rowing rhythm. While the strongest oarsmen sit at the front to set the pace, the back is managed by six hefty helmsmen who stand and help steer the boat. The person at the highest point of the boat is the chief oarsman. A single snake boat is over 100 feet long and can occupy 100 oarsmen and thus a snake boat race is the largest team sport in the world. Being the largest team sporting events in the world, snake boat races are often considered to be the ultimate test of endurance, speed , skill and coordination.

Champakulam Moolam Boat Race

In Kerala, the season of boat races starts with the renowned Champakkulam Moolam Vallam Kali (vallam kali means boat race). Champakulam Moolam Boat Race is one of the ancient and most popular boat races in Kerala. The race is organized on the river Pampa at Champakkulam, a serene village in Alappuzha district, on the moolam asterism in the Malayalam month of mithunam (roughly June/July).

The legend has that the Raja of Chempakasseri, Pooradam Thirunal Devanarayanan, built a temple at Ambalappuzha as suggested by the royal astrologers. It was discovered that the idol which was being placed at the temple was unfit. Therefore, a new idol was brought to this place from Karikulam Temple in Kurichi. As this idol was brought to the temple on a boat, the king declared that watersports will be organized on this particular date every year, to commemorate this event.

On the day of the race, people, both locals and travellers from far off places, flock the river bank to enjoy the race. As the sun comes straight on top of all gathered, boats in various categories like the chundan (snake boat), veppu, iruttu kuthi, churulan and others from nearby regions assemble at the starting point of the race. Among these boats, the snake boats with its fascinating design catch the attention of all.

Aranmula Uthrattadi Vallamkali

Aranmula Uthrattadi Vallamkali or the Aranmula Boat Race is the oldest known boat race event which takes place in Kerala. The boat race takes place during the festival of Onam, which occurs during the Malayalam month Chingam (August – September). The boat race is dedicated to Lord Krishna and Arjuna. The traditional snake boats which are especially used here for racing are called ‘Palliyodams’ by the natives. Each boat is decorated with a golden lace. Along with these decorations every boat has a flag and two or three ornamental umbrellas. The boat race held annually on the Uthrittathi asterism (as per the local Malayalam calendar) during the Onam festival is one the cultural hallmarks of this land. Teeming with rich tradition and rituals immersed in splendor, the Aranmula Uthrittathi boat race is considered more of a ritual than a race.

Legend has it that a devout Brahmin vowed to offer all the requirements for the Thiruvona sadya (the grand traditional feast on the day of Thiruvonam) at the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. Once, the boat known as Thiruvona Thoni carrying these offerings was attacked by enemies. In order to protect the Thiruvona Thoni people from neighbouring areas sent their snake boats. Later on, this practice evolved into an offering to Lord Parthasarathy in the form of a snake boat race, held on the Uthrittathi day, which eventually became popular as the Aranmula Boat Race.

Payippad Jalotsavam

Payippad Jalotsavam is Held annually in the month of September on the Payippad River, this boat race is noted for the largest participation of snake boats after the Nehru Trophy boat race. The boat race is organized in a span of three days on the lake Payippad, which is located 35km from the district of Alappuzha. As per the legend , people of the Haripad village decided to build a Sree Ayyappan temple in accordance with a vision that they should install the idol of Subrahmanya, which they would find in the Kayamkulam River under a whirlpool. Finding the idol, the people brought back Subrahmanya vigraha in a boat, escorted by the devotees in other boats ceremoniously. In remembrance of this event a three day water festival is conducted each year.

Nehru Trophy Boat Race

The annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race takes place on the backwaters of Punnamada in Alappuzha of Kerala in the month of August. The race is a rowing competition, which takes place between numerous teams who participate in this event to contend for the Nehru Trophy. The history behind the event is that, a snake boat race was conducted when Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru visited this place. He was so impressed by the enthusiasm of the rowers that he awarded the Nehru Trophy to the winners. Since then the Nehru Trophy bears a silver model of a snake boat and is awarded to the winning team of the boat race.

People from far & near swarm the banks of these lakes/rivers to enjoy these annual water regattas. Apart from the races of chundan valloms (snake boats) and of smaller country crafts, the events have in store many fascinating moments like the ceremonial water processions, spectacular floats and decorated boats.

Kerala, “Gods own Country is located with the Arabian Sea to the west and the Western Ghats towering to the east . Networked by 44 rivers,Kerala, enjoys unique geographical features that have made it one of the most sought after tourist destinations in Asia. An equable climate. A long shoreline with serene beaches. Tranquil stretches of emerald backwaters. Lush hill stations and exotic wildlife. Waterfalls. Sprawling plantations and paddy fields. Ayurvedic health holidays. Enchanting art forms. Magical festivals. Historic and cultural monuments. An exotic cuisine… All of which offer you a unique experience. And what’s more, each of these charming destinations is only a two hour drive from the other – a singular advantage no other destination offers.

Kerala season starts October to March… interested contact Road2Travel

The worlds cheapest countries to fly

The world’s cheapest country to fly is India thanks to a domestic market battling cutthroat competition.

Berlin based travel search website, GoEuro, conducted a global transportation survey of 51 countries across 5 continents examining the average price to travel per 100 kilometres.

According to the results India came up trumps costing just $11.10 on average to travel 100 kilometres on a commercial flight. That’s about a third of the cost of flights in the UK and less than one thirteenth of the cost of flying in the most expensive country in the world, Finland, where it costs $149.05 to fly the same distance.

India is in the grip of an airfare war as airlines compete for the country’s growing middle class sector. The number of domestic travellers is projected to triple to 159 million by 2021.

However the competition is also crippling the airlines who over the last seven years have estimated to have lost $22 every time a passenger steps on board. From intense price competition to exorbitant operating costs including high airport and fuel taxes, the national carriers have been locked in a battle for survival.

AirAsia’s recent entry into the Indian market will further exacerbate the competition and domestic carriers are aggressively launching a price war. SpiceJet, India’s second largest airline by market share, recently launched an early bird special offering one way fares to various destinations across the country for as low as $8.84 (RS499).

In fact, airfares in India are so cheap that its now cheaper to travel by air than take the train. According to the survey, a 100 kilometre train journey in India costs $15.98. A bus journey over the same distance costs $6.17.

The second cheapest country for air travel was Malaysia, where the cost was an average $12.27 to fly 100 kilometres, South Africa was third at $12.48 and Australia was number four costing $13.09 over the same distance.

So where should you avoid flying if you don’t want to burn a hole in your hip pocket? Finland was followed closely by Switzerland as the second most expensive country at $134.21. Third place was claimed by Lithuania whose air travel averaged $125.25.

Courtsey : www. news.com.au