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Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in India.

The Backwaters of Kerala – Cochin, Kerala, India

An Exotic Labyrinth of Canals and Lagoons

Isolated, peaceful, and staggeringly beautiful, the southern coastal state of Kerala is one of India’s unpromoted treasures, a gentle, floral alternative to the harsher Himalayas or the Rajasthan desert in the north. The twisting kayals, the jungle-shrouded backwater canals and lagoons that lie inland, connect sheltered villages and are often just wide enough for your canoe.

They’re the only way to reach secluded Coconut Lagoon Village, an enclave of thirty gracious tarawads (traditional carved wooden bungalows made without nails, some of them more than 400 years old) that were painstakingly dismantled and moved here along the cool banks of the backwaters. This is a place for lazy R&R in the shade of a nutmeg tree.

Few cultural sites demand your attention, and the Ayurvedic health clinic offers restorative treatments and massages incorporating herbal oils made from the exotic spices that first drew Vasco da Gama to Kerala’s shores in 1498.

A stopover in Cochin is a must. The fasci­nating capital has been a trading port for more than 1,000 years, and is composed of a cluster of islands surrounded by a network of rivers, lakes, and estuaries. It is home to a unique culture and courteous people. Be sure to have dinner at the Fort Cochin Restaurant in the Casino Hotel, considered one of the finest eateries in southern India.

  • a couple of years ago
  • India

Ladakh – Leh, Jammu and Kashmir, India

A Glimpse of Tibet Against a Lunar Landscape

Also known as Little Tibet and Moon Land, the awe-inspiring high-altitude plateau of Ladakh is tucked between the world’s two highest mountain ranges, the Karakoram and the Great Himalayas.

Politically Indian but geographically Tibetan, it shares age-old cultural and religious ties with the latter, and though it was closed to tourism until 1974, it’s now attracting visitors who are drawn to the region but put off by the trou­bles in Tibet to the north and east and in the Kashmir Valley to the west.

The flight to Leh, the region’s capital, is one of the most spectacular in the world of aviation sightseeing, and graphically illus­trates the area’s otherworldly remoteness. Likewise the 305-mile ride from Leh south to Manali, in the state of Himachal Pradesh, is a hard-to-forget trip that crosses four mountain passes on the world’s second-highest motorable road.

This can only be topped (literally) by the newly opened Nubra Valley, Ladakh’s “Valley of Flowers,” which requires a journey over Khardungla Pass – at 18,383 feet, it is the world’s highest drivable road.

  • a couple of years ago
  • India

Chapslee – Simla, Himachal Pradesh, India

In a Former Summer Capital, a Relic of the Raj

In the 19th century, the British may have ruled India, but the real arbiter of day-to-day life, even for them, was the heat, which Kipling called “the central fact of India.” To carry on business during the summer months, British officials would take to the northern hills of Simla, where melting snows kept the temper­ature tolerable and Victorian architecture, gardens, and entertainment re-created the sceptered isle they’d left behind.

Chapslee, a stately, decidedly British ivory-colored manor house, was built in 1835, in the lap of the Himalayas at 7,000 feet. From the start, it offered the kind of princely living and grand hospitality demanded by the sahibs of yore and still found today, and a decor of Gobelin tapestries, Venetian chandeliers, Persian carpets, and an imposing portrait of the present owner’s great-grandfather, the former maharaja of the state of Kapurthala.

Today, Simla is one of India’s most venerated British-built hill stations, and provides an imperial starting point for visitors exploring one of India’s most beautiful states, Himachal Pra­desh, a rural landscape dotted with remote Hindu and Buddhist temples and communi­ties whose ceremonies, fairs, and festivals liven the summer months.

  • a couple of years ago
  • India

Top Tables – New Delhi, Delhi Territory, India

For the Palates of Princes and Peasants

India has one of the world’s great cuisines, and the country’s luxury hotel restaurants have become social hubs and gastronomic destinations for local businessmen and families as well as visiting foreigners.

New Delhi’s Maurya Sheraton has no rivals, offering the day-and-night selection of two of India’s best-known restaurants. Dum Pukht’s elegant and airy decor reflects the cuisine’s royal origins as the refined court food of the 18th-century nawabs of Avadh. This little-known, delicate cuisine uses steam to slowly cook sealed vessels of finely cut meats and vegetables until they’re ready to melt in your mouth.

The Bukhara restaurant is radically different, offering robust and informal food and a hunting-camp atmos­phere of stone walls, wooden-trestle tables, and a glassed-in kitchen that’s always good for a show. The food is no less exquisite, but the emphasis is on perfectly prepared tandoori – originally made for peasants but fit for a king.

  • a couple of years ago
  • India

Palace on Wheels – New Delhi, Delhi Territory, India

The Private Toy Train of the Maharajas

Modeled after the luxurious private railway cars of the former rulers of Gujarat and Rajasthan, the Palace on Wheels is the subcontinent’s answer to the Orient Express, replete with service-proud captains and staff outfitted in crisp tunics and brilliant turbans straight out of The Jewel in the Crown.

Each of the fourteen wagons (or “saloons”) is named after a former princely state and dec­orated in its most representative colors and fabrics. Rich veneered wood paneling and custom-designed furniture with inlaid motifs lend a further touch of class.

The train travels mostly through the desert corners of Rajasthan, usually at night to allow full days of sightseeing in such magical cities as Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, and Jodhpur. Guests are treated like royalty onboard and on land as well, with musi­cians and richly harnessed elephants meeting and greeting the train’s arrival.

Luncheons are arranged at former maharajas’ palaces, and camel treks and tiger photo-safaris fill out the exciting week on wheels, culminating in a grand finale visit to – where else? – the Taj Mahal, before heading back to New Delhi.

  • a couple of years ago
  • India
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