10 New Year’s Eve Destinations. 10 Unique Rituals

New Year’s Eve is probably the biggest global party and the idea of spending it in some other country excites everyone from North Pole to South Pole from East to West.

So what is your New Year’s Eve destination? What will you wear – a nice dress, a suit, your best pair of shoes? And what about your underwear?

Well, you wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at this question if you were living in Latin America or any Spanish speaking country. People here don brightly coloured underpants to ring in the New Year—red if you’re looking for love, and yellow for money.

Across the world, revelers celebrate the New Year’s Eve in similar fashion: fireworks and parties. Still, each destination has its unique rituals. Some walk around with suitcases in their houses at midnight, some eat a spoonful of lentils, some eat 12 grapes for 12 wishes for 12 months, some wear white clothes, some throw away their old stuff at neighbours, some predict future with molten lead, some chime a bell 108 times to welcome New Year God, some send hundreds of paper lanterns up into the night sky. The list is endless.

So as you get ready for your New Year’s Eve party, here is a list of 10 most amazing New Year’s Eve destinations and unique rituals attached to those places

  1. Tokyo, Japan: Japan is the first place to welcome the New Year. In Tokyo, festivities start as early as the 29th, with spectacular fireworks displays every night until the 4th Jan. Two great party areas are Shinjuku and Shibuya. New Year’s Eve celebration in Tokyo is both a time of family events as well as lively nightlife experiences. ‘Bonenkai’ (forget the old year) parties are held in December to bid adieu to past problems. A popular ritual called “Hatsumode” is followed where locals visit temples for the first time in the year. Once a temple bell rings 108 times at midnight, the crowds begin to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. http://www.newyearsevetokyo2015.com/

    Tokyo - zojoji NewYears Balloon Party

    Tokyo NYE  – At midnight the temple bell is rung for 108 times across all Buddhist temples

  1. Sydney, Australia: Sydney has earned a reputation of the New Year’s Eve Capital of the world, thanks to the spectacular fireworks at Sydney Harbour. For a day, Sydney becomes the melting pot for travellers across the world. Revelers start filling up the Opera House forecourt and every inch of open space around the harbour from early morning. The formalities officially kick off at 6pm, with an aerial show. At 9pm the family fireworks amaze the kiddies. The main attraction at midnight, the Harbour Light Parade, has made the city famous as a New Year’s Eve destination. This is one show for which preparations start two years in advance. In Sydney, the entire January is dedicated to New Year Celebration – fireworks are held every Saturday at Darling Harbour. http://www.sydneynewyearseve.com/

    The Famous Sydney Harbour Fireworks

    Sydney NYE – The NYE Capital because of it’s spectacular fireworks show

  1. Reykjavik, Iceland: New Year’s Eve celebration in Reykjavik is unforgettable – a show of fire and ice. Fireworks are quite magnificent but what makes this place unique is – The Northern Lights. Every year global travellers and locals combat polar cold to view this natural phenomenon. The Mars-like landscape of Reykjavik creates a breathtaking backdrop for the lights. New Year’s Eve is a prime time to see Northern lights and this is the only time of the year when fireworks are allowed. Locals have family dinners, attend the local bonfire, watch annual TV show and at midnight entire population indulges into fireworks. But Iceland is not for the faint-hearted. Go only, if you can bear extreme cold. http://www.visitreykjavik.is/new-years-eve-0

    NYE at Reykjavik, Iceland is famous for Fireworks amidst mother nature's natural show of Northern Lights

    Reykjavik NYE – Fireworks amidst Northern Lights

  1. Berlin, Germany: Thanks to the Oktoberfest, Berlin has earned a worldwide tag of a party city and it doesn’t disappoint you on New Year’s Eve. Germans have a tradition of participating in the annual pancake race – Berliner Silvesterlauf. Locals run in fancy dress for 2 to 15 kms, flipping pancakes all the way. In the evening, Berlin’s biggest party takes place at the Brandenburg Gate. The 2 kms stretch between the Victory Column and Brandenburg Gate is the place to celebrate Silvester (New Year’s Eve in German). http://www.nye-party-berlin.com/

    berlin new years

    Berlin NYE – The ‘Silvester’

  1. Barcelona, Spain: The Spanish eat twelve grapes at midnight, one grape for each chime of the clock. Symbolic of twelve wishes for the twelve months of the year. Eating twelve grapes at midnight and wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve is said to bring good luck. People gather in town squares eating grapes together, drinking cava (Spanish champagne) and waiting to welcome the New Year. New Years time is a family get together time. http://www.newyearsevebarcelona2015.com

    Spain NYE – 12 Grapes 12 Months 12 Wishes

  1. Vienna, Austria: New Years Eve in Vienna is about music, mulled wine, balls, parties and traditions. The Silvesterpfad (‘New Year’s Eve Path’), an annual grand street party, is the main event. The event lines up several free open air concerts where you can listen to everything from folk music, waltz and operetta to pop and rock tunes. Vienna’s best classical orchestras like the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra perform New Years Eve concerts. At midnight people kiss one another and feast on suckling pigs, which are a symbol of good luck. Future predictions are made by reading the shapes formed by pouring molten lead into water. http://www.newyearsevevienna2015.com

    New Years Eve in Vienna is about music, mulled wine, balls, parties and traditions

    Vienna NYE –   The ‘Silvesterpfad’ – which is all about music, mulled wine, balls, parties and traditions

  1. London, England: London is a place that takes pride marrying modernity with tradition. And the same is reflected in its New Year’s Eve celebrations too. A three-hour extravaganza along the River Thames comprises of performances by thousands of artists, a fireworks show at the London Eye, a midnight countdown alongside the chiming of Big Ben, and a massive group sing-along to “Auld Lang Syne.” Till last year this was a non-ticketed event but this year for the first time the event has been ticketed to prevent overcrowding, and tickets cost £10. http://www.newyearsevelondon2015.com/

    Londons NYE is famous for fireworks show at the London Eye, a midnight countdown by chiming of Big Ben, and a massive group sing-along to “Auld Lang Syne

    Londons NYE – fireworks show at the London Eye, chiming of Big Ben at midnight and a massive group sing-along to “Auld Lang Syne

  1. Edinburgh, Scotland: Sub zero temperature cannot tone down the enthusiasm of Scots to celebrate the New Year. The ‘Hogmanay’ celebration lasts four days and includes a torchlight parade through the city, concerts, and a massive street party on Princes Street. Scotsman Robert Burns wrote “Auld Lang Syne”, and it is a tradition to sing it on the streets of Edinburgh holding glowing torchlights. ‘Midnight Moment’, the world famous fireworks light up the skies above Edinburgh from the iconic Edinburgh Castle and Calton Hill. The Scots follow the tradition of “first-footing,” in which the first guest of the New Year should bring gifts. http://www.edinburghshogmanay.com

    Edinburgh NYE - The ‘Hogmanay’ celebration includes a torchlight parade through the city, concerts, and a massive street party on Princes Street

    Edinburgh NYE – The ‘Hogmanay’ celebration – a torchlight parade, concerts and a massive street party on Princes Street

  1. New York, USA: Since 1907, the famous ‘ball drop’ – in which a 12-foot-wide crystal ball weighing nearly 12,000 pounds descends atop Times Square on New Year’s Eve. The Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration features star-studded musical performances, balloons, confetti and a colorful pyrotechnic display. Every year, visitors from around the globe write their wishes for the New Year on colorful pieces of official Times Square New Year’s Eve confetti. These wishes are posted on the New Year’s Eve Wishing Wall called “Hopes and Dreams”. http://www.newyearseve.nyc/nyc/index.aspx

    New York City NYE - The Times Square Ball Drop!

    New York City NYE – The Times Square Ball Drop

  1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Rio is the place for the partygoers who love to dance with the sea waves in the summertime of southern hemisphere. The fantastic fireworks are held at the Copacabana Beach. People attending the event come dressed in white and bring flowers, which they throw in the water as a ritual offering to the sea goddess. Champagne literally flows like water. Eating grapes and lentils are considered good luck rituals. http://newyearseveplan.com/rio-de-janeiro-nye

    Rio de Janeiro NYE – dressed in white people celebrate on Copacabana beach

There are many more interesting and strange New Year’s Eve rituals like in Ireland Maids place mistletoe under the pillow to find future husbands. In Denmark Dishes and crockery are broken against neighbours’ doors; the bigger the debris, the greater the luck. In Philippines: Most people wear polka dots and eat round shaped foods for good luck. In Ecuador Scarecrows made of wood and newspaper bits are burnt to destroy the past and bring in the new. In Chile New Year is rung in with the dead. People head to the cemetery and start the year at the graves of their departed ones.

So next time when you visit a different country for NYE do follow the rituals of that place. Be rest assured you’d make some amazing new friends.

A very happy new year!

Travel. See. Write.

Chadar Trek (Leh to Lingshed) (Travelogue)

There is a certain beauty that Frozen Himalayas ooze out.

And for the first time ever in my life I’ll be exploring that beauty from real close quarters. I will be attempting to do Chadar Trek on the frozen Zanskar River.

Read on to know what chadar Trek is.

Rohit Khattar

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Leh to Lingshed

Day Temperatures : -15 to -20
Night Temperatures: -25 to -35

Chadar Trek is one of the wildest trek in the world and a superb test of your mental strength. Chadar means veil of ice and this frozen sheet/river is the only road-way for the zanskaris living in padum or lingshed to go to Leh or from Leh as other passes are closed during the winters due to heavy snowfall. There are few if any adventure treks in the Himalaya to match the Chadar winter expedition for sheer awe inspiring beauty, and none to match it in terms of day to day challenges and excitement.
Suitable for both men & women (with less experience of trekking)

The Zanskar Valley remains…

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The Hidden Beauty Around Manali

The fabled musk deer searches the world over for the source of the scent, which comes from itself.

In the same way hoards of tourists visit Manali every year but very few go beyond visiting the uber popular tourist spots.

For me, Manali is not any other hill station. It is home for me. In spite of visiting it quite often, I have found hidden gems here. The joy of the exploring the unexplored paths is unparalleled. And I often bypass the touristy spots to tread on unknown paths that lead to hidden treasures. My plans are mostly fluid and depend on local knowledge of local people and Google baba – my 24×7 Travel Guru.

Manali travelogue and places to explore

The Snowcapped Manali

Here are 8 hidden getaways near Manali and most of them are best explored on foot.

1. Goshal:

A 2 kms scenic trek through apple orchards and pine trees from Manu Temple leads you to Goshal village. It is a trek mostly frequented by foreigners. Not many Indians explore this gorgeous route. Don’t be surprised if you get invited for a cup of tea and biscuits at any local’s house. And if you are lucky, you might get to taste freshly brewed chang. Some of the houses in this ancient village are as old as 600-700 years. The Beas stream separates the Goshal village from Bhang. When you visit Bhang, don’t forget to have the finger-licking tasty sarson ka saag and makki di roti from ‘Ludhiyana Ki Rasoi’ dhaba.

The top view of Goshal – scenic village near Manali

2. Shanag and Burua:

Away from the hustle bustle of Manali lie the picturesque villages of Shanag and Burua. The driveway through apple orchards is something that dreams are made up of. This a place where most of the high-end luxury cottages are coming up and in the next 5-10 years this will be the most sought after place in Manali. Near Burua village is the famous Nehru kund from where Pandit Jawahar Lal used to drink water. The sturdy suspension bridge over the river Beas at Burua is a picturesque spot that offers the majestic view of Rohtang Range and nearby flowing river Beas.

Burua village near manali places to go

Burua village near manali

3. Gulaba:

As the name suggests, Gulaba is famous for Himachali Flora and Fauna and is often referred to as valley of flowers. It is a good picnic, photography and paragliding spot. The trek for Bhrigu Lake starts here. In winters, this is the last point up to which vehicles are permitted to go. In winters, from November to May, when Rohtang is inaccessible due to snowfall the skiing and winter sports are held at Gulaba.

gulaba picnic spot near manali, places to visit

Gulaba – A photography & Adventure heaven

4. Vashisht:

Around 3km from Manali, across the Beas River, is Vashist. A small village famous for natural Sulphur Springs. The Vaishisht Sulphar Springs have amazing medicinal and healing properties, curing all kind of internal and external pains. The Vashisht temple here is believed to be more than 4000 years old and is significantly popular amongst the locals for giving a bath to their local Devta (deity) before any big or small puja. When visiting Vashisht, do check out the World Peace Café, a rooftop café in Hotel Surbhi, that offers amazing Mountain View along with Italian, Mexican and Israeli food. And if you like walking in wilderness, then be amazed to find two beautiful waterfalls in the vicinity. By trekking for 2 kms from Vashisht Temple you can reach Jogini Falls and if you trek straight for 2kms you can reach the Vashisht waterfalls.

Vashisht hot springs near manali

Vashisht Temple – A Kullu Devi (local Deity) Puja

5. Jagatsukh:

Located on the left bank of the Beas, Jagatsukh is one of the largest villages in Kullu district. A road from Naggar to Manali runs through the village. It is 12km from Naggar and 6km from Manali and is famous for its 5000 years old ancient temples like Jagatsukh Siva Temple and Saraswati Gayatri Mata Temple.

jagatsukh temple, treks near manali

The ancient Jagatsukh Shiva Temple

6. Naggar:

A historic place glorifying the past through the stunning Naggar CastleRoerich Art Gallery and various antique temples like Gauri Shankar Temple, Tripura Sundari Temple, Vishnu Temple and Jagtipath Temple, which is located in the castle premise itself. Nestled on the left bank of Beas, Naggar is slowly becoming a preferred destination for travellers who want to spend some quality time in the lap of nature. The Naggar Castle offers the most splendid Kullu Valley view. Watching the sunset while sipping your evening tea or having a dinner under a blue star-studded sky is something that you should not miss.

naggar castle, places to visit near Manali

A Kully Valley View from the Naggar Castle

7. Rumsu:

If you walk 4 kms ahead of Naggar you reach Rumsu, a 1000 years old ancient village, which has still not lost its unique old world charm. Like Malana, Rumsu village too worships Jamlu Devta. It is a base camp for the Chandrakhani Pass trek that leads you to Malana.

rumsu jamlu devta temple, treks near manali

Temple dedicated to Jamlu Devta at Rumsu

8. Pangan Monastary:

This was a serendipitous discovery for me. Not even locals knew much about it. It is close to Patlikuhl, 30 kms south from Manali. The Kullu Valley view that you get from the Pangan Gompa is completely out of the world. The Pangan Monastary houses 80 nuns and monks. In the second week of November a weeklong death anniversary celebration of its founder Khenchen happens every year. I was fortunate enough to enjoy the festivities there.

Pangan Monastery secluded spot near manali

Pangan Monastery secluded spot near manali

So next time when you plan a Manali trip, go beyond the obvious. Explore the unexplored and evolve from being a tourist to a traveller.

Explore. Experience. Evolve.

With inputs from Shubham Mansingka

This article was featured on holidify.com. Below is the link of the same:


Malana – the Loss of Innocence and Culture

Top view of malana villageMalana – The moment you hear this word, Malana Cream comes to your mind. But there’s more to this ancient village than just being world’s heaven of Marijuana.

Malana lies in a side valley of the Parvati Valley. The majestic peaks of Chandrakhani and Deotibba shadow the village. Unaffected by the modern civilization, Malana has an impeccable lifestyle and social structure guided by the spirit of village God Jamlu. Jamlu Devta’s word is the last word. They speak Kanashi language, which is unintelligible for anyone outside the village.

Standing isolated from the outside world for several thousands of years, the mystical Malana village is gradually but reluctantly opening its doors to the outside world. Malana’s two coveted commodities – Marijuana and the beauty of innocence, enamor the outside world.

I too was intrigued by it’s mysticism and had a question in my mind – is Marijuana leading to the loss of innocence and loss of unique culture in Malana?

On 8th November 2014, I along with my travel buddy, Shubham, decided to seek an answer to our question. An impromptu trip to Malana was made. After hitchhiking and boarding three local Himachal Pradesh buses, we reached Jari at 4pm. A lousy meal at a Nepali Dhabha, disguised as a Punjabi dhaba, couldn’t deter our enthusiasm to see the solitary village, which attracts more backpackers and travelers than tourists.

After whiling away time for a bit, we finally boarded the only bus service available for Malana at 6pm. Jari to Malana was a 20 kms arduous journey. However, the route was scenic in the backdrop of snow-capped mountains, fall colours of the valley, waterfalls and rivulets flowing underneath. After reaching Malana hydro power plant, road turned really rough, treacherous, steep, rocky and dusty. The bus slowly but steadily moved on the serpentine winding road, which had more potholes than coal-tarred surface. At 7:30 pm, the bus dropped us off at Naarang where the climb to the village starts. Besides both of us, two more people were going to Malana. One was a teenager and other a middle-aged man. However, soon the boy disappeared into thin air. It was pitch dark and the gurgling sound of Malana river and chilly wind made the setting look scary. The first 10 minutes of the trek involved going downhill and then crossing the torrential Malana river with the help of a narrow bridge. The middle-aged man tried to be over-friendly, asking all kind of weird questions. We had no option but to walk with him, considering there wasn’t a soul in the sight. His intentions, conveyed via his body language and words, didn’t give a favourable impression. Besides quizzing us like an attorney, he tried to scare us by saying things like “Kabhi bhi raat mein idhar nahi aana chahiye. Zamana bahut kharab hai. Kya pata kab kahan kya ho jaaye. Yahan kitne log gayab ho gaye. Kitne mar gaye.” We tried to give him an impression of poor travellers who were prebooked in a guesthouse in Malana and our friends were to join us the next day. And thanks to Airtel, my mom called and I gave her all kind of relevant and irrelevant information about my current state of affairs, just to back off that man. And when he was getting too much on my nerves, I politely asked him to shut up, which pissed him off. And that scared the hell out of us. Thankfully two local boys came to our rescue. One of them helped us with the route and my bag. The cobbled climb was an uphill trek. I was running out of breath but the fear of something bad happening to us, kept us on our toes.

Maintaining a constant rhythm, we reached the outskirt of the village in an hour. The village was properly lit and local music was blasting at full decibel from the ‘Family Guesthouse’. We checked for the night stay charges. The guy had blood-red eyes and, like the old man, didn’t give good vibes. So we ditched our plan to stay at his guesthouse. We were so tired that were ready to spend the night anywhere but were told by the local boy that we can only stay in guesthouses meant for outsiders. A single uphill path lead us towards the top of the village where most of the guesthouses were located, namely, Malana View, Dragon and Cosmo. We were asked not to stop anywhere or touch anything. Our young guide told us that any local who comes in contact with outsiders or goes to guesthouse has to wash his hands properly before entering his house. The seldom talking local boy was sweet enough to leave us to the guesthouse. When we tried to tip him and ask for his number, he simply whizzed away, without saying a word. Bewildered, we were left.

We got dingy rooms on the third floor of Dragon Guesthouse for Rupees 300 each. However, before check-in, the guesthouse manager asked us if we wanted some maal. When we replied in non-assertion, pat came his reply “Kutch lena nahi hai to phir yahan aaye kyun”

After freshening up, we came down for our dinner. In a dimly lit room trans music was playing, huge posters of Shiva and Dragon Guest house adorned the Deodar walls of the room. There was more malana cream in the air than oxygen. Tourists from Canada, France and India were busy smoking chillum. After spending half an hour, we retired to our rooms. I was sleeping in the most basic and most unhygienic bed but it didn’t matter to my tired limbs. I slept like a baby in the abode of Shiva.

Next morning the beautiful views of snow-capped mountains greeted me but I was in for a harsh reality check. A tiny, mysterious village, supposedly inhabited by descendants of Alexander’s army, looked in ruins. Thriving Malana Cream trade and rampant construction with no focus on cleanliness now plagued the land, once popular for its secretive, unique culture, and a society that shunned physical contact with outsiders to remain pure.

Malana, once known for its wooden houses built in the beautiful kathi-kuni architectural style, was destroyed in a massive blaze in January 2008. From the ashes, a new Malana – solid concrete and asbestos – emerged. The encroachment of modernity was evident through mobile towers, electricity, satellite dishes, and televisions.

From ancient times there is no caste responsible for cleaning of the village therefore there is no sanitation system in place. Packets of Lay’s chips, chocolates, biscuit wrappers and snack items were littered around.

Women did most of the work. Men were either chatting or smoking up. In fact everybody smokes in Malana – right from women to kids. Education is non-priority. There is one school, recently upgraded to tenth grade from fifth grade, but not many children were seen going to school. They were all playing in the centre court of Jamlu devta ground. When requested for shutterbug, some obliged and some plainly refused. Elders were more cordial than teenagers and kids. Perhaps too much of easy money is corrupting innocent minds. Similar to their urban counterparts, they too are dreaming to own luxury items – swanky cars, expensive clothes and accessories. Fashion has made inroads in the forbidden land. The crime rate has shot up. Politics, drug mafia and police are corrupting the innocent minds and culture of Malana.

The descending walk from the outskirts of Malana to Naarang roughly took us 45 minutes. Once at Naarang, we looked for a shared taxi. But were lucky to be given a hitch by two young Malanese teenagers who in return just asked us to pray for the success of the work they were going to. Their eyes were bloodshot red and were carrying malana cream with them. When we tried to enquire about their work, education and job they dodged the question hinting towards the open secret – they were the new age drug dealers and were perhaps on their way to crack a deal.

On our way back to Jari, the car stopped to catch up with the young village shepherd whose job was to take the entire village sheep and goats down to Jari, Kulu, Bilaspur etc. for grazing. This boy was drop dead gorgeous with Aryan features and looked different from the rest of the Malanese boys. He still had that innocence in his eyes.

malanese shepherd

Wonder how long can the unique identity of Malana be maintained by such few innocent eyes when the Malanese themselves are succumbing to the evil of modernization and unsolicited means of progress. Malana is consuming a slow poison of sociocultural degradation and if this continues the day may not be far off when it will lose its unique identity.

Hope that day doesn’t arrive!

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10 Reasons to Welcome New Year in Manali

IMG-20141119-WA0014If Shimla is the queen of hill stations, then Manali is indeed the king!

You must have visited Manali in the summers when it’s crowded and packed with tourists. Time has come for a change to visit the majestic Himalayas in the winters to welcome the New Year with a bang!

10 reasons why you should bring in the New Year in snowy Manali:

  1. See a familiar destination in a different attire: Manali is prettier with pristine white snow everywhere and that will be an everlasting memory! Keep the beauty to yourself in the absence of bus full-of-tourists that come in high season.
  2. Experience life-like locals: Brag about having seen water frozen in pipes and see the way of the locals go about their daily life. Gaze at the mountains shrouded in a smoky light with every home having a tandoor that works like a heater.
  3. Satiate your gastronomic desires: Manali doesn’t disappoint you when it comes to enjoy winter cuisine. The hot gulab jamuns, gajar ka halwa, jalebi, kesar doodh, chaat…. everything seems tastier in snow-white winters. Discover the mysteries of the local organic rice & barley alcohol and get naturally high. Enjoy winter food – an entirely different animal from summer’s simplicity!
  4. See more. Spend less: Hotels, taxis and activities costs are cheaper in off-season, sweaty summer crowds are a dim memory, and there’s plenty to explore in half the amount.
  5. It’s easier to plan a last-minute trip: Feeling spontaneous? A low-season trip is the ticket to planning a successful break with just days until departure.
  6. Have fun in the Snow: Manali is the top adventure destination. Get an adrenalin rush with activities like skiing, snowboarding, Zorbing, Paragliding, Snow Scooter driving and many other adventure sports in Solang Valley
  7. Capture landscapes in new lights and hues: Photography enthusiasts would love to shoot in the low season. Popular attractions become more alluring. Imagine the rusty Hadimba Temple covered with silver flurry. Also, you’ll often have sought-after attractions all to yourself—so no photo bombing in your perfect shot.
  8. Bonding over bonfires: Let the singer and actor in you come alive over a bonfire. Rekindle the lovely memories – truth and dare, antakshri, crushes and misses over a bonfire and drinks.
  9. Overdress to impress: Winters is the time to bring out the fashionista in you. Drape yourself in colourful mufflers, boots, caps, and trench coats. Overdressing would not be minded.
  10. Best place to make New Year resolutions: Manali through its picturesque and serene landscapes in winters, offer a perfect environment to ponder over the bygone year and make New Year resolutions. And what better way to fulfill your resolutions by fulfilling an old resolution – winter holiday in Himalayas that you promised yourself long time back. Time to act on it NOW.

So what are you waiting for? Start the New Year on a snowy note…
Reclaim your life; come to the Himalayas with us!

With inputs from Shubham Mansingka

Rishikesh – Beyond Temples and River Rafting

Some come to Rishikesh to explore their adventure side…some to connect with spirituality…some to find Nirvana…some to simply lose or find themselves. Whatever might be your reason, whenever you might come, from wherever you might come; Rishikesh always welcomes you with open arms.

Rishikesh has a lot to offer, but very few go beyond the routine river rafting and temple visits around Ram and Lakshman Jhullas. Here is my list of 10 things you must do in Rishikesh:

  1. Learn Yoga in the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’: Thanks to the globalisation of ‘YOGA’, Rishikesh is now referred to as a ‘Yoga Capital of the World’. In spite of Kareena Kapoor, Shilpa Shetty and other celebs trying their best to glamourise the Yoga, very few young Indians have shown interest in reaping the benefits of this great life-enriching practice. Mostly the spiritually inclined senior citizens come to Rishikesh for Yoga. Take a break from the maddening pace of life and reconnect with your inner self at any of the Yoga & Meditation Ashrams.Click here to check Top 10 Rishikesh Ashrams.Yoga Ashram at Rishikesh
  2. Rock-N-Roll at the Beatles Ashram: Classics are forever. It’s the same with theMaharishiMahesh Yogi ashram, famously referred as the Beatles Ashram. It was here that The Beatles, the veritable gods of rock, stayed in 1968, triggering off a craze that made India a happening global destination for the westerners seeking nirvana. The Beatles wrote ‘The White Album’ songs here. Spread over 14 acres of land near RamJhulla, this Ashramwas abandoned in 1977 and is in control of the Forest Department since then. Once a preferred destination for foreigners, now a reminiscent of a glorious past.

    Beatles Ashram Pathway

  3. Feel at home in Backpackers’ hideout: Rishikesh is not all spirituality and contorted limbs; it’s now a popular backpacker hide out too. You can stay at most Ashram’s at as low as Rupees 200 per day, including meals and yoga sessions. And some Ashrams likeShivananda Ashram offer everything for free. Just book in advance and enjoy themodest hospitality of the Ashrams.backpackers
  4. Retreat and Rejuvenate: If you are the kind, whose idea of a holiday is to relax and simply practice the art of doing nothing, then Rainforest House is for you. A homely guesthouse hidden away from the hustle bustle of the town, nestled in the middle of a hillock and Ganga flowing just below it; it is a space where people, mostly foreigners, come to relax and rejuvenate. It is a no frills guesthouse built and run with love by Steve andTrupti. Simple cosy rooms. Organically grown and freshly prepared veg food. No Internet. No phone. The only sounds you hear are the rhythmic sounds of yoga meditation CDs, gurgling sound of Ganga stream and chirping of Himalayan fauna.

    rainforest house

    Rainforest Guest House Open Air Dinning Hall

  5. Witness the divine light ceremony: Unlike other religious places, the evening GangaAarti at Rishikesh is a non crowded and classy affair. Religious agents don’t breath down your neck for offerings andpujas. You can either join in thebhajan chorus or simply savour the visual pleasure. Two important places to watch this evening spectacle in Rishikesh are theParmarthNiketan Ashram andTriveniGhat. The ideal time to visit these places is in the evening around 6 pm.

    Parmarth Niketan Evening Ganga Aarti

    Parmarth Niketan Evening Ganga Aarti

  6. Discover your Adventurous side: If you have the adrenaline rush in you, this is the placeto be in. Be it white water rafting or kayaking or Cliff Jumping or Bungee Jumping or Rappelling or Rock Climbing or Trekking or Jungle Safari or Biking; Rishikesh has a lot to satiate your adrenalin rush. So pick up the activity you like and explore your adventurous side.

    Bungee Jumping

    Bungee Jumping at Jumpin Heights

  7. Treat your eyes to magnificent views: Temples sitting on top of the hillocks, in and around Rishikesh, offer some of the most breathtaking panoramic views. From Kunjapuri Devi Temple, located 15 km away from Rishikesh, one can see the stunning snow ranges and peaks of Garhwal Himalayas to the North and of Rishikesh, Haridwar and the Doon valley to the South. Bhootnath Temple, situated 3kms from theLakshmanJhula on a hillock, is a hidden heaven for pilgrimage tourists and adventure seekers.

    Top View from Kunjapuri Devi Temple

    Top View from Kunjapuri Devi Temple

  8. Food Lovers’ Nirvana: Thanks to the influx of global travellers, from back packers to well-heeled, Rishikesh has turned into a global town offering mouth-watering cuisines from the world. Though Google Baba will give you a detailed list of restaurants and cafes. Per me, some of the best cafes are in the Lakshman Jhulla area. Little Buddha café; a funky tree house-style restaurant overlooking the Ganga offers amazing pizzas and platters. Café 60’s (Cafe Delmar/Beatles Cafe) is a must try for the amazing view and delicious food. Devraj coffee corner – this German bakery is a foodie’s paradise. Do try out their coffee and specialties like brown bread with yak cheese, along with the usual croissants and apple strudel. Bollywood buffs can visit this for paying tribute to Bunty and Babli. If you can put in a bit of hard work in your food trail then don’t miss out Pyramid café, a steep walk away from Lakshman Jhulla, is an oasis of delicious food in a relaxing atmosphere. Set amidst the forest and with a distant view of the Ganges River, it is what your soul needs. Ayurpak café: if you are fond of Ayurvedic food and can do withlesser portions then thisshould be your pit stop. Other gems are freedom café, Moon dance Café, Bistro Nirvana.

    Little Buddha Cafe

    Little Buddha Cafe

  9. Make harmony with your soul. Learn Indian classical Music from the Gurus: Indian classical music like a crystal has been shining bright for ages. Popular it might not be but its soul-stirring powers are world-renowned. So when you are in Rishikesh don’t forget to learn Indian Classical music and dance from the Gurus themselves. Enroll yourself at Veena Maharaj Music School, Sivananda Ramesh Music School, Bhuwan Music School or Om Rudra Cultural Society. Attend the Yoga & music festival, held from 5th to 14th Nov every year where musicians from across India and world come together to teach Yoga and Music absolutely free.

    Indian Classical Music School

  10. Unlock your explorer side: Rishikesh excursions consist of some of the finest places near the city -NarendraNagar,Neergudu waterfall,Garur-chatti waterfall and limestone caves inRajaji National Park,Chila Sanctuary,Chandrashila Summit. So go off the map. Replace the fear of unknown with Curiosity. You never know your discoverycan be someone’s itinerary. All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.

    Garur Chatti Waterfall

    Garur Chatti Waterfall

Rishikesh is immensely popular both in India and abroad but very few people have explored it in the truest sense. Next time instead of ticking tourist spots off a list, try exploring the unexplored in the explored. Who knows somewhere you might find a part of yourself that you never knew existed.

11 Tips for Solo Travellers


“A good traveller is one who knows how to travel with the mind.” ― Michael Bassey Johnson

Truer words have never been spoken. Travelling shouldn’t be a pain. It should be reminiscent of happy memories. It shouldn’t give you nightmares. Solo travel is fun and enriching but poses a lot of questions which must be answered before you embark on your solo trip. Speaking from my personal experiences, here are my 11 Tips for Solo Travellers:

  1. Adhere to ‘Plan A’ but be ‘Plan B’ ready. Golden rule of travelling – always keep alternate itineraries ready. Plans and punctuality are the biggest casualties while travelling. Be patient and stay cool-headed when your plans go haywire. Before heading out on a trip do your homework. Spend time on online traveller forums and blogs to get the real picture of the place you are visiting. Unlike travel agencies, they provide in-depth information about their personal experiences, safety and culture and answer your questions and concerns in an unbiased manner.
  2. Absorb the universe. Don’t let it become YOUniverse: When you return from a holiday are you more excited to narrate the travel tales or to upload your FB album? Unfortunately travel is now showing off your ‘YOUniverse’ than exploring the universe. Updating “At Eiffel Tower” FB status is more important than seeing a sunset at Eiffel Tower. Give your shutter box a break. Absorb the beauty around you. Live the moment. Don’t just capture it.
  3. Stay connected, no matter what: Always keep your family and friends updated about your whereabouts and ongoing itinerary. Before starting your journey, share your local contact numbers with your family and confirm the same after reaching your destination. Buy a local SIM or connect via skype, WhatsApp or whatever is easily accessible.
  4. Travel light but smart: Carry all of your essentials in your carrybag in case your luggage gets lost. That means clothes for hot, cold, and wet weather, comfortable pair of shoes, medication, hand sanitiser, torch, your IDs and important gadgets and light snacks like energy bars, dry fruits etc. Don’t carry too much cash and never put cash and credit cards in one area. Use ATMs. Don’t over pack except for extra pairs of undergarments and socks. Repeating clothes is better than getting stuck with an immovable backpack.
  5. Be confident and stay away from limelight. Dress appropriately and stay sublime. Respect the local culture and their dressing up sentiments. Avoid dressing up like an obvious “tourist” and don’t flash cash, expensive gadgets or jewellery. Dress for comfort. Junk your skinny jeans, skirts and ballerinas. Live and breathe in track pants and always have some emergency cash stashed in them. Wear comfortable shoes. Stay cautious of your surroundings and stick to well-lit areas and main roads.
  6. Don’t stay aloof. Make friends: Travelling solo doesn’t mean you don’t mingle with people. If you do so, you miss out on lot of experiences and might get into unpleasant situations. It’s prudent not to let strangers know you are alone. Little white lies are perfectly acceptable such as letting people think you’re waiting to meet someone until you’re sure they are trustworthy. Walk with confidence and try to get attached to a group, if you end up in unsavoury locations. Talk to people. Make friends. Learn about different cultures. After all to travel is to learn.
  7. Get off the road. Discover off-the-map destinations: The best part about travelling solo is – you are not bound by others’ itineraries. You can make or amend your plans as per your will. Befriend the locals to explore the unexplored destinations. Talk to chaiwala, taxiwala, villagers and hotel staff to discover hidden delights. Be an explorer.
  8. Travel Smart with a Smartphone: Save offline maps, local sightseeing details, and important local contact details. Use google translate and maps to get instant help (if internet connectivity is not an issue). You can even click a picture of a signboard or menu, and it will translate the text for you. Keep jotting down your experiences in your notes. Helps you document your trip latter on. Use ‘draw pattern’ or ‘insert PIN’ instead of swipe feature to lock the screen and install ‘applock’ to avoid data theft in case your phone gets lost. Don’t carry your phone in hand, keep it in a travel bag. And dress it in a case to avoid screen breakage.
  9. Stay empowered by Power Bank: Thanks to Power banks, you no more have to look for charging points at every Homo sapiens habitat. When you get on a road trip make sure you are powered by a power bank. To save battery – turn off auto sync, charge on airplane mode and carry USB charger instead of a regular charger.
  10. Use local or shared transport instead of a personal taxi: Money saved is money earned. It’s prudent to use the local or shared transport. It not only saves you from getting a hole burnt in your pocket but also get you up-close to the local authentic culture of the place. However, before firming up travel plans, do check with the local transport hubs as many places have very few and infrequent services.
  11. Bargain. Bargain. Bargain: To get the best deal on your hard earned money don’t hesitate to bargain. Seeing a tourist, everyone tries to make a quick buck. Never settle for the price asked for. Quote 30% -40% of the original price. Try at least 3-4 places before making a final purchase decision.

Beautiful travel experiences are like cancer. Once the travel bug bites there is no antidote, and travellers love to be infected with this virus for life. Follow these simple tips and stay infected forever.

Keep Travelling. Keep seeing. Keep Writing.