It’s the start of a New Year and one resolution you can make and keep is to travel. Here are some of our destination picks for 2019 and the best way to get you there is to hop into a SpiceJet flight.
The capital city of India has so many places to see that it makes for a destination like no other. Having just celebrated its 107th birthday recently, Delhi is a potpourri of history, culture, arts and tradition peppered by a liberal dose of its cuisine that makes it a city to see. On top of your list is to get a history lesson by visiting the renowned monuments including the Qutub Minar, Jantar Mantar, Humayun’s Tomb, Jama Mosque, Lodhi Garden, Safdarjung Tomb and Red Fort. Delhi has several colonial buildings as well and the India Gate and President House are places on your to-do list. Do stop by at the Sunder Nursery a heritage park complex next to the Humayun’s Tomb that has a history that dates back to the 16th century and is bursting with colourful flowers. For culture and art aficionados, no visit to Delhi is complete without visiting the art center Dilli Haat where you will come up close with some of the traditional art forms. Usually there are exhibitions that showcase the same so this must be a place that is not missed. For the spiritually inclined, the Akshardam temple, Lotus temple, Jama Masjid, Birla Mandir and Bangla Saheb are some of the absolutely must-see places. And for retail therapy there is Khan Market, Janpath, Sarojini Nagar market, Connaught Place, Lajpat market as well as Chandni Chowk the wholesale market that also serves some delectable street fare.
With numerous sobriquets like the city that never sleeps, the city where dreams are made of or the financial capital of India, Mumbai has it all. Arguably a city that is as vibrant as it is historical Mumbai has several aces up its very able sleeve. Start exploring the city at the Gateway of India a historic monument that signifies the place from where the last British troops left the country for good. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus an iconic landmark is also the most famous railway station in the country and a striking example of Victorian Gothic and Indian architecture is an absolute must see to understand the pulse if the city. For more architecture lessons stop by at the iconic Taj Mahal Palace hotel that was built in 1903 on the banks of the Arabian Sea. For some quiet time, head to the shrine of Haji Ali Dargah that dates back to 1431 built in the memory of Sayyed Peer Jaji Ali Shah Bukhari. Likewise the beautiful Mount Mary Church atop a hillock in Bandra overlooking the Arabian Sea has a history that dates back to 1570 when it was first built and has been rebuilt several times. The statue of Mother Mary is believed to have been brought to India by the Portuguese in the 16th century. A stop at Mumbai’s oldest museum at Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum is the best way to trace the city’s history and is also a space where you can see various forms of contemporary art. Do stop by at the largest and historic flea market Chor Bazaar, The Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Juhu beach and shop on the Colaba Causeway when you are here.
Arguably the most pristinely beautiful part of India, Jammu is a city like no other. Often eclipsed by its other half Kashmir, Jammu has a charm that is quite like no other. Start your exploration at the Amar Mahal Palace Museum that was the palace residence of Maharani Tara Devi and from where you can get a bird’s eye view of the picturesque Shivalik ranges and river Tawi. This place has several art galleries that promote both Indian art and artists. Also check the Bahu Fort the oldest fort of the city that was originally constructed over 3000 years ago by Raja Bahulochan. Within the fort there is a temple dedicated to the Goddess Kali and an extensive terraced garden called Bagh-e-Bahu, has been developed around the fort. This is a large aquarium with 24 aquarium caves, a public gallery, museum, laboratory and a multimedia conference hall. Mubarak Mandi Palace dates back to 1824 and has a Rajasthani, Mughal mixed architecture with baroque elements. Do not miss the beautiful Sheesh Mahal here. For some more art head to the Dogra Art Gallery to admire Jammu’s fine miniatures and works from the Basohli School of painting. And of course paying obeisance to Vaishno Devi, one of the most revered sites of the Hindus is a must. Incidentally, Jammu has several temples including the likes of Peer Kho Cave Temple, Ranbireshwar Temple, Mahamaya Temple, Raghunath Mandir, Bawey Wali Mata Temple and Panchbakhtar Temple.
Himachal Pradesh’s panoramic hill station known for its thick deodar forests is also home to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Naturally this is a unique destination for thrill seekers as well as those who want to go on a spiritual sojourn. With views that seem straight out of a painting, Dharamshala has an interesting mix of nature, monasteries, temples, forts, waterfalls and museums that is sure to make your visit feel special. Start by admiring the stunning sculpture of Lord Buddha at Tsuglagkhang Complex that was built in 1959 when His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited India for the first time. Apart from His abode you can also catch Tibetan dance and music performances here. For some more Buddhism gyan head to the Namgyal Monastery, the private residence of His Holiness that also houses a Tibetan museum, bookstore, library and a monastery café. To soak in the abundance of nature stop at the Kareri Dal Lake whose picturesque surroundings surrounded by green deodar trees and snow-capped mountains are sure to leave you feeling rather mesmerized. The milky white water in Bhagsunag Waterfalls hurtles from a height of 20 meters and is a treat especially in monsoons. Also stop by at the Bhagsunag Temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. A visit to the Gyuto Monastery, the residence of Karmapa who is the Head of the Kagyu Tibetan Buddhism is where you can learn not just about the Buddhist Philosophy but also about Tantric rituals, and Tantric meditation. Stop and admire the heritage at Kangra Fort that dates back to the 4th century BC that makes it one of the oldest forts in India and the largest fort in the Himalayas.
The coastal city of Mangalore will take you on a unique journey of discovery thanks to its varied mix of sights. Start at Sulthan Battery a black stone watchtower built by Tipu Sultan in 1784 and is now largely in ruins. Being on the banks of the sea this is where you can see large fishing boats that are docked and also catch a magnificent sunset if you time your visit well. Also check the Light House Hill Garden that has a light house and surrounding landscape that were built by Hyder Ali, Tipu’s father. The well panned space has a small water body as well as a library. However Mangalore is best known for its beaches and paying a visit to the Ullal beach, Panambur beach, Taneerbhavi beach, Kaupu beach and Someshwara beach are a must and each beach is different from the other. The Kadri Hill Park here is the highest and largest park in Mangalore and is maintained by the Department of Horticulture of the Government of Karnataka. The Pilikula Nisargadhama which is another park is also situated near the Kadri Hill Park and this is more like a destination by itself and needs a few hours to explore. One of the most revered sites here is at the Kudroli Sri Gokarnatheswara Kshetra which is dedicated to Gokarnath, a form of Lord Shiva. Likewise the Kadri Manjunatha Temple and Milagres Church are a must for the spiritually inclined. Stop at the Seemanthi Bai Government Museum that houses a number of artefacts including ancient coins and paintings from ancient times.
One of the best cities to start your exploration of the North East, Guwhati has several unique sites that will leave you asking for more. Among one of the most popular sites the Kamakhya Temple said to be one of the 51 Shakti Peethas is a must for the devout. Likewise the Umananda Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva dates back to 1694 AD and has some interesting sculptures and carvings. A must see is the Assam State Museum that showcases the local history and culture through its numerous galleries that have sculptures, tribal artwork and fabric used several hundred years ago. For some rest and relaxation hop on to the Alfresco Grand for a two-hour dinner cruise on Brahmaputra River that includes a lovely local meal, folk dance and music that will ensure that your entertainment is spot on. If you are travelling with family pay a visit to the Nehru Park that is surrounded with lush greenery and has several activities for children. This is where you can see local artists as well who perform at the open-air theatre during the season. The Guwahati Planetarium is where you and your family can enjoy an interactive learning experience that is as fun as it is educative. The Assam State Zoo cum Botanical Garden extends 432 acres and is home the one horned Indian rhinoceros, clouded leopard, elephant, Himalayan black bear and hoolock gibbon and many species of birds. But if you prefer the real things head to the 38 km long Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary whose rich biodiversity will get you up close to the famed Indian One-horned rhinoceros.
The natural beauty of the hilly terrains of Leh is almost on everyone’s travel bucket list and this is with good reason. A motley mix of monasteries, royal palaces, mountain peaks, wildlife safaris, and adventure spots amidst stunning natural vistas makes Leh an absolute must visit city. Start at one of the landmarks the Khar that houses the Leh Palace, Tsemo Castle, Namgyal Gompa and a museum that exhibits ornaments, thangkas and paintings that are centuries old. Also check the Shanti Stupa atop a hill in Changspa region that has a jaw dropping altitude of 14000 feet that offers breathtaking and panoramic views of the city. And if you want to know what it is like to be patriotic do visit the Hall of fame to salute the spirit of heroes of the Kargil War and also see how the soldiers in Siachen live here as they continue to work tirelessly to protect the border. For some retail therapy head to the Leh Main Bazaar the best place to pick some of the finest woolen wear and indulge in local food. Located close to Leh Palace behind the Jama Masjid in the Leh Main Baazar is Datun Sahib a Meswak tree believed to be the first ever tree planted by Guru Nanak. If you take a 30 minute walk from Leh on the road leading to Khardung La pass you will arrive at the Sankar Gompa a monastery that is a good idea to visit in the evening. History lovers must check the Zorawar Fort owned by General Zorawar Singh often called the little Napoleon of India who was part of the freedom struggle with the Chinese. For some some quiet time head to the Sindhu Ghaat to soak in the magnificence of the waters of the Indus River.
This story first appeared in Spice Route Jan 2019 issue here: