We look at some of Spicejet’s destinations and tell you what you can see and do to explore their culture, history, heritage, tourism and spirituality.
The capital city continues to hold fort as a destination that has much to see and do. History buffs will love the city as there are several monuments here that are sure to give you a feeling of the days gone by. Start at the India Gate designed by Edwin Lutyens and one of the most popular monuments whose foundation was laid in 1920. Dedicated to all the Indian soldiers who died in World War I, the monument is set amidst landscaped gardens and is lit up at night. The 73 metre high Qutub Minar built in 1193 has five towers built with red stone and marble and is an iconic sight in the city. At the Humayun’s Tomb you will be able to admire Persian architecture and Red Fort is a fine example of Mughal style architecture. The Canopy, Coronation Durbar Park, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Safdarjung’s Tomb, Isa Khan’s Tomb, Alai Darwaza are some of the other endless list of historical sights to see. Spiritual seekers can check out the Lotus temple, Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, Jama Masjid and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. Some of the other places that must be on your itinerary include Nehru Park, Lodi Gardens, Chandni Chowk, Hauz Khas Village, National Gallery of Modern Art and Shankar’s International Dolls Museum. The sights of Delhi are quite endless so you will need to make many trips to see all of its beauty.
While it was always known to be an industrial and economic hub, the Historic City of Ahmedabad was declared as India’s first UNESCO World Heritage City in July 2017. Located on the banks of the Sabarmati River, the city rich past is several centuries old. The Hathee Singh Temple is a marble Jain temple dedicated to the 15th Jain Trithanakara Dharmnath whose beautiful architecture makes it among the finest Jian temples in the country. The Ahmed Shah Mosque built in the early 15th century and named after the founder of the city of Ahmedabad, Sultan Ahmed Shah, is one of the oldest and most beautiful mosques in the city. The city is known for its step wells and must see are the 500 year old Dada Hari Ni Vav and Adalaj Stepwell located in the village of Adalaj built in 1499 by Queen Rudabai. Do make a pit stop at the Calico Museum of Textiles setup in a Gujarati architecture inspired haveli that has an impressive collection of fabrics from across the country over five centuries. Auto World Vintage Car Museum, Vechaar Utensils Museum, Sanskar Kendra City Museum and Shreyas Folk Museum are also some sights in the city. Soak in the serenity on the Sabarmati Riverfront in the evening and you know this is a city that is really where everything comes together beautifully.
While the capital of Uttarkand is often looked at as a gateway to Mussoorie, Rishikesh and Haridwar, it has many sights that make it a destination in itself. Home to the renowned Forest Research Institute, that is a unique institute in the field of forest research, this beautiful structure was established in 1906. While photography is not permitted inside, you can take images of the stunning façade here. Inside you will see a Pathology Museum, Timbra Museum, Non-Wood Forest Products Museum, Social Forestry Museum, Silviculture Museum and Entomology Museum. Also see the Mindrolling Monastery in Clement Town built in 1965 by Khochhen Rinpoche, one of the six major monasteries of the Nyingma school of Buddhism that has a scenic Zen like vibe that is not to be missed. Incidentally the city has a distinct Buddhist vibe that is unmissable. The Tibetan Buddhist temple with wall paintings that depict the life of Lord Buddha with a 130 feet tall statue of Buddha is another attraction here. At Robber’s cave you can see a unique natural occurrence of a stream of water that appears, disappears underground and reappears a few yards away. A popular tourist spot this is where you can see a river running through a 600 meter long cave. Do pay obeisance at the Tapkeshwar Temple a cave temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The capital city of Bihar, Patna has an ancient history dating back to 3000 years and was Patlipura in the Magadha kingdom. The Golghar a granary in Stupa architecture style not just offers a panoramic view of the city but has a history that dates back to 1786. The view of the Ganges from here is a compellingly beautiful sight. A visit to the Agam Kuan the oldest and most important archaeological site in Patna that has several ancient and medieval sculptures and a Shitala Devi temple is also recommended. Do stop at Patna Museum called Jadu Ghar locally has a collection of paintings, coins, art and textiles and is housed in a Mughal style Rajput architecture building. Kumrahar 5km away is where you can see the city’s Pataliputra historical connection as it has the archaological remains of the Mauryan Palace as well as excavations of old items. For a spiritual fix head to Maa Patneshwari Devi Temple, the oldest and most revered temples that is one of the 51 Siddha Shakti Pithas in India. The Mahavir Mandir dedicated to Lord Hanuman is another popular temple in Patna. At Gandhi Maidan you can see the world’s tallest statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Take a stroll in the Buddha Smriti Park that was inaugurated by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama that is home to a stupa, museum and meditation centre. The Kamaldah Jain Temple, Padri Ki Haveli, Patna_Planetarium, Patna Zoo, Funtasia-Water-Park, Srikrishna Science Centre, Gurdwara at Patna Sahib and Pathar Ki Masjid are other popular spots.
The royal city of Udaipur with its pristine lakes and stunning palaces has been voted as one of the three best cities in the world. At the heart of the city is the famed City Palace complex, part of which is home of the reigning royal family of Udaipur headed by the 76th custodian of the House of Mewar, Arvind Singh Mewar. Located on the banks of Lake Pichola, the City Palace has a museum that displays arms, sculptures, antiques, inscriptions, textiles and many items belonging to the royal family. When you are here hop on to a boat on Lake Pichola and admire the stunning Lake Palace and Jag Mandir another beautiful palace. A stop at the Jagdish Temple built in the mid 17thcentury has an intricate design that is another attraction here. Also stop at the nearby Jagat Shiromani temple that has some stunning pillars with mythological figures. For a stroll in the park, well quite literally, Saheliyon Ki Bari is the place to head to which is a garden designed for the women of the royal family. To know more of the rich art and cultural aspects of Udaipur, head to Shilpgram, an expansive open air rural arts and crafts complex where you can also buy local handicrafts, Rajsthani artefacts and jewellery. The Vintage Car Collection owned by Arvind Singh Mewar includes the 1924 Rolls Royce 20H.P, MG-TC Convertible, Ford-A Convertible and Vauxhall-12 among others.
Recently announced as the second UNESCO World Heritage City, the capital of Rajasthan has a rich cultural, historical and regal background that blends into the modern city making it a tourist favourite. The City Palace Complex is a good place to start exploring the Pink City as it houses the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum that displays royal costumes, Pashmina shawls, Benaras silk saris, an art gallery and the royal family residence at the adjoining Chandra Mahal. Another mandatory stop must be at the most photographed and iconic monument – the Hawa Mahal built in 1799 by Sawai Pratap Singh. Said to be a place for the women of the royal family to see the outside world, this five storied façade has small latticed windows that ensure fresh air is always circulated inside which also gives its name. The Amber Palace dates back to the 7th century and hosts a sound and light show every evening which is a great way to understand the royal history of the city. Also head to the Nahargarh fort to see a beautiful sunrise as well as admire a huge step well here. The Galta temple with a collection of buildings and temples is inhabited by monkeys. End your day at the Jal Mahal, a water body that is home to many species of birds.
With a history of Begums who have ruled and shaped the city, Bhopal has always had a strong connection with women leaders. The city of lakes as it is popularly known has the Upper Lake built by former ruler Parmara Raja Bhoj after whom the airport is also named. A large statue of the king is on the lake here. The lower lake is where you can enjoy a spot of boating. The city is dotted with several monuments that date back many centuries. The Taj-ul-Masajid mosques built by Shah Jahan Begum is a fine example of Muslim architecture and has pink hued façade that houses a hall, recessed archways, octagonal minarets and a spacious courtyard. Also make a stop at Moti Masjid built by Sikandar Jahan in 1860, and is a copy of Delhi’s Jama Masjid. The Rani Kamlapati Palace on the banks of the Lower Lake and the Gohar Mahal that has some beautiful stained glass work as well. Usually empty there is a caretaker who can show you around the place. If you are a foodie, do try some of the signature dishes here like the qorma (a meat based gravy), kebabs (cutlets from minced meat) and gullati (rice pudding). Head to Mahavir Giri a beautiful hillock that offers a bird’s eye view of the city (you can also take a cable ride) or drive up here and watch a beautiful sunset envelop the city.
Gwalior has a history of royalty, music and culture that makes for an interesting visit. Known as the Fort City of India, start your tour of the city at the majestic Gwalior Fort. This fort is also known for the Queen of Jhansi Rani Lakshmibai’s heroics as part of the Rebellion of 1857. The Jai Vilas Palace is where you can learn more about the city’s Scindia legacy. The cream hued palace has Italian, Tuscan and Corinthian influences and houses the Scindia Museum which has a crystal staircase and a mini silver train used by the royal family for serving food. This is where you can see two of the largest chandeliers in the world that weigh a whopping three and a half tonnes as well as the largest hall carpet in Asia. The Gwalior Gharana is one of the oldest Khayal Gharanas and legends like Tansen and Baiju Bawara belonged to Gwalior. Apart from the music, the city has a spiritual side with Sahastra Bahu Ka Mandir dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu, Teli Ka Mandir, Sun Temple, Gopachal Parvat and Surajkund, a large tank that locals believe has magical water. Do stop at the Sarod Ghar a Museum of Music in the ancestral house of musician Hafiz Ali Khan that displays a collection of ancient instruments.
The beach town of Puducherry with its distinct French charm is a favourite holiday destination. At the heart of the White town or the French sector is the Aurobindo Ashram that was built in 1926. This is where you will experience all things calm and is the resting place of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The serene resting place is covered with bright flowers and you will see a steady stream of people paying their respect. Also visit the Manakula Vinayagar Temple close by which has been in existence since 1666. The colourful temple with a bright outer façade has an impressive 18 feet tall gold plated tower and is an ode to India’s most loved God, Ganesha. You can meet the temple elephant Lakshmi who is usually outside, who will bless you in return for some money. Puducherry is also home to an international community living model at Auroville a place founded by Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual collaborator, Mirra Alfassa or the Mother. The Matrimandir here is golden sphere shaped building that houses a meditation hall. All around Auroville you will see a bustling community. If you like handmade pottery this is the place to buy it from. Do take a walk along the Promenade beach that has the French War Memorial. When here do sample the cuisine of Pondicherry that blends South Indian and French sensibilities.
Call it Maximum City, The Financial Capital of the Country or the City which never sleeps, Mumbai wears all its sobriquets with an ease that is like no other. Little wonder then that the most populous city of India is not just popular with tourists but also has an abundance of sights that are waiting to be explored. The city has a distinct British influence seen in the Fort St. George area which has buildings inspired by Neo-classical and Indo-Saracenic styles of architecture. You can start at the famed Gateway of India, a waterfront landmark built in Indo-Saracenic style in yellow basalt stone. The 26 metres high archway is connected with four turrets and is easily the most photographed monument of the city. Do visit the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus or Victoria Terminus building which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose edifice was built in 1887. The stone building with stain glass windows, arches, turrets and domes is a visually compelling sight. Around the Marine Drive you can see a several buildings that have an Art Deco style. Mumbai’s art penchant can be explored at the Kala Ghoda area, Nehru Centre Art Gallery at Worli, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya and the National Gallery of Modern Art. Mount Mary Church, Shivaji Park, Shree Siddhivinayak Temple, RBI Monetary Museum and Elephanta Caves are some other sights not to miss.
Often thought of as a gateway to the Ajanta and Ellora caves, Aurangabad is an excellent destination by itsef courtesy a variety of sights that comprise varied experiences. Start your exploration at the the replica of the famed Taj Mahal, the Bibi ka Maqbara which has earned the name Dakkhani Taj that translates to the Taj of the Deccan. Built in 1679 by Prince Azam Shan, Aurangzeb’s son in memory of his mother, Begum Rabia Durani, this mausoleum is a fine example of Islamic architecture and has a hexagon shape and four towering minarets. The marble lattice work and beautiful landscapes surrounding the monument make it popular with adults and children alike. Also do stop at the Aurangabad Caves a set of 12 caves have been carved from soft rock and date back to the period between the 6th and 8th century. The caves are home to not just intricate carvings of Buddha but also many Gods and Goddesses. Special mention is required for Cave number 7 courtesy its pillared verandah and square sanctum. Some of the caves are located at a higher level and if you climb up you will also be rewarded with some stunning city sights. If you are a history buff the medieval Daulatabad Fort, located about 15 km away from the city that is believed to have the tallest spire in India and one of the most powerful forts of Maharashtra is a good idea. Aurangabad is also home to Grishneshwar Mandir, one of the 12 Jyotirlinga sites in the country. Nature lovers will love the Jayakwadi Bird Sanctuary a haven for migratory birds as well as the Salim Ali Sarovar Lake, a biodiversity hot spot.
Often referred to with the sobriquet “bride of the Red Sea”, Jeddah is the second largest city in Saudi Arabia and is often a gateway to Mecca and Medina, the holiest of all Islamic sites. The city that is a well-known port as it located overlooking the Red Sea, has a history of maritime trade that is impossible to miss. With this kind of background the city has a rich cultural and spiritual history that combines trade, pilgrimage and architectural traditions. Often dubbed as the commercial capital of Saudi Arabia, this is a city that wears its heritage and modernity with equal pride. With a beautiful water front corniche the city’s high rises are a symbol of its new age development. To know the city’s history better head to the Jeddah Regional Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography and the Abdul Raouf Khalil Museum. The latter chronicles a pre- Islamic history that dates back 2500 years and showcases an impressive collection of items of the Ottoman Turks and the fishermen tribes who originally inhabited this region. The Al-Balad historic district is where you can still see 7th century traditional homes built with coral and is also home to the bustling Souq Al-Alawi a must for some retail therapy of the local kind. For some fun, head to the Al Shallal Theme Park whose double-looped roller coaster and ice-skating rink are well known. The city is also known to be an excellent diving site courtesy its beautiful coral reefs and shipwrecks.
Saudi Arabia’s capital city Riyadh, is one of the most populated cities in the region and is named after the meadows (rawḍah) in the region. Start your exploration at the Masmak Fortress located in the heart of old Riyadh that has a museum as well. At the King Abdul Aziz Historical Centre you will see the Murabba Palace, a royal fortress that dates back to the 20th century. This complex is also home to the National Museum has some important exhibits like a kiswah cloth that is said to have once covered the Qaaba in Mecca. To admire the city’s modern architecture, head to the Kingdom Centre which is the second tallest building in Saudi Arabia and makes for a compelling sight when it is lit up at night. The city has over 4000 mosques and the spiritual under current is unmissable. For some shopping head to the malls at the Al Faisaliah Centre and the Kingdom Centre or stop at the Deira’s Souq al-Thumairi that is a treasure trove if local crafts. The suburban Royal Saudi Air Force Museum that has an impressive collection of classic aircrafts and the Riyadh Zoo are good places to see with family. The outskirts have some good golf courses where you can tee off in style.
Nepal’s capital city, Kathmandu often dubbed as the ‘Roof of the World’, has a motley mix of attractions that has an interesting mix of Buddhist and Hindu religious sites. The Boudhanath Stupa built in 600 AD, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the the Swayambhunath or the Monkey Temple are some of the best sites here. The thunderbolt of Dorje on the eastern stairway, Natural History Museum, Western Stupa and Buddha Amideva Park are other must see sites. Another UNESCO site that is worth a visit is the Durbar Square which has several stupas, temples, monasteries and shrines is the venue of the royal coronations of the past. When here stop at the Kumari Bahal which is the house of the living goddess Kumari who you can see at the annual Indra Jatra Festival held in September. A visit to main street Thamel that has a mix of restaurants, souvenir stores and knick knacks is a must and is the place to stock up on prayer flags, singing bowls and pashmina shawls. Food lovers must try the Momos, a Nepalese favourite. Also do visit the Swapna Bagaicha or Garden of Dreams close to central Thamel that has been carefully restored and houses beautiful lawns.
This story first appeared in Spice Route’s September 2019 issue here: