Rohtang La, Lahaul valley and the highway to Leh lie to one side of it and to its other side lie the beautiful high altitude villages of Spiti valley. Standing tall between all these spectacular destinations lies Kunzum La, a 14, 931 feet high mountain pass in the Eastern Kunzum range of the Himalayas. The most special attribute about Kunzum pass has to be the journey to reach the top of the pass. If you are coming from Kaza, you will have to cross the semi-arid cold desert landscape of Losar and if you happen to be coming from Gramphoo, you will be crossing the treacherous Chenab river valley before you start the steep ascent from Batal.
Unlike the other mountain passes in the region, the Kunzum pass is the one that offers the toughest road conditions. Mountain streams overflowing onto the roads, huge boulders falling on to the roads, umpteen landslide zones and overall steep and rough terrain greet you on this route. Add to it the absolutely gorgeous Chandra Taal lake enroute and you have a dream rugged road trip.
Although it is not recommended to spend a lot of time on the top of high mountain passes, especially ones like Kunzum La, one can spend enough time to explore the Kunzum Mata temple, a small stupa like temple structure on the top of the pass. Visitors on this route usually stop their vehicles here for a short while to seek the blessings of the Kunzum Mata for a safe journey. One can also explore nearabouts and indulge in some photography. If you are one of those adventure lovers and if you have already acclimatized to the high altitude atmosphere, you can embark on the 15 km trek from Kunzum La to Chandra Taal lake, one of the more beautiful high altitude treks of Himachal Pradesh.
Kunzum pass is one of the more rugged, yet beautiful mountain destinations in India. If you can handle a bumpy road trip with raw nature around you, then Kunzum la is the ideal mountain holiday destination for you.
Note: Only thing to remember here is that the roads are at the mercy of mother nature here (floods, landslides, snowfall, falling rocks, etc.) and it is best to check in with the local authorities about the current state of the roads before embarking on your journey.
Other nearby tourist attractions:
1) Chandra taal lake: A magical family camping destination in the Himalayas
2) Keylong: Paradise for walkers in Lahaul
3) Rohtang pass: One of the most famous mountain passes in Himachal Pradesh
4) Kibber: The village of the snow leopard
5) Langza: The Himlayan village that is known for fossils of marine animals
6) Komic: One of the world’s highest villages with road connectivity
7) Dhankar: Prettiest village of Spiti
8) Pin valley national park: A spectacular mountain national park that is home to the iconic Pin Parvati peak
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Sunday, March 21, 2021
It is a 13th century Hoysala era temple gem that is located just a few hours away from Bangalore. It is located in a small village that is associated with one of Indian cricket’s fast bowlers. I am talking about the offbeat Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple that is located in the pretty little laidback village called Javagal, the ancestral village of Indian cricketer Javagal Srinath.
This trikuta temple is one of many such lesser known gorgeous temples built during the reign of the Hoysala kingdom. Like most Hoysala era temples, the Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Javagal stands on a jagati (raised platform), beautiful moulding friezes and sculptures on the outer walls and lathe turned pillars, sukanasi and garbha griha on the inside. Where it differs from the other temples is that even though it is home to three shrines, it has only one shikhara. And its outer wall panel sculptures, reliefs and friezes are folkish in character and much different from the other Hoysala temples where the work is more intricate, well planned and laid out.
The main deity of this temple is Sridhara. The other two shrines are dedicated to Venugopala and Lakshmi Narasimha. As the main deity of this temple is Sridhara, some people also refer this temple to as Sridhara temple. This temple does not come under the archaeological survey of India and hence does not see much in terms of grants and regular maintenance, which is very sad, as it is an integral part of our country’s rich heritage. The main temple enclosure is full of thorns and weeds and a lot of restoration work is unscientific, but thankfully most of the original temple is still standing, even though it is a bit weather beaten.
It is a working temple and daily puja, mangalarti and archana is offered. Most people visiting this temple are pilgrims and you will hardly see any art, culture or temple lovers. That is how offbeat this temple is on the cultural circuit.
A typical visit to this temple would start with entering a mantapa with two elephant balustrades that were built in the Vijayanagara period. Then, you are greeted by a Garuda sthamba, two dwarapalas Jaya and Vijaya and then the ranga mantapa with the lathe turned pillars. From here, you can enter the main temple complex and its three shrines. If you stand in the vestibule, straight ahead would be the sukanasi and the garbha griha of Sridhara, to your left would be the shrine of Venugopala and to your right would be the shrine of Lakshmi Narasimha. The sukanasi and the vestibule connecting the 3 shrines have beautiful carvings, ceiling work and sculptures.
Now, coming to the outside of the temple, as you take a clockwise pradakshinam (circumambulation), you will notice the six equal width rectangular moldings or friezes close to your feet. Staring from the top, these friezes depict hansa (birds), makara (crocodiles), Hindu epics and other stories, leafy scrolls, horses and elephants. Right above these friezes, you will see close to 140 beautifully carved sculptures that include Chaturvimsati murtis (24 different aspects of Lord Maha Vishnu), Hari hara, Brahma, Goddess Parvati, Tandav Ganesha and more. Most of these sculptures were sculpted by the famous Hoysala temple artisan Mallitamma.
The Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Javagal is perfect for a Sunday day trip from Bangalore. It offers a beautiful mix of offbeat Hoysala temple, village atmosphere and a lush green landscape. It doesn’t matter whether you are an art, temple or culture lover, a student of archaeology or just a regular joe looking for a weekend getaway close to Bangalore, Javagal’s Lakshmi Narasimha temple and its surroundings are bound to appeal to all. I love such hidden gems and would recommend it with many thumbs up.
The temple is usually open from 6 AM to 7 PM. However, in case the temple is closed, you could either ask anyone for the house of the temple priest Narayana Swamy or you can try calling him on his mobile +91 94488 94575. If the temple priest is available and free, he will open the temple premises for you.
As this is a working temple, mangalarti takes place in the morning and evening. And may be a few more times on specific festival days or when the crowd is higher.
How to reach there:
There are two routes to reach Javagal. One is via Hassan highway and the other is via Shimoga highway. Below is the full route map.
1) Route 1: Hassan highway: Bangalore –> Nelamangala –> Kunigal –> Channarayapatna –> Hassan –> Halebeedu –> Belavadi –> Javagal
2) Route 2: Tiptur – Shimoga highway: Bangalore –> Nelamangala –> Kunigal > Yediyur –> Turuvekere –> Tiptur –> Arsikere –> Banavara –> Javagal
The nearest railway stations are Kadur and Birur. The nearest large bus station would be either Banvara or Hassan.
The nearest airport would be Mangalore international airport, but the one with the best connectivity would be Bangalore international airport.
Best season to visit:
It is good to visit Javagal all year round. You might have to visit early in the summer months as the days can get pretty warm.
Monsoons and post monsoons are best to see the surroundings covered in lush vegetation.
Where to stay
Basic budget accommodation can be found at Belur and Halebid.
For something more luxurious, look up Hoysala Village resort that is located between Belur and Hassan.
For something set amidst nature, look up the plantation stays and resorts located in and around Chickmagalur.
Where to eat:
You can get tea/coffee or biscuits at Javagal. Nothing more. If you are looking for restaurants that serve decent food, you will either have to head to Banvara, Halebid or Belur.
The best bet would be Belur as it has more choices available. Hoysala village resort that is located between Belur and Hassan would be the most luxurious option.
Other offbeat Hoysala temples nearby:
1) Veeranarayana temple at Belavadi
2) Lakshmi Devi temple at Doddagaddavalli
3) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Nuggehalli
4) Sadashiva temple at Nuggehalli
5) Brahmesvara temple at Kikkeri
6) Panchalingeshwara temple at Govindanahalli
7) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Hosaholalu
8) Chenna Keshava temple at Somnathpur
9) Chenna Keshava temple at Aralaguppe
10) Chenna Keshava temple at Turuvekere
11) Ishvara temple at Arsikere
12) Chenna Keshava temple at Anekere
13) Mallikarjuna temple at Basaralu
14) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Haranhalli
Other nearby tourist attractions:
1) Shettihalli roasary ruins in the Hemavati reservoir
2) The hill station and coffee estates of Chickamagaluru
3) The wide Hemagiri falls on the Hemavati river
4) The temple town of Melukote famous for its Iyengars and puliyogare
5) The Jain pilgrimage site of Shravanabelagola that is home to the mighty Baahubali statue
6) The hill station of Kemmangundi
7) The beautiful Hebbe falls surrounded by coffee estates
8) The absolutely photogenic Mysore palace
9) The butterfly forest of India called Bisle Ghat
10) The world famous Hoysaleswara temple at Halebid
11) The world famous Chenna Keshava temple at Belur
12) Bhadra tiger reserve that is known for river terns, tigers and leopards
Monday, March 15, 2021
Turkey is a holiday destination with amazing experiences. It’s unique location on the cusp of Europe, Asia and the Middle East makes it a melting pot of cultures, home to an amazing array of landscapes and a land of delicious food. One such gem in Turkey is the ruins of the ancient Greek city called Hierapolis. Founded in early 2nd century BCE, Hierapolis is a UNESCO world heritage site that in its hey days used to exist as a spectacular spa destination.
This ancient Greek spa city, located on natural hot springs in southwestern Anatolia, was home to spectacular baths, a massive amphitheatre, temples, grand gateways, markets, sacrophagi and much more. Today, its ruins give us a glimpse into its rich past.
It all started when the Phrygians built a temple in the first half of the 7th century BCE, which was used by the people of the nearby villages and towns. Then, in the 2nd century BCE, Hierapolis was founded as a thermal spa. It started as a healing centre, before people started to migrate here to spend their last days in relaxation and peace. With time, Hierapolis or the holy city expanded from being a health centre into a city with numerous temples. In 133 BCE, Hierapolis became the part of the Roman province of Asia after the death of King Attalus III. Then onwards a couple of earthquakes damaged the city and it was entirely rebuilt in the Roman style with imperial financial support. By now, Christianity had made its presence felt in this city.
Then came the golden era of the city starting 129 ACE when the theatre was built for a visit by the emperor Hadrian. And when the Roman Emperor Caracalla visited in 215 ACE and bestowed upon it the title of neocorus, Hierapolis entered the peak phase of this golden era. Roman baths, gymnasium, temples, fountains and markets were built. Hierapolis became one of the more prominent Roman cities in the field of art, philosophy and trade. The citizens started getting richer and the city thrived. All was well till the early part of the 7th century when the town was attacked by Persian armies and then by an earthquake. Thus began the decline of this once great spa city.
As you walk through the ruins of this ancient city, you cannot stop admiring its massive size, be its baths, amphitheatre, temples or just its building columns. Not only are the structures of Hierapolis big, but they were tastefully built with a lot of utility functions. All the remaining stones and ruins tell you a story and each vantage point gives you a majestic view of the landscape that is made up of rocks, stones and white travertines.
You can either take a taxi to Hierapolis, explore the city by foot, enjoy a dip in the thermal waters and walk your way down to the town of Pamukkale through the travertines and waterfalls or you can walk your way up from Pamukkale through the different travertines, exploring every bit of it in the cooler morning weather, then exploring the ancient Greek city of Hierapolis and then walking all the way back to Pamaukkale through a different route in the travertines. Either ways, you are bound to enjoy the ruins of Hierapolis and the travertines of Pamukkale. Throw in a paragliding adventure, a relaxed soak in the hot water springs and a deliciously cooked local meal and you have a dream Hierapolis and Pamukkale holiday experience.
As I had mentioned earlier, Turkey is a holiday destination with many amazing experiences. All you have to do is book your tickets and Turkish visa and you are all set to have a dream vacation that includes the ancient Greek spa city of Hierapolis and many other magical destinations.
How to reach there:
The nearest airport, train station and bus station would be Denizli. Mini buses or dolmus (share taxi) will take you from Denizli to Pamukkale in about 20 minutes.
The well connected and also the cheapest option to reach Denizli would be by bus.
Best season to visit:
Summers tend to be very hot at Pamukkale and Hierapolis. Hence, they can be best avoided. The rest of the year would be ideal to visit Hierapolis and Pamukkale.
Winters can be a bit challenging as you will have to walk barefoot through the freezing waters of the travertines.
Things to keep in mind:
1) Do carry with you a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes against the heavy reflections coming from the chalky cascades
2) Do carry with you a cap/hat, sunblock, good pair of boots, a bottle of water to protect yourself from the elements
The entrance fee is 80 Turkish Lira. This includes both Pamukkale travertines and the Roman ruins of Hierapolis
Where to stay:
Pamukkale would be the best place to stay as it offers close proximity to the travertines and to Hierapolis. There are many family run pensions near the travertines for those looking for something more upmarket, while the town has hotels and hostels catering to a wide range of budgets.
Where to eat:
You could either eat at your place of stay in Pamukkale or you could try the delicious street food in the city.
There are also a few restaurants near Hierapolis, where you could get some basic food.
Other nearby tourist attractions:
1) Pamukkale: A UNESCO world heritage site known for its travertines with mineral rich thermal waters&
2) Cappadocia: One of the most magical places in the world
3) Ephesus: An ancient Greek city founded in the early 10th century BC on the west coast of Turkey
4) Aphrodisias: Offbeat Greek culture trail in Turkey
5) Kayakoy: The ghost town of Turkey
6) Lycian way: A historic trail with sensational beaches, architectural ruins, rich Greek history and stunning views
Tuesday, March 09, 2021
It is one of the oldest stone structures in India. It is probably the best preserved group of Buddhist monuments in India. The architecture of Rashtrapati Bhavan and many other buildings in India drew their inspiration from this Indian monument. This UNESCO world heritage site is seen on the back of the 200 Rupee Indian currency note. I am talking about Sanchi Stupa, the Indian heritage gem that gave torana architecture to the world.
Located in the heart of India in the state of Madhya Pradesh, Sanchi Stupa was originally commissioned by the emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE. It underwent many additions starting from the 3rd century BCE to the 11th century CE. The original hemispherical brick structure, pillars of Ashoka and one of the first free standing temples of India (Temple 40) were built during the reign of the Mauryan empire (3rd century BCE). During the Shunga period (2nd century BCE), they increased the size of the Great Stupa by adding stone slabs to it, added balustrade reliefs, staircases and some more small stupas. During the Satavahana period (1st century BCE to 1st century CE), the toranas or decorated gateways were built. And during the later periods of Western Satraps and the Guptas, further stupas and other religious Buddhist structures were built.
The highlight of Sanchi Stupa has to be its four intricately carved toranas. Different aspects of Buddha’s life and of Buddhism can be seen at Sanchi Stupa, especially on these four toranas (gateways) that are located at four different directions (north, east, west, south) around the stupa. Each of these toranas are intricately carved. The work is so beautiful that you might actually think that the panels on the toranas are made out of wood, but they are made of stone and they were carved by the ivory carvers of Vidisha.
Different scenes from the life of Buddha, Jataka tales, miracles of Buddha, temptation of Buddha, war over Buddha’s relics, removal of the relics by Ashoka, building of the Bodh Gaya temple by Ashoka, foreign devotees and much more can be seen on the relief panels of these toranas. Each inch of the toranas are full of rich visual stories that interest all kinds of visitors. The attention to detail and the skills displayed here are beyond exemplary. These toranas are so good, that countries around the world (Japan, China, etc.) have borrowed ideas from it and installed it in their temples and buildings.
The information depicted at Sanchi Stupa is enough to fill the pages of an entire book. What is even more special is that Sanchi stupa has stood for over 2400 years and the toranas have stood for close to 2000 years. And they still look as good as new. And which is why one needs the services of a knowledgeable guide to understand the full extent of this monument’s rich heritage.
The best way to explore Sanchi Stupa is first with a guide, then with a book, then with a camera and even then, you might have missed to spot a story portrayed on one of the relief panels. Personally, I prefer slow circumambulation of the Sanchi Stupa, one at the ground level and one at the first level. You might want to carry a pair of binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens to see the smaller relief panels on the top of the torana clearly. And if you do this circumambulation at leisure, you might return to your hotel with a vast amount of information on the life of Buddha, the Jataka tales, the life of King Ashoka, the trade that happened at that time and the various influences of different empires on this monument from the 3rd century BCE to the 11th century CE. And boy, this rich insight is bound to thrill the culture lover in you.
The sound and light show organized every night will also add to this pool of information, but it will provide you with a very different perspective of this UNESCO world heritage site. For all those who missed availing the services of a guide, this 35 minute show is a great way to learn about Sanchi Stupa, its history, Buddhism and more.
It doesn’t matter whether you a regular tourist, a history lover, a follower of Buddhism, a culture lover, a student of archaeology or one who ticks off UNESCO heritage sites from their travel bucket-list, Sanchi Stupa possesses all the ingredients to truly bowl you over with its rich visual depictions. Its tales will carry you back 2500 years back to a time of King Ashoka and the Mauryas and sometimes much further beyond than that into the world of Lord Buddha and his interesting life stories. Sanchi stupa is a rich Indian heritage gem that needs to be treasured, preserved and appreciated by all of us. Such places make us immensely proud of our ancestors and our rich lineage.
Visit Sanchi Stupa if you haven’t visited it already. May be, plan a trip this year.
How to reach there:
The nearest airport would be Rajabhoj international airport at Bhopal. It is well connected with the rest of the country.
The nearest railway station would be Sanchi, though the one with the best connectivity would be Bhopal. Likewise with the bus station.
Sanchi Stupa is about 50 kms from Bhopal or about one and a half hours by road. Local taxis, self drives or local buses can easily take you from Bhopal to Sanchi town.
Sanchi Stupa light and sound show:
There is a sound and light show that happens every night at Sanchi Stupa between 7:30 PM and 8:05 PM. The counter opens at 7 PM, though one can book tickets in advance.
This sound and light show walks you through the rich history of this land through some great visual and voice overs.
It could be a bit chilly during the winter months. It might be prudent to carry your warm wear with you during those months.
A rich heritage site like Sanchi Stupa certainly requires the services of a learned and knowledgeable tourist guide. You can either hire the services of a government approved tour guide at Sanchi Stupa, hire one at your hotel , make use of the one provided by your travel agency or hire one directly.
A knowledgeable guide will make your Sanchi Stupa experience so much richer and fulfilling.
Daily timings and weekly offs:
Sanchi Stupa is closed every Monday and during the other days of the week, it is open from 8 AM to 7 PM.
If you wish to visit the Sanchi archaeological museum, then remember that it is closed every Friday and it’s daily timings are 9 AM to 5 PM.
Best season to visit:
Summers tend to be a bit warm at Sanchi and can be best avoided. Monsoons, post monsoons, winter and early spring are the best months to visit Sanchi Stupa. While the rains make the bleak landscape lush and make for vibrant sights, winters are perfect for those long walks in the sun. Don’t miss to carry your woollens if you are traveling during the winters. Late evenings and early mornings can be especially nippy.
Where to stay:
If you wish to stay close to Sanchi Stupa (which is what I would recommend), you can look at the simple budget property called Gateway Retreat run by Madhya Pradesh tourism. This property offers all the basic amenities and is real close to Sanchi Stupa. If you wish for a slightly more luxurious property, look up Aaram Bagh Sanchi run by Pachar group.
If you wish to stay close to Udayagiri caves, look up the MP tourism property called Jungle Resort.
Where to eat:
There are a few restaurants in Sanchi town that can dish out decent food. However, if you are a larger group, it might be prudent to order in advance.
It might also be better to plan your meals at your place of stay so that you can freshen up and eat at the same location.
There are restaurants near Vidisha in case you are headed towards Udayagiri caves.
Other nearby tourist attractions:
1) Udayagiri Caves: 5th century cultural beauty of Madhya Pradesh
2) Bhimbetka rock shelters: An UNESCO world heritage site and home to some of the oldest known rock art in the Indian subcontinent
3) Bhojpur: Home to the largest Shiva lingam in the world
4) Taj-ul-Masajid: One of the largest mosques in Asia
5) Bhopal: The beautiful city of lakes that is known for its greenery, culture and food
6) Chanderi: The historical city famous for its sarees
7) Orchha: The hidden capital of the Bundelkhand kingdom
8) Khajuraho: The 10th century erotic art temple wonder
Wednesday, March 03, 2021
In football, the FIFA World Cup is the sport’s largest and most attended tournament which takes place every four years.
Sports are so much more than just opportunities to watch leagues and players compete in live matchups. Events like the World Cup, Tour de France, Wimbledon, the Grand National and more attract millions of viewers to their regions, as well as travellers to their respective country’s turf. Enthusiastic followers will cross oceans and states, board planes and trains just for the chance to cheer on their team in real-time.
For some this is a common occurrence, but for others whose teams are located far away from their home base, traveling just to see a game may take some serious preparation. If there’s a specific sporting event you’d love to attend at least once in your lifetime, check out this helpful list of tips and tricks that will make your journey stress-free and unforgettable.
Plan every aspect of your trip ahead of time
Of course, taking time to extensively plan and research for any trip is crucial. However, when you’re traveling for sporting events, there are even more factors to take into account. Firstly, you’ll want to make sure that the hotel you’ll be staying at is conveniently located close to the stadium, court, or track where the event is set to take place. If not, you may have to pay a hefty price for a taxi ride across the city.
If you’re planning on attending a series of games that will be held in one area, it can be more cost effective in the long run to book accommodation as close to the venue as possible. This way you’ll eliminate the need for a driver, Uber, or taxi and can simply commute back to your hotel on foot once the game ends.
In addition to your passport and booking confirmations, it’s advisable to print copies upon copies of your event tickets so that you’ll have backups if they are lost. After all, it would be a shame to travel across the world for a sports competition just to realize you don’t have the paper you need to enter. Keep these documents safe and sound and close to your person at all times, especially during gameday when you’ll be in huge crowds.
Research sportsbooks providers in the area
A popular way that sports fans commonly engage with the teams and athletes they support is by reviewing expert picks and odds, and then wagering on various games that feature their favorites. Although this is an activity with roots that date all the way back to the 18th century, nowadays it has been largely digitalized, as fans enjoy the convenience and accessibility of online sportsbooks in the modern world.
This means that travelers who want to place bets while abroad just need to research the best platform for them, making sure it aligns with that country’s specific rules and regulations for online betting. Luckily, many sites provide overviews of their offerings as well as special bonuses and deals for new users. For example, in the United States, the DraftKings sportsbook review outlines the provider’s pros and cons so that potential customers can understand details about the platform before signing up. Site like these are especially useful for events like the Super Bowl or NBA Finals, as football and basketball fans can review odds and place wagers on these extremely important sporting competitions.
If you happen to be traveling to the U.S., simply research which states provide legal sports betting and get started instantly with your laptop or mobile phone. Investing in a VPN for these purposes could be a great idea, as it will give you around-the-clock access to sites like these and a variety of other platforms even while travelling abroad.
Online sportsbooks connect fans with their favorite teams and players remotely by allowing users to place bets on game outcomes from wherever they may be.
Familiarize yourself with the event’s customs and etiquette
When traveling, it’s always important to respect the culture and customs of the place you’ll be visiting. Particularly when it comes to attending sporting events in places you’ve never been to, it’s advisable to read up on things like dress code and permittable items (camera, food, drinks, etc.) before arriving.
For example, you wouldn’t wear the same thing to England’s Royal Ascot horse racing tournament as you would to American baseball’s World Series championship. In the same way, golf events like the Masters generally don’t allow their spectators to take photos inside the course, and visitors should remain quiet during the performance so as to not disrupt the players. This is quite helpful information to have as the normal sporting event involves a significant amount of shouting and cheering.
Being in-the-know about these things may also inform your packing decisions, as you wouldn’t bring a noisemaker to the Masters, but perhaps it would come in handy during a rowdy college football game. This takes us to our next tip: pack for every eventuality.
Pack for every eventuality
Packing smart is a great habit for any type of trip, not just when going to see live sports. However, especially during events that may take place in outdoor stadiums or courts, being prepared for anything and everything is vital. Since you don’t want rainfall to disrupt your spectator experience, bring ponchos, umbrellas, and rain boots if your destination is prone to downpours. Depending on the sport, the show may go on through rain or shine, so it’s important that fans are prepared to take part in the action no matter the weather.
Another tip is to pack light to avoid unnecessary baggage and weight during transitions. Large sporting events may often require you to take a shuttle bus from one site to another, so ensuring that you can move with ease is a top priority. Traveling with lesser baggage also lowers the risk that you will lose an important document or item along the way.
So, what are you waiting for? Pack the suitcase and purchase the ticket. A quick journey abroad could be all that’s separating you from the fan experience of a lifetime.