Limitless deserts, thriving jungles, prosperous rivers and breathtaking views – with every step you take on the Markha Valley Trek you are introduced to nature, beauty, adventure and a heap of emotions felt never before.

With its trail taking you through the Hemis National Park where there’s a good chance you’ll spot a snow leopard to further heading to tiny Himalayan hamlets with huge parachute tents and a unique Buddhist culture to finally crossing high mountain passes that offer you views so enchanting that you almost never want to leave, the Markha Valley Trek has it all!

So if you’re planning your next trekking adventure, look no further! Here are 5 Unbeatable Reasons to do the Markha Valley Trek this summer.

Explore Diverse Landscapes
Unlike the numerous treks that take you through forests or arid deserts of the region, the Markha Valley trek introduces you to landscapes along flowing rivers, green pastures, scenic valleys, and flourishing national parks, and bone-dry desert expanses. On this trek, you will experience excitement – when you spot a snow leopard; hardship -when you cross stretches of the waist-deep Markha River; peace -when you take a stop at the confluence of Indus and Zinchen Rivers; thrill -when you conquer over 17,000 feet at Kongmaru La Pass.

Trek Ladakh Today
Trek Ladakh Today!

Discover Ancient Buddhist Villages
The Markha Valley Trek takes you through some diverse landscapes and while most of the hike is shadowed by wilderness, there will be days when you will stop by tiny mountain hamlets. Trek through scenic landscapes and pass along river banks; meet the region’s locals and come face-to- face with religious shrines at Lhatos and confront the Mani walls. Mani walls are stone structures that are formed by the compilation of intricately carved stone tablets mostly with the inscription of ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ loosely meaning ‘ Hail to the jewel
in the lotus’.

Hike through the villages of Umlung and Hangskar. Much like an eagle nest perched on the tallest tree, the Techa Monastery in Umlung is one of the highest located monasteries and is easily a 1000 years old. Although Umlung offers the comforts of a monastery and a handful of homestays, a visit to Hangskar (the last hamlet in the valley) with its ever welcoming locals and their hot butter tea is a reward in itself. Some of the other villages that you will pass by during the Markha Valley Trek are Spituk, Shingo, and Siku among others.

An Encounter with the Wild
One of the best parts of about the Markha Valley trek is that it takes you through the charming Hemis National Park. Best known for having the highest density of snow leopard in any protected area in the world,
the Hemis National Park with its large population of rare species of wildlife is arguably one of the best parts of this trek. Tibetan wolves, red foxes, Eurasian brown bears and Asiatic ibexes – they are all here. But that’s not all – the region also boasts of being the only habitat of the Shapu in India and is also home to the mountain weasel and the Himalayan mouse. The park is also a bird watcher’s paradise and visitors are often lucky to spot the Lammergeier vulture, the fork-tailed swift, Fire-fronted serin and Tibetan snowfinch in their natural habitat.

Camping in Ladakh
Camping in Ladakh

Live in Parachute Tents
The Markha Valley trek is also known as the ‘tea house trek’, takes you through diverse terrains and arid deserts but that’s not the only fun part of this excursion. While the villages on the trail have ample homestays that provide the comfort of a home away from home, this adventure also lets you have the experience of camping in parachute
tents. These parachute tents are massive tents where you camp the night with your entire group. Fun much? Oh, you have to experience it to know how much!

Be an Achiever
The trek begins from the green landscapes of the Hemis National Park but don’t let the lush environs fool you, this is just the beginning. The Markha Valley trek takes you through striking contrasts. Trek through the land masses with powerful rivers that are knee-deep if not more and pass through rocky canyons to reach the towering peaks of
Ganda La at 15748 feet, and Kongmaru La at 17060 feet. Reach the top and be welcomed by breathtaking views of Ladakh and the Zanskar ranges. It’s a superlative achievement that feels a million times better
than it reads.

In Leh
In Leh

It’s not every day that you come across a trek that offers an out-an-out Ladakhi experience. Raw and natural beauty, exciting adventure, the Buddhist culture, the local food, and the warm hospitality of the people
– everything’s covered.

This trip is everything that dream vacations to Ladakh are made of, and if it resonates with your idea of adventure, let there be no place else you head this summer.

What’s expansive, majestic and home to the highest peaks on the planet? Of course, the Great Himalayas! An enigma in itself, the Himalayan Range lures travelers with its arresting landscape of snow-laden mountains, glaciers and plunging river valleys, along with the ever-so-colossal Mount Everest sitting at a whopping elevation of 8,848 meters above sea level.

But there is more to the Great Himalayan range than just natural grandeur…

Stok Kangri in the Himalayas
Stok Kangri, Himalayas

India’s prime outdoor adventure refuge- Himalayas- house some of the most prominent winter-sports destinations like Gulmarg, Auli, Leh, Manali and Narkanda. While Kashmir offers some of the world’s highest, tough-to-tread but blissfully unexplored ski slopes, just right for extreme snow sport enthusiasts, the gentle slopes of Himachal Pradesh provide a perfect base for novices.

Whizzing past jagged and raw terrains, plunging from great heights will fill you with a sense of exhilaration and make you want to immerse yourself in the unparalleled beauty of the surroundings. All this at a fraction of the cost in contrast to famous European resorts! Well, does that make you want to go on a snow-sporting vacation right away? If you are still not convinced, here are our top reasons to go skiing and snowboarding in the Great Himalayas:

Tanglang-La
Escaping the well-trod path; explore Himalayas in the most action-packed way

You Don’t Get To Do This Every Day!

Winter sports in India are not that prevalent. You do not get to experience such activities every day. That makes the Himalayan resort towns even more special. But if you wish to experience uncharted and unique snow challenges, then the Himalayan Range is your eternal playground. Forget the jam-packed and well trimmed Alpine slopes, the Himalayas offer next-level skiing and snowboarding experiences, adding a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘going-off-piste’!

skiing in gulmarg
Discover Hidden Treasures of Gulmarg

Adventure tourism is on the rise with Kashmir’s Gulmarg leading the pack! Often touted as the Mecca for skiers, Gulmarg has one of the highest ski lifts in the world and it is certainly not just another alpine escapade. While the naturally smooth gradient of Kongdoori Peak makes it an ideal spot for novice skiers to get a hang of the activity, it is the Mountain Apharwat that steals the show! Strictly meant for advanced skiers, it offers an once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here, you will find the world’s highest gondola- The Gulmarg Gondola that takes fearless skiers to the world’s most uncharted slopes at a vertigo-inducing altitude of 13,400 feet- almost reaching the peak of Mount Apharwat.

Advanced skiers feeling a little frisky can really push their boundaries in these elevated terrains. How about exploring the hoary playground filled with firs and pines by taking on the mountains from dizzying heights where the Gondolas do not reach? Picture taking a helicopter ride to the most untouched and dramatic mountaintops of the world and get ready for a flabbergasting Heli-skiing experience amid the mystical wilderness of Gulmarg. Those who cannot imagine a skiing holiday without the comforts of gourmet dishes can look forward to an authentic experience with Kashmiri offerings like soothing mint teas, flavored curries, and some warm conversation.

Lose yourself in the picturesque Garhwal slopes of Uttaranchal..
The lesser-known cousin of Gulmarg, Garhwal woos adventure enthusiasts with its intoxicating natural splendor and is just as generous in terms of thrill!

Auli
Auli, a pristine stimulation

Auli– Enveloped by the mighty Himalayan range, Auli has some of the gentlest slopes covered in just the right amount of snow. The ski-worthy slopes range somewhere between 2000-3000 meters, making it an ideal playground for both amateur and skilled skiers. To enhance the thrill, an 800 meters long cable car runs between Auli and Joshimath offering magnificent views of the Dronagiri, Kamet and Nanda Devi peaks. On top of the mountain peaks, there is a government operated ski resort equipped with amenities and guide which also features a 500-m long ski-lift.

Dayara Bugyal– With multiple trails, gorgeous scenery and an awe-inspiring ambiance, this Himalayan hamlet has skiing slopes extended about 28 square kilometers in area that brings back skiers for more. The magnificent snow covered slopes are a dream to ski and the enchanting views of the Tal and Barnala lakes add further charm to the site.

Mundali– Another entrancing winter-sports destination in Uttarakhand, Mundali offers sublime views and the perfect snowy slopes for skiing adventures. The powdery snow-draped slopes work as a magnet for both amateur and expert skiers. Getting to the hill station is a thrill in itself. Expect to fight through a tough terrain, unmetalled roads and steep treks to reach this unspoiled paradise.

The Thrill of Mystical Slopes of Manali in Himachal Pradesh

Himachal Pradesh
Himachal Pradesh is a calling for the venturous souls

Manali has evolved from being a quaint holiday destination to a promising base for thrilling winter-sports like skiing, heli-skiing and snowboarding. Covered with miles of glaciers and surrounded by snow-clad peaks, skiing trails in Manali takes one through cedar-birch forests and jaw-dropping ridgelines that is sure to raise your adrenalin levels.

Apart from the above mentioned places, the other Himalayan towns that offer memorable and thrilling skiing experience include Pahalgam, Kufri, Narkanda, Solang Valley, Tawang, Yumthang Valley, among others.
Have you been to the Great Himalayas for skiing or snowboarding? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

If we consider travelling as life, then probably backpacking is the best way to live it!

Backpacking may not interest all, but those who go on such trips will tell you how much fun and adventure they have. A planned tour is always better, but then at times, you should let your heart lead you. I always wanted to go on a backpacking trip, but was too apprehensive to do so. But that apprehension went away when my friend told me about his plans of backpacking to Goa. I too joined his gang of backpackers, and before I could know, we were on the road, hitch-hiking! Since then, I have been on various backpacking trips and really glad about it. If you too have apprehensions about it, then take my word; let it go because there is nothing wonderful than this. Read on to know about some of the best backpacking destinations in India, where you can plan your first such trip!

Have you been spending loads in the gym to get your body in shape, but feel bored by the stereotypical routine and exercises? There is another way you can do it, and it would be a lot better than the gym – Trekking! Yeah, that’s right! Hiking/Trekking is an excellent way to keep yourself up and running. It gives you the chance to exercise in natural conditions, unlike those simulated ones in the gym like on a boring treadmill. Ascending cliffs with the oxygen level decreasing as you go higher will tone up your body like nothing else.

Be glad you are in India as the hilly terrain in the northern part gives you endless opportunities for hiking. There are trails aplenty that you could take through the mountains. Consider the blast of cultures that will take you over as you journey past scenic hamlets, and you have got yourselves a fiesta. The famous children’s author, JRR Tolkien said in the Lord of the Rings, “All those who wander are not lost”, and he was right. Wandering endlessly does not always take you far from everything, but closer to yourself.

There are treks that vary in difficulty and altitude, and you can go in an increasing order to get your body used to it and prepared for the next challenge. In order to prepare for these treks, all you got to do is to start with brisk walks, jogging, climbing stairs and some breathing exercises. This should get you ready for the easy treks, and a few easy treks would set you in motion for the tougher ones. A couple of these every year would guarantee overall fitness. Bunk gym and go trekking for a healthy life. Here is a description of some treks and the sort of workout they will give you, arranged in the increasing order of difficulty.

Far away from the hustle of mankind, there exists a separate world where birds chirp their way to happiness. Birdwatching, a hobby that is increasingly becoming popular, is all about finding a quiet corner in the midst of nature and silently observing the birds go about their everyday business. Everything about birdwatching, from the chirping sounds to singing tunes, takes the mind closer to the soul, instantly filling you with happiness unbound.
So, what is the best part about being a bird watcher in India? You don’t have to look far, or burn a hole in your pocket. A weekend away from home is enough to learn all about birds and a few lessons about unity and diversity. India, a home to incredibly rich fauna, offers a lot of birding locations in all parts of the nation. Want to find out some birding locations near your home? Keep reading!!

Pancheshwar, Uttarakhand
Around 40 km from Lohaghat, in the Champawat district of Uttarakhand, Pancheshwar is serene and sacred at the same time. This surreal town is bordered by the mesmerising hills of Nepal, and also marks as the confluence point of River Kali and River Saryu, a dip in the waters of which is considered auspicious. Add to all this the beautiful birdwatching trails, and Pancheshwar is just the place to be over the weekend. If lucky, you may see almost 180 species of birds, some of them considered rare.

Explore the vibrant festivals and fairs of India along with different cultures. Each corner has a different story! Find out the story and fall in love with India. Grab the chance to explore the true flavours of every region. Let the travel bug bite you and take you to these fascinating places with interesting fairs and festivals in India.

Hemis Festival, Ladakh
The colourful Hemis Festival is one of the biggest and the most famous religious festivals in Ladakh. The enchanting festival in the land of dreams is celebrated on the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava or commonly known as Guru Rimpoche. The Hemis Monastery is where the festival is celebrated. The monastery is itself a blissful place, surrounded by brown austere hills and bright yellow mustard fields. Its execution through the splendid masked dances by the Lamas is what takes your breath away. To see the celebration of good over evil in a different way, plan your next trip to Ladakh and witness this festival.
When – June or July
Where – Hemis Monastery, Ladakh

Hemis Festival in Ladakh
Hemis Festival in Ladakh

Winter is usually the time to snuggle up with a good book in front of a fireplace, enjoying a hot cup of tea in bed every morning, or spending lazy afternoons. But winters are also the time to explore the new side of India’s popular destinations. Truly, India is an incredible country, geographically, historically and architecturally. It offers amazing geographical diversity with varied climates and seasons.  Winter season is no doubt the most loved by people of India. If you don’t feel like spending your winter snuggling in a blanket, then trust me you don’t have to!

So if you are planning your next vacation during winters, here is a list of some of the best Winter Destinations in India to choose from.

  1. MADHYA PRADESH- KHAJURAHO AND ORCHHA
Orccha Cenotaphs
Orchha Cenotaphs

Khajuraho temples are among the finest temple arts in the world. The erotic sculptures, the minute carvings on the temple walls are worth exploring in winters when the weather is at its best.

Lost in the hustle bustle and crowd of the city? Or working like a zombie to fulfil the necessities of life? Well, then you deserve a break. De-stress, forget the troubles, let it all go and make some fresh and beautiful memories. Get lost on the magical roads of India and find yourself. Travel is the best way to rediscover yourself. It is said that “Blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventures”. So take an adventurous road trip and meet yourself somewhere on the journey!

  • Bangalore to Munnar– Let the wheel roll on the smooth roads! Get ready for an adventure trip through Ghat road, forests, hairpin bends, steep climbs and wildlife and misty routes. From the city of filter coffee travel to the city of Tea plantation. The breathtaking views of lush green plantations, the refreshing water of unexpected waterfalls and the amazing views of endless windmills running together will make you stop your car and capture the memories for lifetime. Don’t forget to pamper your taste buds by the local cuisine on the way!

        Distance: 477 KM
        Travel time: 10 hours

Picturesque roads from Bangalore to Munnar
  • Guwahati to Tawang- A paradise for bikers! Explore the picturesque beauty of North-East through this road trip which will take you to some of the most marvelous monasteries of India. You might find it a bit challenging but it’s a beautiful terrain which will make you forget the rough paths. Tawang has the largest monastery in India and the second largest in the world. Situated at a height of 10,000 feet, it is a beautiful offbeat hill town to explore.
    Distance: 521 KM
    Travel time: 10 hours

Himachal Pradesh is beyond doubt one of the most verdant and naturally beautiful states in India. With 3 mountain ranges, namely Pir Panjal, Shivalik, and Dhauladhar, in its vicinity, this state literally is the home of snow. It has so much to offer that no matter how many times you travel here; there will always be something new to witness and experience.

In addition to being home to some of the most popular hill towns, like Shimla, Dharamsala, Dalhousie and Manali, it is also a favorite among adventure seekers, particularly trekkers. There are many treks in the state that originate from Manali and Dharamsala. In addition to trekking, you could also enjoy paragliding in Manali as well as Bir Billing.

Here is a lowdown on some of the best treks in Himachal Pradesh

Hampta Pass Trek

Hampta Pass Trek

This trek begins from Manali and is ideal for beginners. With maximum altitude of 14100 feet, this trek takes 5 days to complete, covering a total distance of 26 kms.  Bookings now open

Skiing is a recreational activity as well as a competitive sport and its history dates back to 600 BC when it is believed to have been practiced in what is now China. Modern skiing has evolved from Scandinavia and the word Ski has originated from Old Norse word Skið meaning split wood or firewood. The sport has grown so popular over the decades that most people have a good understanding of what Skiing is all about. Balance, weight, and edge control are the key skills needed in Skiing.

There are 2 types of skiing widely recognized – Alpine and Nordic. Alpine skiing is a downhill skiing that involves sliding down hills with fixed heel bindings. For Alpine Skiing, one needs mechanical assistance to get to the top of the hill as all the equipment makes walking or hiking almost impossible. Nordic Skiing on the other hand is a cross country skiing with free heel bindings. In Nordic style, skiers can freely climb up and down the hills without any mechanical help.

Popular Skiing destinations across the world –

1.       Interlaken, Switzerland – Interlaken is one of the most ideal skiing locations in the world and it has no fewer than four beautiful ski resorts to choose from. The spacious ski slopes, long cross country pistes and snow parks make it perfect for experienced as well as amateur skiers. There are many snow-sports schools here as well, that can make a beginners experience rewarding and fun. All the equipment is available for hire. One of the most popular regions in the Interlaken is the Jungfrau Region. Interlaken is well connected by road and air, with as many as 5 airports within a 2 hour drive. Berne airport is just an hour’s drive away.

Interlaken cable car
Interlaken cable car

2.       Oslo, Norway – Oslo is a perfect winter and skiing destination with more than 2,000 kms of prepared cross country ski trails that lead one into the beautiful Norwegian forests. These are just 20 minutes away from the main city. Oslo city also has its very own modern alpine ski centre called the Oslo Winter Park, which offers plenty of challenges for downhill skiers as well as snowboarders. With more than 60 cozy cabins available for stay, this makes for a great place to go to with family and friends alike. Here you can also ski after dark as almost 90 kms of the track is well lit till 10 PM.

CrossCountry Skiing Oslo
Cross Country Skiing in Oslo

Waterfalls are beautiful, captivating, inviting and heavenly. There are innumerable waterfalls around the world that arouse our interest and curiosity. While some are geographically significant, others have popular fables attached to them. Here is our list of the 7 most beautiful and fascinating waterfalls in the world:

1. Bigar Waterfall, Bozovici, Romania – Located in southwestern Romania in the administrative territory of Bozovici, Bigar Waterfall is a protected area. It is often considered to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world and it is also fascinating that it is located at 45 degrees North, at the halfway mark between Equator and North Pole.

Bigar Waterfall Romania
Bigar Waterfall Romania

2.      Kuang Si Waterfall, Luang Prabang, Laos – Easily among the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, Kuang Si is located 29 kms from Luang Prabang. One of the most stunning things about it is its 3 tiers and the many blue pools that the cascading water collects into and also that some of the pools are even open to swimming. It is a very well maintained site with bridges and walkways.

Kuangsi Waterfall Laos
Kuang Si Waterfall Laos

3.      Iguazu Falls, Misiones Province, Argentina – A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984, Iguazu Falls forms the border between Brazil and Argentina and is geographically a part of Argentina. It is made up of many cascades and is 80 meters high. Iguazu literally means Great Water and these falls divide the Iguazu River into upper and lower Iguazu. Its existence first came to be known in 1541.

Iguazu Falls Argentina
Iguazu Falls Argentina

4.      Dynjandi, Westfjords, Iceland – With a combined height of 100 meters, Dynjandi is a series of waterfalls located in Westfjords in Iceland. Dynjandi means Thunderous and each of the 7 sections of the waterfall has its own name. This place is extremely popular with tourists, with many tourist buses stopping here, and is also considered tourist friendly with regards to the facilities.

India is a diverse country, not just culturally but geographically too. Here are some interesting facts and figures about the geography of our country:

India
India

Geographical Area – With an area of 3,287,240 sqkm, India is the seventh largest country in the world by area and 2nd largest by population.

Coldest Place – Dras, located in the Kargil district of Jammu & Kashmir, is the coldest place in India. It is situated at a height of approximately 11,000 feet.

Easternmost Point – The tiny town of Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh is the easternmost point of India. The Lohit River enters India from Kibithu.

Westernmost Point – The westernmost point of India is the small inhabited village of Ghuar Moti, located in the Kutch District of Gujarat.

Rann of Kutch in Gujarat
Rann of Kutch in Gujarat

Situated 45 kms south east of Bhopal in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and lie within the Vindhyan Hills. These enormous rock formations are gathered around the Bhimbetka Hill and the entire area is rich with flora and fauna, recurrent supplies of water and natural shelter. It is due to the presence of all these factors that a sustainable society was able to develop and flourish here.

Painting depicting a war scene

With some of its shelters even occupied by the Homo erectus more than 100,000 years ago, the Bhimbetka Rock Shelters are from the Paleolithic era, displaying the oldest traces of human life on the Indian Sub-Continent and marking the beginning of the South Asian Stone Age. The name Bhimbetka itself means the “resting place of Bhīma” and is believed to have come from Bhīma, from the epic Mahabharata. As per the skeletons found, the humans of that time were around 7 feet tall.

This painting depicts the everyday lifestyle of those people

These rock shelters were first cited in the Indian archaeological records in 1888 as a Buddhist site, based on the information obtained from the local tribes. In the 1950s, Indian archaeologist V. S. Wakankar discovered these sites while on a train journey to Bhopal and found some of the rock formations to be alike those he had come across in France and Spain. Further studies by Wakankar and his team in 1957 led to a discovery of various prehistoric rock shelters.

A seasonal salt marsh situated in the Thar Desert, the Great Rann of Kutch covers 7,505 square miles in area. It spans between the Kutch district of Gujarat in India and the Sindh province of Pakistan and its northern boundary forms the International Border between the two countries. It is said to be one of the biggest salt deserts in the world. The Tropic of Cancer passes a few miles from the Rann of Kutch.

The Rann of Kutch
The Rann of Kutch

Due to it being a marshy area, Rann of Kutch makes for a breeding ground for large flocks of flamingos and also provides shelter to wild animals including the Indian wild ass.

Even though the marsh is in a protected area, it is still susceptible to losing its natural resources to grazing and salt extraction. To keep the flora and fauna preserved, various Wildlife Sanctuaries and wildlife conservation areas have been set up. Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, Kutch Bustard Sanctuary, Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary, Banni Grasslands Reserve, Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary are a few of those and are approachable from the city of Bhuj.

RANN UTSAV

White salt desert speckled with an array of colors, distinctive shades of tradition and culture, a plethora of festivities all around!

The best ride in the beautiful salt desert.
The best ride in the beautiful salt desert

Days are filled with a display of bright shades and designs in the form of the beautiful costumes the locals wear, from the women dressed in the most gorgeous of lehangas and arms adorned with silver bangles to turbaned men in either loin cloths or short skirts, this is a sight that will find a place in your heart and rest there forever. Evenings bring a multitude of colors as the sun sets followed by a star-lit sky – the stuff that dreams are made of! The heart melting notes of the Surando make the experience mystical.

India is home to some of the most diverse landscapes from mountains, valleys to forests, deserts and beaches. This diversity in topography attracts people from all over the world in every season to experience India in her many colors. India boasts some of the most beautiful valleys like the extremely popular Nubra in Ladakh or the verdant Dibang Valley in the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. Come explore these with us.

  1. Nubra Valley, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir
    Believed to be originally called Ldumra meaning the Valley of Flowers, Nubra is located to the north east of Ladakh Valley, approximately 150 kms from Leh. The meeting of Nubra and Shyok (tributary of Indus) Rivers forms a large valley, separating the Karakoram and Ladakh Ranges. This valley can be reached by travelling over the Khardung La from Leh. The average altitude of Nubra is roughly 10,000 feet above sea level.
    An array of colors at Nubra Valley
    An array of colors at Nubra Valley Image Credits: wikipedia.org

     

  2. Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh
    Located high in the north eastern part of Himachal Pradesh, Spiti Valley is situated between Tibet and India. It is a desert mountain valley and is one of the least populated regions of the country. It is a part of Lahaul and Spiti district and is home to similar Buddhist culture as found in Tibet and Ladakh. Kunzum La at 4,590 meters separates Lahaul from Spiti. The entire valley is surrounded by high mountain ranges. Heavy snowfalls cut off the valley from the rest of the country for almost 2-3 months from November to January every year.
    The ever-welcoming Spiti Valley
    The ever-welcoming Spiti Valley Image Credits: wikipedia.org

     

  3. Dzukou Valley, Nagaland
    Considered to be one of the most beautiful places in Nagaland, the Dzukou Valley is just ideal for easy to moderate trekking. Dzukou means Cold Water which comes from the cold streams of water that flow through the valley. It is known for its flora and fauna and particularly seasonal flowers like Dzukou Lily found only in this area. It sits at 8339 feet above sea level behind the Japfu Peak at the border between Manipur and Nagaland.

Bugyal, when literally translated, means meadow. A Bugyal is high altitude grassland that makes for an excellent grazing ground. These Bugyals remain covered with snow in the winter months but come to life with colors at the advent of summer season. Here are some of the most beautiful Bugyals in the state of Uttarakhand in India –

1. Bedni Bugyal – Situated at the border of Garhwal and Kumaon in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, Bedni Bugyal offers the majestic views of the Trishul Parbat. It is situated at an altitude of 11,000 feet. The trek to Bedni starts from Loharjung and is ranked easy on the difficulty level, since one mostly passes through villages to reach this lush meadow. On route to Bedni, Wan is the last village that you cross; it is also the last point where you could get accommodation.

The Refreshing Bedni Bugyal
The Refreshing Bedni Bugyal

Bedni Bugyal is a part of the Roopkund Trek itinerary too. So to witness the verdancy of this meadow, you could either choose the easy trek to Bedni or go further up to Roopkund which is at a height of 15,600 feet.The route to Bedni Bugyal is through exquisitely beautiful forests of rhododendron and oak. It is a perfect campsite and the Bedni Kund offers the most riveting reflection of the Trishul Peak.

2. Dayara Bugyal – Dayara Bugyal is a full-fledged 7 days trek that again is rated easy. At an altitude of 12,000 feet, Dayara is easily among the top 2 most beautiful high altitude meadows in the Himalayas. It is breathtakingly serene and looks like the most ideal setting for a fairytale. It can be reached from Haridwar via Barsu, and Barnala meadows are where Dayara begins. It is a moderate 5 kms trek from Barnala to Dayara through dense forests.

Machu Picchu, a name the whole world is familiar with today, was not known to mankind a century ago. Spirit of adventure, curiosity and the quest for the unknown led to its discovery in 1911, when a party of three chanced upon it while looking for the legendary lost city of Vilcabamba. The leader of this party was Hiram Bingham.

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu

Bingham was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on 19th November, 1875 to a family of missionaries. However, he found his true calling in history and archaeology, especially Latin American History and that motivated him to pursue his doctorate in the same field and take many trips to South America. His 1911 expedition, as mentioned above, was to seek out the Incas’ last capital, Vilcabamba, which was believed to have been the last refuge of the defeated king Manco Inca II in 1536, when he had fled after being defeated by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro. There was a lot of speculation about the location of this city to be somewhere in the valleys of the Vilcabamba and Urubamba River.

Hiram Bingham
Hiram Bingham
Image Credits: wikipedia.org

On the morning of 23rd July, 1911, along with his companion Sergeant Carrasco, a Peruvian soldier, Bingham left Cuzco to explore the Urubamba valley. They spent the night camping near the river and while there, they were approached by a local farmer named Melchor Arteaga who informed them of the presence of some ancient ruins high up in the mountains. The next morning, 24th July, the 3 set out to explore and find out what these ruins were. They all advanced slowly, making their way across a wobbly bridge that traversed just above the rapids. Fighting the rain, they scrambled up the path, sometimes on all fours owing to its steepness. After about an hour or so, they were above the tree line and the view below took their breath away. Little did they know that something even more spectacular awaited them above.

As they moved further up, they found that the Native Americans farmed on an ancient terrace cleared of the jungle. They discovered more terraces and mazes of sorts, consisting of stone houses made of white granite blocks fitted together with clean, mortar-less joints, sitting 4000 feet above the Urubamba River. Accidentally, they had found an abandoned citadel/fortress that was to become the most celebrated ruin in South America and one of the most visited sites in the world.

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Nestled between Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and West Bengal, the landlocked state of Sikkim is the least populated in India. This quaint destination was once an independent Buddhist Kingdom and Buddhist Saint Padmasambhva is said to have passed through this region in the 8th century AD. Sikkim became the 22nd state of Indian Union in 1975.

Owing to its location in the Himalayas, Sikkim is one of the most geographically diverse states in the country, with climate ranging from high alpine to subtropical. Its culture, diverse flora and fauna and picturesque locations make it an extremely popular tourist destination.

The Eastern Himalayas situated between Central Nepal in the West to Myanmar in the East pass through Sikkim, making it home to the world’s 3rd highest mountain peak, Kanchenjunga, which is worshipped by the locals as their deity. The presence of this majestic mountain has made Sikkim a favorite among adventure seekers, especially mountaineering, trekking and photography enthusiasts.

William Blake, the great 18th century poet, said that great things happen when men and mountains meet. Almost two centuries later, the world saw that come to life!

World’s highest mountain range, Himalayas, is home to 14 peaks higher than 8,000 meters or eight-thousanders as these are commonly called, and till the first half of the 20th century, all of these were unscaled! While the geographical conditions were a major deterrent, political unrest in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Tibet also proved to be one big hurdle!

Aerial view of the Annapurna Image credits: Wikipedia.org
Aerial view of the Annapurna
Image credits: Wikipedia.org

But all that was about to change! In 1949, the Maharajah of Nepal gave his consent to a climbing party of nine from France to attempt an assault on one (or more than one) of these peaks. The party, led by experienced French Alpinist Maurice Herzog, arrived in Nepal in the spring of 1950 with plans to attempt either the Annapurna (8091 m) or the slightly higher Dhawalgiri (8167 m).

This was a time when not even the local inhabitants had any knowledge of reaching higher up in those mountains through the thick forests and tough terrain speckled with gorges and ridges. Having spent some time probing for routes and backtracking, in April of 1950, Herzog, his climbing partner Louis Lachenal and the rest of the team realized that they needed to make haste if they wished to climb any of those peaks, since the ideal weather conditions would only last till June. So they zeroed in on Annapurna by the north-western glacier, which seemed like the perfect approach at the time. The next difficult step was the setting up of a chain of 3 camps in higher altitudes. The last and highest camp was pitched at 7407 m. It was already June and the threat of monsoon fast approaching was looming over their heads.

Lachenal and Herzog Image credits: Wikipedia.org
Lachenal and Herzog
Image credits: Wikipedia.org 

I was born to be an explorer…There was never any decision to make. I couldn’t do anything else and be happy“, said the man whose life is said to be the inspiration behind the creation of Indiana Jones!

Fighting Chinese brigands, braving sandstorms and wild dogs, it was all in a day’s work for Roy Chapman when he decided to go explore the Gobi Desert further up North in to Mongolia to find the origins of humanity.

Roy Chapman Andrews
Image Credits: wikipedia.org

Roy Chapman Andrews was born in Wisconsin, America in 1884 and right from his childhood days his interests revolved around nature, outdoors, animals, history and he explored fields, water bodies and forests. He taught himself taxidermy and made money with this skill to pay for his college tuition. Such was his passion that after being told that there were no openings at the American Museum of Natural History, he started working there as a janitor in the taxidermy department. He continued to learn as he worked and earned a Master’s degree in mammalogy from Columbia University.

An explorer, adventurer and a naturalist, Roy sailed to the East Indies from 1909 – 1910 and collected snakes and lizards. In 1913, he sailed to the Arctic aboard the schooner Adventuress and filmed some of the best footage of seals ever seen!

Expedition Mongolia
Expedition Mongolia
Image Credits: wikipedia.org