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  • Pahalgam : Adventurous soul of Kashmir

    If you have heard about the famous “Amarnath Shrine” then you might have heard about Pahalgam, as it is the base for Amarnath shrine visitors. All the way: When you start your journey from Srinagar, before you reach Pahalgam you will find many hidden gems en route. Starting with the Saffron land of Kashmir. You will cover the infamous Pampore district which is the Saffron capital of India, in the Summer months you can see Saffron flowers in the laid out fields clearly but winters are for sowing and preparing for harvest. Just after crossing Pampore, you will cover Avantipore, which hosts temple ruins dated 9th century – “The Avanthiswami Temple”. These temples are easily accessible by road and they are magnificent even today. From the temple ruins, you can easily imagine how grandeur these temples would have been in their time. The entrance of the temple is the majority of the structure standing as of today and these temple structures are completely different from what we have seen anywhere else in India. Generally, these temples are not visited that frequently so you can cover them very easily in less than 45 mins. After you have crossed Awantipore, another destination with a similar vibe is Anantnag Martand Sun temple, and you can reach it by taking a very small detour (approx. 5-6 km). Martand temples date back to the 8th century. In case you are short on time, prefer Martand Sun temple over Avantipore. The Lidder Valley is also en route to Pahalgam and it runs parallel to the highway to Pahalgam. For those interested, one can take a short break and spend some time on the curves of the river. Pahalgam : Chapter I Your vantage point in Pahalgam is the local taxi stand. Hotels, local viewpoints, restaurants are all located near to it. As you start your journey to a tete-a-tete with nature in Pahalgam, you will see there are about 8-10 places that you can visit, if you want to cover them on foot it is a mixture of trekking and lots of walking on a treacherous path, so if you are a trekking junkie this is nothing short of small heaven for you and it will take an almost full day to explore all the places. Yes, you will be elbowed and forced by horse/pony owners to go for a ride rather than walking and it will take a lot of willpower to say no to them all. They can be very persuasive and sticky. Now if you choose for a horse/pony ride, then again it will take 5-6 hours to cover all the places, and though you can pick and choose your locations, at the least, covering important ones is going to take 3-4 hours. One place that you should not miss in Pahalgam is Baisaran valley, locally known as “Mini Switzerland” it’s like as shown in the photograph below with endless valley with pine trees as boundary and shadows of faraway mountains. Advisory: If you choose for pony/horse, you will experience the same thing as all other places, prices quoted by them, irrespective of viewpoints (valleys), will be exorbitant and you will sarcastically laugh for sure. So go by the rule of 50%, where at the very least you should ask for a 50% reduction in the price. If you bring prices lower than 50% that means you have good negotiation skills. Now pony ride in Pahalgam is one adventure sport with little risk involved, so trust your guide and follow their instructions for a safe and happy trip. Pahalgam tourist spots are very beautiful when they are snow-laden. In absence of snow these locations come out generic and not worthy, so we will suggest in case there has been no snowfall at the time of you reaching there, do not take the pain of covering all the spots. Pick one or two and that will be enough to experience Pahalgam. You will not find any public convenience in any of the tourist spots here so again be sure that you have done the bladder check before embarking on the journey ( some restaurants or public conveniences can be found at the start of the journey) Eating joints are very limited here, you can try Punjab restaurant which offers quick service and average food. Or you can try Maggi/Tea from the small temp outlets at tourist spots on your tour. Pahalgam: Chapter II From Pahalgam taxi stand, You can further visit Aru valley, Betaab valley, and Chandanwari ( another base camp for Amarnath yatra). If you are traveling via a private vehicle then you are permitted to take your vehicle however if you are on a commercial vehicle then you will have to hire a new commercial vehicle from Pahalgam Taxi Stand. A Commercial vehicle with the least price here is Maruti Omni and then it goes till tempo traveler depending on your group size. Prices are standard for these hired vehicles, it is recommended to hire from taxi stand only. Chandanwari and Betaab valley are on the same route whereas Aru valley is on a different route. Due to time constraints, and failure in our planning we had to drop Aru valley and we went ahead with Betaab and Chandanwari. Chandanwari came across as one of the exquisite locations of our trip as we encountered snow and very low temperatures, though we did not reach the main entrance of Chandanwari as the road was slippery with snow so we took a short walk till there and had some good time enjoying the valley and snow. On our return, we observed Betaab valley from a height and as there was snow fall in the Betaab valley it looked like an exotic garden our tuning with Betaab did not set on the same frequency so we dropped it as well ( it was around 6 PM and the sun was setting so did not make sense for us to visit Betaab late in the night). Though we were not able to visit Aru valley, we recommend that you visit this valley. In our research, we found Aru valley as a must-see place owing to its beautiful landscape and picture-perfect environment. Read more about Kashmir Gulmarg: Land from Frozen Sonamarg: Land of Golden Mountain Hidden gems of Kashmir The Srinagar Jewel Srinagar : Roti, Kapda aur aap Kashmir: Planning your trip Piousness of Kashmir

  • Sonamarg: Land of Golden Mountain

    Irresistible hidden beauty spreading warmth through sunshine Another jewel that must be covered when in Kashmir is the land of golden mountain aka Sonamarg. Its name is derived from the first sunlight that turns the mountain golden hence the whole valley is called Sonamarg. Sonamarg is around two to two and a half-hour drive from Srinagar depending on what time you leave. As again we request you to leave around 7:30 – 8:00 in the morning to enjoy locations with a thinner crowd (something we learned is a good thing during Covid-19) There is a saying that it's not the destination but the journey, which is better, however, in this case, Sonamarg proves this statement wrong. Sonamarg valley is now attracting more and more crowds as the last scenes of “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” were shot here (some of the scenes were shot in Pahalgam as well). Reaching Sonamarg Sonamarg, situated in the northeast of Srinagar also acts as a gateway to paradise lands of Ladakh. Sonamarg has multiple hotels located on the bank of the Sind river and very few public food eateries. When you reach Sonamarg it will not feel like a destination as it’s a moving road and you are sitting on one corner and thinking is this it? Have we reached? But then if you observe closely you see ponies, snow bikes, and then everything starts making sense. Struggles here are the same as in Gulmarg. (attach a photo here) Things to cover Few tourist points have been identified and marked for everyone’s convenience. Locals call them base 1 is “Suicide point and “Sonamarg base” then at the second level is “Thajivas glacier” then little ahead is water stream and we heard about the cave as well but our guide said that was closed ( not sure whether it was true or not). When you are in these locations you get ample time to spend with snow-laden land, mesmerizing mountains and fun activities like skiing, sled rides, here sled slopes are bigger than Gulmarg, so do have fun sled rides as seen in western movies, cartoons, it makes more sense here. (attach a photo here) You can reach these points either by trekking or ponies. Pony rise will cost you around 1000-1500 INR (heavy bargain required) Keep things in mind: One very important fact is, at the tourist locations on the top, there is no public convenience available, so it is better to have tummy and bladder check done at the parking spot. Unlike Gulmarg, all the hotels, restaurants get closed if there has been snowfall or prediction of heavy snowfall in the next few days, so booking your stay in Sonamarg can be risky. It is better to book your accommodation for Sonamarg (if you are planning to stay) only when you are in Kashmir. We found Country Inn by Radisson only hotel open in Sonamarg valley for the time we were there and it was also closing operations as heavy snowfall was predicted the day after. Sonamarg is also starting point for many Kashmir treks like Kashmir great lakes, Vishansar trek among others. Good luck to you all trekking lovers, hope you find an amazing adventure on your visits. That’s all folks for Sonamarg. Time to move to next destination. You can read about the rest of the locations from the following links: Gulmarg: Land from Frozen Pahalgam: Adventurous soul of Kashmir Hidden gems of Kashmir Srinagar : Roti, Kapda aur aap Kashmir: Planning your trip Piousness of Kashmir

  • Gulmarg : The land from Frozen

    One place that is synonymous with Kashmir Valley - Gulmarg Gulmarg is one of the top skiing destinations in India and hosts many international competitions. It is a must-see for everyone visiting Kashmir. There are some divine places on earth and when you visit these places, you are left speechless. You spend a few minutes wondering “Is this real?” and then the chill in the air will bring you back to your senses. Gulmarg is nature’s way of making you believe in heaven. A place where you can sit back and watch a landscape unfold in front of your eyes. There are high chances when you are here in January, you will experience snowfall and you observe snowflakes making their way into your hands and you observe closely those flakes slowly melting into one another. This soft snow and light crunch below your feet as you move is music to ears. You walk, run, and fall and you forget about time. Reaching Gulmarg: Gulmarg is approx. two, two, and a half-hour drive from Srinagar. If you have booked a cab from Srinagar, there is a hidden catch, a taxi from Srinagar will take you to Tanamarg first. Depending on the weather, if it is snowing, you will have to change taxi and get a new taxi which will take you from Tanamarg to Gulmarg. You can either opt for a private taxi, for which taxi driver will start from INR 2000 and it can be brought down by hard negotiations (and do negotiate) or you can collaborate with other couples/tourists. As time passes, crowd size will grow, and you will experience peak crowd around 1-2 PM. So, if you start early in the day around 7:30 AM – 8:00 AM you will find a thin crowd on the top. Also, at Tanamarg, some shops will provide you an extra layer of a jacket, and gumboots at around 200-350 INR (if you are paying INR 300 or above, negotiate). You will need an additional clothing layer only if there is too much snow in Gulmarg. Else you can just take boots, however, boots are recommended if your shoes are not waterproof as there are high chances that you will get snow inside your shoes and you will have a lot of traveling to do. Challenges and having comfortable time in Gulmarg: The story of Gulmarg is like sugar for ants. However, there are a few things you must know. Firstly, cab drivers will ask you to hire a guide that will help you have a good time in Gulmarg. Guide, at very basic, will fulfill the following responsibilities: 1. Get a gondola ticket for you by getting in line (Only getting ticket service, ticket prices will be borne by you) 2. Click pictures and videos for you 3. Tell you what sport and ride you can do 4. Stick with you on your entire stay in Gulmarg (if you are there for a day and returning by evening) For this service, Guide will charge INR500-600. Guide services are not that essential however every other person will convince you that you should get one. In the end, it is your opinion to get a Guide or not. Journey to Gulmarg A taxi from Srinagar / Tanamarg will take you to a parking spot (let's call it Phase 0). As soon as you are outside the cab, you will be hoarded by sled owners, local photographers, street hawkers among others. You are proudly welcomed to land “Paradisio”. As you start walking towards the valley, you will find Gulmarg hotel chains on your left and a huge golf course on your right. As you walk for another 1-1.5 km you will reach the Gondola bookings counter. Gondola opens around 10:30 – 11:00 AM and its charge is around INR 750 it will take you to Phase I and Phase II. Phase II is not that frequently open, however, if you find it open then surely visit Phase II (charges are around INR 1000) as there is a thinner crowd and a better time for why you are visiting Kashmir. Also, if you get clear skies, you can see neighbors’ bunkers with help of binoculars. From the parking lot to the Gondola ticketing center, you can travel by foot, sled or ATV. For sled, price ranges from 1000-3000 INR and ATV will cost around 2500-4500 INR (we recommend you to bargain heavily at every point) On reaching Phase I, again local people will bombard you with different snow activities. Following are the activities which you will find at least: Skiing (Hardly 100-150m skiing on flat land, with support for 10-15 min). Charges are around INR 800-INR 1000. Our rating: 6.5/10, and try out skiing at a location away from the crowd for a better experience, you may find your calling) Sled ride: Same as Phase 0 and charges are around INR 400- INR 650.Our rating: 2/10, there is better sled experience in Sonamarg. If you are unable to walk then only go for this option Snow bike ride: This will be a good experience as they allow you to drive as well, and you may not experience it in any other location in India. Charges are around INR 800 – INR 1600. Our rating: 8/10, one of the must-have experience All three activities are within a 1-1.5km range, depending on the snow levels. One thing you must know for all three activities is the tactics of the service offeror. They are very seasoned and will ask for very steep prices. For example, in Snow bike ride there is one shorter and one longer route and they will show a standard rate chart of around INR 1000 and INR 2000. Do not ever agree to their first price as they are more than what you should pay. So negotiate and re-negotiate well As far as Phase II goes, we were unlucky as Gondolas were non-operational for Phase II. However, we heard Phase II has a nice restaurant and an amazing ski destination. Apart from these activities, you can enjoy Maggi and other limited menu items at countable outlets with sitting arrangements. And yes, there is a restroom available. Apart from these things, find an undisturbed corner, relax and enjoy a beautiful view of your heart’s desire. If you have hired a guide he will keep pushing you to end the tour and head back, however it's your time and you should enjoy it. If you reached around 11:00 AM then we believe you will be able to head back around 2:30 – 3:00 PM. On reaching Tanamarg, you can cover one more destination that is Drang waterfall also known as Frozen waterfall which is in another direction from Gulmarg and takes about 15-20 min to reach. Drang waterfall is an amazing site (attach a photo here). During winters, it gives vibes of being in a distant land. And you just want to sit and watch the water turn into icicles and still manage to stay in liquid form at another place. You can do a little hike or you can just sit back, relax and have a photography session. All the images that we have captured are from the first or second snowfall at the location. Just imagine how it will look like when Kashmir valley has experienced more snowfalls. Surreal!! As you head back to Tanamarg, you can have a meal there or in Srinagar. If you are looking for food options in Srinagar, read more about it from our Srinagar blog and you will not be disappointed. Read about what else to do when in Kashmir: Pahalgam: Adventurous soul of Kashmir Sonamarg: Land of Golden Mountain Hidden gems of Kashmir Srinagar : Roti, Kapda aur aap Kashmir: Planning your trip Piousness of Kashmir Have a great read. Travel, Mi Amor.

  • Piousness of Kashmir

    Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast The famous quote from Shahjahanabad, Rana Safvi’s book has been aptly made for Kashmir Valley. Kashmir, sitting as the crown of the nation, is nestled between oldest Himalayan ranges. What makes Kashmir stand apart is its simplicity dwelling in the preciousness of nature. Srinagar, the capital city will come across like any other non-metro city. Though it is imperative that you may have heard / read something negative about the valley but when you are in Srinagar, you will observe people on their routine jobs, living, enjoying like any other city in India. At the same time, the probability of any incident occurring is comparatively higher but at least for a common man, it’s not as bad as presented in news. Hats off to security forces for maintaining the security and decorum of the place. Kashmir is beautiful in any and every season, be it winters or summers. All you need to do is plan and visit for that reason, we are here to assist you so that you can have a good time in Kashmir. Kashmir valley’s vantage point is Srinagar (if you are coming via flight) and it is up to your personal choice whether to keep Srinagar as the center for your visit or keep changing base as you travel to different locations in the valley. Our itinerary is based and planned for winters, to be very specific last week of December. We expected snowy Srinagar however to our disappointment, that was not the case. Something we heard a lot on our trip about Kashmir during our visit was “weather in Kashmir is like Mumbai’s fashion” (meaning it changes with a whip of wind) and guess what, it turned out to be true. For our whole trip, every day we felt like nature’s objective was to beat all kinds of weather predictions. Coming to the itinerary, for this journey we have tried to cover a lot of things like how to plan, places to visit, special mentions for you to make your trip memorable. You can use the following links to get a detailed itinerary for every location and important pointers. So hop on and make us your first stop for any travel planning. Gulmarg: Land from Frozen Pahalgam: Adventurous soul of Kashmir Sonamarg: Land of Golden Mountain Hidden gems of Kashmir Srinagar : Roti, Kapda aur aap Kashmir: Planning your trip Hope you have a good read and we can assist in your travel plans. Travel, Mi Amor.

  • The Maldives Affair: Part II – KYMB (Know Your Maldives Better)

    Picking resorts and evaluating how much it will burden your pocket Welcome to Part II of knowing Maldives better. If this is your first read on Maldives, kindly read about Part I from this link – The Maldives Affair: Part I Going by statistics, Maldives is mostly visited due to private islands which disconnects you from the rest of the world physically for the duration of the stay. As soon as you enter Maldives’ airspace you will see a collection of beautiful islands all over. From the sky, all the islands are almost similar, a little green patch covering the whole island and properties connecting to the island as a caterpillar trying to enter its nest. Every property offers almost the same luxuries on a platter and it’s just a matter of how architecturally and creatively they have been assorted. In our research before visiting the Maldives, we were informed that marine life is better in north atolls as compared to south atolls, so we chose North, and still, we were a little disappointed. Maybe our expectations were high or the corals at our resort were not that aesthetical as compared to others. If you google Maldives you will get umpteen results. When every small island is a resort and Maldives is a group of more than 100 small islands, you have a choice problem. Not only that every resort will have 4 stars at least. From various perspectives like beaches, spas, and restaurants, all resorts give very similar vibes, this is excluding the likes of Taj or Hard Rock high-end resorts, if you have the budget for supreme luxury then you have already made up your mind. Then how do you choose which resort has your calling? It is easy, if you are doing your research, try getting a better deal whether from CRED, Agoda,, or any other travel website. If you are taking a package deal from an agent, ask at least for three to four options. All the resorts have two basic property offerings with luxurious add-ons: Beachside properties- located on the island grounds and a big opening right on the beach. Water villas- giving the vibe of floating houses supported by a wooden structure built on the ocean floor. When you stand in front of these, they don’t look like huge property, but as you open the door, it’s like down the rabbit hole. Luxury water villas- premium category of water villas with private pool/water slides/ bigger carpet area. Water villa properties look exquisite and are comparatively expensive. If you are booking through an agent, they will give you an option to have your stay split into both. Water villas from photographs look exquisite, appealing and give that wow feeling. To be honest, we found beach properties more comfortable and enjoyable. As water villas tend to sway and may make feel you are in some ship in the sea. Also, the water level is max waist high and not enough for diving from the villa floor ;P Resorts additionally have cuisine-based restaurants, spas, water sports to offer. Prices for these services may vary a lot and should be critically considered before choosing a resort. Cost Breakup Now, with that thing covered, let’s look at the spending spree for Maldives. There are two major cost heads: Flights and Resort (Includes meals) and Miscellaneous – Transfers (Sea boat / Plane depending on the booking) and Water sport activities. If you are booking through an agent or resort directly, the transfer cost is covered, else you will have to bear an additional one (Check it out before booking). Pre covid, travelers used to do island hopping however in Post Covid era, Island hopping had been discontinued by Government. If you book at least one to two months in advance, it will cost you around 40,000 INR for a one-way flight for two from India/Delhi NCR. A 5 day stay with a mix of both beach and water villa will be around 130,000 INR in stay for two and generally, this includes meals, basic water activities like snorkeling, kayaking, and pedal boat. For other water sports, you will have to shell a few more bucks and this depends on the resort. Some resorts charge exorbitantly for scuba and other activities like whale watching/ turtle watching separately. Check these costs on the resort’s website before finalizing. Another factor in the pricing is the meal plan. You can go full board (all meals inclusive) or all-inclusive plan which includes meal and drinks both or happy hour drinks access. Above pricing includes full board i.e. only meals. Depending on your choice of property your majority expenditure will be decided. In case if you go for a full stay at a beach villa it will come around INR 100,000 and a full water villa stay around INR 150,000 with around 20% standard deviation for 4N/5D Some good options Some of the good resorts that you can pick from are – Centara Ras Resorts, Kuramathi, Sun Siyam villu reef, Adaaran club, Kihaa, Ohuveli resorts among many others. Ensure to check the food menu and water sport activities beforehand. You can also drop a mail for the same and the resort representative will share the details with you. We finalized Centara Ras Fushi and we returned elated with our choice. Its hospitality had been outstanding and worth every penny. Right from the time we reached Centara Ras, the housekeeping staff was standing for our welcome, and even when we left, the whole staff was there to escort us, and it was not just for us, it was a time routine. We were visiting after the first Covid wave in November 2020 and all resorts were struggling with a shortage of staff. We saw the property manager picking plates as they were running short on staff during all meals. Among all this, there was one more coincidence we met one of my collegiate and friend who was visiting at the same time. One thing that went in our favor was the temperature. Given its geographical location, we expected to etch sun rays however we got rains during peak afternoon cooling the weather and leaving us with cool sunsets. In the whole experience what left us dissatisfied was the scuba diving cost, it was exorbitant. The experience was good but not valuable for money. We have seen people question if you are going to spend time in a resort why not pick a luxurious resort in Goa or any place near to the beach in India? And that is a valid point if your objective is to have a good time with the company, roam around, then yes, no point going to the Maldives. The only thing the Maldives is adding on top of the company is the disconnection from the rest of the world in the best summer place to be. If this is important for you then you have the answer if the Maldives is for you or not. Hope this was a good read and clarified your doubts related to Maldives. In case you have any queries reach us on social media, and will be happy to assist. Till next time – Adios!!

  • The Maldives Affair: Part I – KYM (Know Your Maldives)

    Two-part series on getting to know about the Maldives and whether you should visit Maldives. Through these two posts, We will be answering questions such as: What is Maldives? Private islands or Public Islands? Why visit Maldives? What is the best time to visit the Maldives? What are different types of private resort properties? How to choose a resort? If you are interested in answers to any of the questions above, I am sure the next 10-15 min read will be worth it. Heads up, this blog is the starting point of knowing Maldives better. If you are already aware of the basic geo and demographics understanding about the Maldives, please jump to Part II (Why Maldives and is it worth it?) Maldives has always been an exotic destination for many, and it has always been looked expensive, too good to be true, out of reach however, at the same time some may have ignored it considering it not value for money. Post-Covid, people have started looking at Maldives from a whole new perspective, given it is one of the “foreign” lands that were open and welcoming tourists from India. Generally, newly married pick Maldives as its basic offering - “honeymoon” setup is next to none. Locating Maldives Let’s start with understanding the Maldives demographically / geographically to better know and pick a location in Maldives for time to spend. The Maldives is a small group of islands located just below the Sovereign of India and Sri Lanka. It’s a Muslim-ethnic country and has strict guidelines on how to carry oneself in public. Important to note- you cannot carry liquor from your place to Maldives and if you are visiting public beaches, then you should follow the guidelines on what to wear. Coming via air route, you will land in Male, the Maldivian capital and biggest island in the Maldives. There are high rises, residential complexes, and everything you expect from a capital city with all sides surrounded by Sea (Yes Sea, Maldives is in the Arabian Sea). So, staying in Male will be like staying in any other beachside city. Maldives Atolls In Maldives, some of the islands are public islands that are accessible to all and can be visited by taking a public ferry and one can stay on different properties on these islands. Just like Andamans Islands (India). So, if in your opinion, new culture, new people are important as travel experience then opt for public islands. However, it will be less expensive to visit Andamans at any time for a similar experience. Coming to the exotic private islands, Maldives is a group of small islands clubbed into atolls – North Atoll and South Atoll. Most North Atoll islands are near to Male and can be reached easily with jet boat transfers whereas South atoll islands are a bit far and can be reached through seaplanes. Now if you are planning to go extremities of both North and South, you will need seaplane transfers. Most of the small islands are the size of a few acres (circumference of 2-10 km) which you can easily cover in hours. And individually, islands are owned by huge hoteliers. Hotel chains have set up islands as their property. There are many islands inhabited by indigenous people with no resort or hotel setup, which are off-limits for tourism until and unless you have been invited there by locals. If you are wondering whether you should plan for North Atoll or South Atoll? There is very little difference in terms of scenic views, luxury, or environment. Marine life around Maldives is very beautiful irrespective of the atoll. But it will only affect your decision to stay in the north or south if you are planning a sea excursion like snorkeling or scuba. Time to visit Maldives The best time of visiting the Maldives is from November – February. We chose November given prices are low and the weather is good. The same can be said for February when the temperature is almost similar, but the weather is too dry and chances for sunburns are high. Maldives package can be booked either for 3N/4D(3 nights/4 days) or 4N/5D and this is the ideal duration of time to spend in the Maldives. What Maldives Offer? Maldives islands can be considered as a private retreat where you are only in touch with limited guests on the island and the company you went with. You can enjoy beach/pool swims, snorkeling, amazing food, photography, and enjoy the break from the never-ending race. Time at Maldives is like rejuvenation. As soon as you land in Maldives, its transparent water, hospitality, and ambiance take away all your worries. Human nature has always struggled with choices, we want more choices however when we have abundant choices and things to do, we get confused and end up with nothing. When you are in resort you have countable choices. Reduction in this burden is the biggest treasure of being in Maldives. You will be traveling to a place that has one of the best sunsets, one of the best white sand beaches, crystal clear water, and resort amenities to enjoy, I think you should plan for the Maldives then. As much as I enjoy big company, I enjoy a level above when it is just my partner and me. At the same time, families or groups of friends can also have some of the best days of their life. Hope this introduction to the Maldives has set a proper base and now if your next question is how to decide which resort shall you finalize? Please hop on to the next chapter: All things about Maldives resorts and How much will it cost?

  • Greece: Dine and Wine options

    Food is a gray area and a matter of personal choice for everyone. My struggle is being vegetarian and picky when it comes to food. Our failsafe plan always is to carry Ready to Eat food packets from India. Today MTR, Haldiram’s packed food list is huge and there is no end to it. Even bread like Naan, Rotis, and Paranthas are easily available. In terms of bread, you can leverage tortillas as well, they taste similar and work well in an emergency. Apart from carrying food, croissants and coffee make a brilliant munching combination which is very easily available in European nations. Our find of the trip was Greek Salad, we are so hooked up on Greek Salad that even today it has become part of the weekly breakfast routine. Greek Salad with potato fries on the side appeared frequently on our lunch menu throughout our trip. Some of the restaurants that we explored and found publish worthy are: Athens and Corinth: Efcharis, Athina: Vibes and food are undoubtedly “exquisite” when it comes to restaurants in Europe. Efcharis’ pizza and pasta, are something to crave for. There are many chains in the vicinity and we are sure you will find something that hits your palate at the right chords. Thiseio Bakery: When it comes to fresh croissants, cookies and it was a delight to have some hot and fresh croissants late in the evening with a cup of coffee Café Gardenia, Loutraki-Agioi: This place gives similar vibes as of a countryside diner as shown in Hollywood movies. We went ahead with the easiest option that is Greek salad and it was one of the best Greek Salads we had and the team was super friendly and supportive. Mykonos: There is no end to food options in Mykonos. Evening in Mykonos, unquestionably, must be near the west coast with windmills of Mykonos. Every second outlet is a restaurant and bar. Our preference was an open-air meal so we opted for Niko’s tavern, food was of our liking, remember picky and veg. To satisfy your sweet buds, there are multiple gelatos, crepes outlets in the vicinity. Do try Trio Bambini for ultimate gelato or crepe. Nightlife: I am not inclined towards night parties, and found no connection whatsoever. Accidentally, we found there is a nightlife Paradise beach which is a never miss in Mykonos, so we thought before wrapping up the day why not try it out. That one moment in which we decided to give it a shot was one of the best travel decisions. There are multiple restaurants & bars in the vicinity, but spontaneously we went to Tropicana Beach Bar (actually, we went ahead with the least crowded :P). That one moment when you don’t want to dance, yet your feet move on their own. Music is not just going to the brain, it is moving in veins just like oxygen. Our only reason to visit Mykonos is just because of this experience. More than the food you will enjoy the ambiance, freshness, and breezy environment. You will surely struggle to choose for your tummy fulfillment. Folegandros: After night high @Mykonos, Folegandros was a pleasant surprise. Starry night, soothing lights, low humming music, food that is smooth on the palate. You can make a trade for such dinner before a blink of an eye. As you enter the main market, there is an ensemble of restaurants, and sitting arrangements look like a commonplace for all. But that‘s not the case, there is a demarcation that is invisible to the naked eye of a common man. We tried The Coupon (Greek name conversion) this time and we were not disappointed. By that time our taste buds had fully adapted to Greek food, and the icing on the top was the staff and their courteousness, they recommended some of the best dishes in veg they were offering (of course Greek salad was one of them) Another restaurant worth a meal is Restaurant Melissa, again in the same ensemble. Santorini: As we stayed a little far from the main center our food options are a little off-route from the main places. Crepaki Santorini: The food fragrance and the sitting arrangement pulled us right from the road. The host prepared a lovely meal for us keeping our food preferences in mind. Our food journey here was completed with an amazing waffle in the end. Nick the Grill: First time we tried outside our comfort zone and what better than Nick the Grill. Pita wraps, sticks, burgers you name it. The food was so great that we went for another round. Erotokritos, German Bakery: This is the truest form of bakery that we have tried in a foreign land. The amazing thing was it was open as early as 4 AM. We cannot express in words how amazing the croissants were. We felt so content and ate till our heart's desire. In the end, it is worth mentioning that food options at Athens International Airport are good as well. In case, you are in a hurry and need a quick bite, do try without a second thought. So much food discussion leads to cravings. Till the time you go through all other blogs on Greece, I’ll grab some munchies. Adios!! Planning your greek itinerary: Greece: Mesmerizing land ean Sun Making logistics arrangements for Greece: Budgeting for Greece Trip

  • Greece : Closure with Santorini

    Greece pulls you so fast inside that it is very hard to convince yourself that yes trip is coming to an end and its time to go back to the whiteboard and prepare for the next adventure The next day it was a goodbye day to Folegandros vibe and proceed to Santorini however our ferry was delayed by a few hours and we ended up spending clicking pictures at Folegandros port. Our last pitstop was Santorini. Santorini is an amazing island and it has a lot to offer from pristine black-sand beaches to one of the best sunset views however they all come at a price of having crowd everywhere. I was not wrong when we landed in Santorini. The bus station was nothing short of the Indian Capital bus stop. We struggled for half an hour to locate our bus to the main town. After skipping almost three buses we got seats in one (there were people on board and they had to stand throughout the journey) As we were in Santorini to catch a flight the next day, there was not much that we could do. We decided to explore the main market and then move to Oia (touted as the best place to watch the sunset in Santorini) and no doubt it had one of the best seats in the whole Aegean group of islands for sunsets. We started our Santorini tour at noon and visited luxurious hotel chains area along with the main market, exploring Greek delicacies ( mostly it was Greek salad :P) and questioning why Santorini is so popular. If you can spend a little lavishly, I believe Santorini makes a good fit for the bucket list. Around mid-noon, we were in Oia to find a perfect spot for the sunset and that is when our struggle begin. Greek lanes are so narrow leading to sunset point, it was a horrible experience to move through a huge crowd and we will not exaggerate when we say it was only a level below stampede. As soon as you are on the other side of Oia, the one facing the sea, you learn the whole reason. Oia’s sun-facing view is a painted canvas with an atypical honeycomb specifically painted white and blue. It truly transpires you into a different domain where everything is peculiarly attractive. In addition to all this, once your concentration breaks, you will see you are not alone and you are one in thousands experiencing the same thing. After struggling efforts and time to find a secluded spot, you will forget about the existence of others, and then it will be just you, sunset and on your back crisscross maze of white buildings, and tint of blue explicitly visible. Even when the sun has almost paved the way for the moon, it was one of the most difficult things to pick up our ass and move back. We went through the same drill again of moving between huge herds and thinking when will this get over. Last night in Greek Island was like a dream coming to an end and you don’t feel a penny’s worth to wake up and accept the reality. We had an early morning flight back to the mainland and then a return flight to home though it sounds painful however it led to the discovery of the best fresh croissants that we had in a long time and thanks to one of the best bakeries on Santorini island and special thanks to the owner to provide it as early as four in the morning. Before we boarded our flight, we welcomed the Aegean sun and paid our respects before moving on to the flight. I was personally not inclined to visit Greece and I cannot be this much wrong ever in my travel experience and life. Greece now holds a special position for me and I am sure my heart’s content is yet next to empty and craving for more Greek adventure. But this time it will be Mainland, Mykonos, and one more secluded island only. No Santorini for next time. Till next time!! Sayonara!! Read about the previous day from: Detoxifying Folegandros Planning your greek itinerary: Greece: Mesmerizing land ean Sun Making logistics arrangements for Greece: Budgeting for Greece Trip

  • Greece : Detoxifying Folegandros

    Everything that happens on travel need not necessarily be good or enjoyable. You must be prepared for adversities when traveling and one such tragedy stuck when we were island hopping. Ideally, our next stop Folegandros, was expectedly a four-hour journey by ferry however the ferry operators decided to take an elongated eight to nine hours route and when we were supposed to spend the afternoon sipping hot coffee, I was fighting with my seasickness and it was late in the evening when we reached Folegandros. Thankfully, in time to catch public transport bus in nick of time. When life gives you lemons, you keep seasickness at bay for the whole day and try to have a peaceful dinner and a good night's sleep. The next day was a day planned with beaches, with time spent on most peaceful islands with next to nothing crowd. It is highly recommended that apart from Mykonos / Santorini do pick at least one island (actually any other island apart from these two) to have a quiet, peaceful time with your companions and more importantly with yourself. Folegandros' unique proposition was the location of its beaches on the other side of the hills that required trekking. We spend our afternoon hopping from one beach to another, trekking all the way and enjoying a good read and quick swim occasionally. The evening was well spent while watching the sunset from the Church of Panagia, Folegandros located at a height that requires a short trek and it gets a little chilly. It was a positive gamble as it set a perfect tone for the evening left a smiling note for the trip. All the Greek islands have closely knit native residences, markets, and restaurants, and Folegandros being a comparatively small island, the overall living spread was less making it easier to explore along and inside the circumference. We had plans for Scuba diving however, the weather betrayed us and we had to drop out at the behest of our instructor. At times you will come across places that will connect with you as soon as you step, for us Folegandros was one of them. A perfect picture of lanes marked with white houses, blue and green doors, and pink bougainvillea decorating the scene is still fresh in our memories reminding us of Folegandros. Read about the previous day from: Commonalities of Mykonos Read about the next day from: Closure Planning your greek itinerary: Greece: Mesmerizing land ean Sun Making logistics arrangements for Greece: Budgeting for Greece Trip

  • Greece: Commonalities of Mykonos

    Greek island journey starts with the top name on the list - Mykonos Mykonos and Santorini are the two most popular Greek islands in India, if there is a reference to Greece, then Mykonos will surely pop up in that discussion. Mykonos has two sides of the coin, on one side is a calm, serene take on the day where you relax and roam around the “blue” warmth of the Greek houses and close-knit market, and on the other side of the coin is its nightlife where you spend time in some of the best party and “hip” joints which infuses energy and bubbliness no matter age factor. We never expected discs to be so magnetic that one feels bad leaving the place even at 2 or 3 in the night. If someone tells you that Greek sunsets are magical, it cannot be farther than the truth. People line up on the beach shore to have a glimpse of sunset like waiting for a genie to fulfill their wishes. Usually, sunset is around six and people start occupying the best seats of the house right from mid-afternoon, and that too in shoulder season when the crowd is expected to be thinner. Mykonos markets are full of souvenir shops and artistic cafes offering all varieties of dishes as per your taste buds. Little Venice of Greece, Old churches, and windmills are very closely knitted and powered with aromatic flavors making perfectly magical evenings when roaming in narrow lanes. Any island visit is incomplete without a dip and swims in the Aegean sea, fortunately, our property offered private beach access and a calm sea making it mandatory to swim to your heart’s content. We wrapped up Mykonos on a high and it raised our expectation bar quite high. Read about the previous day from: Tete-a-Tete with the Sun and the Sea Read about the next day from: Detoxifying @Folegandros Planning your greek itinerary: Greece: Mesmerizing land ean Sun Making logistics arrangements for Greece: Budgeting for Greece Trip

  • Greece : Tete-a-Tete with the Sun and the Sea

    Exploring mainland just outside Athense Greece’s mainland is as invigorating as its natural islands. Some enjoy Greece for its majestic history whereas some enjoy peaceful beachline and calming waters. Day 2: Visit to Apollo and Poseidon temple Today was all about visiting places on the mainland that are little on the outskirts of Athens hence we opted for a car. We started our journey from Thissio around 9 in the morning and left for Corinth Canal. Greek Highways are amazing to sail and the roads that we took were as smooth as clouds. Corinth Canal is an amazing sight that cuts right between Greece and connects the Saronic Gulf with the Gulf of Corinth. You will spot multiple cruise ships crossing in a single file with many of them being cruise liners and personal yachts. Corinth canal also has bungy jumping adventure right into the canal however, we were not able to enjoy it as it was closed on the day of our visit. After spending some time on the canal, we moved forward towards the Ancient Temple of Apollo or the Sun God (Archaeological ruins of Corinth and Temple of Apollo). It is an archaeological site with ruins dating back to 560 BC and is among the first proof of water channels. Even though physically all these sites are the last remnants of what was the first educational hub and residence, with just a pinch of imagination you can feel everything come alive. You will find an amalgamation of Greek and Roman culture here and how influential both have been in their growth. If you are interested in the history of mankind, it is a gem of a place for you. History is something which has intrigued us a lot and experiencing what our ancestors achieved more than three thousand years back arouses astonishment and a feeling of accomplishment at the same time. Our next stop was one of the most mythical creatures, Pegasus, the winged horse, the statue is easily approachable through Corinth city and faces the Gulf of Corinth. Statue acts as a recreational spot for local citizens and the site has been beautifully maintained for small get together and local events. Though the same cannot be said for the statue as I doubt it has been cleaned in a long time. We thoroughly enjoyed the vicinity and calm waters before we moved on with our itinerary. To complete our Greek god trilogy, next halt was at the temple of Poseidon, and it is on the opposite side of Athens city, so now we had to travel back to Athens and then to Sounion, it is a two-hour drive, but worthy of every second as you sail through on Greek highway. Temple of Poseidon in Sounion overlooks the Aegean sea and it is one of the perfect spots for watching the sunset on mainland Greece. Temple of Poseidon is located on the hilltop and needs a 5–10-minute walk to reach the site, there is a restaurant along with the temple where you can get snacks and meals as you desire. You can still observe around 40% of Doric columns standing till present. It was one of the sites destroyed by Xerxes’ invasion of Greece. As our journey to the mainland was about to be over and before we returned our chariot, we decided to travel along the coast roads and visit Lake Vouliagmeni, it was a small detour but worth the visit. Nestled in hills, the lake is an amazing resting place, and swimming spot (if you have time and euros in pocket). It was a perfect blend of a romantic evening with a restaurant in the vicinity offering great food and exquisite wine. We took a small halt and collected a few memories of the place before moving to the airport and concluding our day and Greek mainland journey for this visit. Right from Sounion till Lake Vouliagmeni and a little further the road moved along the shoreline and gives you a feeling of Great Ocean Road, Australia, and thus not a miss chance when in Greece. Our only challenge at the end of the day was locating Avis car rental at Athens Airport and we had ourselves to blame, and due to this blunder, we almost missed our next leg flight to party island – Mykonos!! This was the end of another eventful day in Greece and we never expected that Greece’s mainland can offer this much in addition to its islands. Read about the previous day from: Mesmerizing trip begins Read about the next day from: Commonalities of Mykonos Planning your greek itinerary: Greece: Mesmerizing land ean Sun Making logistics arrangements for Greece: Budgeting for Greece Trip

  • Greece : Mesmerizing trip begins

    We have a flag off!! Welcome to our journey to Greece mainland. Heavenly beaches, an ode to the world’s history and encapsulating aura, is how we summarize Greece. It is this one place where we would like to spend at least every alternating autumn season for the rest of our life. Day 0: Settling Down We had done prior research and decided to book a place that was walkable distance from Athens’ historic soul (The Pantheon / Acropolis) and easily accessible through Metro. When we landed it was already dark, we obtained a Sim card (Vodafone Sim cards are economical and can be obtained from the airport) and boarded the metro to our stay location. Grocery shops, good restaurants were all nearby, so we had no trouble making food arrangements. Day 1: Walking through History Boulevard Athens art hub is within a 10-15km radius and there is a lot of walking engaged. Stay ready to be on your feet and decide places to explore which are in proximity depending on your walking strength. There is also another option to rent a bicycle. The Acropolis of Athens is the center point for tourists as everything is built around it. It attracts tourists like bees to nectar, and its tickets can be bought online or through the tourist centers spread across the city. As a suggestion, do not wait to buy tickets right at the Pantheon or you will be spending more time in lines rather than enjoying what you came to see. To make it easier, get the tickets at multiple ticketing centers available around the Pantheon along with a map of historic places to see and mark before you begin as on every nook and corner there is a heritage site. The complex Acropolis of Athens have multiple sites like the Theatre of Dionysus, Odeon of Herodes Atticus at the bottom ( it’s a beautiful sight from the top), Temple of Athena Nike at the entrance, and multiple temples like Hekatompedon Temple, Temple of Rome and Augustus, Eretteo on the periphery with the grandest Parthenon at the center. Of all the Historical places, Parthenon sits atop the hill glaring at the center of modern history and where it all began. It has seen so many invasions, destruction events, and still, it survived. Its magnanimity can only be experienced when you are there, standing in front of it and trying to understand how it began and questioning how it was built. From the top of the Parthenon, you can see whole of the Athens city and a true amalgamation of past and present. It is good to begin your day early as the crowd (huge, really huge crowd) generally reaches Parthenon an hour before noon so try to cover it before the crowd hits. To cover all the places and learn about them you will need more than a day and you are in charge of the planning committee. Apart from Parthenon we also covered the Ancient Agora of Athens (It's Wonder Woman connection :P). In addition, we covered Hadrian’s Arch and the almighty Temple of Olympian Zeus. Multiple restaurants around offer amazing delicacies as you walk through the history lane. Soulful music and people dancing around amplify your good mood. We traversed around 20km that day and though we were physically tired, mentally we wanted to drink more of Greek History. As we had planned for exploring Athens shoreline for the next day we booked a car and went back to our stay location by evening. Read about the next day from: Tete-a-tete with the Sun and the Sea Planning your greek itinerary: Greece: Mesmerizing land ean Sun Making logistics arrangements for Greece: Budgeting for Greece Trip

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