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  • Budgeting for Greece Trip

    Time to look into the purse, bank balance, and credit card whether you will be visiting this year or next? Have a look, Greece dream may get fulfilled this year :) Greece is considered as one luxurious honeymoon destination in India and people prefer to spend lavishly given the occasion. In our case, it was the Greek experience that mattered. We tried our best to find a normal routine logistical arrangement. If I look at the overall break up, I believe the following sections will help you plan better: Transport (Reaching Greece and within Greece) Stay (Hotel, Airbnb) Transport: Plan Book Travel Repeat The most important factor for transportation is your travel dates, Greece hits its peak season during summers (Mar – June) and if you want a less crowded yet enjoyable time, prefer late August – Early September. Start with Skyscanner and you will find suitable flights and prices for your travel from your country to Greece Internal flights are best booked through Skyscanner, our preference was to consider air travel over ferries but that is again a personal choice. For island hopping in the second and third leg, we leveraged for our bookings. There are multiple sites and we found comparative pricing and suitable timing from the site. We booked a month in advance and the following was the cost breakup: New Delhi – Athens (Air): This was our round trip and we paid INR 77,828 ~ EUR 1,000 Athens – Mykonos (Air): Volotea flight thoughtfully booked for late-night travel INR 14,200 ~ EUR 182 Mykonos – Folegandros (Sea): Seajets ferry and we shelled INR 7650 ~ EUR 98 Folegandros – Santorini (Sea): Again, Seajets ferry and cost same as above INR 7650~ EUR 98 Santorini – Athens (Air): As for the final stint we went ahead with the flight and paid INR 17500~ EUR 224 One challenge with sea travel is, ferry routes are dynamic and keep on changing till the time you board. So even if your reservation clearly states it is going to take xx hours for your journey, it can be less than that time or more than the stipulated time by a factor of 4 or 5. We were informed Mykonos to Folegandros is a 4-hour journey however it took us 8 hours as the route was modified (for a seasick person like me, it was one horrible journey but I persevered somehow) Overall, we spent INR 125000 or EUR 1602 for two in major transportation Logistically, the most important thing today as you land on foreign soil is communication so as soon as you are in Greece and moving out of Airport, get yourself a local sim card. Vodafone services are very good, and we were happy with the connectivity we got. We paid around EUR 20 and got ourselves a data pack with some local call options. The data pack was enough to survive our trip without using social sites extensively. For your intra-island or Athens transportation need, some of the renting companies like Avis or local operators accept Indian driving licenses as is. However, if you want to be doubly sure, you can get International Driver Permit from your RTO. So, we got ourselves a comfy Fiat Panda on EUR 50 approx. with insurance and paid EUR 15 approx. on fuel for a single day. Rental charges are similar when you are hiring a car on an island. Another option is you can go for public transportation which is frequent, economical, and comfortable (40-seater Volvo buses) and the catch is, they operate on a fixed route and are time-bound. We did not find any challenge on public transport on islands as the frequency was good and the schedule is available on charts at common places throughout. Volvo charges a max of 10 EUR and on an average 5 EUR per person. Stay: What happens in Greece, stays in Greece Hands down our first and last priority were to book through Airbnb, and we found some great and some good options throughout. Of course, Mykonos, Santorini hotels would have been a jewel in stay but that was not our priority after we checked how exorbitantly they charge. It was a payoff we were willing to ignore. Athens: We preferred to stay near the historic landmarks in Athens which had good public transportation connectivity and circled down to Thissio / Thiseio as it was at a walkable distance from Acropolis and metro both. We found this lovely apartment which was very cozy and had a great neighborhood. We paid INR 6300 ~ EUR 80 for a two-night stay Mykonos: It was a hard find and little compromise booking as everything we looked for was very pricey and after much deliberation, we decided to stay a little far from all the action and in compensation we got access to private beach (YaaaY!!). Comparatively, it was the most expensive stay on the Greece trip. We locked onto this property, it was secluded and required public transport hopping or you can leverage a car on rent for travel. We paid INR 13100 ~ EUR 168 for a two-night stay. Folegandros: The beauty of this secluded small island is you don’t have to spend time on secondary research. We decided to stay near the main hub of the town which is well connected throughout the island. Our Airbnb host at this place was very cordial and ensured we had a good stay. We had to shell out INR 8100 ~ EUR 103 for a two-night stay. Santorini: In terms of compromise, we settled for very little here, though the property was extraordinary however it was very far off from the main events/attractions, we were walking 2 Kms one way to reach the bus stand and 2 bus stops away from the main market. As we were staying only for a night, we were very picky in terms of what to see and what to skip. This place charged us INR 5000 ~ 64 EUR for a night. It was a boutique hotel, but it was good. So overall we spent INR 32,500 or EUR 415 on accommodation. Overall, 80% of the spend was INR 161,000 or EUR 2080 for our six days itinerary. Ball is in your court whether Greece will see you there or not. By the way, to read more about Greece, you can go through this links from the site: Greece : Mesmerizing land of Aegean Sun Dine and Wine in Greece

  • Greece: Mesmerizing land of Aegean Sun

    Just to the south of the Europe, lies the heart of the world, a place where intellectuality was born. A place where sun does not set in west rather it melts and leave a mark. I think I was in third grade when I first learnt about Trojan Horse and got fascinated with the story of Troy. Though I was never fascinated with Greece at that time, tbh till 2019 Greece was a distant land somewhere in Europe. I don’t know when my better half got fixated on Greece and pushed that we plan for scintillating Greek memories. Her wish = My wish Our plan was to try and find a balanced trip between the Greek mainland and well-known islands. When you explore Greek itineraries, you may get overwhelmed with choices and find everything pickable. You transform into a kid and want everything till the time reality slaps you, and you find your job, finances and other commitments standing on top and then you get serious about what to pick. We finally settled that we would spend two nights on the Greek mainland, and two nights in Mykonos followed by two nights in Folegandros and a night in Santorini. How did we finalize on these pitstops you ask? Sure, let's jump onto that. How to plan a perfect Greek tour? The answer is plain and simple. Decide on what you want to do in Greece. Your preference is island hopping; great go for it, you will not be missing anything if you do so. Your preference is experiencing history; great, the mainland has so many things that you can skip islands and will not feel bad about it. And in the end, you want both; now we are talking. Our one-week itinerary was distributed around the Greek capital, two of the most popular islands – Mykonos and Santorini and one mandatorily offbeat island(s) (it can be more than one). Now, this is quintessential that you select one of the many options and one island that does not regularly appear on Instagram or Facebook. Greece is so much more than Mykonos and Santorini, and personally, these both islands are awesome and everything, but if someone asks me, Santorini is an overkill, it is always crowded everywhere. Santorini was a mood killer and the only reason we spent a night here, was because it had a direct flight to Athens (Greek Capital), and I suffer from seasickness. We were more than happy with Mykonos and can revisit any day, and the third island i.e. Folegandros was personally my choice as I wanted an off-radar island and developed a liking as soon as I googled it. Most of the well-known islands are in the Cyclades group and you can pick any of them like Anafi, Ios, Paros, Naxos among others. What did we do when we were in Greece, that is a very detailed story and readable through the following links: 1. Day 0 and 1: Settling Down and leisure walk through History Boulevard 2. Day 2: Tete-a-Tete with the Sun and the Sea 3. Day 3: Commonalities of Mykonos 4. Day 4 and 5: Detoxifying @Folegandros 5. Day 6: Closure and Return So have a read and let us know how you feel about it. Before we sign off, I forgot to mention the best time to visit Greece is around September when the crowd is thin but at the same time, the weather is still good to enjoy almost summers in Greece. Though, peak season is March – June if you are a crowd-loving fan. In addition, to assist you in a way for better planning, you can go through our Greece logistics arrangement blog as well. Oh.. I missed to mention there is some smack-i-licious food options also mentioned here. Till Next time!! Adios Amigos!!

  • Road to the West (Part II) : Conclusion

    Transcending from Rajasthan to Gujarat can be an eye-opener experience. We had heard so much about fluid roads of Gujarat, however, our experience was a complete 180 degrees opposite. We never expected so bumpy roads while entering Gujarat from Jaisalmer towards Bhuj. Though highways were “Work in progress” around Bhuj but coming from Rajasthan, our expectations were at an all-time high and so was the disappointment level. Sitting on many crown jewels, Gujarat has numerous reasons for tourists to pour and celebrate its man-made as well as natural marvels. This is where you feel the struggle of what to cover and what to skip. Given our constraints, we had Diu as the last stop so the whole itinerary was planned such. Quick Links: Food Options Stay Options Spend Breakup And the trip continues: Day Wise Itinerary Day 5: Land of Kutch – “Kuch din to bitao Gujarat me” astonishingly simple yet powerful advertising by Gujarat tourism keeps on playing in your mind as soon as you move towards Kutch. Kutch festival extends from Dec till Feb every year and at every turn, one will see promotional hoardings/entrances while crossing swamps on way to Kutch. It is suggested to plan in a way to reach Kutch around 1:00 PM and still be able to enjoy all things and if you reach earlier than that, you will be tired by sunset (weather is too hot and humid) even at the end of December. Kutch's visit can be segregated into four segments. and most of the time we kept on roaming in between Segment II and Segment IV throughout. Segment I – Tent City, Dhordo The first man-made structure that you will come across will be Tent City, Dhordo a magnificent temporary yet luxurious structure in Kutch where people stay back to enjoy white sand lands. They are highly expensive and confined only for the people with prebooking or booking for a stay. You can maximum go till the entrance and car parking. Segment II – National Trade Fair and Food Bazaar Please do not confuse Tent city with the Kutch festival as only after crossing the tent city, the beauty of Kutch and its festival begins. You will have to enter the restricted area as this is very near to the border so permissions are required (it can be applied online to avoid waiting in the queue through this link). Just after the barrier, there is a setup similar on lines of “International Trade Fair” with multiple outlets below one roof, and adjacent to it is the food corner. Food options are average to good (nothing will be amazing but good enough to fill tummy). Gujarat govt. is heavily promoting local tourism and it dedicates one section to growing tourist locations like Statue of Unity, Narmada river camping among others. The shopping arena is good and economical. You can shop from clothes to house decor, handmade to machine-made, stitched to unstitched everything is available in the fair. You can even try your bargaining prowess as well. Segment III – Fun Activities and Cultural events The next section after the trade fair is some more campsites and adventurous activities like ATVs, jeep-led paragliding. A temp stage has also been constructed for cultural activities which start around sunset time, Segment IV – White sand beauty This is where the road ends and on the horizon is nothing but white salt and nothing else. Govt has built a four-story podium for people to enjoy the picturesque beauty from atop. One can walk on the sand swamps but has to be very cautious as at places swamps tend to cave in and you may land deep into the marsh. Hence not at all places can venture one into the salt marsh. It's better to observe people and decide where one can venture into the white lands. In Segment IV there are multiple activities like horse riding, camel riding, and buddy ride one can try. Do try snacks and shakes here, it's amazing. Around Segment III, there is space to venture with cars (on the west side, and makes a perfect spot for sunset) however think twice before venturing deep onto salt land as many cars/travelers get stuck in marshland. We observed more than 10 cars being plowed or pushed to just get out of the swamp muds. Around sunset, the beauty level magnifies to 100x and as soon as darkness takes over, electrical decorations all along the road leading to marshes are astonishing and will force you to take the camera out. Kutch tents from appearance were nothing like Jaisalmer tents and extremely expensive, so we decided to stay back in Bhuj. Therefore, when we were done and dusted, we went back to Bhuj. However, it is totally up to you, where to hold your ground, if you are interested in sunrises, you would like to stay back in tents nearby. Day 6: It's Relaxing, It's Beach: This was more of a relaxing day as we tried to avoid heavy-duty traveling and get some rest by enjoying the sunny side of the beach. There are multiple options to explore, around Kutch there is a lake and Bhuj fort (going under some serious renovation in Dec 2020) that can be explored. Considering our options, we opted for a beach i.e. Mandawi beach with unrealistic sunset in the Gulf of Kutch. It is at max 2 hours drive from Bhuj and the roads are good but not great. Mandawi beach is not like a typical Goa beach however it offers some good snacks and water sport activities. They are very general but quite appealing to the local audience. If this is your first time on beachside sports, do try out Thar/Jeep motorized parasailing. It is fun and gives immense pleasure when sailing right next to the ocean, sun, and windmills (though non-operational). Beach is not very clean and tourists do not take responsibility for keeping a public beach clean which at times is disgusting however as you move along with the beach, after covering some distance crowd will be left behind and bringing in the beauty Around mid-evening, we were back to Bhuj and spent the rest of the day with good food and great company. Day 7: Roads of Gir and Diu Glance: After a refresher day, we were all set to leave for our final stop, Diu. We again left early in the morning with a light breakfast. We planned to reach Diu by lunchtime however we got excited when we learned that we might cross Gir in between and decided to go for a jungle safari. Google maps took us to roads which were interior of Gir forest, we got lost and spent hours traversing jungle roads at 10kmph. Thankfully, we were put on track by a group of local lads on our route to Diu. After spending more than 3 hours in Gir with few sightings of deers and bad roads, we were back on road to Diu. It was around 4 PM when we reached Diu, roads were pathetic from Bhuj to Diu (or maybe Google maps took us for a hellish ride). Inside Diu, everything was different as if the city was charged up and decorated better than a Royal fort. All these preparations were done for the Indian President visiting the UT during the Christmas days. Diu was given a shape lift overnight and it looked like a gem as the sunset approached. We had our supper and quickly freshened up and went on to Nagoa beach that was nearby. The Beachline has a walking path slightly similar to Mumbai’s Marine Drive that looks so amazing in the evening and people were having a family get-together to have picnics around the path with sealine singing melodies in the backdrop. To our astonishment, we reached the end of Nagao beach where we found a beeline of snack centers and a lot of recently inaugurated seaside food eateries, and the whole street decorated with Christmas lights. We were teleported to whole another world in Diu, even though we were tired to our core, we spent more than three hours just roaming on the streets and enjoying delicious snacks. Diu has that European touch and you get similar vibes as soon as you step into Diu. Day 8: Exploits of Diu: We started our day with a visit to Naida caves to explore it in tranquillity. These caves hold historic importance as they provided natural cover and shield to the Indian army to overcome the Portuguese army in annexing Diu. These caves are photogenic and provide amazing background to have some amazing clicks. Though cave restoration is always a work in progress be wary of roaming in places marked for no entry. Also, as there is a minimal charge so maintenance is on the lower side, and dark corners will be full of mosquitoes so carry a mosquito repellent with you. Our next stop was INS Khukri Memorial that was very recently renovated for mass gatherings and public events. To our luck, President inaugurated that place a night ago. The transformation was surreal in comparison to the photos that Google had before the new upgrade. INS Khukri’s scaled model is amazing and covered by hard glass making it visible yet untouchable for the audience. On all sides of the glass, you can read about Indian heroes that were part of the INS Khukri crew. Though the sun was shining in its full glory, every moment spent there exploring the rocks around the memorial was worth it. With the temperature rising, our next stop was to relax on the beachside. Of some great beaches, we finalized on Goghla beach as it was clean, less rocky, and less crowded. Recently it was given a shape lift and it now has the cleanest changing and shower area that we had ever seen in India. We spent a good few hours enjoying ourselves on a sunny beach before we left to call it off. Our next stop was Radhika beach, however on reaching that beach we found it was a waste of time, the beach was really dirty and had a heavy stink of fish. So we went towards Nagao beach while enjoying sunset en route. There is a sunset point just along the roadside, giving a perfect over the hill view of the Arabian Sea. Sunset experience from here is enthralling and surprisingly beautiful. Day 9: And the descend began: It was time now to return to the nest, and we began early in the morning as we missed an important monument in Diu – The Diu fort. We went again with Google maps which mentioned that the fort opens early in the morning around 6:00 AM however on reaching the fort we found it was not open for business. It was very disappointing as we were looking forward to spending some time in the fort. We altered our plan and decided to watch the sunrise from the outskirts of the fort. Diu fort has rugged hills overlooking the sea and the terrain is graded. It is different from all other locations we have been to. Throughout the trip we only spent time looking at the sun setting after a day’s travel, now we were able to start our day with the sun rising as we start our journey back. We planned to reach Mt Abu/Udaipur by end of the day so most of the day we were traveling via pathetic state roads. Till Ahmedabad, we were just praying for the road nightmare to end. You will not find any good options for food from Diu till Ahmedabad, so we suggest you pack along something before starting the journey. The only food options available were limited to Gujarati fried snacks. It was only in Ahmedabad where we could find decent food and a place to sit. Post heavy lunch we were back on road and reached Abu road just a little over sunset where we stayed the night. Day 10: Fort roads and glimpse of home We again left early and reached Chittorgarh fort mid-morning. Astonishingly, all the forts we visited on this trip are unique, different, and amazing at the same time. Just like Jaisalmer fort, it’s a living fort. You can apply online or pay at the entry, and again like any other Rajasthan Fort, you will be swarmed by guides or pretend guides. Selecting a guide is a personal choice. All the noteworthy places inside the fort, like King’s palace, Queen’s palace among others are approachable by vehicle, and google maps are near perfect. Chittorgarh fort proudly promotes their royalty. Queen Padmavati belonged to this heritage. Fort has lineage and heritage that is visible from every stone in the fort. Inside the fort's museum ancestry has been beautifully explained. It is worth going through the details to learn how Rajasthan got what it has. At the bottom (near the entry and exit) of the fort, you will find restaurants offering authentic local delicacies and they are all worth a try. After brunch, we resumed our journey back home. We took a night halt in Jaipur and resumed our journey to a place called "home" the next day. Food Options: Gujarati snacks like Dhokla and Thepla are some of their gifts to the world and we do enjoy them (sorry but our inclination is more towards Rajasthani delicacies) so we went with basic food and easy accessibility: Bhuj: Our stay had amazing food offering so did not explore much outside except for Domino’s Pizza Kutch: In Kutch, food options are limited and as mentioned in Segment II you will get multi snack multi cuisine food at this place. Diu: Diu is a small UT and there are some very good restaurants. Our first option was O’coqueiro where we had lunch, food was amazing as well as the ambiance, but a little pricey. Food shacks at the end of the Nagao beach were also good, try the drinks and snacks. We also tried the food at Hotel Sea View Bar and Restaurant and it was not worth it. Neither the ambiance nor food. Ahmedabad: There is no end to food options in a metro city, you can try as per the food liking, we ended up at Crush Coffee and Burger king en route Chittorgarh: When in Rajasthan, Dal Bhaati Choorma is a must. We did not spend time searching for a good restaurant however luckily we got a good option at the fort exit. You will find people distributing restaurant pamphlets in the fort and they will accompany you till the time you have made a decision. We opted for Rajasthan Restaurant and we were happy with the our choice both on flavour and pocket. Stay Options: Bhuj: Bhuj has good hotels due to its industrial complex, we were in the mood of little luxury so we went ahead with Regenta Resort. It is an amazing resort, though our rooms were not that good due to their small size. Other than that we had no complaint with the resort. Food is next level, location is good, it have hilltop swimming pool overlooking Bhuj and then the best thing: It has "10 Hole" Mini golf course which we enjoyed thoroughly. We also spent another night at Tulsi Residency and it was also strategically located for our itinerary, rooms are good and the food is also good. Diu: We chose to go ahead with Rainbow Resort, its façade perfectly hides the package, and as soon as you are inside it gets incredible at all levels. There is a swimming pool in the center with a huge glass-top aquarium around the pool. Abu Road: During our return journey we took a halt. We opted for Hotel The Hind and found it cost effective stay with good food. Jaipur: We opted for Airbnb in Jaipur and got an amazing 2BHK apartment with all amenities and excellent upkeep. The hosts were amazing and cordial (unfortunately it’s no more listed on Airbnb) Spend Breakup: Our journey spend totaled up to INR 80k for this trip for three Fuel spend: We spend around INR 15.5k on fuel and INR2.5k on tolls during this journey Stay spend: One of the major cost head and we spent around INR45k where we mostly had two rooms and out of this INR 20k were spent in Bhuj (Regenta Resort) where we had three rooms. Misc spend: Misc in this case included food, beach sport activities and souvenirs After 10 days, 5 cities, 3250 KMs, multiple places, and countless memories wrapped one of our longest road trips across west India. Transitioning back to routine life gets difficult when you conclude such an amazing trip. Till next time!! Stay Safe and Travel, Mi Amor!!

  • Road to the West (Part I)

    A ten day experience to interiors of Rajasthan and Gujarat; on a personal vehicle There is no shortage of gems in India and almost every state boast of attraction that puts it on the world map. We went off on a journey to explore some of the roads less traveled and experience magnificent architecture, natural wonders and connect with nature at the same time. Some of these places we had visited years back, however, it stayed back in our minds, and we always thought of visiting them again. This time we had company with us @Oblong shots. The simmering sun of December meant perfect weather for travel and enjoying roads with good company. Quick Links: Cities covered on the trip Day wise itinerary Food Options Stay Options One State, many wonders, silky roads and one of the finest food offerings, that's right, and above all changing landscape with blink of eye and this is Rajasthan for you. We planned to cover some of the architectural jewels of Rajasthan, embrace nature’s phenomenon in Gujarat at Kutch concluding with the pristine beaches of Diu while spending 10 days on road and traveling approximately 3250 KMs. We hit and enjoyed the following cities on the trip: 1. Jodhpur (Small Detour – Ajmer Dargah and Bullet baba temple) 2. Jaisalmer 3. Bhuj / Rann of Kutch 4. Diu 5. Chittaurgarh (via Ahmedabad) Day wise itinerary: Day 1: Get set Jodhpur: As always, we planned to leave early in the morning and cover maximum journey with the sun hanging on the top. So we left around 5:00 AM from Gurugram (Gurgaon) and took a breakfast halt around Kothputli (Old Rao Hotel) before reaching Ajmer around 10/11 AM. This was our first-time visit to a Muslim holy place (Ajmer Sharif Dargah), so had some struggle in adapting to rituals and practice. It was a good experience overall and we left little enriched in our culture and heritage. Our next detour was Bullet Baba temple, an unusual deity in remembrance of Om Banna, where people offer whiskey as devotional offerings. It's hardly a ten fifteen-minute detour however worth it. Our next halt was for lunch at Pali and then straight to the elegant structure, Mehrangarh fort. It’s hard to overlook such an immense fort Overlooking the blue city. In vicinity to the fort is Jaswant Thada, a resting place for many noblemen and members of the erstwhile royal family of Jodhpur. We also had plans for visiting Umaid Bhawan Singh palace however it was shut for tourists due to Covid-19. Our day ended with finger-licking Pyaaz Kachoris and Mirchi Vada from Shahi Samosa Day 2: Onwards toward Jaisalmer: We started our day early around 7 AM towards Mandore (known for its Ravana temples built inside a garden full of monkeys) enjoying the architecture of Mandore garden, and further on to Jaisalmer. You will not be disappointed in your travel as roads are as smooth as butter and worth swooshing over. We reached Jaisalmer by noon and had ample time exploring the “living” fort. Our first visit was to the ancient Jain temples inside the fort and its amazing carvings. The temple follows strict opening/closing timelines. The wall cravings in all these temples will leave you in awe of the architecture and the peace will easily port you into another dimension. King and Queen palace are in the vicinity of the temple. However, its upkeep and maintenance are at a lower level in comparison to Jodhpur palace (maybe because it is a living palace). The place is swarmed by guides, and it's totally at one's whim to either visit the palace on your own or take a guide. If you are very much interested in knowing more about royalties, I suggest taking a guide package to cover the palace, Patwaon ki Haveli, and few more locations in the 3km radius of the fort. One can have delicious food around the palace, there are multiple restaurants, and you can choose from Indian, Continental, Italian, Chinese cuisines. We covered the temples, Cannon point (there are two, please visit the only one which is on the left of the king/queen palace) followed by Patwaon ki Haveli (around 2 km walk one side from the palace or you can take an auto, do not take the parked car out, or else the probability of getting stuck in traffic is high). In between, you can do shopping as well, the streets inside the fort are filled with shops selling souvenirs and more. The perfect end of the day will be with a perfect sunset and there is no better place than Bara Bagh just outside the city for one. It is a block of cenotaphs (or chhatris as fondly called by locals built) in remembrance of late royals and it is said that they were built on banks of a lake which has now dried up and greenery has taken over. You can sit back and relax and watch the sun melt over and passing through a horde of windmills, leaving behind the best of the orange hue with clouds colored with a tinge and floating like huge cotton balls. Day 3: Paradise roads of Jaisalmer: We left early in the morning and had breakfast near the castle (Pakwaan), and left for Tanot temple via Longewala. It is a feeling of unusual calmness traveling on the roads which have desert as far as your eyes can see. What makes the roads of Jaisalmer even more picturesque are the inline humongous windmills marking the horizon. Curvy roads make you sing at top of your voice and enjoy the serenity. Those empty road shots that you have been craving will be satisfied here. There are two routes that you can take from here. Either visit the Tanot temple first and then cover Longewala or the other way round. In our case as the direct road from Jaisalmer to Tanot temple was under repair we had to take Jaisalmer – Longewala – Tanot and backtrack it. We went on to Longewala and experienced the “Indian” in us while enjoying history, relating to the “Border” movie as if everything you saw in that movie has come to life. Drive from Longewala to Tanot used to be a single-lane road however it has been now renovated to a four-lane highway and you will swim with the wind as you travel, and it will be nothing short of surfing in your dreams. Tanot temple holds a lot of significance and history of miraculous events during the infamous Indo-Pak war as none of the missiles/warheads that landed inside the temple premise went off. The temple is maintained by Army and is a must-visit as you may come across a warhead skeleton kept there. On the return, we took a small detour in between Longewala and Tanot and it was a narrow road, single lane, with huge sandhills as you move. This single-lane driving is something that you will never come across anywhere. It was like taking a car for a ride in heaven. Some of you may relate to it and some may not but this drive is something that we are going to take with us when we depart from this world. You can find a lot of food options in Ramgarh, a small town between Tanot and Jaisalmer where we had our lunch munching Kachoris and Mirchi vada to our hearts desire. En route to Sam dunes, we went to the Kuldhara village (some claim haunted) and Khaba fort. These locations have mystery written all over their presence as these places are known to be abandoned overnight due to tussle with the feudal lord. The most amazing thing is no one knows where the villagers suddenly disappeared overnight in thin air. Location is not scary as the story however it gives a glimpse of how closely knitted people were. It is something very different from the royal life of Rajasthan. No doubt roads leading from these locations till Sam dunes are worth a drive. Our last stop for the day was Sam sand dunes desert campsite. On reaching your camps you can take a camel ride to the top of dunes to enjoy a mesmerizing sunset (included in the deal with the stay) and by shelling few bucks more you can enjoy the ride deep into the dunes on camel carts. We stayed back and enjoyed the sun settling down for the night. In the camp, you will enjoy entertaining performances and local singing, which is a delight, and for us, the next enjoyment session was the ultimate Night Desert Jeep Safari. We left around 7:30 PM right after snacks and we went on to drive of a lifetime across the desert, jumping and swaying over the dunes in pitch dark with nothing but the moon lighting up the sky. Deep inside the desert and rampaging on our jeep we took a break to enjoy a small bonfire out in nowhere which our jeep drive organized for a small sum. Our experience was like a sine wave, hitting max thrill on the crest and equal tranquillity on troughs. We ended our night on a high with the ultimate Rajasthani dinner – Dal Baati Choorma and moved to our tents. Day 4: Bhuj awaits – We were now ready to leave Rajasthan behind and move on to Bhuj (we recommend you travel to Udaipur for this day and enjoy lakes, and castles before moving to Gujarat however we had personal reasons to skip Udaipur and march towards Bhuj). Road conditions take a 180-degree turn as soon as you move from Rajasthan to Gujarat. State borders roads are in a pathetic state. Bhuj is an industrial complex and there are multiple manufacturing sites in and around Bhuj. Bhuj city is just like any other city but one thing is for sure it feels very spacious when you enter the city. This day most of the time was spent on the road and it was late in the evening till we reached our destination and called it a day, as for the next day, white sand (salt lakes) were calling. Food Options: Enroute Jodhpur: There is no end to breakfast options on way to Jaipur and forward, even before reaching Jaipur, you can find all popular chains like KFC, Burger King, Dominos, Pizza Hut, CCD, Barista, now Starbucks as well, and the Dhabas offering Indian, Chinese to your desires. Pali: GarhGirvar resort has become an unconventional stop for us in Rajasthan when going towards Jodhpur / Udaipur, it is an amazing rest over, with an amazingly ambient restaurant. Food is also worth the visit (maybe little on the expensive side) however the service is great. Jodhpur: Without a doubt, kachoris are a staple diet in Jodhpur, even if you are following a diet, please skip it for the kachoris and which better place than Shahi Samosa for kachoris. Jaisalmer: Restaurants are in abundance in Jaisalmer, we had our lunch at a restaurant behind Jain temples, Jaisalmer Oasis restaurant, though it was on the third floor in a nested society however staff is very courteous and the food is fresh and delightful. You can try other restaurants as well, however, do inform staff to make Indian food preparation as they are habitual of preparing meals to the likings of the foreign visitors. Stay Options: All the cities that we covered in this writeup have some amazing stay options and as most of the time we were in the car travelling, stay actually meant to spend night in a comfy place and move to next city. So we picked economical locations throughout this trip and following are our suggestions: Jodhpur: Preference in Jodhpur was to stay at a location that is near the attractions and not some distant resort so we picked up Fern Jodhpur for our stay. It is prime location located and provide parking space as well. We did not try food here so can’t say much about food however support staff is amazing and highly cooperative, and they do have Covid guidelines followed to the dot Jaisalmer: As soon as you are trying to enter Jaisalmer you will be approached by bikers to assist you in finding hotel, caution: DO NOT STOP, many tourists have complained on harassment from these fellows, mind your driving and move towards your destination. Jaisalmer have some amazing properties listed and no doubt you will get good options if you explore. We chose Wanderlust Guest House as it was located outside the Fort hustle however still had multiple food joints nearby in case if you thought of exploring them. Mr. Padam, owner is very helpful and supportive, and you can get a packaged deal for desert camp as well. For our stay at campsite, though almost all camps will offer you similar kind of package, it will have a free camel safari, dinner and breakfast, tents with common washroom / attached washroom. We have tried few camps before as well, however this time we went ahead with Melody Moonlight Desert Camp, and the best thing about this camp is it is exactly opposite of sand dunes where general audience from various camps "visit" sand dunes. With this, we come to an end to the first half of the trip covering Rajasthan. Rajasthan’s beauty cannot be covered in six days however, you can be content by visiting three cities – Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur. We have made numerous visits to Rajasthan and sure we will be returning for more in time to come. Also, our spend and breakup will come as part of subsequent blog. Have a good read..

  • Destination: Manali

    One North Indian hill station which is known to almost everyone across India is Manali. This blog covers this station in vanilla flavor. Have a quick read and enjoy your next visit to Manali Quick Links: Ideal number of Days Day wise itinerary Food Options Spend Breakup Manali is among the most sought-after destination in North India with tourists pouring like monsoon rain throughout the year. Over the past few years, in addition to local tourism, it has become a religious stay for everyone visiting Leh/Ladakh or Spiti valley. Manali has a lot to offer from enthralling mountains and serene waterfalls to paragliding and ziplining for adventure junkies. Many off-beat destinations have popped up around the city for those trying to avoid commercial and crowded locations in Manali central. This itinerary is a blend of cherry-picked destinations covering the most popular locations in and around Manali for the summer season. Manali never ceases to amaze, even if you visit after few months it will still have something new or something you missed the last time you were here Ideal number of Days: If you are specifically visiting Manali to explore its beauty and scenery, 5-6 days are good enough if traveling by road from Delhi/NCR and 4-5 days. In case if you are reaching Manali by flight Nearest airport is Bhuntar Airport in Kullu. If you are traveling by Car from Delhi NCR, we suggest you leave an evening early and cover the plains journey till Mohali / Rupnagar. And then from Mohali / Rupnagar, we suggest you leave as early as possible in the morning, like 5ish to avoid traffic jams. Day wise itinerary: Day 1: Travel from Rupnagar / Mohali to Manali. From Rupnagar (if you are leaving from Mohali, then maybe after an hour) travel distance is around 265km and takes around 8-10 hours to reach Manali (unfortunately it was Friday and we were subsumed by traffic at all places, so for us it took 14 hours). You will find most traffic around Mandi and Kullu. As we are talking about Himachal, there will be construction/patchwork through and through. You can find a few good options for meals in Mandi, other than that most will be small-time Dhabas and Maggi outlets. Once you reach Manali, depending on the time, you can recce local area and get a feel of the place. Leverage parking areas to explore around on foot, otherwise, traffic jams are more common than street vendors in Manali Day 2: Deepak Tal via Atal Tunnel – If you are a road trip enthusiast then this day will be a delight for you. We left at a good time in the morning towards Atal Tunnel through Leh Manali highway covering en route – Solang valley (15 min from Manali) – Atal Tunnel (40 Min from Manali) and Sissu, the first village after Manali towards Leh. As soon as you leave Atal Tunnel, the way splits in two, one towards Leh and the other towards Kaza. The landscape changes drastically as soon as you leave the Atal tunnel behind. There will be an urge to stop at every hook and turn of the road and capture every view, so be ready and keep your devices charged. The road till Deepak tal will take you through Keylong and Jispa; and is smooth as butter except for few rough patches, our hatchback sailed smoothly with little challenge. Deepak tal is a small yet pristine water body with most of the crowd left far behind. Though it is incomparable to Chandra tal (in Spiti) , the aura around is energetic and flows with positive vibes. You can also try some good monasteries around Keylong if not interested in traveling this far. You can find decent famiy restaurants in Keylong for food and snacks Day 3: Rohtang pass – Must visit place for Manali. You can hire a cab very easily as there is a huge number of operators in Manali for the Rohtang pass. At Rohtang Pass, you will get to see and feel snow even in peak summers, most of it will be in patches, not too thick but good enough to enjoy. Keep your expectations from this snow very low as most of it will be mud stricken with activities like – Yak riding, Skiing, Tube slide, and more going in full flow. However, the view from the top is nothing but extraordinarily breathtaking. You can explore the area on foot to experience “on edge of the world” feeling. There are multiple waterfalls when you go uphill to Rohtang however if you decide to go towards Kaza from Rohtang, there are more beautiful waterfalls on the other side. Cab drivers will give you the option to return via Atal Tunnel (do choose this option) but be wary of twists and turns downhill as it may trigger motion sickness among a few. Day 4: Local and One nearby destination (Manikaran / Kullu – Nagger Castle): On our last day in Manali we had an option to exert or spend it relaxingly so we gave Manikaran a skip and decided to go to Kullu instead. We visited Nagger castle, a small medieval castle located on a little detour from Kullu, it is easily approachable and can be found full of IT millennials/ Gen Z leveraging WFH in Covid times. Nagger castle is good but it can be skipped and not feel bad about it. Rest of the day, we spent visiting Hidimba temple (an ancient cave temple) and Local market road (MG road) for leisure and shopping. Do try 8 in 1/ 4 in 1 / 16 in 1 flavor ice cream (or as we know it – Softy) You can also opt for local places instead of Manikaran / Kullu depending on your interst and priority. Day 5: Return to Delhi. Time has come to leave amazing sceneries behind and travel back to the regular routine. It is recommended that you leave as early as possible like 6- 6:30 in the morning to avoid all the rush. It took us 14 hours with multiple stops to return when we left by 6:30 in the morning. Food Options: Manali has a bouquet of eateries and restaurants with live music and amazing delicacies to offer. If you go by google maps, astonishingly you will find most of them have a rating above 4. Even dhabas have an average rating of 4.2, so there is a struggle to choose which restaurant to try. If we look at Food options geographically, there are good food options located on almost every road you take around New/ OldManali . Following are our recommendations: Corner House (MG road): Without a doubt, the best food we had in Manali. It was that one meal that was smooth on the palate, full of flavors and hitting all the right nodes from starters till Dessert. Courteous staff and on-time food delivery made us crave for more and we left with a slightly lighter pocket but full till the brim on the tummy. Il Forno (Near Hidimba Temple): Garden theme restaurant, with an outdoor and indoor setting, it offers some of the refreshing drinks from its garden fruits. Clay oven-based veg pizza was good but not that great. You will love the ambiance and if you have good company then an unforgettable time is confirmed. Food prices are on the upper side of the normal curve. German Bakery (Old Manali): Riverside bakery with ample sitting space offers amazing delicacies like pies and coffee which are wholesome and amazing. You can have a full meal or dessert with coffee, depending on your choice Manalsu Dhaba: In case you are interested in simple yet yummy food try out Manalsu Dhaba just near the old Manali bridge, there are multiple dhabas around the old Manali bridge, all having 4+ ratings, depending on the crowd and your liking choose one. Roundez-Vous restaurant: Unfortunately, we visited this place when Manali was coming out of the second wave and almost all restaurants were struggling with staff shortage. The food here is premium on the pocket but average on taste buds. Clay Oven Pizza is not something that you will like and something which every restaurant is offering. The place has ample space and if your herd is huge in size you may try it out. Ride Inn: Away from the Manali’s restaurant honeycomb maze, Ride-inn offers stays and a thematic restaurant which is nothing like any other. The conceptual restaurant is all about drive machines, you will find so much artistry in the ambiance that you will fall in love with the place in a glance. They take time to bring food (observed some customers leaving without food) however it is worth the wait. Full of flavors and palatable. There were some restaurants that we badly wanted to try however we couldn’t: Café 1947: Located on wide Leh Manali highway, we saw many reviews and videos suggesting this Café, however our hard luck, whenever we visited there was waiting for more than two hours and restaurant policy needs you to be physically there when your time comes on the waiting list. Opens around 1 PM in the noon and goes on till midnight (depending on local restrictions) Rocky Café: One of those restaurants which we were never able to reach due to distance between our stay and restaurant location, but heard that they offer among the best pizzas in town. Renaissance: Known for its lip smacking Pizzas, this restaurant strictly follows timings. We could not enjoy its delicacies because we got held up by traffic and reached a little late. Our advice, do not take your car/taxi in Old Manali market to avoid getting stuck in traffic on steep slope. Some tips to have a good time in Manali: Staying location: Manali has amazing stays all around. Our plan is to select a property that is adjacent or a little far from the heart of the city. Due to the huge inflow of personal cars and cramped roads, you will observe people struggling and tussling over parking space. If you have your own vehicle prefer to stay on Goshal Road and enter old Manali through Nehru Kund, comparatively here traffic is low and there are good options to stay. We opted for Airbnb, as at times you get good options at economical prices If we could bucket Manali then there are three major areas: Old Manali where the hotels surround Mall Road, Old Manali bridge where most of the restaurants and hotels are, and then third will be Leh Manali highway crossing on the other side of Manalsu River. Traffic wise third area is most easily accessible and has the least traffic issues. In case you are going for a second pocket, we advise you to reach there through Nehru Kund and park near HPT Clubhouse or else you will struggle a lot to park your car and reach even by cabs. If you are visiting Manali in the summers, Solang valley offers nothing extraordinary, you can skip it completely. In case you want to try out adventure sports, then you may visit; otherwise, it is like an open ground in between hills For Rohtang Pass, you can take your personal car by applying for a pass through, you will be among the lucky ones if you are able to complete the process and make payment as well since the website is really slow. Another option is to take a cab by reaching out to local tour operators. One piece of advice though, bargain heavily as they start with skyrocket prices giving thousands of reasons. You can do multiple activities, hire a cab around INR 4k. Environmental advice: kindly bring back your plastic waste and do not dispose of it in Manali as hill stations do not have efficient waste management. This is for our own good and preserving precious locations. Stay options for Manali: Stay locations are always a personal matter. Some prefer a room in a hotel with hot meals available throughout and some believe in having a place with independence, we belong to latter category however at the end economical stay matters J Below are the options that we explored / stayed at during our trip: Farm stay at Rupnagar : As it was one night stay we made some compromise on the comfort and decided to stay at a Farm House, though house location is little deep in the village and reaching there may be troublesome, it was a good stay ( We stayed on the top floor, and were provided with coolers). Overall, a good stay with amazing fresh fruit breakfast. Hotel stay in Manali: Manali have truck load options in terms of hotel, however our priority was to stay a little outside the hustle bustle but yet reachable under 15 min so we decided to this location. We got a good deal on Airbnb in comparison to other booking sites. Our overall stay was good in this nice cozy hotel Spend Breakup: We spent in total INR 37k for this trip and the breakup was as: Stay spend: INR 15k approx for two rooms - four nights Fuel spend: INR 5k approx for petrol car Food : INR 6.7k approx (this is totally personal and depends on you) Misc: INR 10k Rohtang cab visit and other expenses ( also depends on your negotiation skills)

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