The Magic of Phang Nga Bay: My Tryst with the Unspoilt Nature off the Coast of Phuket, Thailand!

In this blog post, I take you on a journey into the heart of Phang Nga Bay, a vast Ramsar marine reserve smattered with the last of a handful of unspoilt Thai islands and deserted lagoons claimed by wild monkeys, bats and lizards. As the world settles for New Normal and Thailand prepares to reopen, it is imperative to be sensitive to the fragile marine environment and travel responsibly. I focus on an unchartered territory of Thailand, Phang Nga province. Way more than a day trip from Phuket, Phang Nga Bay offers a plethora of adventure activities as well as an opportunity to relax by the azure coastline.

For more content related to Thailand travel, read here!

beautiful islands in thailand: Phang nga bay tour by kayak
View of the islets carousel of Phang Nga Bay, an offbeat yet stunning destination in Thailand

Under a starlit sky, I sat on the rooftop of my Bangalore home with my eyes closed, reminiscing about the moments I had spent by the Andaman sea in what now seems to be another life! I felt that a gentle breeze filled with the aroma of salt and sea kissed my cheeks, welcoming me back to Phuket, the gateway to the Thai wilderness.

In the naivety of a first-time backpacker, I found my 20 something self on the streets of Bangla Road at Pa Tong and thought that is all ritzy Phuket had on offer. I was overwhelmed looking at the street-boards bearing signs of Tsunami warning. Memories of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami came gushing back. I remember speaking to the guest house owner. The Thai lady in her late 60s shed a few tears recollecting the disaster that took away the lives of her grandchildren. The next day, I had left for Krabi.

Sunset at Railay beach
Reaching Railay Beach from mainland Krabi on a longtail boat!

If time allows us to travel back to 10,000 years, we could make the journey from Phuket to Krabi by a long walk, meandering through the dense forestland that is now eaten away by the Bay, paving way for the Ao Phang Nga National Park. In Krabi, I left the dazzles of a seaside town and headed straight for Railay, a tiny stretch of beach safeguarded from the outside world with towering limestone monoliths.

Railay beach
The Andaman Sea dazzles like molten gold as I sailed towards Railay beach!

Also read: How to plan a trip to Goa for a first time visitor?

My Love for Thailand Deepens with Phang Nga Bay

There are countless things to explore around Phang Nga Bay

My love for Phang Nga was an instantaneous affair, as I stood witness to the glorious sunsets painting the long tail boats and the white sand beach with a celestial tint of orange! No wonder they call Railay a “beauty Spot” on Phang Nga bay despite the hinterland being a magnet for rock climbing enthusiasts.

Ever since I have found my way back to the beautiful Phang Nga bay more than thrice. I like to think of this as a mysterious conspiracy by the Universe. With time, I witnessed the growing scope of business around the vulnerable eco-reserve, learnt about the key role it played in creating the intriguing cultural connections within the region since the tin-mining boom.

I have experienced stays at the immaculate teakwood beach resorts as well as magical sea-side camping in the Bay. My love for Phang Nga Bay grew manifold with each trip.

Railay beach
Posing with limestone karst and the longtail boats at Railay Beach. Iconic Photo of Thailand!
beautiful islands in thailand: Phang nga bay Angsana Laguna Phuket
A splendid sunset canvas was witnessed from the beach adjacent to Angsana Laguna Resort, Phuket. Can romance find a better address?

During my last Thailand sojourn, I based myself at the Angsana Laguna Resort, Phuket. I stayed there for a week and remained steadfast in my quest for documenting the untouched gems of Phang Nga bay.

Close to 200 limestone cliffs stand in the guard for the 400 sq KM Ao Phang Nga National Park which straddles the border with Krabi in the East and Phuket at the west. The cliffs rise vertically above the sea level in sheer might and are home to vines and vegetation and fronds of greens.
Often, hidden Hongs remain at the centre of these limestone karsts, providing a home to many endangered avian species, the Hornbills, the Bramhini Kites.

Countless small islands litter the marine park, mostly off-limits to tourists but accessible for licensed local birds’ nest collectors. They supply crucial ingredients for the regal Thai delicacy, bird’s nest soup.

beautiful islands in thailand: Phang nga bay tour by kayak at James Bond Island
The upside-down iconic rock formation, locally known as Koh Ping Kan or Ko Ta Pu

The James Bond Island

A day trip to Phang Nga Bay often equates to a day of sailing to the iconic mushroom-shaped limestone in the middle of the ocean. The 1974 Bond film, The Man With The Golden Gun, was shot at Koh Tapu, the Thai name of “the rock.” Tourists ideally stand at a nearby rock named Koh Ping Ghan rock for a while. They walk into knee-deep water and point a finger gun and recreate the Bond poster.

The first time I visited James Bond island, I did all of these. The next time I was on the blue-green water, I wanted to experience more.

beautiful islands in thailand: Phang nga bay tour by kayak
The kayaks leave the mother boat for exploring the wilderness of Phang Nga Bay!

Kayaking along the western Andaman coast of Thailand

Once the pleasure boat sails you till the middle of the ocean, leave them for the bright coloured kayaks. The tiny kayaks propel through the calm waters of the bay. Swiftly they leave past the towering limestone cliffs and escape to the timeless solitude zone of the Hongs (Thai for hidden Lagoons). During low tide, you may even squelch inside the cave from the mouth of the sea through a narrow tunnel. Despite collapsed cave walls surrounding these lagoons, sunshine hardly makes its way in. A torchlight will guide you to this moment of quiet.

beautiful islands in thailand: Phang nga bay tour by kayak
Stalactites, piled up through ages, glitters in the other-worldly caverns

Geographical location has privileged Phang Nga Bay with a relatively calmer sea than southern Thailand. Kayaking is possible during all seasons, and in few instances, even during the wee hours of the day. You may take a dip in the crystal clear water glittering with Phosphorescence under a moonlit sky. Large shoals of fish drift in search of warmer water underneath.

beautiful islands in thailand: Phang nga bay tour Koh Yao Yoi
Sun and salt soothe my soul!

Floating on my back looking at the star-studded night, I shed a few drops of tears of joy. My soul surged with the wilderness, as my body was left to swim in the constellation that the Andamans had reflected under the dome of a moonlit sky!

The astounding view of Samet Nangshe viewpoint

Also read: 33+ beautiful beaches in Goa

The Samet Nangshe Viewpoint

Phang Nga Bay in her entirety is best viewed from the edge of Samet Nangshe viewpoint. Located at an hour’s drive off the coastline of Phuket main town, Samet Nangshe lets you take a panoramic glimpse of the Phang Nga vista studded with countless limestone karsts and caverns.

The night sky at Samet Nangshe is illuminated with the ethereal Milky Way, making it a much sought after spot by the clan of astrophotographers. At the crack of the dawn, a violet-rose-red sunrise will make you speechless. The looming hulks of limestone across the bay resemble dragons in deep slumber. The otherworldly canvas of Samet Nangshe remains a well-kept secret of Thailand.

Samet Nangshe View pointL Phang Nga bay travel guide
From a distance, Phang Nga resembles ancient dragons deep in slumber! Try to spend a night here to witness a breathtaking sunrise!
A network of ancient mangroves at Little Amazon!

The Mangroves of the Andaman Sea

The sheer volume of mangroves often termed as the roots of the sea can be seen while standing at the edge of Samet Nangshe. The thick maze of mangroves stretched over acres, guarding the land against soil erosion from an aggressive sea, is also home to myriad species of wildlife.

The coastline of Thailand is sparsely dotted with dense mangrove forests dating back to millennia which withstood many instances of surging tidal waves. To protect these swaths of mangrove lands, Thai tourism has been instrumental in spreading awareness among local communities and involving the locals. On the way to Takuapa in Phang Nga province, we made a stop at “Little Amazon”, also known as Klong Sang Nae. On a floating canoe, we ventured deep into the lush mangrove forest that empties into the mouth of the sea!

A monitor lizard in the wild

Within a couple of hours, we were engulfed in the silence of the jungle. A 200-year-old banyan tree network kept watching us throughout. A few monitors, storks, golden ring mangrove snakes and playful monkeys briefly appeared with curious glances. One or two narrow motorboats used the mangroves to make their way into the sea, breaking the stark silence complemented by the buzz of cicadas.

beautiful islands in thailand: Phang nga bay tour Koh Yao Yoi Koh Yao Noi

Also read: How to spend a long weekend in North Goa

The Twin Islands of Koh Yao Yai & Koh Yao Noi

You can not get better than this. Why chase the rainbow?

As our longtail boat approached the shallow milky blue water of Koh Yao Yai, I realized this is how I had painted paradise in my dream!

Gentle palms swaying their heads by the endless stretch of a white sandy beach in the stark contrast of an ultramarine sky shining bright in broad daylight. Saline water makes its way into the fishing villages during high tide. Otherwise, scantily clad bald children reclaim the beach as their playground. A few shacks and massage stalls and cafes dot the shoreline but the tiny village remains nonchalant to the wild-eyed and long-haired dream chasers from the western world.

beautiful islands in thailand: Phang nga bay tour Koh Yao Yoi

I stayed at the luxurious Santhya Resort, a beautiful property striving to strike the delicate balance between luxury and being ecologically sensitive. My suite was styled after a traditional Thai palace and took pride in opulence in the use of teak wood and bespoke furniture. The balcony had a jacuzzi and the view invited the sea inside!

beautiful islands in thailand: Phang nga bay tour Koh Yao Yoi
beautiful islands in thailand: Phang nga bay tour Koh Yao Yoi
A quiet coconut grove and azure sea: I belong to this part of the world

One day, I went to take an idyllic walk along the seaside. Soon, I got lost in the labyrinth of a rubber plantation, the primary cash crop of the region. A meter-long grey monitor lizard lazily slithered into the sea. Longtail boat casts day’s first nets to catch fresh seafood. A herd of water buffalos grunted gently at a distant paddy field. The evening before, we had feasted on sea crabs and lobsters at a local restaurant with a thatched roof named Num Na Tho.

Koh Yao Yoi and Koh Yao Noi are the twin islands gently tucked in the Andaman sea, where life regains the lost peace in a world brazen with hustle and FOMO. You may easily spend a week here, either at the beach cottages or one of the luxury retreats. Either way, nature’s brilliance would make a lasting impact on your soul. People of the islands are of Malay descent and practice Islam as a faith.

Also read: Complete guide for a relaxing holiday at Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi!

Takua Pa Old Town : Offbeat Phuket
Sino-Portuguese shophouses of Takua Pa Old Town viewed from a distance

Legends of Tin Mining at Takua Pa

Tin clan families of Chinese ancestry dominated Phuket’s economic advances back in the early twentieth century. Heydays of the metal may have diminished but remnants of the era remain poignant in the shophouses, Sino-Thai Tea houses, lasting culinary heritage and mansions now turned into boutique stays of Takua Pa Town and Old Phuket Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It is intriguing to study the architecture of the shophouses, built on the strong influence of the Sino-Portuguese style. The entry to these shophouses was narrow, not exceeding a few meters in width to reduce property tax levied during the olden days. However, these olden houses inevitably opened to a larger hall and often to a sprawling courtyard.

Takua Pa Old Town Chinese shop houses
Takua Pa Old Town Chinese shrine
Offering at the Chinese shrine of Old Town Takua Pa

Tin trade paved the way to unprecedented riches for a distinct community born to Chinese ancestry but originally from Phuket who came to be known as Peranakan. To date, the Peranakan, also known as the Baba people, practices a distinct lifestyle. Intermarriage in the community is highly encouraged.

The Old Town of Takuapa bears many semblances to the olden days. The streets are illustrated with street art celebrating harmony and a distinct lifestyle. The baba dress comprises a lacey shirt and long silk skirts. Handmade Hokkien noodles come straight from the kitchen of the Peranakan family.

Takua Pa Old Town Chinese shrine
A beautiful Chinese Shrine painted in bright warm hues just across the Old Coffee House
Old Phuket Town Chinese houses
An old Chinese house now turned into a boutique hotel stay

Phuket: UNESCO City of Gastronomy

Closer to Phuket town, you may enjoy walking along the streets once inhabited by the Tin Barons at the UNESCO Heritage site of Old Phuket Town. One way the amalgamation of various cultures from China, Malay, Arab and the Indian subcontinent can be traced back is through the flavorful cuisine of Phuket.

In 2019, Phuket had about 69 small eating joints that were mentioned in the Michelin guide. I had the fortune for tasting some of the dishes at a handful of such restaurants.

On the way to Takuapa, we stopped at a small eatery named Khrua Nong. For 20 years, a Thai couple has been running the shop and preparing the best Tom Yum Kung and soft-shell crab with a spicy sauce of the region. A fiery Prawn curry with broad beans served at the restaurant was my favourite!

On the way back from Koh Yao Yai, we stopped at Bang Pae Seafood. Run by an Englishman, this eatery is tucked inside a mangrove forest and serves a plethora of local delicacies. The chicken stuffed inside betel leaf was my favourite!

At the Old Town Phuket, I stopped at Tu Kab Khao. An erstwhile Sino-Portuguese mansion turned into an elegant dining hall, Tu Kab Khao serves heirloom recipes. The slow-cooked pork rib is a best seller, so is the side of crab meat curry. The meal I enjoyed the most was mango with sticky rice!

Alex Face wallart in Thailand (Old town takua pa)
Street-art by Alex Face, an eminent artist of Thailand!

Phang Nga bay awaits a travel enthusiast with a plethora of surprises. Longtail boats whisk past many fishing villages and limestone karsts into the deep of the sea, in search of Mu Ko Similan National Park and Surin Island. Further away from civilization also equates to lesser footsteps! Learning a bit of Thai ensures you follow the footsteps of local fishermen. One such incident led me to the Natai beach, where not a soul was present on the entire stretch! The sunset canvas and its myriad colours were reserved only for me! My heart longs to go back to one of those nameless Thai beaches, to tell the address for which I have to look up latitude and longitude. I entrust Universe to play cupid to my everlasting love story with the land of smiles, as the country reopens tourism.

I will end this travel blog with a few more pictures from around Phang Nga Bay!

beautiful islands in thailand: Phang nga bay tour
A cluster of islands against the backdrop of the sea!
beautiful islands in thailand: Phang nga bay tour

Touchdown Phuket. The descent at the Phuket International Airport ensures one of the best views of the world!

When nature decks you u in abundance!

Santhiya resort thailand
The beautiful sunsets of Phang Nga Bay!
Railay island, thailand
Railay Island as seen from the longtail boat!
What to wear in thailand
Loved wearing a saree in these little adventures around the lesser-known islands of offbeat Thailand!

This post is an ode to Phang Nga Bay and I wrote this as my entry for the #BlogYourThailand contest announced by #TATIndia and #TATNewDelhi. As #AmazingThailand reopens, I long to revisit with my friends and family and #ResetInThailand in the post-pandemic world!

Pin it for later!

phang nga bay is an offbeat destination in Thailand. In Phang Nga bay, you may take a day trip from Phuket. But there are more things to do like James Bond Island tour, kayaking, Koh Yao Yoi, mangrove tour, Takuapa old town. #phangngabay #phuket #thailandreopening #backpackingthailand #offbeatthailand

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Ultimate Guide to the Best Beaches in North & South Goa (33+ beaches)

In this blogpost, I shall write about the most beautiful and offbeat beaches in Goa. They scatter across the Goa coast from North to South. I have spend quite a few prolonged weekends in Goa. It is blissful to dip my feet in the warm water of Arabian sea and watch the last rays of sun bid adieu for the day. No guide to Goa article is complete until you have given address to some of the lesser known beaches of Goa, where you can go spend an afternoon with a dogeared paperback. Fresh catch from the Konkan coast would be crisp fried and served by your side. You may sip on the chilled beer. You drift further once the typical tourist caravan reaches your address. But not to worry, these beaches from goa I am gonna list out will be a medley of both crowd pullers and lone survivors! Read on!

We as travel writers keep talking about offbeat attractions of Goa. We list down 101 cultural things to do in Goa. But deep down we know it is going in vain because it is the nameless beaches, creeks, coves and waterbodies of Goa that a Homo Sapiens is eager to romance with! If I come out of the shell of a travel creator I am no different! If you are going to spend a long weekend in Goa or at least 3 days in North Goa, you should count some of these beaches in your itinerary!

Rolling waves will break right under my feet. I would sit under the moonlit sky dazzling with a thousand stars. A Mellow breeze would cuddle my hair, strip away all the worries. In the saline water of Arabian Sea, I will take a bath to renew this life’s tenure. Walking back home as sands crumble under my naked feet is a joy I seek. I long to taste the salt in my mouth, the scorching sun delightfully tanning my skin a shade darker, swaying palms singing an old lullaby. 

Millions of new age travelers think alike. Forget other tourist attractions. To live by the ocean is a privilege and some of them would experience it! Now the question is which beach of Goa would you choose for your next vacay? 

Let me make your life a little easier. I would list down all the beaches in Goa. With that I would pen down my experience with the good, bad, ugly about the Goan beaches.

The delectable destinations, the beaches where I was chased by a pack of stray, the beach you would not know had existed due to a tad bit of difficulty in reaching. I would tell you about the most popular beaches of North Goa, say candolim or Baga; the “10 offbeat beaches in Goa” kind of lists which has been tried and tested a millionth time and has brought in unsustainable infrastructural growth at many shores that you need to be warned about from beforehand; the distant Goan beaches where turtles nest in safeguard and the beaches befitting family’s demand for a prolonged beach stay in Goa. Then there are beaches which live in close proximity with a sweet water lake! Read on and choose your favourite beach in Goa for a beautiful vacation! 

Read all my travel articles on Goa!

casa cubo Goa: where to stay in Goa

Things to know before you visit the beautiful beaches in Goa

These are essential travel tips before you choose a beach in Goa for the next vacation.

  1. Beaches in North Goa are the quintessential tourist hotspots. I mean the area between Candolim and Baga. In fact Baga stretches for 2 km with golden sand and attracts the maximum number of tourists during high season. These beaches are famous for a reason. The market is close by. The beach is nice and windy. Many big names of hospitality brands are situated close by. However it may be a bit tiring to visit these beaches during high season or long weekends and particularly the December holidays. Visit Baga or Calangute for a few days and spend rest of the holiday exploring the lesser known gems of Goa if you want to immerse in the vibes of a pristine forlorn beaches. My pick woul dbe South Goa for the vibes!
  2. Avoid visiting offbeat beaches in Goa during low season or even in the monsoon months (June to September)! Many shops and hostels remain shut during this time due to low tourist footfall. You may visit on a day tour but return back to a relatively larger neighborhood by night.
  3. Goa is a safe destination for solo women travelers. The only issue I found is a half-boiled public transport system that refuges to provide 24*7 transport from the airport. You have to rent a scooty and if you do not know how to ride, like I do not, then be prepared to share a cab or pay a high amount to rent a car! Kadamba Transport runs daily buses on regular intervals from Dabolim airport to Panaji.
  4. The stray dogs are a menace in Goa. If you venture into an empty road or decide to climb the lonely forts, be wary of the dogs. They chase tourists more often than the snakes of Goa!
  5. Shacks on the beaches of Goa remain closed during low season except for the popular beaches like Baga/ Vagator/ Anjuna and likes.
  6. Markets operate on many beaches of Goa. Some of them run certain scams and scandals. Anyone promising you of drug and other illegal stuff (think trance parties) or anyone who looks/ sounds shady may put you into trouble soon after, please be sane, educate yourself with the law of the land & maintain safe distance!
  7. Some beaches in Goa are famous for conducting many water sports. Surfing is a great option in Goa too if you stay away from the rocky beaches. Yes, some beaches in Goa are rocky ones!
  8. Goa is famous for tranquil waves and a calm sea except for a few annual occurrences of cyclone. Best time to visit Goa is from November to April. I faced the wrath of Cyclone Kyarr and that was terrible!
  9. Island hopping is not very popular in Goa. Check with a tour operator before booking.
  10. Monsoon in Goa is magical. The waves near the shore under the dome of a pregnant sky, ready to shower at the drop of a hat. The sea has rough currents at certain beaches. A guard is always deployed. Please note many beaches are closed during monsoon due to surging tidal waves. Chalk out your plan and visit accordingly if sea-bathing is your thing! For example, Candolim remained closed in the monsoon of 2018 but Baga was open. So was Colva beach in South Goa!

Many of the prominent beaches in Goa also witness frequent bovine visitors. Yes, I mean the cows! They are beautiful and it feels my heart with warmth and joy to see these cute animals curiously interacting with an overwhelming number of tourists!

In this post I am refraining from discussing Goa beyond beaches since I have already written a 10,000+ words post about it. Suffice to say, do not overlook Goa’s hinterlands since it is adorned with priceless finds, ranking in superlative words when it comes to scenic beauty and heritage value!

Goa travel blog

Also read: All my posts on Goa

Most Popular Beaches in North Goa

By North Goa, we mean the sacrosanct area between Baga and Arambol. Arambol is a bit far fetched because most people would not cross the creek and venture beyond Bardez. So Vagator beach is a realistic border for the north. Then there is far north in Goa which we will discuss in the next segment.

I prefer to call this region central Goa. This is the most thriving tourist spot in Goa. This is where you have the crowd that says “Goa is the best destination in India after Taj mahal” sipping beer for sundowner and chilling under the tropical sun!

But really, I like North Goa. I like her eclectic crowd, relentless horns, the ever growing urban face continuously bustling with vendors, new venture capitalists, start ups, new age cafes, artist’s dens opening up for tourists, experimental living and jostling ideas! There is abundance everywhere, spelt with a capital A. You have an assurance that life is good. Life is free. Life can turn into a creative canvas, ready to be explored!

The synergy between a traveling human and an opportunist business idea is beautifully portrayed in the streets of North Goa!

Sunset at Baga beach, Goa
Sunset at Baga: one of the most crowded yet beautiful beaches of North Goa. Post Pandemic, I found Baga shoreline littered with masks and waht not.

Baga: The Crown Jewel of Goa!

The quintessential heart of Goa, Baga beach is an epic spot to hang out. It is located close to the markets, bars, cafes and is the epicenter of the most popular tourist attraction in Goa. Needless to say, Baga is one of the most beautiful beaches in India, with her long stretched golden sands making space for both the humans and the cows!

Baga runs long, and remains mostly open during monsoon although coastal guards are present everywhere. Baga also houses numerous shacks and water sports activities for the enthusiasts.

Baga beach is located in North (or should I mention central?) Goa, very close to Calangute. Rolling waves scream at Baga. Thunderous sky showcase astounding sunset canvas with bright red flames. At the wee end of the beach runs the Baga creek, on the north of which runs Anjuna and other rocky beaches and a protruding part of a small rock.

The Saturday Night Market in Baga is a thriving place to experience. It is a safe place and befitting all types of travelers. There are various types of accommodation near Baga starting from a meagre 500 rs dorm to luxurious stay at international properties.

What I loved the most about Baga is the beach shacks spreading up serene set up during sundown with a candle and few white roses.

For a sumptuous sea food spread for dinner, check out these restaurants near Baga beach: Fa Fish (try Goan fish curry), Baga Parolia, Bottle Bay etc.

Baga is also close to the iconic fine dining restaurant named Britto’s. Do try the Lobster cooked in Butter that drips juice from every bite. This are heavenly experiences for which I remain a huge Goa fan! We stayed at the Casa Cubo, a small beach facing Bungalow near Baga beach run by a local family. It was a little home with basic amenities.

Some of the famous hotels near Baga beach are: Snow Park, Baga Beach Resort, The Baga Marina, Era Santiago Beach Resort, Larios Beach Holiday Resort, The Baga Hideout. These are all decently priced budget hotel with overall decent review and are in close proximity to the beach!

Baga beach Goa sunset
Calangute is a beach in North Goa which is close to many prominent tourist spots!

Calangute: the Largest beach in Goa!

The largest stretch of golden sand in Goa is nowhere but Calangute, which also happens to be heart of Goa that people know of, and plan to visit when they actually talk about Goa! It is actually a huge beach, a part of it is known as Baga and a part is also known as Candolim!

Calangute is thriving with markets, dining areas, pubs, guest houses, museums of art, shops and so much more!

You can easily spend even a week at Calangute. There is no dearth of anything. Life flows in all its abundance! You can set up a base at Calangute and visit Old Goa, Fontainhas, Divar Island and even south of Goa as a part of day trip and even take part in many water activities and be enthralled with the old forts of the state once ruled by the Portuguese. Calangute is in close proximity to all the main attractions of Goa!

On the hindsight, Calangute in Goa is also inundated with deluge of tourists which is an eye sore! I also belong to that crowd, I am not blaming anyone in particular. But uncontrolled crowd pull at Calangute directly contribute to Goa’s terrible condition during high season and long weekend! Which is a reason why I went in search of Goa’s endless cultural wealth and far deep South or extreme North where only a handful of people venture into. Needless to say, I felt a lot more happier!

Do visit the Tibetan Market at Calangute at night for a decent experience of shopping!

At Calangute, I stayed at the Le Meridien Hotel, Goa! It rained incessant and a cyclone was about to hit the coast. At all times, I felt comfortably safe and distanced from the ravages it unleashed outside! Calangute has no dearth of good hotels and guest houses befitting every size of guests’ pockets. Do indulge in a few days stay at some of the finest beach properties at Calangute.

For dining, we preferred going to the Fisherman’s Wharf, Pousada by the Beach, Suza Lobo, Cafe Del Mar, Zwe by Golden eye (for Burmese cuisine) etc. I also devoured the best plate of Goan Thali with Rawa king fish fry at Sai Hotel at the alleyway by Decathlon, Goa!

I recommend Calangute for a quick stay in Goa when you want to do a lot of activities and not just sit by the beach and watch world pass by! Calangute can be easily reached from Dabolim airport with a bus run by the Kadamba services. You may also rent a car which charges close to INR 2000.

Candolim beach
I just love Candolim beach in North Goa, specially in the dry months

Also read: A First Timer’s Guide to Goa: a Detailed Guide!

Candolim: My Favorite Beach in North Goa

Candolim beach is love, in short. It is an upscale beach at the wee end of Calangute, mostly frequented by couples, foreighners and families. It’s long stretched golden sandy shores and beautiful sunset hues are star attractions of North Goa.
I recall spending a few days at an Airbnb by the Candolim beach, walking to the shore at the start of the day, buying little something, a sarong or a bikini from the women who waited by the paved walkway, spending the evening with a chilled beer in hand. What is there not to love about Candolim?
Umm… may be the fact Candolim remains shit during monsoon. The undercurrents are too strong during rains and the shoreline gets erored fast! The sea trumpets and instills fear in the heart.
Otherwise, I often say Candolim is our favourite beach in North Goa. there is a decent selection of beach shacks too for a quick drink and snack during peak season.

Back in 2007, MV River Princess sunk near the shore of Candolim, making the coast unsafe for tourists, swimmers and causing much of a damage to the beach.

For a gourmand, Candolim has endless dining options, starting from Fisherman’s Cove to The Mango Grove and De Candolim Deck. I loved many shacks of Candolim beach. The cooks were young boys from Maldah and Murshidabad back in 2017!

For a hotel stay near Candolim, check out properties like Lemon Tree, Whispering palms, Radisson Hotels, Villa Sol Areia (Boutique hotel), Green Concept Resorts etc.

Newton’s is a great departmental store located in Candolim where we frequented to get hold of daily supply and quick snacks. A lot like the 7/11s of Thailand!

Yab Yum Resort: Eco resorts in Goa
North of Goa not just have beautiful beaches but many quirky stay options too!

Also read: Resort Review- Yab Yum Resort in Ashwem.

Anjuna: A poetry of a beach depicted through rocks!

A beach full of rocks, Anjuna is where you get the first taste of what Goa used to be three decades back. Rocky cliffs seamlessly merging with an azure horizon where Sun plays riot during sundown hours! A number of beach bars and pubs. A thriving market repurposing thrift products and silver trinkets. Anjuna stays comfortably away from the hustle of Calangute and Baga yet remains close to what Goa has come to be after decades of tourist infrastructure development!

Anjuna has some of the most beautiful sunset sky of Goa.

For backpacker’s, Anjuna is a great choice with the Funky Monkey Hostel being close by. Other places to stay at Anjuna Beach: The Musafir, Zululand Cottages, Wonderland Hostel, Nirvana hermitage, Passion de Goa.

Anjuna is a huge pull among the digital nomad or milleneal groups. It also has a few co working cafes like Cafe Liliput, Clay, Ohm Anjuna etc.

In yesteryears, Vagator beach was the hub of all typical Goa parties!

Vagator: the Crescent Moon Beach of Goa!

In my opinion, Vagator is the most beautiful beach of North Goa. It is a small crescent shaped beach tucked away in a cliff that guards it from the world outside. Not many knew about Vagator until the Russians flocked there in numbers and the crowd followed suit soon after. Today, Vagator is overrun with tourists, albeit lesser than Calangute or Baga but considering it is smaller in size, it can be overwhelming.

We went there as a part of day trip and spent a couple of hours there. I loved Vagator, its eclectic vibe, its pristine water and the dense coconut grove nearby! In recent times, Hotel W has opened a property at Vagator, making it one of the most sought after luxurious property in Goa. For budget travelers, I recommend checking out The Yellow House, Blue Lagoon, Vagator beach resorts.

A part of Vagator is also known as Princess Dream Beach where not many people step in. It requires a little uphill trek. Adjacent to this stands the beautiful ruins of Chapora Fort featured in the film Dil Chahta Hain.

A lot many restaurants appear on the way to Vagator set up in courtyard surrounded by lush greenery for reasonable price. At Vagator beach, you may not find shacks but a few restaurants and beach bar operate from the cliff. Tin Tin Pub, Spice Traders, Pinakin are some of our picks!

A paved walkway from the Aguada fort takes you directly to Sinquerim beach. With a bike we roamed around the area, around the fort to be specific and found us lost near an abandoned hospital. My mind is shameless and I could imagine a number of screams coming out of the dark windows where green creepers have reclaimed the concrete structure!

watersports in Goa
Goa also has some of the finest beaches for water sports!

Also read: Slow down in Goa- a week’s itinerary

Sinquerim where the Dolphins come to meet ya’ll!

But soon after we found a way out and headed straight to Sinquerim! Sinquerim does not come close to other beaches of North Goa when it comes to natural beauty but this is the hub of watersports in Goa! Hence, you come to Sinquerim beach. You can choose from a wide array of experiences from riding a banana boat, parasailing, jet ski etc. I recall a friend of ours went for jet ski and met a Dolphin serendipitously!

When you go for booking water sports at Sinquerim, remember to bargain, specially when you are going in a big group. we were 6 people and we payed only INR 1200 for parasailing three years back! We were given a life jacket and a trained instructor accompanied us. We did not feel unsafe. While pulling the rope back towards the boat, the trainer drowned us in the sea! It was super fun!

Do not stay near Sinquerim unless you choose to spend your days in the luxury of Taj Fort Aguada. I had spent a few days at Taj Madikeri Resort and I know what it feels to be at a Taj Property. You will be tempted to spend the entire holiday inside the hotel premises and that is fine! We spent a few days at Langkawi Resort World in one such property. While it felt luxurious we were also staying far off from the main market and dining options were really limited.

Sunset in Goa
Stunning sunset witnessed from Goa

Also read: Beautiful Sunsets around the world!

Offbeat beaches in North Goa

Extreme North of Goa has a number of pristine shorelines where not many tourists visit. Only a handful of beach huts are operational in this area. Number of guest houses drastically come down. As a result, you will be surprised to find yourself as the only inquisitive soul roaming around in this wilderness. I can not complain! It felt beautiful!

I spent few days meandering through the roads around Ashwem beach and exploring the other gems nearby. I loved Ashwem and definitely recommend this area for a different taste of Goa!

please note many beaches are located off paved route and you have to meander through vegetation, jungle and often beach huts to find your way into the beach. Probably the more difficult it is to access, the more pristine these Goan beaches remain in North!

Tiracol: Mystery of a Fort

Straddling the border between Goa and Maharastra, the Tiracol Fort is an ancient fort erect on the Tiracol Beach which is seldom explored by people visiting Goa. Firstly it is far off from the heart of Goa. Secondly Tiracol is a true offbeat gem where you have little activities suitable for a tourist. However in recent times, the heritage fort has been converted into a luxury property and is best suited for people interested in experiential stays.

Check out Half Moon Beach and Tiracol Rock beach. None of them are very suitable for bathing but I recommend Tiracol for a tranquil holiday for a family looking to reconnect in the scenic beauty of nature!

On the opposite of Tiracol beach, you will find a nice long stretch of white sand on Querim beach. Not a soul was there when i visited it. At the end of the beach, you shall find an intriguing Hindu temple: Ajoba temple. Further down south, you shall come across Querim caves. Usually these places are safe to explore but be wary of snakes and wildlife while exploring the caves of forlorn area.

Arambol: A Sundown Lover’s Paradise

Gone are the days when Goa used to be a pit stop for the hippies who would travel all the way from West to the EBC. Goa would resonate with an air of free, with music, conversations of an experimental life, myriad human stories unfolding. It is hard to trace down that nostalgia in Goa.

However, Arambol safeguard a few remnants of those heydays of Goa! Firstly, a few foreigners prefer to cool it down by the beaches of Arambol. The Russians prefer Arambol beach more than any other place. So much so you shall find many restaurants and cafes having specific menu written in Russian alphabets.

What blew my mind at Arambol was the evening drum circle and its musical performance. What a stunning way to bid adieu to the day! Arambol beach is comparatively less crowded yet has a number of shacks with reasonably priced menu and beverage. A little hike through the rocky cliffs and you shall reach a sweet water lake where you may take a dip to cool down from the scorching sun of Goa as well!

I know a friend who spend a few months in the tranquil respite at Arambol beach, renting a beach hut and working from there for a prolonged period. Her days started with buying fresh catch of the day from local fishermen and ended with a serene session of beach Yoga!

Arambol has a number of new age cafes and beach shacks for the millennial population, specifically catering to their demand. Organic food, hippie vibes, less crowd, crystal clear water of a less polluted beach, many activities. I loved Arambol. you may take a day trip here if pressed for time and spend at least three hours in the wilderness!

For great food, try out these eateries at Arambol: Umbrella Cafe, Organic Vibes, the Local House, Uzbekcha, Kinara etc.

For a stay at Arambol, look out for the following: Lotus Sutra, ImagiNation: Artist’s hostel etc

You get very good beach massages in these areas, say Ashwem, Arambol and Mandrem beach which you must not miss!

Also read: North Goa or South Goa- How to choose between the two?

Mandrem: the True Hidden Gem!

The rocky beaches of the North Goa does not cease. Mandrem is one of the lesser known beaches of North Goa accessible only after you cross a number of rickety bamboo bridges and landscaped gardens! Mandrem is a dream come true for swimmers and surfers in the area. A rescued dog center share space in the beach.

Not many know about Mandrem yet. the fact that you have to walk a little and leave your vehicle at a distance is off-putting for few. But I highly recommend you visit Mandrem and enjoy a good couple of hours of sunbath. A few beach shacks and huts dot the beach which also has a river running at the backdrop.

Check out these cafes near Mandrem beach: Chique Shanti, The Lazy Dog, Cafe Mandrem, Lama’s Place

beach huts at Mandrem: The Cool Huts, Sea Scallops, Dune’s Holiday Village, Riva Beach Resort

Elsewhere is also a very nice property, a beautiful beach hut facing the sea and set amid lush green scenic backdrop in Goa!

Goa travel blog: 7 days in Goa

Ashwem: Azure Sky and Surfing Waves

At Ashwem, I set up my base in the far North of Goa and spent a few days in unhindered peace. I stayed at Yab Yum Resort, an eco resort taking shape from an artist’s imagination!

Ashwem beach is accessible if only you walk through remote jungle and amidst a few cottages. No wonder not many people visit here and the beach is largely used by the couple of resorts by the shore as private beach.

Ashwem is arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in North Goa with clear water and azure sky on a sunny bright day. Sadly, I reached there during a cyclone and I had experienced the beach in its worst and close to devastation. I remember the beach property owners standing on the beach in a helpless face, powerless in front of the wrath of nature!

Ashwem is a beautiful beach, free of plastic and great for swimming and surfing.

I wondered around the area by foot for a while and explored the nearby markets. La Plague is one of the finest eateries in the area. I also visited the Tibet Cafe near Ashwem beach and dined with the local family. I treasure that experience.

Morjim Beach

Ashwem is basically an extension of Morjim beach but this one has a rocky stretch and corals are often submerged in the water. Morjim is easily accessible from the road and strategically located close to the market area. Plenty of cafes and hotels and guest houses are found in the area but I personally did not prefer to spend more time at Morjim. If I have to be closer to market and people, I choose Arambol in North Goa!

A section of the beach also witnesses annual visit by the Olive Ridley Turtles for nesting.

Morjim beach has Chapora river running at south, on the bank of which stands Chapora fort. Visit the fort during sundown for a beautiful view. However beware of the pack of strays that frequent the area during low season. I recommend walking with a stick.

Thalassa is an amazing Greek restaurant located close to the Chapora beach!

Ashwem Beach, North Goa


Coming down further south from Calangute (aka the heart of Goa) you stumble across Miramar beach. An otherwise nonchalant beach mostly frequented by the locals, Miramar is surprisingly easy to access and located close to the capital of Goa, Panjim. A number of casino ships are anchored close-by. the mouth of Mandovi river opens at the Miramar beach. It has a long stretch of 2 to 3 km. I recommend you visit here if you are visiting Goa in a hurry and only have a day or few hours to see at least one beach in Goa before catching the flight. It is nice but Deep south or far north of Goa has a lot more beautiful beaches compared to Miramar.

Dona Paula

Legend of star crossed lovers who committed suicide remain poignant at the rocky beach of Dona Paula! On the upside, Dona Paula is located close to the capital; of goa and is easily accessible. On the hindsight, it is a rocky beach and swimming is impossible at Dona Paula. You may visit the Dona Paula View Point specially designed to host tourists who can take a look at the sea and countless small boats and fishing vessels from a distance. I would not recommend a night’s stay in this area. Rather, choose Fontainhas for an exciting trip down the memory lane in Portuguese Goa!

Bogmalo (Offbeat, pristine)

Located just 3 km off the Dabolim airport in Goa, Bogmalo beach is the quintessential destination for those who visit Goa for business and are running short in time. Bogmalo beach Resort is close by. To be honest, Bogmalo beach is just a beach, often frequented by locals, beautiful but does not show you the real face of Goa! I recommend a visit to Bogmalo if you are really pressed for time and want to minimize time of commute.


The south of Bogmalo beach extends to be Velsao, a sleepy quite beach right next to the fishing village and probably most active during sunrise as the boats venture into deep sea! Velsao is a decent beach for plenty of sunshine and long walks in silence. A lot of beach bars dot the coastline where you may order a pint of beer and enjoy the world pass by. On the cliff stand the Three King’s Church from where your lies will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the entire stretch of the beach and dense distant forest.

Velsao is a clean beach. You may even have a few glimpses of marine life (read Dolphins and crabs) from Velsao at the wee hours of the day.

Also read: Complete Guide to visiting Tawang!

Most popular beaches in South Goa

To reach South of Goa, you need to ride further from the airport, cross acres of land painted in dainty green paddy fields and beautiful coconut trees dotting a residue of a road, and reach a place mostly safeguarded from the outside world. Usually, the first timers in Goa would prefer to stay close to North Goa, for the sole reason of plenty of activities.


The crescent shaped beach of Colva actually flaunts crystal clear water and is one of the most sought after destination in South Goa! Colva flaunted a crystal clear water through which I could easily spot the sea shells and Jhunuks which is impossible to find in regular beaches of Goa at any given day during tourist season. it is located next to a fishing village. the beach makes space for fishing boats, cows and devotees visiting the nearby church which has many legends associated with it.

Colva is a decent place to park your boat for a couple of day while exploring South Goa and then venture into the interior of deep south! I recommend Kedar super market for your regular grocery shopping. Colva is one of the developed beaches in south with plenty of homestays close by and decent internet connectivity. the beach itself has ample opportunities to experience water sports, candle light dinner and other fun activities. You can easily call it he Baga of south Goa just that the vibe of the sea is distinct at Colva beach!

Look up Salcete Beach resort for a peaceful stay at Colva. Other places for stay include: Soul vacation, Vinsons Cottages, Club Mahindra Acacia Palms, The Golden Crown.

For great food, try Babumoshai, a Bengali restaurant serving delectable Bengali rice and fish curry near Colva. Also check out Cafe Colva, Joshua’s dock, Bhola’s Cafe etc.

Offbeat beaches in goa

Also read: Explore Offbeat Phuket at Old Phuket Town!


Needless to say, one of the best beaches in South Goa is Agonda. It is a rocky beach but clean and not very deep hence suitable for non-swimmers. Lifeguard is on duty at the shore 24*7.

Agonda is a clean beach and stretches over a few km. There is no dearth of beach shacks at Agonda. Agonda is suitable for family, honeymooners and romantic travelers and many foreigners love this shoreline! Prices are on a bit higher side. The beach has less crowd than usual and surrounded by dense forest from all sides.

Boat trips are arranged from Agonda beach for water activities, kayaking and dolphin watching. Horses were there too but they looked in a terrible shape.

The best beachside stay at Agonda are the White, Saxony, Agonda Diva. For cafes and delectable food, try the following cafes and restaurants in Agonda: Kopi Desa, Silent Waves, My Friend’s place.

Palolem: The most Beautiful beach from South Goa!

Sited to be the best beach in South Asia, Palolem beach had been on the trend for backpacking crowd in Goa. With increased footfall, prices of the beach hut has increased manifold and you pay anywhere between INR 1200 to 2000 for a night’s stay at the colorful stilt houses which famously made to the cover of Trip Advisor!

Palolem beach has some rocky parts on the coast line. Swaying palms make the sunset canvas painted in myriad colours! Palolem is best viewed from both the ends of the shore, making is a perfect half moon tucked away from the hustle of the world outside!

Palolem was ideal for backpacking budget traveler until recently when big named like Sarovar portico have decided to open branch there! There are plenty of ways to spend your days at Palolem. Watch the birds, practice Yoga during golden hour, take those small hikes to nearby places hidden from the world (think Patnem beach) and you will not be able to take your eyes off the stunning sunset scene at Palolem!

Palolem has a sizable market place and a number of cafes with a thriving night life during high season. For solo travelers in Goa, this is a great place to meet new people!

Things to do in Goa

Also read: A photoblog on Varanasi!

Offbeat beaches in South Goa

South of Goa is beautiful beyond words. Thousand nameless attractions remain hidden in the interior of South yet to be brought in the mainstream tourist attractions by travel enthusiasts. There are coves, lakes, creeks, a complete system made with sea-water and rivers, handful of guest houses and more!

I suggest allow South of Goa at least 5 days or more. Set base at one of the developed beaches with decent infrastructure. rent a scooty and explore the region! I will list down a few offbeat beaches of South Goa where hardly a handful of tourists reach. At any given point of time you will be rewarded with almost the entire stretch of the beach to yourself, and revel in the glorious nature of unseen Goa!


One of the best beaches in South Goa that is off the route befitting vehicle movement. Probably the reason why very few tourists actually walk the stretch of 50 meter to reach the secluded beach lined with coconut groves and witness an ethereal sunset! Cansaulim is a great beach to take a long walk in peace and tranquility.

Cansaulim has limited option to stay or drink. However move further down south and you shall reach Arossim beach which flaunts a number of beach shack and a somewhat living locality. Arossim has a beautiful wetland area which is a famous treasure hunt spot for the birders!

I would not recommend these places for stay unless you really seek extreme quiet. However, for the luxury travelers, Arrosim beach is adjacent to the beautiful property of ITC Grand Goa. If you fancy a luxury stay with a private beach access, this is where your search stops!

Please note, Martin’s corner, the favorite cafe frequented by none other than the Sachin Tendulkar, is located in this area. We recommend booking a slot before you visit here!

Cola beach

To reach Cola beach is an experience you must not miss! You run through acres of pristine nature and hidden creeks and waterbodies which remains unknown to a larger section! Upon reaching Cola, spend till sunset to have a beautiful view of the horizon from the hilltop! There is a lagoon at the backdrop of Cola Beach as well.


Majorda used be one of the calm and clean beaches of South Goa but surging tourist activity has eventually led to decay of the beach. despite that, Majorda is one of the stunning sunset points of Goa. The beach is huge and beautiful if you will excuse the plastic and other evils that human bring along. Majorda used to have a number of shacks and water activities and look forward to have them all again as tourist season begins in 2021! You can relax at Majorda with your friends and family and even spend the night there. Majorda has a market catering to different tourists, including the Russians with gem stones and other precious metals.


A gorgeous beach with white sand in South Goa which is relatively lesser known amongst the crowd. Betalbatim beach runs a tiny stretch of land but has a handful of shacks and perfect for couples. Check out Beleza by the Beach for a beautiful stay near the beach!


We had dreamt of renting an Airbnb villa at Benaulim and stay there for a week once upon a time. the plan did not materialize! (But remains on my to do list). three years down the line, Benaulim has grown to be one of the better beaches in South Goa with developed tourist infrastructure, a lot of resorts, a thriving marketplace and plenty of beach shacks.

Needless to say the beach at Benaulim is one of the most beautiful one in the southern coast of Goa. The beach is clean despite increasing footfall and has a huge stretch of land and is easy to access. You can book a stay at Benaulim beach with Beira Mar, Marriot, and a number of beach huts. I am not specifying since many of them are not operational at this point.

7 days in Goa, an offbeat itinerary

Kakolem beach

A tiny beach located close to the ruins of Cabo de Rama Fort! It is one of those last remaining true secret of Goa. The beach is tiny and compactly hidden behind the rocks and trees. The shack on the beach has humble arrangements for accommodation. Not more than 5 people were there when we visited Kakolem beach!


A quiet and beautiful beach connected to a resort, Varca is frequented by joggers during sundown in South Goa. The Zuri white sands is also located in Varca. South of Varca is also known as Fatrade beach, visited by many people. This beach has Caravela Beach resort on the shore, another luxury property. It is an upscale neighborhood in South Goa and families prefer to stay here. The beach is long, made of golden sand and easily accessible from the road. Beach shacks are not much in number. Options of dining out is restricted as well. Check out home run restaurants, Dona Clara and Jollin while traveling to Varca. I recommend this beach for a peaceful tranquil Goa vacation soaked in luxury!


When I visited Cavessolim, the beach had decked up to celebrate a grand wedding! Cavessolim is one of the larger beaches of South Goa with a larger crowd pull. Despite that, it has clean water and beautiful shore and a number of shacks on the beach. The Byke Old Anchor is a hotel right next to the beach at Cavessolim. I recommend this beach as a staying option for romantic loners!


Located close to the likes of Holiday Inn and Leela Resort, Mobor is a beautiful beach with comparatively large m=number of activities. Its proximity to luxury hotels have opened new opportunities for the locals to run many water sports and activities in the area. Beach Grill and Fig and Olive are some of the famous dining places in the area.


Of peaceful mornings and Sunset Saga, Betul is one of the most pristine beaches of South Goa. Betul is relatively difficult to reach and remains off limit to most of the tourists. River Sal empties into Arabian Sea by the side of it. You will find shacks sparsely at Betul. Fishing is an integral part of Betul Beach activities, in the glorious clean water and golden sandy shore!


A little creek, a narrow river stream and a few local fishers are all that you can find at Canaguinim, one of the last abode of peace of tranquility in South Goa. This beach remains off limit to most of the tourists and hardly a person goes there. It takes a little effort to find a way to the beach, which comes next to Cabo Da Rama fort ruins and is safeguarded by a plateau. This is a tiny rocky beach and dense coconut groves guards the coast. I recommend packing a day’s lunch and a few paperbacks and visit the beach to spend some good time in solitude listening to the sound of waves. Life seems perfect! For drink, walk till the main road and find Marina Bar that operates seasonally.


A small beach located close to Palolem beach. Patnem can is accessed by a small hike. Patnem can be called what Palolem used to be ages back. Clean beach, colourful wooden beach huts, dense coconut groves, grooving music at night. Loved the vibe of Patnem which is very similar to Palolem but is even smaller in size. Please note this is a rocky beach. Patnem remains largely untouched and retained its pristine vibes. It is an isolated stretch of coastline which is hardly accessed by regular tourists. While amenities and activities are limited, the stunning view of the beach more than makes up for it! Check in at any of the beach huts are Patnem which almost never gets sold out!


Located next to Patnem, a very small but rocky beach. Colomb features crystal clear water but it is a pity you may not be able to go down near the water! Visit near for a great sunset view if you can not make it to Patnem or Palolem in time. Colom remains a true little secret beach for the locals of South Goa!


One of the best beaches in South Goa is Raj Baga Beach. It is located close to the Lalit resort and a number of other upscale resort in Goa and features bright golden sand. it is a clean place and suitable for long walks during sundown. Talpona rivers empties out to the sea near the beach. You can swim in the sun and even sleep at the shacks. The crowd is nice since the beach is located at resort area. Only a handful of shacks operate on the beach. Rajbagh is a beautiful place to witness the sunset scene in Goa!

Mandrem beacg: goa travel tips


Talpona remains an unspoilt beach in the south of Goa near Canacona district. Hardly 20 people are there at the beach at any given point of time. The long beach of Talpona is a quite suprise that Palolem or Patnem used to be before the curious tourists “discovered” them!

Talpona beach has not more than a handful of shacks serving fresh sea food for a reasonable price and chilled beer. These shacks are mostly operational during tourist season. Otherwise, it remains secluded and forlorn, under the reign of stray dogs!

Talpona beach is located right next to a fishing village. A few beach huts are operational during season. Otherwise, it is suggested you stay at Colva or “upper South of Goa” and make a day trip to the beach. Talpona is a good beach to swim during high tide but beware of hidden rocky surfaces.

Galgibaga: the Rescue Beach for Endangered Turtles!

The Famed Olive Ridley Turtles have chosen Galgibaga beach to be their nesting place post mating season. This is a true hidden gem in South Goa and remains in safe distance from the tourist crowd! The northern part of the beach is protected and does not allow tourists entry. At the other end of the beach, the Galgibaga river mouth opens to the Arabian Sea! The turtles also frequent the beaches of Agonda and Morjim in North Goa.

Located in the deep south of Goa, Galgibaga is one of the cleanest and true offbeat destination in Goa! Towering Palms, paddy fields, a handful shacks are prime elements of the beach which is good for bathing as well.

For night’s stay Galgibaga has limited options. A few seasonal beach huts hosts tourists, like Casa Galgibaga, Barretto’s Lazy Stay etc. Food is decently priced at Galgibaga and served at a few local cafes. Look forward to having an authentic Goan Thali but options are rather limited. I say stay at Palolem or Colva and head towards Galgibaga as a part of Day trip for a beautiful offbeat experience. Otherwise, the secluded beach is particularly haunting at night with locals going off to bed in a typical rural routine.

Polem beach: the defining border between Goa and Karnataka!

The picturesque beach of South Goa is a little nook blessed with white sandy beaches and swaying palm grove! Polem is where India has divided the Konkon coast between Goa and Uttara Karnataka! Ideal for sunbathing, this secluded beach is often frequented by the white bellied eagle who keep an eye on the lively dolphins! Polem seems like a place where the Goa Frenzy has stopped and the true eternal nature has reclaimed her crown jewel!

Imagine having to step on paddy field to reach the beautiful beach of Polem, still hibernating from the garb of over enthusiast crowd! The small town near Polem beach has a handful of road connectivity with the bigger cities nearby, say Karwar!

Fancy a beach shack or a pool or improved tourist infrastructure? Polem, like many other offbeat beaches of Goa, is not your cup of tea. But Polem will steal your heart if you crave to see unadulterated nature. A small paved road on red Earth runs long along the shore line amid small fishing villages near Polem. The 700 meter long stretch of beach is rocky in some parts.

for all the practical reason and difficulty is reaching, Polem could be a daunting choice during monsoon or off season Goa travel. Villa De David Guest House is one of the operational hospitality options in Polem. Ask the fishermen to take you to the nearby beaches cut out from the rest of the world with towering rocky cliffs. You will find what relaxation and abundant Sun truly means in Goa!

Like many of the south Goan Beaches, the crescent beach of Polem too can be reached by a motorboat from Palolem. Polem is basically a two hour long ride from Panjim. Hence it is befitting for a day trip from central Goa too! the best time to reach Polem beach is late afternoon, from 3 pm to 4 pm when low tide bares a long stretch of sandy beach!

So which one is your favorite destination in Goa among all these beaches? I choose Ashwem and Candolim in a heartbeat for their quite and vibes respectively! Nonetheless I am open to experience the many faces of Goa in upcoming trips. Hope you too do the same!

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Top 12 Cultural Things to Do in Goa: An Alternate Guide!

The first time you visit Goa, you seek bliss by the Arabian Sea. It is difficult to part ways with the golden long stretched sand-shore and look into the interior of Goa’s offbeat offering. There are beautiful beaches and hidden coves in Goa which paints a canvas doused in the colours of lush green and azure blue! However, once you have devoured the beach in all her glory, you might want to explore the astounding ancient cultural jewels of Goa!

There are priceless offering in Gomantak, the name in which Goa was known during the era of Sanskrit, the time when Mahabharata was written! Cart off from the distant beach shacks for a few days and veer into the lesser known museums, temples, Velha Goa, local bakeries roasting Poi, festivals soaked in seamless mirth, gigantic wall murals depicting the soul of Goa!

While discussing culture in Goa, we must remember it is a blend between the traits inherited from Konkoni and Portuguese heritage. While you may feel strong European charm at certain parts of Goa, you must remember locals have stronger undercurrent of a conservative outlook that stems out of eternal Indian society.

Read all my posts about Goa, here!

Culture in Goa: explore offbeat things to do in Goa for 7 days itinerary

Also read: Old Goa is one of the most beautiful destinations of Goa!

Explore old Goa: AN Offbeat experience in North Goa

In ancient times, Goa was known to be the Rome of the orient! Unlike the rest of India, Goa was ruled under the Portuguese colonists. At one hand, the time is mired in the bloodshed and massacre of the indigenous Hindu population who took refuge in many riverine islands unless willing to convert to Catholic faith. On the other, the Portuguese rulers also also adorned their capital, Velha Goa with the most ornate churches and chapels and courtrooms of grandeur.

Velha Goa is known as old Goa as of today. The historic City has the much coveted UNESCO world heritage tag on her crown! Until the plague of late eighteenth century, Velha Goa served as one of the most important stop in the trade route between Indian peninsula and the world in West.

River Mandovi kisses old Goa in the North, singing soothing lullaby for the torment she had to endure. Mandovi had seen it all, how the sprawling city of two million people reduced to an abandoned ghost city, standing with the skeletons and remnants of the heydays of the Portuguese ancestry!

Most tourists visit Old Goa as a day trip and queue in front of the most prominent churches and chapels of the area. The churches once served as the epicenter of Roman Catholic belief system of the region. For the uninitiated, Christianity in India predates Portuguese invasion (and for that matter, also East India Company’s aggression) in the subcontinent. The Syrian Christian tradition of Kerala dates back to antiquity.

The most prominent churches and chapels of Old Goa!

1. Se Cathedral

Built in 1510 to commemorate the Portuguese win over Bijapur Sultanate, the Se Cathedral has literally witnessed the rise and fall of Goa but withstood the gnaw of time and has been conferred with the highest reverential Golden Rose by the Vatican. The cathedral hues in ivory white hue was the heartland of Catholic conversion process in Goa and houses a huge bell known as Golden Bell, one of the largest and oldest in the world!

It is said that a vision of a vision of Christ had appeared at the altar of Se Cathedral which also flaunts a rich backdrop of priceless paintings dating back to olden days!

2. Church and Convent of St. Francis of Assisi

Established as a small chapel built on the land of a deceased thanadar, the church grew with time and now hosts a lush lawn and a museum by the side flaunting a medley of European architectures, Tuscan Order, Manueline Style, and Baroque style. At the altar, statue of St. Francis of Assisi and the crucified Christ can be seen. A statue of Our Lady of Miracles stands at the frontier which was originally sourced from Jaffna, Sri Lanka. I had seen several altars of the Lady of Miracles at the native homes at Divar island which resembled Tulsi Manchas of Hindu Households!

Elaborate paintings depicting life events of St. Francis, intricately painted frescos and murals can be scene in the church interiors.

3. Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount

The oldest church in Goa is dedicated to Virgin Mary. Laterite stones were used to build this beautiful place of worship. The church premises hosts annual Monte Music festival in November that witnesses huge footfall from both domestic and international tourists. I visited this chapel during sunset and from the courtyard had an intriguing view of the entire Divar and Chorao riverine region during sunset.

4. Basilica of Bom Jesus

Quintessentially the most beautiful Portuguese church of Goa, Basilica of Bom Jesus has many claim to fame. Firstly, it is one of the UNESCO heritage sites of Old Goa. On top of that, it is one among the Seven Wonders of Portuguese Origin in the World. Also, this is the first basilica of India!

Basilica of Bom Jesus also houses a mausoleum which houses the body of Saint Francis Xavier, one of the foremost Jesuit evangelists who set their foot in India 500 years ago! The body is preserved in a silver casket and taken out for public viewing once every 10 years!

While these are some of the most prominent attractions of Old Goa, you may meander around the old dinghy lanes of Old Goa and explore the ruins of the countless Old Churches! Be wary of the stray dogs and snakes though! If you are traveling to Goa during monsoon, you may want to carry a colorful umbrella for Instagram photo ops!

Honestly, do make some space for Old Goa when you are planning your north Goa itinerary. Half a day is all you need to explore the wild interior of the historic side of Goa which has plenty of tales to tell. A step in this neighborhood and you will know why Goa feels so much different than the rest of India!

Read More: Offbeat places to visit in Goa!

Goa travel blog

Museums and Art in Goa

In recent history Goa has seen an unprecedented unveiling of multifaceted talent. I assume it is a direct result of east meets west. You step in to the state and you feel how Goa is distinct from the rest of the country. It feels more free in goa and probably that reason solely drives various artists experimenting with their arts. The House of Goa, The Goa Museum are some of the leading galleries of Goa where young artists showcase their paintings and sculptures. You may pick up one of the elective bohemian pieces as the perfect souvenir for home! A living and breathing timeless piece of Goa will remain with you forever!

Read More: Complete Travel Guide to Goa!

Golden Sunset at Goa

Feni Tasting Session

The feni industry can teach the world a few things or two about branding and marketing!

Feni is Goa is nothing but a local moonshine, much celebrated among the tourist groups as a token of Goa’s local liquor. Feni’s equivalent could be found in Sundarbon in West Bengal as Tari, and in Chotonagpur plateau area as Mohua, and as Apong the rice wine in many parts of North east India. However they are nowhere close to feni for its unmatched popularity and unrelenting production aimed at tourists.

Feni is derived from aging cashews, sometimes palms. If you find a way to source it from the locals, you will find Feni for as cheap as INR 100 which will be sold at gold’s price at the departmental stores like Watson and likes!

Read More: Seven days suggested itinerary in Goa!

Souvenier shopping: Traditional Kunbi print Saree, Azulezos Tiles

Visiting Goa and coming back home empty handed is almost blasphemous! There are many souvenirs to buy from Goa, both expensive and cheap ones. I would list down my favorite souvenirs from goa and the rest is your call!

  1. Silver trinkets from Anjuna market
  2. Feni the local moonshine from Goa
  3. Goan sausage, the Chorijo from Mapusa market
  4. The beautiful Portuguese tiles that can be used as name plates (Azulezos)
  5. The check printed Kunbi sarees from Goa. Find the red and white ones!
  6. Find out thrift stores at the local markets and shop for passed down gowns!
Nature in Goa

Also read: Things to know before you plan a trip to Darjeeling!


Imagine being lost in the historic alleyways in Goa where narrow lanes are dotted with azulejo-tiled Portuguese Bungalows of myriad hues. At the bend of the alley, a quaint little tea shop awaits you to serve glorious tea and a slice of Goan bread, Poi. you may also sip on a chilled bottle of beer and sit with a paperback and watch life unfold on the streets! that, my dear, is Fontainhas for you. I found uncanny resemblance with the old Town Phuket however Fontainhas does not receive that heavy footfall yet thanks to pristine beaches of Goa!

Old Portuguese home

Walking inside one of those old colonial bungalows entails a charming cultural experience in Goa., You see history unfolds in those long stretched lawns and carefully curated hallway decked up with ornate silver ware, Brazilian glass, old oil paintings, gaudy chandelier heavy with the weight of time and dust. Menezes Braganca House is one such property in the far off neighbourhood of Chandor in South Goa! The 400 years old The Figueiredo Mansion mansion is not much different in the vibes! These old houses are preserved as museum, much like the French chateaus of Mauritius and you need to pay a little entry fee to secure an entry!

Goa in Monsoon: to go or not to go: goa travel tips

Read More: Three days complete itinerary for Goa!

Farm stay in Goa

Not many might know about this but Goa has many beautiful farm stays where organic produce abounds. the farms are perfect for a long stay with your family and being close to the nature without necessarily having to deal with all the hustle of a typical tourist destination.

Since the state borders with the mighty mountains of Western Ghats, many spice plantations sprang up spontaneously! A few tour runs where the aim is to introduce guests with the spice plants followed by gentle nudge to buy “the best cinnamons of the world!” But I say hold on and instead of signing up for a tour, go stay at one of those farms for an authentic and immersive travel experience. Farms in goa helps people reconnect with the routes. The Dudhsagar Plantation is one of the leading farm stays in Goa where you may lodge for a while as well as lead an expedition to scale the high of India’s largest plunge fall!

Cheese crab at Suza lobo, Baga: Best place to eat in Goa

Also read: Resort stay at Mercure Devaaya Goa at Divar Island!

Cook with a local in Goa!

The best way to learn the tricks of a Goan kitchen is to get your hands dirty!

Pick up some kokums, tamarind paste and fresh prawns and learn to make rawa fried fish, the ubiquitous starter of a lavish Goan dish! There are many cooking classes in Goa where you may learn the magic tricks to cook up a spread. Sign up with the Local beat for a cooking class or wait till the time a lot more new home chefs open up. Due to lockdown, the existing small business of Goa had suffered a lot and many have shut the shop.

Mangueshi Temple Goa

Also read: Two weeks itinerary in Malaysia!

Temples of Goa

While the purge happened on Goa’s indigenous community back in fifteenth century, many of the Hindu residents flew to safeguard their identity and culture. A number of temples were destroyed during this period since the Portuguese Catholic rulers were afraid Hindu rituals and customs would creep in to everyday life of the newly converts.

Nonetheless, some of the ancient and most prominent Hindu temples of Goa escaped the wrath and stands in all their glory even till today. For example the Shri Mangueshi temple of Ponda which is said to be owned by the eminent family of Lata Mangeshkar, India’s music maestro of all time. The seven story lamp tower of the temple is a unique feature rarely found in the region. The stone pillared Shanta Durga temple of Ponda is another old temple from goa dating back to eighteenth century. This features seldom found Indo-Portuguese architecture reflected through its pyramid-shaped ‘shikaras’ and roman-arched windows. Do check out the golden palanquins on the temple premises.

Also check out Kamakshi Temple (Ponda) famous for Buddhist tower like shrine, Saptakoteshwar temple (Bicholim) famed for European style mandap and hanging ornate chandeliers, Mahadev temple of Surla dating back to 12th century Kadamba dynasty etc.

Also read: Bonedi Barir Durgapuja in Kolkata!

Local Markets in Goa!

The farmer’s market of any area always runs on heavy cultural nuances of the locality! In Goa, you might find the weekend flea markets selling second hand tourist stuff and silver trinkets near Anjuna and Baga. Many would argue these are just tourist traps which originated from the days of hippie trail influx in Goa. In 70s India, hardly a commoner would have access to a fancy radiogram or a binocular. But it was possible to buy second hand products stemming out of the consumerist West while traveling in Goa!

Anyway, for an authentic market experience, head to the rural hinterlands of Goa. The somber mornings of rural Goa gets startled with the Poi seller cycling around the narrow roads. The small makeshift markets bring out the freshest produce of the farm. It is by sheer luck you will encounter one such market unless a local is guiding you. To play it safe, head straight to the Mapusa market though!

On every Friday, Mapusa becomes an iconic market selling the best of homemade Chroizo (homemade pork sausages) and Bibinka (coconut based cake). Order a peg of whisky as you wait out the crowd from the nearby bar The Pub and in the evening make way to Alankar movie Theatre, Goa’s answer to Chandni Chowk to eat the best of street food in Goa! For a cultural traveler in Goa, Mapusa will invariably rank very high.

For a fish market enthusiast, Mapusa, Chapora and Margao are the best destinations at the early hours of the day!

Goa Carnival: festivals of Goa
One of the most intriguing cultural thing to experience in goa is to experience the Carnival!

Festivals of Goa!

Like every other Indian state, Goa celebrates many festivals originating from various communities. Everyone is aware of the beautiful Christmas celebration in Goa which gets manifolded with increased tourism activities during the last week of December. You may also choose to witness Narkasura, a festival of burning Ravan edify following the Diwali celebrations! The Carnival in Goa is a colourful spring festival that follows procession and marches in various costumes, a lot like Mardi Gras in the west! The boat festival and the well festivals are few more festivals of Goa that traces back origin in specific communities and are celebrated in a very localized manner!

Colaba Beach Goa: things to do in south Goa

Also read: Most beautiful destinations in Karnataka!

Boat ride in Goa

Not many know but there are various ways to romance Goa’s waterborne social structure! You may be in the mood of splurge and indulge in a few nights stay at one of the bespoke houseboats! The houseboats in Goa stay afloat at few of her countless creeks and mouth of west running rivers. You may also rent a kayak and explore the mangrove forests of Goa, or just explore the dense forests by peddling and marveling at the rich presence of the avian species, especially at Divar island which houses Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary at one place.

The Mangrove tours in Goa ideally lasts for a couple of hours, before sundown and introduces you to a rich flora and fauna selection of the region.

Few of the boats venture into the deep sea. Sometimes, they will take you along for a small fee. You may hop onto the fishing boats if you can endure the strong stench, and can brave a possible encounter with sea snakes! In my experience, locals in Goa do not fear the snakes. They hold them by the tail and throw back to the sea. It feels surreal to me till date but that is how Goans love it so be it!

Offbeat places to visit in Goa
The top and hot pants are from Bangkok! The purse is from Goa. The ear rings are a gift from the streets of Kolkata!

Read More: Complete guide to visit Kargil, offbeat Ladakh!

Once in a while few people lift their eyeballs otherwise glued to the azure sea and find bliss in the silence of palms swaying in gentle breeze, lush green boulevards, green paddy fiends, old houses made of mud and adoring leaf frescos, women walking briskly in a Kunbi printed saree with a loyal bovine following her footsteps. Thus, the real Goa unveils her face, whose charm remains in the rural set up and peaceful life that promises bliss in tranquility. This was indeed an offbeat face of Goa, befitting the discerning tourist who seek the soul of a destination. Goa awaits you with all her lesser known cultural jewels!

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Ultimate Travel Guide to Three Days in North Goa, the Quintessential Party Capital of India!

About the blog: A complete three to five days itinerary to spend in North Goa experiencing the hidden gems of Old Goa and best beaches around Baga. I intend to inspire you to experience Goa in a slow fashion, marveling at her decade old cultural treasures, exploring the old world offbeat wonders. In three days or a long weekend followed by a sneaky day off at work, Goa gives you a chance to relive the best beach days lived under the bright sun and salty ocean breeze!

Three days in Goa: itinerary
Try to spend a day exploring the offbeat Divar island during a long weekend in Goa!

Our Goa plans have been beautifully clumsy, mostly hastily planned at the end moment and with an ulterior motive to bring home alcohol! Goa, being a UT, sells alcohol with a lucrative exemption of various state taxes. Since Goa is close to Bangalore, we have spent many long weekends in goa. Sometimes we wanted to see it all, and planned an activity packed itinerary for three days. Sometimes we basked under the glorious sun and watched life unfold by the sea!

Our friends joined us from Bombay, Pune, sometimes with their spouses, sometimes with their children. Some stayed for a whole 5 days in Goa. Some decided 3 days were enough! We all wanted the idyllic susegad life in Goa, with leisurely days spent by the beachside shacks and a sip on the beer mug. A bite from the fresh pomfret served by the chair during sundown! 

But FOMO plagues all the millennials and we decide to allocate a day to rent a scooty and head towards the deep south of Goa, crossing countless creeks and coasts, humming peppy Bollywood tunes! “Dil Chahta hain…” Goa is stunningly beautiful during all the four seasons, be it menacing grey sky looming large on the shore or lush greens striking a defined contrast against the azure sky! It is difficult to bid adieu and get back to the urban life as we know it!

three days in Goa
Baga beach is Goa is famous for some of the most stunning sunsets of the world!

I will chalk out one such 3 days in Goa post for you. If you are a first time visitor and know nothing about Goa, this post shall help you see the best of the state, get a glimpse of the slow life drunk in the love of feni, the local moonshine and a sombre life unfolding by the mysteriously calm Arabian Sea! 

You may extend your stay from 3 days to 5 days in Goa and experience some more of the state! Ideally a man living in Goa for upto 6 months, creating travel content for a living, and living the much coveted digital nomad life would not claim he has seen it all, known it all in Goa! A lot of it can be ascribed to the fact that Goa also houses the Western Ghats, the UNESCO world heritage site, an extremely rich natural reserve. The dense forest and countless bends on the hills of the Western Ghats range gives a new experience everyday to a Goa lover! However, it may be a challenge to let go of the allure of the azure sea and drift towards the forest, such is the magnetic charm of the beaches in Goa!

Long weekend itinerary for Goa
Old Portuguese Bungalow inspired hotel architecture at Mercure Devaaya Goa

Three days in Goa: Is that enough to explore Goa?

When should you spend three days in Goa? Is it enough to see Goa in three days?

To be honest, not just Goa, any place in the face of this good old Earth is not enough to be explored in three days. But with the rat race of the twenty-first century, more people are trading valuable time for hard-earned money and if three days is all you have got to experience in Goa, so be it! I will give you a glimmer of hope! Three days are enough to experience the best of North Goa! 

However, Goa is way more than just chilling by the beach! There are number of UNESCO world heritage sites ranging from old dilapidated cities bearing the remnants of Portuguese colonists, riverine island of Divar which is home to myriad species of avian, countless mouths of rivers paving way to merge with the sea, dense mangroves safeguarding abundant of wildlife, and the mighty Western Ghats dominating the horizon in the East, shrouded in a dewy mist! 

To experience it all, at least a week is what you need in Goa. Throw in another weekend and make it a whole ten days trip to Goa and you experience the best of Goa, the distinct and beautiful places seldom frequented by the mainstream tourists!

For the long weekend trip planners, North Goa is the best choice. It has a range of cafes, fine eateries, weekly markets catering to both tourists as well as local residents. North Goa aka Baga and Calangute area is centrally located, easily accessed by train and flights reaching Dabolim airport, has a number of reputed hotel chains to choose from and many museums and heritage areas nearby. In short, North Goa will keep you occupied for a good three days. You can further drift towards the extreme north of Goa, towards Arambol (famous for the sunset drums) or deep south with countless coves. However, you should account for another eight hours of road trip. In my opinion. That is precious unless you plan to spend the entire holiday hibernating at a beachside shack, looking at local fishermen at work. 

In this regard, please note many of the offbeat destinations in Goa remain shut during monsoon (off season in Goa). Not only is it economical, but also it ensures safety. Frequent cyclones or storms have the capability to wipe out cottages by the sea and help reach remote regions after a considerable amount of time!

I will chalk out the plan assuming you have only three days in Goa. Should you plan to throw in a couple of days extra and make it 5 days trip, I still suggest make base in North and explore other areas as day trip, especially if this is your first time in Goa!

Read more: The Ultimate Travel Guide to Goa for the first timers!

A well laid set of Awadhi dinner at Panjim, the capital of Goa

How to choose between North and South Goa for a long weekend vacation

I love north Goa! The vibe of the place is otherworldly. You may argue, so is Leh. So is Tawang!

I accept. But Goa is gentle on your soul, feeds it with the much coveted sense of freedom, fills your lung with fresh air generating from swaying palm groves, and lets you be close to the ocean! No wonder Goa is one of the top searched travel destination in the country. Come a full blown pandemic, not a day went by when people did not visit my blog to read about Goa!

You need to visit Goa and understand her magnetic charm!

So far, I have spent many three days/long weekends in Goa. I have spent Goa vacation with friends and family and I invariably choose to stay in North Goa. Firstly it is close to most of the major tourist attractions. There is never a dearth of activity while you stay in North Goa. Secondly, North Goa is marked with the presence of thriving Baga beach. Even if I choose to spend the entire day by the beach, I would never be bored. Baga is inundated with visitors at any given point of time. Even during monsoon, while all other beaches are practically off limit to tourists, Baga is open, albeit with alert coast guards sitting atop makeshift watch towers.

South of Goa is an equally decent choice for a vacay but the problem starts with distance. It is about 4 hours drive from Baga and takes an entire day to visit and come back! South Goa has the famous beach of Palolem, often touted as one the top rated beaches of Asia! South is also far off from the maddening crowd, safeguarded with pristine nature reserves and crystal clear sea water. Sleepy fishing villages and quaint little village roads are found in abundance!

In south Goa, you worship peace. Your days last longer, with a lingering taste of susegad. You romance the sunset sky in all her glory. You watch the sky change her colour in the profound canvas! You days start steadfast. You know the world will wait, there is no gentleman named hurry awaiting you outside to start the mundane run!

A day trip to Old Goa is a must for a three day Goa itinerary

Due to its distance from otherwise hotspots of central Goa (read Dhivar island or Old Goa/ Goa Velha), south Goa loyalists prefer a quaint holiday over one filled with activities. While the memories lasts for a lifetime, the void remains where you do not experience the quintessential cultural prowess of Goa. It is worth staying in the North Goa to ensure you do not miss a heritage walk at Fontainhas or a day wondering in the narrow alleyways of Velha Goa! You should ideally spend three days in South Goa if, 1. you have been to the north and 2. you are seeking tranquility over tourist thrills!

South of Goa should feature in your Goa itinerary if you have slightly longer time. South Goa, being one of the offbeat destinations, often stays shut during monsoon or off season, with Palolem being one of the few exceptions. Do keep that in mind before planning your trip!

Read more: North Goa or South Goa: which one is better?

Pictured these children near Morjim beach in North Goa. Born to a Nepalese father and an Assamese mother, they have made a little home by the beach somewhere in North Goa!

Best things to do in North Goa

There is no dearth of activity in the north of Goa! Starting from museum visits to water sports to sailing right over the azure Arabian Sea and romancing the Konkan coast in the glory of all her breathtaking beaches, north of Goa is a real head turner! The glamour quotient goes up with numerous casino cruises dotting the coastline, the river cruises and houseboats lurking behind the thick palm groves at the many nameless creeks of Goa, the riverine islands safeguarding history dating back to centuries, North Goa is an absolutely mind boggling place! You will never run short of activities in the north! 

For me, North Goa unveils as I ride a red scooty, rented from a local vendor. I venture into the hinterlands to find the check patterned kunbi sarees and associated heritage. I marvel at the ancient Portuguese bungalows of Fontainhas! I lost count of the number of cafes in north Goa from where I sit and work on my laptop as the sun bids adieu. North Goa showcases some of the ethereal sunsets of the world! In the old alleyways of Velha Goa history unfolds as I learnt newer chapters of India’s rich cultural heritage! The weekly markets of Anjuna and Mapusa bring out some of the remnants of the famous hippie trails of Goa!

When all these thrills are over, I trust Goa to mesmerize me with her long stretched beaches with golden sands! The sunset skies are to die for as bright red mélange with azure sky renders a beaming canvas! In North of Goa, my favourite beaches are Vagator, Anjuna, Candolim, Ashwem. I also love the towering forts of Goa bearing stories from the colonial period. They withstand the gnaw of time and are often associated with ghost stories! 

One of my favorite things to wear in Goa: an oversized shirt and a pair of denim shorts!

My favourite destinations in North Goa

  • Candolim beach for an evening stroll
  • Old Goa or Velha Goa for cultural finds
  • Fontainhas for the colourful Portuguese bungalows and chic cafes
  • Divar island for a riverine stay in Goa
  • Fort Aguada for ease of access. Otherwise I like Cabo Da Rama and Chapora Fort
  • Ashwem beach for surfing and offbeat pristine vibes
  • Anjuna Flea market for thrift shopping
  • Binge eat Goan thalis at the local eating houses located at the alleyways of Calangute!

Read more: Offbeat things to do in Goa beyond sun, sand and beaches!

Stunning beach sunsets in Goa

A rough itinerary for three days in North Goa

This is a suggested rough itinerary for three days in goa. This is a bit rushed to accommodate the best of Goa at a short time period. If you plan to spend more time in Goa, I suggest ease out and plan this itinerary over a span of 5 days. You may also add day trip to Divar island or Dudhsagar falls on a day!

For this rough itinerary, we assume you stay in Goa for three nights and leave on day four!

  • Day one: Reach Goa at the Dabolim Airport/ Vasco Da Gama Railway station. Ride on a Kadamba bus and reach Panjim/ Calangute in central Goa. For evening, head to Baga beach and enjoy a beautiful sunset! Spend the night exploring Baga and Calangute. The area comes live at night with beach pubs, dance parties, various eating joints and flea markets.
  • Day two: Start the day early and visit Old Goa/ Velha Goa and check out the UNESCO world heritage Portuguese quarter. Follow up the day with a full fledged meal at one of the heritage bungalows of Fontainhas! Spend the evening at a beach. Goa has some of the most beautiful sunsets of the world!
  • Day three: Keep this day to explore many beaches and forts of north Goa and may be go for parasailing at Sinquerim beach! Vagator and rocky beach of Anjuna are my absolute favorites!
  • Day four: Spend the early hours of dawn at Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Divar island! Start for home!

Read more: Seven days itinerary in Goa!

A quaint nook at Yab Yum resort, Goa

Day one in North Goa for the long weekend plan!

Assuming you are traveling by flight or bus, you will be too tired on the first day to head to explore the cultural nuances of Goa. If you can make it to Goa by the night train, you have probably had a decent nap time and feel energized to see Goa on the first day itself! The ever so popular Vasco Da Gama express leaving Bangalore City Junction is my all time favorite budget option to travel to Goa. I find it intriguing how language merges in Uttara Karnataka with that of Maharashtra!

Upon reaching Goa, head directly to Panjim bus stand by a Kadamba airport AC bus. It should not charge you more than INR 100 per head. You may head to Calangute straight if that is where your destination is. Public transport is still sort of a challenge in Goa. The shuttle bike taxis are cheaper option and can be found through various aps during high season.

Usually, a taxi charge anywhere between 1200 to 2000 for one way transfer to the city from Dabolim airport in Goa.

You may come to the beach and find a place to stay. .. Baga has more than enough budget options. During high season, ideally opt for a pre booked stay in North Goa, price range starting from INR 900 per night. For a decent hotel in Baga area, you might need to pay upwards of 2000 per night. A few high end luxury resorts like Le Meridien and likes dot the interior of Calangute, with price starting from INR 6000 per night.

It is possible to reach Baga and look for a small budget hotel or homestay. I will soon publish a well researched post on most beautiful homestays in Goa. Stay tuned for that!

Once you have secured a place, and have refreshed, it is time to experience Goa. Practically, you should first rent a scooty for ease of moving. There are multiple joints where daily rent of a scooty is possible for INR 250 to 500. You need to pay for fuel and provide an ID before renting!

However, I visit Baga beach as first priority. Hey there, we meet again. I murmur to the beautiful Arabian Sea!

Ideally I prefer to spend the day by Baga beach, enjoying a chilled beer and some grilled sand witches, people watching. A number of cows co exit with an overwhelming number of tourists. Stunning sunsets take place at a distance! The sky is set on flame in myriad hues of red! The shacks light up as the sun goes down.

At night, explore the vibrant night life of North Goa that pans in the entire Calangute region. Small vendors bring in artwork, lanterns, small bottles packed with feni, silver jewelry, beaded bags. I suggest bargain well before you set your heart on a thing. Allow some time to let Anjuna market show you some other beautiful stuff.

Some of the best places to have an elaborate dinner in Baga for the first night: Suja Lobo, Jamies, Relish, Bharat cafe bar

Assuming you have started the day earlier, you may also choose to wrap up soon and plan big on day 2 in Goa. However if you first day in Goa starts late enough and you love partying, allow the epic nightlife of Goa take your breathe away! Visit LPK (Love Passion Karma), Brittos or Deltine cruise liners to dance away the night and groove with the best music of our time!

Read more: Best places to visit in Karnataka!

A mural painted on an Old Church in Goa!

Day two in North Goa for the three day vacation!

The second day in Goa is all about exploring Velha Goa, Old Goa. Often compared to be the Rome of East, Old goa was the capital of Goa during the Portuguese colonists rule. Today, it houses some of the best Catholic churches of the world when it comes to exorbitant decor build upon ivory and golden tones.

Day two in Goa is reserved for exploring the Old Goa followed by an extravagant lunch at one of the old Portuguese bungalows of Fontainhas. In a nutshell, day two is all about relishing in the cultural finds of Goa.

Heading to Old Goa, start with the Basilica of Bom Jesus, whose history dates back to 4 centuries! The gold sparkles through the ivory white interior of the ancient chapel which also houses the mummified body of St. Francis Xavier, one of the earliest evangelist sent to India from Vatican City! We stood in a long queue to enter the church and walked slowly in the crowd. Exactly on the opposite side stood Se cathedral, which houses the famous Golden Bell of Goa, one of the earliest church bell that called for mass prayer. It withstood the gnaw of time and resonated very well with the pious devotees of Old Goa! While these two are the most prominent places of religious important dating back to Portuguese colonial court, Old Goa houses numerous churches and chapels, like: Church of St. Cajetan, St. Augustine Tower, Church of the Cross of Miracles, Cruz Dos Milagres etc. Be wary of street dogs and sneaky snakes specially during the peak of monsoon while exploring the Old Goa ruins. Many intriguing stories of power struggle and the dream of a new empower remained buried under the debris of the churches. Old Goa fell due to an all engulfing plague that shook the land to its core!

Walking along the old lanes of Velha Goa, you are bound to feel the hunger pangs at a certain point of time. It is time to head to Fontainhas! The cream da la cream of the Goan Portuguese ancestry occupied the bungalows of Fontainhas at some point of time. The colorful houses, the beautiful azure tiles doubling as name plaques, the quirky cafes have now carved a new niche for Fontainhas as an offbeat cultural destination for the discerning customers.

If time permits, you may choose to spend a couple of days at one of the bespoke homestays of Fontainhas. They bear nostalgic fabric from yesteryears, with fabrics and home decors handpicked to suit the perfect ambient of an olden Portugal feel! Cafe Bodega is one of the most promising cafes of Fontainhas with long standing reputation. To soak into contemporary art work of Goan artists, visit Gitanjali Gallery. Anita Tea House is another perfect spot to hang out in Fontainhas with a paperback in hand on one of those balmy Sunday afternoons!

On the way back make an impromptu trip to House of Goa, It is a gallery with abundance of artwork. If it is a Friday afternoon, it might pay to visit the local’s favorite Mapusa market in Goa. Look for Chorizo sausage and thank me later! This is the best souvenir from Goa one could get!

On the way back, witness another stunning sunset at the rocky beach of Anjuna! The clubs dotting the shoreline comes alive after sundown but I guess this had been a hectic day. You better head back home!

Read more: A photographer’s guide to the best doors of Varanasi!

Things to eat in Goa
Prawn Cocktail served at Suza Lobo, Baga Beach, Goa: A must visit place in three days in Goa!

Day three in North Goa: The best Goa Itinerary!

The last day in this three days in Goa itinerary plan should have some elements of surprise! I keep the best of Goa reserved for the penultimate day. I ride the scooty, and hop onto the best beaches of Goa from North to South! Sometimes we stop to rejuvenate with a glass of sugarcane juice. Sometimes green coconut water does the trick!

From Baga, start by 10 am, right after breakfast. Head straight towards Aguada fort, an old Portuguese Fort standing tall against the flow of time. It is pretty touristy a place. Once we drove past the fort and took a round turn leading to a closed door and standing right by an abandoned house which sort of looked like hospital. I would have screamed had it been a moonlit night!

Sea-sports/ water sports in Goa!

After you have seen the fort and sought after the apparitions, walk down the Sinquerim Beach. This is where the best of Indian sea-sports take place. The beach is not super pretty and often ranks low in comparison to natural beauty! My favorite sea-sports is to fly high with parasailing. It is basically a parachute that takes you to an astounding high overlooking dense mangroves, lush green, Aguada fort and more! It takes around INR 1200 per flight. A couple can easily fly under an able instructor and you most definitely wear a life jacket! It is safe!

You may also go for a banana boat ride and should you be a lucky chap, a dolphin might come close to you and show its nose! It is pure luck but it does happen, frequently!

Read more: A week spent in tranquil Shillong, best of Northeast India!

Baga beach, Goa
Striking a pose at Candolim beach!

Add on to the three days itinerary

The three days spent in Goa are a great start to explore the beach capital of India. However chances are you might want to extend your stay and spend a whole 5 days in Goa. There is so much to do in this tiny state, really! Let me jot down a few more alternate plan to accommodate should you want to increase the stay!

  1. Visit the beautiful Dudhsagar Falls in South Goa if it is not monsoon. Start early and better you sign up with a guided tour so that you do not head back empty handed.
  2. Visit a spice plantation that sprang up spontaneous by the slopes of Western ghats.
  3. Visit Netravali Nature Reserve of Goa and during monsoon, do not miss taking a shower under the cascading waterfalls!
  4. Spend a couple of days exploring the pristine beaches of south Goa, specially Palolem and Patnem.
  5. Spend a couple of days at the riverine island, Divar island and accept the Sattik hospitality of Mercure Devayaa resort! Divar island is also an ideal place for birdwatchers as it is located in close proximity to Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary.
  6. Plan your trip to Goa around the carnival, one of the largest street festival in India!
  7. Move further north and take up surfing lessons at the Ashwem beach!
  8. Hop onto beautiful cafes in Goa, including Thalassa, Martin’s corner and enjoy the best version of a beach holiday!
  9. Find Instagrammable scenic spots in Goa, for example the Parra area whose coconut groves were made famous by Alia Bhat’s cycling rendezvous with SRK!

Read more: Top 10 places to visit in Goa!

Swimming pool at Mercure Devaaya Goa

Things to know before planning a trip to Goa

By this time, you should be well versed to take on North Goa and spend three eventful days suited to be etched in your memory forever! However, I must warn you from before, you will never have enough of Goa! This happened to me with only a few destinations, Zanzibar, Masai Mara, Gangtok and Phuket. I could never have enough of these places! 

The free flowing days and endless feel of freedom that Goa brings is unmatchable. You will be hard pressed to plan yet another trip to goa in no time. While all we think of while planning that Goa trip is staying close to the beach, even the Goan hinterlands are rich in natural beauty and cultural heritage. A glance at the historic Divar island or the thousands of years of Hindu temples, and you know how deep the roots of Goa run with mainland India! 

It is always wise to plan a trip to Goa during monsoon. Not only is it off season with lesser footfall (barring the weekends followed by national holidays) but also monsoon in Goa brings alive the lush greens to life! Due to decreased tourist footfall, the monsoon also makes many services in Goa unbelievably cheap! 

Deltin Cruise: three days in Goa

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Egypt Travel Tips: Practical Advice for Your First Trip

This blogpost elaborates on the essential travel tips for Egypt. If you are backpacking in Egypt, you will benefit from these travel advices.

My cousin brother said he wants to take his family to Cairo, see the pyramids of Giza and return home. I was surprised. Why would a man spend a fortune, travel almost half the world and visit Egypt only for a couple of days? Giza practically stands at the outskirts of Cairo, making it a day trip from the downtown! 

A few minutes into the conversation, I realized he is skeptical about spending longer time in Egypt due to various perceptions, ranging from terrorist attacks to safety to “what else is there to see in Egypt beyond the great pyramids of Giza?”

I understand “travel for a living”, as I describe my job, has given me the privilege to see a destination for what it is, more than the perceived notion often carefully crafted through mainstream media et al. However, levelling Egypt as unsafe felt personal. Sure, it is not one of the easiest countries to visit but that has got a lot to do with a relentless scorching sun!

Sunset in Cairo on the Nile river: Egypt travel guide
“Egypt is the gift of the Nile!” – the Greek historian Herodotus

We traveled in Egypt for about two weeks. Actually we backpacked in Egypt, without a tour company helping us at every step. We loved it! The hurried searches on Google to spot the Uber with an Arabic number plate, the enchanting taste of a hibiscus drink after a prolonged day in the sun and the dust, the comforting and astonishing proximity to the Nile river, one of the grandest resources of planet Earth… Egypt was fascinating!

I thought I would pen down the essential travel advice for Egypt for the first time travelers. I will highlight the pain points we faced while backpacking Egypt and how we found a solution and experienced Egypt in all her grandeur. I insist you allow the country the time she deserves, that is not less than 10 days. The more, the merrier.

Egypt at a Glance Know before you go!
CapitalCairo, known as Umm al-Dunya (The Mother of the World)
Population100+ million
LanguageArabic/ Egyptian Arabic/ Masri
CurrencyEgyptian Pound (EGP)
Annual Tourist Footfall8 Million (2017)
ReligionSunni Islam Majority followed by Coptic Christians
Tourist Destinations in EgyptCairo, Luxor, Aswan, Alexandria, Sharm el Sheikh, Dahab
Coptic Cairo: Travel tips for Egypt
Door art of Islamic Cairo! Click here for more doors from Varanasi & Stonetown, Zanzibar

Egypt is safe, but….

Egypt was safe, in every possible way. But Egypt was safe for us. Not the people who were enjoying a beach holiday at Hurdanga in 2018. Egypt was not kind enough to allow a safe vacation for a bus full of Vietnamese tourists who met with an untimely explosion on the way to Giza from Cairo.

Why do I say this?
Not to scare you but to remind you to never let your guards off in Egypt. Despite the country taking tourism as a priority, and deploying tourist police everywhere, you never know what is lurking at the other end. The seemingly peaceful and beautiful country of Egypt can turn into a death trap at one wrong turn and you do not need to be a victim. But then, that is true for the whole world. You do not have to denounce traveling to Egypt for safety concern!

Egypt is continuously striving to make things better in the realm of tourism. I do have a plan to revisit Egypt, this time with enough moolah and time to accommodate a Nile cruise or a beach vacay by the Red Sea, ideally at Sharm el Sheikh. However in my mind, I worry about a possible blast. This can put my life into jeopardy (and yours too). I do not intend to scare you, but be cognizant of the fact Egypt did have a few stray incidents of terror attacks aiming at the tourist buses/resort in the past, hence take your call accordingly.

In this regard, I would like to mention the incident we faced at Tahrir Square. A bag was left at the foot of a statue, by the side of which we were roaming in the penultimate night in Cairo. We spotted the bag, and wondered if we should inform the police, because A. it is a suspicious bag and B. it is left at Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Egyptian political aspiration.

But this is not our country and by our lived experience in India we know approaching police may not be dandy all the time. “Police Chule Atharo gha!” as the idiom goes, increased hassle with police.

Travel tips for Egypt
nuanced statue of a pharaoh & his workers from upper & lower Egypt

Soon after, a man rushed in on a skateboard and picked up the bag. He flashed a bright smile at us, reflecting all the neon lights of Cairo and left, a bit embarrassed!
It is a pity that suspicion has brought us to this juncture however anything is fine to save one’s life at such trying times!
Twenty first century is indeed a trying time!

Longstanding FCO warning tells Cairo and the south of Sinai peninsula are “Hot” when it comes to terrorism. So is the international Egyptian border that runs along Libya in the west. There are military checkpoints in Sinai which will stop a suspecting car.

Minefields are found aplenty in the Sinai delta that dates back to the days of WW2. Stay away from the fenced off territories at Sinai and the Red Sea Coast area.

LGBT Travel in Egypt

Egypt is not tolerant to LGBT community in the travel space. It is forbidden in the culture and religious faith (Egypt is predominantly Sunni Muslim) and often leads to social ostracization (or even more violence). This is a major aspect of safety concern if you do not typically identity as cis gender male/female. If you do not tell anyone, you are fine. Refrain from showing PDA either way.

Travel tips for Egypt
The pyramids of Cheops (or Khufu), Khafre and Menakaure are the only survivors of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

Also read: 20+ pictures from Egypt that will inspire you to travel!

Visa for Egypt

Travelers from the USA and UK are eligible for a visa on arrival. The kiosk is located at Cairo airport. You pay USD 25 for a month-long stay. Alternatively, you may also opt for an e-visa for Egypt, not less than 7 days from the scheduled date of arrival. We traveled from India and secured a visa through VFS and had to submit an NOC from office. Apart from that I had to show return ticket, hotel address, passport pictures which showed my ears perfectly against a white backdrop, bank statement etc.

Upon arriving in Egypt, we were asked to show the yellow certificate, a prerequisite for traveling to any destination in Africa and many places in Latin America. The vaccine works for a decade!

In case you want to land cross the Egyptian border, many bus routes operate from  Israel and Jordan. A holy land tour covering the three destinations of the Middle East (Jordan, Cairo and Israel) often takes pilgrims from around the globe and shows them the highlights of Abrahamic religions. Jett is a Jordanian bus company which regularly travels between Egypt and Jordan! ABMaritime company runs regular ferries to Egypt as well.

Travel tips for Egypt: Tutankhamen's treasure in Egypt
A beautiful neckpiece worn by pharaoh of ancient Egypt!

Allow Upper Egypt (South of Egypt) some time in your Egypt travel itinerary

I loved Luxor. True, I was templed-out at Luxor. Scammers multiplied to manifold. Every other person who approached you on the street had an agenda to sell something, to guide you, to sell you a piece of papyrus or convince you that a plastic made pyramid is actually the real deal! When everything else failed, they just wanted us to click a picture together! You do that and immediately they ask for Bakshis!

Yet, I fell in love with Luxor at the first sight. Those who understand the pulse of tourism in Egypt predict Luxor will rise to an astounding height soon enough that it will eclipse Cairo. A lot of investments have been made or are in pipeline to enamor Luxor with tourist friendly infrastructure. The world famous hot air balloons leave Luxor at the crack of the dawn, allowing you a bird’’s eye view of the entire Nile valley studded with Karnak temple, Valley of Kings and Queens, Luxor temple, towering idols of kings, pharaohs and other immortal signature of old Egyptian kingdom, history of which easily dates back to at least a thousand BC.

Reports suggest at least 360 cruises row the Luxor pier on a daily basis. This is where the Nile river flows in its full volume, occasionally flooding both the banks at the advent of rains. Traditionally a promenade connected Luxor temple to Karnak temple in the olden days which is being rebuilt as I type this!

Allow Luxor a while, at least a couple of days or 3 even. It is not wise to just experience Cairo and quickly leave Egypt, because you have seen the last standing Old world wander of the Earth. Let Luxor temple you out. You will regret otherwise.

Travel tips for Egypt: Things to do in Luxor
The Pharaoh Ramses ii: A tryst with God and Kingship

The paved walkway between the prime temples of Luxor is friendly for a stroll on wheelchair, thus making it easily accessible for all type of tourists.

If you are templed-out in Upper Egypt (Luxor, Aswan), visit the beautiful village of the Nubian people. Nag el-Balida (coordinates: 24.154865, 32.869117) is one of the most authentic Egyptian experiences. The Camel market of Daraw revealed a rarely known face of Egypt, dusty, brutal, and far from urban vanity. Draw is accessible by mini bus from Aswan (40 km north). Daraw also houses Kom Ombo temple famous for the crocodile mummies. Lower Nubian also houses some of the least visited ancient Egyptian temples, for example: Kalabsha temple, Temple of Derr, Temple of Dakka.

Travel tips for Egypt

Also read: Two weeks backpacking travel guide for Turkey!

It pays to pay for an Egyptologist (or a Guide at least)

It is a good investment to hire a guide or an Egyptologist as you explore the county, especially the valleys studded with ancient temples. Otherwise, you will be bewildered looking at the temples. They all look similar after a certain point. Sure, you may just look at them and leave. But it is wise to know what you are seeing, especially when you have come all this far and are braving the scorching sun.

To begin with, start with this podcast on Egypt. Leave alone all the sensational books and videos on the last pyramid filled with gold and wealth, because there are none remaining.

In ancient times, Egyptians divided their country in two parts. The Upper Egypt, and the Lower Egypt. Upper Egypt is basically the south of Nile, where Luxor and Aswan are at this day. Lower Egypt has got Cairo and the northern part of Egypt as of today.

You will only find this reference of Upper and Lower Egypt through your guide and at the many museums of Egypt.

Travel tips for Egypt
Egyptian delicacies!

Also read: Beautiful sunset pictures from Africa!

Visit the Museums of Egypt

While it may be repetitive visiting the museums, it is inside the many museums of Egypt the true relics of Pyramids are saved. Many plunderers from Europe made excessive trips to Egypt to loot the pyramids, and they were successful to a great extent. The Pharaoh’s fortune has been heavily auctioned and further made into thrilling story etc.

Whatever remains and the new excavations dating back to ancient Egypt from the endless layers of sand and earth has been showcased at the state of the art museums, which allures researchers and history nerds from around the globe!

Travel tips for Egypt: Mummies on display at Egyptian National Museum
A mummy from ancient Egypt. Time stands still in this moment!

Is it wise to enter inside the Pyramids?

Well, I know many who refrain from entering the pyramids. Firstly, a lot of superstitious omens float on the air. Secondly, it is usually a narrow entry hall, ideally best avoided by solo female travelers lest a case of molestation occurs. Finally, there is nothing to see inside the pyramids. Everything has been excavated and showcased at the GEM or the Egyptian National Museum. Which is why I tell you it is fine to spend for the Museum entry. It is worth looking at the relics and witnessing history beyond the realm of tangible timeline!

Many old pyramids tombs or temples actually have scorpions/snakes/bats inside. Be a little careful.

Travel tips for Egypt
What is there inside a pyramid?

Also read: Two weeks travel itinerary for Myanmar

You will learn Arabic while Backpacking Egypt and it is fun!

We learned a bit of Arabic while traveling in Egypt. Not that we were forced to converse in that language, but we had to identify the numbers in Arabic in order to catch the Uber. The number plates have no sign of English!

hello/greetingsAs-salām ‘alaykum
What’s your name?Male – mā ismak? Female – mā ismik?
Pleasemīn fāḍlīkā
Where is the bathroom?ayn al-ḥammām
Me/You/Him/Her Ana/ anta/ anti (you female). Houwa/ Hiya
I’m hungry/thirstyAna jae’/ ana ‘atshaan
I cannot speak ArabicLughati al arabic laisat kama yajib

Tipping is a prevalent practice in the tourism spectrum in Egypt. Expect to pay Bakshis for every minute stuff, like someone helping you cross the main road.

Travel tips for Egypt
just me trying to imitate a Pharaoh!

Allow Cairo to show you beyond the Pyramids!

Cairo is beautiful. In all her dust brown old Middle east crowded city vibe, Cairo truly stands out with countless visible layers of history! 

While traveling in Cairo, you need a day to see it all at Giza. However Cairo also has 10% of Orthodox Old Christians living in the city. Make a trip to Coptic Cairo and see the old churches and manuscript of this fascinating religious group, now living in less than 5 countries around the globe. In fact, while traveling in Upper Egypt, you will find many caves where the Old Christians came to live, after being persecuted. 

Allow a day to wander around the streets of Islamic Cairo and praising the Fatimid (a caliphate raising from prophet Mohammed’s daughter) and Mamluk architecture.

The Sinai peninsula is an intriguing place where remnants of political history and conflict of both the communities persists. Saint Catherine Monastery in Sinai peninsula is the oldest Old Christian monastery in the world. You can find a decree issued by prophet Mohamed that allowed security and housing for the old Christians. 

Some of the best resort cities by the Red Sea Coast are: Hurghada, Sharm el Sheikh, and Marsa Alam. Alexandria, the UNESCO site carrying the legacy of Alexander the great, is more of Greek civilization fame.

Did you know: Christians of Coptic Cairo invented Hummus, a staple dish of the Middle east. Hummus was the perfect replacement for meat during fasting month/ Lent.

Coptic Cairo: Travel tips for Egypt
Coptic Cairo: A must visit place in Egypt

Also read: Offbeat things to do in Goa!

What to wear in Egypt

Dressing modestly in Egypt is a prerequisite, not just because the society is construct of orthodox Sunni Muslim community but also the sun scorches very bright, rendering you skin burnt even before you know it. 

I wore a saree and a scarf that could be used as a head cover to safeguard from the sun. During a handful of occasions I did not, I not only turned darker, my skin wrinkled and broke out in rash. So, cover up and invest for a good sun block. The Sunblock sold in the Egyptian stores are high on SPF (50+) and are greasy in excessive oil. So carry one from home.

Nile river felucca ride in Aswan Egypt
On a Felucca ride on River Nile in Aswan

Also read: The best of Indian weaves!

Egypt has some of the finest beaches bordering the Red Sea!

Egypt is renowned for example shows of Old world relics and sculptures. Most people come to Egypt to see the pyramids but that is not all. The country located at the north of Africa occupies a large landmass which is bordered with azure oceans on both the sides. If you ask me which one place in Egypt is the most beautiful one, in a heartbeat I would point at the Red Sea! While the north of Sinai peninsula is politically volatile (hello Israel!), I would recommend visiting Sharm el Sheikh or Dahab for a few days of beach vacay, to relax and rejuvenate under the soothing ocean breeze and mellow sunshine! 

Alexandria is closer to Mediterranean where you will find many relics pointing at the Greek heritage of Egypt. The Pharaohs did not bother much about this place.

Did you know: Cleopatra was actually of Greek descent. She had absolutely no connection with the Egyptian Pharaoh, though she ruled the people of Egypt.

Abu Simbel Temples in Egypt
The astounding rock cut temples of Abu Simbel

Also read: 20 pictures from the land of origin, Ethiopia!

Best time to visit Egypt

The best time to visit Egypt automatically translates to cooler temperatures. You may opt for Spring (March–May) and autumn (Oct & Nov) however be prepared to shell out a premium for every service, ranging from hiring a guide to booking a hotel. 

We *thought* Egypt not being in the Northern hemisphere would actually make the climate different. We were also traveling in Africa for about a month. Smartly, we booked a ticket for Egypt in August! The sun kissed us, toasted us, burnt us and did all sorts of things but we also had many tourist attractions to ourselves, tour guides for a meagre price and traveled in peace. 

These ten days in Egypt were also preceding the festival of Eid, meaning the whole country was in a mood of celebration and vacay! It was only during the last few days in Cairo, we realized traffic is a pain point. Otherwise, Egypt was a cakewalk! 

How did the Egyptian built such stunning architecture 2000 years back?

Also known, the summer months of June to September are ruthless, making temperature rise to an sheer 50 degrees at times. The southern part, nearing the Sahara desert, is usually set on fire! For a cooler and comfortable experience, visit the Red sea Coast. 

And, it DOES NOT GET chilly at night in the desert. It is different if you are traveling in Ladakh, which is a cold desert anyway. But Egypt is suffocatingly hot even at night. I remember saying, “Who said deserts become cold at night?” That is a lie of my lifetime of education! 

In fact Cairo was not just hot, it was humid, a lot like Kolkata. I used to step out of the hotel room, and instinctively feel an urge to return! I look back and feel proud as to how we did what we did! We romanced Cairo at her best, like we do in Kolkata. I must say coming from India, another extremely hot country during the prolonged summer, prepared us well to look at Egypt, eye to eye! In the midst of a raging summer! Well done Madhurima & S & friends!

travel tips for Egypt

Egypt is beautiful during Eid!

We visited Egypt during Eid al Adha, the Eid of sacrifice. We thought this was going to be a sub-par experience but boy oh boy, was I wrong?

We asked an Indian expat who lived in Cairo at that time, whether we should cancel the trip. She suggested this is the best time to be in Egypt. Now that we are done with the trip, we agree and suggest everyone to do the same!

Visit Egypt during an Eid. May be not Ramadan since that is the month of fasting in Muslim community but during the Eid of Sacrifice. 

The country was enjoying a prolonged holiday! When we reached Cairo, we found the street void of traffic, offices and schools closed. It was also the peak of summer. Don’t ask, it was our fault. We were traveling in Africa for about a month and we knew August is a colder month in Africa. But Africa is also a huge continent and cold in Zambia does not translate into cold in Egypt!

Eid celebration in Egypt: travel tips for Egypt
An elaborate lunch served at Luxor during Eid al Adha!

Also read: Ramadan treats from the streets of Hyderabad!

How to deal with heat exhaustion in Egypt

A lot like AMS in the high mountains, heat exhaustion is real when you are exploring the desert corners of Egypt. The weather is always ruthless. In the winter months, it may get a little tolerable though. 

My friend was touring Valley of Kings while she felt a sudden attack of fever, escalating to dizziness and headache. We headed back to the hotel, rested in the room, slowed down for the day. The fever stayed for the night. The next day, we had a comfortable journey back to Cairo on a luxury train. 

Heat stroke, prickly heat, burning skin are common in Egypt. Take proper precaution. Cover face and mouth and eyes in case of a desert storm. Drench your hat with water and wear it on the head for extra comfort.

Scams in Egypt
They posed and asked me to lick them. I did and they asked for money! I lolled and did not give any money but it seemed so strange!

Tourist sites are heavy of Scam

Due to the economic downturn and a few spates of violence, Egyptian tourism economy has suffered in the past decade. So much so I have had random strangers in the market shouting at me, “Tell Indian Egypt is safe. Ask them to come visit!” 

It melted my heart but also gave me a reason when I found the tourist sites swarmed with scammers. For a simple pointing in a certain direction, the vendor or the guide will demand a Bakshis, a tip. To even lift a finger, literally! I mean I am an Indian and I understand the scam techniques and I recognize and instinctively avoid them but I felt unnerved at the massive presence of it! It can definitely be a stain on the overall experience. 

I will give you an example. 

We were at Saqqara Pyramid, a detour from Giza. A man approaches us. 

“Hey you, Indian?” he shouts at me. 

I nod, happily because I get to hear the name of my country!

He points at a donkey standing nearby and asks me to ride. I say no, he insists. I persist. Then he suggests I take his picture. I do. He asks for money!

I mean, that unfolded like  a meme but this yeah that’s what happened. 

He approached my friend next. “Hey you Indian?”

She nodded in disagreement. “No, Pakistani.”

He is doubtful this time, “Muslim?”

She says yes. 

The man retreats, clearly not convinced but he gets the annoyance, I guess!

These vendors prying on naïve tourists were everywhere in Egypt. We were lucky to find a few kind and knowledgeable guides as well.

Did you know? Common Diarrhea in Egypt is also known as Pharaoh’s Revenge.

travel tips for Egypt
Sakkara Step pyramid of Egypt!

Also read: Exploring Old Phuket Town of Thailand!

Animal Labour is Rampant in Egypt

Talking about donkeys, Egypt (and many other countries in Africa) use animal labour extensively. I mean I am in no position to complain. I have seen people in Kaziranga taming the Asiatic elephants. I wonder why humans spared elephants in Africa. Do they domesticate African elephants? Google fetches me a negative answer.

Anyway coming back to the topic, it is likely you will find a donkey driven cart right next to your tourist coach in Cairo. The donkey remains nonchalant to the cacophony of a big metropolis. There are camels abound in rural Egypt, especially at the Nubian villages in south (upper Egypt). 

I did not ride a camel. I found the camels in Giz particularly used for tourist pleasures. But the camels seen at Nubian village or rural Egypt looked more like a member to the family, like they belonged to those families and are not used just as a tourist ploy. 

If you are going to go for a camel ride, beware the animal can get really stubborn and peel you off its skin while it stands up. I have seen a camel do this at Danakil, Ethiopia and I suggest you stay away in order to save your back!

It is wise to hire a guide while traveling in Egypt. Otherwise the temples will overwhelm you, you will not be able to connect the dots between what you see and what you know. It takes a lifetime for a person to learn all about Egypt so let it be if you do not understand all of it but follow the guide and record because these documents will help you connect the dots later, when you are back at home and trying to decipher what you had seen. 

Did you know: One of the offbeat destinations in Egypt, Wadi Rayan sits pretty by the Fayoum oasis. It is 150 km south of Cairo and is a dream spot for birders. Also check out Great Desert Circuit made of five lush green pockets in stark contrast with arid desert at Western Oases, Bahariya, Farafra, Dakhla and Kharga.

Travel tips for Egypt
Beautiful temples of ancient Egypt

Also read: A complete guide to visiting Mauritius!

Beware of the heat of Sahara Desert

Egypt is hot. Come on, it borders the unforgiving Sahara desert of the left. Egypt is excruciatingly hot. When we were roaming at the valley of Kings, we saw the mercury rise to a whopping 50 degrees. One of the friends fell sick and we had to retreat back to the hotel. 

So plan your day accordingly. Start at the dawn, as early as possible to avoid the harsh sun. 

They say it is soothing in Egypt from September to December but I have my doubts. Soothing means a rather tolerable sun but the country remains as hot as any other sub Saharan region. Keep your guards on. Sun-block, sunglass and covered dressing will help you survive!

Nile cruise: Travel guide for Egypt

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Nile Cruises are another name of African Romance

Historically, Upper and Lower Egypt had been connected with the course of river Nile. The feluccas of yester years have now transformed into luxurious yachts or steamers, slowly sailing on the water of the Nile. It is a distinct experience to sail on the Nile and watch life unfold in the rural hinterlands of Egypt. The farmers plough, the children run along the palm groves, the scorched earth of Egypt is strikingly green and fertile on both the banks of the river. It is beautiful!

However, a Nile cruise comes in various lengths and packages. On the hindsight of the experience, you will be allotted a specific time to explore each stop, say Luxor or Aswan and leave for sightseeing with a sizable group of tourists. Neither the group size nor the time constraint made it a viable option in our case but you can definitely slow down on the river Nile and trust nature to usher you with bounty. 

View of Egypt from Cairo Tower
View from Cairo Tower!

The felucca sailing on the Nile river are the traditional simple wooden sailboat with a white mast. I saw them in Zanzibar too in the name of Dhow boat. The dahabiya rides are equipped for a longer stay with a built in cabin. The Nile cruises are basically an improvised form of Dahabiya! 

Remember, Nile cruises may get more expensive than a land cruise or (even cheaper option) train route. 

Swimming in the Nile is a risky affair, not just due to water volume but also for abundance of flatworms.

Egyptian museum
The moon God who predated Abrahamic religions in the region

Also read: The terracotta Horse art of Bankura!

Photographing in Egyptian Tombs and Monuments

While photographing various tombs and monuments is considered a primary tourist delight in Egypt, be prepared to pay a handsome amount for using a camera, that includes everything from a DSLR to an action camera. Drones are not allowed in Egypt and you won’t be able to clear immigration with a drone camera in your luggage. 

I suggest, like every other Egypt veteran, upgrade your smartphone and you will be delighted with the result. Many monuments or tombs will tell you to pay extra for a camera, if not they will ask you to leave your valuable machine with the guards. I was not comfortable doing that. But then we were a group of four people and one of us always agreed to keep the camera safe. 

Inside the tombs or monuments of Egypt, safeguarded are various paintings or artefacts daring back to thousands of years. A flash light may cause damage to these relics. Hence usage of cameras is heavily prohibited. 

Although twenty-first century smartphones are equally capable of producing decent results. I wonder what Egyptian tourism governing body is thinking about it!

One thing I would like to highlight in this case is a lot of guides or vendors will let you take pictures for a little bribe. A few loose EGP bills can fetch you opportunities to click pictures where officially it is not allowed. I suggest staying away from such sketchy situations.

Things to eat in Egypt: Grilled lamb chops
Grilled Lamb chops served at Khan e Khalili

Also read: Complete guide to visiting Luang Prabang!

Finding great food in Egypt

It may be surprising for many, but the Egyptian staple dish Koshary is actually vegan friendly. It is a khichdi made of macaroni, lentils, rice, chickpeas and tomato sauce, spaced at the cook’s will! It is a beautifully done heavy meal. But I prefer Falafel bread, followed by shawarma filled with grilled shredded meat. The great food of Egypt demands for a different blogpost!

As a thumb rule for eating safe, trust all the local food joints in the city. Places which are quivering with endless demand by locals should be your go to. The grilled food served in Egypt is a delicacy but ensures the meat is cooked to perfection. Usually, all food served in Egypt is halal standard. Eating out in Egypt is surprisingly affordable. Expect to shell out USD 3 for a full meal for a couple at mid range street side eateries. Prices will go higher up if you visit the top rated romantic restaurants. But that should not be a surprise!

Hibiscus Juice served in Cairo
Hibiscus Juice, a delicacy in Egypt!

Egyptian wine is a prized possession for every connoisseur yet drinking in public is not encouraged in Egypt. I feel another pressing reason for that was my time of travel to the country. It was the week leading to Eid al Adha, the sacrificial Eid. Many devout Muslims would live by the book and that was not exactly the typical tourist season in Egypt either. Either way, we collected alcohol from a duty free shop at the airport and relished it inside the cold comfort of our hotel room. 

That said, Egypt has a long legacy of producing wine, known as Arak to the locals. Ancient Egyptians drank Shedeh, a red wine and served on a clay pot thus making it one of the oldest regions that practiced viticulture. 

Famous Egyptian brand of wine are: Cape Bay (produced in Egypt from South African grapes), then Omar Khayyam, then Obelisk.

The famous brands of beer in Egypt are: Stella and Sakara. For reliable delivery of alcohol to your hotel room, trust the two local stores: Drinkies and Cheers.

Travel guide for Egypt
Plenty of kind people in Egypt

Also read: Complete guide to visiting Hampi!

Souvenir shopping in Egypt

While Khan e Khalili market is inundated with Chinese made Egyptian Gods and the alleyways of Islamic Cairo are dotted with fake papyrus shops, I suggest trusting your research and gut feeling before investing for a pricey souvenir. There are many, especially the real asbestos stone made beauties! We opted for an Anubis statue and an Amun Ra statue. I grew up reading Sheyal Debota Rohoshyo by Ray. How could I not? You will ideally find everything at Khan E Khalili. Do not forget to bargain. Start at one third of the price.

Khan e Khalili also sells exquisite fabric made of Egyptian cotton which makes for fine upholstery.

Travel guide for Egypt
I think these milk shakes were from Israel
Travel guide for Egypt

Grocery stores in Egypt

I love visiting the department stores of a new destination. In Cairo, we found one at Zamalek named Gourmet Egypt. We packed plenty of Tahini sauce and packed Hummus as a souvenir. I recommend this place as a one stop solution for many gourmet souvenirs and good snacks. This area is inhabited by expats. No wonder the Zamalek store had packed ready to eat Kadi from India as well, as well as those pickles! 

They did not have a chain of stores as 7/11 of Thailand. Nonetheless each destination had a thriving market place where sellers were more than happy to assist us. Never did they try to exploit with more money. Despite my bitter experience with tourist vendors, Egypt also had some of the kindest and simple hospitable men I have ever encountered in my journey. I think the need to scam tourists comes from a few decade old dry spell in the tourism industry which impacts the grass root level at its hardest!

Train travel in Egypt: Travel tips for Egypt
Train journey from Cairo to Aswan: Things to know for a budget travel in Egypt.

Also read: Travel guide to Kargil, a conflict zone between India and Pakistan!

Train ride in Egypt

The Egyptian railway runs all the way from Alexandria to Aswan, with a multitude of slow and fast trains. The rail line follows the course of the Nile. From Salloum (on the Libyan border) to Cairo, Egypt is connected with railroads. The classic tourist route from Cairo to Aswan can be made by an overnight train journey. Alexandria to Cairo has a number of daily train services, making it easy for a day trip destination. The luxury Night trains to the Nile valley are completely air conditioned and will remind you of the initial days of Rajdhani express.

In case you are opting for a bus ride, trust the government owned services by Golden Arrow, Super Jet, Pullman, West Delta, East Delta, Upper Egypt Bus Co and Bedouin Bus etc. However, bus journey also entails riding on a dangerous road full of potholed lane and reckless driving.

Metro Ride in Cairo

Cairo has started operating a new Metro rail connecting different ends of the city. The other operating metro in the whole of African continent at this point runs in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Cairo metro is especially helpful for solo female travelers in Egypt. You may look for the carriage at the beginning of the train, dedicated specifically for women.

Coptic Cairo: Travel tips for Egypt
Coptic Cairo: Essential travel guide for Egypt!

Also read: 50 beautiful pictures from Kolkata, my home!

Bring a comfortable pair of Shoe while visiting Egypt

In Egypt, the best way to explore is to deal with a longstanding tryst with your feet! Trust them to take you to the most intriguing places in Egypt and also ensure you provide them with the necessary comfort. A sneaker is an essential thing you need to pack while traveling to Egypt. It is a land of dust, which renders your feet riddled in return otherwise. Also, we often forget to put sunblock on our feet. You will be surprised looking at the turn of skin color on your feet. Three years since I am writing this blog post and I still hear my feet complaining!

hieroglyphics on ancient Egyptian temple
hieroglyphics on the Luxor temple wall!

Also read: Complete guide to visiting Langkawi!

How to budget for the Egypt Trip?

Egypt may get ludicrously expensive if you allow luxury to rule your travel style. If you are okay with the local’s way of exploring Egypt, you will spend not more than $800 for a ten days trip in Egypt, provided you eat local, travel in a uber and stay in mid range hotels or hostels. 

ATMs in Egypt are mostly found in big cities like Cairo or Alexandria or the marketplace of Luxor/Aswan. Egypt runs heavily on cash. Carry small bills. Exact change will save you a lot of time and effort while bargaining at shops that refuse to accept credit cards. Cash withdrawal in Egypt is limited to USD 250 at a time.

Coptic Cairo: Travel tips for Egypt
Many legends associated with the Coptic community of Cairo!

Following are some of the suggestions to save more while traveling in Egypt. 

  • The one expense we found excruciatingly painful in Egypt was to spend for various entry fees. So much so, we had to let go visiting many museums which otherwise store all the relics, just to stay within our budget. 
  • Do not carry a tripod to the Egyptian tombs or monuments or pay extra as “Tripod pass”. This rule was applicable for the Taj Mahal in India as well.
  • If you have a student ID (International Student ID: ISIC card) you will be paying half the cost of the printed ticket price. Although those producing a student ID card have complained of various scrutiny questions in the past due to increased forgery. Children from 6 to 12 years of age pay half the entry price. This card also gets you 30% discount while riding Egyptian rail route and 15% off while riding ferries.
  • To get the ISIC card, check: online. You may also visit Egyptian Student Travel Services (ESTS), 23 Sharia al-Manial, on Roda Island in Cairo (daily 9am–4pm t 02 2363 7251, w You need to carry £E100, and student ID proof. Reach El-Malek el-Saleh metro for easy access. The International Youth Travel Card (issued to anyone under 26), and International Teacher Identity Card are available at the same price from the same places. They are eligible for similar discounts. 
Crowning of the Pharaoh
  • A photography pass in Egypt will cost you 300 EGP (USD 20). This may not cover all the monuments though and is required for only one camera. Say you are a couple traveling to Egypt, and one of you has a camera and intends to use it, you need only one pass.
  • Spend the nights in train as you embark on a journey from lower to Upper Egypt ie., Cairo to Luxor/Aswan. Trains run fast, are very efficient, and come at a cheap price. When we traveled the chair class was as cheap as USD 20 while the first class with a closed door and breakfast service would cost you USD 80.
  • Riding a taxi in Egypt can be tricky. The “tourist price” is usually three fold higher than the usual range. Bargain and fix a price before you agree with a taxi. If you take the little pain of learning Arabic numbers, go with Uber. It is dirt cheap in Cairo.
Sakkara Pyramid in Cairo
Steppe pyramids of Saqqara! Older than the great pyramids!

Few More Essential Travel Tips for Egypt!

  • One of the best ways to explore Cairo is by getting dirty on the streets of the mega city! Cairo is every photographer’s dream with her eclectic blend of culture, high-rises, a voluminous river and the myth and mystery that lurk at every corner of the streets!
  • Driving in Cairo could be a reckless experience. It is a surreal world which seamlessly juxtapose both a horse driven cart and a suave sedan on the highway!
  • Tap water in Egypt is not potable. Many suggest using bottled water for brushing teeth, we did not do that and we are fine! Refrain from taking ice that is served with fruit juice from the street food vendors.
  • Fridays and Saturdays are holiday in Cairo and everywhere else in Egypt. Take a note of the national holidays on which the monuments will be closed for tourist entry.
  • The dry arid weather of Egypt demands a traveler to stay hydrated with ample amount of water.
  • Toilet paper is not integral to the culture of Egypt. You have to ask for it. I am an Indian and after a month long travel in Africa, I was happier than ever to find a water spray in the bathroom.
Iberotel swimming pool in Luxor
The sun as my crown!
  • For an emergency, call up 123 (911 equivalent of the USA). Travel insurance for Egypt will help you in dire situations. Carry the relevant paperwork alongside. 
  • In Egypt,  reliable SIM service providers are Vodafone, Orange, Mobinil (best coverage for Mediterranean and Western Desert) and Etisalat. We opted for Orange. Pre-paid sims are available at Cairo airport. 
  • The streets of Egypt are a chaotic experience, especially every time you step on it to cross! In the evening street-side alleys will lay Shisha covers where locals will chill with a cup of coffee, extremely sweetened. A few stray cats will roam around! Egyptian roads are called home by a number of feral. I do not recall seeing any stray dogs though! 
  • Restaurants have defined waiting and sitting areas allocated for families and bachelors as well as smokers and non-smokers. Smoking (cigarette or shisha) plays a pivotal part of Egyptian society.
Khan e khalili souvenir shopping in Egypt
Countless souvenirs on sale in Khan e Khalili! Aladdin’s lamp I guess!
  • The small hostels or hotels in Cairo are often located at the obscure labyrinth of the city that never faces the main road. They retain a certain amount of romance and thrill in the whole process of finding and checking in. the one we chose had a list that did not have walls and a gate! I mean, I cant even…Do not get frustrated. You have been warned!
  • Despite Sinai and Cairo in Egypt having a long-standing industry (thirteenth century) revolving around bango (marijuana), using drugs is a punishable offence in Egypt. As a foreigner you might have to undergo the grueling process of police custody and deportation which leaves a bitter aftertaste for the whole experience. Locals often face a threat of execution if found in possession of drugs. No wonder the hashish industry from the close proximity of Morocco and Lebanon adds flame to the fuel.
  • Mutual respect will take you afar in Egypt. Please be respectful in your dealings with the local Egyptians!
Travel Guide to Egypt: Thousand pillar column in Luxor, Egypt
Beautiful Karnak temple all lit up during evening!

I will update this post as and when new information come from Egypt travel. My brother in law heads the engineering department at a luxury property in Alexandria at this point. He says tourism contributes to 15% of the country’s annual GDP which met with a sudden jolt due to the pandemic and global slum. When Europe opened up briefly during summer of 2020, it added to Egypt’s shrinking tourism industry. Many flew in and traveled. Tourists are returning slowly. Travel and hospitality partners are chiming in with safety practice. Things are looking brighter.

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Two Weeks in Turkey Backpacking Guide: Things To Do, Costs, Budget [2021] for the First Time Traveler!

From this two weeks backpacking Turkey travel guide, you will find loads of Turkish experiences, including things to see and do, approximate travel costs, how to get around in Turkey, average daily budget, travel tips, and how to say hello in Turkish. I am sure these information will make you well equipped before you make that trip of a lifetime to Turkey!

Turkey: The Pearl of the World!

Turkey is the heart of Mediterranean where two different world of Europe and Asia straddle at a meeting point. The Middle East, the Balkans, The obscure rolling hills of Central Asia, all find a definitive identity from Turkey, once the sprawling heart of Byzantine empire, followed by the mighty Ottomans until the first world war! 

Surge of historical events define Turkey’s endless heritage monuments and beautiful locales. Despite a prolonged strife at the border that faces Syria, and bouts of political unrest Turkey is a safe place to visit and stands at the sixth place in the list of most visited destinations of the world!

In this Turkey Travel Blog, we will try to highlight unique places to visit in Turkey, including the definite highlights like Hot air balloon ride of Cappadocia, turquoise water of Antalya, old dinghy narrow cobblestoned roads of Istanbul dotted with colorful souqs, endless ruins dating back to Greeks and the Romans etc. Visiting Turkey is easy with the new introduction of e-visa. I can not even begin to praise Turkish delicacy, ranging from various Koptes and Baklava!

Two weeks in Turkey

Quick Facts About Turkey

LanguageTurkish, English is widely understood
Population60+ million
Highlights in TurkeyOld City walk in Istanbul, Amazing Turkish food, Göreme National Park (Cappadocia)
Souveniers of TurkeyCoffee, Ornate lamps, carpets, packed Baklava
Major festivals in TurkeyIzmir World Fair, Kadir Gecesi (The Eve of Power) during Ramazan, Sugar Holiday
Best time to visit in TurkeyApril, May (Spring) and September- November (fall)

After the lockdown, there is no restriction for any nationality to enter Turkey. However quarantine rules might be in place.

Turkey is allowing tourist entry with a negative PCR testing. The test must be conducted within 72 hours. Flights from Brazil and South Africa are restricted at this moment. People who have been to Brazil, India and South Africa in past 10 days are required to quarantine for 14 days. You need to carry a completely filled Travel Entry form to enter Turkey. Hotels are operating in limited capacity and restaurants are giving takeaway orders. Weekend curfews are in place so are weekday curfew from 7 pm.

Also read: Best places to visit in Italy for the first time traveler!

Suggested Two Weeks Itinerary for Turkey

Traveling to Turkey for two weeks is going to be a memorable experience. Turkey is a considerably large country with plenty of attractions, world famous sites and UNESCO heritage monuments. It is wise to take your time and slow travel to experience Turkey at her best!

Suggested Turkey Travel Itinerary 1

Istanbul (4 days)- Cappadocia (5 days) – Bodrum (6 days)

This is a slow travel itinerary for Turkey suitable for those interested in a historic old city (Istanbul), beach town and beautiful historical landscapes.

  • Day 1: Reach Istanbul at the Ataturk International Airport 
  • Day 2: Visit Hagia Sophia and Explore the old city of Istanbul with a heritage walk
  • Day 3: Topkapi Palace Museum & Bosphorus cruise (Istanbul)
  • Day 4: Check out the Flower Passage in Istanbul. Relax at a Turkish Hammam.
  • Day 5: Flight from Istanbul to Cappadocia
  • Day 6: Hike to Rose valley in Cappadocia
  • Day 7: Hot air balloon ride during Sunrise (world famous) & Goreme Open-Air Museum in Cappadocia
  • Day 8: Day at leisure in Cappadocia
  • Day 9: Travel day from Cappadocia to Bodrum Coast
  • Day 10: Beach day at the Bodrum Coast loved by who’s who of star town!
  • Day 11: Day trip to the ancient Greek city of Ephesus and Sirince (2.5 hours drive)
  • Day 12: Rest Day at Bodrum
  • Day 13: Take a traditional Gulet blue cruise ride (traditional Turkish yacht)
  • Day 14: Travel to Istanbul and leave for homeland!

Please Note: This itinerary does not have Pamukkale and Izmir. I suggest do not miss out on Pamukkale and add a couple of more days to your trip to pay a visit to that stunning destination!

Suggested Turkey Travel Itinerary 2

Cappadocia (3 nights)- Ephesus (1 night)- Fethiye (3 nights)- Pamukkale (1 night)- Alaçatı (3 ngihts)- Istanbul (3 nights)

  • Day 1: Fly to Cappadocia. Kayseri- Erkilet International Airport -ASR or Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport or NAV
  • Day 2: Uchisar Castle, the Goreme Open Air Museum
  • Day 3: The Pasabag Fairy Chimneys, Rose Valley, Derinkuyu Underground City and book a hot air balloon ride
  • Day 4: light to Izmir and reach Ephesus, the ancient Greek (later Roman city)
  • Day 5: Drive to Fethiye
  • Day 6: Ölüdeniz Blue Lagoon, Butterfly Valley and the the Amyntas Rock Tomb
  • Day 7: Rest day at Fethiye
  • Day 8: Drive to the Cotton castle of Turkey, Pamukkale at Denizli province
  • Day 9: Visit the Travertines near Pamukkale. Drive to Alaçatı.
  • Day 10: Explore Alaçatı at the West Coast of Turkey
  • Day 11: Rest day by the beach at Alaçatı 
  • Day 12: Flight to the old town of Istanbul!
  • Day 13: Visit Hagia Sophia and Explore the old city of Istanbul with a heritage walk
  • Day 14: Topkapi Palace Museum & Bosphorus cruise (Istanbul). Fly out the last day!

This is a pacy itinerary for Turkey with lots of moving around. This two weeks itinerary for Turkey is more suitable if you can drive around. Although paced up, this itinerary lets you see more and do more of Turkey indeed!

How to score a Visa for Turkey

Scoring a visa for Turkey is an easy affair, especially with the introduction of the new e visa system for Turkey. A 30 day single entry e visa can be obtained by applying online for a visa. 

The Electronic Visa (e-Visa) may be obtained from the website ( It takes 3 minutes only. 

You need to provide following information:

  1. Necessary ID proof (passport valid for at least 6 months) 
  2. Travel dates
  3. Visa fees ( USD 43)

Please note, Indian passport holders with a valid visa from the US, UK, Schengen and/or Ireland (or a residence permit) can apply for a Turkish e visa. Those who do not have it can apply for a regular sticker visa at the Turkish embassy.

As per the latest travel norm for Turkey, passengers over the age of 12 must have a document showing a negative COVID-19 test result to enter Turkey. To know more about the eVisa to Turkey visit, Natvisa.

Two weeks in Turkey

Also read: 20+ heirloom recipes from India to try at home when you can not travel!

Amazing Things to Do and See in Turkey!

From ancient metropolis to world class thriving urban landscapes and ocean hues with ultramarine waves, turkey is beautiful beyond words! We will highlight some of the destinations in Turkey based on which you may choose where to go when you are heading for the country.


Part of Istanbul belongs to Europe and the other half belongs to Asia. Needless to say, standing in Istanbul, you can witness the gradual cultural transcendence from East to West. Istanbul is a living and breathing testimony to the greatest of the empires of yesteryears. I am talking about the Byzantines, followed by the Ottomans. 

The Hagia Sophia, presently a mosque, is quintessentially the most important landmark dominating the skyline of Turkey. It was a church in the initial days, then it turned into a mosque and many years later, it remains a mosque and has become an integral part of political identity and aspiration of the region. 

Istanbul is one of the cities where you can wander around aimlessly for days and the old alleyways will welcome you with open arms. The old Turkish jazz bars would play mellow instrumental music in your passionate pursuit of the city’s soul! It was Istanbul where I first fell in love with Middle-east which got a definitive stamp while traveling to Cairo in Egypt in later years! 

Be sure to take the evening cruise at the Bosphorus waterway while in Istanbul. The Grand Bazar of Turkey is a five century old marketplace renowned in the world for a thriving collection of fine lifestyle ware. From spices, to coffee, to lamps and refined carpets: the Grand Bazar of Istanbul sells everything a tourist asks for! And when the city tires you, rejuvenate at one of the old Hammam baths in Istanbul!


Although famed as a resort beach town in modern days, Fethiye has recorded history that dates back to 5000 years. The port city has a natural harbour, beautiful lagoons, turquoise waters and stunning beaches. While in Fethiye, pay a visit to the old market of Fethiye, Saklıkent Canyons, Calis beach, ghost village of Kayakoy where a miniscule Orthodox Christian community prevails. The Lycians of ancient Telmessos had distinct burial rituals and the rock tombs (Tomb Of Amyntas) remain as a living testimony to that. 


World famous for the hot air balloon rides, Cappadocia in Turkey is a beautiful historic destination which is way more than what Instagram portrays. It is well worth nothing that Cappadocia in Turkey is a huge region, centrally located and consists of a number of towns, like  Ürgüp, Göreme, Ihlara Valley, Selime, Guzelyurt, Uçhisar, Avanos and Zelve (most important for the tourists). Try to book one of the cave hotels of Cappadocia and rent a scooty to move around.

The the Aydın Kırağı sunset view point is one of the most ethereal looking locales of Cappadocia, Turkey, specially during golden hour. Visit the Goreme Open Air Museum, Uchisar Castle and Pigeon Valley, Rose valley, the underground city etc while traveling in Cappadocia, and reserve a few spots early morning for the much coveted hot air balloons. The hot air balloon rides depend on weather condition as well as ticket being sold out, especially during the tourist seasons. So keep a couple of days in hand!

Also read: Practical travel tips for traveling to Egypt!


Remember the stepped salt flats where the Bollywood song “Tu jane na…” from the movie Ajab Prem ki Gajab Kahani was filmed? That, my dear friend, is the extremely pretty destination, Pamukkale! Located at the Denizli state of Southwestern Turkey, Pamukkale is also known as the Cotton Castle. often critiqued for being overtly touristy, Pamukkale is a natural wonder, seldom found in the world. It’s intricate cascading geological formation due to age old Hot Spring paints the canvas with sky blue water on salt deposits. The aqua marine water is guarded with mountain cliffs. By nature of its distinct beauty, Pamukkale is often plundered with hoards of over enthusiast tourists, crazy to click the perfect picture for the gram. If that annoys you, assign only a few hours but visit Pamukkale at least once in this lifetime!

Pamukkale houses the ancient Hierapolis Greek theatre, a UNESCO world heritage site! One of the largest open air podium from old world, Hierapolis also houses ruins of an ancient Greek city.


You may base yourself at Selcuk and take a small hike to the ancient town of Ephesus. You can also stay at Izmir and make a day trip to this old city dotted with ruins of Roman empire. Make sure to check out the prolific Library of Celsus. Also check out the Ephesus Archaeology Museum. 

Do check out the ruins of Temple of Artemis, one of the ancient seven wonders of the world! This is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


I prefer to keep Bodrum for the last lag of an Istanbul itinerary. The coastal town by Aegean Sea at the southern part of Turkey is a land dotted with old world castles, ruins, non pretentious villages where time stand still till date. From Bodrum, you can make day trips to Turgutreis , Kos, Pamukkale, Ancient Ephesus and even Pammukale. 


The capital of Turkey, Ankara is home to the remains of the founder of modern day Turkey, the one and only Mustafa Kamal Ataturk. His body is preserved at the Anitkabir Museum but his idea persists. Ankara travel includes customary visits to places like,  Ankara Castle (Kalesi), Atakule Tower, Beypazarı neighbourhood famed for silver works, Roman Bath and Haci Bayram Mosque etc. Pay close attention to the stray cats of the city although they are frequent everywhere in Turkey!


The gateway to Turkey’s Mediterranean region, Antalya is a sprawling resort town. It is a thrilling experience to explore the Old town of Antalya! The souks surrounding the old Tekeli Mehmet Pasa Mosque is worth a visit. The mosque was a Roman temple, followed by a brief Byzantine identity of being a church.

The sweeping coastline of Konyaalti Beach is one of the main tourist attractions of Antalya. For a more serene experience, visit the pristine lara beach in the south. 

There are plenty of day trips from Antalya. The Karain Cave with a built in museum, the old Lycian port of Phaselis that once paved the marching way for Alexander the Great, the delapidated stadium of Perge, the Köprülü Canyon National Park with emerald blue water are amazing destinations from Antlya. However, if I am to pick one destination, I would recommend day trip to the pristine villages of Olympos and Çirali. The laid back vibes of the twin villages are perfect for backpackers seeking a quiet holiday while exploring both the azure waves and ruins of old world!


Home to the prolific figure in Sufiam, Mevlana Rumi, Konya is often considered as a favorite stop while exploring the Anatolia region. Once a stronghold of the Seljuk sultanate, Konya is home to the Mevlaka museum and the tomb of the whirling dervish. Also check out the intricate architectural style of Aziziye mosque and Selimiye mosque in the region.


Located by the black sea coast of turkey, Trabzon has a plethora of beautiful old churches, ruins of olden empires and picturesque locales. A part of the ancient silk route, Trabzon was an important port city connecting Persia to the western world. At the Sumela monastery built by the Greek Orthodox devotees, Virgin Mary has been worshipped since forth century. The Trabzon Castle showcase the grandeur of Byzantine era! Trabzon also houses many important historic mosques, museums, castles that helps connect the history of the region, for example the church turned mosque Trabzon Ayasofya Müzesi, Atatürk Köşkü Müzesi, a museum which served as winter home for Kamal Ataturk, the nature reserve of Uzungöl etc.

Also read: Complete Guide to visiting Kargil, the conflict zone between India and Pakistan!


One of the oldest hilltop villages in the region, Mardin has a diverse cultural heritage dating back to the times of Mesopotamia empire. The hilltop is stepped with old sandstone buildings which adds to the beauty of the region. 

For a wayfaring soul, Mardin’s Old City is a thing of joy. With a camera and some water in hand, you can meander through its old busy streets, taking some time to appreciate the symmetry of the  terraced houses. Stop by at the Deyrü’z-Zafaran Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries in the world, and the Sultan Isa Medresesi, a medieval monument that once served as an astronomical observatory. The towering minaret of the great mosque stands at a distance, rising above all of these! Shop for beautiful Turkish souvenirs like pottery, silverware, leather and traditional headdresses.


A gem in the crown of Turkish riviera, Marmaris is a picturesque coastal town boasting of ultra marine waters, plethora of historic ruins, towering mountains dotting at the horizon. Marmaris is the place if you seek a buzzing nightlife after a day of making merry in the water under the glorious sun! Do not miss visiting the old quarter of Marmaris, leading to the 16th century Castle of Suleyman the Magnificent. Ride a horse and revisit his legacy along the mountain ridge that passes through dense pine forests, blooming orange groves, old villages overlooking bays and hidden waterfalls!


An offbeat destination in the tourist map of Turkey, Kayseri is a skiing spot especially during the prolonged winters of Turkey. Mount Erciyes opens her rolling slopes for skiing enthusiasts.

Also read: Best cities in Europe for a Gourmand traveler!

Backpacking Turkey Travel Costs

Always use Turkish Lira while traveling in Turkey. While Euro is largely accepted, the rate is lower compared to many other European countries. The best exchange rate for Euro or USD can be found only at the airport or bank.

It is always wise to travel during shoulder season to save on that extra buck. Turkey is no exception.
Turkey is a moderately large region that is well connected with long train journey. I highly recommend hopping onto these trains to cover long distance instead of taking flights for a more budget saving travel experience in Turkey.
In Istanbul, use public transport, as well as the beautiful Trams. They are cheap and cover large distances touching almost every tourist spots and save huge on bucks.

While traveling in Turkey, stay at hostel dorm rooms, especially while you are traveling solo. Dorn rooms should charge you anywhere between USD 10 to 30 per night with a clean bed and a common toilet. I think that is a good deal in Istanbul during peak travel season. While drifting to offbeat destinations, try an stick to family run guest houses. they are pretty and authentic stays which directly gives back to the locals. the resort towns might rip you apart hence stay away unless you are in a moon to splurge!

Generally speaking Turkey is not as expensive as many European countries. However there are options for a luxurious travel which will bite hard on your travel cost if you are willing to splurge. For a seasoned backpacker Turkey is a cakewalk with minimal costing! Housesitting, work away, couch surfing are some of the options to reduce cost even further while traveling in Turkey.

Do not forget to invest in a good travel insurance (many times a pre requisite for a visa).

Also read: 30+ UNESCO Cultural Destinations for Europe Lovers’ Bucket Lists

How to get around Turkey

Use train, the long distance trains in Turkey for traversing long journey. you can spend the night in a train and save ig on travel budget. You may also take bus, train, tram, flight and other modes of transport.

Turkey has a massive bus route connecting the tourist hotspots. Bus journey in Turkey is comfortable, lets you look at picturesque locals, are excellent value for money. You may also rent a car and drive around in Turkey. Traffic in Turkey is not as punishing as many places in the US hence you will be able to enjoy a comfortable and safe ride!

Also read: Traditional Attire from Europe!

Best Places to stay in Turkey on a Budget

While Turkey is still taking it slow to make it in the global map route for digital nomading, primarily due to political hesitations, the country has huge potential to emerge as the Bangkok of Middle East! There are plenty of friendly affordable neighborhoods in Turkey where staying long term could be a delightful experience. For long weekends, you may easily head towards the coastal area or the towering mountains, thanks to smooth connectivity. But base yourself out of Istanbul where wifi connectivity has gradually become as effortless as the practice of breathing!

Some of the beautiful destinations in Turkey for a budget stay:

  1. Izmir: A town located close to many important destinations, like Pamukkale and Ephesus
  2. Fethiye: A beautiful beach town with great food!
  3. Konya: a historic city
  4. Iskenderun: right in front of Mediterranean Sea!
  5. Hatay: beautiful nature however a bit far from the busy cities

Also read: Most Beautiful Scenic Journey Around Europe By a Locomotive!

Turkish Traditional Food and Drinks


The small sized snacks on offer that is the ubiquitous start of an elaborate Turkish meal, mezes are made of meat and vegetables alike! The appetizers served in the Middle eastern region are often termed Mezze. 

Mezze includes (but not limited to) fried eggplant with yogurt and tomato sauce, stuffed zucchini blossoms, feta cheese “cigarette” pastries, olives, grilled fish wrapped with walnut crush etc.


Although the thick sauce-like appetizer was first invented by the Orthodox Christians of the Coptic Cairo to feed the community during the fasting calendar, it was soon adopted by the entire Middle east. Turkey was a close call! 


A Turkish (or Arabic, generally speaking) meal will meet a sweet end with beautiful Baklava, a classic puff pastry loaded with chopped nuts and honey!

Do try Saksuka, a one pot meal often served at breakfast with beautiful spiced poached eggs sharing space with myriad vegetables. Also try Dolma, kopte, kisir salad, kag kebab, Pilav (a rice and meat dish): all bearing some semblance with the typical food cooked in many regions of South Asia, with only exception being over emphasis on spices!

Raki is the local moonshine of Turkey made of from twice-distilled grapes and aniseed.

Do visit the famed Hamdi Restaurant in Istanbul which shows city’s relentless love for streetfood!

Also read: Historic Mosques In Europe for the History Lovers!

Daily Budget for Backpacking Turkey

For a budget friendly holiday in Turkey, you need to take care of a few stuff. Starting from getting a museum pass to signing up for group tours can at large help save your cash.

I will try to give you a broader picture of what it may cost you travel in Turkey on a modest budget. You can get more creative and save on more by refraining from many tourist spots. Depending on what truly catches your interest, you may decide to spend on certain experiences.

For example, entering many museums and monuments may become repetitive. Instead, you can go to a hammam bath and relax for a day. Instead of visiting the resort heavy coastal beaches, you may drift further to the pristine islands and spend a few days by the beach. Visiting Cappadocia is a must but you may refrain from spending for a hot air balloon ride. Just get creative!

Accommodation cost in Turkey

Everyday accommodation cost in Turkey can range anywhere between 20 Turkish Lira to 50 Turkish Lira. For luxury holiday, sky is the limit as the say!

Transport cost in Turkey

For a 10/12 hour long journey, train ticket in Turkey costs you TL 40. The Eurail travel pass works in Turkey, making train travel a very sweet deal. Flight fare is slightly more. So is bus fare. A tram or a metro ride in cities like Istanbul starts from TL 2 and way more affordable than a taxy ride (TL 22).

Food cost in Turkey

Turkey offer varied food items, especially a wide range of freshly prepared streetfood at an astonishing price. It is very affordable and healthy as well. If you love to eat meat, Turkey will never disappoint you with its never ending offering of kebabs.

For street food, you will have a full stomach for as little as TL 20. But it significantly increases if you decide to dine in at one of the upscale restaurants, order a sea food platter etc.

Generally speaking, for a stringent backpacking budget, you can spend as low as USD 11 per day in Turkey.

Also read: 9 Community Tourism Initiatives in Europe that gives back to Local!

Turkish Language

For the first time visitor to Turkey it is wise to learn a few basic phrases to greet the locals, say what you need direly, and learn to say yes and no. In case you find yourself caught between a wildfire, this linguistic skills may fetch you a glass of water. Otherwise, rely on your body language.

HelloMerhaba / Selam
Thank youTeşekkür ederim
WhenNe zaman
Very NiceChok
I am sorryafedersiniz
How much is the costNe kadar?
Good byeGule Gule

Also read: Offbeat Destinations in Greece for this summer!

Best time to visit Turkey

Turkey experiences the extremes of the both: scorching summer and bitter winter. It is wise to tarvel during spring and autumn to ensure you enjoy the best of Turkey. However, remember spring in Turkey is a peak season, meaning you end up spending more mulah. Slow down till the crowd eases on the aegean coast and hop on to Turkey for the shoulder months. That ensures a budget friendly experience.

Best months to visit Turkey: April, May, and mid-September through mid-November

This is the time when Turkey flaunts a clear weather, with bright azure sky awashed with sunshine. Moderate temperature ensures comforting breeze!

December in Turkey: Rumi festival

January: Orthodox Christmas and Camel Wrestling

February: Gastronomy festival in Istanbul

March: Navruz festival (Spring), Mesir Macunu (huge festival dating back to Ottoman era)

June: Music festivals in Istanbul

Also read: Complete Guide to Visiting Goa, India’s Beach Paradise!

Is Turkey Safe for Traveling?

Tagging a destination as safe or unsafe feels trivial when we are discussing a popular tourist hotspot like Turkey. I mean, more than 45 million people visited Turkey every year before this freaking virus came to be! How can Turkey be unsafe?

But that must not stop you from taking basic precautions. Besides, I am an Indian. My safe and your safe (when you are a westerner) will greatly differ! Turkey is a country straddling the border between two culturally rich and diverse continents, Europe and Asia! Besides, it is an Islamist nation, meaning people here obey certain rules and lifestyle whose value stems out of the teachings in Islam. For example, neither the government nor the tourist infrastructure is open to receiving LGBT tourists in the country as yet. 

Please note, Turkey borders with Syria, the erstwhile stronghold of Islamic State and has witnessed multiple incidents of human trafficking, terror attacks, border skirmishes across that particular border. Usually, tourists do not visit that area, neither the regime allows tourists to take unnecessary risks. Only journalists with special pass can near that place. But I thought I would mention this just in case you had been unaware!

Petty crimes take place occasionally. I recommend you take caution and never let your guards down. Drink responsibly and refrain from drinking with unknown strangers.

Istanbul is a big beautiful city in Turkey located by the historic Bosporus straight. Backpacking Istanbul is usually described as an exciting experience, with tourist friendly faces and beautiful cafes. 

At this juncture, many countries in the world are standing at a vulnerable joint where political equilibrium is dangerously leaning towards extremism. Turkey under Erdogan’s rule is not much different! 

Refrain from discussing politics, and joining protests or demonstrations. You will be deported before you even know it!

Turkey’s tourism industry heavily runs on cash, hence carrying loose bills is a good idea. But I think you would be a sane person not to flash your cash everywhere. Like many other tourist destinations, Turkey too runs heavy on scams. Educate yourself on prevalent scams in Turkey, learn to say a firm no to any nagging request and stay away from places where scams are likely to take place. 

Ramadan is the holi month in Islam when devotess observe fast until sundown. Be respectful and extra cautious during Ramadan. You will find places to eat and drink as tourists while locals abstain. Dressing conservatively in Turkey (or any other conservative society) will instantly help you to blend in! Visiting mosques requires women to cover hair with a headscarf and men to wear a piece of cloth that covers his legs. 

Be vey wary of the countless mosquitos and the stray dogs of Turkey. Last thing you want is to end up with malaria or rabies. 

Turkey government bans any kind of drug use. If you are caught, you will end up in prison, for up to 20 years. Decide for yourself! 

Many monuments and graffiti inside Turkish monuments do not allow tourists to photograph. Please educate yourself on the rules. Take trusted guides with you for walking in old neighbourhood, especially if you love to learn about culture and heritage. If you are lost while exploring places by yourself, bringing out the hotel’s business card will help. If you can speak a few phrases in Turkish, you are good to go!

Travel tips for Visiting Turkey as a Solo Woman

Traveling as a solo woman traveler in Turkey is a rewarding experience as long as you plan ahead. Please try to blend in as much as you can. I hjave seen Turkish women wearing head scarves and smoking right on the streets of Istanbul. But then Istanbul is a big cosmopolitcal whichj may not depict the actual reality of obscure rural areas of Turkey. Hence I suggest always always dress in a way that provides minimal skin show! That alone will place you a few notches ahead when it comes to safety.

Do not tell people that you are traveling alone. never. In addition tell your group is awaiting you at the hotel roonm. It is a good idea to tag along with a large tourist group when you are visiting tourist attactions like Pamukkale or Ephesus. Firstly you have company when you start at the wee hopur of the day. Secondly you will invarialy end up spending less.

Istanbul is a tourist froienly city and perefct for you if you prefer a more frugal style of travel, specially when traveling alone!

As a solo woman traveler, I encourage you to say no and trust your instinct while traveling. This is a thumb rule of solo travel not just in Turkey. Sexual assaults against solo female travelers in Turkey is not unheard of. Be cautious whom you call a friend. I mean friend enough to drink together! Trust Uber or Bitaksi (a local app to find nearby yellow taxis) for your commute. Do not miss traveling by those beautiful bright red hued trams in Istanbul. 

Eating street food in Turkey is a must have experience but you should be gentle on your stomach. Insist them to fry the meat or fish in front of you. Ensure you only consume the freshest of sea food and I can not stress enough on this for the best experience!

Movies and Books on Turkey Travel

Movies to watch about Turkey before you visit!

The historic novel Troy was depicted in a Hollywood blockbuster with élan by the stars Brad Pitt, Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom. While technically Troy bears zero to zilch semblance with modern day Turkey, it was shot at some of the stunning sites. For a more accurate historic take on Turkey, watch Mel Gibson starrer Gallipoli where a troop from Australia is sent to take part in world war one!

For the Agatha Christie thriller lovers, there is an entire novel dedicated for teh iconic city of Constantinople (erm, Istanbul as you know it today). Watch the thriller The Murder on the Orient Expres for a Sunday eveing well spent!

Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul is a beautiful documentary dedicated to the city of Istanbul, her melody and clamors. The cats of Istanbul has got a dedicated docu-film too, named Kedi.

Istanbul Tales is an anthology depicted on five stories, Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood and Pied Piper and entirely shot in Turkey, portraying stunning locales. Chekov’s short story The Wife has been adapted on Big Screen in the Turkish drama Winter Sleep shot at the fairy tale chimneys of Cappadocia!

If crime thrillers fascinate you, allow some time to watch The Two Faces of January starring Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst. You will drool over the Grand Bazar apart from following the pacy sequences. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is another arty dark film for an intense watch.

Books to read about Turkey before you visit!

While reading about Turkey, start with the maestro, Orhan pamuk. All of his books are unputdownable, however My Name Is Red is an extra ordinary read. Follow up on this beautiful read of love, mystery and art with Pamuk’s other favortites, Istanbul: Memories and the City and Museum of Innocence.
“The Other Side of the Mountain” by Erendiz Atasü is a complex novel transcending time tracing back the life during Ottoman empire!
“Dear Shameless Death” by Latife Tekin is a woman’s take on growing up in modern day Turkey told through various shades of magic realism.
“Five Sisters: A Modern Novel of Kurdish Women” by Kit Anderson tells about the marginal women’s life, struggle, fateful journey from a distant Kurdish mountain.
The Bastard of Istanbul” by Elif Şafak examines Turkey’s role in the Armenian Massacre. It irked the Turkish government at some point of time for depicting brutal truth about the regime!

In case if you have been backpacking in Turkey, and have noticed any significant change with the new normal being in place, kindly let is know in the comment section below. Has the land of empires changed much?

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Tracing back Antiquity in Egypt Captured in 20 Travel Pictures

With an abundance of historic artefacts, nuanced course of Middle eastern politics, amicable locals and shower of ruthless sunshine, traveling to Egypt is overwhelming. I have written detailed blogs on Egypt travel tips, a perfect itinerary for backpacking Egypt, advised on possible travel costs but Egypt is so much more than that!

You need to walk on the dust sediments gifted by the old Sahara desert under a moonlit night while the profound necropolis loom large by the sprawling metropolis of Cairo. You need to witness how pacy metro line can easily juxtapose with thousands of years of pyramids. You need to take koshari, a vegan friendly staple found in Egypt in abundance followed by a a glass of hibiscus juice. Standing right at the heart of Tahrir Square, the birth place of Arab Spring, you need to glance at the serpentine course of Nile river, and feel surges of emotion! As much as the pyramids of Gaza remain a true wonder of the world, the very existence of Egypt is nothing short of a miracle.

In this blog post, I try to highlight pictures of Egypt, the magical land of pyramid and resistance and kindness and power politics, as I witnessed in my short stint. These pictures leave me wanting to revisit Egypt, and relive these memories and more!

Also read: Practical travel tips for traveling to Egypt!

the Great Pyramids of Gaza stand at a distance to the west of Cairo. Historically, Egyptians believed the dead live in the west and the east is home to the living. And yes, Pyramids of Giza are not located very far from downtown Cairo!

A crimson sunset sky illuminating the Cairo canvas! This was the day of Eid al Adha. I shot this from the foot bridge over Nile that connected Zamalek (an expat “ghetto” located at a riverine island on Nile) with downtown Cairo (Tahrir square. The air resonated with people’s mirth and celebrations! I love navigating through an urban space to tap into the pulse of a society!

While Egypt is a Sunni Muslim majority country, Cairo being a truly old metropolis has seen many communities living in designated quarters and holding on to their distinct custom. this is especially true when you visit the Coptic Cairo area. I am conflicted in my mind as to which place i hold dearer in my mind, Coptic Cairo or Islamic Cairo!

Also read: 20 photos of Ethiopia that will inspire you to travel.

Meandering through the cobblestoned walkways of old Coptic Cairo of Egypt where religious books were placed on shelves telling you about nuanced approach of Orthodox Christianity. For the uninitiated, Orthodox Christianity remains closer to its Arabic roots and differ to Catholic Christianity in rituals to a great extent!

A mummy I clicked at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. While the first time I saw a mummy, I was at the national Museum of India, Calcutta, I did not feel the astounding feeling of amazement. Here in Cairo, I stood witness to this human mechanism that resisted the gnaw of time for a whooping 5000 years time span! The soul departed but the man remained. Probably he was a Pharaoh. A man of fortune, power and unrelenting following. One of the most powerful men from lower Egypt. Now wrapped in the protective papyrus which too dates back to thousands of years and safeguarding the human mechanism! This was incredible.

Lo and behold! the great pyramids of Giza! The only standing old world wonder of the world of the seven others which blended in with dirt!

Depending on the time of the day you visit this place, you will be fully acclaim the experience. We did a mistake, visited the Giza Pyramids at 10 in the morning with the sun shining bright at the dome of the sky and our whole body burning! No amount of sun block provided respite from the scorch!

If you are a bit more tactical, you can change your camera angle and picture the pyramids as if they are standing nowhere right at the middle of a desert. That is not true in reality though, Giza pyramids stand surprisingly close to the city of Cairo, right at the outskirt of the city of Cairo!

Also read: Zanzibar, a romance between Indian Ocean and the old island state captured through 20 photo!

The queen Nefertiti portrayed on an earthen plate sold as a souvenir at the famed Khan e Khalili market in Cairo, Egypt! It is nice if you know about the queens and Pharaohs and the intriguing history they inflicted on Egypt. It is okay if you don’t. Just buy the souvenirs bases on riot of colors on the pallet and come back and educated yourself (may be) on that particular entity. History, especially that ancient, will not change easily!

A beautiful sunset taking place at the backdrop of Nubian village as seen from Aswan. A Nile cruise ship is docked at the river bank. Nile cruises do not sail a lot as the distances they cover are not that great.

Astounding window art of medieval Egyptian world by the Orthodox Christian community as captured at the Coptic Cairo museum! The intricate art of this window reminded me of Rajasthan, India !

Also read: Poetry on door art in Stone town, Zanzibar!

Visiting departmental stores of a new country is one of my most favorite travel activities. I think this is written in Hebrew? I shot this milky drink at an upscale departmental store at Zamalek where I also shopped for many gourmet souvenirs.

An ancient Egyptian God carved out of a hippo teeth! I shot this at the Egyptian Museum!

Also read: The terracotta horses of Bankura, West Bengal!

Cairo nightlife as captured on the night of Eid al Adha!

Glimpse of Cairo, the dusty city in faint pink hue during golden hour from the top of a mosque from Islamic Cairo, another must visit destination in Egypt!

Also read: Most beautiful mosques of Europe!

Not many visit this place but the stepped pyramid of Saqqara was the first pyramid built in ancient Egypt. The structure collapsed due to imbalance in structure and then came the Great Pyramids of Gaza but Saqqara can be an interesting detour nonetheless!

A horse carriage that we wanted to get rid of in Cairo but could not. The owner also wanted to sell us cannabis but we refuged! We would have refuged the horse ride too but he insisted his horse did not eat for days. Well, look at the poor animal’s rib cage.

Hibiscus juice served at almost every other dine in joints in Egypt. The cold elixir is a beautiful drink, served cold, that heals the heat struck soul of a weary traveler!

Also read: 50+ Offbeat Tourist Attractions in Goa!

The hanging mosque of Luxor. The mosque compound share its wall with one of the ancient temples of Egypt. Call of prayer echo in its halls as well!

From the walls of Luxor temple! Hyroglifics script written and protected from days! The Anubis ( the character with the mask of a fox) is basically death of God. In ancient Egypt, those who used to mummify would actuallyput on the mask of Anubis as the procedure started!

The mighty Karnak temples and its ancient pillar that are found in Luxor, the destination in Egypt soon to eclipse Cairo!

Also read: Bonedi barir Durgapuja in Kolkata!

The pillared halls of Karnak temple at Luxor gets beautifully lit up after sun down.

The valley of Queen at Luxor. It is okay if you get templed-out in Luxor but keep you eyes open for an astounding show of ancient artefacts around the area, especially at the valley of the kings and the queen and the ancient necropolis!

While visiting the valley of the queen, do look out for the caves where ancient Christian took refuge after they were persecuted! Your guide should see you from a distance.

Boat trip to Philae temple felt a lot like visiting Hampi with all these massive boulder rocks surrounding beautiful blue river!

Also read: Photo blog on Sikkim– the small state tucked away in the Himalayan wilderness!

Romancing the Nile river on a Dhow Boat! The Show Boats were basically used in the course of Nile river for transport, trade and agriculture since ages. The infamous slave trades of Africa had many rales associated with the Show boats .

Today, dhow boat stand as a viable and cheaper alternative to a full fledged Nile cruise. We hopped onto the boat and set sail during golden hour as the boat followed mellow river breeze!

Two Egyptian boys row their skate board boat (or what is it?) with their hands and cross the mighty Nile! Is this even possible? I wonder even after I had seen and captured this for real!

Also read: Photo blog on Mauritius!

Dolma, made with potol (parwal, pointed gourd)! I knew Dolma is an Arabic dish but I was pleasantly surprised when Dolma came as accompaniment while we were busy eating some falafel at a ramshackle restaurant at the old market of Luxor! There were many vegetables but that submerged Potol stole and been stealing my heart ever since I clicked this picture!

lake Naseer, the enormous dam built on the river Nile at Aswan as viewed from Abu Simbel. Nile being the blood supply of a substantial landmass at the horn of Africa has been subjected to heavy political discourse and related action in the region. A drying source of this ancient and great river has prompted authorities to build dams and take actions to protect their territory and agriculture, stating forward a direct threat to regional political understanding. Aswan dam has long been critiqued as a short stint political move but only time will tell how that will unfurl!

One of the two enormous rock cut temples of Abu Simbel. The entire structure was under direct threat to be inundated with flooding water once the Nile dam had been completed! US extended research and technology to Egyptian scientists to design and move the entire structure as is at a risen position, immune from the possibility of a sudden inflow of gushing water! Today, the temples stand in all their glory, facing the sun and safeguarding thousand years’ secret tales!

Also read: Colours of a Bengali wedding house!

Inside Aby Simbel temple. The towering statues stand in alert throughout era, protecting the upper kingdom of Egypt!

At the temple of Hatshepsut, the female ruler who wore a beard and ruled ancient Egypt as a Pharaoh. Her regime was a unique one, and enamored with the rise of a single woman resisting mounting patriarchy prevalent in those times. The kings that followed her regime tried hard to erase her legacy and history but rumors and aw remains through millenia!

The dense forest of pillars found in Luxor at the Karnak temple is one of the best examples of how advanced ancient Egyptians were when it comes to engineering and architectural designs! be prepared to visit there in all your flowing gowns and click one of the most memorable candid travel shots!

Also read: Two weeks traveling in Myanmar (with stunning pictures)

I pictured this at a museum at Coptic Cairo. The Dog faced saints intrigued me to no extent! There are many interesting facets regarding Orthodox Christian practices. I learnt a lot about this while traveling in Ethiopia but the first glimpse of that was observed in Egypt!

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read the disclosure post. If you have liked the article, you may support it by buying using these links without any extra cost to you.

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20+ Top Rated Tourist Attractions in West Bengal: A Local’s Guide

In this blog, I write about the best places to travel in West Bengal. Travelers have explored these tourist attractions in Bengal since millennia. They loved the mountains of the north of Bengal, the beaches beyond Digha, the overwhelming cultural presence in the city of Kolkata, the remnants of history that is presence in the melting pot of Bengal. The Mughals, The zamindars, the British and the first renaissance in India. Bengal paved way for a new dawn in the subcontinent. Read on and decide on your next weekend destination in West Bengal, away from the maddening crowd!

I think I have written about Bengali’s fascination about DiPuDa trail as the ideal places to places in West Bengal. Dipuda is not Dipu dada though but it could well be! Legends have it Bengalis travel extensively to DiPuDa and DiPuDa only. Digha for beach breeze, Puri for pilgrimage (or is it the Khaja?) and Darjeeling, the Himalayan queen! Among these places to visit in West Bengal, Puri is in Orissa. I stand corrected!

But West Bengal itself is a world full of beautiful possibilities and countless tourist attractions. The state is quivering with a jeweled chest of valuable lessons in history. The battle of Plassey took place here that arguably shaped the most important chapter of Indian history, bringing the British East India Company to this part of the world! The British Indian capital of Calcutta, equipped with modern institutions imparting scientific education rising over caste and gender identity paved way for the Indian renaissance. Calcutta is where the bill passed that restricted Satidaha, burning of Hindu widows, a barbaric medieval ritual among the upper caste men. Bengal is where the sapling of modern India was reared with care until the turbulent days of Partition arrived that mass mobilized millions across the subcontinent causing a generational trauma and suffering. Memories of partition remains etched forever in the history of the land and continues to influence politics till date in West Bengal.

I do not believe travel can be apolitical. A man is loyal to his politics. In travel, a joyful and spontaneous activity, his political leaning will be manifested without an iota of doubt! Tourist attractions in West Bengal will feed you to heart’s content if political history of Indian subcontinent fascinates you!

Traveling in West Bengal is in many ways similar to reading various chapters of history. Her nuanced culture manifests through various subtle traits in food habits, cultural celebrations, rituals, olden verses and idioms. Today, in West Bengal, you can find an astounding display of cultural amalgamation in the tourist places. The very English breakfast of Flury’s is celebrated with much fanfare similar to the homely plate of Luchi Begun Bhaja and sumptuous Nihari of Zakaria street that runs short in supply even before sunrise during iftari!

In this blog post, I will try to paint a pretty picture of tourist attractions in West Bengal, with the highlights, the lesser known offbeat destinations as well as the grandeur of celebrations! I repeat, a pretty picture of Bengal since the focal point of the state is often captured by the city supreme, Kolkata! Not that I can complain much, but lest we forget it is the iconic rural beauty of Bengal that inspired poets to create timeless literary genius since millennia!

West Bengal is an ideal tourist destination for solo female travelers, slow travelers, family and cultural travels, leisure travels and those keen on shopping and living a city life. There are plenty of places to visit in West Bengal.

Siddheswari ashram Pice Hotel
A traditional Bengali fish lunch at a pice hotel in Kolkata: The best places to visit in West Bengal

Kolkata… Calcutta… City of Love!

Kolkata is a city of languish, now. But history had been kinder to Kolkata in yester years. The city, originally three rural settlements of seventeenth century Bengal, served as the capital of British Raj until the turbulent days of Bengal partition. Your travel in West Bengal would ideally start with Kolkata. Howrah Station, to be more specific.

Traveling to West Bengal requires you to spend at least a few days in Kolkata, even better if you are there during the eclectic celebrational times, the famed Durgapuja! If time is not a luxury, assign Kolkata at least a week of travel time. The cultural capital of India deserves all of it, and more!

The north of the city retains old charms, in Gothic structures of the old crumbling palatial houses, also known as Bonedi Bari of the Babus employed directly under British payroll. The old narrow lanes of Burrahbazar area, the refined Uttor Kolkata ness of Shyambazar residents, the sombre tram rides and the stunning college street area appeals to one and all. In Kolkata, your morning routine should have a visit to the markets, ideally a fish market to witness cacophony first hand, followed by a sip from a warm cup of tea served on an earthen pot.

The Chowrangee area, also known to be the Dharmotola or Central Kolkata is where the Britishers had established their offices and courtroom. The Maidan, also known as Garer Math, has witnessed revolution and love. Visiting Park street and the pubs of the area remains exclusive to the more privileged urban class of the city. And I can bet my life on the fact, experiencing pub culture in Park street is not comparable to anywhere else in the country. And yes, I live in Bangalore.

Pubs are the forte of this city! Check out the old school fire dining restaurants like Mocambo or Peter Cat decked with handpicked tablecloth linens and fresh flowers as centerpiece that serve classical French full course, starting from Chicken Ala Kiev to Lobster Thermidor!

The south of Kolkata, where pretty picturesque places like Gariahat and Ballygunge are, is posh and more expensive to hung around. The bazars are inundated with stylish picks that are hard to ignore. The saree shops are plenty and all of them have exclusive collection! Dare I say Saree Shops of Kolkata feature on the higher side of the list of tourist destinations in West Bengal!

Streets of Kolkata, India
Kolkata the capital is one of the most beautiful tourist attraction in West bengal

The river Ganga flows by her side, making beautiful promenade and intriguing history at the ghats. Unless I mention about the exorbitant Durgapuja pandals of the city, any mention related to Kolkata remains understated. The city of joy boasts of an unprecedented celebration which was nominated to be the UNESCO World Heritage but sadly did not make it to the final selection. However, I feel every living person on the Earth deserve to experience this beautiful overflowing 5 days of joy and mirth.

Dawn bari Kolkata: Bonedi Barir Durgapuja
Durgapuja celebration at Dawn Bari, one of the bonedi bari of Kolkata which happens to be a major tourist attraction in West Bengal during Durgapuja!

Reaching Kolkata is easy. Being the nodal point of business of the East and Northeast of India and an important juncture of Indian politics, Kolkata has always been well connected with the rest of the country, as well as the world. Reach the Dumdum airport named after Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and run through the sleek road of VIP avenue. Or, reach Kolkata by an express train to Howrah station, from where Burrahbazar is just the distance of a cantilever bridge. You can also reach Sealdah station, a rail station swarmed with millions of footfall each day!

Kolkata is famed to be an extremely affordable metropolis. While you can splurge at certain pockets of the city that produces one of the largest numbers of billionaires, you may also experience Kolkata at a shoestring budget. From INR 300 (USD 4) to INR 2000 (USD 30) per day, you can have a plethora of experiences in Kolkata.

Darjeeling… the Queen of Hills!

After Kolkata, you need top head north of the state, to the Himalayan abode named Darjeeling. The world knows Darjeeling for the aromatic first flush but for us, Darjeeling is the queen of Hills, our first refuge from the mundane world. You can visit he mountains and bury your gloom and sorrow and come back to the plain land as a new man!

Darjeeling served as the summer capital for the Britishers for those who wanted to escape the punishing humid summer of Bengal. The foothill of Himalayas here are adorned with rolling tea gardens and beautiful jungles. The town of Darjeeling is inhabited by the Nepalese, Gorkhas, Tibetans and houses plenty of churches, convent schools and quaint little cafes.

Scene from Glenery’s, Darjeeling: one of the best places to visit in West Bengal

You can spend a quick weekend in Darjeeling. You may also extend your stay a bit and spend a week in Darjeeling. Choose one of the heritage bungalows built as summer escape by the erstwhile Maharajas or beautiful homestays hued in myriad mountain bloom, watch the azure sky kiss the entire range of Sleeping Buddha. At night, go seek the ghosts of Darjeeling, the lost Britishers whose soul could not depart from this mountain station!

Darjeeling is beautiful despite being loved to death by over tourism. Thankfully, a series of new destinations are making their way to the tourist map, thanks to social media. Most of these destinations resemble a utopic land. Days are made of snow capped mountain at a distance, a thin mountain stream which becomes voluptuous at the advent of monsoon, a quaint little hut and a meal of fiery hot country chicken. Ahaldara, Lataguri, Jhalong, Tumling, Dhotrey are some of these beautiful offbeat places in North Bengal which can be easily clubbed with a visit to Darjeeling. I recommend Sandakfu, especially.

Of course, tourists can opt for the 7 points or 9 points day trip surrounding in Darjeeling on a daily basis. When in Darjeeling, two things you must not miss, gorging on steamed momo and sipping on the first flush. You can skip the early morning visit to Tiger hill and thank me later!

Also read: 20+ beautiful pictures from Winter Sikkim to inspire your next travel!

Old Pictures of Toy Train
Darjeeling is also home to the iconic UNESCO heritage toy train. It takes months for one to get a confirmed ticket beforehand.

To reach anywhere in North Bengal, head straight to the Bagdogra airport. It is a tiny airport which serves sumptuous fish fry and a local beer named Denzongpa. Bagdogra airport is also an army airport. Otherwise, take the night train from Kolkata and reach New Jalpaiguri (NJP station) at the start of the day and take the 4 hour drive uphill to reach Darjeeling. This is also the way to reach Sikkim in case you are traveling by train!

Due to overwhelming tourist footfall, Darjeeling can be particularly costly during tourist seasons. Consider a budget of INR 3000 (USD 30) for a comfortable stay in Darjeeling. If you can manage to visit with a group of friends, this price will come down considerably. The queen of hill now has a hostel for backpackers as well. For the luxury travelers, I recommend a stay at the Elgin, one of the most beautiful hotels in Darjeeling!

Century old Elgin Hotel: one of the most beautiful luxury tourist attractions in Darjeeling, West Bengal

Also read: A week in Shillong, the beautiful old town of North east India!

Kalimpong: A Sleepy Tourist Destination in North Bengal

Surrounded by rolling tea gardens at every direction, Kalimpong is one of the most pristine hill station of West Bengal. Kalimpong boasts of a number of tea estates first set up by the Britishers, convent schools, churches, colonial buildings, meadows from where paragliders take a flight towards the sky. For the hiking enthusiasts, there is an inevitable charm of winning over the Deolo hills.

While Kalimpong is comparatively more serene than Darjeeling, it is here or in Kurseong you can truly escape the urban madness yet indulge in the usual privileges. A budget of USD 40 each day (INR 3000) is enough to travel in Kalimpong, which also happens to be one of the most solo female travel friendly destinations in India.

Sonada, lesser known mountains of North Bengal!

Sonada comes on the way back from Darjeeling to New Jalpaiguri. It is a Himalayan hamlet covered with dense towering deodars where mist is omnipresent. The tiny serpentine track of toy train runs by the side. Your eyes will run as far as the mountains roll with tea gardens. At a distance, Kanchenjunga dazzles. The jungle derives her sheen from the insurmountainable morning mist. Sonada is a rural settlement, devoid of tourist vanities yet stunningly beautiful. To taste the true feel of an obscure mountain life, head to Sonada, and spend considerable time in the jungle if you are not staying in at the homestay for the better part of the day!

Also read: 5 days traveling in Leh and exploring the offbeat day trips from Leh!

Cooch Behar: Abode of the Erstwhile King

Set at the Himalayan foothill, Cooch Behar is a prominent town in North Bengal. From Siliguri, plenty of buses run each day that will take you to Cooch Behar. While in the town, be sure to check out the Victor Jubilee Palace, also known as the Cooch Behar Palace. Often compared to the Buckingham Palace in London, the Cooch Behar palace was built by the  Maharaja Nripendra Narayan, an erstwhile Maharaha of the Koch Kingdom. Maharani Gayatri Devi, quintessentially the epitome of grace and beauty from India, belonged to the Koch dynasty.

For the nature enthusiasts, cooch Behar is located close to Rasik Bill, a wet land where plenty of migratory birds reside. Cooch Behar is a very Bengali town, located by the banks of Teesta river, which takes a muddy form as every river does while nearing densely populated locales.

Dooars… The Forests of the Himalayan Foothills!

Rhino mother and calf at Kaziranga
The prized one horned rhinos from the jungle of North Bengal!

The foothills of Himalaya is usually rich in diverse flora and fauna. North Bengal is no different. Once you reach the rain station at Alipurduar, you will be spoilt for choices while choosing a place jungle safari.

Dooars region spans across a vast landmass between Teesta in West Bengal and Dhansiri in Assam. Historically, this has served as a gateway between India and Bhutan with 18 passes. Interestingly, Manas National Park in Assam is also a part of this landmass. 

Indian Railway runs straight through the heart of the jungle connecting various tea gardens for obvious business interests. There have been multiple gruesome reports highlighting collision of locomotive engines with elephant herds. 

The jungle of Dooars are called home by a number of precious endangered species of the world: Bengal Tiger, Asiatic elephants, Indian rhinoceros, deers like chital, sambar, elusive clouded leopard, Black bear, Indian leopard, the great Indian hornbill, newts and monitor lizard, Indian Python, very rare hare species (Hispid), Himalayan tahr etc. The rivers are home to crocodiles and gharial. Birding enthusiasts can expect to find a glimpse of the rare avian species like Eurasian spoonbill, brahminy duck, storks, such as painted stork, Indian cormorant, red-naped ibis, kingfisher etc.

The forests of Dooars jungle are well equipped with forest bungalows, cottages, and safari cars. For a fortunate visitor, there is plethora of surprise in the deep of the jungle.

Continuous encroachment of forest land due to widening tea estates had been a real threat to the wildlife of the region. However, once these jungles have been covered under the umbrella of national reserve forest, tourism has experienced a steady growth and poachers have been shunned away by the local protectors.

  1. Gorumara Forest and Lataguri forests are nearby and can be covered in one trip. You need at least couple of days here.
  2. Visit Jaldapara and Buxa Tiger Reserve together. Buxa tiger reserve is also known as Chilapata jungle.

While a stay and food at Dooars will not cost you more than USD 40 (INR 3000) each day, the jungle safari should be anywhere between INR 200 to INR 4000 depending on the choice of vehicle (or elephant ride, which I do not recommend).

Jungle safari at kaziranga during Sunrise
The Jungle of Dooars happens to be one of the best places to visit in West Bengal!

Also read: How to plan a trip to Kaziranga national Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

Shantiniketan, Abode of the Bard! The most Cultural Place to Visit in West Bengal!

Acres of land was bought by a visionary of Bengal years ago. Rabindranath’s passion project, Shanti Niketan gained popularity as the address of Biswa Bharati University, a premier institution imparting independent education dating back to colonial era. In the age when every middle class aspired for a government job, Biswa Bharati was an exception. Soon, it attracted the brightest of minds from around the globe, who had the sheer privilege of studying right under the able guidance of none other than Rabindranath Thakur.

The famous poet of Bengal, Jamini Roy, practiced his art here. Other notable alumni included Indira Gandhi, Syed Mujtaba Ali, Satyajit Ray, Amartya Sen, Ramkinkar Baij, Mahasweta Devi etc.

Shantiniketan today is more famous for the vivid celebration of Dol, Basanto Utsab. What is known as Holi in north India, is celebrated as the advent of spring in Bengal. It is the same in the spirit but Biswa Bharati stresses on a cultural program as a prelude to the colour catastrophe. 

If you want to experience Holi in India but are afraid of venturing into the heartland of Uttar pradesh due to safety concerns, head towards Bolpur shantiniketan instead. It retains the regional charm and how! 

Shantiniketan is also famous for Sonajhuri Haat, a weekend bazaar where tribals come and sell a plethora of beautiful art and woven products along with stunning Dhokra jewelry (sustaining since the days of Indus valley civilization. Roughly 4000 years). 

The arid land known as Khoyai by the river bank is another beautiful somber attraction of Shantiniketan. Many Bengali movies are shot here as the protagonists prance around towering shawls and teak trees in order to romance on screen! 

It takes less than 3 hours to reach Shantiniketan from Kolkata by the morning train from Sealdah. Hotels start from 1000 rs per night. Do indulge in a sumptuous Bengali lunch when traveling to Shantiniketan. Shantiniketan is one tourist attraction in west bengal that has the right amount of culture, nature and gourmet cuisine. Moreover, it is a budget friendly tourist destination of West Bengal!

Basanta Utsav or Dol Utsab celebrated at at Shantiniketan
A group of people watching over the celebration of Basanta Utsav at Shantiniketan

Also read: The best places to visit in Karnataka!

Chupir Chor, Purbasthali for the Birding Enthusiasts Traveling in West Bengal

Chupir Chor is a rather offbeat destination in Bengal. Famous for birding, Chupir Chor is a riverine marshland in Bardhaman that is home to a number of avian species, many of them being migratory birds who visit only during the misty winter mornings. This is indeed a birder’s paradise, a lot like Dandeli in North Karnataka. To reach Chupir Chor, get onto a Katoa Local, get down at Purbasthali station. 

The waterbody is also known as Khari Ganga to the locals. It is an almost stagnant water body, with hyacinth and dense foliage crowding the river bed. Rent a boat during sunrise or sundown and trace the birds at Chupir Chor. Avoid monsoon since visibility is limited during that time. Mayapur temple of Nabadwip is located very close to Chupir Chor as well.

Birding at Dandeli
Birding in Bengal is always a cherished experience for a discerning traveler!

Mayapur, Nabadwip

A major pilgrimage stop for the Vaishnavite sect of Hinduism, Mayapur nabadwip is the birth place of mahaprabhu Chaitanya deb. With Mayapur, I find an uncanny similarity of Varanasi. The town chants sacred hymns at every corner, even in silence. 

By train or bus, Krishnanagar or mayapur is only 4 hours away. Though it was a prominent stop for the pilgrims traversing all the way from as far as Manipur of North east India. 

The Mayapur ISKCON temple is a beautiful religious institute where people from all over the world come and live and they have facilities to host guests as well. I vividly remember the tune to which they perform hare krishna dance every evening during prayer. My heart was filled with joy by seeing that unhindered show of mirth and joy. 

The old town of Nabadwip is dotted with plenty of temples dedicated to Chaityadeb. This is where Geetgobindo was penned down by the eminent poet Jaydev in another era! 

Please wear modest cloth and be informed the town does not serve non vegetarian food. 

108 Shiv Mandir of Kalna: Religious Travel Destinations in West Bengal

The 108 terracotta Shiv temples of Kalna is a quintessential example of expert craftsmanship and beautifully planned architecture. Located at Ambika Kalna of East Burdwan, the 10 Shiv mandir belonged to the erstwhile kingdom of Tamralipta. Built two centuries ago, the 108 temples consist of two circles with 74 and 34 temples in each stretch. It provides a beautiful photography opportunity. While visiting this destination also check out nearby attractions: Lalji Mandir, Krishna Chnadra Mandir, Projapori Bari, Gopalbari mandir etc.

While visiting Kalna, you can plan a trip to Phulia as well, famed for producing the best of Bengal Tant cotton sarees of the state.

Best places to visit in West Bengal

Hangseshwari Temple, Bengal’s Real Hogwarts!

At the town named Bansberia of Hooghly, the Bengal’s Hogwarts, Hangseshwari Ratna temple stands in all her glory. In of the offbeat tourist destinations in West Bengal, Hangseshwari Ratna Temple has come to limelight with many travel groups present in social media! The presiding deity of the old temple is Kali, the eternal mother figure of Bengal and her hinterlands. In the late eighteenth century, the stepping stone to Hangseshwari temple was laid by Raja Nrisinhadeb Roy Mahasay and later finished by his widowed wife. 

The temple has 13 distinct minars, resembling lotus petals. Five stories of the temple resemble five parts of human mechanism, as illustrated in Tantric rituals. The temple can be accessed by a quick train ride on the bandel line from Howrah station. This is a perfect day trip from Kolkata. 

Bandel Church, a stronghold of Portuguese Days

One of the oldest Portuguese churches of Bengal, the bandel church, also known as Basilica of the Holy Rosary is little more than 400 years old. It is one of the historic places to visit in West Bengal. Bandel, the port town was frequented by the Portuguese who obtained permission to establish a church by the emperor Akbar. It shares some semblance with the church architecture of old Goa. The entrance of the church is adorned by a ship’s mast in memory of a vessel that survived a dangerous storm on the sea! 

I have had a chance to taste the distinct Bandel cheese as well, which was inspired by the missionaries of Portugal. You get that in the New market at a stall opposite the Nahoums. 

While visiting the Bandel church, you may also make a quick detour to the Hoogly Imambara. Bandel is easily accessible from Kolkata by trains and you may finish this trip in a day. 

Gadiara, the Obscure village on the confluence of major rivers

Gadiara is a small village some 100 km away from Kolkata. I visited Gadiara with my school teachers as a part of an excursion. Gadiara is where rupnarayan river meets with Hoogly river. The confluence is highlighted by an olden lighthouse and a typical rural set up, mostly safeguarded from the urban vanity. Book a stay with the Gadiara tourist lodge if you are planning to stay for a night. You can also make a day trip and head back home in the last bus to the city. Gadiara stages some of the most beautiful sunsets! Gadiara is one of the most serene places to visit in West Bengal with tranquil nature!

Taki, the border town: one of the most scenic places to visit in West Bengal

Standing by the banks of river Ichamati, Taki is a border town between India and Bangladesh. This could have been a serene peaceful rural bengal settlement but the fuming politics of present day subcontinent is progressingly making an impact in Taki. 

Once upon a time, Taki the border town used to see the best of idol immersion of both the bengals during the end of Durgapuja. Boats of various shapes and sizes would crowd the river stream. Durga idols will come from various parts of the land to be immersed into the water. Taki made for a stunning photo op. However, that has ceased now because a porous border gives rise to various political debates. Who is crossing over… what is one’s identity and many other uncomfortable questions arises. 

Nonetheless, Taki remains a stunning destination. Various river streams cut through each other. Mangroves grow in abundance. Boats frequent the water. 

Taki can be visited by state run bus and locals trains heading towards Hasnabad and Bongao. A few guest houses are there, one of them being government run.

Also read: the most beautiful Beaches in Goa for the first time visitor!

Gongoni, West Midnapur: Stunning Tourist attraction in West bengal

Often hailed as the Grand Canyon of India, Gongoni is a deep protruding gorge on Shilabati River that stands out in distinct deep rust hue in stark contrast to the azure sky! 

You may access Gongoni by the morning train, Ruposhi bangla. Get down at Garbeta and hire a rickshaw van to reach Gongoni gorge. This place is particularly popular during winter afternoons and turns into a picnic spot, thanks to water level that hardly crosses ankle depth. 

Gongoni is enormous and that is where her charm lies. Not a soul could suspect such vibrant arid land mass could be somewhere close to Bengal that is otherwise lush green and fertile in demeanor. Do check out a few of the ancient stone temples of Garbeta which was the dominion of old Bagdi kings. Mythology connects Gongoni with Bheem of Mahabharata who slayed Demon Bakasura. 

Also read: Complete guide to traveling to Hampi!

Purulia, The True Surprise of Rarh Bangla!

The charm of the red earth lingers in a visitor’s mind when the soul is attached to Purulia! The infectious energy of Chow mask dance, an elaborate costume worn by the artist while performing to the storylines of Ramayana and Mahabharata, the bounty of Palash Blossom during spring, which makes the land looks like red woven on red, the intangible heritage of ancient art and craft: Purulia is the best kept secret of not just Bengal but the entire India! 

Now hailed as one of the most beautiful tourist destinations of West Bengal, Purulia was the hotbed of Nakshal insurgency in Indian Red Corridor even a decade back. To trace back the history, go through the posters of the village walls.

Hop onto Purulia Express and spend the evening from on the train that departs from Howrah station on a regular basis and you shall reach Purulia. For a first time visitor, Purulia demands at least 5 days. If you fall in love, allow Purulia a significant time and unearth beauties which remained hidden at the nameless corners of the district. Here in Purulia, you get a chance to be the explorer in a true sense! 

Purulia has some of the profound dam systems built on the course of Damodar river as a part of the archaic 5 year plans India took up as a sovereign country in the initial days. You may spend the nights at adjacent government tourist bungalows. Baranti hill, Jaychandi Pahar, Garpanchkot Dam, Khairabera dam, Bamni waterfall are some of the premium tourist attractions of Purulia!

If possible, watch a Jatra performance in the typical rural set up. That in my opinion will be one of the exclusive local performance experience for you!

Bishnupur Travel Blog
A tribal lady busy making brooms. Bishnupur, Bankura, one of the most prominent tourist destinations in West Bengal.

Temple Town of Bishnupur: The Quintessential best place to visit in West Bengal

My ancestral house is in Bankura. I spent the initial 5 years there and always remained connected to the land no matter how far I live. The red earth of Bankura has this magical pull to my soul. Now that I have a platform, I leave no stone unturned to amplify Bankura’s (or the Rarh region of Bengal for that matter) art and culture and heritage. 

If I am to highlight a single destination of bankura, this has to be Bishnupur, the temple town. History tells us Bishnupur was established by the Malla kings. History traces back to three centuries or more when all the ornate terracotta temples of Bishnupur were established. Red burnt bricks were made to use. The small aatchala temples invoke intense appreciation with prolonged walls filled with handwork that sustained the gnaw of time and retained glorious remnants of the king’s patronage.

Radhashyam temple, Rasmancha, shyam rai temple, Gar darja, Dalmadal kaman, Chinnamasta temple are some of the tourist attractions of Bishnupur. 

When in Bishnupur, do check out the intricate weaving process of Baluchari sarees. These sarees were initially woven at Murshidabad, where the artisans received direct patronage of the nawabs. Later, the empire fell and they moved and settled at Bishnupur and imbibed the heritage of Bishnupur temples of the border and anchal of the silk sarees. It takes anywhere between a week and a few months to weave beautiful Baluchari sarees, which was earlier used for Bengali wedding ceremonies. The weavers work hard and find little to no taker to pay the price for their toil, which is why many do not want their children to take up the profession. Revival project of Baluchari is undergoing an attempt though by the government. 

A pure Baluchari silk saree will have stories of Ramayana or Mahabharata or trade routes (like they show on many temple panels of Bishnupur) woven on them. Bishnupur is indeed one of the stops for textile tourism in India!

Standing by the emblem of Terracotta Temples of West Bengal, Ras Mancha, Bishnupur. One of the most unique tourist attractions in West Bengal!
Baluchari saree of Bishnupur

A beautiful Baluchari saree that my Pishi had gifted my mother and I wore during my brother’s wedding. One of the most beautiful weaves of ancient India.

The preparation of a war... Terracotta temples, Bishnupur.
The preparation of a war… Terracotta temples, Bishnupur.

The temple motifs of Bishnupur which often appear on the border of Bishnupuri Baluchari sarees!

Jhargram: A Tourist Destination in West Bengal Tucked away in the Dense Forest!

If your heart longs for a quick escape to the dense canopy safeguarding the elephants of Dalma, head straight to Jhargram. Once a part of the notorious Red Corridor of central India plagued by Maoist Insurgency, Jhargram has returned to normalcy and has started to host tourists in picturesque serene cottages hidden underneath tall eucalyptus.

Jhargram came as a pit stop every time we headed to Bankura on Purulia Express. It is situated 3 hours off the railway track from Howrah and now connected to the city through national highway.

Jhargram is the closest you can come to live Sunil Ganguly’s Aranyer Dinratri. Located close to the tribal heartland, Jhargram retains a rustic charm about her appearance.  The hills of belpahari, red earth rich in iron ore, serene subtle Subarnarekha, older than time Kanak Durga temple, nameless falls complimenting the major one, Ghagra falls, Chilkigarh Palace are some of the usual tourist attractions of Jhargram. However, Jhargram’s heart lies in the stark arid nature which comes to life only during the advent of monsoon. Summer is scorching in this land. River Streams dry up, avians flee. Dense jungle safeguard many a secret of ancient India and her political upheaval which is impossible to witness in a quick trip. Had I been a film director, I would have shot Aranyak written by Bibhutibhushan either at Jhargram, or in the wilderness of Purulia!

Also read: Explore Kargil before you hop onto Leh: Offbeat Destination in Ladakh!

Nizam’s Palace! Hazarduari palace of Murshidabad: best places to visit in Bengal

Murshidabad: One of the most Prominent Historic Places to Visit in West Bengal

Now hidden in the obscure times, Murshidabad (erstwhile Kansona, Karnasuborbo) was the capital of Bengal (and Orissa & Bihar, political boundaries were volatile those days) until the advent of East India company. The glorious Nawabi rule of Bengal and its remnants are found aplenty in Murshidabad, a perfect weekend gateway from Kolkata.

Hazarduari express takes tourists swiftly from Kolkata to Murshidabad. Spend an extended weekend exploring the nook and corners of this old land, specially the humongous Hazarduari palace with an astounding 1000 stair cases. Also check out the Nizamat Imam bara, Madina Masjid, katra Mosque, the Jahankosha Topekhana, Nashipur Rakbari etc. The Kathgola Palace of Murshidabad appeared in Srijit Mukherjee’s visually stunning feature film, Ek je chilo Raja!

Maldah, the Mango basket of India

While the mango orchards of Malda are opening a new avenue in experiential tourism in West Bengal, few remember the historic heritage of the city Malda, also known as the gateway to North Bengal. Hop onto Shatabdi express and reach Malda in a few hours from Kolkata. Head straight to English Bazar or old Malda. 

Malda was the capital of Bengal before the British history started. The Goar-Pandua town is preserved by ASI. Check out Firoz minar, Chika Masjid, Kotwali Gate, Baroduari when in Malda. A shrine named Qudm-e-Rasul is believed to be the home of an original footprint of the Prophet Mohammad. 

For me, a major attraction of visiting Malda was to go to Farakka barrage. This is where Ganga gets divided into two, with the bigger tributary Padma making her way into Bangladesh. Farakka barrage is an important political tool of the international diplomacy of the subcontinent. 

Do try Kansat and Chom chom by a sweet shop named after Ratan and Kheer Kodom when you are in Malda.

Also read: 3 days spent in the breathtaking beauty of Western Ghat Monsoon at Chikmagalur, Karnataka!

Mandarmoni: A romantic Escape in West Bengal!

Do Digha a favor. Spare that scheduled visit to Digha, instead save for a while and go to Mandarmoni.

While Digha is the ubiquitous choice of every Bengali household seeking a beach vacation, the sea-shore is decaying faster than light year by day. Tons of families, individuals and tourist groups visit Digha, Some of them camp on the beach and make a feast, especially on new years and other days of collective celebration. Mics scream Bhojpuri music. Country chickens crow before being cut into pieces. Is it overwhelmingly ugly. 

My memory of Digha is filled with disdain. I recall the site of a used condom floating on a wave. Ideally, I would not mention Digha in my list of places to visit in West Bengal. To a certain extent, because I understand how over tourism is eating away her beauty and ruining the Digha beaches.

Instead, visit Mandarmani, the vast sea-shore with calmer waves and dotted with a handful of fishmen’s villages. 

Mandarmoni is changing its face fast with a steady flow of discerning tourists, mostly wealthy groups seeking a resort stay. The shore is a vast swath of land. The sea recedes and comes back based on the tidal cycle. Be careful before venturing into the sea. I recall by the end of the day, the waves reached right in  the front of the resort gate. 

In the morning, Mandarmani beach had a few sailboats making their way into the sea, to collect the day’s yield. The beach shacks sell plenty of coconuts and fish fry. Local moonshine is available but I suggest refrain from drinking it. It can kill. I am serious. 

Tajpur, the lure of stunning sunset sky!

Take an early morning bus to Digha from Esplanade in Kolkata. Get down at a bus stand named Balisai, a few km ahead of Digha. Hire a toto and reach your hotel or accommodation by driving on a road which seemed to be built during the reign of Alexander in Greece. 

Tajpur has a beautiful beach where you may sunbath and indulge in a few boat rides with the local fishermen. On a good day, you can see mandarmoni at a distance too. There is nothing much to do in Tajpur apart from relaxing. ALthough a secluded and printine beach, I would not recommend Tajpur to solo female travelers. This is an ideal weekend getaway from Kolkata for family and friends. 

Hotels will cost you anywhere between 1500 to 3000 per night. Guest houses provide limited accommodation with a budget as low as INR 500 per night. For three meals a day, you need another INR 600. Check out Viceroy resort, Tajpur Nature Camp and Tajpur retreat. Tajpur is an emerging tourist destination in West Bengal among the peaceful thrill seekers.

Tiger Royal bengal tiger at Chitwan national park

Sundorbon, Mangrove Kingdom & the Royal Bengal Tiger

If you are bored of consecutive visits to Digha and Mandarmani and Puri and looking for a serene beach destination somewhere near Kolkata, Tajpur is your friend!

The largest mangrove delta of the world, Sundarban is a national park of India, a UNESCO heritage site and the ubiquitous home to the elusive Royal Bengal Tiger. Visiting Sundarban is a crazy adventure. Raintracks cease to exist after Canning station. The roads are inundated during prolonged monsoon of Bengal. The rivers are ferocious. It is where their plight has ended. They seek refuge in the womb of Bay of Bengal! The river mouths are as gigantic as the home of prehistoric Megalodon had been! 

Sundarbon stands out with her insurmountable wealth of natural resources, flora and fauna, humans and the grim realities… If you delve deep in the history of the mangrove delta, Sundorbon will show you the grim reality of man-animal conflict and the twisted course of politics plaguing the subcontinent for ages. 

Sundarban is shared between India and Bangladesh. While only certain parts of the mangrove forest is accessible to tourists and locals, lion’s share is actively patrolled by forest guards and kept off limits to humans in order to safeguard the predators. 

An ideal trip to Sundarban revolves around sailing on  refurbished junk boats, and keeping a watchful eye for the birds and the tigers. Sometimes a crocodile, a lizard, a few deers will appear out of nowhere to give you company. If your guard is adventurous enough, you might just venture into the wilderness once in a while, take a dinghy boat at a moonlit night and explore the narrow channels. Needless to say, visiting Sundarban also equates to feasting on sumptuous luncheons of fish and rice! And river crabs, that too! 

It is wise to spend money in Sundarban in such a way that it directly benefits the locals instead of the resort owners who hail from the metropolis. I visited Sundarban with the Backpackers’ Sundarban Eco Village and stayed at a hut and a steamer for consecutive nights! The eco resort was strategically located right at the heart of a real village and we had ample chances to interact with the villagers.

Also read: The Chitwan National Park, Travel Guide to offbeat Nepal!

Gangasagar: Poetry By the Ancient Sea! (Sea Side Destinations in West Bengal)

Hindu religious scriptures mentions of an atheist sage in high respect, named Kapil Muni. His Ashram remains till date tucked in the sandy shores of Ganga Sagar. A 3 hour bus ride from the heart of Kolkata followed by a boat ride on the river Muriganga will bring you to Gangasagar. Ideally you should spend a couple of days here. If you are starting from Joka, a day trip is a possibility.

Every year, thousands of devotees walk to Ganga sagar to worship at Kapil Muni’s Ashram during mid January (famed as the Ganga Sagar Makarsankranti Mela or Ganga Snan). The ritual involves taking a dip in the river mouth at the crack of the dawn.

The place is also known as Sagar Deep, an island in the maze of humongous Gangetic delta. This is where river gaga leaves the landscape and merges with Bay of Bengal. Set up in simple rural Bengal, a visit to Gangasagar is a distinct beach experience, soaked in reverence by devout religious men for an atheist saint! That is the beauty of this country.

Like many other pilgrimage spots in India, Ganga Sagar is a very budget friendly destination. On a daily basis, you do not have to spend more than 500 rs a day here. Please note, hotels and restaurants are very basic.

Places to visit in West Bengal also equates to great Bengali food adventure!

Bakkhali: A Tranquil Place to visit in West Bengal by the Calm Sea!

I saw those gigantic buses running frantically on the Diamond Harbour Road as a girl growing up in Behala, south Kolkata suburb. The buses will flaunt parrot green colours, strange horns, and the destinations would be written in bold, Kakdwip, Bakkhali, Fraserganj, Diamond harbour. All of them were destined to reach the wee end of this Gangetic delta, where Ganga will soon merge with the Bay of Bengal. The landscape will have distinct signs of a progressing sea, saline water, palm groves, coconut groves, lush green paddy fields chasing ultramarine sky. This is where the iconic beauty of rural Bengal gets highlighted! 

Many small islands of the region (for example Henry island) had witnessed efforts being in place to a certain extent to establish a tourist infrastructure. Few resort style big hotels have sprang up, Hotel Punyalakshmi being a prominent one. 

Bakkhali also has a number of budget friendly hotels and thriving markets. The pice hotels serve fresh catch of the day for a surprisingly affordable price. You would not need more than INR 1000 each day to have a good stay at Bakkhali. Be mindful of the time you visit though. The seaside destination gets ravaged by periodic cyclones and you do not want to witness nature’s wrath. 

While this is a seaside town, Bakkhali does not really have a proper beach. It looks like a profound mouth of a waterbody.. It could be a river, it could be a sea… reality gets blurred at the surge of tidal waves.

I listed only a handful of prominent Tourist Destinations in West Bengal. Al beit, there are many more beautiful places to visit in West Bengal. The sleepy quaint villages at the border, the busy district towns with a distinct timeless feel, azure waterbody at the south of the state and countless rivers. West Bengal is a jewel for a discerning traveler who is yet to unfold many layers of her unexplored face! I will list down a number of hidden places to visit in North Bengal where beautiful family run homestays are eagerly waiting to host you at the fold of the mighty Himalayas! Stay tuned!

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Kolkata Street Style Chow Mein: Story of a Gradual Evolution!

The elusive Chinese cuisine of Kolkata is arguably the best in the world. Especially, the Calcutta style Egg Chow Mein can give the Cantonese variant a run for its money and so how! My earliest memory of eating Kolkata style Chinese is a bit dramatic. It started in Bankura, a small town of West Bengal where I was being raised as a toddler in a huge family. I am talking about the uiqtous joint families of India of 90s.

In a typical patriarchal setup of yesteryears, the joint families felt like living as a community, albeit genuinely cordial ones. There would be a head of the family, ideally the grandfather or the father. His wife and children, more than 1 (sometimes as much as 10 or more maybe), will create this beautiful big clan where generations will bring an invisible bond between the members. 

Anyway coming back to the story of Chinese Chow Mein, it was an experimental dish that was first learn by Boropishu, my father’s eldest sister who was living in in a large thriving metropolis far away from Bankura. I am talking about 90s Bombay which is obviously a huge dazzling city and shapes a sharp contrast to School Danga Bankura, our neighborhood. She learnt to cook Chow Mein and as a trickle down effect her mother, my grandmother also accepted and welcomed this experiment.

But eating local was our forte and remains so. While exotic dishes like vegetables like mushroom and red cabbage may not be easily available in the marketplace of a typical Bankura Bazaar, my grandmother would happily add a distinct local style to do the Chinese preparation. Henceforth, when the Cantonese Chow Mein takes the form of a Bankura dish it lets off the extra weight of red cabbage and trades it for ladies finger and potato. Please know, we Bengalis add potato to everything, including the Famous Kolkata Biryani My Boropishu used to add curry leaves to Chow mein for a long time.

So there you go. My earliest memory of eating Chow Mein is is on a Sunday breakfast table. The eggs would be fried first, like a Mamlet, and sometimes the lady’s finger will stick to that. The taste was somewhat that of a crunchy ladies finger which has an aroma of other world. Excuse me for the lack of a better word. the Bengali Chow Mein would definitely be cooked in mustard oil and also make some space for turmeric and local vegetables I told you about. Ladies finger and potato, and feel free to add in in cauliflower but cauliflower is a precious so the major chunk of it would be saved for Macher Jhol, never mind.

Our ideal everyday breakfast was Ruti and a bowl filled with milk sourced from the domesticated bovine. Yes, we had a cow at home. We would look forward for the Sunday mornings. On lucky days, we would have luchi. If not, we would have the chowmein

Anyway long story short, the first time I had a test of street style Kolkata chowmein was when I came to Howrah. My father started a diagnostic center in the name of my Grandma. On the inauguration day of the center, we had arranged for packet of Calcutta chowmein for every invitee. I was only five years old, so I was allocated only a half of a full packet of Kolkata Style Chow Mein. It was a beautiful thing, in fact the most beautiful thing I have had in my life. Okay, there was also hilsa cooked in mustard sauce but that was homemade. I am talking about outside food, a forbidden cult when I was growing up!

I recall gently sitting at the balcony on top of a table that earlier served at the Admin office in yesteryears and this was also my go to place for the long afternoon of summer holiday. There, I shared that Chow Mein with another young friend. I do not recall if it had chicken but it definitely had egg in all its Glory. I didn’t it required the ugly red sauce often served in the name of tomato ketchup to enhance the taste of noodles. Took me a decade to learn serving Tomato Ketch up with Chow mein is the biggest hoax of 20th century.

Later in the years in my formative years, I tasted the beautiful Kolkata style Chow Mein served at Street side or at Big Boss, Tyangra (Kolkata Chinatown) and sometimes at beautiful cafes and restaurants of North Kolkata. I learn to distinguish between hakka style and sizuan style. I also learnt there is something called American chop suey and a poached egg can be served with a plate of chowmein. When a certain Mr Chatterjee opened Mainland China at Guru Saday road of Central Kolkata and we would visit there ceremonially once in a year I learnt Calcutta Chinese is in fact a distant cousin of what the Chinese really is. The Chow mein served at Mainland China was so full of flavours and yet had little to no spice ground.

Took me a while to cook the Kolkata Style Chow Mein at home. My brother does it often in Calcutta and over time he has perfected the art of cooking Street side Kolkata chowmein 

We created it during lockdown. The taste of it was very close to the real stuff. Despite another melancholic lockdown in the city I was transported back to the beautiful cacophony of Central Calcutta with this plate of chowmein. Here is the recipe for you.

Also read: 20+ Beautiful Destinations of West Bengal!

Ingredients for cooking Calcutta Special Egg Noodles

  • Kolkata style noodles. Use at least four packets for four people or you can increase the amount of noodles depending on your appetite
  • You may also use rice noodles or glass noodles or just order it online. The brand I used was of Chorangee.
  • Chicken or prawns or any other type of meat you like (thinly sliced)
  • 8 eggs (do not beat them)
  • Vegetables for use: I prefer to use local vegetables except ahem the ladies finger. I prefer capsicum, cauliflower, carrots, mushroom, baby corn, beans, onions. Chopped to tiny bits. You can add anything else you like to it.
  • Spices: MSG or ajinomoto, the Chinese salt. Using this will enhance the flavour to a level that it makes all the difference
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • White oil
  • Green chilly
  • Rice vinegar
  • Soy sauce
  • Sweet chilli sauce (this one is optional and I used only a spoon of it)

Now here is the thing. You can use any sauce you like but I always prefer to source my haul of Chinese sauce from Pouchong. It is a homegrown brand from Calcutta, and oldest Chinese sauce factory in India, that sells amazing Chinese stuff. I also love the Prawn Papad they make. 

I cooked egg chowmein so I will write that recipe. If you are adding chicken and prawns and basically making a mixed Chow Mein you fry these two ingredients first and follow the recipe I pen down. To marinate the chicken, use corn flour, a couple of crushed garlic pods, lemon juice and black pepper. Season it with salt and stir fry for 5 minutes on high heat.

Calcutta Style Egg Chow Mein is usually cooked in large cast iron pans or hot wok but I managed to cook in a non stick Kadai.

Procedure for cooking Calcutta Street Style Egg Noodles

  • At first, cook the noodles. At the departmental store ask for Kolkata style chowmein. In Bangalore, we usually get it. Itr is easily available in Kolkata. In other places you might have to do a little searching but trust me the end result is worth it. 
  • Do not break the noodles. Heat water. bring it to boil. Add little oil and salt to it and add the noodles to the boiling water. Cook it for a couple of minutes until it is al dente. 
  • Once that is done just keep it under running water. Completely cool it down and drain it using a colander or a strainer.
  • At this point you can add some more oil to it So that the noodles do not stick to each other. Cooking noodles that can be easily separated is the first success of the recipe.
  • Meanwhile start with frying the vegetables. Get started with carrots and beans first then proceed with the mushrooms and corns.
  • Cook in high flame, ideally use flambé method.
  • After the vegetables are stir fried and let’s get started with the eggs.
  • Break the eggs directly on the pan. Get it off the hate on and off and scrambled the eggs on the pan itself.
  • Prepare a mix of all the sauces with equal amount. I used soya sauce, chili sauce, sweet chilli sauce and vinegar. 
  • Heat oil. Add the noodles first. Sprinkle some crushed black paper. Stir fry the noodles for 2 to 3 minutes. Refer to the picture to see how you can add the sauce so that it gets cooked on direct heat as well. 
  • Now mix in the sauce and the noodles. Add in all the the vegetables and eggs. Stir fry, mix well, add seasoning of MSG and black pepper. At this point you can squeeze in some lemon on top. If you’re using chicken or prawn do not forget to add them to the noodles either. 

There you go. You are Kolkata Street style egg chowmein is cooked and ready to be served and severed at the comfort of your home. This item would be a particular hit if you serve with a side of the famous chilli chicken. Will share the recipe soon!

Vegetables I use for cooking Calcutta Street Style Chow Mein
Use noodles in this shape
Sauces I used and treasure!
Adding sauce to pan before mixing it with the noodles so that it gets cooked too
Prepared: Calcutta Street Style Egg Chow Mein

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Hotel Review: the Grand Dragon Ladakh, Effortless Luxury in the Lap of the Himalayas!

The more I talk about my stay at the Grand Dragon Hotel during the peak winter in Ladakh, it does not suffice! Against the backdrop of barren mountains and azure blue sky vistas, the Grand Dragon Hotel rises like a phoenix from the ashes! Towering poplars protect the color-bubble of the huge hotel, inside which guests are well protected from the fierce sun and ice cold whispers from the mountains. You may secure a seat by the window of the luxurious heritage suite and watch the day unfold. Myriad cloud forms crowd at the horizon dotted with snow peaks.

Ladakh frowns at the visitors at first glance, as if emphasizing on how hard life is at the fold of the mountains, but then lets in those who persists with a promise of magic. The Grand Dragon Ladakh is a prefect escape route to evade Ladakh’s raw nature’s wrath, yet soak in the stunning atmosphere seldom found on the face of the Earth.

Also read: 5 days travel itinerary for Leh with offbeat day trips suggestions

A sumptuous lunch I had at the Grand Dragon Ladakh with those prized view of the Stok Kangri Mountain at a distance!

Also read: Celebrating Naropa Festival, the Mahakumbh of Ladakh at Hemis Monastery!

The Grand Dragon Hotel: Shining Hospitality Star of Leh!

Shining like a bejeweled star on the Old Leh Road, you can not ignore the proud presence of the Grand Dragon Hotel. It is one of the best properties in Leh Town, with only one relatively new contender in 5 star category.

I loved the central location of the hotel. One evening, we walked uphill for about 1 km to reach the thriving Leh market. The Leh main market could easily become yet another M G Marg of Gangtok, Sikkim but the local vendors selling myriad vegetables and hand picked saffron retain the beautiful rustic charm. On the opposite side, you drive for around 10 minutes and you bid adieu to Leh city for the prized wilderness of Ladakh. The long stretched roads call you for adventure, with a promise to return you to your beautiful stay at the Grand Dragon Hotel by the end of the day!

The hotel started with 3 rooms two decades back. Since then, it has come a long way to be the most sought after luxury property hosting the who’s who of entertainment industry. For the uninitiated, Ladakh was the shooting place for Bollywood biggies like Jab Tak hain Jaan, 3 Idiots etc. Central location of Grand Dragon Ladakh makes it very easy for tourists to pay a quick visit to the main attractions of Leh city, take for example the Shanti Stupa and the airforce base!

Few more amenities available at the Grand Dragon Hotel, Ladakh

  1. Doctor available on call
  2. Provides handy kits to deal with AMS and provides a detailed checklist to prepare for the harsh winters
  3. All the rooms have stunning views of Stok Kangri mountain ranges.
  4. A very handy lip balm and spray sunblock is provided
  5. The Grand Dragon Hotel in Ladakh can host upto 200 people for official conferences.
  6. Last year, the hotel opened for staycation at an affordable rate. Internet speed is viable for working from the mountains, that is when you can take your eyes off the snow white peaks at a distance.

Also read: A complete guide to traveling in Kargil, offbeat destinations in Ladakh!

My Room at The Grand Dragon Ladakh

I stayed at the Heritage Luxury suite of The Grand Dragon Hotel. The detailed room tour I had posted on Instagram has grabbed quite a few eye balls! This suite had a lunge area, with a sofa couch facing the TV unit, a small washroom, cosy chairs by the window overlooking Stock kangri peaks and a low lying sitting area laden with mattress and bolsters. Once you step into the bed room, you will be enamored by the large French window, a round mirror reflecting the beautiful wooden bed tucked with ivory white upholstery, a writing table and bed side lights.

The adjacent walk in washroom has a bathtub, separate areas for washing and a WC. The wash basin reflects the mountain ranges beyond the bedroom, yet again! This is where I spent relaxing evenings after a day of exploring Leh and surrounding!

Also read: A stay at the Mercure Devaaya Goa, a beautiful luxury property at Dhivar Island, Offbeat Goa.

I video called everyone back home to show this beautiful stay. All the rooms of the Grand Dragon hotel overlooks mountain peaks. It is irresistible to ignore the call of the giant terrain, hidden in the mystic clouds and dense poplar crowd. I could spend the nights looking at the sow capped peaks dazzling under the profound canvas of the sky, often painted with the endless milky way and shooting stars.

The Grand Dragon Ladakh has more than 70 rooms which are operational for the all 12 months of the year. Central heating system, fast wifi, running water and many small gestures come as a part of unified service of the Grand Dragon.

The room categories are roughly segregated into 3 types, Luxury suites, Heritage suites and deluxe rooms. the suites are of 750 sq feet upwards in space. All of them have large window pens.

Also read: A Complete Guide to Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, India’s last bastion from the north east!

The room tariff of the Grand Dragon Ladakh ranges between 8k to 30k with taxes.

The Grand Dragon Hotel also boasts of a lounge, a library with plenty of books, a children’s room, a gym, a sauna and an indoor games room. It is suitable for an office gathering or a conference. The souvenir shop is well stocked with beautiful artefacts denoting cultural heritage of Ladakh. Do check out the Ladakhi bridal outfit studded with precious stones and sheep skin and the elaborately decorated headgear. My favorite ones are the Samovars though! The silver of the samovar has intricate details bearing the history back in the times of Gandhara era.

Luxury hotel in Leh: best place to stay in Leh!

Also read: Visiting the Aryan Village: offbeat experience in Ladakh!

The Gourmet Experiences at Grand Dragon

The Grand Dragon hotel has a sprawling dine in area and a beautiful coffeeshop. Breakfast is a delight here! From saffron infused Kahwa tea to power packed mix of nuts: everything is available for the diners. For breakfast, the hotel arranged for a detailed buffet.

It had staples like pancakes, breads, eggs, juices, cereals, jam and butter, and a myriad variety of fruits, sausages, Idli and Vada. For lunch and dinner, a buffet was available depending on the number of guests. The dine in the restaurant is open for walk-in guests as well. 

We were served with two bespoke meal experiences during our stay at the Grand Dragon, Ladakh. We opted for the ala carte menu for a couple of days, with specific requests for typical Ladakhi cuisine. Our wish was fulfilled with a surprise menu planned for the last night of stay! We were served sumptuous mutton stew, supple dimsums, aromatic short grained red rice, and root vegetables. There was restrained use of few specific spices highlighting the natural aroma of the meat which definitely felt fresh. It was beautiful! So was an elaborate Khao Suey as a part of a dining experience for a night. I suggest spending the evening walking down the steep roads of Leh in order to make space for the amazing food on offer!

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Luxury hotel in Leh: best place to stay in Leh!

The dine in area was swank clean, like the rest of the hotel and had attentive stuffs masked up in trending N95s. In good times, when shared bonfire resumes at the lawn in front of the hotel, do not forget to sip on Chang, the local brew of malt and barley which will keep you in warm company in the chilli prolonged nights of Leh!

Also read: Experiencing a Bodo Village life at the Manas National Park, UNESCO heritage site of Assam!

Responsible Luxury & Friendly Stuff

Although a luxury establishment, the Grand Dragon Hotel sticks to sustainable hospitality practices at every step. It was easy for them to build a swimming pool but they showed restrained, instead built a beautiful lawn. The hotel amplifies everything local. Due to Ladakh practically being a cold desert, half of the year you need to use stored food, or food supplied from the plain land. Yet, the Grand Dragon Ladakh tries to serve you a large spread of locally sourced Ladakhi meal cooked with the warmth of a Ladakhi household. For those with AMS, the staffs will personally highlight the quality of Garlic soup instead of medicines.

The stuff of the hotel were patient, well mannered, trained in the best of hospitality across the globe and answered all our queries with elan. They suggested we take some hot garlic soup every time we came back from the outside world, half frozen. Small gestures like providing a packet of camphor with the door key, asking whether the linen needs to be changed, replenishing the fruits and nuts of the suites, they were just a call away.

Leh Market Guide

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Safety procedure during a Pandemic

I visited the Grand Dragon Hotel during February end, which was the beautiful time in India in between first subtle and second furious lag of this pandemic. We were advised to carry a negative test report of RTPCR conducted within 72 hours. We could enter the hotel premises only after a thorough temperature-check and baggage sanitization process. Being one of the few 5 star properties of Leh, the Grand Dragon also experiences frequent visits by Indian Army personnel. Needless to say, security measures was strict. Also, restrain yourself from taking pictures with the Airforce staff or army people on uniform. It is against the protocol of the institute.

The service personnel wore mask and gloves at every point of time. You can opt in for in room dining as well in case you want to minimize touch points.

Luxury suite at the Grand Dragon Ladakh

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Art and culture

One could easily compare the beautiful interiors of the Grand Dragon Hotel with that of an authentic museum. the luxury hotel is run by a local family of Ladakh, the Abdus. Needless to say, they are more than proud and capable of showcasing the best of Ladakhi heritage and tradition.

I will set aside the praise for the tastefully done interior of the hotel for the time being and emphasize on the beautiful pieces of art that adorns the hobbies and sprawling halls of the Grand Dragon Hotel. My eyes got stuck to the eloquent eyes of an Aryan playing flute. It took me a while to register it is a painting. I saw that man a few days back at the Aryan village in Kargil. The pictures are varied and amplify the voices of sons of the soil of Ladakh in a few brush strokes of oil painting. The paintings are done by the famous modern age artist of Ladakh, Mr. Ghulam Mustafa, one of the director partners of the hotel who practices his art at the top chalet.

The hotel has multiple themes that resemble with a traditional Ladakhi heritage palace. Bursts of colors adorn the towering pillars. Boxed beaded Topaz jewelry proudly replace modern artifacts at the suites. Apricot wood is used to furnish the hotel interiors. Bed spreads and pillow covers dazzle in typical Tibetan fabric with gold threadwork. Hand painted Dragons and other Buddhist motifs completed the furnishing inspired by Rabsal tradition of the land. Life makes its presence felt through a burst of colours everywhere against he stark barren backdrop.

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The Grand Dragon Ladakh: Planning a trip to Ladakh

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Curated Experience of Ladakh with the Grand Dragon Hotel

As soon as I reached the hotel, I was welcome with a Khatag (the white scarf) wrapped around my neck. The hotel staff were wearing traditional Ladakhi attire. It was a lot like accepting hospitality of a local home, rather a professional institute.

We met the director of the hotel, Mr. Danish Din. An extremely humble person, Mr. Danish spoke to us at length about the looming threats of the industry. First he pandemic, then the rumors of a war mongering neighbor that has thwarted incoming tourists at the Grand Dragon, Ladakh. He sounded hopeful though, with the new adaptions and strategies made at directorial level to ensure safety and cater to tourists of New-Normal. Offering Staycation was a part of the drill.

I have been to Ladakh twice. The last time I was traveling to this hidden kingdom beyond the Himalayas, it was September. It was the last remnant of summer in the valley. The nights were cold but in the morning I would even sweat! Ladakh felt like atypical desert.

Maitreya Buddha of the Thikshey Monastery

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I spent around 5 days in Leh during both my trips. 5 days are a bit rushed to experience everything Ladakh has on offer, for example I had to miss traveling to Kargil in the first trip. But this was enough to experience the best of Leh! The next time I explored winter Ladakh with the Grand dragon Hotel, I had a chance to wait for the weather to clear and visit a handful of local villages nestled in the fold of barren mountains.

While I will shortly write in detail about a 5 to 7 days itinerary suitable for Leh, I want to highlight the experiences I loved the most with the Grand Dragon. In Instagram, they trend with the hashtag #tgdlexperiences .

We visited a quaint little village named Chilling. Located by the banks of the fierce Zanskar river, which was half frozen at the end of February, Chilling is a small village inhabited by the metal casters. Once in a week or month, they avail the public transport, a rickety bus to Leh market, sell what they shape and buy back some raw materials. The fantastic Dungchens, traditional trumpets used by the Tibetan Buddhist monks to resonate the call of the elephants, are built here. So are the Samovars, the elaborate silver tea pots which made way to the sub continent from Central Asia along the Old Silk Route.

The river Zanskar was half frozen, meaning we tiptoe-ed around the deceiving ice sheets. While we waited the snow blizzard to open up at the top of Chang la Pass, visible from the hotel room, in order to set put to Pangong Tso, we explored every monastery around Leh, some are not even highlighted in the usual travel itinerary. Time stands still in these olden gomphas, safeguarding invaluable manuscripts and somber rituals.

Here is an itinerary highlight with experiences around Leh curated by the Grand Dragon Hotel:

  1. Day 1: Check in at the Grand Dragon Hotel, exploring the Leh Market
  2. Day 2: Visit to the Chilling village followed by Sangam when Indus and Zanskar rivers meet
  3. Day 3: Since road to the Pangong Tso was closed, we could either rest or choose to visit Khardungla pass, world’s highest motorable road, a crucial connector between the border and army base. We chose to rest. You could also visit Alchi/Likir/Basgo monasteries instead. A trip to Lamayuru would require a whole day but the drive is beautiful nonetheless!
  4. Day 4: Visiting the early morning prayer session at Thikshey Monastery followed by a visit to the Hemis monastery
  5. Day 5: A visit to Stakna Monastery

You may also opt for visiting the Leh town instead of these day trips, visit the Shanti Stupa in the evening, explore the old town of Leh with a curated heritage walk with the guides from the Grand Dragon Hotel. The small windows and doors of a typical Ladakhi house is typically designed to protect against the sheer cold wind blow from the north of the mountains.

This was also during Lent, the Buddhist religious month in February when a number of pilgrims visited the monasteries from distant mountain villages. Some took an oath of not speaking a word for a certain period of time. Some walked barefoot for days. Some walked and lied on the ground, stood up and walked again.

At Nimoo, also known as the Sangam where Zanskar river and Indus meet!
At Nimoo, also known as the Sangam where Zanskar river and Indus meet! This picture is clicked with a Go Pro 8 which I love as a vlogging camera!

Also read: Photo blog from Kargil which will inspire you to make this epic winter trip!

Why Choose Grand Dragon, Ladakh

Usually, people associate Leh with plethora of adventures! In Ladakh, the world has shown you its honest true face, it is scarred, sun burnt and wrinkled with history written over since millennia! It lures you to take a dive right into the heart of mystic nature. It will leave you bruised and victorious at the same time, adding a cause to celebrate life! After that hike, that road trip across the high passes, after you went near the high altitude lakes, after that search to find some of the oldest gomphas of the world.

Once you have done it all, your body seeks the familiar and more. You want to return to a place wrapped in the comfort of a warm home. The Grand dragon Ladakh is where your search ends with a homely bed and temperature controlled luxurious washrooms. After you have created unforgettable memory at the otherworldly landscapes of Ladakh, you totally deserve the treat that the Grand Dragon Ladakh is. The Grand Dragon Hotel has redesigned luxury in the form of comfort and warmth and not just exuberance. With that, I strongly recommend to sign up for the Ladakh experience with the Grand Dragon, be it summer or the winter. Honestly, that is the most hassle free way to travel in Ladakh.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read the disclosure post. If you have liked the article, you may support it by buying using these links without any extra cost to you.

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