Gypsycouple http://gypsycouple.com Discovering Life through Travel Fri, 24 Mar 2017 10:20:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.3 http://gypsycouple.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/cropped-Gypsycouple_logo-32x32.png Gypsycouple http://gypsycouple.com 32 32 32 Best Holiday Destinations for 2017 http://gypsycouple.com/best-holiday-destinations-2017/ http://gypsycouple.com/best-holiday-destinations-2017/#respond Mon, 06 Feb 2017 15:41:43 +0000 http://gypsycouple.com/?p=7840 Every new year we document a list of the Hottest & the Best holiday destinations across the globe. Being human, it is quite possible a bias might creep up making it Gypsycouple’s recommendation for the best holiday destination. To do away with the bias we’ve taken the help of 31 of the most traveled Bloggers across the globe to give ...

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Every new year we document a list of the Hottest & the Best holiday destinations across the globe. Being human, it is quite possible a bias might creep up making it Gypsycouple’s recommendation for the best holiday destination. To do away with the bias we’ve taken the help of 31 of the most traveled Bloggers across the globe to give us their recommendation. The list contains some usual suspects and some surprises as you will discover and is surprisingly quite different from our Hottest Destinations list for 2016 . Without further ado, presenting you the list of Best Holiday Destinations for 2017.

Best Holiday Destinations #0

Rishabh & Nirali of Gypsycouple | South Africa

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - South Africa

This beautiful country has so much to offer that it is a surprise its not on anyone’s list up-till now. It has mountains, beaches, safari’s, watersports, treks and some of the most scenic drives in the world to offer. Hermanus offers the best land spot to view whales, Boulder’s beach offers opportunities to see penguins up close and you can splash around in some of the most pristine beaches you’ve ever seen while on the Garden Route. Its not just for the active travelers (although you can also opt for a bungee jump if that’s your thing), for someone who wishes to relax, Sun City offers an all inclusive package for the family to relax and have fun at their convenience while the bigger cities have their unique food, soul music and cultural activities to charm you. There’s never a dull moment in South Africa and looks like everyone’s invited.

Best Holiday Destinations #1

Stefan & Sebastien of the Nomadic Boys | Galapagos Islands, South America

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Galapagos Islands

We think the Galapagos Islands should be on everyone’s destination for 2017.

The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean, around 1,000km (600 miles) from the coast of Ecuador. The variety of unique wildlife here not only inspired Darwin back in 1835, it completely captivated us when we visited in October 2016.

This is one of the few places in the world where you get so close to the wildlife because they are blazé to humans. You’ll be so spoilt, no other safari will be the same again. One of our favourite animals in the Galapagos are the playful and super adorable baby sea lions. They’re so curious and will fearlessly come up to you and just play with you, especially when snorkelling. They’re also excellent yoga instructors and will happily correct your posture like this one did on the beach on Española Island. We can’t wait to return here in October 2017.

Best Holiday Destinations #2

Paula of Contented Traveller | Nozawa Onsen, Japan

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Nozawa Onsen

Nozawa Onsen is a hot spring and ski resort village near Nagano in Japan. It is a very popular destination because it offers a traditional Japanese village, authentic food, a fire festival as well as public hot springs or onsen, which are renowned for their therapeutic benefits. Nozawa Onsen is very close to the Japan Snow Monkeys in Jigokudani Monkey Park.

As a premier ski destination, Nozawa Onsen offers some of the best powder skiing in the world. The ski area is one of the largest in Japan covering 298 hectares with 50 runs suitable for all levels, and a bonus is that there is guaranteed snow, with an average depth of 3.5 meters of mostly powder. There is also a vertical fall of 1085metres making for some very long runs. One of the runs for beginner to intermediate levels is 10kms. Snowboarders and skiers have a lot of choices, and Nozawa Onsen is popular with people who love culture, as well as powder hounds.

Best Holiday Destinations #3

Megan and Mike from Mapping Megan | Antarctica

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Antarctica

It’s a little ironic to include Antarctica as one of the “hottest” destinations for 2017, but it should absolutely be at the top of your bucket list! One of the last untouched destinations on earth, the continent is absolutely pristine!! While the experience is up there in expense, expeditions are available to the average person seeking an exceptional adventure, and travel here is something that only a select few can say they have achieved.

100 years ago no more than a handful of people had journeyed to Antarctica, however today around 30,000 travelers visit Antarctica every year. Cruises leave from Punta Arenas in Chile or Ushuaia in Argentina and set off for the South Shetland Islands, stopping at several research stations while sailing along the Antarctic Peninsular. You will experience spectacular glacial lagoons, dramatic icebergs, and incredible wildlife like breaching whales, penguin colonies, and deep-diving seals.

Tip: Make sure you book a cruise which includes land based excursions. International regulations limit the number of people allowed on land at any one time, so large cruise ships with 500 passengers generally offer a “look but not touch” experience. Booking with a cruise company who limits their passengers to around the 110 mark (we booked with Chimu Adventures) means the opportunity to step out off the boat for hikes through ice fields, kayaking adventures, and camping overnight on the most remote continent in the world!

Best Holiday Destinations #5

Dane of Holiday from Where | Samoa

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Samoa

Samoa is one of those tropical destinations that has literally everything you could want from an island holiday. Gold sand beaches, black sand beaches, palm trees, coconuts, waterfalls, blow holes, amazingly friendly locals, extremely warm water, good surf, market places and good food and I feel like I never hear anyone talking about it. I have been there a few times now and each time I have noticed a distinct lack of tourism compared to other places I have been that I feel have less to offer. The lack of tourism also adds to the charm of the island and you often feel like you’re in your own little world. For me the number one draw was the surf but once I arrived I realised how much more the country had to offer. I rented a car and drove around the island and what I saw had me feeling like I was in an episode of lost. The jungle was so dense and lush, the landscape is filled with mountains and they drop straight into these amazing blue water bays. Everywhere I turned it was something beautiful or smiling locals who always wanted to stop and talk to us no matter what they seemed to be doing. If I only had one holiday planned for next year for a few weeks or a month I would want to make it this incredible uncrowded island paradise.

Best Holiday Destinations #6

Viktoria of Chronic Wanderlust | Chile

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Chile

It’s hard to describe a country that is so diverse as Chile is. It seems impossible to capture Chile with a few words. I was simply blown away by its beauty, serenity and simplicity when it comes to travelling around. Take some weeks and explore the coastal cities, national parks in the Andes, hike on Chiloé Island, enjoy the hot springs like Termas Geometricas, share your food with Alpacas and meet chatty locals over a Pisco Sour. And then of course there is Easter Island. Far off the mainland in the middle of nowhere, just surrounded by the ocean and guarded by the mighty Moai statues. Rent a quad and off you go.

And there’s another place in Chile I recommend you go to: Punta de Choros. It’s a two-hour ride from La Serena and you’ll spot Humboldt penguins, sea lions, and even dolphins if you are lucky!

Best Holiday Destinations #7

Gordon of Travel Bloguer | Saparua Island, Maluku, Indonesia

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Saparua Island

People are looking for places to visit that are not overrun with tourists, where you can have a more immersive cultural experience. Saparua Island is one of the Spice Islands in Indonesia, located of the city of Ambon.  You reach the village of Haria by boat from Ambon, and are greeted with both churches and mosques.  Where there were once problems between the two groups on the island, they now live peacefully. You can see the Dutch influence at Fort Duurstede, which The Dutch East Indies Company established in 1691. The Dutch influence is everywhere on the island. The local daily markets are where you realize that this is an isolated island. There are no touts or hawkers, no one asking to be paid to take a photo of a local person, who enjoyed the attention. We saw and smelled cloves, tasted fresh durian, and experienced the noise, the colors and the smells of this village. Saparua Island is one of those off the beaten track places where people are guaranteed to have a very authentic experience.

Best Holiday Destinations #8

Claudia of My Adventures Across the World | Bela Krajina, Slovenia

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Bela Krajina, Slovenia
If there is a place that has to make it to a traveler’s bucket list for 2017, that is the region of Bela Krajina, in Slovenia. Located on the border with Croatia, and at easy reach from the capital Ljubljana, this is one of the least explored regions of the country. However, it is an incredible place to spend a week or more. It is rich in natural beauty: imagine lush, green hills, with forests galore and fantastic hiking trails. There are lots of wineries too, not to mention the great breweries: one of the most fun things to do there are wine and beer tours. The small villages are scattered around, and they look like they came out of a painting. And there are plenty of hidden corners that are perfect to photograph. The bonus? Bela Krajina is still undiscovered, so there aren’t nearly as many tourists as in the rest of the country. Visiting becomes a lovely, local experience.

Best Holiday Destinations #9

Nellie Huang of Adventure Travel Blog WildJunket | Mongolia

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Mongolia

Today’s Mongolia is moving forward with the future by embracing globalism and rediscovering its pastoral culture, and it looks set to be a popular travel destination in 2017.

Mongolia is characterized by vast steppes, giant sand dunes, and traditional gers (yurts) that dot its immense landscapes. It’s packed with so much pristine natural beauty that few other countries can rival. Every turn on the road reveals a different landscape, be it a hill of colors after emerging from parched earth, or rising from the dunes to find an oasis of lagoons. Nomadic families continue to live the way their ancestors did for centuries, and their infectious sense of hospitality is nothing short of overwhelming.

Best Holiday Destinations #10

Inma of A World to Travel | Galicia, Spain

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Galicia, Spain

Galicia is home. The place where I was born and bred and the one I return to in between my travels around the world. And believe me, I would have definitely changed that should it was not a dream destination.

Lacking the big hotels and tourism complexes other areas in Spain are filled with, the development of tourism is still at a good pace in Galicia. People have finally understood sustainable and ecotourism is the way to go and all the efforts entrepreneurs are making go towards an environmentally friendly tourism. The best example is St. James Way, a pilgrimage that comes from the Middle Ages that has been bringing hiking enthusiasts to Galicia ever since. Slow tourism, locally produced food, Galician managed initiatives and a great natural environment make the rest.

But hey, it is not just me the one who thinks Galicia is a place that should be topping this list of ecotourism destinations for 2017. Have a look to some of the Galician spots you can’t miss here.

Best Holiday Destinations #11

Alesha & Jarryd of NOMADasaurus | Kyrgyzstan

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Kyrgyzstan

When it comes to travel regions, Central Asia is often overlooked among tourists. But for those who are interested in Silk Road history, fascinating culture, incredible scenery and adventure activities, this is the place to go!

In particular Kyrgyzstan is a true highlight, and in our opinion one of the hottest destinations for 2017. Over 93% of the country is covered in mountains making it perfect for those who love to be outdoors. The visa situation is very relaxed for people of most nations and the flight connections are getting better and better every year. For the adventurous trekking in Kyrgyzstan is a brilliant activity, along with horse riding in Son Kul, mountain biking in the Tian Shan mountains and even skiing and snowboarding in the winter. If you’re curious in Silk Road history there are some amazing caravanserais, and the phenomenal Burana Tower is a must-see, just outside of Bishkek. But no trip to Kyrgyzstan is complete without doing a traditional yurt stay with a local family. Learning about how these nomadic people live and having the opportunity to help with many day-to-day tasks is something that you will always remember!

Best Holiday Destinations #12

Margherita of The Crowded Planet | Iran

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Iran

Sometimes I feel as if I were on a one-woman mission to get people to visit Iran. The country is absolutely stunning, offering a wonderful mixture of nature, adventure, history and culture – but what sets the destination apart from anywhere else I’ve been are its people, truly the friendliest and most hospitable we’ve met during our journeys. We spent two weeks in Iran, the maximum time allowed by our visa on arrival, but it was barely enough to scratch the surface of the country. We started our journey in the capital, and found out that there are so many things to do in Tehran that we could easily have spent the whole two weeks there! Other places that can be visited on a 2 week trip are Isfahan, Shiraz and Yazd, and if you have longer… the country is huge, I’m sure you won’t get bored and you’ll return with lots of friends!

Best Holiday Destinations #13

Alice of Teacake Travels | Bangladesh

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Bangladesh

Here’s a new one for you…Bangladesh. It’s probably the last place you’d consider as one of the hottestdestinations for 2017. Yet, if you’re looking for undiscovered territory, delectable food, a chance to see a tiger and the bragging rights that you’ve stood on the longest beach in the world, Bangladesh is it. It’s infrastructure for tourists doesn’t really exist outside of the capital and local tourist beaches, but personally for me, and hopefully you, this is the beauty of it. Locals are unbelievably generous, curious and genuine. The countryside is beautiful, calm and untouched. Travelling from town to town is an educational and exhilarating experience within itself. Make sure to ride the trains, buses and tuk tuks to really get the feel for Bangladesh. My personal highlights are visiting Sylhet for its tea plantations, Dhaka for its sheer mayhem and the Chittagong Hills for their unique beauty. Get yourself to Bangladesh!

Best Holiday Destinations #14

Sharon of Where’s Sharon | Tasmania, Australia

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Tasmania

Tasmania is one of the hottest destinations to visit in 2017. It is full of top attractions, fabulous food and is easy to explore.

Tasmania is a state of Australia and the island you can see located off the south east coast of Australia. It’s famous for its natural beauty and also well-known thanks to Taz, the Tasmanian Devil that hangs out with Bugs Bunny!

There are many national parks to explore this natural beauty and wildlife. Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is particularly beautiful and well set up for hiking with all lengths and abilities catered for. Freycinet National Park is another beautiful national park. It is home to Wineglass Bay, often featured in lists of the most beautiful beaches in the world. If you want to check out Tasmania’s wildlife up close (including the Tasmanian Devil), there are also many wildlife parks.

After you have explored the natural attractions of Tasmania, there’s also Tasmania’s colonial and penal heritage to explore. Tasmania started as a penal settlement for England’s convicts and a trip to Port Arthur is a great place to explore this heritage. There’s also many other penal remains in places like Richmond and Sarah Island. Hobart, the capital, is home to many reminders of Australia’s colonial history as this is one of the oldest parts of Australia.

Hobart is also home to my favourite art museum in the world – MONA (Museum of Old and New Art). This place is amazing. So amazing in fact, that I think it justifies a trip to Tasmania in its own right. At the same site you will also find a winery and brewery so it’s a great place to visit for a day.

The best part about all of this is Tasmania is removed enough from the rest of the world that it doesn’t see huge visitor numbers – yet! Get there in 2017 while it’s still not well known.

Best Holiday Destinations #15

Bertaut & Alexis of World Travel Adventurers | Croatia

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Croatia

Croatia should be on your travel list for 2017 because it has so much to offer! It is a beautiful country with a fascinating history dating back to the 7th century, and yet it is a young country that declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Croatia is a must-visit destination for any history lover and we highly recommend the walking tours in all the major cities. The medieval city of Dubrovnik looks like it is from a movie set with its ancient walls and orange tiled roofs, and indeed many scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed there. The capital city of Zagreb is equally rich in history and culture and has some fantastic restaurants featuring delicious Dalmatian cuisine. Watch the sunset in Zadar as the waves play a relaxing harmony on the sea organ. Hike the magnificent Plitvice Lakes National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site where you can walk amid waterfalls and blue-green lakes in a truly magical landscape. Dine and shop inside ancient roman ruins at Diocletian’s palace in Split. Soak up the sun on the gorgeous beaches along the Mediterranean coast or sail the Adriatic Sea and explore the gorgeous Croatian islands.

Best Holiday Destinations #16

Rashmi & Chalukya of Go Beyond Bounds | Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Luxembourg

The tiny country of Luxembourg in the heart of Europe sits landlocked by Belgium, Germany, and France. Luxembourg is well connected with the major cities of Paris, Brussels, and Frankfurt which make it for an easy day trip. Luxembourg has a plenitude of medieval castles, lush green hills, and picturesque valleys. Around 70% of the country is covered with the green landscape providing for ample of outdoor activities and adventures.

The capital Luxembourg City is a beautiful medieval city which will transport you back in time with a well preserved old town quarter and cobblestone alleys. The UNESCO-listed historic center perched on a clifftop emanates an old world charm and surrounding it are high rising Skyscrapers epitomizes a beautiful blend of old and new. The most prominent attraction of the capital are the 17 km of passageways of the underground tunnels originally 23 km and built as underground defenses which also served as refuges during the wars. And when you are there do not miss the wonderful views over the old city in Alzette valley from Le Chemin de La Corniche which is called as the Europe’s Most Beautiful Balcony. There are a plenty of trendy cafes and restaurants where you sit and soak up the charm on a sip of coffee.

Best Holiday Destinations #17

Jane of To Travel Too | Kotor, Montenegro

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Kotor, Montenegro

Tucked away on a stunning bay, surrounded by looming granite mountains this quaint 2,000 year old UNESCO city stuns everyone who visits.

Within the walls of Kotor, one wanders around admiring the ancient palaces that have either been converted into hotels or restaurants.  The ancient cobble stone streets and narrow alleyways have you exploring every corner. Why not stop for a coffee, a meal or just a drink after a few hours of sightseeing, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from.

The Fort looms over the city and encourages all that visit, to climb the 1,350 steps to admire the view and what a view it is!  In the evening the pathway up to the Fort is lit up and can be seen for miles. An afternoon trip out on the bay to visit Perast and the island Church of the Lady of the Rock built in 1630 is a must.  The small boat leaves from opposite the entrance to the City Walls. The scenery is stunning, it leaves you lost for words!

Best Holiday Destinations #18

Tom of The Travelling Tom | Basque Country, Spain

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Basque Country

When most people think of Spain, they think of sun, sand and sangria. Well, there’s a lot to more to Spain than this, and it’s typified by the Basque Country! The North of Spain is one of the most beautiful parts of the country. There’s rolling green hills as far as the eye can see, which is great if you love hiking. The two main cities Bilbao and San Sebastian are fantastic locations. Bilbao is a small, but intriguing place with some great architecture. While San Sebastian is arguably the most beautiful place in Spain! If you’re planning on visiting Spain in 2017, don’t leave without going to the Basque Country!

Best Holiday Destinations #19

Allison of Eternal Arrival | Albanian Riviera

 Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Albanian Riviera

The Albanian Riviera is one of the best summer destinations in Europe, and it’s finally just starting to get the recognition it so badly deserves. The beaches of the Albanian Riviera have the most crystal clear, turquoise blue waters I’ve ever seen – they’re a dream to swim in. The water is warm, calm, and super salty, so it’s easy to float and relax in. The Albanian Riviera is cheap to boot, with dorms from about $9 per night and hotels for not much more. The seafood on the coast is delicious and cheap as well – think main dishes for as little as $3! The best thing is that Albania is not super popular with tourists yet, so you won’t be fighting for beach space the same way you would be in more popular locales like Croatia or Greece, but you’ll have the same crystal clear waters!

Best Holiday Destinations #20

Geoff & Katie of Wandertooth | Glasgow, Scotland

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Glasgow, Scotland

While everyone goes gaga over Edinburgh, if you dig a little deeper you’ll find Glasgow is the Scottish city on the tips of every locals’ lips. Long plagued by the ravages of manufacturing decline, Glasgow’s transformation from gritty and a bit dangerous to hip arts and culture hub is nothing short of miraculous. With the dark days officially far behind them, Glasgow has emerged as one of the UK’s and Europe’s most underrated cities.

Once you get the must-sees of Kelvingrove, the Riverside Museum, and some Mackintosh checked off your list, we’d suggest spending a day or two simply wandering Glasgow’s different neighborhoods, popping in to enjoy the city’s excellent, but unpretentious, food and drinks scene, and shopping the boutiques scattered throughout each area. A UNESCO creative city of music, Glasgow is also the place to catch a show, having consistently incubated some of the world’s best indie bands for decades. And if you ever run out of things to do, just ask a Glaswegian: they’re some of the friendliest and most open people we’ve met on our travels.

If you’re heading to Scotland in 2017, tear yourself away from Edinburgh for a night or two, and find out why Glasgow is Scotland’s coolest city.

Best Holiday Destinations #21

Barbara of Jet Settera | St Tropez

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - St Tropez

 

St-Tropez is one of the most glamorous vacation spots in Europe. Many of the rich and famous appear here with their super yachts during the peak season in July. This small fishing village became popular, when Bridget Bardot started vacationing here. Today you can notice her photos in many places in the village. They even named a beach club after her. It is a small but beautiful jet-set destination with expensive beach clubs and beautiful yachts. The beaches are pretty and visitors will never have a boring moment here. The beach clubs often throw champagne parties, where hundreds of bottles of champagne are sprayed on the guests. You can often spot Billionaires like Philip Green dancing with a group of models. The nightlife is also very glamorous. You can go celebrity spotting on the terrace of the Hotel Byblos, which is the best hotel in town, or you can dance the night away at the local Club, Le Caves du Roy, where millions of euros are spent of champagne every month.

Best Holiday Destinations #22

Stephanie of Every Steph – Green & Glamorous Travel | Vietnam

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Vietnam

Vietnam should definitely be on your bucket list for 2017. The country mixes and matches old and new, bustling cities and breathtaking landscapes. Being Vietnam a very long and narrow country, you can rest assured that Vietnam boasts some breathtaking beaches. Don’t miss the Unesco.listed Halong Bay and the beaches of Cat Ba Island in the north, while if you are looking for some party time hit the beaches of Nha Trang.

Plan at least three days in Hoi An because this very pretty town will conquer you, guaranteed. Among the many things to do in Hoi An, go get some tailored clothes made for very cheap!

But my favorite place in all the country is Mai Chau, a quiet village located 130km away from Hanoi. Sitting in an enchanting valley that’s so beautiful it looks like a painting, Mai Chau is a great ecotourism destination. Here you can trek or bike around the paddy fields, or just soak in the views and relax.

Best Holiday Destinations #23

Cathy of Roar Loud | Azores, Portugal

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Portugal

We fell in love with the islands of the Azores and know you will too!  These nine islands off the coast of Portugal are known as the Hawaii of the East.  Lush foliage in every shade of green cover these volcanic islands.  A nature lover’s paradise with waterfalls, thermal pools, volcanic craters, and hiking trails of every length, the Azores will delight your senses.  Still relatively unknown by many, these islands feel like a private paradise just for you.  Visit in the summer for roads and fields lined in blue hydrangea blooms. Wander the mosaic tiled sidewalks to admire the architecture of churches, doors, and homes. While exploring the cities, stumble upon street art from talented artists around the world.  Enjoy fresh seafood prepared in simple yet amazing ways, delicious cheeses made on the islands, and flavorful wines.  If all of that has not captured your heart, there is no way to resist the Portuguese egg tarts and queijadas.  These are some of the best pastry you will ever enjoy.

Best Holiday Destinations #24

Vicki of Make Time to See the World | Namibia

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Namibia

When I visited Namibia in August 2016 I absolutely fell in love with the country and have been trying to convince anyone I meet that it needs to be at the top of their list for 2017!

The country has so much to offer: from amazing wild animal sightings in Etosha National Park, to the beautiful contrasting landscapes of Sossusvlei and Deadvlei in the Namib Desert, and the millennia old rock formations of Spitzkoppe. The natural beauty will take your breath away.

Add in adventure activities such as Quad Biking and Skydiving in Swakopmund, a visit to the Himba tribe in the Kunene region of northern Namibia, a stop at one of the countries Cheetah Conservation Farms, and once you’re exhausted with all that, head off to the natural hot springs at Ais Ais for some rest and relaxation! Namibia really does have something for everyone.

Not convinced yet? I’ve got 10 (More) Reasons That Will Make You Want To Visit Namibia in 2017!

Best Holiday Destinations #25

Gabor of Surfing the Planet | Cuba

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Cuba

Cuba is living an era of change. This already started several years ago, when the Cuban regime slowly became more tolerant with foreign tourism. Nevertheless the year 2016 marked a major change, when Cuba opened his borders without restrictions for tourists coming from United States. It’s not hard to foresee, that changes will accelerate now and even more after the recent death of Fidel Castro.

Cuba is a fascinating country you should visit before it changes too much. In Havana, you can see some of the most spectacular examples of colonial architecture in Latin America. You can listen to Cuban music on every corner and you can see anti-capitalist signs that will surely disappear with time. The country is full of other gems from the colonial era; Trinidad and Cienfuegos are the best examples. These cities seem to have stopped in time several decades ago, but who knows what mass tourism will do to them. Cuba has lots of beautiful small islands (called “cayos”), where even these days you can find beaches to be alone in paradise. There’s no doubt that soon huge resorts will rise in many of these, so 2017 might be your last chance to enjoy the authentic Cuba.

Best Holiday Destinations #26

Hannah & Adam of Getting Stamped | Philippines

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Philippines
Looking for 2017 hottest destination head to the Philippines for some of the sickest islands in the world. I spent a month island hopping and fell in love with El Nido. Every day I would wake up and jump on a day tour that would take me out exploring the nearby islands. Some of the islands have hidden beaches you had to swim through caves to get to. Divers and snorkelers with be in heaven, the marine life is loving life in El Nido. No where else in the world has such white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and epic landscapes. After a day on the ocean head back into El Nido town for happy hour on the beach with a gorgeous sunset. If you are “beached out” there are tons of things to do in El Nido some great hikes or rent a bike and explore the countryside. Make sure to plan at least a week in El Nido, as you won’t want to leave. If I could wake up anywhere tomorrow morning it would be El Nido.

Best Holiday Destinations #27

Helena of Through an Aussies Eyes | Orkney Islands, Scotland

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Orkney Islands, Scotland

The Orkney Islands are situated just north of mainland Scotland and it is one of those hidden gems that the world is hiding. The Orkneys have 70 islands with the majority of them being uninhabited; which means it is the
perfect place to have an adventure. The Orkneys are home to the famous World War One and Two site of Scapa
Flow.  As you drive though the twisty roads and cross the bridges, you can see the blocker ships that were purposely sunk to keep the enemy subs out. I highly recommend scuba diving with Scapa Scuba to experience their
underwater beauty.
The towns of Stromness and Kirkwall hold beautiful boutique shops that have a lot of handcrafted items that use natural resources from the islands. Around these towns are Nordic and Bronze Age cairns (tombs) with the Tomb of the Eagles being one of the best. In the centre of Kirkwall are the historic Earl’s Palace and Saint Magnus Cathedral that will give you a view of the entire town.
I would also recommend going to the ancient attractions of Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodger and Maeshowe. The Orkneys are one of the most beautiful islands the world has to offer. The Orkneys still hold their 11th century
charm and it will win you over.

Best Holiday Destinations #28

Chrissy of Travel Passionate | Italian Rivera

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Italian Riviera

The colorful seaside villages of the Italian Riviera is a must see destination for every traveler. Located between the South of France and the Tuscany borders the Italian Riviera has something for everyone; charm, character, nightlife, incredible beaches with turquoise waters, mouthwatering food and amazing nature. There are many nice villages and towns worth visiting in the Italian Riviera. The famous, five villages of the Cinque Terre with their colorful houses hanging on the cliffs, the small harbors, the maze of alleyways and the hiking paths. The seaside town of Portovenere, an UNESCO heritage site with its magnificent castle and the nearby islands of Palmaria. The coastal towns of Santa Margherita, Rapallo and  Sestri Levante popular holiday spots. The village of Portofino, a posh holiday spot for the rich and famous with high-end boutiques and excellent restaurants. The city of Genoa with its maritime history, the beautiful cathedral of San Lorenzo and the buzzing piazzas.  The Italian Riviera is a once in a lifetime holiday destination.

Best Holiday Destinations #29

Patricia of Ze Wandering Frogs | Bonaire, Caribbean

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Bonaire, Caribbean

Bonaire is the lesser-known island of the ABCs – Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao in the Caribbean. The tiny island is, however, a hot paradise for those looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination. Indeed, Bonaire has it all – history dating back 1000 AD and then through the Spanish conquerors and the Dutch Colonies, wildlife both on land and in the ocean, warm turquoise waters, and excellent seafood. Adventure travel and outdoor activities lovers will find their fill of thrilling experiences too. Bonaire is a top diving destination, with the whole island a marine park with pristine environment and marine life such Green turtles, seahorses, reef sharks, and tarpons. Popular dive sites include Salt Pier, Bari Reef, or even the famous Hilma Hooker wreck. The Washington Slagbaai National Park north of the island provides with hiking and wildlife watching opportunities such iguanas, wild donkeys, and flamingos. But Bonaire is also a famous destination for wind sports. Jibe City, on the Sorobon peninsula on the Lac Bay, has been well-known for many years by windsurfers of all levels, while Atlantis Beach is an up and coming kiteboarding spot. Its off-shore conditions are better fitting advanced kitesurfers but local kite shops offer lessons for beginners. Layback and welcoming, Bonaire should be on any Caribbean travel wishlist.

Best Holiday Destinations #30

Isabel Leong of Bel Around the World | New Zealand

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Newzealand

The landscapes that I’ve witnessed in New Zealand speaks of the raw, untamed beauty of the forces of nature. The brilliance of Earth’s formations cannot be felt anywhere else.

Imagine stepping through the rolling hills of Hobbiton and the picturesque plains that you see in Lord of The Rings. Witness the forces of the glacier at Fox Glacier, and admire the colours of that natural chemicals like sulfur have on geothermal sites. If you’re itching for adrenaline, New Zealand’s got everything you need, from bungy jumping to skydiving, and even blackwater rafting.

Many are put off by the cost of touring New Zealand, but it can be affordable! Renting a campervan and driving through the island can be so much more affordable than what most people think. I only spent NZD 50 a day on a campervan, split by 4 people!

Best Holiday Destinations #31

Trisha of PS I’m on my Way | Armenia

Best Holiday Destinations 2017 - Armenia

When Armenia is raised in any conversation, people will always come up with the question, “what the hell do we know about Armenia?” Exactly. Nothing. And I think this is enough reason to go. Aside from the surprising fact that you can travel Armenia for $30 per day (including food, accommodation, and tours, I kid you not), this country is very rich in interesting history. Sure, a lot of countries have histories, but that of Armenia’s is something very engaging as it is the first country to adapt Christianity (even before Rome did!)

I am not a religious person but if a country can make me stimulated in things I have zero interest in, then it is worth telling a story. Armenia should unquestionably be in your travel plans this year.

This concludes our list of the Best Holiday Destinations for 2017. Do let us know in the comments if you have a favourite you would like to recommend and a why!

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A Platinum Journey of Love | Gypsycouple’s Story http://gypsycouple.com/platinum/ http://gypsycouple.com/platinum/#respond Thu, 19 Jan 2017 15:42:58 +0000 http://gypsycouple.com/?p=7678 We still remember it as it was yesterday. We had departed for our honeymoon the previous night and after 2 flight changes and a longish overnight flight connection we finally reached our destination. The sight that greeted us and the utter glee we saw reflected on our respective faces was our Platinum Moment of love. To understand where we are ...

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We still remember it as it was yesterday. We had departed for our honeymoon the previous night and after 2 flight changes and a longish overnight flight connection we finally reached our destination. The sight that greeted us and the utter glee we saw reflected on our respective faces was our Platinum Moment of love.

Platinum Moments Platinum Moments

To understand where we are coming from, one needs to understand how we met. Technically the role of fate was minimal and the success can be solely attributed to our parents who set us up for a “date”. In an arranged marriage setting, the process can be divided into 3 very distinct stages,

  1. The family date
  2. The date
  3. The wedding

On our first family date, we were both kind of nervous not knowing what to expect out of a date surrounded by the elders of your family winking and prepping you up for what looks like a done deal to them. However, we managed to get a conversation going and apparently made good enough impressions on each other to move on to stage 2. The date is exactly like a normal date but with an agenda.

Platinum Moments

Photo Credits | Mihir Mehta

Timelines are short and its essential one figures out as early as possible if the person at the other end of the table is a likely contender for Big Boss season eternity. If not, the cycle continues. The coffee shop became a first milestone for our married lives, where the two of us without a common background to begin with, ended up chatting away like old friends till an unlikely ring notified us of the hours gone past. A small but important moment of revelation which told us that “I” was passé and “We” was in vogue. We knew then and there, that we were meant to be forever together. We were soon married and off to our honeymoon, the place where we would truly discover the moment which defined our relationship.

Platinum Moments Platinum Moments

The view of the approaching airport, one so tiny it looked like the plane might overshoot its length before stopping, was gorgeous. The weather was sunny with a hint of grey peeping from behind the glare. On our way to our hotel however, it started to drizzle and fearing the worst we hurried into our hotel for the check-in. Once we had deposited the bags in our rooms we headed out to explore the private beaches of the hotel. The sight which greeted us was out of this world. The sky and the beach looked freshly washed if such a thing is possible and out to greet us was a double rainbow. Rainbows are rare enough commodity where we come from, a double rainbow is more of a myth. The look of utter glee reflected on each other’s faces at the sight of the rainbow made that moment truly Platinum! That single moment removed any shred of awkwardness which remained between us in this newly evolved relationship, sent a spark of understanding between us. We understood how we together were creatures of curiosity and loved our bit of finding something momentous. We both revelled in the act of explorations and while independent, there was a unique joy in sharing it with each other. An unspoken promise was made that moment one of discovering life through travel and that is how my friends, Gypsycouple as you know it came to be.

Platinum Moments

Photo Credits | Mihir Mehta

The moment you find your soulmate like we did, you’ll know that they will be true to you for the rest of your life. Platinum Love Bands are a great way to seal this precious moment – a symbol of forever together & the bond of pure love the moment stands for. Do you have a similar Platinum Moment of celebration? Share them with us as comments, we would love to hear about them.

This post was made possible by Platinum Guild International & ORRA Jewellers.

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Things to do in Jordan | 5 Secret tips to fuel your Wanderlust http://gypsycouple.com/jordan-guide/ http://gypsycouple.com/jordan-guide/#respond Thu, 29 Dec 2016 09:57:36 +0000 http://gypsycouple.com/?p=7660 Jordan is frequently overshadowed by its neighbours and a bit ignored, partly due to the instability in the region. In fact it is a Treasure-chest waiting to be opened by tourists who do manage to get here. Perfectly safe and amazingly beautiful are common phrases used by travellers we know who’ve been there and it seems, well deservedly so. However, like all ...

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Jordan is frequently overshadowed by its neighbours and a bit ignored, partly due to the instability in the region. In fact it is a Treasure-chest waiting to be opened by tourists who do manage to get here. Perfectly safe and amazingly beautiful are common phrases used by travellers we know who’ve been there and it seems, well deservedly so. However, like all under-explored destinations, there is a chance that one might miss out on the best the place has to offer simply because there’s not much written about it. Without further ado, here is a short secret Jordan guide from us on things to do in Jordan and more importantly what not to miss.

Things to do in Jordan #1: Petra by the night

Gypsycouple Jordan Guide: Petra, Jordan

Photo Credits | Wikicommons

Petra is perhaps the most visited of all destinations in Jordan and for good reason. Called the cradle of civilization by many due to the Mesopotamian Civilization which is said to have flourished in the region. The lost city of Petra, Jordan is an adventurer’s fantasy and a mythologist’s paradise as there are so many things to still ponder over and discover. However once the day trippers retire after a day’s worth of exploring and million selfies with the camels, Petra shows another face to the ones who stay behind. A special tour takes you through the Siq with just candles to light the way. The tour ends at the Treasury, illuminated by thousands of candles offering a hauntingly beautiful image one cannot describe in words or photos. Miss it at your own peril.

Jordan Guide Tip: If you’re in the mood for a little offbeat, a trip to little Petra might take you away from the tourist hordes and right in the middle of history. Also do not forget to click the obligatory camel selfie.

If you like night tours, you might also like our recommendations in our Prague Guide. If you’re into history & culture, you might enjoy this compilation of World Heritage Sites .

Things to do in Jordan #2: Feeling alive in the Dead Sea

Gypsycouple Jordan Guide : Dead Sea

Photo Credits | Wikicommons

Almost everyone has heard about the Dead Sea. How because of its high saline content, there does not exist any marine life in its water and how people regardless of their volume, can “float” on it. However it is more of an experience than a science lesson. It is best understood by stripping into your swimming gear and jumping into the water try to disapprove the popular theory. Its therapeutic water is supposed to be good for the body and a traditional mud bath is recommended.

Jordan Guide Tip: It is recommended to avoid shaving right before the dip as a possible way to save yourself some serious burning. 

Things to do in Jordan #3: Live the Bedouin Life

Gypsycouple Jordan Guide : Wadi Rum Bedouins

Photo Credits | Wikicommons

The nomadic Bedouins hold a special spot in our hearts simply because they embody the gypsy values in their life much better than we do. Direct descendants of the Nabateans who built Petra, they are said to be excellent storytellers. Given that they would know the lay of the land better than practically anyone else, they also serve as wonderful guides. Especially so if you’re open to walking off the beaten path. The desert of Wadi Rum (Valley of the moon) offers the best experience of meeting and befriending the Bedouins. It also helps that the desert with its constantly changing colours, enigmatic vistas and breath-taking landscape also offers the best view of the stars. Stay at the Feynan Eco Lodge for the best experience while following the footsteps of the Lawrence of Arabia.

Jordan Guide Tip: Take the balloon flight over the desert which offers a much different perspective than from the ground.

Things to do in Jordan #4: Castle Hopping

Gypsycouple Jordan Guide : Karak Castle

Photo Credits | Wikicommons

This is a new term we’ve coined just for this experience. Similar to pub hopping, this experience involves visiting multiple castles instead of pubs. In this case, the crusader castles, scattered throughout Jordan. Of the lot, Karak is the most imposing and well preserved. A striking example of the 12th century castles built by crusaders and then strengthened by the Mamluke Sultans. The museum inside the castle offers a good glimpse into the history of the region and is highly recommended.

Jordan Guide Tip: Ask for a special tour through the Maluke Tunnels.

Things to do in Jordan #5: Search for Nemo in the Red Sea

Gypsycouple Jordan Guide : Finding Nemo in Aqaba, Red Sea

Photo Credits | Wikicommons

Jordan is not all desert as is commonly perceived. Aqaba a city off the Red Sea offers beaches, water sports and a chance for go searching for Nemo on your own. Tala Bay, located close to the city is a base for luxurious resorts and private beaches and offers a magnificent view of the Red Sea alongside the mountainous landscape. The glass of Jordanian wine (yes, it exists) makes for a perfect partner for viewing the sunset.

Jordan Guide Tip: Take the sunset cruise from Aqaba to Tala Bay if that’s your thing but if your budget permits, we recommend taking a microflight over the city which offers a totally different perspective.

If you’re planning a trip to Jordan you might also want to look at these itineraries by CN Traveller & National Geographic as a reference alongside our guide, before making your bookings.

Disclaimer: We’ve never been to Jordan but all these secrets we’ve shared in this Jordan Guide have been offered to us via our friends who either live there or have travelled there before. The Royal Jordanian have regular flights to this wonderful country from a range of destinations.

Read: Reasons to visit Egypt

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This Jordan guide tells you about 5 things to do in Jordan and tips on how to do them well.

 

 

 

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Where to stay in Bali | A comprehensive guide to Bali Hotels http://gypsycouple.com/bali-hotels/ http://gypsycouple.com/bali-hotels/#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2016 12:04:58 +0000 http://gypsycouple.com/?p=4239 Bali, the Island of the Gods has become a tourist magnet in the last couple of years meaning that there are numerous guides on how to party hard, top Bali hotels & what to see and eat. However all that means is that the popular become even more popular while the undiscovered remain a cherished secret. One of Indonesia’s 17,500 ...

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Bali, the Island of the Gods has become a tourist magnet in the last couple of years meaning that there are numerous guides on how to party hard, top Bali hotels & what to see and eat. However all that means is that the popular become even more popular while the undiscovered remain a cherished secret. One of Indonesia’s 17,500 islands, it still remains the most sought after destination in the archipelago and holds the majority of the country’s Hindu population.

Bali is often mistaken to be a city or a single destination when it is an island covering several places of interest. We will be looking at different parts of the island separated by direction and offering suggestions for the top Bali hotels by region.

Bali Hotels

South Bali

South Bali includes Kuta, Western Bukit and Uluwatu, Canggu, Denpasar, Jimbaran, Legian, Nusa Dua, Sanur, Seminyak, and Tanah Lot. It is probably the most frequented part of Bali as well with the backpacker paradise Kuta and the chic Seminyak leading the charge.

Bali Hotels

South Bali Hotels

  1. The Legian, Seminyak : The Legian is a five-star all-suite luxury resort located in the far northern part of the popular namesake beach resort area of Legian, directly bordering with neighbouring Seminyak.
  2. Tugu Bali, Canggu : This museum boutique hotel owned by an Indonesian antiques collector since the mid 1960s contains one of the largest original art collections in Southeast Asia. Each of the charming thatched suites is peppered amid lush gardens and lotus ponds
  3. Grand Nikko Bali, Nusa Dua : This sprawling, upscale resort is set on a lush cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean. It is the first branded Hilton after its takeover by the group and will be known as Hilton Bali Resort post the re-branding

Central Bali

Central Bali includes Ubud, Gianyar, Bedugul, and Tabanan. Ubud is probably the most popular region of the island especially after its depiction in Eat Pray Love. The region is the cultural capital of the island.

Bali Hotels

Central Bali Hotels

  1. Hanging Gardens, Ubud : Set in lush rainforest, this acclaimed, Feng Shui-styled resort has Swanky 1-bedroom villas with thatched-roofs feature private terraces with dining areas, heated, granite-lined infinity pools and one of the best hotel pools in the world.
  2. Alila Ubud : An ode to village life, it is a tranquil and secluded hillside retreat that sits high up on the edge of the rich green Ayung River valley in Bali’s central foothills, in the traditional Balinese hill village of Payangan.
  3. Mathis Retreat : Surrounded by lush greenery and breathtaking views overlooking its own rice paddy fields, it offers an ideal gateway to Ubud’s art, dance and culture. All 21 rooms and bungalows feature an elegant mix of contemporary design and Balinese architecture.

West Bali

West Bali includes Negara, Gilimanuk, Medewi Beach, and Pemuteran. Pemuteran is a great option for a nice secluded beach with shallow waters for snorkelling and the region serves as a cross over to Java for land based routes.

Bali Hotels

West Bali Hotels

  1. Puri Ganesha Villas, Pemuteran : Extraordinary, laid-back luxury hideaway: just 4 large beachside villas with eclectic décor, private pools, fab organic food and a charismatic host.
  2. The Menjangan, Bali Barat National Park : A Remote retreat in the bio-diverse Bali Barat National Park, a wildlife-wonderland
  3. Matahari Beach Resort & Spa : With its central location, Matahari Beach Resort & Spa is within easy reach of most tourist attractions and business addresses in Bali.

North Bali

North Bali includes Lovina, and Singaraja. You can enjoy quiet black sand beaches and the old capital city and Dolphin sighting at Lovina is not to be missed.

Bali Hotels

North Bali Hotels

  1. Sanak Retreat, Munduk : Surrounded by paddy fields and scenic mountain views in the North of Bali in a village called Kayuputih, near Munduk, this relaxing getaway features 11 spacious wooden bungalows with a private terrace or balcony overlooking beautiful tropical landscapes and a swimming pool.
  2. Damai lovina villas, Lovina : It is a peaceful retreat located on the verdant hillside overlooking Lovina Bay. Eight villas are decked out in teak and Balinese fabric, with four-poster beds and large picture windows. The restaurant produces fine European-Asian food using ingredients from the hotel’s organic farm.
  3. Puri Mangga Sea View Resort & Spa, Lovina : This Tuscan style resort is situated just 5 minutes from the beach and is perfect for a peaceful, quiet retreat away from the crowds.

East Bali

East Bali includes Amed, Besakih, Candidasa, Kintamani, Klungkung, Mount Agung, Padang Bai, and Tirta Gangga. Mt Agung is one of the holiest sites of the island and the region abounds in laid back villages, active volcanoes and a religious hotbed.

Bali Hotels

Photo Credits | Wiki Commons

 

East Bali Hotels

  1. Candi beach cottages, Candidasa : Smart refurbished rooms surrounded by a coconut grove, with a free hour on the tennis courts or canoe hire.
  2. Palm Garden Amed Beach & Spa Resort : Surrounded by coconut trees and lotus ponds, this thatched all-villa and bungalow resort, set in Northeastern Bali’s Amed Coast, is a minute’s walk from the beach.
  3. Villa Idanna : Set on a promontory overlooking the spellbinding Sidemen Valley’s rice terraces and forested hills leading up the sacred volcano Gunung Agung, Villa Idanna, Bali offers a quiet refuge for rejuvenation and solace.

Feel free to recommend your favourite hotels in the different regions of Bali. As this list is always a work in progress we are always looking for Bali hotels we might have missed.

Most hotels on the list can be booked via Traveloka.com which offers the best deals for travel bookings in Indonesia. If you’re looking for a no-nonsense Bali guide, this T&L Guide offers you the best of Bali.

If you liked this compilation, you might also like our list of the Best Destination Hotels in India or our list of Top Boutique Hotels of 2015

If you’re anything like us and are thinking of venturing beyond Bali, Raja Ampat is a great place for your adventuring needs. You can check out this cool Raja Ampat Travel Guide for more details.

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Where to stay in Bali | Top Bali Hotels

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24 Hours in Prague, The City of Spires http://gypsycouple.com/prague-guide/ http://gypsycouple.com/prague-guide/#comments Sun, 27 Nov 2016 14:42:18 +0000 http://gypsycouple.com/?p=4169 We say we lost our heart to Budapest only because we went there earlier. If not, chances are that it would be stolen by this city of spires, mired in history, culture and beer. It’s Europe in a nutshell for the lack of a better analogy. It’s got Vienna’s art, a Parisian charm, its beer competes with the best in ...

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We say we lost our heart to Budapest only because we went there earlier. If not, chances are that it would be stolen by this city of spires, mired in history, culture and beer. It’s Europe in a nutshell for the lack of a better analogy. It’s got Vienna’s art, a Parisian charm, its beer competes with the best in the world and its cobbled pathways lead everywhere and nowhere, from secret cafes to hidden chapels to unexpected gardens. Charles Bridge, a 14th century stone bridge across the river vltava offers brilliant views of the city spread on both banks and of the gorgeous hilltop castle. After a walking tour discovering the sights of the city you need not seek the comfort of your mattress. Instead soak away your aches in a beer spa and end your day at an absinthe bar if you want. The process of drinking this poison, banned in several countries across the globe, is fascinating to say the least. Prague is a city with a big heart and one we would love to get lost in again and again. Although 24 Hours is too little to spend in this enchanting city, we’ve come up with an exciting Prague guide should you have only that much time at hand.

prague3

PRAGUE GUIDE DAY I 

5.30 P.M.

astronomical-clock

The old town square is perhaps the heart of the city and one of its most popular and historical areas. Given that it’s filled with dining and drinking establishments of all shapes and sizes, it’s guaranteed to have a sizeable tourist and local population irrespective of the time and day of the week. The astronomical clock is something which is covered during the day walking tour as well, but the evening does add to its charm. Though everything in the city is just a small walk away, the beautiful Charles bridge, literally so, looks enchanting during the night. Adorned with 30 statues, one of which is an effigy of the martyr St John of Nepomuk and legend has it that touching the statue will bring you good luck. A small walk across the bridge is highly recommended.

7 P.M

prague2

It is a shame if you miss out on a cultural initiation when in Prague. Arguably the best way to do so would be the Prague Ghosts & Legends Walking Tour (or a similar tour by some other name). Normally about an hour and half long, the tour takes you through the twisting back streets and narrow alleyways visiting mythical monuments like the headquarters of the Knight Templar in Prague and haunted churches. Though probably not as scary as the dedicated ghost tours, this one is for the entire family with the right mix of history, culture and horror to keep everyone on their toes.

8.30 P.M.

trdelnik_stand

Head on to Lehká Hlava, our choice for the best vegetarian food in town. The place serves a mix of Mexican, Italian and Czech food, ideal after the long (and scary) walk which should’ve helped your appetite. The “small clear head” taster plate and the simple green salad with honey-lemon dressing is what we recommend, but the other starter and main course options are just as good. After you’re done, you have an option to head over to Hemingway’s bar for a brief introduction Absinthe and how to drink it the correct way, or picking a barely-pronounceable Trdelník from the vendors in the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. The Trdelník is a traditional pastry made from freshly-grilled dough covered with sugar and ground walnuts and a must have in Prague.

Insider Tip

The food stalls at the very touristy Old Town Square can be a bit pricey. Going a bit off the route will save you a few korun and probably taste a lot nicer too.

PRAGUE GUIDE DAY II

 9.30 A.M

Bistro Sisters Restaurant in Prague Guide Bistro Sisters Restaurant in Prague Guide

Make your way to the Bistro Sisters for an early morning caffeine kick start and a spot of breakfast. We’ve heard that their “chlebicky” (traditional open-faced sandwiches) especially the option with red beet puree with goat cheese, radishes and cream cheese is a local favorite. The stylish, chic but extremely friendly café can be just the thing to have you prepped up to start the day.

10.30 A.M

prague-municipal-house Powder tower Franz Kafka’s house

Prague offers some of the best walking tours we’ve been on. There are numerous options to choose from based on your time constraints, but we would recommend one which takes you to the Prague Castle, The St. Vitus Cathedral, Kafka’s birth house, the old-new synagogues and the Jewish cemetery.  However if you’re in the mood to go exploring yourself, we have some interesting ideas for you as well. Take a tram from Korunovacní to Ujezd where the funicular railway will take you up to the top of Petřín Hill, which is the summit of one of the most popular parks in Prague, Petřínské Sady. The Petřín Tower which literally towers over the park offers some of the best views of the city given its high vantage point. After your morning fix of shareworthy photos and selfies, you can head towards the Bludišté, a beautiful labyrinthine hall of mirrors. The Prague Castle, a UNESCO Heritage site, is just a short distance away and a must see. Of course you can cover all the above mentioned places on your own, but it simply isn’t the same without someone to guide you around.

12 P.M

st-nicholas-church

If you’ve decided to skip the walking tour, head over to ‘Lesser Town’ or Malá Strana. Picturesque is the word that comes to your mind when visiting these quarters, recognizable by its beautiful Baroque architecture and quaint cobbled side streets. If you feel like a late lunch, grab a cherry cake or a meringue kiss from Cukrkávalimonáda’s patisserie on your way. If you have some time at hand, it’s well worth visiting the farmers market at Holešovická Tržnice , which offers quite a range of trinklets, street fashion, souvenirs and more. The products are much cheaper than the ones available at the more touristy locations and make for a good bargain. 

1:30 P.M

estrella

If you’re in the mood to have a light lunch head over to Bistro Zahrada for an organic/ gluten free lunch – they offer outdoor seating as well if the weather is nice and the cakes are scrumptious. Alternately you can visit Estrella, which offers a more robust menu, good food and great service. The daily specials are always interesting and it’s a worthwhile pick if you’re in a mood for a proper lunch.

3 P.M

the-museum-of-alchemists-magicians-of-old-prague

After lunch and so much outdoor sightseeing, the afternoon calls for some indoor sightseeing in museums (and art galleries if you like). The Museum of Alchemists & Magicians of Old Prague isn’t as fascinating and magical as its name sounds but makes for an interesting visit. The presentation is flashy but is in tune with the theme given that occult practitioners & magicians who tend to be a little sensational themselves.  The Sex Machines Museum might not top everyone’s list but should be if only for the bragging rights. That it is the only museum of its kind in the world makes it a must visit for the vaguely curious, couples on the road and solo backpackers alike. Families might want to give it a miss to avoid uncomfortable questions by curious kids. If your quota of weirdness is still not full, you might want to head over to the Museum of Historical Chamber of Pots & Toilets. We discovered a similar one in Delhi, but this one has quite the collection too.

5 P.M.

lennonwall

It would be tough to beat the above list with anything remotely normal so we would recommend heading over to the Lennon wall, which takes a bit of negotiating a maze of narrow alleyways to reach and is a graffiti laden wall dedicated to John Lennon. Surprisingly, the history isn’t about the city’s fascination with music but as a symbol of Czech youth’s resistance against the previous communist regime which banned a slew of things including pop music. A fitting and interesting end to our proposed tour. Should you still be in town and have some time at hand, head over to the Beer Spa Carlsbad, the most popular spa of its kind in Prague. Reservations are not mandatory but recommended to not have you miss out on the one of its kind experience while in this city.

This concludes our itinerary for this wonderful city. If you have some suggestions or recommendations of things to do to add to the Prague guide, please feel free to mention them in your comments.

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Delhi darshan | 24 hours in Delhi http://gypsycouple.com/delhi-darshan/ http://gypsycouple.com/delhi-darshan/#comments Mon, 14 Nov 2016 10:01:42 +0000 http://gypsycouple.com/?p=4130 It is often said “Dilli hai dil waalon ki” – Delhi is for the people who are large hearted and daring. As with the other megalopolis’ of the Indian Subcontinent, there exists a frenzied chaos which envelops you when you set foot upon its soil. A normal Delhi Darshan is one led by the sheer hordes of immovable pedestrians, sacred ...

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It is often said “Dilli hai dil waalon ki” – Delhi is for the people who are large hearted and daring. As with the other megalopolis’ of the Indian Subcontinent, there exists a frenzied chaos which envelops you when you set foot upon its soil. A normal Delhi Darshan is one led by the sheer hordes of immovable pedestrians, sacred cows, haggling porters, pestering street peddlers and honking rickshaws and taxis. However it is also what lends it its charm – vivid and vibrant. Given its long history, the jumbo sized city is composed of a mix of architectural pieces which lends it its vibrancy. It is easy to get lost in the splendid palaces, tombs and mosques left behind by the Mughals and exit into a splendid British Raj monument – probably used as a government building. It’s also easy to find a steady equilibrium between shanty towns and restricted diplomatic areas both indispensable parts of the city’s personality. Given how intimidating it can become for first timers in the city, we’ve shortlisted a Delhi Darshan for the ideal 24 hours in the city.

DELHI DARSHAN DAY I

6 P.M:

Connaught Place Connaught Place Connaught Place

You’ve just arrived in the city via a ride hailing app, the metro or by a prebooked airport transfer in delhi and need a bit of loosening up. Head to Connaught Place which apart from being one of the largest commercial hubs in the country is also a testament to the architectural genius Edward Lutyen’s idea of Delhi. Well connected by all manners of local transport, it has entertainment options of all kinds like cinemas, restaurants, drinking holes as well as several bustling markets including an underground one, within its premises. If nothing else it is a wonderful place to get a feel of rhythm of the city, perfect for an evening stroll or for a bout of people watching. We recommend trying some flavoured milk shakes from Keventers, grabbing some desserts or savoury bakes at Wengers or simply enjoying some street side shopping (haggling is a must). A couple of hours should whiz by as you head to the next destination on our list.

8 P.M.

Photo Credits | Whatsuplife.in

Photo Credits | Whatsuplife.in

Hauz Khas Village (pronounced as Horse Cars Village) is arguably the trendiest destination of the city. Previously a hub for artists to sell/showcase/promote their wares, it has grown into a gathering hub for the city social elites as the smaller shops gave way to the bigger art galleries, boutiques, fancy restaurants, bars and night clubs. Dining options are numerous and have a variety of cuisines on offer from Mediterranean to East Asian to a much lesser known Himalayan cuisine. Ofcourse should you desire a more regular fare, the place abounds in North Indian, South Indian and Italian cuisines as well. One of our favourite places to hang out in Delhi the only concern would be to get a table during the weekends. Hauz Khas Social, The Project at Park Balluchi and the Hippie Trail would be some of our recommendations for this new age bohemian destination.

DELHI DARSHAN DAY II

Hangover of the previous night aside, you should be geared up for the long day ahead of you as you check out the city sights.

9 A.M.

Choley Bhature at Chandni Chowk

It is a difficult proposition to ask a fellow traveller to wake up early and give up on the free breakfast on offer (one that could have been a deciding factor in selecting the hotel in question). It’s a no brainer ofcourse if you consider that the first bit of sightseeing on the menu is a food tour (see what we did here) Delhi through your tastebuds if you like. Chandni Chowk is perhaps the most well known place in Delhi to get a feel of the authentic street food that the city is famous for and with good reason. Head over to Sita Ram Diwan Chand for its legendary Choley Bhature (Chick pea curry with deep fried balloon bread) if you do not mind your breakfast a bit spicy. Eat light as you will be returning here for the second round.

10 A.M.

Photo Credits | Wikicommons

After a quick breakfast, head over to Jama Masjid, the largest and best known Mosque in India. Climb up the intimidating stairs and explore the gates and towers of this beautiful monument. Remember to dress conservatively covering your knees, shoulder and head as a sign of respect to the place of worship. The huge courtyard can accommodate 25000 worshipers at a time and the interiors including the inlay detail of the arches and the decorate marble on the floor is unparalleled. The early morning excursion helps avoid the sweltering heat, the tourist crowds and the accompanying touts offering a “history tour” of the monument.

11 A.M.

Red Fort

The Red Fort, a short distance away back towards the Chandni Chowk market, is another colossal monument. The fort is so named because of the red sandstone used to build it. The fort was the residence of the Mughal Emperors and their families and remains an iconic structure even in the present political structure of the country. Despite our misgivings about the utility of guides to exploring a place, given the huge size of the structure it is recommended to get an official guide or atleast rent an audio guide easily available beside the entry ticket counter. The written guides at each structure, though helpful, is simply not enough to take you through the history behind the beautiful inner courts & pavilions and the private residences of the Mughal emperor, his wives and his mistresses.

12 P.M.

Parranthe at Chandni Chowk

After a long morning of sightseeing it is essential to refill the tank for another round of exploring. The lunch is said to be the most important meal of the day and it is essential that we take you through our picks of the lot. Start with Dahi Bhalle (Savory fritters submerged in thick yogurt topped with coriander and tamarind condiment) & Aaloo Tikki (Piping hot Potato fritters with a filling of cottage cheese/crushed lentils and assorted spices, topped with tamarind and coriander condiments) at Natraj Dahi Bhalla wala, a hole in the wall shop serving these delectable treasures. Be sure not to fall into temptation and order a second serving as we’ve a lot more lined up for your lunch. Head over to Kake di Hatti serving arguably the best Paranthas (Whole Wheat unleavened flat bread stuffed with a filling of your choice) in town. They are more famous for its challenges to patrons to finish their jumbo sized parantha in one sitting (an impossible task for sure given its size). Ask specifically for its regular size to have a remote chance of finishing it and having a taste of the desserts ahead. On exiting the shop you can stumble/walk/crawl your way over to the shop on the right. Giani’s, offers arguably the best Rabri Falooda in Delhi, the home of this sweet, condensed milk based dish topped with vermicelli, making it the best of its kind in the world. If you have a little space in your dessert stomach left over (we believe in having two stomachs, one for normal food and another for desserts), head over to the nearest vendor selling Shahi Tukda (pieces of bread being fried in clarified butter) is as great as its name which literally means pieces of royalty. There, we’re done and hopefully you should be too. If not, take a break and head over to our next destination.

If you’re fond of street food, you might like our post on the Best Vegetarian Streetfood in Old Delhi

2.00 P.M.

Photo Credits | Sulabh Toilet Museum

Photo Credits | Sulabh Toilet Museum

The Sulabh Toilet Museum won’t find its way into most tourist itineraries simply because it’s weird. If the next question on your mind is how weird, it was listed as the third weirdest museum in the World by Time Magazine. It displays toilet related paraphernalia from as far back as 2,500 BC has everything from ordinary chamber pots to ornate Victorian toilet seats. The museum houses toilets sourced from over 50 countries including a replica of the throne of King Louis the XIV who was rumoured to defecate while holding court sessions. All in all it seems an ideal place to flush out all the stress in your system, pun intended.

3.30 P.M.

qutubminar Qutub Minar Complex qutubminarcomplex2

A longish drive or a couple of changed trains in the Delhi metro takes you to Qutub Minar, the gorgeous red sandstone and marble tower which is the tallest brick minaret in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site just like Humayun’s Tomb. There are several other medieval period monuments in the complex including the iron pillar rumoured to be the first example of a corrosion free composition and a testament to the skills of the Indian blacksmiths of the time. Go for a leisurely walk around the Qutub complex exploring the other mosques and tombs.

4.30 P.M.

Humayun's Tomb

A short drive will take you to Humayun’s Tomb. Built in the memory of the second Mughal Emperor, it is the first garden tomb complex in India built by the Mughals and looks very similar to the magnificent Taj Mahal for which it was an inspiration. The red sandstone structure looks beautiful and serene as you take a walk alongside the water channels of the garden and gives an entirely different perspective when you look at the garden and the city from atop the structure. Despite it being a popular tourist attraction, it is blessed with a calm and quiet unlike its brethren and sets the mood for our next destination.

Read more about other UNESCO World Heritage Sites across the world.

5.30 P.M.

Lodhi Gardens Lodhi Gardens

If you’re in the mood for a small walk, Lodhi Gardens, our final sightseeing destination is just 2-3 Kms away translating to a 15-20 minute walk. If you’re tired you can try hailing an autorickshaw which might end up taking a similar amount of time and effort. Lodhi Gardens is a historical city park housing several tombs including one of Mohammad Shah and of Sikander Lodi and one of the last known buildings from Emperor Akbar’s reign, the Athpula, or the eight piered bridge. Lodi Garden remains an important place of preservation but is known more for its peaceful ambience making it a favorite for morning joggers. Afterwards, you can head to either Lodi – The Garden Restaurant for an exclusive fine dine experience or to Big Chill café at the nearby Khan market for a lighter more snackier meal with incredible desserts (we recommend their version of their Banofee pie)

There’s enough and more to do in this wonderful city and should you have a little more time at hand, hit us up for some more inspiration / recommendations of things to do and see. If you’re on your maiden visit  to this fantastic country, you might want to check out this guide to the best places to visit in India and Incredible India – States and Union territories

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This guide to Delhi takes you through a whirlwind tour of places to see in Delhi including museums, UNESCO World Heritage sites and more

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Rajasthan Tour | India Road Trip in Monsoons http://gypsycouple.com/roadtrip-rajasthan-tour/ http://gypsycouple.com/roadtrip-rajasthan-tour/#comments Fri, 11 Nov 2016 15:17:29 +0000 http://gypsycouple.com/?p=4121 The rain holds a special place in our hearts and is probably the reason why we travel a lot during the monsoons. India Road trip as a rule is  shunned by most during this season probably because of the bad condition of roads. However much to the dismay of our parents and astonishment of our friends we geared up for ...

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The rain holds a special place in our hearts and is probably the reason why we travel a lot during the monsoons. India Road trip as a rule is  shunned by most during this season probably because of the bad condition of roads. However much to the dismay of our parents and astonishment of our friends we geared up for a Rajasthan tour. Normally an ideal monsoon destination, this year the rain Gods decided to unleash their fury on this desert state with widespread flooding reported including in areas we had planned to cover. Not one to back down from a challenge we decided to go ahead with the trip giving the rains a leeway of about a week to settle down. Let’s just say the roadtrip did not go as expected.

Our route was Ahmedabad to Ranakpur to Jodhpur to Bhainsrorgarh to Udaipur and back. Which seemed great on paper but given the lashing rains and the fact that we would have to cover some rural stretches (bye bye 6 laned highways) there were bound to be complications. We started our journey with clear skies and a sunny disposition and the roads in top shape. We reached Udaipur in record time and continued on to Ranakpur. Given its location and the season, the green on both sides of the road was a welcome sight and an exhilarating one at that. Though we were crossing parts of the Aravalli, the roads at no point seemed treacherous or broken.

Rajasthan Tour

We encountered little or no trouble during our stay at Ranakpur and made a fantastic discovery on our return from the Jain temples that evening. Asking a few locals, we discovered a small trail by the road which led down to a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva which was where Mahrana Pratap used to frequent and took blessings from before starting his famous campaign at Haldighati. We never could find anyone to verify this particular folklore but found solace at this small temple which is now frequented only by local devouts.

If you’re planning to stay at Ranakpur, read our review of The Mountbatten Lodge.

Our journey to Jodhpur the next day should by all accounts have been a short and smooth one. However, our hotel was off the main highway in a small village in the desert. The offroading was particularly difficult because of the flood like situation a few days ago which had destroyed all roads in a stretch and to call it bumpy would have been an understatement. We were only able to reach a particular point post which our luggage was transferred to a 4WD Mahindra vehicle which took us to our destination. The desert hardly looked its part and instead gave the feeling of us travelling through a green stretch with small ponds on either side of the road, roads which looked like small trails overrun with streams and sprouts and trees and shrubs in full bloom. Hardly a sight for what was supposed to be a desert experience.

Rajasthan Tour

We weren’t displeased though (except for the ride which wasn’t helping our already stiff backs) as the views made for a tranquil sight. The journey to and fro as we visited the main city was as painful but quite worth it as we discovered the various sights of the city including the beautiful Jaswant Thada and the intimidating Mehrangarh Fort. What most tourists skip out on are the street eats which is best tackled if you have your own drive. Asking a few locals about their favorite eating joint we reached a shop which had … surprise, surprise, only locals milling around. The various Kachoris we had including the very ingenious Mawa Kachori which made it sort of a sweet dish was lipsmacking to say the least.

Rajasthan Tour

If you’re open to staying outside Jodhpur city, you might want to check out our review of Mihirgarh.

On leaving our hotel for Bhainsrorgarh, we had thought that the worst was behind us, however the reality was far from it. We started off well enough, paying homage to a local God which has an interesting backstory. The motorcycle God, Om Banna, is said to be the God of travellers and every driver ferrying tourists passing by this road makes it a point to stop, pay homage and seek blessings for a smooth journey. The motorcycle being a 350cc Enfield Bullet. It is said that Om Banna on his way back to home was killed in an accident driving this same motorcycle. The morning after the accident, local police took the motorcycle to a nearby police station but was reported the next day to have disappeared from the station and found back at the site of the accident. It kept coming back despite the best efforts of the local police and thus formed the folklore and cult of Om Banna.

Rajasthan Tour

We did pay homage, but maybe weren’t devout enough given our journey ahead. After we exited the highway, roads were non existent, canals were overflowing, the livestock having no respite from the flowing water below or the lashing rain above has resorted to standing on whatever stretch of high ground – namely the uncrumbled bits of road. This however meant we were continuously driving through potholes for about three hours and the route which should have taken us 6 hours of smooth driving even with moderate traffic took us upwards of 9 hours.

Rajasthan Tour

We stopped at a couple of places to ask for directions and the condition of the road and a few times to  grab some bhutta (corn cob) and chai (tea) as we didn’t dare to stop for lunch and risk getting more delayed. Once we finally reached our destination, the mist which had accompanied us for the last hour changed into a light drizzle dampening our clothes to match our moods as we made way to our rooms. That we were served some hot tea with pakodas (deep fried potatoes/onions made with chickpea batter) which after this long journey was very welcome and frankly helped reduce a lot of our stress. The climate remained the same throughout our stay and we opted to walk down and explore for the remainder of our stay.

Check out our review of The Bhainsrorgarh Fort Heritage Hotel if you’re heading that way.

The day finally arrived when we were to leave for Udaipur and filled our minds with dread for the upcoming bumpiness. Maybe the blessings of Om Banna took time to reach us, however we faced little to no difficulty except for the bumps which we had braced ourselves for. The ride to Udaipur was a smooth one and given that we were right on time we decided to stop by and explore another local myth, Shri Sanwaliya Sheth.

Rajasthan Tour

There are two temples, a smaller one on the highway and the original and much bigger one in a village off the road. Not wishing to risk an offroader again we visited the temple on the highway. Folklore says that Sanwaliya Sheth is the avatar of Lord Krishna and the God of thieves. If you’ve have indulged in thievery of any form, from stealing pocket money to evading check points at borders or even caught in the act, you can pray to Sanwaliya Sheth and promise him 10% of the amount and he will make everything alright. Given the context, it wasn’t surprising to see the temple filled to the brim with devouts. It was actually funny how we want to believe in something to ease the guilt in ourselves. Truly an amazing find for sure!

The rest of the short trip to Udaipur was as expected and so was the onward trip back to Ahmedabad. An uneventful end to what was a roller coaster roadtrip in the monsoons. However, we took back much more than the sights from the trip and on such a long journey and adverse conditions we’ve come to appreciate the road safety guidelines a bit more. Though we see a lot of kids driving these days, it is important to have maturity while driving, which can help curb road rage as well compromise when forced into a situation to let pass or overtake. We’ve also learned to appreciate the utility of seat belts which though enforced for our own safety is treated more like a neck tie meant to be loosened or thrown off at the first opportunity. We can see how it can save so many lives if people start wearing it with self awareness. We’ve also come to appreciate cautious driving especially in rural areas where children or even livestock running across the one laned road is a fairly common occurrence. Slow speeds can help avoid the remote possibility of an incident. We would like to finish by summarizing that though driving can be a bit of a rollercoaster ride, taking it a bit slow can help you discover new joys we might have normally skipped in our race for time.

Rajasthan Tour

We’ve chronicled this road trip adventure for CEAT Tyres in association with BlogAdda. The story, our experiences and opinions remain our own.

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A Rajasthan tour in the monsoons is our favourite version of India oadtrips. Read about how we battled the rains and came out with treasured experiences

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[Review] Bhainsrorgarh Fort – The Scotland of Rajasthan http://gypsycouple.com/bhainsrorgarh-fort/ http://gypsycouple.com/bhainsrorgarh-fort/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2016 15:01:07 +0000 http://gypsycouple.com/?p=4080 Bhainsrorgarh fort is a luxury boutique hotel and one of the best kept secrets of Rajasthan. Overlooking the mighty Chambal river and the much smaller Brahmini river, the views are pretty much unbeatable especially during and after the monsoon when the rivers are at full strength. That it is a living fort with an entire village of about 5,000 people ...

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Bhainsrorgarh fort is a luxury boutique hotel and one of the best kept secrets of Rajasthan. Overlooking the mighty Chambal river and the much smaller Brahmini river, the views are pretty much unbeatable especially during and after the monsoon when the rivers are at full strength. That it is a living fort with an entire village of about 5,000 people still flourishing within its walls just adds to the experience.

Bhainsrorgarh Fort

An erstwhile fiefdom it is still managed by the royal family who have converted part of the fort into a luxury boutique hotel. The rooms retain their charm of their glorious years and though part of it the hotel looks dated, it is quite in tune with its theme. The royal family lives in another part of the fort but are readily accessible should you be in need of anything including a conversation. The feeling of staying at one of their palatial suites with a view of the river, is incomparable and frankly breath-taking.

Bhainsrorgarh Fort

The fort is not as grand and large as its counterpart in Chittorgarh nearby but still manages to provide a safe sanctuary for the people who call it home – all 5000 of them. The streets are narrow but the people we managed to see on the road were all with wide grins on their face, happily working at their chores. The fort was restored and converted into the luxury hotel as recently as 2006 and the Royal family still live in an adjoining wing, easily accessible and always welcoming.

scottish-highlands

The countryside around the Fort at first glance reminded us of Scotland. The region is hilly, the weather misty and cool and the erstwhile forests have given way to vast meadows and farmlands giving it a very similar feel. The river is infested with crocodiles which can be often seen sunning themselves on the banks or mistaken as floating logs of wood until you see a snout breaking the water and finally realize your folly. It is quite impossible to believe you are in the desert state of Rajasthan while you’re staying there and is easily one of the best hotels we’ve managed to stay in till date. It was love at first sight and we will be coming back for more.

Rooms & the View:

Bhainsrorgarh FortWe were booked into the Mewar suite which is the biggest suite available at this hotel. Big is actually an understatement while describing the room which has a bed room with two balconies overlooking two rivers, has a small dining room with a fantastic view leading to a living room and a bathroom which had a wet and dry area with a chair in the middle of it. We couldn’t fathom the reason why a chair was placed there but we assume it might be for guests like us who might get tired moving about in the room.

Bhainsrorgarh Fort

Given that we were the only guests at the time of check-in the entire floor was ours for the duration of the stay. Which meant sole access to the common lounging area complete with sofas and sitting areas which might have been made for the princesses to relax. All the windows had tiny patterns of coloured glass and with the sunlight streaming in created a magical effect. The bed room had a huge four poster bed underneath a giant dome with some kind of paintings on it but was rather bare boned except for that. However the alcoves within the walls and the side tables offered enough space to place the water and our belongings for easy access. The main hero of the room was not the bed (although it was among the comfortable one we’ve slept in) but the balcony and its view. We’ve talked about the fabulous view from the room at some other places we’ve stayed at but this view was out of the world. It is too much of a task ever for writers like us to describe a scene which has us standing in a restored fort looking out of jharokha in a balcony of a luxurious room, staring at a wide expanse of water which is the Chambal river surrounded by a green meadow with the far horizon shrouded in mist. That we were welcomed by gusts of wet wind promising of rain as soon as we opened the balcony door just made it seem all the more dreamy.

Bhainsrorgarh Fort

The room has no TV or gigantic tubs to soak in or probably the frills you would associate with a luxury hotel  (except for a state of the art Lavazza coffee make which frankly felt out of place in the room) but still felt luxurious. The sofas could’ve been a bit more comfortable and there could’ve been more strategically placed plug points to cater to the technology toting smart travellers but frankly those are inconsequential and manufactured whining’s to dispel the hypnosis of this place. To say it as it was, we were charmed out of our wits.

Service:

There is no polished hospitality management graduates to welcome you in. No hierarchical blue/red/green tape to go through when you need something done. Because, wait for it, there are no managers. That ridiculous (or was it incredulous) face you might be making reflects ours when we heard about it. The property, small as it is, is run by two brothers from the lineage of the Royal family of Bhainsrorgarh. To give each guest the personal attention they deserve and to give this place a feel of a homestay (albeit a royal one) rather than a hotel, they’ve done away with the concept of managers and employ mostly local staff from the region (we found that most of the resident staff was from villages in Madhya Pradesh hardly a few hours away). In an interesting mix of technology and practicality, each room is provided with a remote buzzer connected directly to the kitchens where the staff congregates. This ensures prompt response and does away with the needless concept of an intercom system which would serve no incremental purpose. Our personal experience with the system was faultless but we can see it running into issues when the hotel is fully booked, given the limited staff at hand. The staff are warm, eager and aim to please, disappearing into the shadows when not needed and magically appearing at the softest call. However, the two brothers, either of whom might be your host during your stay, are a notch above. They are wonderful company, will take special attention to your needs and ask for feedback and opinion with open frankness as if you were a family friend and not a guest. We felt it odd that a luxury hotel was positioning itself as a homestay experience while looking at their website, but a stay there will convince you there’s merit to their thoughts and leave wishing your other stays were like this.

Food:

Bhainsrorgarh Fort

The food served here is totally Indian with a bent towards local Rajasthani cuisine. We had an assortment of dishes throughout our stay with no curry repeated and every meal a unique spread in itself. That in itself was a remarkable experience. The food was yummy, less oily than we expected and frankly had us waiting eagerly for the next meal. The only thing we feel could be improved is a little pro-activeness from the chef/staff in checking if the menu agrees with the guest. Although we did not face any major issues, a fixed menu cannot cater to everyone and a prior discussion can ensure that the chef has enough time to prepare the changes and the guests are satisfied with their meal. That said, the food was the best we had during our trip and can understand why so many of the reviews complement the food so much. A bit of advice, the local food can be a bit heavy on the stomach for guests not used to it and a measure of modicum in stuffing yourself with it, can ensure a smooth and fulfilling trip with the ability to enjoy the other meals. The meals are served on the roof which has one of the best views we’ve enjoyed during a meal and the candle light dinners can be incredibly romantic.

Activities:

Badoli Temples hanging-bridge-over-brahmini-river Chhatris

The owners have created a range of activities to enjoy during your stay but unfortunately we weren’t able to experience most of them given the bad weather. However time passes by in a jiffy and we feel we could’ve easily extended a day. A boat ride to a small island on the river for a picnic is one of their best activities and should not be missed. Done in a small rowing boat early in the morning, the experience can be incredibly romantic. A small hike round the periphery of the fort leading through the Chhatri’s (cremating grounds of the Royal family) and onwards to a hanging bridge which leads you to the farmlands on the other side of the river is another small activity which is again highly recommended. The views from the hanging bridge of the fort walls and the birdlife around is quite marvellous. A short ride or a hike to the Baroli/Badoli temple complex should be done. The best part about the excursion being that there are hardly any visitors there. The only people to give you company would be the temple priest and a couple of guards from the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India). The temples, most of them now in a semi ruined state, are eight in number, dedicated to Lord Shiva, Goddess Durga, Lord Vishnu & Lord Ganesha. The temples said to be built during the 9th-10th century are one of the earliest temple complexes in Rajasthan.

End Notes & Tips:

Bhainsrorgarh FortBhainsrorgarh is now officially our favourite recommendation for non-mainstream Rajasthan and for anyone in the mood for R&R.

The road leading from the main highway to the fort is single lane and can be a bit bumpy, however the destination is well worth the journey. The road coming in from Kota is supposedly in a better condition than the one coming from Chittorgarh.

Ask for top floor suites for the best rooms and views. The deluxe rooms do not share the great views and if budget is not a constraint, the suites are highly recommended.

Fact File:

  • Bhainsrorgarh Fort is 50 Km (Roughly 1 Hr) from Kota and about 250 Km (Roughly 4 Hours) from Udaipur & Sawi Madhopur (Ranthambore).
  • The best time to visit would ideally be just during the monsoons when it is green beyond imagination and the river is full. However from our personal experience the roads are in a bad shape in the season and the trip can be avoided. Given that the summers are hot and the lack of a swimming pool makes it quite uninhabitable, Oct to March remains the best season to experience the property.
  • Bhainsrorgarh is great for couples looking for romance or even solo travelers wanting some peace and quiet. You can book a room at their website for the best prices
on-a-bridge-enroute-to-badoli-temples jharokha how-clouds-are-made dining-with-a-view breakfast-seat view-from-the-rooftop the-main-courtyard-2 scottish-highlands-2 seats-fit-for-a-princess

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Bhainsrorgarh fort is a luxury boutique hotel and one of the best kept secrets of Rajasthan. Overlooking the mighty Chambal river and the much smaller Brahmini river, the views are pretty much unbeatable especially during and after the monsoon when the rivers are at full strength. The misty green hilly meadows around the fort can easily be mistaken for a trip to the scottish highlands, especially during the monsoons. That it is a living fort with an entire village of about 5,000 people still flourishing within its walls just adds to the experience.

 

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[Review] Fateh Prakash Palace, Udaipur – View with a room http://gypsycouple.com/fateh-prakash/ http://gypsycouple.com/fateh-prakash/#respond Wed, 21 Sep 2016 14:30:04 +0000 http://gypsycouple.com/?p=4025 Fateh Prakash Palace located within the City Palace complex by the edge of Lake Pichola offers one of the best boutique luxury experiences in Udaipur. Built by Maharana Fateh Singh in the 1800’s at a stunning location at the edge of the Lake Pichola, this luxury hotel oozes opulence and offers enviable views of the lake. The location and the interiors ...

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Fateh Prakash Palace located within the City Palace complex by the edge of Lake Pichola offers one of the best boutique luxury experiences in Udaipur. Built by Maharana Fateh Singh in the 1800’s at a stunning location at the edge of the Lake Pichola, this luxury hotel oozes opulence and offers enviable views of the lake. The location and the interiors coupled with the privacy that comes with staying within the City Palace complex easily makes it one of the most romantic hotels in Udaipur.

Fateh Prakash Palace

However the most captivating essence of the rooms are the views they offer. In 1828, Lieutenant Colonel James Tod, then political agent to the Western Rajput States, described the city in his Annals and Antiquities as the “most romantic spot on the continent of India”. It is easy to see why. The icy white Lake Palace best known for its cameo in the 007 blockbuster Octopussy is one of the most searched Indian monument after the Taj Mahal and can be seen in its full glory with a backdrop of the Aravalli’s from the rooms. Through the little touches of luxury, its heritage shines through without looking old or dated and hints that we are in a hotel which is many notches above the rest.

Grounds & Accommodation:

Fateh Prakash Palace

Situated within the City Palace complex, the hotel is as exclusive as they come. One has to pass through numerous checkpoints and guards wanting to see your security pass (yes, all guests get one per room) before you’re ushered in to your hotel. The most convenient way to explore the Palace grounds is through the golf carts offered as a complimentary service to the guests of Fateh Prakash & Shiv Niwas Palace. The hotel was once a palace and it looks the part with its luxurious interiors, plush sofas and frames after frames of the royal family. Check-in is a smooth and somewhat embarrassing affair with us being garlanded on arrival and but the welcome drink and the wet towels offered helped hide the blush. We were then asked to fill a customary document with our particulars and were then escorted to our room for a brief tour highlighting the presence of the mini bar, the room service menu and the breakfast timings. Our first impression of the room was a big wow.

Fateh Prakash Palace

The living room and the bed room was separated by three small arches, there were big TV’s in both the areas, though who would want to watch TV in a room with such a view, was beyond us. The interior designer might know their stuff a bit though, given that they had added in a small sitting area by the window which was by far our favourite part of the room.

Fateh Prakash Palace

The bathroom offered a similar view should one wish to soak in the views while relaxing in the generously large tub. The minibar was well stocked and as with all minibars generously priced. Guests are provided with a small fruit basket daily as well as a small box of yummy cookies in the afternoon and chocolates in the evening. The bed is gigantic and among the softest we’ve had the pleasure of sleeping upon. Given the rigours of our urban 9 to 6 lives it was definitely a great way to get some much needed beauty sleep in.

Dining:

Fateh Prakash Palace

Fateh Prakash offers access to what is arguably one of the most scenic restaurants in Udaipur, the Sunset Terrace. Though it is thronged by tourists during the evening and quite understandably chaotic, we enjoyed our breakfast in peace and quiet. The breakfast spread is huge with both Indian and continental offerings available and with the serene waters of the lake for company. We can see how the place gets its name and quite rightly the sunsets should be spectacular with a glass of bubbly in your hand to go along.

Location:

Fateh Prakash Palace

The location is quite unbeatable when you consider that the City Palace is right at your backyard. If you wish to go beyond the doors, a quick golf cart ride later you can find yourself at the Tripoliya gates which lead to a small marketplace and the very famous Jagdish Temple, about 100 metres ahead. If you’re in the exploring mood, you can take a short walk through the smaller lanes, packed with shops selling clothes, accessories and paintings and plop down in one of the small café’s on the way. The ghats are all reachable by foot and provide a peek at the real Udaipur. If you’re not in the walking mood, the tuk-tuk’s are available at every crossing and uber/ola on every phone. However do remember to haggle before jumping in a tuk-tuk as the rates quoted are more likely than not very inflated especially if they see you exiting the city palace complex. In our experience, it’s best to start at about 50% of the rate quoted and work up.

Ending note & Tips:

Our favorite place in the room Tripoliya Gate Sunset Terrace

We stayed at the spectacular premier suites but the lake facing dovecote rooms can provide equally enticing views should budget be a constraint. One should always go for the continental plan given the huge breakfast spread on order. Plus having the breakfast in the sunset terrace is an experience in itself. Though there is no swimming pool at Fateh Prakash, guests can use the one at their sister hotel, Shiv Niwas Palace which is a short 5 minute golf cart ride away. However the timings are a bit odd and better checked with if swimming is on your mind. The views from all lake facing rooms should be similar but try to get a room on the higher floor for a better experience. For restaurant visits or a trip to the monsoon palace call up an uber/ola. The rides are cheaper and faster than the ones called up by the front desk.

Fact File:

  • Fateh Prakash Palace is right at the edge of Lake Pichola and in the heart of the city of Udaipur. It offers a choice between 21 Dovecote rooms and 44 Dovecote Premier Suites.
  • The best time to visit would be just after the monsoons when the lakes fill up and/or in the winters when it is much cooler. However given its close proximity to the state of Gujarat, it has evolved into a yearlong tourist destination.
  • We stayed in one of the top floor premier suites however, to our knowledge all lake facing rooms share a similar view and only differ in the size of the room and possibly the amenities on offer (Not bath tubs with lake views)
  • Fateh Prakash is great for couples given its romantic setting and families given the easy access to all the sights and should be in the consideration set if you’re looking for a luxurious stay in this beautiful lake city. You can book a room at their website for the best prices

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Fateh Prakash Palace located within the City Palace complex by the edge of Lake Pichola offers one of the most romantic boutique luxury experiences in Udaipur. This review helps you understand what to expect while staying there.

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[Review] Mountbatten Lodge – Magical Disconnect http://gypsycouple.com/mountbatten-lodge/ http://gypsycouple.com/mountbatten-lodge/#comments Thu, 08 Sep 2016 16:45:05 +0000 http://gypsycouple.com/?p=3996 Mountbatten Lodge is a colonial styled luxury retreat nestled within the green canopy of the Aravalli’s near Ranakpur. The Jain Temples there are one of the best open secrets in India and most people, except the devout, who do visit, visit it as a day trip from Udaipur and are hence not able to enjoy what the place has to ...

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Mountbatten Lodge is a colonial styled luxury retreat nestled within the green canopy of the Aravalli’s near Ranakpur. The Jain Temples there are one of the best open secrets in India and most people, except the devout, who do visit, visit it as a day trip from Udaipur and are hence not able to enjoy what the place has to offer. Mountbatten Lodge, just under 10 Kms away, provides the perfect base camp to visit this marvelous monument without the undue pressure of a late return.

Rajasthan in Monsoons

The story goes that the region was once a popular hunting ground for the British officials and this particular clearing was where the camps were set up especially for one prominent British official, Mountbatten. The verdant forest still covers the property and being up in the mountain beyond the cluster of hotels that have come up near the very popular Ranakpur Jain Temples means that you get to enjoy the place as it is meant to be, in peace and serenity.

Mountbatten Lodge

The location was deemed quite dangerous as recently as 6-7 years ago because of the close proximity to the Garasia tribals who would shoot arrows at and loot unsuspecting tourists passing through post sunset. However initiatives by the local government and the owners have put an end to it and made it safe even for guests who would prefer to walk down the road and enjoy the countryside. Indeed the green cover on both side of the road, coupled with the pleasant climate up in the hills makes for a great walk down the usually lonely motorable road.

Mountbatten Lodge

The Green canopy which surrounds the property extends into it as well albeit in a more controlled fashion. Indeed, the property has a small stream running through it as well as a small pond with lotuses blooming and frogs croaking. An ancient Banyan tree however is the place of preference for most guests who prefer its shade while having lunch. The small bridges, grey stone buildings and the dining halls with hints of neo-classical/greek revival architecture sound all over the place but come very well together. The interiors are opulent and have been decorated with memorabilia’s, antiques, photos and the like from the owner’s personal collection. The owner, Mr. Reggie Singh, the Grandson of the erstwhile Maharaja of Jodhpur, is quite affable and frankly great company for relaxed evenings to get you settled in. The music which plays during your meals as also in the bar area during the evening is personally curated by him and is fantastic. So much so that we had half a mind to request him to share it with us. Talking with him is part of the experience which Mountbatten provides and an experience it is. Where else would you be so relaxed having a light cup of tea or a drink in the company of Royalty?

Accomodation & Service:

Mountbatten Lodge

There are just 4 rooms in the property for guests which makes the experience extremely private. A single villa houses all the 4 rooms, each with a different décor but very similar amenities. Four poster beds, huge living rooms, open showers, huge tubs and to top it off a beautiful plunge pool for lazy summer evenings. There was nothing we would’ve wanted more from a room which frankly could’ve been mistaken for a villa if we didn’t know better. In keeping with the colonial theme, there are no geysers in the room and hot water baths would require a bit of prior notice, especially for early morning showers. The gas heater takes about 15-20 minutes to send hot water up to the rooms and unless you’re on a hurried timeline, was not a problem. The best and worst part about the property is the lack of connectivity. Mobile networks are impossible to catch, there is no intercom and the absence of Wifi seems quite painful for the first 15 minutes or so.

Huge Bathroom Magic Bell

A small bell is laid out on a table as the de-facto means of communication. It’s as if someone handed us a magic lamp and every time we rub it, the genie magically appears out of nowhere fulfilling our every wish. The analogy isn’t quite far behind once you experience it. The marvellous Daul ji with his huge moustaches is omnipresent and take about half a second to respond. In the rare chance of his absence Mr. Chauhan the guardian of this sanctuary is always there to lend a hand. We’ve been treated to very high levels of service in our travels and are quite a challenge to impress. But impressed we were with the sheer efficiency of this seemingly pre-medieval mechanism. Each one of the staff members we encountered were highly trained in the art of hospitality, some polished, some rustic but overall smooth as a clockwork. The “Ji Hukum’s” still resound through our minds when we look at the pictures or remember the place.

Food:

Mountbatten Lodge

Frankly we were a bit disappointed initially when we sat down to what we thought was very simple fare for a place of this caliber. However a few bites in, it begins to sink in how apt the food is for the place. You do not come to a place like this to gorge on unhealthy food rich in oil and butter but to relax and enjoy. The food is completely in tune with the surroundings, light, non-oily and non-spicy and is best for keeping the tummy in good spirits throughout the journey. The food served was mostly Indian fare but should you prefer a more continental offering, the chef seemed well adept at dishing out some of that as well. Personally, we would had appreciated it a bit more if they had asked us for a preference or dietary restrictions before serving the meal. It is not essential nor is it a norm but it definitely would’ve given them a brownie point if they had. However we will be back to have that missed lunch under the Banyan tree!

Ending notes & Tips:

Mountbatten Lodge

Their 3 dogs can be really playful and will jump all over you if they take a liking to you. Usually that’s not a bad thing but for Nirali who already has a mild fear of anything with a sharp set of fangs, it was quite a frightening experience (and a muddy one, given how the dogs had been splashing about in the post monsoon puddles around the property). However for someone who loves dogs, the sight of the bounding dogs with their tongues lolling out can be quite cheering.

Be prepared to be completely cut out from the outer world once you’re inside the premises. Except for a small area near the banyan tree, it is near impossible to catch a network anywhere inside the premises which might cause a few hiccups for those waiting for some important business calls. However why anyone would bring their business with them at such a location will probably be beyond us.

The small stream passing through the property looks inaccessible but can be reached through a small makeshift pathway near the banyan tree. If you’re a bit daring, you can go down to the stream and dip your foot in the cool clean waters for some natural therapy. And it makes for a wonderful photo-op as well.

Fact File:

  • Mountbatten Lodge is 10 Km (Roughly 20 Mins) from Ranakpur Jain Temples and about 100  Km (Roughly 2 Hours) from Udaipur.
  • The best time to visit would be just after the monsoons when it is green beyond imagination and/or in the winters when the climate is better. We would imagine the summers to be cool as well given the forested surroundings and give a worthy excuses for a dip in the beautiful plunge pool, making it a round the year property
  • We stayed in one of the two top floor suites with a private plunge pool, however, to our knowledge all suite options come with similar décor and only differ in its layout (The ground floor rooms are interconnected suites sharing a swimming pool)
  • Mountbatten is great for couples looking for some alone time, families come to spend some time together or even solo travelers wanting some peace and quiet. You can book a room at their website for the best prices

We were guests of Mountbatten Lodge, Ranakpur but as always our opinions and experiences are unbiased, untarnished and entirely our own!

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Mountbatten Lodge is a colonial styled boutique luxury retreat nestled within the green canopy of the Aravalli’s near Ranakpur, India

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