Inside India: The Highlights of an Incredible Country

Beauty in architecture, the thrill of experiencing a new and exciting culture, incredible cuisines and fascinating wildlife, sounds like the perfect travelling experience, don’t you agree?

Few places in the world offer authentic experiences these days. With the world becoming more and more commercialised, you may not feel you’re getting the real deal when visiting new places. After all, you can fly half way around the world and still find a burger chain restaurant you’d thought you’d left behind on your local high street.
Of course, some of us embrace it. And, why not? Home comforts can certainly make travelling more familiar and, well… comfortable.
But, if you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, somewhere where you can really feel you’re embracing a new culture… say hello to India.
We’ve recently launched our brand new tour and an exciting new destination, exploring India and its incredible Golden Triangle. And, we’re pretty sure this is one of those tours that will really fuel your wanderlust.
We’ve left no stone unturned when it comes to experiencing the very best of India. From iconic destinations to coming face to face with the majestic tiger, here’s just some of the incredible things you’ll experience on our brand new tour…

The Golden Triangle

Jama Masjid, Old Delhi

 
You may have heard of the Golden Triangle in reference to India before, or maybe not if this is your first insight into the country. But, the Golden Triangle is a must. It refers to India’s three most visited cities in the north-west, Delhi, Agra and Jaipur and is a major tourist route packed full of fascinating sights.
Jaipur is home to some of Asia’s best Bazaars, a city buzzing with activity, nicknamed the ‘Pink City’ from the hue of its buildings, you’ll certainly want to visit its main attraction, the Amber Fort, just on the outskirts of the city.
The capital of India, Delhi, is a real contrast of old and new, from its turbulent past to its thriving future, it is host to a wealth of fascinating historical monuments as well as modern symbols of the present day such as India Gate and Parliament House.
And Agra, well… Where do we start? Obviously the world famous…

Taj Mahal

The taj Mahal

Topping many bucket lists, a trip to the Taj Mahal is a must when visiting India. A wonder of the world and universally admired, the mausoleum of white marble is a spectacular sight.
Built in Agra between 1631 and 1648, by order of the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, in memory of his third (and favourite) wife who died during the birth of their 14th child. The iconic building is a true symbol of eternal love and romance.
Easily one of the most photogenic pieces of architecture in the world, you’re probably wondering just when are the best times to visit? Two pieces of advice, early morning and evening. Although, in the morning, your view could be slightly shrouded by mist, but in the evening… expect perfection.
The orange glow of the evening sun, the warm air clearing any lingering residue and the views of the Yamuna River opening up, you don’t have to be an avid photographer to capture the most incredible photos during the golden hours of the evening.
As many as 28 different varieties of semi-precious and precious stone were used to adorn the Taj Mahal, making this more than just a gem on your journey through India, but a truly treasured experience.

Agra Fort

Agra Fort

Staying in the city of Agra, there’s more than just the Taj on offer in the former capital city of India. The Agra Fort is a sandstone and marble masterpiece.
It runs along a 2.5km stretch of the Yamuna River and was built as a military fort by Emperor Akbar. It was repurposed as a palace by no other than Shah Jahan, who spent his last years under house arrest there by his own son, Aurangzeb.
Despite being held prisoner following an illness, which saw four of his son’s embroiled in a war of succession, Shah Jahan was given a room with a view, in a tower overlooking the Taj Mahal.
The Shah Burj, as it is known, has an exquisite marble balcony where Shah Jahan spent his final days close to his late wife, overlooking his masterpiece.
If the Taj was the jewel of Agra, Agra Fort certainly shines just as bright. The walls house a number of stunning structures such as the pearl mosque and many hidden rooms, a fantastic experience learning about the grand legacy of the Mughals in India.

Fatehpur Sikri

Panch Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri

Follow the Red Sandstone to Fatehpur Sikri, a small ghost city just west of Agra. Ranking among the most visited spots in India, the city was made the political capital of the Mughal Empire between 1571 and 1585.
Fatehpur Sikri is considered to be one of the architectural legacies of Akbar, hosting beautiful palaces, halls and mosques.
From the Buland Darwaza, the largest gateway in the world, to the Panch Mahal, a beautiful 5-storey ‘pleasure palace’ used for Emperor Akbar to relax and unwind and to be used for his entertainment.
The top floor offers outstanding panoramic views of the surrounding area and the brilliant architecture within Fatehpur Sikri.
The complex took around 15 years to build and is one of the best instances of Mughal architecture and is now a UNESCO heritage centre.

Ranthambore National Park

Bengal Tiger at Ranthambore National Park

One of India’s most iconic parks, Ranthambore is best known for its population of Bengal tigers. A former hunting ground of the Maharajas of Jaipur, the park now acts as home area for one of India’s most famous conservation projects, Project Tiger.
The project was launched to protect the diminishing population of tigers throughout India. With just 9 tigers in its care at the birth of the project, with the help of more tiger protection schemes around the country, India now boasts an impressive 70% of the world’s tiger population.
The importance of tiger preservation in India is more than stopping a species from going extinct, the tiger also plays a pivotal role in the health and diversity of the ecosystem.
The top predator of the food chain keeps the population of the wild ungulates (hooved mammals such as goats, cows and deer) in check, and maintains the balance between these herbivores and the vegetation that they feed on. If the tigers were to become extinct, the entire system would collapse.
Ranthambore offers more than just a chance to see the tigers up close and personal, but a real insight into India’s wildlife.
India offers one of those once in a lifetime trips of true experiences and creating lasting memories
If you’re ready to indulge in a fantastic Indian extravaganza, take a look at the full itinerary of our India’s Golden Triangle – Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Ranthambore tour, here.

The Weird and Wonderful: Superstitions of Europe

Black cats, horse shoes and not walking under ladders, we’ve all encountered some strange superstitions in our lifetime, and whether you believe in them or not, when Friday the 13th comes around, you can never be too careful.

But, it’s not just here in the UK that we’ll try out little techniques to try our luck, our European neighbours are just as superstitious. But, you guessed it, they’re completely different to ours. So, in honour of this day, why not delve deep into the superstitions of Europe?

Spain


Here we are, worrying about what Friday the 13th can bring, but our Spanish friends are more than likely left scratching their heads, because they believe that Tuesday the 13th is the unluckiest of days.
Tuesday, or Martes in Spanish, is a word derived from the name Mars, which in the middle ages was called ‘Little Evil’. Mars is also the God of War and Destruction, therefore Tuesday is ruled by Mars – and to think we dread Mondays.
But, on Tuesday the 13th, the consensus is Spain is to not get married or board a ship or a plane, as luck may not be in your favour.

Portugal


Spilling wine on any day would be considered bad luck, especially if it’s been a bad day already, but not in Portugal. It’s thought to actually bring happiness to the whole table if you topple your tipple.
But, walking backwards is a no-go. They say that by doing so, you’re teaching the devil the way you’re walking. Also, your left foot is said to be unlucky, so you should always enter someone’s house with your right.

Norway


Ward away the bad luck in Norway by setting a bowl of porridge outside the door. Why, you ask? It’s said to sweeten the old, small barn trolls. And, if it’s a nice day in Norway, don’t whistle towards the sun, it’s said to bring rain.
And, maybe a superstition we can believe in… apparently if there’s ice on the lakes on May Day, then spring will be late. Which, we think is a fairly good observation, given may day is actually in spring.

Italy


The Italians are particularly fond of their superstitions. For a start, if you hear a cat sneeze, expect good luck to be coming your way.
But, interestingly enough, the number 13 is actually considered to be good luck in Italy! But, the number 17… not so much. Friday the 17th is an unlucky day, some Alitalia planes don’t have a row 17 and hotels can skip out the 17th floor all together.
It all comes from the roman numerals for 17, XVII. Change it anagrammatically to VIXI which translates in Latin to ‘I have lived’. Or, looking at it a little more objectively ‘My life is over’. We’ll give them that one, that is pretty spooky.

Czech Republic


In the Czech Republic, throwing a shoe over your shoulder and smashing a glass is meant to be good luck, although, maybe not for the people around you at the time…
But, it’s also custom for brides to smash a plate on their wedding day and have their groom clear it up. The fragments are distributed to the guests and the newlyweds keep a piece for themselves. Quite the unusual favour.
But, on the other side, pouring beer into an old glass isn’t quite so prosperous, especially if it has the remnants of another type of beer in it. That’s said to be very unlucky, and maybe not as refreshing.
 
One thing is for sure, strange customs and cultures make for some interesting and exciting places to visit. Have you heard any unusual superstitions on your travels?

The 10 Most Beautiful Places in the World

Beauty – it’s in the eye of the beholder, is skin deep and can be subjective, we know, we know…  But, it’s hard to deny that there are some destinations in this world that are drop dead gorgeous!

And, who would we be to keep all this beauty to ourselves? Of course we want to share it all with you, so whether you’re looking for a little pick me up or some hearty travel inspiration, here’s our list of the top 10 most beautiful places in the world.

1. The Norwegian Fjords


Is there anything more dramatic than a Fjord? Sheer cliffs tumbling down to sea waters with cascading waterfalls either side of a narrow channel of water. As valleys go, these are pretty impressive.
The contrast of the green slopes and the deep blue of the waters below, with a dusting of white with the snow-capped tops… we can categorically say that we do not agree with the old ‘blue and green should never be seen’ saying… in terms of travel at least… we’re not fashion experts.
The National Geographic Magazine awarded the Fjords ‘The Best Unspoiled Travel Destination in the World’, something we whole-heartedly agree with.

2. Venice


Who doesn’t want to visit Venice? Well, if you are one of those people, we think it’s time to rethink. Stunning architecture, canals instead of roads, some of the most iconic views in Europe… and Gondolas! It’s easy to see why so many people call for the charms of Venice.
In the words of Elizabeth Berkley, ‘It feels like you are transported to another time – the art, music and pure romance in the air is like no other place.’
Over 15 million visitors flock to Venice every year to see it yet it’s said to be sinking at a rate of 1-2 millimetres a year! A sad thought that global warming could eventually eradicate such an iconic part of Europe.

3. Ha Long Bay


Emerald waters, towering limestone islands topped with rainforests, of course Ha Long Bay is a popular place for travellers flying in from all over the world. It even ranks top of the list as Vietnam’s number one tourist spot.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site looks like something straight from a film, and funnily enough, it is. Recently featuring in the films Pan (2015) and the soon to be released Kong: Skull Island (2017) and even going back to James Bond: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), we’d say the ethereal setting is the real star of the show.

4. Banff National Park


Canada’s oldest national park, nestled in the famous Rocky Mountains, is something that dreams are made of. Snow-capped peaks, stunning blue waters and luscious green foliage, and we can assure you, the postcard worthy photographs you see, are certainly not Photoshopped.
It’s also the perfect place to attract some of Canada’s most interesting wildlife. The moose, the elk and even the grizzly and black bear call Banff home thanks to its variations in elevation, climate, and plant communities.
More than 4 million visitors travel to Banff National Park each year to visit the mountains that range from 45 to 120 million years old. Pretty impressive, we’re sure you’ll agree.

5. Oia


Oh Santorini, the ‘poster-island’, so-to-speak, of Greece. Even if you didn’t know, you’ve probably seen it. You can pick up postcards of its white-washed buildings clinging to a cliff edge in just about any Greek island.
But, seeing really is believing, and heading to the famous Cyclades Island is a must if you’re looking for absolute heart-warming beauty.
And where better to get an eyeful of the islands beauty than visiting Oia? Famous for its small village charm, it even offers once of the best sun sets in Europe! And, it’s easily accessible from Fira, the islands capital, making it a great stop off if you’re sailing into the island on a cruise.

6. Isle of Skye


The largest island of the Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Skye shows us that we don’t have to leave our shores to find one of the world’s most beautiful spots.
Its rugged landscapes and spectacular scenery make it one of Scotland’s most popular tourist destinations, but it’s not just a pretty face.
The island has a rich history from the Jacobite rebellion, Clan Warfare and ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’, it’s even known for producing some pretty impressive dinosaur fossils! But not just that, the wildlife on offer is just as impressive.
Otters, seals, whales, dolphins and red deer can all be seen in and around Skye, only adding to the spectacular beauty on offer.

7. Milford Sound


Half a world away but always worth the miles covered to get there. Milford Sound is a stunning fiord on New Zealand’s South Island that is home to Dolphins, Penguins and seals.
Mountain peaks reach as high as 1000ft, it’s considered New Zealand’s most stunning natural attraction, famous for its ink-like waters and cascading forests, if this isn’t on your bucket list, it should be.
And the best thing? You don’t have to worry about the weather. We can’t fault a sunny day, but the best weather to view the sound in is actually rain! The granite peaks and no beaches mean the cliffs don’t absorb water, resulting in some pretty spectacular waterfalls.

8. Bryce Canyon


We’ve all heard of the Grand Canyon and many people have been there, seen it and purchased the souvenir t-shirt. But, we think that Bryce Canyon is more deserving of a place on this list.
With the largest collection of Hoodoos (oddly shaped pillars of rock left standing as a result of erosion) in the world, the canyon is a sight to behold. In fact, Ebenezer Bryce, who the spot was named after, is thought to have said ‘It’s a hell of a place to lose a cow’… a ‘moo’-ving sentiment.
On a good day, when visibility is clear, views of the canyon can spread for over 100 miles, deep into Colorado! And, interestingly, Bryce Canyon isn’t actually a canyon – it’s a natural amphitheatre! Either way, we’d echo the thought that it really is stunning… stunning… stunning…

9. Lake Bled


It’s got to be said, that beauty lies within Lake Bled! Slovenia isn’t one of the most famous tourist destinations in Europe, but this pretty little lake certainly makes visiting more than worthwhile.
The lake is one of the warmest alpine lakes, sitting at a pleasantly warm 26°C, and it’s tiny, tear shaped island is the only natural island in Slovenia! The church that sits on the island dates back from the 17th century, but we digress…
Just look at it! As lakes go, it’s so spectacularly beautiful, we just had to put it pride of place on our list.

10. Angkor Wat


Last, but by certainly no means least, we had to mention Angkor Wat. The largest religious monument in the world, you can be sure it’s every bit as breath-taking as you’d imagine.
Paramount Pictures even paid $10,000 a day to film in the temple Ta Promh for the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider film, which led to the films lead actress, Angelina Jolie, to adopting her Cambodian son, Maddox.
The UNESCO World Heritage site’s name translates to the ‘City of Temples’ with new structures and ruins being discovered almost every year. Impressively, it was built without the aid of machinery, just the help of approximately 1000 elephants.
 
Would you add any other destinations to our list? Let us know in the comments where you think the world’s most beautiful place lies.