Photo Location : Munnar, Kerala, India

Sandy Sketcher

Sandy Sketcher’s love for India goes back to the late 80’s when she first made a trip to Kerala for a month long tryst with Ayurveda. After the cathartic trip, she made way to the hills of Munnar and spent some time taking in the history of Fort Kochi. She remembers how the experts had timed her trip with the relentless monsoons as Ayurveda works best in this season. Coupled with great therapy, she saw monsoons at their best. In Munnar, dark, threatening clouds would abidingly make way each afternoon, and in a couple of hours sheets of rains would envelop the entire town. There was not a single face that was bereft of a smile. Rains in July and August meant rejuvenation of the soil for a great harvest of tea. When Sandy came back last year, she promptly booked her tickets to Munnar and was relieved to know that nothing much has changed.
Mawsynram in Meghalaya on a cloudy afternoon
The infamous Indian Summer is known to dissuade travellers from exploring its vast lands – and rightly so. The harsh rays of the sun make it impossible to beat the fatigue of the heat and enjoy any sightseeing. In late June, the monsoon arrives like a knight in shining armour, a balm for the arid, stifling times. Here are some of the lesser-known monsoon destinations that command excellent views and a cathartic time for the travellers.Amboli, Maharashtra – Just before the coastal highlands of begin on the west coast, a small town called Amboli makes quite an enthralling presence, with its green soaked topography.
This is especially more lush in the monsoons, when the sprawl of dense copses and undergrowth look washed and clean. This lesser known town in Maharashtra is sure to surprise you. Kotagiri, Tamil Nadu – Of Ooty, Coonoor and Kotagiri – the trio that leads the tea estate topography of Tamil Nadu – Kotagiri is the least discovered. This makes it a charm in all weathers, but the rains are especially nice. There are a number of estate themed homestays and plantation-homes here. Colonize a comfy chai in a tea estate and settle down with a good book to spend the day, watching the rains drain through the tea-lined hills. Udaipur, Rajasthan – The lake city of Udaipur feels like a different place after the first showers. Usually covered in a dusty haze, with scrubby foliage around it, it takes one rain to convert this into a lush area, sprinkled with lakes and palaces. Go here in the monsoons to experience a Rajasthani monsoon with a difference.
An old colonial home, perfect to settle in with a hot cup of tea during the rains
The best way to see the city come alive is to climb uptil Sajjangarh and get a bird’s eye view of the sprawl of the lego-like houses below. Mawsynram, Meghalaya – The already lush green environs of the northeastern state of Meghalaya are infused with some more beauty as soon as the first showers come down on them. The misty valleys, swollen rivers and thick undergrowth make a great trip for someone who wants to be in the company of nature. When you see large tufts of grey clouds float in, the moniker, ‘abode of clouds’ begins to make sense. Bhuj, Gujarat – Bhuj, tucked away on the west coast of Gujarat, is one of the best places to see the cultural extravaganza of this vibrant state. The otherwise brown and parched city springs into colour on the arrival of monsoons. The relief from
the summer injects a new lease of life in a land that is largely arid.
Fort Rajwada transports the traveller to a bygone era of Kings and battles with its decidedly heritage vibe and an ambience that cannot be matched.
The serene solitude of the desert, coupled with the luxury of the fort is ideal to take in the history of the place.
Highlights include:
• Local essence with sandstone hues
• In the heart of Rajasthan’s Thar desert
• Royal vestiges in all parts of the hotel
• Modern and heritage ambience perfectly blended
• Immaculate personalized attention
• Desert safaris to take in the ambience
• Excellent dining experience in the fort courtyard
• In-house spa for a rejuvenating time
• Swimming pool to relax
• Sightseeing trips organised for convenience
Footloose in Jaisalmer
Compelling beauty of the Thar Desert
A medieval city perched on the fringes of postcard perfect sand dunes of Rajasthan, Jaisalmer is an essential on the list for travellers exploring the western part of the state. The city gives you ample reasons to reserve atleast 4 days out of your trip and explore the small villages, listen to the impromptu performances of singers in music caravans in the middle of the desert and stay in the most plush forts and palaces, converted into heritage resorts. This is what kept Supriya busy on her trip, even though she wishes was there for longer, as even 4 days felt little. Here are some of the top picks from her trip:
Lotus Mahal
Dune Bashing:
To complement the cultural vibe of the trip and eager to add a thrilling aspect to their travels, many of them sign up for the adventure sport of dune bashing, where four wheel jeeps snake over undulating dunes, leaving a wake of sand behind them. Dipping and rising in spurts on this large bumpy carpet is nothing less than adrenalin pumping. The sport is quite popular in the Arab countries, and has recently made a foray into the Indian subcontinent.
ght of star gazing or
Not only does camping in the desert allow you a rendezvous with the elements but also experience the style in which Jaisalmer creates these luxurious pods for you. High-end Swiss tents, with ensuite bathrooms and vintage furniture make for an atmospheric stay. And you can step out any time for an undistracted ni
just listening to the sound of silence. Camping experiences are far from rugged, adventurous experiences that one expects. Rather, this is akin
to staying at a 5 star facility.
Cultural Performances:
Your resort or camp is likely to offer an evening of cultural extravaganza during your stay. The outrageously gorgeous backdrop to the sounds of Rajasthan adds to the hauntingly beautiful songs and dances of the desert. Many of the performers are now the last generation, keeping the art alive. Expect to see Kalbeliya (dance) performers, Morchung (instrument) players and singers from villages. This is definitely one of the best experiences of Jaisalmer.
Unlike Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur, the three stalwarts of Rajasthan, Jaisalmer sightseeing consists of far lesser number of things. You can keep about two days to see all the important sights
Hampi Ruins
and monuments. Make your way to the Gadisar Lake, explore the Vyas Chhatri, Jaisalmer Fort, Jain Temple and Patwa Haveli. Time dependent,
also cover Lodurva, Kuldhara, Amar Sagar and Badabagh.

Indo-Pak Border:
Jaisalmer lies close to the western border of India, which touches the neighbouring country of Pakistan. As part of the border tourism, this is a popular thing to do with travellers. It is fascinating to see the army camps that live in harsh conditions and with the help of binoculars, same clusters on
the other side too. The Tanot Mata Mandir and the Museum are the other two sightseeing points close by.

Foreign tourist arrivals
show a heartening increase
As compared to FTAs (Foreign Tourist Arrivals) of 5.12 lakh during the month of June 2015,
FTAs during the month of June 2016 were 5.50 lakh, registering a growth of 7.3 per cent. FTAs during the period January-June 2016 were 41.86 lakh with a growth of 8.9 per cent as compared to the FTAs of 38.45 lakh with a growth of 3.7 per cent in January-June, 2015 over the same period in the previous year. The percentage share of FTAs in India among the top five source countries was highest from USA (22.20%), followed by Bangladesh (20.69%), UK (6.84%), Malaysia (3.90%) and Sri Lanka (3.20%). Delhi showed the maximum arrivals, with bagging 24.69% of the total arrivals. Mumbai Airport (16.76%), Haridaspur Land check post (11.99%), Chennai Airport (10.90%) and Bengaluru Airport (7.74%) made for the balance.
Compensation for delayed & cancelled flights
Effective August 1 , 2016, all airlines will have to pay up to Rs
10,000 per flyer for cancelling/delaying a flight beyond two hours. Previously, the compensation under both circumstances amounted to Rs 4000. Naturally, there are some caveats to this rule, but the news comes as a respite for passengers who have to suffer needlessly due to flight delays and technical delays.
Jet Airways to increase
cabin baggage pricing
Given that fuel charges and taxes have been on the rise, economizing flying costs is something that all airlines think of. Homegrown brand, Jet Airways has imposed a new cost structure for cabin baggage. Starting July 15, the airlines will be charging Rs 900 for extra cabin bag for passengers flying from the six metros of India.
Only one handbag weighing up to 10 kg is allowed for business flyers (for economy this is 7kg). The fee will not be levied for a laptop bag and women’s purses. Apart from this, any other cabin luggage will have a levy of Rs 900
RARE adds 4 properties to its portfolio
Representation and marketing company, RARE has added four new hotel partners in 2016. “We are thrilled to introduce these fresh off the boat properties for the year 2016. Call us RARE 50 as we endeavor to be a curated collection of 50 of the most unique concept oriented properties,” says Sowmya R Vijaymohan, Partner, RARE India in a statement. These include, Raas Devigarh, Udaipur and Khaas Bagh, Jaipur in Rajasthan, Rajakkad Estate, Palani Hills in Tamil Nadu, and Reni Pani Jungle Lodges, Satpura in Madhya Pradesh. All the properties are concept oriented and form the most luxurious landscape of the hospitality industry. Raas Devigarh, Udaipur, is within the spectacular fort complex of Devigarh in a rural setting just
under an hour, north of Udaipur. Khaas Bagh, Jaipur is built on the lines of a haveli, but spread out like a country home with large open terraces, courtyards, verandas, and offers 18 spacious suites. The Rajakkad Estate in Palani Hills (TN), just
under a two-hour drive from Madurai, is a unique homestay located on a 40-acre coffee and pepper plantation. Reni Pani is an elegant lodge focused on the wildlife experience, a short drive from the Tawa Reservoir.
India prepares for its 1st
SAARC Summit
The Ministry of External Affairs will organize the country’s first SAARC Tourism Summit in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, in the second week of October. The FDI under Make in India and Make in Maharashtra schemes, are also being looked at an opportunity to tap during this two-day summit. The chosen destination Aurangabad makes the fit, since it resonates the culture and tourism in India. The Ajanta-Ellora caves have always remained the biggest tourism attraction among foreigners and Indians. The historical silk route and the Buddhist circuit cut through here. These things make Aurangabad as the choice of venue. “The Department of Tourism (DoT) is trying to seek appointment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inaugurate the event. On the first day, officials from SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries, which include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, would attend the conference. On the second day, the ministers of tourism from these countries and from Indian states would participate.” by Valsa Nair Singh, IAS, Principal Secretary Tourism and Culture, Government of Maharashtra said.

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