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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Kanyakumari

Kanniyakumari (or Kanyakumari) is a town on the southern most tip of the main land of India, in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is also known as Cape Comorin, necessitated perhaps by the Englishman's inability to pronounce local names.


India is probably one of those privileged lands which have high mountains on one side and oceans and sea
Vivekanand Rock
shores on the others. India is also one of those rare countries that have their shores shared between three great seas - The Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean. And the confluence of these three seas can be witnessed in Kanyakumari. This unique geographical phenomenon has made this little town in the southern most tip of mainland India one of the significant destinations in any religious or pleasure trips that one seeks to undertake in this country. The fame of Kanyakumari attracts prominent people from across the world, including names such as Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi. Its not by coincidence that there are memorials named after these two figures. Moreover, Kanyakumari is one of the few places in the world where one can witness both the sunset and sunrise at the same beach due to the geography.
The oldest and the most ancient landmark in this town is the temple of Goddess Kumari who prayed to Lord Shiva to be accepted as wife by him. The name of this place has taken after the name of the Goddess. During the British Raj, it was also known as 'Cape Comorin', probably a British spoilt version of 'Kumari', meaning virgin. The town is so small that an enthusiastic tourist may actually walk across the town. For less walking enthusiasts, buses are available and the fares are very low. The auto rickshaws fares are also very reasonable. In short, traveling in and around Kanyakumari is not expensive.

Get There

By Air

  • Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) of neighbouring state Kerala, is the nearest international airport, with direct flights from the Middle East, Singapore, Maldives and Sri Lanka. And is served by Air-India, among others. From there it takes about three hours by train or bus or taxi. The taxi charges are pretty cheap, about Rs 9-10 per km, and should be around Rs 1000 (US$22 Approx), for a trip to Kanyakumari from the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.
  • Alternatively, if you cannot reach Thiruvananthapuram directly from your place, you can reach Chennai (Madras) the state capital and then take either train or bus to reach Kanyakumari. Note that travelling to Kanyakumari is a bit tiresome via road, especially for Westerners, as the travel time is about 14-15 hours and the climate is pretty hot (30-35 degrees during summer and 25-30 degrees during winter) through out the year. Insist on a II tier air-conditioned coach as this is pretty cheap, about Rs 1200 (US$27). A local flight travel to Thiruvananthapuram is also a viable option, but the ticket prices are slightly higher, ranging from Rs. 1500 and can go up to anywhere around Rs. 5000. In India, the faster you book/plan your travel, the more you save on tickets.
  • Alternatively reach Kochi, Kozhikode (Calicut), Bangalore, Bombay, New Delhi, Kolkata and then by train.


By train

Very well connected and serviced by rail to all major cities in India like Chennai, Trivandrum , Kochi, Bangalore, Bombay, New Delhi, Kolkata, Coimbatore etc. And from here starts longest train route in India, Kanyakumari to Jammu.


By bus

Buses are frequently available from Thiruvananthapuram,the closest major transport hub. Long distance buses are available from Chennai (Madras), Coimbatore, Madurai,Bangalore etc.

Get Around

Most people travel around Kanniyakumari using a hired vehicle. Auto-rickshaws (tuk tuks) are available, along with buses. Buses are about Rs15 from the station to the point, and Rs 7.5 from the bus station to the point.
If your train comes into Nagercoil, there are busses to Kanyakumari from right outside Nagercoil junction station starting at 5:20am (ish) and meant to be on the half hour every hour. Although you just have to keep asking.

See In Kanyakumari

If you can escape from the crowds, you can visit Vivekanandapuram (the only peaceful area in Kanyakumari)
Vivekanad Rock Memorial at Night
maintained by the Ramakrishna Mission. It has its own lodging and boarding arrangements. If you'd like to see the sunset or sunrise, it is recommended that you see it from the beach at Vivekanandapuram. The other popular places are the Kanyakumari Devi temple, Vivekananda Rock, and the Thiruvalluvar Statue. It is not recommended that you visit Kanyakumari in December-January; the crowds are at its peak during these months.
The temple of Goddess Kumari is rather small by South Indian standards, but comes with the usual ingredients of Pujaris (Hindu Priests), Poojas, Kumkums, and Prasad (sweet offerings made to the Gods). All men are supposed to enter the temple with bare torsos as it deemed to be a mark of respect to the Devi. You should be careful about the touts in the temple.
  • Vivekananda Rock is about a hundred meters from the shore and a regular ferry service exists between the mainland jetty and the rock. The tickets are Rs 30 for a ride. Normally you will find a lot of people waiting in the queue during holiday season, so there's a legitimate way of by passing the queue by paying Rs 150 , they take you directly inside the ferry, no waiting. The Rock has two Mandaps (halls); one belonging to Swami Vivekananda and the other belonging to a Holy Foot. The Holy Foot is a foot shaped carving found on the rock and is believed to be the footprint of Goddess Kumari who stood on this rock on one leg and performed the Tapasya (penance). The Rock memorial has a tall statue of Swami Vivekananda whose photographs are not allowed to be taken from inside the hall. Below the statue was mentioned the year of death of the Swamiji and the "probable" dates when Swamiji attained Samadhi on the rock. Here you can see both sunrise and sunset and it is one of the main tourist attractions here. Golden Hues of the Horizon are very impressive with a silhouette of the Rock Memorial. Timings: 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. You should enter main gate to the jetty for ferry before 4 pm, after that entry is denied. Nobody is allowed there after sunset, so if you were planning an evening visit hurry up and leave well before sunset so as to watch it from the beach. The last ferry leaves the island around the sunset time with all the remaining visitors as well as the staff.
  • Vivekanandapuram is the headquarters of the Vivekananda Kendra and the centre spreads over an area of 100 acres. There is a well stocked library within the premises. It is well connected. Buses are also regularly available from Vivekanandapuram to Kanyakumari. One can enjoy absolutely breathtaking views of sunrise from the beaches of Vivekanandapuram. It has its own boarding & lodging facilities, a post office and a bank on its premises.
  • Thiruvalluvar Statue is dedicated to arguably the greatest Tamil poet, philosopher, and saint Thiruvalluvar. The rock supports a huge statue of the saint carved out of many rocks that were then joined together. It was inaugurated fairly recently. The statue is about 133 feet long which corresponds to 133 chapters in the greatest epic written by the saint – Thirukkural. Tourists can climb up to the feet of the statue. The view from this point is quite breathtaking! It is a very entertaining and enlightening piece of work and inspires one to lead a very principled and moral life. It is a must read for anyone who visits this place and it is advisable to spend at least half an hour specially dedicated for this exercise. Such is the beauty of Kanyakumari that a lot of people find themselves attracted to it. Mahatma Gandhi too could not resist its charm, and there is a place here dedicated to him called Gandhi Mandapam. This is the place, as told by locals, where one could witness the 'Sangam' (confluence) of the three oceans. Gandhi arrived here and succumbed to the beauty of the place as described in his beautiful words inscribed below his portrait in the Mandapam. After he died, his ashes were brought to this place. The Gandhi Mantapa is engineered in such a way that at the place where the ashes were kept stands a small stone which is said to receive the Sun’s rays only on the 2nd of October, Gandhi's birthday, every year through a small hole on the roof.
  • Our Lady of Ransom Church - Located on the shoreline of the Bay of Bengal, the 100-year-old Church of Our Lady of Ransom is dedicated to Mother Mary. The Church, which is one of the most beautiful churchs in India, looks beautiful against the backdrop of the beautiful blue sky.
The Church of Our Lady of Ransom was built in the Gothic style of architecture with a strong Portuguese influence. The church is slightly off-white in appearance and has three massive towering spires and stained glass windowpanes contributing to its overall grandeur. Another attraction of the church is the Central Tower. It is 153 feet high and is crowned with a cross of pure gold. (Interesting to note that the dimesnsions of the church structures are based on the count of beads in the rosary!
There are a few things about the church that make the visitors gasp with awe as they enter. The church boasts a beautiful statue of Mother Mary clad in a saree. Surprisingly, as compared with the grand and ornate exteriors, the visitors are quite taken aback by the simplicity of its interiors. There is just a tiny cross that adorns the altar. There are no church benches and the masses are held inside the church in normal days and outside on the clean sands during carnivals and occassions. The prayers are held in Tamil considering the parish here mainly comprises the local fishing folks. However, English masses are being conducted lately. Be on the lookout for the 10-day carnival festival during the second week of December every year. It is vibrant and colourful with the fishing hamlets of other nearby places and people of other religions celebrate together.
  • Padmanabhapuram Palace is the erstwhile palatial residence of the rulers of Travancore. It is made entirely of wood. It lies an hours drive away from Kanyakumari on the border between Tamil Nadu and Kerala state. It is actually maintained by the Kerala government. There is an entrance ticket of Rs. 25 for Indians and Rs 200 for foreigners. It will take approximately an hour to one-and-half hours to see this palace. Ticket Timings: 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

  • Kamarajar Mani Mantapa Monument was raised and dedicated to a freedom fighter and Former Chief minister of Tamil Nadu, President of Indian National Congress, Mr Kamarajar. He's also popularly known as Black Gandhi among the masses. Like the Gandhi Mantapa, this place is where Kamarajar's ashes were kept for the public to pay homage before immersion into the sea.
  • Baywatch is a water theme amusement park at Sunset Point and is home to India's first wax museum.
  • Tsunami Monument is a momument recognizing the tragic events of the 2004 tsunami that claimed the lives of many Kanyakumari denizens. It is near the south shore. The monument is made of uniquely coloured items such as a wave, a flame, and human hands, together.
  • See the sunrise/sunset the actual geographic south point of India is a few kilometers to the West of Kanyakumari's point and the big Thiruvalluvar Statue. It has a nice stone boat shed, a big Virgin Mary statue, some rocks, and if you walk down onto the sand and rocks, best of all no other people! If you are getting a bus from Nagercoil station, the first bus of the day should just get you there in time. Ask to get off at the Virgin Mary statue, buses go both ways all day so you'll easily be able to resume your trip.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ooty

Ooty, short for Ootacamund (an anglicized name for Udhagamandalam), is a popular hill resort in the state of Tamil Nadu in Southern India.
Located in the mountainous range called the Nilgiris ("Blue Mountains"), it draws swarms of tourists every year. The weather is quite pleasant at a mean of 15-20°C around the year, dropping to lows of 0°C during winter. The landscape is marked by rolling hills covered with dense vegetation, smaller hills and plateaus covered with tea gardens, and eucalyptus trees. Many portions of the hills are preserved as natural reserve forests, and special permits will be needed to camp in noncamp sites. *Ooty, is not the destination in itself, as much as it is the focal point of attraction. Auto touring the surrounding country side is certainly a must do. Unfortunately, the hill town suffers from overcrowding and erosion of natural resources. Tourism has placed an enormous strain on the natural resources resulting in pollution, water shortage and roads.
The hilly region also houses smaller towns like Coonoor and Kotagiri. These smaller towns are a better choice to visit and spend time in, since they are off the beaten path, yet less than 1 hour away from Ooty. They enjoy the same natural climes and prices are a lot cheaper.

Distance from Ooty to various cities: 
  • Coonoor (17 km)
  • Kotagiri (28 km)
  • Coimbatore (89 km)
  • Coorg (225 km)
  • Kodaikanal (236 km)
  • Munnar (282 km)
  • Bangalore (297 km)
  • Calicut (187 km)

Get Around
Taxis, tourist cabs, auto rickshaws are available in plenty. There are no standard rates except tourist cabs. Rickshaws charge a minimum of Rs 30. Town buses are also available to all important places. Conducted sight seeing tours are arranged by the private operators and the Tamilnadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC). There are around 3-4 different day trip routes/packages available. Bus day-trip cost around Rs 125-150 and taxi day-trip cost around Rs 900-1100. Even if you arranged the taxi through the hotel (even TTDC), please verify with the hotel and operator before the trip that there are no hidden costs. Because the taxi drivers demand high parking fees extra and lunch, which is already paid for. The bus/taxi drivers get commission from remote restaurants and shops and they are overpriced, try avoiding such restaurants. Both bus and taxi will take tourists to some remote high-priced restaurant for lunch, try not to eat in such places because the food is cold, overpriced and place is not clean beyond the facade, and you will end up paying for taxi driver's lunch too.
Also avoid auto drivers recommendation they will take you to the hotels for accommodation where they get 20% commission which will be already added in your room tariff without your knowledge.

Tourist Attraction In & Around Ooty
Ooty Botanical Gardens
If you are on a sightseeing tour to Ooty, you might want to visit the Government Botanical gardens, which were laid out in 1847.The picturesque gardens that are maintained by the Horticulture department of the state, cover an area of about 22 hectares. The Gardens have well over 650 species of plants and trees, including a fossil of a tree, which is believed to be more than 20 million years old. The garden is very popular with nature lovers and those who long to walk among greenery and see rare ferns and shrubs up close. If you are in Ooty in the month of May, then you can also be a part of the summer festival, which is held here annually. The festival holds flower shows and various cultural programs showcasing the talent of the locals and the renowned artists.
Doddabetta peak
The Dodabetta Peak stands at an altitude of 2,623 meters. It is the highest point in the district, making it possibly the best vantage point around Ooty. It is merely 10km from Ooty so you can simply grab your camera and head straight to the peak, and click amazing pictures of he valley below. Many say that on a clear day, which is honestly not that often, one can see far off areas, even the plains of Coimbatore and the flat highlands of Mysore.you can get there by catching a bus from ooty bus stand which will just charge you 10 Rs. but will have to walk about 3 km. from the stop where the bus will drop you. you will enjoy the way up the peak ,if you love walking.
Annamalai Temple
Annamalai Temple is a situated about 20 km distance from Ooty. This place has grown as a famous temple of Lord Muruga, known as 7th Hill house of the lord. The view from the Temple is really awesome. There is an observatory at the top of hill for the public to enjoy the magnificent panoramic view.
Ooty Rose gardens
its an amazing and very large area garden. You can enjoy varieties of roses there. The roses bloom only for 2-3 months a year (not sure when), so going there off-season is not very interesting. If interested can buy the seeds and plants also.
Wax World - (Wax Museum)
Its a private investment not supported by Govt. Don't expect much like other foreign wax museum which are helped by tourism authorities for advertisements and promotions. But for sight seeing its good. More attraction is the very old house, where the museum is set up. Candles are available. But it is suffering from funds for expansion so they request tourists to visit so that they can get help from them, which is the only form of support.
Sims Park (Coonoor)
Similar to ooty botanical garden, very rare plants and trees are present. The park is famous for the fruit show it hosts annually during summer festivals.
The Tea Factory
Several tree gardens and factories are there. On the way you will get lots of them. They will approach you with free tea taste and offer some tea packets to buy. But be cautious if you don't have much knowledge about tea, better not to buy from them as the packet tea has not the same taste as they gave you to taste.The spices quality is not so good.
Boating at Pykara
it's an awesome experience. Though the rate of boating is little bit high but still it is worthy. Fresh air, good feeling and good view
  • Falls at Pykara
  • Historical Dam with Power station at Pykara
  • Hidden Valley
  • Echo Rock
Some called it as 'Lambs rock" naturally took the shape of a lamb. Go through a very small forest and then you can see the rock.
  • Shooting point One very nice place is that. Don't miss it. The view is very pleasant.
  • Pine forest Its a natural beauty. After the end of the forest a lake is there. Be careful while walking as the path has slope.
  • Dolphin's Nose

Must Do in Ooty
Most travel agents / hotels conduct guided tour packages that will bundle you into a bus, and tick off the most important and hence crowded "tourist" spots in the area. Some hotels also arrange for private cars like Indica, TATA Sumo.
  • Enjoy the weather.
  • Travel on the railway. The charming Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR), blue and cream with wooden coaches and large windows, is widely regarded as a marvel of engineering.
  • Go for long walks and hikes.
  • Visit a tea plantation and if possible a tea factory.
  • Ooty is famous for its choclates, and the best place to have them is at King's Star. They have around 4 outlets in Ooty and are the first chocolate makers in ooty. (the shops are run by the 3rd Generation of the family)
  • Travel the country side in a 4x4.
  • Catch a round of golf at the Gymkhana Golf course (membership or introduction required)
  • Visit the local Army cantonment - the Madras Regimental Center and the DSSC (Defense Services Staff College).
  • Visit terrace farmed cabbage fields around Ooty.
  • Visit the Mudumalai forest sanctuary (1-2 days minimum).
  • Visit the Needle industries which is around 6km from maintown Ooty in Ketti.
  • Visit 9th mile and also the 6th mile where lot of movies are shot:-)
  • Visit the Municipal Market and shop for fresh local fruits.
  • You can get farm fresh carrot on the way.
  • Horse back ridingIt's popular here. In one hour you can go around the lake or longer rides you can visit countryside around Ooty. Some knowledge of horses would be good as the guides are local men who don't speak too much english, teaching is minimal. On top of the price you have to pay for guide. usd 4/hour.  edit
  • Bakasura MalaiSome say that this was the place where Tipu sultan hid himself during the time of war. One can see all the three states from this point. Though you will to reach the place, the entire walk could be the most memorable in your life. It is usually not recommended by taxi/cab drivers as the place is remote and most of the distance needs to be covered by walk.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

AGRA : The City of TAJMAHAL

Agra is the city of the Taj Mahal, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, some 200 km from Delhi.
Agra has three UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort in the city and Fatehpur Sikri nearby. There are also many other buildings and tombs from Agra's days of glory as the capital of the Mughal Empire.
The city has little else to recommend it. Pollution, especially smog and litter, is rampant and travellers are pestered by swarms of touts and hawkers at every monument, mosque, temple or palace. That said, the sites are some of the wonders of the world and no trip to India is complete without at least one visit to the Taj.

Get In
Agra is 200 km southeast from Delhi and is one of the points of the tourist's Golden Triangle of Agra-Delhi-Jaipur. Agra is also very well connected via rail and road with other nearby cities and tourist destinations.

Get Around
Tongas, electric buses and electric tempos are readily available, and the best way to get to the Taj where no cars are allowed. Auto-rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws are available every where, remember to agree on fares clearly in advance. In case you are a foreigner, please ensure that you bargain everywhere and bargain hard! Generally things are available at 40% of the initially quoted fares.
The best way to experience the city is to take a walk on the Mall Road (Sadar). The street is full of handicraft and leather goods shops. You will also find plenty of food items quite unique to the city. Indian palate is generally very spicy. Please ensure that you carry antacid tablets in case you are not habitual to the spicy foods
As a guide, an auto rickshaw from Agra Cantonement station to the Taj Mahal is about Rs 80 (at least in off season); and a cycle rickshaw from the Taj Mahal to Agra Fort is Rs 40.
An air conditioned taxi for the day should cost around Rs 1200. They will charge slightly more if you want to go to Fatehpur Sikri as it's a bit further out. Be warned that the drivers will probably try to make unscheduled stops along the way at marble and textile shops for which they receive commissions. Firmly tell them that you're not interested in shopping - though this might not get you anywhere so try to just go with the flow - you won't be pressured into buying anything but if you have a tight schedule it can be annoying.

Tourist Attraction
Tajmahal
Please note that the Taj Mahal is closed every Friday
The Taj Mahal is an immense mausoleum of white marble, built between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife. Taj Mahal means Crown Palace; one of the wife's names was Mumtaz Mahal, Ornament of the Palace. The Taj is one of the most well preserved and architecturally beautiful tombs in the world, one of the masterpieces of Indian Muslim architecture, and one of the great sites of the world's heritage.
Grand Entrance Building to the Taj Mahal Complex
The Taj Mahal has a life of its own that leaps out of marble, provided you understand that it is a monument of love. The Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore called it a teardrop on the cheek of eternity, while the English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold, said it was Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passions of an emperor's love wrought in living stones. It is a celebration of woman built in marble and that is the way to appreciate it.
Although it is one of the most photographed edifices in the world and instantly recognisable, actually seeing it is awe-inspiring. Not everything is in the photos. The grounds of the complex include several other beautiful buildings, reflecting pools, and extensive ornamental gardens with flowering trees and bushes, and a small gift shop. The Taj framed by trees and reflected in a pool is amazing. Close up, large parts of the building are covered with inlaid stonework.
There is an apocryphal tale that Shah Jahan planned to build an exact copy out of black marble on the opposite side of the river. His plans were foiled by his son, who murdered three elder brothers and overthrew his father to acquire the throne. Shah Jahan is now buried alongside his wife in the Taj Mahal.
If you are taking a camera, beware that because the Taj is white your camera may underexpose your photos. If it is a film camera you will not find out until it is too late. Overexposure by 1 or 2 stops is recommended.
The Taj is open from 6:00 AM to 6:30 PM (sunset) every day except Friday. Entry costs ₹750 for foreigners and ₹20 for Indians. Get there as early as possible to beat the crowds, crowds are the worst during the weekend when people overshadow the grandeur of the Taj (but note that the gates won't open until at 6AM at the earliest - often a few minutes later, so don't bother getting there at 5AM), and plan to visit the Taj at least two different times during the day (dusk and dawn are best) in order to experience the full effect of changing sunlight on the amazing building. It is also utterly stunning under a full moon. You can also get very good views from Mehtab Bagh (see Gardens section below).
To buy tickets, you can go to the South gate, but this gate is 1 km far away of the entrance and the counter opens at 8:00 AM. At the West and East gates, the counters open at 6:00 AM. These gates also have smaller queues in peak times as the big tour buses drop groups off at the South gate. Alongside the ticket counter, you can also purchase a self-guided audio tour (allows two to a device) for ₹100 in English and foreign languages and ₹60 for Indian languages.
The Taj is located pretty much in the middle of town. Expect a line to get into the grounds. There are three gates. The western gate is the main gate where most tourists enter. A large number of people turn up on weekends and public holidays and entry through the western gate may take hours. The southern and eastern gates are much less busy and should be tried on such days.
There are night viewing sessions on the nights of a full moon and the two days before and after (so five days in total). Exceptions are Fridays (the Muslim sabbath) and the month of Ramadan. Tickets must be purchased 24 hours in advance, starting at 10am, but do not always sell out, so it can be worth looking into it when you arrive even if well after 10am. Tickets only allow viewing from the red sandstone plaza at the south end of the complex, and only for a 1/2 hour window. Make sure to wear mosquito repellent.
It is a good idea to bring a flashlight, because the interior of the Taj Mahal is quite dark (even during the day) and to fully appreciate the details of the gem inlays, you need a good light.
Taj Mahal can also be seen during Night 2 days before and 2 days after full moon in all 5 days including full moon, the booking has to be made 24 hours in advance from Archeological Society of India office situated at 22, Mall Road, Agra. Ticket fare is Rs. 500 for Indian Nationals and Rs. 750 for Non Indians. The viewing hours for night viewing is from 8:30 pm to 9:00 pm and 9:00 pm to 9:30 pm. A visitor has to reach 30 mins prior to viewing hours for security check at Taj Mahal Ticketing counter on East Gate of Taj Mahal or he may loose his/ her chance. The Night View is not worth spending as the visitors are kept quite far from Taj Mahal nearly 200 Mts away and there in no light so it could hardly be seen during night hours at viewing hours. Cameras also do not give images with near zero flux can easily be avoided for night viewing.

Agra Forte
The fort is similar in layout to the Red Fort in Delhi, but considerably better preserved, as much of Delhi Fort was razed by the British after the Mutiny. As much as palace as a defensive structure, it is also constructed mainly from red sandstone.
Emperor Akbar, king at 14, began consolidating his empire and, as an assertion of his power built the fort in Agra between 1565 and 1571, at the same time as Humayun's Tomb in Delhi. Emperor Shah Jahan added to the fort and ended up a prisoner in it. The fort has a beautiful view of his masterpiece, the Taj Mahal, on a clear day.
You can get to the fort by Rickshaw from Taj Mahal for around ₹25-30. Entry to the fort is ₹250 (plus levy of ₹50 if you have not already paid the ₹500 fee for Taj Mahal).
There are left luggage services at Agra Fort where you can stow your bags at no cost. A fine of ₹5,000 applies if you lose your luggage ticket.
There are also audio guides available at Agra Fort which you can rent for a cost of ₹100 in English and other foreign languages (German, French, Spanish, etc) or ₹60 in Indian languages such as Hindi or Bengali.

Gardens
  • Soami Bagh, (10 km north of Agra). The white marble samadhi of the Radha Soami religion is currently under construction. It was started in 1904 and is not expected to be completed until sometime next century. You can see pietra dura inlaid marblework actulally being worked on. Soami Bagh is 2km north of Agra and can be reached by bus or cycle.
  • Ram BaghThe first Mughal gardens, built by the first Mughal Emperor Babar, 500 m North of the Chini Ka Rauza.
  • Mehtab Bagh, (directly across the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal, the trip takes about 30 minutes from the centre of town by autorickshaw and will cost about ₹200). Sunrise to SunsetThese botanical gardens give you an opportunity to view the Taj at a remove from the crowds of tourists.. Alternatively, walk past the entrance and straight to the sandy banks of the river: the view of the Taj is every bit as lovely (perhaps more so, since the barbed wire fence surrounding the gardens will be behind you), although you may have to deal with aggressive touts. In the rainy season when the river is full you can get good photos of the Taj at sunset, as the reflection mirrors off the water. Don't forget to take a round trip by auto rickshaw. Entrance to the park is ₹100 for foreigners.

Temples

  • Balkeshwar Temple, (At Balkeshwar, at river side of Yamuna). A temple of Lord Shiva
  • Kailash Temple, (at Sikandra, at the river Yamuna). A Lord Shiva Temple.
  • Mankameshwar Temple, (At Rawatpara, near Agra Fort railway station. Near the raja ki mandi; a simple cycle rikshaw can take you there for a fare of 20/-.). Listen to the aarti, it purifies your soul. It is the MOST VISITED temple by LOCALS.....and during festive seasons its so crowded disrupting the traffic in the nerby areas.... 
  • Prithvinath Temple, (At Shahganj. On road to Jaipur.).
  • Rajeshwar Temple, (At Village Rajpur. On road to Shamshabd.).
  • Shyam Ji Maharaj Temple (At Bijlighar).
  • Mahakal And Mahakali Temple, (At Sikandra railway crossing on Sikandra Bodla road).
  • Rawli Maharaj Temple, (At Collectrate crossing, beside the railway track). Very old temple.

Other sights


  • Sikandra, (10 km north of Agra on the Agra Delhi highway). Open from sunrise to sunsetThe tomb of Akbar lies here in the centre of the large garden. Akbar started its construction himself but it was completed by his son Jehangir, who significantly modified the original plans which accounts for the somewhat cluttered architectural lines of the tomb. Four red sandstone gates lead to the tomb complex: one is Muslim, one Hindu, one Christian, and one is Akbar's patent mixture.

  • Itmad-Ud-Daulah's TombEmpress Nur Jehan built Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb, sometimes called the Baby Taj, for her father, Ghias-ud-Din Beg, the Chief Minister of Emperor Jahangir. Small in comparison to many other Mughal-era tombs, it is sometimes described as a jewel box. Its garden layout and use of white marble, pietra dura, inlay designs and latticework presage many elements of the Taj Mahal.

  • Mariam's Tomb, (West from Akbar's Tomb on Agra-Delhi highway). Constructed by Jahangir in the memory of his mother Mariam Zammani a title bestowed upon her,. The grave is made of white marble. Though this building is in a ruined condition, yet it has in its vicinity, a Christian Mission School and a church. It is also said; Akbar himself made that it in the memory of his Christian wife.

  • Jama MasjidA large mosque attributed to Princess Jahanara Begum, built in 1648 during the reign of the father Shah Jahan. Notable for its unusual dome and absence of minarets.

  • Chini Ka RozaA memorial dedicated to the Prime Minister of Shah Jahan, Allama Afzel Khal Mullah Shukrullah of Shiraz, notable for its dome of blue glazed tiles.

  • Gurudwara Guru ka Taal, (at Delhi-Agra Highway, located between Transport Nagar and Sikandra), 


BUNDI

Bundi is a blue city in eastern Rajasthan. It's a special destination on its own. An oasis in the desert state , a serene civilization far from the maddening crowd & a tourists' destination . Attracted Rudyard Kipling (writer of The Jungle Book), Rabindra Nath Tagore, Virginia Fass, film maker Satyajit Ray .. and many more. Thousands of tourists, both domestic and foreign, come here to see and discover this beautiful place. Bundi was named after a Meena Chieftain Bunda. Bundi is especially famous for the miniature paintings from the "Bundi School" and the aesthetic stepwells. Bundi has some of the most friendly locals in the whole of India. By the end of a week's visit you will know almost everyone within a two street radius, and will probably have been invited in for tea numerous times. Marijuana is readily available (legally!!!) over the counter for astonishingly cheap prices, and the locals are incredibly generous with theirs too.

Get Around
Most of Bundi is very accessible by walking and there is generally no need to hire transport. Virtually the only mode of public transportation is the auto rickshaw. As always in India, bargaining is required.

See
There are lots of small tourist attractions in Bundi.
  • Taragarh Fort The biggest of them is this fort built somewhere in the 16th century. This fort counts amongst the most famous ones in Rajasthan for its intricate structures and a highly-regarded painting gallery (from here originated the Bundi style of Mural Paintings ).
  • Shikar Burj and Jait Sagar Shikar Burj is the name of the place that was used by kings for hunting. It is very near to a small lake called Jait Sagar. This lake was once famous for lotus flowers. Near Jait sagar there is a small garden called Terrace garden.
  • Phool Sagar This is another small palace and was more of a summer palace. Prior permission from the DM of the city is required to visit the same as it is still under the control of the royal family.
  • Stepwells These 32 stepwells were used as a water supply (drinking and washing). They were built by Mother Queen of Bundi in 1699 and were donated for public wellfare. The most beautiful stepwell is Rani Jiki Barol, which you can visit. It's an example of a Hindu and Jain architecture.
  • Bundi Palace Bundi is one of the few places in India which can lay its claim to an authentic school of painting, "The Bundi School." The splendid paintings in the Chitrashala in the Bundi fort are par excellence and can be compared with probably the best anywhere in the world.

UDAIPUR

Udaipur the capital of the former princely state of Mewar, is a beautiful city in RajasthanIndia famous for its lakes and palaces. A current tourist favorite, especially for up-market Westerners, it was a backdrop for numerous movies including the James Bond flick "Octopussy".

History

Udaipur was the capital of the Rajput kingdom of Mewar, ruled by the Sisodia clan with jhala's loyalty. The founder of Udaipur was Rana Udai Singh, father of Maharana Pratap. The ancient capital of Mewar was Nagda, located on the Banas River northeast of Udaipur. Legend has it that Maharana Udai Singh came upon a hermit while hunting in the foothills of the Aravalli Range.
In 1568, the Mughal emperor Akbar captured Chittorgarh, and Udai Singh moved the capital to the site of his residence, which became the city of Udaipur. As the Mughal empire weakened, the Sisodia ranas, and later maharanas, reasserted their independence and recaptured most of Mewar district. Udaipur remained the capital of the state, which became a princely state of British India in 1818.
After India's Independence in 1947, the Maharaja of Udaipur acceded to the Government of India, and Mewar was integrated into India's Rajasthan state.

Culture

Udaipur receives ample number of tourists from all over the world every year. The city is still inhabited by people of Bhil tribe. Udaipur dwellers are really friendly and good to be with. On your first look, you will find them rugged, but these people are really good at heart. Untouched by the pace of modern times, these desert people are well-built, simple and cheerful. Here, people usually prefer wearing bright colored clothes. Colorful festivals and fairs depict the cultural prosperity of Udaipur.

Climate

The climate of Udaipur is tropical, with the mercury staying between a maximum of 42.3°C and a minimum of 28.8°C during summers. Winters are mild with the maximum temperature rising to 28.8°C and the minimum dipping to 2.5°C. Best time to visit is during the winters preferably September to March.

Tourist Attraction In Udaipur

Udaipur City Palace

Udaipur City Palace


The splendid City Palace, posing over the fascinating Lake Pichola, is one of the most beautiful palatial structures. The elegant palace originally built by Mahrana Uday Singh II rises 30 meters above Lake Pichola and extends up to 244 meters.
The City Palace of Udaipur has number of small and big palaces, museums and the gardens. There are many popular palaces inside the City Palace Complex. The unique aspect of this conglomeration is that the architectural design (a rich blend of Rajasthani, Mughal, Medieval, European and Chinese Architecture) is distinctly homogeneous and eye catching. The palace complex has been built entirely in granite and marble. The interiors of the palace complex with its balconies, towers and cupolas exhibit delicate mirror-work, marble-work, murals, wall paintings, silver-work, inlay-work and leftover of colored glass. The complex provides a fine view of the lake and the Udaipur city from its upper terraces.

Key destinations in City Palace


  • Amar Vilas - The uppermost court inside the complex, which is a raised garden. It provides entry to the Badi Mahal. It is a pleasure pavilion built in Mughal style. It has cusped arcades enclosing a square marble tub. 'Amar Vilas' is the highest point of the City palace and has wonderful hanging gardens with fountains, towers and terraces.
  • Badi Mahal - Also known as Garden Palace is the exotic central garden palace that is situated on a 27 metres (89 ft) high natural rock formation vis-a-vis the rest of the palace. The rooms on the ground floor appear to be at the level of the fourth floor in view of the height difference to its surrounding buildings.
  • Durbar Hall - Built in 1909 within the Fatepraksh Palace (now a heritage hotel), the hall was used by the royal ladies to observe the court proceedings. This hall has luxuriant interion with some unusually large chandeliers. Weapons of the maharanas and also some of their unique portraits are also depicted here.
  • Fatehprakash Palace - Now run as luxury hotel and inaccessible to public viewing has a crystal gallery that consists of crystal chairs, dressig tables, sofas, tables, chairs and beds, crockery, table fountains which were never used. There is also a unique jewel studded carpet here.
  • Jagadish Temple - Located 150m north of the palace in Indo-Aryan architectural style, the temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple walls and the shikara or tower are decorated with carvings of Vishnu, scenes from Lord Krishna’s life and figurines of nymphs or apsaras. The street square, where the temple is located, is also known as Jagdish Chowk from where several roads radiate in different directions.
  • Krishna Vilas - Another chamber in Fatehprakash Palance with rich collection of miniature paintings that portray royal processions, festivals and games of the Maharanas. However, there is tragic story linked to this wing of the City Palace. In the nineteenth century, a royal princess was unable to choose from two suitors seeking her hand in marriage, one from the royal family of Jaipur and another from Jodhpur, and hence in a state of dilemma, she poisoned herself to death.
  • Manak Mahal - Approach from the Manak Chowk, the palace has a raised alcove inlaid completely in mirror glass. One of the prominent emblems of Sun is depicted on the fa├žade of the Manak Chowk, which can also be seen from the outermost court.
  • Mor Chowk or Peacock Square - A pillared hall with glass and mirror mosaic decorations is integral to the inner courts of the palace. The elaborate design of this chamber consists of three peacocks (representing the three seasons of summer, winter and monsoon) modeled in high relief and faced with coloured glass mosaic, built into successive niches in the wall area or jharoka. These were built during Maharana Sajjan Singh’s reign, 200 years after the palace was established. The peacocks have been crafted with 5000 pieces of glass, which shine in green, gold and blue colours. In an adjoining chamber, called the Kanch-ki-Burj, mosaic of mirrors adorn the walls. The Badi Charur Chowk within this chowk is a smaller court for private use. Its screen wall has painted and inlaid compositions depicting European men and Indian women.
  • Zenana Mahal or Women's Palace - Proceeding further from the Mor Chowk, in the Zenana Mahal or women’s quarters (now converted into museum) is exquisitely designed alcoves, balconies, coloured windows, tiled walls and floors are seen.
  • Rang Bhawan - The palace that used to contain royal treasure. There are temples of Lord Krishna, Meerabai and Shiva, located here.
  • Sheesh Mahal - The palace of mirrors and glasses was built in 1716. A shrine of Dhuni Mata is also located in the complex. This location is considered as the oldest part of the Palace, where a sage spent his entire life meditating.

Lakes


Udaipur is a lovely blend of water, lush green hills that set fire and passion in poet and considered as Venice of East. The city has 5 beautiful lakes that adds to its kaleidoscope.
  • Fateh Sagar Lake - An artificial lake constructed by Maharana in north of Lake Pichola in 1678 and to the north-west of Udaipur. Within the confines of the Fateh Sagar Lake, there are three small islands.; the largest of these is called the Nehru Park, the second island houses a public park with an impressive water-jet fountain and the third island is the address for the Udaipur Solar Observatory. Every year a festival called the Hariyali Amavasya Mela (Green New Moon Fair) is organized at the lake precincts,in the month of August/September.
Udaipur (Rajasthan/India) panorama with dried Lake Pichola
  • Pichola Lake - An artificial fresh water lake, created in the year 1362 AD, named after the nearby Picholi village. The lake’s surroundings and the several islands within the lake have been developed over the centuries, with palaces, marble temples, family mansions, and bathing ghats. The famous Lake Palace (now converted into a heritage hotel) is located in the middle of the lake. Two islands, Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir are located within Pichola Lake. Local buses, Tongas, auto-rickshaws and taxis provide the needed transport.

Other Attractions

Though, the city is otherwise small and most of the tourist places will take approximately 20-25 minutes for viewing but visit as each one has its own unique architecture that worth viewing.
  • Saheliyon ki Badi - Built by Maharana Bhopal Singh. Saheliyon ki Bari means Garden of the Maids. This garden area lies in northern part of the city and has fountains and kiosks, a lotus pool and marble elephants. Each water channel has its distinct sound and the mingling of these sounds complement the ambience of the place. There is also a small museum here. Sahelion Ki Bari' was laid for a group of forty-eight young women attendants who accompanied a princess to Udaipur as part of her dowry.
  • Sukhadia Circle - A large roundabout in the city's northern suburb of Panchwati, on the road to Ranakpur and Mt. Abu. centrepiece of the Circle is a large, three-tiered fountain just over 21 m. high, with scalloped dishes surmounted by a wheat-ear motif, representing prosperity. Illuminated at night, it is now a well-known landmark.
  • Udaipur Solar Observatory - Located on an island in the Fateh Sagar Lake, the observatory is claimed to be one of the Asia's largest. The observatory was built in the year 1976 by Dr. Arvind Bhatanagar following the model of the Solar Observatory at Big Bear lake in Southern California.
  • Gulab Bagh and Zoo - A rose garden laid out by Maharaja Sajjan Singh is situated near the palace on the east side of Lake Pichhola. A library in the garden has a collection of ancient handwritten manuscripts and books. Within the garden, there is a zoo with tigers, leopards, chinkara gazelle, birds, and many wild animals. Children can enjoy mini train, track of which covers the main part of the garden and the zoo.
  • Doodh Talai - A rock and fountain garden and the sunset point from which one can enjoy the sunset view in Lake Pichhola and a panoramic view of the old city. Also one can enjoy the Aerial tramway (rope way) which connects one of the dudh talai gardens to Karni Mata temple.
  • Nehru Garden - This is a park situated in the middle of Fateh Sager Lake. This park covers about 41 acres (170,000 m2), with flower gardens and a lily pond. It was inaugurated on the birth anniversary of the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. The garden overlooks the ancient Moti Mahal of Maharana Pratap and gives a view of the Aravalli hills on three sides.
  • Bagore-ki-Haveli - An old building built right on the waterfront of Lake Pichola at Gangori Ghat. Amir Chand Badwa, the Prime Minister of Mewar, built it in the eighteenth century. The palace has over a hundred rooms, with displays of costumes and modern art. The building has a large and exquisite collection of Mewar painting and glassworks.
The panoramic view of royal cenotaphs in Ahar, near Udaipur.
  • Ahar Museum - The Ahar Cenotaphs are a group of royal cenotaphs located in Ahar, about 2km east of Udaipur. The site contains more than 250 cenotaphs of the maharajas of Mewar that were built over approximately 350 years. There are 19 chhatris that commemorate the 19 maharajas who were cremated here.
  • Aapni Dhani - A very good place to spend your evening. This place has a small zoo, magic show, puppet show, nat ka tamasha, dance shows and to top it all a nice Rajasthani dinner - unlimited of course. The ticket is about Rs 250 per person. The shows start in the evening around 5-6 pm.
  • Badi Lake - A nice and Beautiful lake nearly 12 to 14 km from udaipur, one can hire bicycle or bike to have a morning ride, the whole landscape is awesome and worth visiting.

Excursions

Udaipur offers great excursions to its outskirts. Hire a cab or explore by yourself to the some of the great escapades on the city outskirts.
  • Eklingji Temple - 22km north of Udaipur is one of the most famous temples of Rajasthan. The magnificent architecture of Eklingnath Temple is simply remarkable.
  • Haldighati - An important historical site in the context of Rajasthan at a comfortable distance of 40 kms from the city of Udaipur. The term Haldighati has been derived from the yellow colored soil of the place that gives a sense of turmeric (in Hindi).
  • Jagat Temple - Being located at the village called Jagat, at a distance of 58kms in the south-east of Udaipur. Built in 961 A.D, the Jagat Temple is renowned for its intricate carvings in the exteriors.
  • Kankroli - A small town, located at a distance of 65 kms from the city of Udaipur mainly known for its temple, which is sited on the banks of renowned Rajsamand Lake.
  • Nagda - Located besides Bagela Lake at a distance of 23 kms in the north-west of Udaipur on the way to Nathdwara. Nagda comprises many small and big temples, but the main attraction is gained by its 'Sas-Bahu' temple.