Grand Canyon — A Marvel of Nature

Grand Canyon is an amazing spectacle of nature, a phenomenon that will blow your mind with its rugged beauty. Grand Canyon is Arizona’s most visited landmark. Stretching for 277miles from one end to another at its longest and touching 1 mile in depth, it showcases how the Colorado river and its tributaries have cut through hard rocks painstakingly over millions of years to form this natural phenomenon.

Grand Canyon 1

Pic courtesy: Chensiyuan via Wiki Commons

When to visit?

The peak tourist season is from May to end September. You will find crowds thinning from August end as most domestic tourists start preparing for school reopening and the European tourists also head home. From October to February is the lean season when you get ample time to explore and plan your itinerary. Yes winters can be harsh but give it a try. You will be thankful that you went at this time.

Grand Canyon 2

Pic courtesy: Eagle Rock by Julius Reque via Wiki Commons

How to explore the Grand Canyon?

While the sweeping panoramic views are truly beautiful, to get an actual feel of the natural beauty of the Canyon, go down the South rim, take a short hike and explore the peculiar natural treats you will discover along the way. You could do a drive around the areas of the park where you are allowed to take your car, but for the most spectacular views, hikes are the best. You don’t need to do very long hikes but do try to do shorter ones that treat you to stunning views. Mule rides are another option. Feels a bit strange but soon you will forget your fear and begin to enjoy the sights. Helicopter rides for a bird’s eye view are also popular.

Do hang around the various view points to catch the sunset in all its spectacular glory. And if geology attracts you then head to the Museum at Yavapai Point to understand more about the Canyon and how it was formed. Definitely worth visiting!

Grand Canyon 3

Pic courtesy: Utah.com

Final Word

As the stunning pictures show, a day at the Grand Canyon will be a day well spent. You will carry a lifetime of memories of this natural spectacle with you.

Do reach out to Travel Plaza to help you plan a customized trip for your needs.

Visit New Zealand this Diwali

Diwali is here, well almost here. These days, I have noticed that Indian travellers head out for vacation during the Diwali holidays. One reason could be that being a pan-Indian festival, Diwali time also mean vacation time for school-going children. Unless you are footloose and fancy free, you will find that your vacations are synced with the school holidays of your kids. So, it is time to begin planning for Diwali vacation. Have you considered traveling to New Zealand this Diwali? The weather will be just perfect for outdoors and the sights and sounds are so amazing perhaps in good measure because it is “Most Peaceful Place on Earth.”

New Zealand

Pic by Karora (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

New Zealand is a place of exceptional scenic beauty where the natural beauty is still pristine and awe-inspiring. Most of us already know that New Zealand has more sheep than humans. Here are some spectacular must-visit places when you plan your trip:

Milford Sound: Milford Sound is well-known to travellers around the world. It is a fjord in the south west of South Island. It is located in Fiordland National Park. To completely explore its stunning beauty, take a cruise down it. This place will awe you. No wonder it is called the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers Have you experienced walking on a glacier? It is a truly unique experience. And when the views while hiking are some of the best locations in South Westlands, then the experience gets even better. You can try a guided walk or a helicopter ride if your budget allows you to. You don’t want to miss glacial crevasses and beautiful blue ice.

Queenstown: If adventure is what you dig, then Queenstown is your place to be. It is a favorite for all those who enjoy whitewater rafting, skiing, skydiving and of course, bungee jumping. The first commercial bungee jumping happened here in 1988 so this is the absolute place to be in if you are a bungee jumper.

Lake Wanaka: This is a little slice of heaven with clear waters surrounded by snowy mountains. Ski if you like or just bike your way through multiple hiking paths as you indulge in the glorious natural surroundings.

Kaikoura This tiny town on ‘South Island is the best place worldwide to do whale watching. Swimming with dolphins is another popular attraction. The town has pretty mountains and lush green landscape rich in natural beauty just like the rest of New Zealand.

New Zealand

Pic By Will Ellis (originally posted to Flickr as CIMG2398) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Don’t miss these gems when you visit New Zealand this Diwali. Reach out to Travel Plaza for customized travel packages.

Visit Spain this August

Spain is a popular tourist destination with visually spellbinding locales. Those of us who have seen the Hindi hit movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara will concur that the place is really delightful and must visit. Spain has a great cuisine, culture and beautiful beaches. It offers ample opportunities to an average traveler.

Here are some really wonderful reasons to visit Spain this month

La Festa Major De Gracia Festival in Barcelona:

Pic courtesy Barcelonayellow.com

Pic courtesy Barcelonayellow.com

This truly fun street festival is considered to be Barcelona’s best and most colorful. Gracia which used to be a small village before it got integrated with Barcelona makes an amazing host to this Festival which has a number of exciting events lined up. The Festival is held between 15th and 21st August every year. There are beautifully lit, festive decorations that can be enjoyed best at night. There are more than 500 activities with more than half of them meant specially for kids.

Aste Nagusia, Bilbao

Aste Nagusia

Picture courtesy: http://www.euskoguide.com/

This is a 9-day event held in the last week of August in Bilbao, which is Basque country. It begins on a Saturday. The Festival is announced open by firing a rocket in the sky when the mascot of the Festival makes an appearance. Thus commence a bunch of fun events that enthrall visitors and residents alike. You can experience safer bullfights as the bulls are really calves and their horns are padded. There are slides and fun events for children.

La Tomatina:

Tomatina

Picture courtesy: Wikipedia.org

This is the world famous tomato throwing event that is held in Bunol in Valencia in the last Wednesday of August. This is a festival where the locals throw tomatoes at each other and get into a tomato fight for pure enjoyment. This Festival has been bringing in visitors by the droves. The town is painted red during this time.

So, if you want to enjoy these unique Festivals, head to Spain this August. Remember the Independence Day weekend is fast approaching. Do reach out to TravelPlaza.biz for some exciting travel packages.

The breathtaking Niagara Falls

This is just the perfect time for a vacation to the US. The weather is nice and pleasant and all the natural wonders are just perfect for sightseeing after they have been closed for the harsh winters. One of the delightful natural wonders that you must not miss are the Niagara Falls. Those who go to the East Coast especially New York must make Niagara Falls a part of their itinerary.

"Niagara falls panorama" by I, Sbittante. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Niagara falls panorama” by I, Sbittante. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Niagara Falls can be viewed from both the US side and Canada side. It is a spectacular sight with its three massive falls that are on the international boundary between US and Canada. There is a Niagara Falls National Park which includes 400 acres of forest. There are many places of cultural significance to be seen here. Don’t miss the sightseeing tour that lets you experience the splendor of these Falls.

The three falls are The Horseshoe Falls, The American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The Horseshoe Falls which are the largest Falls are on the Canadian side. The other two are on the American side. These Falls are located on the Niagara River and have the highest flow rate of any waterfalls in the World. During the rainy season, the Falls are fill to the brim and their sheer beauty will enthrall your senses. The green frothy waters are due to dissolved salts as well as finely ground rock.

They are also a great source of hydroelectric power. There are many ways and packages that help you explore the Falls as per your own preferences. You can go for a romantic holiday, a nature trip or a historical trip that helps you explore North American history and culture of this place. The possibilities are immense.

Do travel to USA this winter and visit Niagara Falls for their extraordinary beauty. Try out TravelPlaza‘s 12 day Tour to US. Get more details today.

Ranakpur Temples in Rajasthan

There are many architectural marvels in #IncredibleIndia. Taj Mahal is one of them. I still can’t get over the first sight of that monument. It had mesmerized me. On my recent trip to Rajasthan, I saw some astounding forts and monuments. But the Jain Temples at Ranakpur as we were enroute to Udaipur were among the most spectacular that I have seen.

ranakpur

Made from marble and dedicated to the first Tirthankar and founder of Jainism, Adinath, the temple is an architectural marvel. As you set foot in its cool confines shading yourself from the heat in the area, you are bound to do a double take. The temple is perched on 1444 pillars, perfectly symmetrical and astoundingly carved. It is said that the carving on no two pillars is the same.

ranakpur

As the husband and I walked in, we saw the place milling with foreigners who were sitting about just taking in the beauty of the place. The priests, one of them took us on a small tour, allowed us to go into the main sanctum and pray to the deity. Apparently, only Indians are permitted to do so now.

ranakpur

The priest who says has been in the temple since generations spoke fluent Hindi and English and told us a bit about the temple and its history. There is a very old banyan tree inside the temple which has a root in the shape of Ganesha.

ranakpur

There are two bells in the sanctum which toll twice a day only at prayer time. Their sound echoes in the Aravalis and they echo the sound of “Om.” The ceilings are ornately carved and the symmetry will just leave you with a gaping mouth. We were told that the intricate carving on the ceilings and pillars has inspired prints on apparel and handicrafts.

ranakpur

There are elaborately carved elephants at the entrance and other locations. The eyes of the Tirthankar glitter in the light and seem to be looking at you from every angle. You can sit around in this quiet temple for hours and revel in the peace.

ranakpur

I also found many Hindu elements in the architecture including Hindu gods and goddesses carved in the ceilings and pillars. Even the temple is built just like the Hindu style of temples. Such amazing harmony of architectural styles and religions.

ranakpur

You are sure to be stunned by the exquisite beauty of this temple that was started in the 15th century by Dhanna Shah. It is named after the ruler of Mewar, Rana Kumbha, under whose patronage the temple was completed.

Situated on a steep slope of a hill, this is an imposing temple and a must visit when you go to Udaipur in Rajasthan.

Five reasons to visit Goa this summer

Goa

The Dudhsagar Falls Pic courtesy: Purshi on Wikipedia.org

Goa is that promised land where the beaches, sun and sand play havoc with your senses. Goa is a personal favorite with me, and I have been there many times. In fact, my family believes that one can just not go wrong with Goa especially seafood lovers like us. And you know what, Goa is a great choice even in summers. Yes, it will be hot and humid. But you will find many reasons to head there this summer.

Goa

Pic courtesy: Wikipedia.org

Here are my five reasons:

Cost: Yes, Goa is really inexpensive in summers. The same 5-star resorts offer attractive discounts with the same service and amenities that you otherwise adore. This helps you save on good money which can be utilized better for shopping for instance.:) You can also get good deals on travel if you plan in advance. And a little saving hurts no one.

Experience: I, for one, detest crowds. The entire experience is killed if the beach is filled choc-a-bloc with people jostling for space. I have been to Goa in end March and April, and the resorts are pleasantly less crowded. You can sight see, take long walks on the beach, explore the quaint eateries and do all this at your pace. You actually get to experience things more intensely and slow down on a holiday.

Food: Goa is popular for its seafood and other delicacies. At one of the popular resorts, the chef indulged the individual demands of my family by specially making dishes that we wanted. It made us feel so pampered. You can chat up the chef and learn a secret or two if you are so inclined. The unhurried experience adds to the taste of the culinary delights. I had some of the best fish and prawn dishes on my last trip in summer to Goa. The shacks are great too. You can sit for hours watching the sun set and the sea change colors while you gorge on your drink and food.

Explore: Whether it is the churches, temples, the quaint villages or the popular beaches, all feel more accessible when the crowds have headed home. You find more peace, solitude and space to explore to your heart’s desire. You can also try great activities like Parasailing and water sports at some really appealing prices.

Shopping: Yes, the same wonderful flea markets are there sans the crowds. What is even better is that with the peak season over, you may land some really good bargains. Don’t hold back and get more for less.

So, don’t wait any longer. Head for Goa this summer. Carry an extra tube of sun screen and don’t forget to pack in your swimsuit. Remember you can spend hours in the pleasantly uncrowded swimming pools and the beaches. It is an even better time to visit with the family.

Kerala winter

5 reasons why should you visit Kerala this winter?

This year we are seeing cooler than before climate in most of South India. The winter rains have made the winters even prettier, cooler and greener this year. Kerala is blessed with natural beauty. The greenery of the state has to be seen to be believed. Lush green grass and trees carpet the hills and plains for as far as the eyes can see. The gentle, rolling rivers meandering through the plains and the lovely beaches, not to forget the backwaters with their unique ecosystem that you just can’t have enough of.  After monsoon and November-January is the best time to visit Kerala when the humidity and heat is behind you and the spectacular nature beckons. Here are 5 reasons why you should visit Kerala this winter:

Kerala Trip 2014 - 9

God’s own country: I have visited Kerala on multiple occasions and each time have come back asking for more. What do you say of a place that has the unique backwaters, the beautiful beaches, the lovely mountains and greenery of the kind you must not have witnessed in a long while. Yes, it truly is God’s own country. And you will not wish to miss its friendly people and unique culture.

The World’s favored tourist destination:  Kerala has been hailed by almost all tourist magazines and websites as being one of the most treasured tourist destinations across the world. Not only is it blessed with exceptional beauty but it has a warm and welcoming population that makes visiting the state a wonderful experience. It is also well connected by road, rail and air to all parts of the country. The road network within the state is especially good and if you own a good car, it would be worth going on a road trip to Kerala.

Cuisine: Food is a huge lure for any traveler and Kerala scores highly in this regard. From its famed seafood and appams to its unique red rice and jeera water that is served with each meal, you will find something different and satisfying for your palate here. The food is spicy and the coconut curries are divine. If you like your fish, do not miss the Kerala fish fry and curries.

Hospitality: I had a great experience of staying in a wonderful homestay where the owners took such good care of us opening their home and hearts for us. I was especially touched as my son was feeling sick and they tended to him lovingly. You will find Kerala to be a safe and friendly place for both women and families. The people are educated, hard working and warm. No wonder Kerala is so popular with both local and foreign tourists.

Backwaters: This is a unique phenomenon that you will only experience in the state of Kerala in India. These intricate waterways give you an opportunity to explore the local culture and cuisine. You may choose to live on the waterboats to enjoy a unique experience .

Kerala Trip 2014 - 34.jpg

Don’t forget to explore the wonderful travel deals with Travelplaza.biz before planning your trip to Kerala this winter.

Adalaj stepwells

Adalaj Stepwells in Ahmedabad

On my recent trip to Ahmedabad, I had the pleasure of visiting these gorgeous, intricately carved stepwells. Also known as baoli in the North of India and vav in Gujarati, these were used in ancient times to collect and store water especially in the arid regions of the country. The larger ones like this one also were places of social interaction, rituals and customs.

Adalaj stepwells

Adalaj ni vav is five stories deep and has some spectacular carving on the walls. The structure is still very beautiful but could do with some maintenance work. It is almost dry and has a very musty smell due to no upkeep. Yet, it attracts a number of visitors drawn to its beauty and architectural brilliance.

Adalaj stepwells

Adalaj stepwells were built in 1498. The construction work was started by Rana Veer Singh of the Vaghela dynasty. He was killed by a Muslim intruder, Mohammed Begda, of the neighborhood kingdom. The story goes that Rana Veer Singh’s widow Rani Roopba was courted by the Muslim ruler. She agreed to marry him if he completed the stepwells. The Rani committed suicide in the same stepwells after its completion.

Adalaj stepwells

The stepwells are constructed with sandstone in Solanki architectural style as well as Muslim architectural style. The carvings are intricate and beautiful even after so many centuries. It is an octagonal structure and has a number of pillars supporting the stepwells.

Adalaj stepwells

As you enter the stepwell, you immediately feel the temperature drop a bit. It must have been a place of attraction back in the days when the women must have come here to collect water and also to chat.

Do not forget to visit this architectural delight the next time you visit Gujarat.