Of all the reasons to travel the world, “to see a staircase” likely doesn’t show up on many lists. But it may be time to reconsider. The globe is dotted with remarkable staircases that are breathtaking to look at and exhilarating to climb, and each makes for a quality destination in its own right. Here are just seven of some of the world’s most trek-worthy staircases.

16th Avenue Tiled Steps in San Francisco, California, one of the most beautiful staircases in the world

1. 16th Avenue Tiled Steps, San Francisco

  California, United States

Truly a team effort, the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps project is the result of collaboration among neighbors around the intersection of 16th and Moraga in San Francisco. Work on the 163 mosaic paneled stairs started in 2003 under the leadership of artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher, and more than 500 neighbors contributed funds and/or labor to complete the project by August 2004. The stairs are now overseen by the San Francisco Parks Trust.

Bueren Mountain, Belgium, one of the most beautiful staircases in the world

2. Bueren Mountain

  Belgium

Despite its name, Bueren Mountain is no mountain at all. Instead, it’s a 374-step staircase in Liège, Belgium that was built in 1881 as a pathway for soldiers. The stairs are named after Vincent de Bueren, a 15th century aristocrat who reportedly defended the city of Liège from an affront by the Duke of Burgundy. Those who make it to the top will reap their reward in the form of stunning views of the city and the Meuse River. The stairwell is also an hour’s drive from popular Brussels.

Haiku Stairs (also known as the Stairway to Heaven) in Hawaii, one of the most beautiful staircases in the world

3. Haiku Stairs, Hawaii

  United States

Also known as the Stairway to Heaven, the Haiku Stairs on the island of Oahu are beloved by thrill seekers despite the fact that it’s technically illegal to climb them (at least not without a permit and a $1 million insurance policy). Installed during World War II and deemed off limits in the 1980s, the 3,922 steps rise to the summit of Puu Keahikahoe, from which those who sneak to the top can gaze out over the Koolau mountain range. Sadly, a powerful storm damaged the stairs earlier this year—they’re now more treacherous than ever, and their fate (along with that of the interlopers who climb them) hangs in the balance.

Moses Bridge Stairs, Netherlands, one of the most beautiful staircases in the world
Photo: Flickr user Forgemind ArchiMedia

4. Moses Bridge Stairs

  Netherlands

The Fort de Roovere, a 17th century Dutch fort surrounded by a moat, was originally classified as an island. But in recent years it found itself in need of an access bridge as part of a restoration project. In order to preserve as much of the island appearance as possible, an architectural firm designed the Moses Bridge Stairs, a “sunken” bridge that immerses pedestrians in the moat (without anybody getting wet). A dam sits at each end of the moat in order to ensure that water never spills onto the bridge.

Santorini Stairway, Greece, one of the most beautiful staircases in the world
Photo: Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia Commons

5. Santorini Stairway

  Greece

Originally constructed in 1715 and renovated in 1930, the stairway was first built so that Santorini residents could climb to the summit of their island home. The stairway switchbacks from the sea to the city for a grand total of more than 4,000 feet (or 657 steps). A cable car was installed in 1979, but you’ll get a better workout if you walk (many tourists also choose to ride donkeys up or down). Rest your feet at any of Santorini’s budget-friendly hotels.

Stairs Above the Sea, Spain, one of the most beautiful staircases in the world
Photo: AnuskaCM via Wikimedia Commons

6. Stairs Above the Sea

  Spain

What better way to connect the small islet of Gaztelugatxe in Spanish Basque Country to the mainland than by creating a human-made bridge of stairs. More than 200 steps lead to a 10th century monastery on the upper portion of the islet, and those who traverse the rocky stairwell report feeling like they’re walking above the ocean (hence the staircase’s name). The church is closed in winter and the islet is packed with tourists in the summer, so the best time to visit is in the spring or fall.

Traversiner Steg, Switzerland, one of the most beautiful staircases in the world
Photo: Paebi via Wikimedia Commons

7. Traversiner Steg

  Switzerland

It’s a bridge; it’s a stair; it’s a bridge-stair! The suspension bridge (also dubbed “The Bridge-Stair at Traversinertobel”) spans the length of the Traversinertobel gorge, connecting two different elevations on either side of the abyss. There’s a difference of around 72 feet between both sides, so those brave enough to ascend the staircase will get a workout in addition to an adrenaline rush. The staircase is only an hour and a half’s drive to Zurich, so travelers can take in both urban culture and natural wonders in the same day.

  This article was originally published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on December 10th.

Published in Travel Inspiration

Ever thought of traveling off the beaten path and glimpsing a side of India that few tourists see? From pristine beaches to quirky villages, hidden architectural marvels and more, there is no shortage of such unseen places in India. These pristine surroundings are waiting to be discovered. Check out these 24 offbeat destinations that are just begging for you to visit them!

1.   Anthargange: Land of Caves

Approximately 70 km from Bangalore, this unique hillside is heaven for cave explorers. It is scattered with a plethora of caves formed from small volcanic rocks. The caves are both welcoming and intimidating at the same time.

What adds to its charm? There’s a spring that emerges from a small crevice in the rock, a mysterious source. Local people believe the water of the stream to be very holy.

2.   Umri: The World’s Twin Capital

The small town of Umri in Allahabad, believed to be 250 years old, has perplexed researchers all over the world. Out of every 1,000 children born here, 45 are twins. In the last 80 years, the village has had 108 twins, which is amazingy. The reason for this remains unknown. But the villagers believe it to be god’s miracle.

Hemis monastery during their famous and colorful festival, one of India's incredible offbeat destinations
madpai

3.   Hemis, Kashmir

Located about 45 km southeast of Leh is the beautiful town of Hemis. The town is popular for its Hemis monastery and a colorful festival that it celebrates every year.

4.   Bhangarh Fort: So Haunted its Illegal!

Like with other haunted places, Bhangarh has no shortage of myths and ghost stories. But unlike other places this one is so haunted the government of India has made it illegal to enter the grounds. Apparently anyone who has been out past sunrise in the ruined town of Bhangarh, also known as Bhangarh Fort, has never returned alive.

Read More   The Haunted Bhangarh Fort

5.   Ethipothala Falls: A Sight to Behold

About 11 km from Nagarjuna Sagar Dam in Andhra Pradesh lies Ethipothala, which is home to the spellbinding Ethipothala Waterfall. The falls are a union of three streams and are quite a sight to behold.

Bekal Fort, one of India's incredible offbeat destinations
vaibhav

6.   Bekal Fort: The Giant Key-Hole Shaped Fort

Sprawling over forty acres, the 300-year-old Bekal Fort is shaped like a giant key hole. It is one of the best preserved forts in Kerala. The observation tower in the fort offers a fascinating view of the Arabian Sea and all the major places in the vicinity.

7.   Bada Imambra: Gravity Defying Palace

This architectural marvel was built in the 18th century in Lucknow. It is a fantastic mix of European and Arabic architecture. The most astonishing aspect is the central arched hall, a whopping 50 meters long and about three stories high, hanging without the support of any pillars or beams!

8.   Idukki: Land of Red Rain

Well known for its spice plantations, wildlife sanctuaries, hill stations and the gigantic Idukki arch dam, this district in Kerala truly is the epitome of natural beauty.

What makes this place really quirky? Idukki is known for the most unusual phenomenon called Red Rain. The colored rain of Kerala started falling in 2001. Since then it has become one of the most discussed anomalies of recent years.

Loktak Lake, also known as the floating lake, one of India's incredible offbeat destinations
ch_15march

9.   Loktak Lake: The Floating Paradise

This is the largest freshwater lake in Northeast India and its banks are home to the world’s only floating National Park. The Loktak Lake in Manipur is also called the floating lake because of the floating masses of vegetation on its surface.

10.   Khajjiar: India’s Mini Switzerland

About 24 km from Dalhousie, this small picturesque saucer-shaped plateau is a wonderful destination. For a peaceful sojourn in the lap of the Himalayas, this is the ideal place for relaxation.

11.   Kolkkumalai: The World’s Highest Tea Plantation

For all the tea lovers reading this, this is one place you would crave to visit. At 7,900 ft above sea level the hills of Kolkkumalai in Tamil Nadu produce tea which has a special flavor and freshness.

Malana, deep in the heart of India's cannabis country and home of the pontent hash known as Malana Cream, is one of India's most incredible offbeat destinations
mo_cosmo

12.   Malana: Little Greece of India, Popular for Its Cannabis Cream

In the northeast of the Kullu Valley lies the solitary village of Malana. The village is considered to be one of the first democracies in the world. It is also home to the notorious Malana cream, arguably the finest quality hash ever produced.

13.   Mawlynnog: Asia’s Cleanest Village, The Magical Paradise

Do you cringe at the sight of litter on streets in India? Well then you will be surprised to know about this village. Located about 100 km from Shillong is Mawlynnog, a small village in the East Khasi Hills. In 2003 it won the award of being the cleanest village -- not just in India but in all of Asia.

14.   Nohkalikai Falls: The Waterfall with a Tragic Tale

One of the five tallest waterfalls in the country, Nohkalikai Falls near Cherrapunji is named after the horrific tale of a woman named Ka Likai. The legend behind this gorgeous fall makes it all the more intriguing and beautiful.

Orchha dates back to 1501 and is full of palaces and shrines. This combined with a lack of tourists makes it one of India's most incredible offbeat destinations
azwegers

15.   Orchha: A City Frozen in Time

Full of palaces and shrines still retaining their original grandeur, the city of Orchha dates back to 1501 and is a must for all history / culture / architecture buffs. It is located near the banks of Betwa River in Madhya Pradesh.

16.   Roopkund Lake: The Mysterious Skeleton Lake

Situated at an altitude of 5,029 metres in the Himalayas, this lake is popularly known as Skeleton Lake. Skeletons of about 200 people belonging to the 9th century were discovered here. It was later found that a hailstorm had killed the people. To this day, visitors can still see those skeletons.

17.   Shetpal: The Village of Snakes

A village at about 200 km from Pune follows a frightful custom. Each house in this village has a resting place for cobras in the rafters of their ceilings. No cases of snake bites have been reported in this village despite snakes moving about freely in every household.

Spiti Valley, one of India's most incredible offbeat destinations
njyo

18.   Spiti Valley: The Hidden World

Tucked away in the Himalayas of Himachal Pradesh, the Spiti Valley is a relatively unknown world! With Tibet in the east and Ladakh in the north, this region is scattered with tiny villages and monasteries rich in traditional culture.

19.   Tharon Cave: Archaeological Wonder

Located 27 km from the district of Tamenglong in Manipur, the Tharon Cave is of great archaeological and historical importance. A visit to this cave is reportedly the experience of a lifetime.

20.   Chilkur Balaji: The Visa Granting Balaji Temple

Is the USA your land of dreams? If yes, then you simply cannot miss visiting the Chilkur Balaji Temple, which is about 20 kms from Hyderabad. People believe the 21st century god of this temple has the power to grant you a US visa.

Yes, you read that right. Every week around 75,000 to 100,000 devotees visit this temple!

Dhanushkodi, one of India's most incredible offbeat destinations
ryanready

21.   Dhanushkodi: Ghost Town with Mythological Importance

About 620 km from Bangalore is the ghost town of Dhanushkodi. Not only is it famously known for its mythological importance, but also for the cyclone that hit the town in 1964, which ravaged the entire region.

22.   Vihigaon Falls: The Picturesque Falls

Located in the Thane district of Maharashtra, Vihigaons Falls is a monsoon fed waterfall. It is the perfect place for rappelling and canoeing.

23.   Wilson Hills: Hill Station with a Spectacular Sea View

About 870 meters above the sea level, this hill station is located in the State of Gujarat. The most amazing aspect about it is the rare and beautiful sea view that guests get to see.

Yumthang, one of India's most incredible offbeat destinations
amitra

24.   Yumthang Valley: The Valley of Flowers

Located at about 148 km from Gangtok, the Yumthang valley with its scenic beauty is truly a paradise for nature lovers.

Most likely you won't have the time or money to visit all of these destinations. However make sure to squeeze at least a couple of them into your India trip -- it will be that much more special and memorable of an experience!

  Over the next six months I will be exploring as many of these locations as possible. 1 down, 23 to go! Follow along at blog.theHoliDaze.com

Like what you just read?     More Offbeat Travel Guides

Published in India

Don't all of us have a place that we have always wanted to visit, that thing we always wanted to do, that little dream? Why wait for tomorrow to fulfill those wishes? There is a universe full of beauty around us, waiting to be seen. Here are some of the most beautiful places in the world that you just can't miss in this lifetime.

1. Greece

Greece

Greece is a beautiful place, a mix of ancient beauty both tamed and untamed with a past full of mystery, mythology and magic. With a vivid culture, breathtaking views and magnificent history, this is one holiday you will never forget.

2. Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy

Travel to a different world in this city which takes you into a bygone era. A spectacle of grand architecture with a glorious history offset by piazzas, mouthwatering food and cool gelato, Rome provides an idyllic quaint charm unmatched by any other.

3. Alhambra, Spain

Alhambra, Spain

Described by poets as "a pearl set in emeralds," this fortress, originally built in the 9th century is a truly exquisite gem of Islamic architecture. Visit this palace that has witnessed centuries pass by to hear the walls whisper tales of eras past.

4. Forbidden City, Beijing, China

The Forbidden City, Beijing, China

Feel the thrill of walking the halls once open only to the Kings favored men. See the history and the tales of ancient China come alive before your eyes. Sinning has never been more tempting.

5. Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

The holiest Buddhist pagoda, this ancient shrine embodies beauty, serenity and joy. Visit it to experience the divine connection and to appreciate an exquisite piece of architecture and beauty.

6. Egypt

Egypt

The Egyptian pyramids are architectural marvels that need no introduction. Egypt however is home to several other exquisite monuments of days past. Let the fantastic tales of Egyptian mythology mesmerize you as you pay a visit to the country where men were once gods.

7. Palace of Versailles, France

Palace of Versailles, France

The ultimate word in luxury and excess, the Palace of Versailles is a fantasy palace brought to life. With its unparalleled grandeur and incredible architecture, this will definitely be the most impressive palace you will ever see.

8. Great wall of China

Great Wall of China

An unbelievable feat of architecture, this wall is like no other you have ever seen. Winding its way over the globe, and visible from the moon, gazing at the wall at twilight is an experience you will never forget.

9. Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

Those who love retail therapy will find this ancient market a dream come true. One of the largest and oldest markets in the world, this marketplace is a beautiful monument all on its own. Soak in the atmosphere, and come back with an unforgettable experience and lighter wallets.

10. Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech, Morocco

An old imperial city of Morocco called The Red City, Marrakesh oozes a character and charm unlike any other. Brimming with palaces, monuments, museums and souks, you will be hard pressed to decide on an itinerary for your visit.

11. Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States

Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States Of America

A natural formation, the Grand Canyon is wild, untamed and breathtakingly beautiful. An awe-inspiring and spiritual experience, this is something that will stay with you forever.

12. Stonehenge, United Kingdom

Stonehenge

Britain's greatest prehistoric icon, Stonehenge projects an aura of intrigue, power and endurance. The awe-inspiring mysterious ring of stones dated approximately 5000 years ago still continues to mesmerize visitors with their spartan beauty amidst their lush surroundings.

13. Venice, Italy

Alley in Venice, Italy

A city that breathes lives and personifies romance, Venice is a must in every traveler’s wish list. From dreamy gondola rides along the Grand Canal to checking out artistic masterpieces & charming palatial palazzos along with sampling authentic venetian cuisine & aperitivios, there is never a dull moment in this city.

14. Machu Picchu, Peru

Early morning at Machu Picchu, Peru

Peru's most-visited site, Machu Picchu is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Dating to the mid-1400s, this lost city of the Incas is an architectural marvel. Perched on a high plateau, deep in the Amazonian jungle, this is a perfect destination for a long hike.

15. Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, Czech Republic

This Czechoslovakian jewel attracts tourists in droves with its bohemian allure and fairytale atmosphere. Tired of sitting around beaches, doing nothing? Welcome on board. You can have the time of your life exploring old castles, museums, and strolling around charming, quaint streets, seeing the local Attractions. Refresh yourself with a scrumptious repast at a classic Czech tavern, and visit the famous pubs to party like never before.

16. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Burj Dubai, United Arab Emirates

You just can't end this list without including Dubai, the ultimate luxury destination. Embodying opulence, magnificence and eccentricity, Dubai is a man made miracle that is a visual feast. Pamper yourself at some of the most lavish resorts in the world, indulge in tax free mega shopping, embark on grand desert safaris< and experience the rich Arabic culture and cuisine.

Where else would you add to this list?

Share your comments below!

Published in Travel Tips

Besides being a foodie's dream location, Bologna also offers a wealth of activities where visitors can interact with its gritty, ancient and intellectual history. It is home to one of the oldest Universities in Europe where public autopsies would be held. There doctors, students, intellectuals and citizens would congregate to see the interior bodies of criminals. This room can be visited, as well as the entire University, although it isn't something I would recommend before or after eating. As for me I operate on a more sinister level where I was famished after such a visit, probably due to the extreme Summer heat and the room made of smelly pine wood which created a dizzying effect. Anyways...here are some suggestions for anyone interested in visiting the mysterious city of Bologna.

Tiramisu is Bologna, Italy

Granted, all of Italy could be considered a foodie's dream but as the food capital of Italy, Bologna is a great spot for a day-trip. I chose to stay in Florence instead of Bologna because of its history and the fact that it was so close to San Gimignano and the rest of Tuscany. I do not regret staying in Florence because it is one of my favourite cities of Italy. Bologna was perfect, for me, for a day trip, not only is the food spectacular but so are the sights around this historical city. As soon as I got off the train I was met with graffiti supporting an underground Fascism movement. However, I was told the only thing you need to worry about in Bologna, and the rest of Europe, are sly pickpockets.

Delicious pastry is Bologna, Italy

For breakfast I chose a charming cafe directly across from the San Petronio Basilica, of the Piazza Magiore. After seeing so many churches in Rome, Florence and Capri, it was surprising how Bologna's Bassilica overwhelmed me with visual excitement and this was just the exterior. I sat outside the cafe with my notebook and a flaky chocolate cornetto and the best cappuccino you will ever have, which are not hard to come by in Italy. The Bassilica also provides the perfect seating in the form of steps to people watch. Although, this is where I spotted a very obvious pickpocket who seated next to me before I went inside.

Bologna Bassilica

I toured the Bassilica noting the odd crucifix with hands, the detailed frescoes of hell, and the massive columns that surrounded me. Cassini's sundial, as well as meridian lines (1655) upon the floor, are contained within and denote to the importance of both religion and science during Bologna's history.

Apollo on the ceiling of the Bologna Bassilica
Apollo on the ceiling (Apollo was said to flay the mythological character Marsyas)


Inside University Autopsy Room

Another important visit is the University of Bologna, founded around 1088. While there I encourage you to walk, as I did, absolutely everywhere. It is a great opportunity for photography but also to stumble upon hidden restaurants that just may contain the best meal you will ever have. Surprisingly, one works up quite the appetite while sitting in the University's viewing room where autopsies were conducted for citizens to observe, so long as you have a ticket. It is a pine room with wooden bleachers and a marble table sits in the centre. If you have a talented historian in the room with you (and if it is Summer) you may feel as though you are taken back in time, with burning incense, music playing and the smell of a decaying body, I became dizzy and had to exit the room.

During my walk consisting of fresh air, relieved not to smell hot pine anymore, I became famished. I found a small restaurant with outdoor seating and collapsed onto my chair. The restaurant, La Clavature, would provide me with the best meal I have ever had (so far). I ordered fresh tortelloni, a larger version of tortellini, filled with flavourful pumpkin and delicious truffle oil. The sauce was light and tangy balsamic reduction. It is in Bologna that I learned of the silky deliciousness of fresh pasta and the woodsy, rich flavour of truffles – two combinations that would make any meal special.

To top it off I was served a gratuitous dessert, my least favourite Tiramisu, however, I soon realized that North America has ruined me with the commercial stuff. You have not tried Tiramisu until you've had it in Italy, or at least an Italian mama has made it for you. La Clavature also caters to vegetarians and vegans.

To do as the Italians, it is customary to walk off your meal. If you're still up for some touring after the best meal you've ever had, take a trip into the imagination of the Renaissance. The Museo di Palazzo Poggi, also known as The Ulisse Aldrovandi Museum, holds the most unique collection of preserved animals and in general, ways of thinking. For example, there is a long horn kept there and it is labeled a unicorn's horn, although, I can only surmise that it belongs to the Narwhal Whale.

Back in the sixteenth century Ulisse Aldrovandi wanted to compile an encyclopedia of species from around the world. He was sent preserved fish, shark heads and many other species that weren't well known at the time. I love this museum because a visitor can appreciate how far we've come in exploring the world, but also the imagination is percolated in this natural history museum.

Bologna is a place of imagination, delightful food and historical curiosities that would stir the mind of any writer, artist, foodie or traveler. It is great for a day trip or even to stay if you want to have more memorable meals. But remember in Italy the hunt for great food is always worth it! So don't settle for the overpriced tourist restaurants. Be a traveler and find the real Italy!

Published in Italy

Taj Mahal, the beautiful palace that symbolises love and romance, is one of the monuments that every traveler to India should visit with their special someone. It has withstood the test of time as a magnet of love and when you walk in with your second half that feeling of romance comes alive even stronger. I believe it is Mumtaz and Shahjahan's soul that inculcates the feel of love and romance in this place and attracts thousands of visitors daily...although some do surely come for the grandeous architecture. Otherwise people like me would never ever turn up on what is technically a funeral site.

Breathtaking view the Taj Mahal UNESCO World Heritage Site in Agra, India

But its not just the two lovers who are buried here. The Taj is a great monument in and of itself. The sheer size, architecture, and fine craftsmanship of the marble make it a mandatory bucket list requirement for every traveler. It exudes a feeling that you cannot translate to text...and that is why people flock in such great numbers to visit the Taj Mahal everyday.

  More UNESCO Sites     India Archives

Published in India

On a recent trip to Stockholm, my friend Joahnna and I decided to explore the city the effortless, yet informative way - by boarding the Historical Canal Tour.

We went to the visitors center at the airport to claim our Stockholm Cards that we ordered online. With it, tourists get to use public transportation and go to major museums and attractions for free. It's really worth it! While the Arlanda Express is a really efficient and cheap way to get from the Arlanda airport to Stockholm Central Station, where our hotel was conveniently located, we wanted to make use of our Stockholm Cards and use free public transportation.

So, we got on a bus to Malsta and switched to a train to Stockholm Central. After checking in to the hotel and eating lunch, we trekked to Stadshusbron, where the Historical Canal Tour departs from.

Stockholm Historical Canal Tour
When you see this flag and this tower, you know you're in the right place.

The weather was alternating between light rain and cloudy, which made made for slightly dramatic shots. If it gets too chilly, there are flannel blankets to keep passengers warm.

Stockholm Historical Canal Tour

Stockholm Historical Canal Tour

I wish I could tell you amazing facts about these awesome buildings but I'd had zero sleep, and though interesting, I forgot all the things the audio guide narrated. Weirdly, I only remember Swedish House Mafia, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and ABBA being mentioned.

Stockholm Historical Canal Tour
Oh, and one of the buildings we passed by used to be a prison and has been turned into a hotel! Cool, huh.

Stockholm Historical Canal Tour
Boats and buildings

Stockholm Historical Canal Tour
Look at the amazing architecture

Stockholm Historical Canal Tour

Stockholm Historical Canal Tour

Stockholm Historical Canal Tour

The views were just amazing. I really enjoyed the 50-minute tour, it was as relaxing as it was informative. Bonus: you'll even see a few kayaks!

Stockholm Historical Canal Tour   Official Web Site
  Price: SEK 160 for adults, or free with the Stockholm Card.
Departs from Stadshusbron.

  First appeared on No Stopovers.

Published in Sweden

Kumbhalgarh Fort, also known as the Great Wall of India, is a new up-and-coming off the beaten path destination in Rajasthan that is starting to become more well known. However the leap in the numbers of visitors over recent years definitely makes it a worthy destination to visit when in Rajasthan for those who like getting off the tourist trail.

Located near Udaipur, this wonderful fort has a glimpse of history, war and tales of patriotism. If you love to hear history and visualize the fell then this is the must visit for you. The broad and wide walls depict the era of war and conquer, fights and patriotism, and tell the story of how strong the Sisodia dynasty were to safeguard their people.

Kumbhalgarh Fort, one of the historic destinations of royal Rajasthan

How To Get To Kumbhalgarh Fort

Khumbhalgarh can be approached via Udaipur through Dabog airport / Udaipur Junction. But to reach you have to take the road Journey via Nathdwara. It is approximately 90km from Udaipur. The road though is not very good but is a state highway and the government is trying to upgrade so as to increase the travel volume of the state. The road journey is also pleasing as you pass by the country side of the Udaipur district. With it you will get a glimse of true rural India and many beautiful lakes and villages around them. Its good to see the nature and humans mingling with each other.

Kumbhalgarh Great Wall in India, second only to the Great Wall of China, as seen from inside the fort
Kumbhalgarh Great Wall, second only to the Great Wall of China, as seen from inside the fort

The fort of Kumbhalgarh is built on a hilltop and the walls of the fort has a peripheral of 36kms. It is the second largest wall in Asia after the famous Great Wall of China. The fort is said to be the most difficult to be won and had lost only once when the combined forces of Mughal Emperor Akbar, Raja Man Singh of Amber, Raja Udai Singh of Marwar and the Sultan of Gujarat breached the wall due to a shortage of drinking water. The walls as said early are huge and unbreachable and this can be gauged by the their overwhelming thickness -- 15 feet!

Badal Mahal, the palace inside Kumbhalgarh Fort in India
Badal Mahal, the palace inside Kumbhalgarh Fort

The road to Badal Mahal, the palace inside Kumbhalgarh Fort
The road to Badal Mahal

View from Badal Mahal, the palace inside Kumbhalgarh Fort
View from Badal Mahal

Ongoing restoration work at Badal Mahal, the palace inside Kumbhalgarh Fort, India
The road to Badal Mahal

Badal Mahal at Kumbhalgarh Fort, India

Kumbhalgarh has become a favourite destination among many travelers, both domestic and international. Plenty of resorts down the hill from 5-star luxury to budget resorts, even camping sites. We stayed in Club Mahindra Resort and really enjoyed the hospitality of the group. NOT TO MISS the light and sound show organised in the fort which narrates you the entire history of the place from its built to its conquer.

View of Kumbhalgarh state

  Kumbhalgarh is a destination less travelled but if you have time while visiting Rajasthan it is highly recommended that you swing by and experience Kumbhalgarh Fort and the majesty of the Great Wall of India with your own eyes.

See More     Rajasthan Travel Guides     India Archives

Published in India

A friend and I recently ventured into my local metropolitan center, aka San Francisco, and did some exploring. The weekend is best summarized by said friend's phone call to her husband: "Hey babe, I just saw the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, toured a WWII Submarine and now I'm going on a night tour of Alcatraz. Tomorrow I'm going to see a Tuscan Castle!"

Her husband's hilariously sarcastic response: "Great. Let me know when you fly a fighter jet!"

Anyway here are some photos from our day out on the town:

The Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California

The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California

The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California

Coit Tower

The Coit Tower in San Francisco, California

Path to the Coit Tower in San Francisco, California

There is a really cool path up/down to/from Coit Tower, which wanders by an amazing neighborhood and some very cool, unexpected gardens in the middle of the city. If you're lucky, you'll see the famous parrots.

Along the path t the Coit Tower in San Francisco, California

The Coit Tower in San Francisco, California

Published in United States

Rajasthan's royal forts, palaces, and havelis have marked itself high on the tourist trail. The luxury of the kings and queens, the princely state and the comforts of the royals have now open to the world. Lots of old forts and palaces are opened to the guest for their comfort stay as well as royal treatment and luxury. Some of the royal ones are listed here with a brief description of what makes them unique and worth visiting.

The famous forts of Rajasthan include:

Badal Mahal at Kumbhalgarh Fort, one of the historic destinations of royal Rajasthan

Kumbhalgarh Fort

  Rajsamand, near Udaipur
  UNESCO World Heritage Site

Built by Rana Kymbha, this fortress has only been conquered once in all of history -- due to shortage of water. It was fighting against the joint forces of Akbar, Raja Man Singh of Amber, Raja Udai Singh of Marwar, and the Sultan of Gujarat. The wall of this fort is the second largest continuous wall in the world (after the Great Wall of China) and stretches around 36km. (That's over 20 miles!)     Kumbhalgarh Fort Photo Gallery

Amer (Amber) Fort in Jaipur, one of the historic destinations of royal Rajasthan

Amber Fort

  Jaipur
  UNESCO World Heritage Site

Also known Amer Fort, this ancient fortress is huge. It was constructed by Raja Man Singh I but the history of this city goes back far past this. Amber was ruled by Meena rulers prior to the Rajputs. The fort is known for its rich culture and art. The best part of it are Sheesh Mahal, Diwan-e-Khas, Diwan-e-Aam, and Sukh Niwas.     More Amber Fort Photos

Jaisalmer Fort, one of the historic destinations of royal Rajasthan
via Milo & Silvia

Chittorgarh Fort

  Chittorgarh, near Udaipur
  UNESCO World Heritage Site

Chittorgarh is the epitome of Chattri Rajput (an Indian Warrior caste) pride, romance and spirit, for people of Chittor always chose death before surrendering against anyone. Vijay Stambh and Rani Padmini's sacrifice in the great and extended fort of Chittorh are the best part. Meera bai, a famous follower or lord Krishna also relates to the history of Chittorgarh.

Jaisalmer Fort, one of the historic destinations of royal Rajasthan

Jaisalmer Fort

  Jaisalmer
  UNESCO World Heritage Site

One of the largest forts in the world, Jaisalmer Fortress was built by the Bhati Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal, from where both the town and fort derives their names. The fort stands proudly amidst the golden stretches of the great Thar Desert, on a hill overlooking the city around it, and has been the scene of many battles. Its massive yellow sandstone walls are of yellow color during the day, fading to honey-gold as the sun sets. For this reason, it is also known as the "Golden Fort".

The famous palaces and havelis of Rajasthan include:

Hawa Mahal, also known as the Wind Palace, is one of the obligatory sights to visit in Jaipur, the Pink City of India
Hawa Mahal, the Wind Palace located right in the heart of the Pink City, Jaipur -- cannot miss it

Jal Mahal, also known as the Water Palace, is one of the obligatory sights to visit in Jaipur, the Pink City of India
Jal Mahal, the Water Palace also located in Jaipur is another popular destination. There is an open promenade (where this photo was taken from) where locals always gather and enjoy the view -- as do the tourists!

Raj Mahal Palace, also known as Jaisalmer Palace because of its location
Raj Mahal Palace, also known as Jaisalmer Palace for an obvious reason, is another beautiful of ancient architecture that is now a museum. (Jaisalmer may be located far from everything but do not skip it!)

    Others noteable palaces:
  • Lake Palace of Udaipur (now a luxury hotel)
  • City Palace of Udaipur (now converted into a museum)
  • City Palace of Jaipur (now converted into a museum)
  • Umed Bhavan Palace in Jodhpur (now converted into a hotel)
  • Patwa ki Haveli in Jaisalmer -- the Merchants Haveli (now converted into a small museum)

Rajasthan has achieved great importance that has withstood the test of time and now attracts more tourists than invading empries. From a travel point of view its rich and royal forts, palaces, and havelis make Rajasthan a "must visit" destination for most visitors to India. Experience the royal treatment of past kings and queens and walk where they walked, enjoy the same elegant destinations and views. It is truly a step back in time!

See More     Rajasthan Travel Guides     India Archives

Published in India

In my first article in this series I covered the generalities and historic background of the Vatican Necropolis. (Go back and read itif you haven't, I'll wait.) In this second post I'll cover the mausoleums in the underground tour under Saint Peter's Basilica, one by one with the its highlights. I hope this compendium will bring us closer to the people who built these tombs, the care they poured into these family spaces commissioning the decoration and the architecture, the dedication and the sentiment in making these the best place possible for their dead.

Interior of Mausoleum E, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: Fabbrica of Saint Peter’s.

And ultimately, let us go back in time in a walk up the Vatican Hill, to finally reach the tomb of Saint Peter, Jesus' right hand man.

The Mausoleums

According to the Open University’s course about ancient Roman funerary monuments family was important for the ancient Romans. One way to preserve the name of the family was to build a family tomb. Though most Romans could not afford one, many built them for their nuclear family of husband, wife and children. Poor Romans would be buried in mass graves or small tombs marked on the ground with modest markers o amphorae.

Modest markers of tombs at the Diocletian Baths, Rome
Modest markers of tombs at the Diocletian Baths, Rome

The size, extent of decoration and inclusion of architectural elements had a direct relation to the social status of the family. During the first century AD the deceased were cremated and their remains put into containers or urns that were placed in small niches (columbarium) inside the family tomb I will be using a Vatican Necropolis floorplan along the way, so that you know exactly where you are. Here we go!

Mausoleum A

Vatican Necropolis Mausoleum A

This is where the tour starts. The mausoleum of Caius Polilius Heracla contains a tablet in which the existence of the nearby arena (Nero’s circus) is mentioned. Tablet from Mausoleum A. From 'The Tomb of St. Peter' by Margherita Guarducci, Hawthorn. 1960

Tablet from Mausoleum A. From 'The Tomb of St. Peter' by Margherita Guarducci, Hawthorn. 1960
Tablet from Mausoleum A. From 'The Tomb of St. Peter' by Margherita Guarducci, Hawthorn. 1960

Mausoleum B

Vatican Necropolis Musoleum B map

It belonged to Fannia Redempta, the wife of Aurelius Hermes, a freeman of the Augusti family who highlights his wife as "incomparable." The walls have niches where the ashes were stored in urns, which indicate a pagan (different from the main religions of the world) burial. The painting on the vault is of a "Sun Chariot" accompanied by figures of the seasons. The rest of the tomb is decorated with paintings of flowers and animals.

Interior of mausoleum B, Vatican Necropolis
Interior of mausoleum B. Photo: saintpetersbasilica.org

Mausoleum C

Vatican Necropolis Mausoleum C map

This is the tomb of L. Tullius Zethus. The L preceding the name implies he was a freed slave or his father had been. He must’ve done pretty well for himself since this tomb is one of the most ornate with wall decorations and mosaic floor. Two marble urns were added at a later period. The tomb has niches for urns and two arcosolia (a recess on the wall in the form of an arc, used as grave).

Entrance to Mausoleum C, Vatican Necropolis
Entrance to Mausoleum C. Photo: Fabbrica of Saint Peter’s.

Interior of mausoleum C, Vatican Necropolis
Interior of mausoleum C. Photo: Fabbrica of Saint Peter’s.

Detail of the mosaic floor in mausoleum C, Vatican Necropoliis
Detail of the mosaic floor in mausoleum C, Vatican Necropoliis. Photo: Fabbrica of Saint Peter’s.

Mausoleum D

Vatican Necropolis Mausoleum D map

We don’t know who it belonged to. It’s called Mausoleum of the opus reticulatum, named after the pattern in which the bricks have been placed.

Interior of mausoleum D, Vatican Necropolis
Interior of mausoleum D. Photo: Fabbrica of Saint Peter’s.

A street in the Vatican Necropolis
A street in the Vatican Necropolis. Photo: Catholic Eye Candy http://cathcandy.wordpress.com

Mausoleum E

Vatican Necropolis Mausoleum E map

This is the tomb of T. Aelius Tyrannus, a freedman who worked in public office. The most notable elements of this tomb are two alabaster containers, one with a Medusa carving and the stucco paintings on the walls.

As with other tombs there are niches and arcosolia… but observe also the staircase that was used to go up to and down from the upper room which was used for the “refrigerio” a rite in which family accompanied the deceased in a sort of feast. The family go down to the inner burial room to pour libations (offerings of food and wine) through holes on the floor, to feed the deceased.

Detail of Mausoleum E, Vatican Necropolis
Detail of Mausoleum E, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: www.vatican.va

Detail of Mausoleum E, Vatican Necropolis
Detail of Mausoleum E, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: www.vatican.va

Detail of a parrot in Mausoleum E, Vatican Necropolis
Detail of a parrot in Mausoleum E, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: www.vatican.va

Interior of Mausoleum E with alabaster containers, Vatican Necropolis
Interior of Mausoleum E with alabaster containers. Photo: Blanca & Ian's Travels

Mausoleum F

Vatican Necropolis Mausoleum F map

The first to be discovered in 1939, this is the tomb of the Tulli and the Caetenni as it is stated on the altar that stands in the middle of the mausoleum. This is a pagan tomb with some Christian symbolism. The woman mentioned in the altar is Emilia Gorgonia, and her husband mentions her beauty and goodness. The holes for the libations are visible on the right side of the floor. Romans held funeral banquets in which wine and food were poured inside these holes, for the deceased to be fed.

Interior of Mausoleum F, Vatican Necropolis
Interior of Mausoleum F, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: BBC. Vatican: The Hidden World.

Detail of sheep and bull on the left wall of Mausoleum F, Vatican Necropolis
Detail of sheep and bull on the left wall of Mausoleum F, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: www.vatican.va

Holes for the libations on the mosaic floor of Mausoleum F, Vatican Necropolis
Holes for the libations on the mosaic floor of Mausoleum F, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: www.vatican.va

Interior of Mausoleum F, Vatican Necropolis
Interior of Mausoleum F, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: www.vatican.va

Mausoleum G

Vatican Necropolis Mausoleum G map

The Tomb of the Teacher is named after the painting in the back wall depicting an old man with a scroll, in front of a younger man. It is most likely an administrator and a servant, though the first people who saw the tomb interpreted the painting as a teaching and his student. The ceiling depicts beautiful paintings of animals, garlands and geometric figures. Can you imagine the artist painting these figures with so much care and attention?

Interior of Mausoleum G, Vatican Necropolis
Interior of Mausoleum G, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: Fabbrica of Saint Peter’s.

Mausoleum H

Vvatican Necropolis Mausoleum H map

The Tomb of the Valerii is the most luxurious of all the tombs. It belonged to Valerius Philumenus and Valeria Galatia who gave permission to several members of their family and some friends, to use this mausoleum. Several marble portraits (including some children) were found in it. See a couple of them on the bottom-right corner of this picture?

Interior of Mausoleum H, Vatican Necropolis
Interior of Mausoleum H, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: www.vatican.va

Interior of Mausoleum H, Vatican Necropolis
Interior of Mausoleum H, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: www.vatican.va

Mausoleum I

Vatican NecropolisM ausoleum I map

The Tomb of the Chariot from the quadriga figre in the mosaic floor that depicts the rape of Persephone by Pluto on a chariot driven by Mercury. The fresco paintings depict birds, a peacock (a symbol of afterlife), ducks, doves and floral designs.

Interior of Mausoleum I, Vatican Necropolis
Interior of Mausoleum I, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: www.vatican.va

Detail of the Chariot mosaic on the floor, Vatican Necropolis
Detail of the Chariot mosaic on the floor. Photo: Blanca & Ian's Travels, http://members.rennlist.com/imcarthur/roma.htm

Detail of the peacock, Vatican Necropolis
Detail of the peacock, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: www.vatican.va

Mausoleum M

Vatican Necropolis Mausoleum M map

The tomb of the Julii or "Cristo Sole", Christ the Sun or the Christan Mausoleum. This tomb was built by the parents of Julius Tarpeianus. Even though the shape and some elements of the tomb are pagan, the mosaics are Christians depicting a scene of Jonah being eaten by the whale and a scene of a fisherman.

The Cristo Sole, Vatican Necropolis
The Cristo Sole, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: http://counterlightsrantsandblather1.blogspot.com

Detail of the fisherman, Vatican Necropolis
Detail of the fisherman, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: http://sacredportals.blogspot.com

Detail of Jonah. Vatican Necropolis
Detail of Jonah. Vatican Necropolis. Photo: Fabbrica of Saint Peter’s

Mausoleum N

Vatican Necropolis Mausoleum N location

The tomb of Aebutius also bears the name of "Clodius Romanus". His mother calls him her "most gentle son" on the epitaph of the urn.

Entrance to Mausoleum N, Vatican Necropolis
Entrance to Mausoleum N, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: www.vatican.va

Interior of Mausoleum N, Vatican Necropolis
Interior of Mausoleum N, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: Fabbrica of Saint Peter’s

Mausoleum U

Vatican Necropolis Mausoleum U location

A reduced tomb, you can only see a small detail of a painted “light-bearer”.

Detail of interior of Mausoleum U, Vatican Necropolis
Detail of interior of Mausoleum U, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: www.vatican.va

Mausoleum T

Vatican Necropolis Mausoleum T location

The Tomb of Trebellena Flaccilla is decorated with delicate painting of birds and flowers. There’s also a detail of a dolphin.

Interior of Mausoleum T, Vatican Necropolis
Interior of Mausoleum T, Vatican Necropolis. Photo: Fabbrica of Saint Peter’s

Mausoleum S

Vaticanv Necropolis Mausoleum S location

This tomb has been largely occupied by the foundations to Bernini’s Baldaquino (the canopy above). Mausoleum S is very important because it’s located on the south of Field P and beyond it, there’s a small corridor called the “Clivus” that runs from south to north meeting the “Red Wall” at the northeast side. You need to remember these three terms for the next post, because here, we are entering the Tomb of Saint Peter itself. But for that, we need an even more thorough explanation.

We're almost there!

By now we have walked up the slope of the Vatican Hill, south to north, going through the remains of a cemetery for wealthy Romans. We have imagined how they remembered their dead and how they celebrated life with their rituals and the ornate decorations that cemented their family tomb. Have you ever visited other Roman cemeteries? What was the experience like? How do they relate to the way we see death now and our own rituals?

  Share your thoughts in the comments field below!

Practicalities

  • Make reservations well in advance, between 30 to 90 days before due to reduced availability.
  • Send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • They’ll respond asking for your full name (and those in your party), nationalities, home address and number, age and language you prefer for the tour.
  • You are not allowed to make reservations for other people (unless they are your party and you’re going with them to the tour).
  • Entrance fee is about 12 Euro and you are asked to pay them via credit card before making your reservation.
  • No cameras, food or big bags allowed. There are places where you can store them on the sides of Saint Peter’s Square.
  • A very strict dress code is enforced. No bare shoulders, no skirts above the knee and no shorts, the Necropolis is considered a holy place.
  • The Scavi is open from 9:15 to 3:30 pm Mon-Sat except on Vatican holidays.
  • The tour lasts about 60-90 minutes and it is completely underground.
  • On the appointment date approach the Swiss Guards on the left side of Saint Peter’s Square. They’ll direct you to the Ufficio Scavi (Excavation Office).
  • Be there at least 10 minutes before the hour in your confirmation email, to receive your tickets.
  • People under 15 are not allowed. No more than 12 people per group.
  • People who pay for the tour of the Vatican Necropolis, can enter Saint Peter’s Basilica right afterwards without having to get in line!
Published in Vatican City
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