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Derek is a perpetual wanderer, cultural enthusiast, and lifelong traveler. He loves going places where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, as well as places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo (supposedly its healthier and more efficient). Say Hello On Twitter!
Most people consider Houston more of a business city than an ideal tourist destination. However recently I found myself back in Space City for the first time in several years and had the opportunity to explore again. Given that Houston is the fourth most populous city in the United States and therefore has millions of people to keep entertained, it should be no surprise that there are loads of exciting things to do there. Here's how to see the best of Houston.
This is a must. After all Houston's nickname is Space City and it is because of the fine people at NASA that America reached the moon first and Neil Armstrong is a household name. Nearly a million visitors a year visit here to learn the history of America's space program, see the original Mission Control Center, learn how the shuttles are made and get a peek at what NASA has in store for the future. You can browse dozens of exhibits featuring hundreds (if not thousands) of photos, and even get the chance to meet-and-great real astronauts.
Like any metropolis Houston has its fair share of offbeat sights and activities. Did you know the National Museum of Funeral History is there? Nothing like facing your own mortality to make for an interesting day. How about a house covered entirely in beer cans? This work of art took 15 years by a local artist that one can only assume was an alcoholic. Although he is no longer with us, his house is.
Houston has been a city for hundreds of years and still has a very vibrant historic district. One of the daily activities that occurs there every evening is a the historic Houston pub tour -- yes, tour, not crawl. This is an educational experience to downtown watering holes, some of which date back over 150 years. Learn a little, drink a little, and then leave with a sense of having discovered a bit more about this misunderstood metropolis.
Food is a daily necessity but that doesn't mean it has to be predictable or stereotypical. Houston has a wide array of quirky restaurants that will leave you talking as much about the decor as the food. One of my personal favorites is Jus' Mac, which as the name implies serves nothing but macaroni and cheese served in a variety of delicious (and entertaining) ways. The best tacos in Texas can be found here too, as well as Houston's Soup Nazi, a play off the classic Seinfeld episode -- if you know where to look.
Since you'll be spending so much time exploring the city, there is no reason to splurge on an expensive hotel room that you'll hardly even use. Check out my article on budget travel and hotels in Houston for more or find hundreds of cheap Houston hotels on Hipmunk.
Barcelona is an eclectic and vibrant city with a captivating culture. Travelers from around the world flock here for a taste of that savory Spanish cuisine, to admire the city's history and architecture, and of course for the opportunity to bump to Barcelona's rhythmic musical beats once the sun goes down. Given all there is to do in and around town, it's easy for first-time visitors to feel overwhelmed. To help you plan your itinerary, here are some of the best offbeat and off the beaten path things to do in Barcelona, each of which will give you a real taste of the city.
Photo by Jamie Lynn Buckner via Trover
Barri Gotic is a well-known Barcelona neighborhood and consistently remains popular with tourists. It is one of the must-visit places for Barcelona first-timers. Find a quaint café and enjoy some people-watching while basking in the culture and history of this unique neighborhood.
Although this might not be the most "offbeat" item on the list, it is nonetheless a mandatory experience for anyone who has never shaken their stuff in Barcelona. Razzmatazz is a monstrous club and arguably the most popular in town, both with locals and visitors. It has five separate areas, each boasting different themes and musical genres, ensuring that no matter your tastes, you'll find something to like at this club.
Photo by Oh Barcelona via Flickr
One of the best ways to truly appreciate the city is to see Barcelona from a hot air balloon 3,000 feet up in the sky. Needless to say, this is a must for any photographer. The flight times vary depending upon which package guests choose, but expect to spend a minimum of two hours up in the air, admiring the city far below.
Everyone loves a good ghost story and this tour features two solid hours of them. The Ghost Walking Tour guides you through several different neighborhoods as you listen to tales of strange and unexplained events that have occurred — or still continue to occur — in each quarter.
Photo by Sher BonDurant via Trover
Ever since I had my first bout of alcohol-induced fun below zero at the Ice Bar Tokyo, I've been hooked on these venues. After donning a jacket and gloves, Icebarcelona guests are led inside of the main chamber. Everything inside is made of ice — the walls and sculptures, chairs, cups, and even the bar itself. All the ice is imported from Belgium and freshly carved once a year. As the bar itself is kept at around -5° C to preserve this ice, most stays inside last less than one hour. That is still long enough to rack up quite a bill, though, as drinks are expensive but well worth it for anyone who has never experienced an ice bar.
La Ramblas cuts right through the heart of Barcelona and is another well-known spot among foreign visitors. However one place that many overlook is the Museu De L'Eròtica (Museum of Erotica). While this is obviously not a family-friendly destination, it is still a very interesting (and occasionally laughable) trip through the adult history of the world. It also comes with a free glass of champagne.More HoliDaze Offbeat Travel Guides
These offbeat destinations offer a unique glimpse of Barcelona, both during daylight hours and after dark. Ready to visit yet?
When people think of Orlando they think of Walt Disney World first and of all the other theme parks dotting the horizon second. This is the "Theme Park Capital of the World," home to so many that there is a Top 10 list just of the best Orlando theme parks! (I don't even think there were ten in my home state.)
Most of the big name establishments are owned by Disney or Universal Studios, and thanks to the deep pockets of their marketing departments the masses have been led away. Meanwhile Orlando's best offbeat theme parks, the overlooked ones paying homage to religious history and non-cartoon characters, are ready, eagerly awaiting an opportunity to entertain you and me. So come with me, let's get off the beaten path in Orlando and see what we see!
Equally entertaining to both religious folks and those a little less theologically certain — perhaps even more so for the latter — the Holy Land Experience is exactly what it sounds like: a real-life Christian historical museum. Its 15 acres are filled with biblical reenactments, religious shows and presentations, live music, specialty shops, and nonsectarian research library.
Gatorland might not be the most obscure or unknown attraction in Orlando; however, it is definitely the most fun! This gigantic 110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve is also the self-proclaimed "Alligator Capital of the World" — but seriously, who out there is going to challenge that title? Open every day of the year, Gatorland has dozens of shows, sights, and experiences such as Gator Wrastlin' and Gator Leapin'. It is the perfect daytime activity for the entire family.
The Ripley's name has long been synonymous with oddities and offbeat items. After all, they don't they call their museums "odditoriums" for nothing! I've visited several Ripley's in cities around the US, and they are nothing if not peculiar, even a tad disturbing at times. In addition to the usual tribal oddities, torture devices, shrunken heads, and other downright baffling objects, Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Orlando is known for its fertility statues, which are purported to have helped over 2,500 women become pregnant. Oh, and the spinning vortex tunnel is pretty neat.
If such a thing as an educational amusement park could ever be said to exist, that would be WonderWorks. With over 100 interactive exhibits, visitors can get their knowledge on first, and then go upstairs to the basement (yes, I said that correctly — have you seen this building yet?) for all the exciting hands-on games and amusements, such as laser tag.
No other dinner show can compare to this one. Guests are transported back to medieval times to enjoy a feast inside a castle as the knights joust. Sound familiar? Yes, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament is the same restaurant from the old Jim Carrey movie, The Cable Guy. Two decades later, they are still going strong and the show is still as entertaining as ever! It's a definite "must" for any quirky travelers to Orlando.
Worried all these amusement parks and activities will break the bank? Browse cheap Orlando hotels via Hipmunk and save as much green as possible for having fun!More HoliDaze Offbeat Travel Guides
People all over the world know two things that London has in abundance: amazing street art and crappy weather. While I cannot help you with the latter, I can show you where to find some magnificent street art -- as well as several other offbeat sights and activities that should not be missed next time you are in London. It's time to dive on into the offbeat and off the beaten path side of London!
First things first. You've escaped the airport and dropped your bags off at the hotel room. Now what? It's time for a drink! Walk right past that hotel bar though, that's not where you want to be. Find a nice, quirky watering hole and go mingle with some locals. My personal favorite is the Phoenix Artist Bar -- and if you don't already want to visit there just based off hearing the name then please, just stop reading now, because this guide is clearly not for you.
Phoenix is becoming less-and-less "hidden" every month but that doesn't make it any less offbeat. The bar is frequented by those in the theatre industry and is in fact a private club. However non-members can get in by presenting a theatre ticket. The interior is stocked full of theatre memorabilia and their upbeat atmosphere will make you quickly feel right at home. Other offbeat options include Cellar Door and the aptly named Happiness Forgets.
London has no shortage of theatres and shows, however my personal favorite is the Whirled Cinema. From the outside the building appears to be an abandoned but inside it is the most lavish 60-person theatre that you've ever seen. They also have a small bar where you can order cocktails or a pizza to make your movie more enjoyable. Good luck finding the place though!
Toilets have become all the rage in recent years, with more and more countries opening up toilet restaurants. London even has a toilet coffee shop. However in order to truly appreciate these necessities of daily life, it helps to learn how far they have come over the years. London Loo Tour is an hour-and-a-half long walking tour that traces the history of toilets all the way up to now. You'll never look at the loo the same way after!
Located in southeast London, the 19 acre garden surrounding Eltham Palace is arguably the best garden -- and best-kept green secret -- in all of London. Here visitors can escape the chaos and noise of the city without ever actually leaving the city. The entire property is considered a three-in-one getaway: visitors can relax in the park, marvel in the majestry that is Eltham Palace (which dates back to the 1300s), and even tour the 1930s Art Deco house also located there.
Last but not least is London's street art scene. Head on over to Brick Lane and the surrounding areas to find some of the city's best street art, including several well-known works by Banksy and other prolific artists. Further north are the neighborhoods of Dalston and Hackney, both of which not only have plenty of street art but also an abundance of vintage stores, boutique cafes, quirky coffee shops and other independent businesses that will make it easy to pass the day away.More HoliDaze Offbeat Travel Guides
Corpus Christi is the perfect getaway year-round, but for those of us who unfortunately have to work for a living, sometimes a weekend is all we can escape for. Luckily, it is entirely possible to see both the best of Corpus Christi and a few overlooked nuggets in only 48 hours.
Corpus Christi is known for great seafood and we all have to eat, right? The two most well known seafood joints in town are Snoopy's Pier and Doc's Seafood & Steak Restaurant. Both are located right next to each other on Padre Island and cannot be missed -- just follow the crowds. Stopping at one of these two fine establishments on the way in or out of town is almost an unwritten law among regular visitors to the island.
Another place you shouldn't miss is the Costa Sur Bar & Grub, which has built up a rather large and loyal local following. Their cuisine is an interesting Corpus Christi-twisted take on Peruvian fusion seafood. Come for the fish, stay for the ceviche. They not only serve it they serve several different types!
The Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington Memorial are the two most popular sights in town. While they should not be missed, visitors that only have a limited time in town should definitely arrive in the morning to beat the crowds. The two are also located right next to each other and both open at 9am daily.
Visit the aquarium first and you shouldn't need more than an hour or two if you have kids. Once aboard the USS Lexington you can spend the better part of the day! It is a decommissioned aircraft carrier that is loaded with history and plenty of interesting things to explore on every floor from front to back. Overnight stays are even possible.
While people always have their own different personal favorite section of beach for a variety of reasons, the question of whether Mustang Island is better than North Padre or vice versa has finally been settled: North Padre is the winner, most specifically Padre Island National Seashore. Home to over 70 miles of beaches -- at least for visitors whom come equipped with a four-wheel drive vehicle.
During my trips I have learned this: Mustang Island is great to go for a short stop, but if you want to spend half the day or even the entire day away from it all, opt for North Padre Island. Bring some food, water and yes, even a six-pack of beer, conveniently "forget" your cellphone at the hotel, and prepare to relax the day away.
Although camping on the beach is always an option, it's certainly not the most romantic of options for a quick weekend getaway. For that check out my guide to cheap hotels in Corpus Christi on Hipmunk. (Yes, I'm a regular writer for them too.)
flickr // thesuperstar
Over the years, I've hit -- and had fun -- at countless party destinations. Don't get me wrong, when you have 51 weeks of work a year and but one week off to go wild, being at a location with an ample supply of bars is pivotal. However sometimes when traveling with the family or in search of beauty and culture, traveling beyond the party is a necessity.
Nowadays so many popular tourist destinations are synonymous with partying, unfortunately. Bali, Indonesia. Cancun, Mexico. Vang Vieng, Laos. Phuket, Thailand. But each one offers so much more. Even though Phuket has a party reputation, that doesn't mean drinking is the only thing to do on the island. Here is the HoliDaze guide on how to escape the Phuket party scene and ensure a refreshing trip.
Pub crawl through Phuket Town? Why, when bars can be found in nearly any city in the world? Opt instead for culture. Go visit a few of the Wats or volunteer at one of the many animal foundations scattered around the island. The Soi Dog Foundation and Gibbon Rehabilitation Project are doing amazing things to improve the situations of animals living on the island, and both have temporary volunteer positions around all year.
Image by Maegan via Trover
One thing I've learned over the years is that sometimes you just have to ditch the guidebook in order to truly appreciate the unexpected. Motorcycles are ridiculously easy to come by in Phuket and as soon as I did the whole island opened up to me. Just pack a bag for the day and head off into the horizon. You never know where you are going to end up but at least the island isn't so big that you will get lost to the point of needing a search party to retrieve you. You can also take part in one of the locals tours offered.
Being an island, Phuket has no shortage of beaches. However Phuket also has no shortage of tourists, which means that the most convenient beaches are also the most populated.
Image by Moons via Trover
For the picture-perfect beaches that will give you an iconic shot worthy of using on your Facebook page for years to come, visit my favorite sandy destination in Phuket: Haad Sai Kaew Beach. It is an ideal combination of untouched sand alongside a few small but delicious thatched roof restaurants, one that will you will be dreaming about long after leaving Phuket.
Sometimes the hassle of planning a busy trip and seeing all the best of a location is too much to be bothered with. Luckily if this should happen to you, rest easy knowing that there is no shortage of magnificent Phuket hotels eager to cater to your every whim. The private resorts contain some of the most spotless beaches on the island. Rather than having to acquire transportation and make the trek up north, it is possible to find a nice resort in town that has a pristine beach.
Image by Munchu via Trover
There are no shortage of great restaurants in Corpus Christi, but sometimes visitors get tired of eating seafood. I know, usually fresh seafood is one of the best parts about visiting a coastal city, but we all have our limits. For those of you looking for mouth-watering food that wasn't swimming in the Gulf of Mexico the day before, head on over to one of the following impressive establishments.
The only thing that beats a delicious pizza is a delicious pizza served alongside an ice cold craft beer. Thankfully that is what B & J's Pizza has become known for. With a history that dates back four decades, B & J's has long since been a favorite of both Corpus Christi residents and visitors in town on vacation. They now have two restaurants in town and are ranked high on the top 100 list of best independent pizza restaurants in all of the United States.
In the mood for a gourmet burger without the gourmet price? Forget all those burger chains scattered around town and head on over to Wallbanger's Gourmet Hamburgers. Although they serve more than just burgers, these are what really impress most. They don't have a set burger menu but rather provide you with a list of possible toppings and let you go wild. Have a Texas-sized appetite? Try one of their stuffed burgers or attempt to eat your way through The Banger, a monstrous three-pound burger that will leave you begging for mercy -- or assistance from your friends.
Have a craving for Vietnamese food? Look no further than the delectable Saigon Cafe, home of an impressive variety of bubble teas and the best pho in all of Corpus Christi -- maybe even all of Texas. (I say this both as a Texan and as someone who has traveled extensively through Vietnam.) The restaurant itself is rather nondescript however it's the food that keeps people coming back, not the decorations. Plus I'd swear they have Speedy Gonzalez working back in the kitchen because both times I've been here my order was ready ridiculously fast. The only downside? The staff tend to pronounce pho "fo" instead of the correct "fa" which leads me to believe that the new owner must not be Vietnamese.
Located on the 24th floor of the Omni Corpus Christi Hotel, the only thing that comes close to the savory food at the Republic of Texas Bar & Grill is the impressive view of the Gulf. That is what makes it the perfect restaurant to visit for a romantic dinner and arguably the best bar and grill in the entire city. The food doesn't come cheap, which may be a bit of a deterrent to some people, but remember: you get what you pay for. Go for the Broken Arrow Ranch Venison -- it does not disappoint!
Of course before you go stuffing your belly to the point where a post-meal nap is required, make sure to find a cheap hotel in Corpus Christi on Hipmunk. Trust me, you'll want that extra money in your pocket when it comes time for desert.
Auckland is one of the most fun and most beautiful cities in the world. It is also a very popular tourist destination. However sometimes the most rewarding experiences can be found when you escape the tourist crowds and blaze your own trail and get off the beaten path. That having been said, here are my picks for the best offbeat sights and activities in Auckland, New Zealand.
Unlike anything else I have ever experienced, the Odyssey Sensory Maze is exactly what the name suggests: an invigorating journey that will stimulate all of your senses and leave you wanting more. It only takes about 30 minutes to travel through this diverse collection of differently themed sections, each distinctly different from the one before it. Each section features unique obstacles, lighting, music and yes, even smells. There is a jungle zone, a cave zone, a space zone, and...well...you'll just have to discover the rest for yourself.
Island-hopping in the Hauraki Gulf is a popular pastime but many tourists -- even native Aucklanders -- never make it past Rangitoto and Waiheke islands. Yes, Tiritiri Matangi is a bit further away than those two (a 75-minute ferry ride), however the trip is more than worth it. This wildlife sanctuary is home to nearly a hundred different species of birds and therefore a must for both nature lovers and ornithologists alike. Plus if you don't want to go alone you can easily join a Tiritiri tour.
Photo by Nayika via Trover
Take a trip back in time by visiting the Glenbrook Vintage Railway. It's nearly an hour south of the city but you'll feel a world away! Come early and learn about the classic trains and the history of the railway from local volunteers before riding the train up to Waiuku. The train carriages are all perfectly restored and in immaculate condition. They even have open-air carriages that are perfect for capturing amazing photographs of the countryside. After arriving in Waiuku you can spend the day exploring and then either catch the return train to Glenbrook or continue back up to Auckland.
Located about 45 minutes north of the city, there is so much to do in here that you could easily turn a Matakana day-trip into a 3 or 4 day mini vacation. The village is most known for its Farmers' Market every Saturday, however there is much more to explore than just that. From dozens of vineyards and countless boutique restaurants and family owned B&Bs, Matakana is an amazing place that is always hard to leave.
Auckland and the surrounding area has no shortage of beaches, however Karekare is completely overlooked by most foreign tourists. The result is a pristine beach nestled in the countryside with virtually no signs of life around it. It is the perfect location for a relaxing day-trip or a brief escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city. The black sand gets incredibly hot in the afternoon sun, so this destination is best visited early in the day. Plus if you get bored with the beach just follow the trail through the lush vegetation and you will be rewarded with some spectacular waterfalls.
Photo by Umar via Trover
Regardless of how you decide to spend your time, you are sure to find cheap hotels in Auckland. Then you can use the money you save to enjoy some of these offbeat Auckland activities!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Located in the Thane district of Maharashtra, Vihigaons Falls is a monsoon fed waterfall. It is the perfect place for rappelling and canoeing.
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.
Located at about 148 km from Gangtok, the Yumthang valley with its scenic beauty is truly a paradise for nature lovers.
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
Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most beautiful states in India thanks to its scenic, untouched landscapes and breathtaking mountains. Though the state suffered during the years when terrorism was in its most intense and destructive phase, it has slowly limped back to normalcy.
Over the past couple of years Kashmir is quickly becoming one of the most visited states in India. The amazingly beautiful landscape of the land has enthralled emperors and kings for countless generations, and mesmerized visitors for centuries.
If you are planning a trip to Kashmir, it is important that you decide on the places you want to visit beforehand. There are so many picturesque locations that it can be a bit overwhelming. Let’s have a look at some of the places that are must-see for any tourist.
Anantnag is also known as the rice bowl of Kashmir valley. Kokernag, Verinag, Achabal and Daksum are places noted for their beauty. These scenic towns are also home to many renowned health resorts and spas. Located at 2438m (8,000 ft) above sea level, Daksum is lush, green and rich in exotic flora and fauna. The dense forests are surrounded by snow-capped mountains and offer endless trekking options to enthusiasts. You can also go fishing in the trout-rich streams of Daksum.
Pahalgam is a famous hill station in Anantnag located at an altitude 2740m (8,990 ft) above sea level. Vast meadows and pastures, pine forests and snow clad mountains justify why Kashmir is often referred to as the Switzerland of India. It has featured in several Bollywood romances and still is one of the most favored honeymoon spots for Indian newlyweds.
Lidder River is any angler’s dream come true with bountiful brown trout fishing beats. The beautiful trekking routes through pine and cedar forests, a 9-hole golf course, lovely camping sites and skiing opportunities make Pahalgam an adventure seeker’s paradise. The picturesque Kolahoi glacier is another must-see.
Gulmarg is famous for its vast expanse of flower-clad meadows set against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains. This exceptionally beautiful mountain resort boasts of the highest green golf course in the world located at a height of 2650m (8,694 ft) above the sea level. The first ski resort in India was established in Gulmarg in 1927 and continues to be the premier skiing destination in the country.
The Gulmarg Gondola is Asia’s highest and longest -- and the world’s second highest -- cable car project. The views are breathtaking and you get to see the Meadow of Flowers, as Gulmarg is popularly known, in all its glory.< If long treks to ski spots are not your thing, you can also opt for a pony ride. Some pony owners may try to overcharge foreign tourists though, so be careful and be sure to haggle.
If you are a skiing enthusiast then head to Apparwath Peak and Shark Fin for what are arguably the best skiing trails in the country.
Srinagar is the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and does not in any way fall short where natural beauty is concerned. Lush gardens, historical monuments, ancient shrines and serene lakes make it one of the most sought after and visited tourist destinations in the country.
Shikharas are beautiful decorated wooden boats that are found on the Dal and Nagin lakes in Srinagar. No tourist to Kashmir can afford to miss a ride on the delicate Shikhara. You also get to see quaint floating vegetable and flower markets on the lakes.
There are houseboat hotels where you can book in advance for a luxury stay on the lake. You also can indulge in watersports like kayaking, water surfing, angling and canoeing.
The lakes are the star attractions but, you must also find time to visit other places of interest like Jama Masjid, Hazratbal Mosque, Sri Pratap Singh Museum, Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden and Shankaracharya Temple. The Mughal Gardens and Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary are other places that you should visit during your stay in Srinagar.
Sonamarg means ‘Meadow of Gold’ and is noted for its pristine natural beauty. Sonamarg is blessed with lovely alpine forests and is nestled in the towering snow-clad Himalayan Mountains.
The valley is located at an altitude of 2800 meters, and the journey to Sonamarg is in itself as satisfying and beautiful as the destination. As you meander through the valley you get to see the imposing Harmukh range that dominates the horizon all along the way. If you are a selfie lover, there are plenty of photogenic spots along the route where you can stop to click some good pictures.
Sonamarg is located on the banks of Sindh River where you can enjoy fishing for the plentiful trout and mahseer. If you are visiting in summer you can plan a trip to the Thajiwas glacier. It is a major tourist attraction and you can choose to trek up the scenic trail or hire a pony ride.
Sonamarg experiences heavy snowfall and avalanches during winter months, so always check with authorities before you plan a trek into the mountains.
Pangong Lake is a 5-hour drive from Leh and the extreme landscape will give you an experience you will never forget.
The azure-blue lake is a 45km stretch on the Indian side and is fed by inland streams and rivers. The salty water does not allow fish and other flora and fauna to flourish, but small crustaceans can be found in the waters. The marshy surroundings are also home to ducks, gulls, and migratory birds. So you can see this also a great place for bird watching.
Pangong Lake first got noticed when it featured in the Bollywood blockbuster 3 Idiots and has since attracted tourists in thousands. But it’s not Pangong Lake alone that Ladakh has on offer. Located at a distance of 45km from Leh is the quaint town of Hemis. Leh and Ladakh are perfect places to sample India’s incredible diversity, so ensure they are on your itinerary.
Hemis is home to the renowned Hemis National Park which provides shelter to many rare forms of wildlife including the snow leopards and bharals. You can also pay a visit to the Buddhist monastery in Hemis which is the largest in Ladakh and attracts tourists from all over the world.
Schedule your visit during the Hemis festival to enjoy the true culture of Hemis.
Conclusion Kashmir is one of the most breathtaking and picturesque places in the world, where you get to enjoy a unique blend of cultural warmth and hospitality. The next time you are in India, make sure to plan a visit to the northernmost tip of India.