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So you’ve seen the world’s largest salt flats, but the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, India, is the world’s largest salt marsh and desert! What’s a salt desert? During the monsoon season, the Rann plains are flooded with water from multiple rivers and sea water that’s blown in. But, come winter and dryer seasons, the water evaporates creating the salty desert that almost seems otherworldly. Read more
Nature lovers and avid gardeners will definitely delight in this amazing natural sight: The Valley of Flowers National Park high in West Himalaya, India. The park, nestled between snow-capped peaks, is blanketed in beautiful alpine flowers. The central valley of the park occupies around three square miles, and the lowest part sits at around 11,000 feet above sea level. It is inhabited by countless threatened species (like the snow leopard) and unique plant life. Read more
The Taj Mahal may get all of the glory, but it’s India’s ancient Ellora and Ajanta caves – designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, dating back some two millennia – that are the country’s true star attractions. These underrated archaeological wonders are brilliant examples of cave temple architecture, showcasing an artistic and architectural legacy brimming with exquisitely carved sculptures, magnificently detailed wall paintings, and ornately fashioned chambers, pillars, and facades, all painstakingly carved into cliff faces by devout ancient Indian craftsmen.
The caves have remained relatively undiscovered and under-promoted to foreign travelers (though the word is widely out to local Indian tourists, who swarm the place on weekends and holidays), but those willing to make the effort to access the far-flung site, set outside of the city of Aurangabad (a one-hour flight from Mumbai), can tap into their inner Indiana Jones at India’s best-kept secret.
India is a veritable street circus of swerving cars and rickshaws; roaming monkeys, elephants, cattle, and more; belligerent beggars and touts hawking fare – a “ballet of chaos” as my beau took to describing it during our recent one-month stint there. For wide-eyed Westerners like us looking for a haven amidst the chaos, India delivers some wonderfully affordable homestay options that allow travelers to dip out of the mayhem, curtail the sterile hotel stay, and bunk down in area homes helmed by hospitable locals instead.
Reasonable rates get you more than just a bed, but a culturally immersive experience littered with local flavor, from personal anecdotes illustrating the lives of locals to savory home-cooked meals. These three family-owned and -operated Indian homestays come thoroughly vetted and highly recommended, with families who opened up not just their homes, but their hearts; we came as guests and left as friends. Read more
The colorful and chaotic frenzy that is India can quickly frazzle even the most seasoned travel vet. Happily, remedies to recover from India’s assault on the senses are well within reach in a nation that’s served as a fountainhead for such ancient wellness traditions for as yoga, Ayurveda, and meditation. I survived my recent month on the road there by setting aside some much-needed downtime at a handful of the country’s superlative spa hotels. Put R&R on your radar at two splurge-worthy mountain spa oases, where the resorts are worthy destinations in and of themselves, or try two great-value hub-city hotels touting top-notch spas aimed at helping you reboot while you’re en route.
In my humble opinion, the Dalai Lama is just about the best darned human being roaming planet Earth today – if there’s such a thing as a holy man, he’s truly it (little wonder, considering he’s venerated by the Tibetan people as the 14th incarnation of the bodhisattva – or enlightened being – of compassion). I’ve long admired the affable Nobel Peace Prize winner’s steadfast support of nonviolence and basic human values (compassion, forgiveness, etc.), spiritual and political leadership of the Tibetan people, and promotion of inter-religious harmony while spreading the virtues of Tibetan Buddhism worldwide – all of which, despite a lifetime spent in the face of incredible adversity, comes delivered with an infectious laughter that can drive a chuckle out of even the most stoic of persona. Read more
When you think of “Gay Travel” certainly gay cruises, circuit parties, or clothing-optional guesthouses come to mind. But what about the ancient city of Varanasi? The Zambezi or Victoria Falls in the heart of Africa? Or a spiritual retreat high in the mountains of Tibet? Newly launched Wilde Travels is set out to change that – and offer a 10 percent savings to first-time customers through August 31, 2012.
Following the Miami-based company’s soft-launch in April, owner Jacob Marek – a former marketing manager for the Kenya Tourist board and a Patagonian tour company – officially pressed the “Go” button on the luxury tour operations with an emphasis on gay and gay-friendly guides, boutique accommodations, and above all customization. No gay group tours here (for now).
Travel to the Garden City of India and stay at a trendy, 4-star hotel located in the shopping and business district of Bangalore. Take in the panoramic views of the Indian metropolis, including the spectacular Ulsoor Lake, when you stay at the Ista Bangalore for just $100 a night – a savings of 25 percent on competitor sites.
With Ista Bangalore’s Business Saver promotion, you’ll also receive complimentary breakfast for two every morning, free Wi-Fi, and half off drinks from 7-9pm each night. The hotel’s contemporary rooms feature king beds, luxurious bathrooms, large bay windows, and LCD TVs. The property includes two restaurants and one bar, each with its own distinct character.
Outside the hotel, experience the culture and modernity of Bangalore, visit local markets and upscale boutiques, or relax in one of the city’s many parks (hence its “Garden City” nickname) to see how cosmopolitan this city has become.
This deal is available for any four-night stay in a Superior King Room or Premium King Room. These low rates with the Business Saver promotion are available for bookings made by September 30. To book, visit Ista Bangalore and enter the promotion code PKGBUS.
And the winners of Lonely Planet’s The World’s Best Street Food guide are…Sebastiano from Naples, Italy and Preeti from Amsterdam. It was a pleasure to give them the news yesterday and have them confirm that they love winning free books almost as much as discovering and eating the perfect street food. My congratulations to them as well as my thanks again to Lonely Planet for donating the guides. And, of course, thanks to those of you who were willing to share your favorite street food picks as a condition for entering the giveaway.
The biggest winner, however, is me, as you all did my work for me this week by reporting on the best street food you ever ate. Here now, some highlights. Read more
How’s this for some V-Day love: Gay tour operator Out Adventures is releasing spots on five of its top exotic group trips for a ridiculous discount. If you’re a couple traveling together, it’s BOGO, baby (Buy One, Get One Free), and if you’re a single, it’s 40% off — all told about $1700 in savings! That’s a lot of extra spending money once you get to India, Morocco, Peru, and Turkey. And all you have to do to qualify to buy is show a little social media amour in return. Read more
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