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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014

The road not taken

Shweta Mehta , Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 31, 2013
First Published: 16:59 IST(31/8/2013) | Last Updated: 15:39 IST(5/9/2013)

With the rise in the number of boutique travel agencies, unusual travel itineraries are the order of the day — especially for the young, adventurous travellers who want to spend their holidays doing things that are out of the ordinary and ditching the road often taken.

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We got a few travel experts from these agencies to share unique travel plans they have created for their clients — for trips abroad as well as within India. From the unusual haunts in Rajasthan to exotic Greek isles — take your pick, plan a vacation, and dare to head out with your family and friends for a unique, fun-filled trip.

Mykonos, Pyrgos (Greece)
Manjari Verma and Avani Patel of Broken Compass share the itinerary for a trip to the Greek isles. “Land in Athens and explore the buzzing Plaka area. Take a ferry to Mykonos the next day,” they recommend. At the little white-and-blue island, head to Little Venice, a romantic area that’s dotted with gorgeous old houses. You can also explore the lighthouse, museum and beautiful churches in Mykonos. Spend an evening at Paradise Beach.

Next, head to Santorini, and explore Fira town. Verma and Patel also recommend a bus and boat tour that goes to the Profitis Ilias mountain, which offers panoramic views of the island. “From there, continue to the village of Pyrgos with its 18th century castle, and then onwards to Athinios Port. A traditional wooden boat will take you from there to Nea Kameni, for a tour of a semi-active volcano. You can even go swimming in the volcano’s hot sulphur springs,” they explain. Also head to the Megalochori area where there is a natural heart carving that gives you a view of the volcano. Then head to Athens, and cover sights like Parthenon, Acropolis, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Monastiraki Flea Market etc.

Marrakech, Essaouira (Morocco)
Sabine Heller of Asmallworld recently organised a trip to Morocco, and she believes it’s among her top places to visit. She recommends Beldi Country Club in Marrakech. “It’s an eco-friendly sanctuary amid olive greens and acres of magical rose, citrus and hibiscus gardens, shady hidden courtyards, and airy rooms filled with handmade Berber-style rugs and pottery for sale,” she says. A must-visit restaurant is Le Salama, in the heart of the medina. “A good weekend away from the city is the tiny white-walled port village of Essaouira, an uber-stylish weekend beach escape. It was put on the artistic map by Jimi Hendrix and Cat Stevens who used to play guitars around bonfires there in the ’60s,” she says, adding, “Try Elizir for dinner; it’s a mix of Moroccan and Mediterranean dishes with old school jazz and an eclectic mix of 50s and 60s furniture.”

Kuldhara, Khaba (Rajasthan)
Verma and Patel also recommend a stay in Jaisalmer if you are travelling domestically. “Spend your first day exploring Jaisalmer Fort and the city. In the afternoon, drive through the small dhanis (desert villages) and visit the ‘haunted’ desert villages of Kuldhara and Khaba. The former was once a prosperous settlement of the Paliwal Brahmins, who lived there since 1291. One night in 1825, the residents of Kuldhara and 83 nearby villages suddenly vanished,” they narrate, adding, “It is said that the Paliwals left a curse on the village, bringing death and suffering to anyone who tried to live there. It’s a weird feeling, walking on those streets.” In Khaba, you can visit the fort and sample local cuisine.

Spend the next two days in the desert, crossing small villages and caravans en route. Camel rides and sand dune walks are among the attractions. At night, enjoy dinner amid folk musicians and locals who share stories from the region. If you’re lucky, you’ll have chitals and black bucks for company.

East Greenland: Northern Lights
Begin with an overnight stay in the thoroughly-modern Reykjavik, the world’s northernmost capital city, recommends TUI India. After a leisurely morning exploring Reykjavik on your own, you and your fellow shipmates will be transferred to Reykjavik’s port to begin your expedition to Greenland.

Sail through the Denmark Strait en route to Greenland. Stay entertained with presentations about Greenland’s wildlife, history and geography.

Head to Greenland National Park, where fjords and flower meadows punctuate the scenery and Arctic fox and musk oxen roam free. Later, arrive at Scoresby Sund, and you’ll find yourself mesmerised by the largest, longest, and — some say — the most beautiful fjord system in the world.

Moving along, Ittoqqortoormitt is East Greenland’s most northerly community and one of the world’s last remaining examples of a living hunter society. With clear skies, you’ll see the Northern Lights here.

Sailing on, deeper into Scoresby Sund, you’ll encounter massive icebergs and an ancient Thule settlement as you approach Sydkap and fjord. The scenery here is something you can’t even imagine, with towering mountain sides and hundreds of apartment-sized icebergs playing tricks with your sense of perception.

Pushing onward, your expedition will come to Rypefjord and Kap Hofmann Halvo. Keep an eye out for sightings of rare blue icebergs, which are normally seen in the Antarctic.


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