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Top travel destinations 2014: Kerala, Kashmir

Last updated on: January 23, 2014 12:03 IST

Top travel destinations 2014: Kerala, Kashmir

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Confused about where to travel to this year? In a series beginning today, we get the pros to list out the most popular destinations among Indians. Shalini Bajaj of Journey N Beyond Travels draws up her list

The world is a playground for the young and restless whose disposable incomes have been driving the travel industry in these last few years.

And while tickets to some overseas destinations such as Dubai are cheaper than some domestic sectors, it is peer pressure that dictates travel habits among the young says Shalini Bajaj of Journey N Beyond Travels.

"You see your friends posting pictures of their vacations (on Facebook) and you want to visit those places too," Bajaj says.

"The Internet has also made people more aware of the choices before them," she adds.

So it isn't surprising then that some of the most popular destinations today were considered exotic not too many years ago or just plain out of reach.

"Large parts of East Europe are backpackers' havens and are becoming popular among young Indians," she says.

But most of all, according to Bajaj, where you travel to has come to define one's status in the society.

In the pages to follow, we got Shalini Bajaj to list out the most popular travel destinations -- domestic and international -- among Indian travellers.

So in the pages to follow are the most popular domestic destinations followed by international ones in the descending order of their popularity.

Kerala

God's Own Country has been featured among the top ten places to visit with your family in 2014 by Loney Planet (More on that here) and indeed it is!

For several young professionals, Kerala has become a great (extended) weekend destination and is the most popular amongst Indian tourists.

The state has something to offer for everyone -- from the hills of Munnar to the backwaters of Alleppey and the virgin beaches of Marari -- and has found popularity among a cross section of tourists: senior citizens and families to honeymooners alike.

Things to do:

  • If you think of it, there aren't a lot of 'to-dos' in Kerala but that is what makes it so great.
  • Check into a good resort and enjoy the massages
  • Hire a houseboat for the night and soak in the quiet of the backwaters.

ALSO READ Driving through a Kerala rainforest

ALSO READ Experience Backwater bliss in Kerala

Reader invite: What top three travel destinations in India do you recommend for 2014? And why? Simply write in to travelpicsga@rediffmail.com (subject line: 'Top travel spots for 2014'). We'll publish the best ones right here on rediff.com!


Image: A view of Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram.
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/ Reuters

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Leh-Ladakh

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There is something about the bare landscape that has been increasingly drawing people to Leh and Ladakh.

Besides the trekkers and bikers among whom Ladakh has been traditionally popular, there are several families too that are now visiting it.

Pangong Tso, that picturesque lake made popular by Aamir Khan in 3 Idiots, has been at the centre of this attraction.

Things to do:

  • Visit Khardung La, one of the highest motorable passes in the world
  • Visit the Nubra valley to see the double-hump camels
  • Be amazed by the 10th century Buddhist murals and monasteries in the UNESCO Heritage Site of Alchi Chos-kor Alchi, 65 km from Leh
  • If you're the adventurous kind, take a bike or a cycle ride through the region. There are several travel companies that organise such tours
  • Spend the night in a luxury tent along the banks of Pangong Tso.

ALSO SEE Stunning Leh-Ladakh landscapes in pictures

Reader invite: What top three travel destinations in India do you recommend for 2014? And why? Simply write in to travelpicsga@rediffmail.com (subject line: 'Top travel spots for 2014'). We'll publish the best ones right here on rediff.com!


Image: Ladakh
Photographs: Sumit Bhattacharya/Rediff.com

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Kashmir

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For the first time after so many years, people are returning to the proverbial Paradise on Earth.

The fact that the region hasn't seen the kind of tension that it used to see earlier has a lot to do with it.

But Bollywood may have also contributed to the growth of tourism -- Yash Chopra's last film, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, was partly shot here. In any case it is great to see tourism returning to Kashmir.

Kashmir remains a popular destination for honeymooners but there are also several families visiting it as also groups of college students and young professionals.

A new attraction to the already beautiful Kashmir is Gulmarg, which has evolved into one of Asia's most prominent skiing destination.

There are a few five-star properties worth dropping by. Even if you aren't staying there, visit the Gulab Bhavan (now The Lalit Grand Palace) in Srinagar that stands against the a stunning landscape and the Khyber Resort and Spa at Gulmarg that also offers some stunning views of the mountains around it.

Things to do:

  • Skiing may not be on the agenda of a lot of people but it's something worth a try. Take skiing lessons and try out some of the amateur slopes
  • Take a shikara ride in the Dal Lake
  • Try out the delicious Kashmiri cuisine

Reader invite: What top three travel destinations in India do you recommend for 2014? And why? Simply write in to travelpicsga@rediffmail.com (subject line: 'Top travel spots for 2014'). We'll publish the best ones right here on rediff.com!


Image: Kashmir
Photographs: Umar Ganie

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Rajasthan

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Even though traditionally Rajasthan has been a popular destination for foreign tourists, the desert state has been garnering a lot of attention among a certain class of Indians too.

Much of this has to do with the fact that it has over the years evolved into a prominent wedding destination.

Sand dunes that most of us have only seen on television are the latest craze in Sam, Jaisalmer, with several travel agencies organising sand dune tours much along the lines of Dubai.

If you have the time, cover Jaipur, Bikaner, Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer and soak in the Rajasthani hospitality.

Things to do:

  • Eat! Rajasthani cuisine is to die for; the range is wide -- from Dal-baati Churma to Laal Maas -- and caters to vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian palettes
  • Get married! Surely there are the expensive locations but is it possible to get married in a quaint haveli and not burn a hole in your pocket
  • Spend a night in the desert: Several desert safaris give you the option of spending the night in the desert in a tent. Rather than going back to the hotel, choose to wake up amidst the sand dunes. It is an experience of a lifetime

ALSO READ Life in Rajasthan's 19th century hunting lodge

ALSO READ Chasing the rains in Jaisalmer

ALSO READ Dune-bashing in Rajasthan

Reader invite: What top three travel destinations in India do you recommend for 2014? And why? Simply write in to travelpicsga@rediffmail.com (subject line: 'Top travel spots for 2014'). We'll publish the best ones right here on rediff.com!


Image: A section of the Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur, Rajasthan
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

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New Zealand

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Few other countries have encashed on the popularity of a movie franchise like New Zealand has.

From organising Lord Of The Rings tours to promoting it through airline videos, to even minding LOTR coins, New Zealand knows very well the goldmine it is sitting on.

Unlike many other places, New Zealand is popular among tourists of all ages -- from kids to senior citizens and everyone in-between. And that is because it has something to offer for everyone -- whether it is a cruise or a chopper ride or adventure sports.

Visit New Zealand and there are good chances you won't return disappointed.

Things to do

  • If you're an adventure junkie, do visit Queenstown for a shotover jet boat ride
  • Jump off the Kawarau Bridge Bungy, the oldest bungee jumping location in the world
  • Visit the Te Puia thermal springs reserve that has some 500 pools and about 65 geyser vents of which seven are currently active and erupt every hour
  • Take a chopper ride over the Crater Lake in Rotorua
  • Visit the Glowworm Caves in Waitomo
  • Do the Sky Walk of Sky Tower in Auckland

Reader invite: What top three travel destinations in India do you recommend for 2014? And why? Simply write in to travelpicsga@rediffmail.com (subject line: 'Top travel spots for 2014'). We'll publish the best ones right here on rediff.com!


Image: Mirror Lakes New Zealand
Photographs: Steve Taylor/Creative Commons

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Canada

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Being the second largest country in the world comes with its advantages.

Canada is geographically diverse and has vast untouched landscapes, several national parks and historic sites that are slowly but surely becoming popular with travellers, especially Indians.

The 6-night-7-day Alaskan cruise and the road trip along the Canadian Rockies are two of the major reasons why Canada is gaining popularity despite being a fairly expensive destination.

There aren't a lot of families that visit Canada but the country is gaining a lot of popularity amongst the senior citizens as well as young honeymooning couples.

If you're into natural beauty, Canada is the place you should be heading to.

Things to do

  • Drive through the Canadian Rockies
  • Visit Vancouver -- it is one of the prettiest cities in the world with a waterfront that will take your breath away
  • There's nothing quite like seeing Vancouver from the sky so do also take a Sea plane ride over Vancouver
  • Visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Constructed over the Capilano River deep in the rain forest region in the District of North Vancouver, British Columbia, the 460 feet-wide bridge hangs some 230 feet above the river offering stunning views of the forest around it

Reader invite: What top three travel destinations in India do you recommend for 2014? And why? Simply write in to travelpicsga@rediffmail.com (subject line: 'Top travel spots for 2014'). We'll publish the best ones right here on rediff.com!


Image: Moraine Lake in the Canadian Rockies
Photographs: Sasi Kiran

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China

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In recent times Indians have started showing great interest in China.

Many Indian merchants have their businesses there so it isn't exactly alien to us but many of us are curious about the factories that manufacture goods for the western world.

A lot of us are also keen on seeing just how real the Chinese boom is all about and what is so special about the country that makes it India's closest competitor.

Of course there is a lot of interest in Chinese culture but I suppose the bigger draw is the cheap shopping!

Things to do

  • Shop, of course!
  • Visit the Great Wall of China
  • Visit the Terra Cotta Warrior Museum
  • Witness the amazing acrobatics show in Shanghai
  • And the World Trade Centre viewing gallery in Beijing
  • If you're visiting it around January, do not miss the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival.

Note: Know that there is a huge language problem and the Chinese food you're probably used to eating here in India is a far cry from what you'll get in China.

Reader invite: What top three travel destinations in India do you recommend for 2014? And why? Simply write in to travelpicsga@rediffmail.com (subject line: 'Top travel spots for 2014'). We'll publish the best ones right here on rediff.com!


Image: China
Photographs: Wolfgang Staudt/Creative Commons

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London

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London may be expensive but it certainly should be on your agenda if not this year, then the next.

Language isn't a problem and the public transport is possibly the best in the world.

The hop-on hop-off bus service in London is the best. The ticket is valid for 24 hours so you can travel around as much as you want to.

Things to do:

  • Take a walk inside Hyde Park and a boat ride inside the Serpentine Lake
  • Visit Madame Tussauds
  • Take a day trip to Windsor Castle, the Queen's summer palace
  • Witness the changing of the guard at the Buckingham Palace
  • Stroll down Oxford Street and do some window shopping
  • Do visit the Cadbury world in Birmingham

Reader invite: What top three travel destinations in India do you recommend for 2014? And why? Simply write in to travelpicsga@rediffmail.com (subject line: 'Top travel spots for 2014'). We'll publish the best ones right here on rediff.com!


Image: London
Photographs: Doug Wheller/Creative Commons

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Dubai

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Today, Dubai has become something of an extended weekend destination and this isn't necessarily restricted to the rich and famous. It has become a haunt for several middle class Indian families too.

The great thing about Dubai is that it is very much like India and the fact that there are so many Indians also makes it feel close to home.

You don't face the kind of language problem you would in places like China and the food is great; you will never run out of options to eat.

Dubai has an awful lot to do and is very child friendly so it's the perfect place for not just honeymooning couples but also young families.

Things to do:

  • View the Dubai landscape from the 124th gallery of the Burj Khalifa
  • Witness the dancing fountain at the Dubai Mall
  • Visit Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
  • Fancy a bobsled ride? Visit the Dubai Snow World
  • And of course shop till you drop!

As told to Abhishek Mande Bhot

Reader invite: What top three travel destinations in India do you recommend for 2014? And why? Simply write in to travelpicsga@rediffmail.com (subject line: 'Top travel spots for 2014'). We'll publish the best ones right here on rediff.com!


Image: Dubai
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

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