Pack your bags! 8 places to travel to this year
Travel agents from around the country list the most popular destinations.
Earlier, Shalini Bajaj drew up this list of destinations popular with her clients.
Andrew Dharmaraj tells S Saraswathi where readers should be going this year to unwind.
Confused about where you should take a vacation this year?
Andrew Dharmaraj of Chennai's Pegasus Travels lists destinations he's recommended to clients.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands
The tropical islands are a great getaway from the hustle of big city life.
What you can do on the islands:
- Visit Corbyn's Cove Beach -- 9 km from Port Blair, the capital -- a palm-fringed beach, ideal for swimming and sun-bathing.
- The Andaman Water Sports Complex offers water and adventure sports like water-skiing, boats, water scooters, tube rides, etc.
- Watch the heroic saga of the Indian freedom struggle brought alive by the sound and light show at the Cellular Jail in Port Blair.
- Soak up the sun on the many beaches of the Havelock Islands (57 km by sea from Port Blair) -- the most popular being the Radha Nagar beach that Time magazine counts among the best beaches in Asia.
- Take a trip to North Bay (Coral Island) -- to see coral reefs, exotic fish. The glass bottom boat ride helps one take a closer look.
- Go snorkeling at Elephant Beach, which offers shallow waters -- perfect for beginner snorkelers.
How to get there:
By Air: The capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Port Blair, is connected with Chennai and Kolkata by air.
Go Air, Jet Konnect and SpiceJet among others operate direct flights throughout the day from Chennai and Kolkata, while flights from Delhi go via Chennai or Kolkata.
By Sea: Passenger ship services are available to Port Blair regularly from Chennai, Kolkata and Visakhapatnam.
- From Kolkata to Port Blair by sea, it takes about about 66 hours to cover the distance of some 1,255 km.
- From Vishakhapatnam to Port Blair by sea, it takes about 56 hours to cover a distance of some 1200 km.
- From Chennai to Port Blair by sea, it takes about about 60 hrs to cover a distance of some 1,190 km.
Image: The glorious Andamans.
Photographs: Harikrish.h/Creative Commons
Standing on the very edge of the Indian peninsula, and watching the three mighty seas -- the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal -- crashing into each other, producing a myriad of different hues of blue and green is an experience like no other.
Head to the shores of Kanyakumari to witness magnificent sunrises, spectacular sunsets or travel inland and soak in the quiet of the paddy fields and majestic hills.
What you must do in Kanyakumari:
- Take a ferry to the renowned Vivekananda Rock Memorial -- standing 500 meters off the coast on rocks that project from the Indian Ocean.
- The ferry to the Vivekananda Memorial also stops at the majestic 7000 ton, 133 feet high statue of the celebrated Tamil poet, Thiruvalluvar.
- Wake up early to watch the sunrise from the Vivekananda Rock and return in time for the sunset.
- Visit the legendary Kumari Amman Temple located on the shore where the three oceans meet.
Vattakottai or the Circular Fort, St Mary's Orthodox Church, Muppandal Wind Farm, the Padmanabapuram Palace, Maramalai Hills, Thottipalam, Pechipparai Dam, Thirparappu Falls, Muttom beach and Suchindrum Sthanumalayan temple are some of the other important tourist attractions in and around Kanyakumari.
How to get there:
By Air: The nearest airport is Thiruvananthapuram, which is about 80 km away from Kanyakumari.
By Road: Wide network of public and private bus services are available from different towns and cities of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
By Rail: Travelers can get any number of trains to reach Kanyakumari including the Kanyakumari express, Himsagar express, Kanyakumari Howrah express, Tirrukural express, and Island express are some trains which operate from major cities connecting Kanyakumari.
Image: Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari
Photographs: Natesh Ramasamy/Creative Commons
If beaches aren't your thing, visit the small hill station of Yercaud in the Servarayan Hills of Tamil Nadu.
Built around the naturally formed Yercaud Lake, which is also its biggest attraction, this resort town is not as commercially exploited as the more popular Ooty or Kodaikanal.
If peace and quiet is what you're looking for, Yeracud should be on your list this year because there are no ugly commercial complexes, entertainment arcades or multi-cuisine restaurants.
What's better, with just a handful of popular 'hot spots', there is no mad rush to complete an impossible itinerary!
What you must do in Yeracud:
- Laze around the picturesque, serene Yercaud Lake surrounded by forests of teak, sandalwood and silver oak.
- The adventure lovers can take a trek into the forest, about 2.5 km from the lake, to get a glimpse of the spectacular Killiyur waterfalls as it plunges from a height of 300 feet.
- Visit the Servarayan Temple, a narrow, dark cave, with the idols of Lord Servarayan and Goddess Kaveri.
- Don't miss the breathtaking views of the winding ghat road with its numerous hairpin bends from the Lady's Seat, especially at night with the twinkling lights of Salem town in sight.
- Experience bliss as you drive slowly through the tree fringed 32-km Loop Road that winds through thick forests and coffee plantations across several villages.
How to get there:
By Air: The closest airports are Kamalapuram, Omalur (30 km) and Trichy (163 km).
By Rail: The closest rail head is Salem Junction 35 km away.
By Road: Yercaud is well-connected by road to several towns and cities, Salem (35 km), Chennai (358 km), Bangalore (222 km) and Coimbatore (190 km).
Image: Kiliyur Falls, Yercaud
Photographs: Ananth BS/Creative Commons
Perfect for romance and adventure, Manali, a small hill station in the Kullu Valley of Himachal Pradesh, is a hot favorite among nature lovers, honeymooners and adventure enthusiasts alike.
Popularly known as the Switzerland of India, Manali offers a rare combination of spectacular natural splendor and rich cultural heritage.
It is also a home to an incredible range of sports activities like rafting, paragliding, skiing, trekking and mountain biking.
What you must do in Manali:
- Experience the adrenaline rush as you raft through the white rapids of the mighty Beas river.
- Go paragliding along the slopes of Solang Nullah, a paradise for paragliders.
- Go skiing! Manali boasts of one of the best skiing spots in India, with both winter and summer skiing ranges in Solang Nullah, Patalsu, Kothi, Marhi and Rohtang.
- The crisp cool mountain air and the breathtaking views at every turn make trekking and biking an absolute delight in Manali and are a great way to explore this charming mountain town.
- Visit Rohtang Pass, one of the highest motorable roads in the world and the Solang Valley that offers stunning views of glaciers and distant snow-covered peaks of the Himalayas.
- If temples are your thing, visit the 4000-year-old Vashisht temple dedicated to Saint Vashista and most famous for its hot Sulphur springs.
- Don't also miss the Hidimba Temple dedicated to the wife of the Pandava prince Bhima and said to be constructed in 1553 amidst dense cedar forest
- Finally, take a walk along Old Manali and soak in the calm and serene atmosphere of the quaint little town so famous for its rich orchards and old guesthouses.
How to get there:
Distance from nearby towns/cities: Shimla 270 km, Chandigarh 310 km, Ambala 365 km, Delhi 585 km
By Air: Closest airport is Bhuntar, 50 km (a 90 minute-drive) from Manali
By Rail: Closest rail stations are Pathankot, Chandigarh, and Ambala
By Road: Manali is well-connected by road with Delhi, Ambala, Chandigarh and Shimla
If you're travelling from Delhi, air conditioned bus services offered by Himachal Road Transport Corporation are also a good bet.
Image: The Beas river in Manali is among the popular destinations for river rafting in India.
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com
After the end of the 30-year civil war, which almost destroyed its tourist scene, Sri Lanka is slowly returning to its status as an important tourist destination.
Fondly known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, this beautiful island with its tropical forest and diverse landscape is the home of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Golden beaches, aquamarine waves and eternal sunshine, Sri Lanka is the ideal destination for beach lovers; be it windsurfing, kayaking, yachting, water skiing, scuba diving or just lazing around for the perfect tan.
From the ruins of the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, which bear witness to the great Sinhalese civilisation to the colonial hill stations, the extensive tea plantations, the wildlife sanctuaries that are the home to innumerable species of wild plants and animals and the beautiful Buddhist monasteries scattered throughout the island, Sri Lanka offers a wealth of destinations to its tourists.
What you must do in Sri Lanka
In and around Colombo
- The Gangaramaya Temple, National Museum, Zoological Gardens, Jami Ul Alfar Mosque and the Colombo Fort are some of the major attractions in capital, Colombo.
- Don't also miss Colombo's most popular local haunt, Galle Face Green, a promenade which stretches for a half kilometer along the coast.
- At the end of the promenade is the historic Galle Face Hotel, a beautiful lodging, which retains much of its colonial charm; its best feature is its veranda, with chairs and tables facing out to sea.
- Kitulgala, a sleepy town, just two hours away from Colombo, is ideal for the adventure lovers, who want to take in the white water rafting expedition at Kelani River.
In and around Kandy
- Head north from Colombo to Kandy and visit the Temple of Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha that attracts thousands of pilgrims and tourists to this scared city.
- Not very far away from Kandy is the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, a rehabilitation centre for orphaned and disabled elephants.
The ancient Sinhalese cities
- Do not miss the trek to the towering 5th century Sigiriya Rock Fortress that is located 600 feet above the surrounding jungle and is a fairly easy climb.
- The ruins of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa are shining examples of the what the ancient Sinhalese had achieved. Keep a day at the very least for each of the two cities and ideally rent a bicycle to explore them.
How to get there:
By Air: Mihin Lanka offers direct flights from Chennai and Delhi to Colombo. While Air India, SpiceJet and Jet Airways have flights which depart from New Delhi via
Chennai or Mumbai. Sri Lankan Airlines too operates direct flights from Chennai to Bandaranaike International Airport near Colombo.
Sri Lanka's railroads offer limited access to the country’s interiors and the (largely) diesel-run trains rarely ever go faster than 60kph
Unless you can afford a car, state transport buses are the best way to travel within Sri Lanka.
ALSO SEE Postcards from Sri Lanka
Image: An ancient stupa towers over the ruins of Anuradhapura
Photographs: Abhishek Mande Bhot/Rediff.com
Branded as Asia's World City, the vibrant and cosmopolitan Hong Kong is one of the most happening places in the continent.
Blessed with a stunning natural beauty, the island's iconic Harbour offers magnificent views of the surrounding mountains.
Hong Kong's impressive skyline is its major attraction.
Looking glorious by the day, it simply dazzles the eye by night.
Through interactive lighting and sensational music, the Symphony of Lights laser show that integrates 44 skyscrapers and landmarks that lie on the sides of the Victoria Harbor, is an extravagant phenomenon you should not miss.
What you must do in Hong Kong:
- Take a tram up Victoria Peak to enjoy the view of Hong Kong and Kowloon.
- Take a traditional Chinese boat ride or a cruise around Aberdeen Harbour known for its floating islands and the floating restaurant, Jumbo.
- Visit Stanley Market for some shopping.
- The Disneyland theme park and the Ocean Park are a great place to visit if you're with families and children.
- Admire the spectacular views of Hong Kong from the top of the traditional open top double-decker bus, the king of all sightseeing vehicles.
How to get there:
By Air: Air India, Jet Airways and Cathay Pacific have a direct flight each from New Delhi to Hong Kong, while Cathay Pacific operates one form Mumbai too. Travellers from Chennai and Kolkata can take Thai Airways, Air India or Cathay Pacific, but have to travel via Mumbai, New Delhi or Bangkok (depending on where you're travelling from to reach Hong Kong.
Image: A lonely vessel passing the skyline of Hong Kong Island
Photographs: Chris Zielecki/Creative Commons
Istanbul is one of the few cities in the world that span across two continents -- Europe and Asia.
(Others include Atyrau, a city in western Kazakhstan and the Russian city of Orenburg that spans that also span the same continents)
While Western influences are very in evident in this cosmopolitan city with its many nightclubs, pubs and restaurants, Istanbul still retains its traditional Islamic flavor.
The long natural coastline against the heavily forested mountainous backdrop offer stunning visuals of turquoise seas, the scenic waterside walkways, the Roman ruins, the Byzantine and Ottoman masterpieces and the innumerable unique historical and archaeological sites bring in tourist from all over the world.
What you must do in Istanbul
- At Istanbul Turkey's largest city
- Visit the 6th century church of Saint Sophia better known as Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Suleymaniye Mosque and the Basilica Cistern.
- If shopping is on you mind, head directly to the Grand Bazaar that featured prominently in the latest Bond movie.
- Its 4000-plus shops stock everything you can possibly imagine -- from carpets and kilims, silks and ceramics to leather goods and much more.
- Don't also miss the Topkapi Palace, which, from the 15th to the 19th century, was the principle residence of the Ottoman Sultans.
- Visit the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul, a thrilling riot of colors, sounds, and the rich smells of exotic spices.
- Want to pack in more into your day? Head to one of the many numerous restaurants, pubs and nightclubs that suit every budget and preference and party the night away!
How to get there:
By Air: Turkish Airlines offers direct flights from New Delhi and Mumbai to Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport, while Air India operates direct from only Delhi.
ALSO READ Falling in love with Istanbul
Image: Tourists, with the Hagia Sophia museum (L) and Blue Mosque (R) in the background, look at the old city from the historical Galata Tower in Istanbul
Photographs: Murad Sezer/Reuters
Singapore undoubtedly is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations.
The tourism landscape of this island-city has changed dramatically over the years, becoming even more vibrant and exciting.
Singapore has continuously been reinventing itself to stay competitive and attractive to visitors ensuring that even the most frequent travelers find something new and fascinating each time they visit the city.
The extremely low airfares and the foreign destination tag make Singapore one of the most sought-after international tourist destinations among Indians.
With a long list of must-see attractions, Singapore promises many hours of fun and excitement for the entire family. Eating, shopping or entertainment, Singapore has it all.
What you must do in Singapore
- Experience state-of-the-art rides, shows, and attractions based on your favorite blockbuster films and television series at the famed Universal Studios.
- Visit Singapore's two award-winning wildlife parks -- Singapore Zoo and Night Safari.
- Embark on a journey of discovery at the River Safari exploring eight freshwater habitats.
- Rediscover nature at the newly opened spectacular 101-hectare horticultural attraction, Gardens by the Bay.
- Travel to the fabulous Sentosa Island by the scenic cable car, see pink dolphins at play in the Dolphin Lagoon, visit the Underwater World Oceanarium, the Universal Studios theme park and enjoy the multi-sensory sound and light water show, Songs of the Sea.
- Feel the energy of the city beneath your feet on the world's largest observation wheel -- The Singapore Flyer.
- A trip to Singapore is never complete without a visit to the state's ethnic enclaves, the charming districts of Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam (Malay).
- Walk down Orchard Road, Singapore's iconic shopping district, for a world class shopping experience or visit Singapore's 24-hour shopping malls at Mustafa Centre.
- Experience the best of Singapore nightlife! Don't miss Ku De Ta, the exclusive bar on the 57th floor of the Sands Marina Bay and the 1 Altitude Bar, situated 282 meters above sea level.
- Take a stroll along the waterfront at Merlion Park.
How to get there:
By Air: Singapore Airlines, Jet Airways and IndiGo among others offer daily direct flights to Singapore departing from New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.
Image: A part of the illuminated Marina Bay street circuit of the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix around the Singapore Flyer.
Photographs: Matthew Lee/Reuters