Summer in Ladakh
This year, ditch the pollution, pack your rucksacks and head to 'Little Tibet' to enjoy nature at its pristine best. After all, you don't need any excuses to visit one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places on earth! Witness the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers, drive on the world's highest motorable road en route to the Nubra Valley and stand mesmerised by the piercing blue of Pangong Tso lake. Take a stroll around the local market before soaking in the magnificence of the Leh Palace, enjoy a camel ride while exploring the sand dunes at Hunder and camp out under the stars in this devastatingly beautiful region. There's something here for everyone. Travel site Makemytrip has on offer a fantastic week-long tour for Rs 23,000 including return airfare, accommodation, two meals/ day and sightseeing.
With smartphone technology scaling unimaginable heights, the iPhone is a step ahead with its unique apps
Travel has just leaped aboard the digital apps bandwagon and is now sitting smug alongside Netflix, Groupon, Springpad and hundreds of other popular iPhone applications. So forget about being organized, planning in advance and travelling light; these apps do it all for you, even when you're on the go. The new Hotels.com iPhone applications - there are two of them - act like an extension of their website and allow users to log in and avail of over 20,000 accommodation deals from over a 1,35,000 hotels across the world.
One step ahead, the international hotel chain W Hotels has overtaken other players in the travel apps race by merging elements of travel, food, and music into one handy guide with its new W Hotels Worldwide app. Not only can you access the international Starwood brand's chain of hotels for bookings, maps, directions and images, but guests staying at the hotel can also gain remote access to the room service menu and order items off it. All of this while tapping to tracks produced especially for the brand in collaboration with Coca Cola, which they can stream on their smartphone. The coolest feature though, is being able to alert staff of any special requirements and customisations at the mere tap of a button on your handheld! Gone are the days of arriving at reception and making your requests. With these apps you can be flying in and tying up loose ends en route. Think of these as your pocket guidebooks.
So the next time you're getting down to painstaking planning and trying to figure out details while preparing ahead of that muchawaited holiday, don't bother; it's all packed right into your pocket!
Top of the pops
In a recent research carried out by Mastercard for the new Global Destination Cities index, a lot of interesting and unexpected chart toppers have emerged. For starters, it has been predicted that London will have the largest number of incoming tourists this year- reportedly 20.1 million-while Paris follows close on its heels with 18.6 million visitors. The interesting bit is that eight of the top 20 cities in this category are in the Asia-Pacific region, with Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong making it to the top five. Only one city from the United States has made it to the list, which is, predictably, New York. However, the Big Apple ranks second highest in terms of money spent by tourists, pipped by London .
When looking at the growth in international visitors this year, Barcelona is the clear winner with a 24.3 per cent jump in visiting tourists. So while you're sitting and wondering where to head to this summer, London seems to be the obvious favourite! If you haven't already been, go, and if you've been before, go again. It's the kind of city that has something for everyone, irrespective of age, ethnicity or interests. If you don't want to follow the herd, make a quick side trip to Ireland as well, without the need for a separate visa.
Deep Blue Sea
Living in congested city centres working nine-to-five jobs, it's the perfect time to take off for the weekend and extend it by a couple of days. Ditch the city lights for some sun, sand and surf. Head to Port Blair in the Andaman Islands, and set base at the newly opened Peerless Sarovar Portico, the city's only beach resort. Located in Corbyn Cove, you can choose between guest rooms and cottages, both of which offer expansive views of the Bay of Bengal and the islands' fabled green cover. The resort is offering a discounted package till September at Rs 15,000 per couple for three nights and four days, inclusive of accommodation, breakfast and dinner, and two days of sightseeing.
The floating island in Seoul, Korea is just the thing you need to add to your growing list of 'places-to-go-to'. Cruising along the Han river, this floating project is the first in a series of three, and as opposed to other manmade islands which are anchored to the sea-bed, the USP of this 3,271-squaremetre island, named Viva, is its inherent bouyancy, which promises safety during a flood. A high-tech tracking system keeps constant tabs on the changing water levels, making it an extremely safe bet. Designed for international conventions as well as recreatio, it hoists a three-storey high structure with a convention hall, restaurants, and a gaming parlour.
Love lighting up your treasured Cuban cigar post dinner to accompany a glass of Contreau (or the other way around)? Well, if your little cigar stash really means that much to you, head to Nicaragua, where Jonathan Drew is the man of the hour. Drew Estate's specially designed three nights/ four days Cuban Safari at the famous Esteli Valley in Northern Nicaragua is an experience of a lifetime for cigar enthusiasts. All you have to do it book your tickets to and from Nicaragua and let the organizers do the rest. Each tour starts out at the Managua airport, after which Hotel Cabanas at the Gran Fabrica becomes your base. At the end of this magical trip, you'll be wellversed in the industry's time-honoured traditions and the innovative spin this legendary cigar house has added to it. The trip costs $650 (Rs29,500) exclusive of airfare.