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6 Reasons to Make Mongolia Your Next Travel Destination

11th November 2016 | By Dalaikhishig Tsogtsaikhan

                                                                                                                                            Travel tips: #DiscoverMongolia


6 Reasons to Make Mongolia Your Next Travel Destination

 

If Mongolia isn’t at the top of your travel destinations right now, you’re not alone...
 

In a world of over 7 billion people, fewer than 500,000 visited Mongolia last year—and that’s actually not a bad thing.

Unlike China, which sees about 25 million tourists a year, or Australia (which gets about 6.5 million), Mongolia remains unblemished and unaffected by the consumerism that accompanies such a huge influx of visitors.

Mongolia is one of the last countries on earth that preserves its traditional customs and way of life. Its vast expanses of barely populated deserts and plains are virtually unchanged over the millennia.

When you visit Mongolia, you are one of the rare souls who gets to experience a simple and authentic way of life that has survived for thousands of years—and that alone is reason enough to come.

Of course, there are many more reasons to make Mongolia your next destination—and if you’re searching for reasons to visit this magical place, here are six to tips to you.


1. Mongolia Has a Long and Significant History
 


Mongolia’s natural history contributions extend to the late Cretaceous period, some 70 million years ago
.


The world’s first confirmed dinosaur eggs, as well as one of the largest dinosaur footprints, were discovered in the Gobi.

Anthropologically, humans have lived in Mongolia since at least the Bronze Age; the Havtsgait Valley is renowned for for its petroglyphs from that era.

In the 13th century, Chinggis Khan reshaped history, forcing a clash between East and West and commanding the largest contiguous empire the world has ever seen, stretching from the Sea of Japan to the Caspian Sea.

Then followed centuries of Chinese rule, beginning with the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty. This ultimately collapsed in the 20th century, when Mongolia declared its independence.  

A 70-year alliance with the Soviet empire ended in the 1990s, leading to our current democratic state.

When you visit Mongolia, each layer of our distinct cultural history is still present, waiting for you to discover and explore.


2. Mongolia’s Cuisine is Like None in The World
 

6 Reasons to Make Mongolia Your Next Travel Destination

You might guess that Mongolian cuisine has much in common with Chinese cuisine, but China’s—and Russia’s—influence is less than you’d imagine.
 

Much of Mongolia’s food culture is traced to our extreme climate and nomadic way of life.

Meat and fat from animals, including camel, sheep, goat, cattle, and even horse (which we call the “Five Snouts”), form the basis of our diet. These are supplemented by rich dairy cream (urum) and soft kefir yogurt, with the occasional vegetables and starches.


Hearty stews and meat-filled dumplings are customary.

Traditional Mongolian foods such as khorkhog, a meat stew cooked with hot stones. Boodog, goat or marmot prepared by placing heated stones into the animal’s cavity and cooking the meat from the inside out.

Airag, is our national drink made of fermented mare’s milk are all unique to our country—and made more delicious when shared with a nomadic family around a campfire.

Mongolian barbeque prepared the traditional way offers visitors a unique way to “taste” our amazing country. And all visitors should experience our suutei tsai, the Mongolia salty milk tea.


3. Mongolia Has an Endless Expanse of Unexplored, Pristine Terrain

 

The Gobi is a mysterious region, lying in the rain shadow of the Himalayas.


It’s a cold desert measuring 500,000 square miles; only 5% is covered in sand dunes.

Unlike other desserts, it has abundant plant and animal life. This includes trees, grasses, flowers—and camels, gazelles, wild asses, and snow leopards.

Eastern Mongolia is the land of Chinggis Khan, with endless steppes and glorious mountains, the center of mysterious stories from ancient times.

Western Mongolia is known for its spectacular riverslakes, and glaciers—and the steep Altai Mountains.

It’s also the home of a large concentration of nomadic families, ethnic Kazakhs, who are proud to display their eagle hunting expertise.

Central and northern Mongolia offers a vast panorama of spectacular natural scenery.This area includes wetlands and grasslands, some of which are protected by their status as national parks and UNESCO heritage sites.

It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise; there are over 400 species of birds native to Mongolia.

No matter the type of terrain that appeals to you, you’ll find it in abundance in Mongolia. 


4.Mongolia is Home to Rare Nomadic Peoples

 

Mongolia is the home of some of the world’s last riaining nomadic cultures, who follow a way of life that extends unbroken over 3,000 years.

There are hundreds of thousands of nomads in Mongolia; estimates suggest that between 25% to 40% of our population is nomadic.

There are three main nomadic cultures here:
>The horse nomads who primarily herd sheep and goats on horseback.
>The camel nomads
>The Tsaatan or Dhuka people, whose lives are structured around reindeer.

Tsaatan people rarely slaughter their reindeer, they are used primarily for milk. Reindeer yogurt and cheese are staples of their diet. They also ride the reindeer and use this as pack animals in the taiga forest area.

They are extraordinarily uncommon; only a small number of Tsaatan families remain in the world.

Nomad families live in gers, or rounded felt tents, which are still assembled in their centuries-old style.

 

Staying with a nomadic family, learning to milk the animals and make fresh dairy products, eating traditional nomadic food is one of the highlights of a visit to Mongolia.


5. Mongolia's Incredibly Vibrant National Cultural Diversity

6 Reasons to Make Mongolia Your Next Travel Destination


The name “Mongol” first appeared in our lexicon in the 10th century, but there was no unified “Mongol” culture until Chinggis Khan united the warring tribes and factions in our country in the 13th century.

In fact, even today, our national identity and culture, from our governance to our societal structures are largely related to our nomadic, pastoral lifestyle and the legacy of Chinggis Khan.

Although a large majority of the population is ethnic Khalka Mongols, there are many different ethnic minority populations. These include Dorvod, Bayad, Buriad, Dariganga, Zahchin, and Torguud.


The largest ethnic minority is Kazakh, which makes up about 4% of the population.

Although Shamanism was the largest religion until the 16th century, today, most Mongols are Lamaist, a sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

Prior to the Stalinist period of Mongolian history, there were thousands of Buddhist temples in the country, but some 700 of these were destroyed in the religious purges of that era.

There are still hundreds of monasteriesthe oldest of which, Erdene Zuu, dates back to the 1500s.

About 4% of the population is Sunni Muslim, mostly the Kazakhs in the west. There are a few thousand Christians in Mongolia by most estimates.

A Mongolian Celebration Should Not Be Missed

6 Reasons to Make Mongolia Your Next Travel Destination
Mongolia’s people love an excuse to celebrate. 

There are many different festivals and events throughout the year.

Naadam is the king of all, however, with a history dating back to the time of the Khans. Naadam celebrates the skills most revered in our country: Horsemanship and horse racing, archery, and wrestling. Naadam is celebrated each year in July.

The Mongol New Year, another major celebration, is called Tsagaan sar. This occurs sometime between January and March, depending on the lunar phase. Tsagaan sar preparations begin a month in advance and culminate in feasting and gift-giving—one gigantic party.

Throughout the year, there are also many other regional and seasonal festivals and events.

Including the Eagle Hunting Festival celebrated by the Kazakhs. The Winter Snow and Ice Festival, which features sledding, ice skating, sleigh rides, and even ice sumo. The Camel Festival celebrates our rare Bactrian camels and the mysterious Gobi Desert.


6. Mongolia’s Unmatched Biodiversity
 

It’s a common misconception that Mongolia’s extrie climate limits its biodiversity; quite the opposite is true.

Mongolia is a country of 1.5 million square kilometers (605,000 square miles), making it the 18th largest country in the world, and the least densely populated.

The Mongolian-Manchurian Steppe is a temperate grassland Biome of savannahs and feather grass.

It is home to an incredible variety of wildlife. Including pheasants, marmots, wolves, gazelles, and Przewalski’s horse, the last surviving subspecies of wild horse.

Mongolia is also a very mountainous country, with many peaks reaching over 4,000 meters into the sky. Mountain sheep, ibex, wolf, elk, lynx, argali, and brown bears make their homes in the Mongolian mountains.

The country’s bountiful lakes, rivers, and streams are packed with taimen and trout and other freshwater fish.

In fact, Mongolia has a reputation as a fisherman’s paradise.

Beautiful Lake Hovsgol, our “Dark Blue Pearl,” is one of the clearest lakes in the world, surrounded by lush forest and carpeted with wildflowers and meadows.

The Most Enigmatic Feature Is...

The Great Gobi National Park is one of the world’s largest biospheres, larger in size than the country of Switzerland. The last of the world’s Bactrian camels live in the Gobi, along with the Gobi bears, the only bears that live in a desert.

The Gobi’s extreme climate can range from -40℃ to +40℃ with winds of up to 140 kilometers per hour.

The desert is dotted with oases where agriculture flourishes—tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, peas, and beans are cultivated.

As you can see, there is far more to Mongolia than the casual tourist could possibly imagine. Perhaps this explains why it is such an elusive—and exclusive—place to visit.

Although it has been the destination for only the most daring and committed world traveler, Mongolia is far more accessible than ever before.

In fact, there are direct flights from several major international cities now.

If you dream of discovering somewhere virtually unknown and unexplored, Mongolia is the place for you.
If your passion is to experience life as it was hundreds, even thousands, of years ago, Mongolia is for you.
If only the rarest and most unique travel adventures will cure your wanderlust, Mongolia is for you.

Why not contact us today and start planning your tour?

MyTourReview users selects Kerala as “Place to visit in 2016-17”

28th August 2016 | By Administrator

 

 Mytourreview.com,  leading online review platform for global tour operators has selected God’s Own Country as the “Place to visit in 2016-17” among global tour operators and travellers. 

The selection was devised after Kerala emerged as most reviewed destination on mytourreview.com, a global online platform built for appraising the services of tour operators.

The website was launched on World Tourism Day (September 15) in 2015. Devised to review international tour operators and help build quality in the business, it is the first-ever site to build an online representation for tour operators. It now has 500 global operators registered on its portal, and has so far received 300 reviews in a short span of less than a year. More than 80 per cent of the traveller reviews were on Kerala as the Indian tour operators used this online reputation platform effectively by encouraging travellers to write about destination , guides, chauffeurs and the quality of service provided by Tour Operators.

“Mytourreview.com is top of Google search for ‘tour operators’ purely through the traffic it has generated and has become the highly resourceful platform for travellers and tour operators.

Gavi

15th July 2016 | By Revathi

Gavi is 14 km south west of Vandiperiyar, 28 km from Kumily, near Thekkady. Gavi is inside the Ranni reserve forest. Gavi is a part of Seethathode Panchayath in Ranni Taluk. Gavi is part of the Periyar Tiger Reserve, and the route can be covered by car from Vandiperiyar. The entrance fee is 25 rupees per person and 50 rupees per vehicle. Cameras are 25 rupees and video cameras are charged 100 rupees. Both day and night stays are available. Forest tent camping is available from November through March.[citation needed]. It has been said that most enjoyable route to Gavi is the way from Pathanamthitta. The rough journey to Gavi may better be made on a sturdy vehicle like a jeep which are available on hire either from Vandiperiyar or from Kumily. Entry passes must be obtained from the Forest Check Post en route at Vallakkadavu. Advance booking with the Kerala Forest Development Corporation Ltd. is highly appreciable wherein such formalities will be taken care of by the company itself.

Botanists have said that "gopher trees" can be seen in Gavi, Kerala. Gavi's forest area, there are two gopher trees and they are believed to be the only two gopher trees in India. The tree, which is identified as gopher, is known as nirampalli. Gopher wood or gopherwood is a term used once in the Bible. There is no consensus about what modern species is meant by "gopher wood".

The tree standing at Gavi forest is of robust stem and lush foliage. According to state Forest Department officials, though the fully-grown gopher in Gavi is the only such tree sighted in the periphery of the jungle, possibly there could be more such trees still surviving in the inner forests of Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) in Kerala.gavi

Tours4fun very bad expirience

20th June 2016 | By Aleksandra Milicevic-Kalasic

7-Day New York City, Washington, D.C., Niagara Falls & Boston In-Depth Tour (NOT RECOMMENDED)

My wife and I were on this tour from 27th May to 2nd June 2016. We chose this tour because last year we had good experience with the 7-Day New Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Disneyland/San Diego & Universal Studios Tour (West Coast) and we were very satisfied. However, this tour was a disaster.

Day one: We arrived from Frankfurt, Germany at 130 p.m. at the JFK airport, NYC. We got the SMS message from our tour guide Cindy that instead of her we will be picked up by Nancy, her assistant. Nancy told us to wait for other people from the group at the airport, which took quite a while. After two hours of waiting, Nancy disappeared. In the meantime, I phoned Cindy to give me an alternative way of transportation to go to the hotel. She didn’t and we waited until 5 p.m., which was four and a half hours of waiting by then. Nobody else from the group appeared. Finally, after hours of waiting, we went to our hotel, but because of the traffic jam (rush hour) we arrived at 730 p.m. and missed the exclusive New York Night Tour.

Day two: More or less everything was O.K., except for the condition of the bus. It was old, uncomfortable (not enough leg space), seats couldn’t be adjusted in the right position, and after heavy raining, the roof was leaking.

Day three: After visiting Princeton University, we arrived in Philadelphia. We saw only the historical part of the city and when I asked Cindy to pass quickly through the rest of city, she answered that it depended of the driver. Of course, we didn’t pass through the rest of the city. We spent the afternoon in the oldest Amish settlement in the US. The tour seemed more like a safari, as the girl that guided us was pointing with her finger and laughing at the Amish saying: ‘Look there! The Amish are hiding from us!’. It was very rude and a very unpleasant experience. Furthermore, it was too much time spent in such a small place.

Day four: After a nice day in Washington, D.C. (Memorial Day parade) we had break in the parking lot of a supermarket and small shopping mall. The shower suddenly started and my wife and I started rushing to the bus. However, the driver whose name was Chang or Chan, slammed the door just as we wanted to step in, and moved the bus 200 meters away. He did the same thing to a family from India. We were completely wet. I asked him whether he saw us, and he answered: ‘Yes, I did.’. What else is there to say?

Day five: In the morning we arrived at Corning Museum of Glass. We were not interested to visit the museum and asked Cindy how to reach the city. She answered that it is not possible because there is no transportation from the museum. I asked a very kind lady from the museum, and she told us that there is free shuttle bus from museum to city every 15 minutes, but she also recommended that we come back walking over the old bridge (10 minutes walk). We spent 2 hours in the lovely city of Corning. We had a lunch at the main historical street full of nice restaurants. In the late afternoon we came to the Niagara Falls.

Day six: Visiting Niagara Falls was an unforgettable experience. We started our way to Boston around 10 a.m. Cindy changed the program, and instead of lobster dinner in the evening with a night view of Boston, she changed it into a lunch for the day after.

Day seven: Our group started the trip early in the morning. We visited Harvard and MIT. In Boston, we didn’t visit any tourist attractions s promised in the program. We had a bus sightseeing, which was no different than watching it on YouTube. At the Quincy Market, one part of the group had lobster brunch and my wife and I went to the city to see the famous Trinity Church. We came back 2 minutes before the agreed meeting time (at 1143). I was suspicious and asked my wife to make my photo in the front of Crocs shop (meeting point) with a cellphone in my right hand showing the time 1145 a.m. After that, I phoned Cindy (roaming in the US is very expensive) and the bus had already left. She apologized and the bus cam back for us. My wife and I changed the bus 2 hours before NYC, because we went back to NYC. The driver, I don’t know the name, stopped 200 hundred meters away from the our new bus. We carried our suitcases to the other bus because he didn’t  want to stop closer. Finally, we arrived to our other accommodation in NYC, where we stayed 10 more days in our own arrangement.

Conclusion: We had an extremely bad experience with tour guide, comfort of bus and drivers. In the program of tour, the tip is obliged. For what? In every normal country, the tip is optional if the customer is satisfied. 51 passengers, 7 days, $8 per day per passenger is $2856 total. If I needed the receipt for my tax benefits, I couldn’t get it for tips and admission paid in cash, but it is a question for the USA authorities and tax collectors.

All in all, I would NOT recommend this tour to anybody. My mark is 0 (zero), because of everything I mentioned in the review. There are a lot of additional remarks I didn’t mention here, but the list could just go on.

 

Kerala Tour through Great Escapes

23rd April 2016 | By tukaram talande

Dear Prajeesh , Great Escapes, Kerala

Our first Kerala trip was amazing, unforgettable due to your prompt responses and efforts taken through out journey.
We had never faced a any problem with transportation due to a guide cum driver called Sony. He behaved like a family member and helped a lot to us. House boat experience was un believable & exciting. Houseboat crew was humble. The facilities and hospitality of each of the hotels were very nice. We enjoyed this trip very much. 
Mr.Prajeesh, We felt excellent deal with you and your other team members of Great Escapes.This life time best experience, we carried out to our home town and we will preserve it forever.
Once again big thank to you and Great escapes for everything during these 8 days from 2 nd April to 9 th April

A Guide on Kerala Tour Planning

16th February 2016 | By Administrator

A Guide on Kerala Tour Planning

If you are in the planning stage of a great holiday or honeymoon to Kerala, I suggest you to go through below details. This is written with my experience in planning Kerala tours for many guests like you. This article will definitely help you in deciding every aspect of your tour.

Getting Ready For Your Dream Kerala Trip

  • Before doing any research, finalise number of days you can spend for your Kerala holidays. This is crucial as you can decide on places of visit as per your leave only.
  • If you are having enough leave from office, go through different tourist spots in Kerala and with the help of your tour organiser finalise number of days. In both cases freeze your arrival and departure dates.
  • Once this is finalised, you can book your tickets to Kerala. While booking onward journey its always advisable to book up to Cochin. Trivandrum is another option and book up to Trivandrum only if your first destination is Kovalam or Kanyakumari. Calicut is good only if your first destination is Wayanad.
  • Cochin is also spelled as Kochi and is also known as Ernakulam. While booking bus you can make the booking to Ernakulam. While booking train you may book to Ernakulam North or Ernakulam south as some trains has stop only at one station, code for train booking is ERN and ERS. For flights, make the booking to Cochin or Kochi, (location code is COK). By any means try to reach Cochin as early as possible to cover maximum spots.
  • Tourists from Coimbatore, Bangalore, Mysore, Chennai and Hyderabad can reach Kerala by train, flight or bus. From Coimbatore, bus is the best option. If you are traveling from Bangalore, you have all three options. Normally Bus takes 9 – 12 hrs to reach Cochin from Bangalore. Nowadays Multi axle Volvo buses are reaching Cochin in 9 to 10 hrs. This varies on road conditions. There is a check post at Tamil Nadu Kerala border and very rarely we have seen buses came late due to checking at this check post. There are lots of buses plying on Bangalore Cochin route and this is a good option to reach Kerala from Bangalore. You may even check for sleeper buses. Train takes approximately 12 hrs from Bangalore and getting ticket is the biggest challenge. If ticket is available, this is the best option. In both case try to book bus/train which reaches Cochin in the morning. If you are opting for flight, book a flight reaches at least before noon.
  • From Hyderabad, Flight or train is the best option. Choose bus only if nothing works out and it takes almost 18hrs. Nowadays buses are plying from Mumbai also but use this as your last option, as it is nearly 36 hour journey.
  • From Mangalore you can travel by bus or train. From Mysore, you have the option of only bus or else you need to travel to Bangalore first and then to Cochin. From Chennai you can travel by bus, train or flight. Bus and train takes almost 12hrs to reach Cochin
  • From Delhi, Ahmadabad or any other destinations to Kerala you have the option of traveling by train or flight only.
  • For those who are coming from other countries, you have the option to come directly by flight. You can also get off at one of the Metro city air terminals and come to Kerala by train. You need to do all the booking beforehand to avoid any confusion.
  • Once onward journey is booked, you may book return ticket. While booking return ticket, please be careful about timings and destinations. I suggest you to book this only after finalising the package or at least Itinerary.

Pick the Destinations.

Now we need to finalise on destinations to be covered. This is where we need to balance between the number of days you have and your interests. A small description about major tourist spots in Kerala should help you on this.

Major Tourist Destinations in South/Central Kerala

Cochin – In most cases this is the place you land in Kerala. If you are interested in Cochin sightseeing either you can do this on first day upon arrival at Cochin or if you have enough time on last day, go for it.

Munnar – This is the best tourist spot in Kerala. You love to see it 100 times. Munnar is a hill station.

Thekkady – Thekkady has Periyar wild life Sanctuary and you can visit when you go for boating at Thekkady. Thekkady has lot of adventurous activities and eco tourism activities too.

Alleppey/Kumarakom – This is the place where you can go for Houseboat Cruise. Alleppey even has lot of resorts to relax and there is also a beautiful beach

Trivandrum- The capital city

Kovalam – Lovely beaches

Kanyakumari – Though this is in Tamil Nadu, if you are travelling up to Trivandrum (and if time permits), it is advisable to have a visit.

Athirapilly-Vazhachal – Biggest water falls in Kerala

Cherai – Another beach near Cochin

Guruvayoor – Pilgrim place, the famous Krishna temple. There is a elephant sanctuary at this place with more than 65 elephants

Major Tourist Destinations in North Kerala

Northern part of Kerala has Wayanad to visit. Wayanad is approximately 300km towards north from Cochin. From the above listed major tourist destinations, make a list of places you wish to cover in Kerala.

I shall be writing about all these places in detail below with travel time required for each. After reading this post, you would be in a position to finalize the places to visit depending on your leave from office. Once places of visit and number of nights in each destination are finalized, Itinerary can be prepared with ease.

Cochin:

Most of the time, this is the place where you land in Kerala. If you have enough days in Kerala, a full day visit of Cochin is worth doing. Cochin has lot of sightseeing places including Marine drive, Chinese fishing nets, Fort Cochin where you can visit Dutch palace, Jew Synagogue etc.

If you are short in time, I suggest you to move directly to your first destination from Cochin. This can be Munnar which is 4 to 5hrs drive from Cochin, Thekkady which is 5hrs drive, Alleppey 2hrs, Guruvayoor 2hrs and Athirapilly-vazhachal, a short 2hrs drive. If you want Kovalam as your first destination, it is better to arrive at Trivandrum instead of having a hectic travel of 6 to 7hrs on the same day of arrival.

For every travel you need to consider halting time in between for sightseeing, food etc. If your first destination is Alleppey Houseboat, make sure you reach Cochin at least by 9AM so that you can check in to Houseboat at 12Noon. If your arrival is after 10AM at Cochin, then don’t plan Alleppey Houseboat cruise on the same day as check in to houseboat is at 12Noon and check out is at 9AM next day. If you are reaching Cochin after 3PM, then don’t plan any travel on that day. In this case best option is to stay in a hotel near to airport or railway station depending how you come to Cochin. Most of the hotels near to airport gives free pick up from airport thus can save money on vehicle on that day. Do inform your travel agent about your mode of arrival to book hotel accordingly. Cochin airport is almost 20km from Cochin city/railway station.

 

If you are planning to stay at Cochin on arrival day, normally check in time of all hotels is 12 Noon and if you are reaching early morning, do inform this in advance to your travel agent. In this case you can request for early check in. Most of the hotels allow this subject to room availability and do note that breakfast will not be complimentary for this day.

If you are planning to travel to other destination on the same day, I suggest you to start directly to that destination instead of having a half day sightseeing of Cochin and then traveling to next destination. If you are arriving Cochin by train or bus or after a long flight travel, try to refresh yourself before driving from Cochin to your next destination. This helps you to enjoy the trip right from beginning and can visit all sightseeing on the way. Coordinating your first destination in accordance with your arrival time is very important.

Munnar:

Munnar Tea Gardens

Munnar, a hill station, is one of the most beautiful places in Kerala. There are lots of Tea plantations and more than a dozen places to see near Munnar. This is a must see place if you are visiting Kerala. Climate will be mostly cold throughout the year. Munnar is 140km from Cochin.

If you are traveling to Munnar, you should try to stay there at least for 2 nights. For your onward journey, travel time listed from Cochin is 4 to 5hrs, but in practical you will reach Munnar in about 7 to 8 hrs only. There are lots of sightseeing spots in between. You can enjoy waterfalls and rolling hillside with tea gardens on the way. During this travel enjoy as much as you can on the day and don’t be in a rush to reach Munnar. You can even visit spice plantations on the way. After enjoying the scenery, you will be reaching Munnar by evening only.

If you feel like, you can spend some time in the market. If your hotel is away from Munnar town, try to have food and finish all activities in town and move to hotel. Coming back from hotel to town in night is not a good idea as there can be fog in the road and driving is not safe.

Second day should be dedicated for sightseeing in and around Munnar. If you want to cover almost all places, try to start sightseeing by 8.30. Or you can choose places to visit according to your interest and mood. Purchase spices, tea etc. while you go for shopping.Selecting the resort/hotel is most important while you are in Munnar. Every hotel in Munnar is not in town, you will find hotels within a radius of approximately 30km from Munnar. Most of the good resorts are away from city. If you are a person who wishes to stay in city, do make sure the hotel you select is in city itself. If you want to be away from all traffic and love to have a relaxed mood select a resort/hotel accordingly. While approaching any tour operator, if you have a specific choice, make sure you communicate this clearly.

It is always better to do a Google search on the hotel selected. Nobody can tell you whether you will like a hotel or not. As this is very subjective and depends upon your interests and background. Personally I like to stay away from city when I am on holiday and used to prefer hotels outside the city. But for business trips, I prefer city hotels.

A normal package can be prepared with 2 night stay at Munnar. If you wish to stay at Munnar for 3 nights, you will get a lot of time to relax. A package with one night in Munnar is not that advisable. I have seen many times people taking package with one night at Munnar and one night at Alleppey when they have only 3 days to spend. This is not a good idea as they will not be able to cover neither Munnar nor Alleppey.

From Munnar, you can travel to next destinations like Thekkady, Alleppey, or Cochin. Moving to Kovalam directly from Munnar is not a good idea as travelling time would be minimum 10hrs. If you are moving to Cochin to catch return flight/train do make sure you have minimum 6hrs in between, as you may even stop for food during this travel. So do your time planning accordingly.

Distance to various places from Munnar

    Distance from Munnar to Madurai – 130KM

    Distance from Munnar to Cochin    – 135KM

    Distance from Munnar to Aluva     – 130KM

    Distance from Munnar to Theni      – 165KM

    Distance from Munnar to Thekkady – 110KM

    Distance from Munnar to Trivandrum     – 280KM

    Distance from Munnar to Alleppey – 190km

    Distance from Munnar to Kodaikkanal – 180km

 

 

 

Thekkady

The famous Periyar wild life sanctuary is in Thekkady. Thekkady is sometimes referred to as Kumily or Periyar. Thekkady is the best place to visit if you are interested in adventure and eco-tourism activities. If you are not interested in such activities, you have only Periyar wild life sanctuary to see.

To watch wild life closely, you need to go for boating through the Periyar River. Wild animals, forest areas of Periyar sanctuary and Mullapperiyar dam from long view can only be seen during this boating. Vehicles are not allowed inside the sanctuary for sightseeing.

Boating in Thekkady has fixed timings and the guest need to be personally in the queue to get tickets. You need to give your personal details as well as show ID card while taking this ticket. Depending on season, the rush for boating varies. In peak seasons, there might be heavy rush, so try to be in queue at least 3 to 4 hrs before the departure time.

Thekkady has lot of activities/shows running in the evening. If interested, you can watch Kalarippayattu (martial arts of Kerala), Kathakali, Magic show, musical fountain, tribal dance etc. You can also go for Ayurveda massage, Elephant ride, Elephant bath, Elephant shower, Spice plantation tour etc. You can plan for boating through Periyar River as well above activities if you have one night stay at Thekkady. Unless you are interested in adventurous activities, don’t stay for more than 2 nights there. If you are opting for two night’s stay, you can relax on the second day enjoying the wilderness of Thekkady..

If you are an adventurous person, this is the place for you. Plan for 2 or 3 nights at Thekkady and you get to do all sorts of adventure activities here. You can go for Gavi tour which includes full day Jeep safari, trekking etc., bamboo rafting, eco-tourism, nature walk, night patrolling etc. Go through the details for these activities and fix the number of days you want to stay at Thekkady.

From Thekkady you can move to Alleppey, Munnar, Cochin, Madurai (Tamil Nadu), Kodaikkanal (Tamil Nadu). Again Kovalam is not a good idea as there will be lot of traveling.

Distance to various places from Thekkady

    Distance from Thekkady to Kumily – 4km

    Distance from Thekkady to Munnar – 110km

    Distance from Thekkady to Alleppey – 150km

    Distance from Thekkady to Cochin – 170km

    Distance from Thekkady to Kodaikkanal – 120km

Houseboat Cruise in Alleppey:

kerala-backwaters-smallAlleppey is famous for Kerala style houseboats. Alleppey has a good beach also. A houseboat cruise is a different experience and should not miss this if you have enough holidays with you. Houseboats give a different feel than staying in a hotel. These floating villas have dining hall, rooms with bath rooms and kitchens. Number of rooms varies from one to nine as of now.

For more info read our blog posts:

1. Backwaters of Kerala

2. Alleppey Backwaters

3. Backwaters of Kuttanad

 

Houseboat cruise can be of two types; you can either opt for a 21hrs overnight cruise or can take morning cruise for 5 to 6 hrs.

If you are opting for morning cruise, you have to check-in at 10AM and check-out will be at 4 or 5 PM depending on the cruise provider you opt. In this case, you will be greeted with welcome drink (lime juice or tender coconut) and will serve lunch prepared in boat and evening snacks. Boat will cruise through the inland canals, backwaters and lakes. And you can also watch the long stretch of paddy fields at Alleppey (Kuttanad). This cruise, I am sure, will be one of the most memorable experiences of your lifetime.

Boat will halt during lunch timings and food is prepared in the boat itself. The boat will have a Captain (driver), Cook and sometimes a helper too depending on the size of boat. These boats are engine driven.

For overnight stay houseboat cruise (21hrs), you need to check-in to your houseboat at 12 Noon and check-out will be at 9 AM next day. The boat will take you for a cruise at 12 Noon and will be going around till lunch time. The boat will halt for lunch and after lunch it cruises till 5.30 to 6PM and then anchors till next day morning. You will be cruising again next day for at least an hour before check out.

For this kind of cruise, you will be getting welcome drink, lunch, evening snacks, tea, dinner and breakfast for the next day morning. Food is prepared in the boat itself and all boats will have their fixed menu. They take your food preference before you reach Alleppey and raw materials will be stored in boat before it leaves the shore.

If you are a non-vegetarian, you will be getting rice, vegetable (2types), fish fry, curd, pickles, pappad, Sambar for lunch and chicken, chappathy, rice, vegetable curry, dal for dinner. If you are a vegetarian, the menu is similar with some changes. It will be Payasam instead of fish fry for lunch and one more variety of veg curry instead of chicken for dinner. For breakfast, it will be idly-sambar, omelet and bread butter jam.

It’s always advisable to inform them in advance if you have any specific preference as once you start the journey getting raw materials is not easy. If you have children with you and want more milk or such food, don’t forget to inform that in advance. During the cruise, you can purchase prawns, extra fish on your own (if you feel like). The crew will cook and serve that for you.

If you are opting for A/C Houseboat, unless specifically mentioned A/C operates from 9 PM to 6 AM only. If you require full time A/C or need extra hours, then inform the houseboat operator in advance. You will be charged extra unless your package is with full time A/C houseboat. If you want extra A/C time, they need to carry extra fuel with them and unless you tell in advance, this will be difficult.

While on board, do close the windows and doors of your room in the evening. As it is in water and flies may enter in the evening. Houseboats are normally parked in a safe place where the owner of houseboat has easy access or is near to his house. Houseboats are of different categories and rooms may not be as big as your hotel room.

The biggest disadvantage of houseboat is that if there is some issue with A/C or TV in the night, it may not be able to get it repaired till next day.  To get an electrician late night to that halting place may not be possible.  But such things happen very rarely.

Depending on your interest, either go for 21hrs cruise or take a morning cruise and then stay in a resort at Alleppey or Kumarakom.

Kumarakom and Alleppey Resorts:

Alleppey is famous for Houseboats, backwater resorts and beach whereas Kumarakom is for Houseboats and backwater resorts. Both are just 30km apart. Both places have descent resorts as well as houseboats. Depending on the option selected, you may move to that place. You can plan for a resort stay either after a Houseboat morning cruise or for the next night after overnight cruise.

If you have enough days, I always suggest taking one night stay in a resort after your Houseboat cruise.  In most cases, you will be reaching Alleppey or Kumarakom after 3 night stay at Munnar, Thekkady or any other places and a resort stay here will definitely relax you.

You can either move back to Cochin to catch your flight back or can travel ahead to Kovalam after this relaxing stay.

While selecting a resort at Kumarakom or Alleppey, make sure you do enough research. Make sure the resort is as per your liking because there are few things to do at when you are in a Kumarakom/Alleppey resort. You can visit Alleppey beach in the evening and can relax. Some backwater resorts do provide additional facilities like pedal boating, swimming pool and Ayurvedic spa. And  there are resorts providing  countryside boating, fishing and cooking class. This resort can be either at Alleppey, Kumarakom and I know some good backwater resorts on the way to Cochin also.

Once you are done with Alleppey and Kumarakom , you have several options. It depends upon your travel plan. You can either move towards Cochin and return back home on the same evening or stay at Cochin and travel to Guruvayoor or Athirapilly-Vazhachal on the next day. Or you can move to south from Alleppey to visit Kovalam, Trivandrum, Varkala and Kanyakumari. You also have the option of going to Thekkady or Munnar from here if you started the tour from Trivandrum. Alleppey lies almost midway between Trivandrum from Cochin.

Distance to various places from Alleppey

    Distance from Alleppey to Cochin – 80km

    Distance from Alleppey to Munnar – 190km

    Distance from Alleppey to Thekkady – 140km

    Distance from Alleppey to Trivandrum – 170km

    Distance from Alleppey to Kovalam – 180km

    Distance from Alleppey to Kanyakumari – 250km

Varkala:

Varkala lies in between Alleppey and Trivandrum and has a good beach. There are several beach resorts if you want to stay here. Opt for this place, only if you have extra days or skip this place.

Trivandrum/Kovalam

Trivandrum is the capital city of Kerala. At Trivandrum, you can visit the famous Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple, Museums, art gallery, Zoo etc. If you have plans to visit the temple, make sure you have the required dress to get inside. Pants or jeans are not allowed for both ladies and gents. The temple can be visited between 5 to 11 in the morning or 3 to 6 in the evening. Visit other places as per your interest and time availability.

While at Trivandrum, it’s advisable to stay at Kovalam which is famous for its beach. If you are really in a tight schedule, one night stay is sufficient but we recommend two night stay to fully enjoy this place. When you have two nights at Kovalam, you can visit Trivandrum one day and next day you can visit Kovalam beaches. Select resort as per your interest at Kovalam.

There are some luxury resorts at Poovar also. Poovar is a place just 14km from Kovalam and is famous for its estuary, where backwater and sea meet!  To fully unwind you can extend your stay for one more night, either at Kovalam or at Poovar.

If Kovalam is your last destination, try to book return ticket from Trivandrum which helps you to spend enough time at this place and to avoid long journey of 6 to 7 hrs to Cochin. If your return ticket is from Cochin, try to leave Kovalam at least 8 hrs in advance to be on the safer side. And if the return ticket is for morning flight/train from Cochin, make sure you stay at Cochin instead of rushing from Kovalam on the last day.

 

From Kovalam, you can do day-visit to Kanyakumari. You can spend one night at Kanyakumari, if you have time.  Kanyakumari is 90km from Trivandrum and is almost 2hrs drive. There is Kerala-Tamil Nadu check post in between.

If your tour is starting from Trivandrum, you have the choices of moving to Kanyakumari, Varkala, Alleppey, Cochin from here.

Distance to various places from Trivandrum

    Distance from Trivandrum to Cochin – 250km

    Distance from Trivandrum to Munnar – 310km

    Distance from Trivandrum to Thekkady – 270km

    Distance from Trivandrum to Kovalam – 13km

    Distance from Trivandrum to Kanyakumari – 90km

Kanyakumari:

Though Kanyakumari is not in Kerala, if you are travelling up to Trivandrum it is recommended to visit this place. Try to have one night stay at Kanyakumari so that you can see the sunset as well as the sunrise. Make sure you reach Kanyakumari before 4PM to see the sunset. If you are on a tight schedule, a day trip to Kanyakumari from Trivandrum is also recommended.Guruvayoor

The famous Sree Krishna temple is at Guruvayoor. Guruvayoor is 90 kilometers, a 2 hour drive from Cochin towards North West. If you are planning to visit Guruvayoor, it is recommended to spend one night there. Though it is only a 2hrs drive from Cochin, you can expect a long queue and will have to wait for about 2 to 4 hrs to enter temple.

If you are staying overnight, you can visit the temple in the evening when the crowd is less. At around 7PM, there are lots of rituals happening there. When I go, I visit the temple at 6PM, have darshan and stay inside the temple till 8PM and come back to hotel. Then I wake up at 2.30AM and visit the temple again early morning at 3.30AM and come back to hotel. During this time, rush will be less and one can go inside quickly.

There is an elephant Sanctuary near to temple where you can see more than 60 elephants and is a must see place if you are visiting Guruvayoor temple.

Athirapilly-Vazhachal Waterfalls:

This is the biggest waterfalls in Kerala and is approximately 70km from Cochin. If you have enough holidays, you may consider visiting this place. During Athirapilly visit, either you can stay at Athirapilly itself or can come back and stay at Cochin. There are few good resorts at Athirappily –Vazhachal region.

Cherai Beach:

Cherai is ideal for a beach visit and is only 30km from Cochin. Either you can have overnight stay here or visit if you have enough time.

Wayanad:

Wayanad is approximately 300km from Cochin towards north. If this is your first destination, try to book ticket till Calicut. A 3 night stay is advisable as all sightseeing places in Wayanad are not close to each other.  If your next destination is towards south, a night stay at Cochin is required as the drive from Wayanad to Cochin itself takes 7 to 8 hrs. If Wayanad is your last destination, you can book return ticket from Calicut instead of driving back to Cochin.

Hope with the above details, you will be now in a position to chart your travel itinerary with the destinations chosen and number of nights to be spent at each location decided.

Prepared by:

Ratheesh R. Nath

Director, Paradise Holidays Cochin

 

Best Stall Award at FITUR

25th January 2016 | By Administrator

Kerala Tourism has emerged as one among the four winners in the destination category at the 36th edition of FITUR – the second largest travel and tourism fair in Spain.

The eye-catching pavilion, themed on Kerala’s fabled snake-boat race, has fetched the State the award along with Mexico, Japan, and Nepal.

A large number of visitors flocked to the Kerala pavilion, adorned by two replicas of snake-boats, making it one of the most-photographed pavilions at FITUR.

The pavilion, created with stunning images of boat races, won the Best Stand award for design, communication, and professionalism.

The sprawling independent pavilion of Kerala Tourism built on a 60-square-metre area had participation from four co-exhibitors representing the State’s private tourism and hospitality sector. FITUR, organised by Madrid’s trade fair organisation IFEMA (Feria de Madrid), was held at IFEMA Convention Centre from January 20 to 24 and attended by 9,500 companies from 165 countries.

Our visit to God's Own Country - Kerala !!!

27th November 2015 | By Amol G

Dear Santosh (The Travel Planner executive),
 
Thanks for a wonerful and exciting tour of Kerala !!! Both the families enjoyed their stay and sight-seeing. The kids loved the beaches and swimming pools. We were happy with the finger licking authentic fish and the relaxed schedule !!! Please convey our thanks and appreciation to our driver plus guide Mr. Ratheesh Kumar S.
 
I would definitely recommend you folks to my friends and would love to plan another tour of God's own country !
 
Amol Gadge and family.

THE CHANGING ROLE OF TOUR OPERATORS.....CHALLENGING TIMES AHEAD FOR KERALA........

20th November 2015 | By Jaya Chandran

There had been discussions for more than  a decade in the past about the changing scenario in the tourism industry. When there was no  internet and lesser communication facilities only way of linkning your travel ideas to reality was the tour operator. Now when the world has shrunk into a small smartphone, now travellers can decide whatever they want to do and tour operators become a mere booking agent. In due course of time even that too has become limited to the very seior travellers choice.

This situation has led to deep worries for the tour agents all over the world. The easy and user friendly access to booking engines and the price wars of the online portals has made the presence of tour agents more irrelevant. The blame game between the exisiting conventional agents and the newly started  online agents did not brought any solutions ,but lead us into greater confusion and deperation.

Here is where we need to study the changes in traveller characters from past to present and learn how to go forward to the future travel business. Earlier a conventional traveller did not have access to information on local infrastructure and did not had the reviews from earlier travellers. Most of the time travellogues published in print media and news became the inspiration for new destinations, and the tour operators in west who knew their market trends ,cleverly packaged the products for them.

In India  for a long time the access to international markets was confined to a few agents based in Delhi. The situation started changing during late 1980's with the efforts from Kerala's only real tour operator Mr Babu Verghese, who with his collegues went selflessly promoting Kerala based tour experiences. Infact that was the begginning of the changing times in world travel that just travelling for sightseeing to expericing local cultures.

The efforts through experienced travel writers in Germany and UK started showing good results and soon a novel tourism product for Kerala's tourism was introduced, the House boats....This become soon popular among Wester European travellers,especially German and UK markets. This is the time another small agent Mr Rajeev Udayabhanu came with another unique tourism experience with his Swedish market, introducing local experiences for middle class Swedish families.He also  become popular in making good combination tours to Srilanka and Maldives.

Seeing the prospects the new theme resorts from Casino group  at Thekkady and Kumarakom become the highlight of Kerala experiences. A few more initiatives like tree houses etc also came ,,but the hunt for getting the share from this initiatives started in Kerala already. This was the time Kerala's government anouncing its decision to make tourism as an industry and some very energetic officials came to lead the department. The branding of Kerala tourism had a big impact in tourism trade in India.  A number of big investers came with ambitious moves. but unfortunately most of them did not have the vision to come up with the future products to stay in business. Instead they tried to promote tourism through very expensive colorful brochures and very attractive stalls in many big trde fairs. The fact was that many of them did not even knew the basics of market demands !!!!! 

Slowly tourism trade become a mere company of booking agents who compete in offering discounts and freeebies just to grab existing business from each another. Huge investments in hotel industry was flown to Kerala once the excitement for doemstic tourists started to Kerala. The coming of travel magazines created exciting results too. Suddenly resorts came up in environmentally sensitive Munnar, Vembanad lake areas .

But none of us had the sense to feel that to sustain this growth we need solid planning and reserach. During the last 20 years no new products came or no quality upgradation done to existing products. house boats became a traffic issue and an enviormental hazard in the backwaters. Those travellers who got excited about it now feels with suspecion of being infected with pollution.

An important area we forgot was the training of man power . None of the agents bothered to train a team of researchers and product developers,they rather tried to eye wash the travellers with excuses and blame game on goverments 

What could be a possible solution for this,,,??? all of us ask everytime we meet....If we look back we can easily see where we went wrong. We went for marketing without having a product.... and without knowing the the market needs.... never cared to study it 

1. We need to urgently form  a reserach and analysis group to do market search ,and implement new improved products
2. Must have a quality assessment body constituted by all stake holders

3. understand the important constituents of a tourism product, and include them in governing bodies , our old egoistic class minded mindset must be changed if we want to chage the situation

4. list out at least 50 new experinces and execute it with trained personal in each destination

5. ensure that all these products are avaialble online too, and then market it so that when it shows results we are ready to handle it

6. there must be training programs for both in house and new staff periodically and expose them to new products and systems to manage it. many times booking staff do not know what their customoers are given by their suppliers...

7. all the above must be co ordinated and executed by the tour operarators, drivers, guides. and hoteliers... need not wait for the govt to fund it

more to add,,, but i expect many of our collegues are capable of more effective ideas.... we need to act with urgency and caution ,otherwise it will slip out of our hands

 

jayachandran

the tourdesigners

Tour Operators Review for World wide Tour Operators

1st October 2015 | By Administrator

Changing times and changing trends has brought about drastic changes in all kinds of businesses. Until a decade back “Tour Operations” was considered to be a very serious business with very few venturing into it. Internet revolutionised the way we travel and the once highly conservative business suddenly became the favourite business for many.

Unchecked growth of operators, lack of licensing norms, unbelievable no. of websites and portals, extensive amount of information available online eventually took the toll and once rosy business of “tour operations” started losing the lustre and took a downward swing. ATTOI believes this correction in business is necessary as it will weed out unwanted players. ATTOI is also apprehensive about it as it will hit some of the good operators too.

There had to be a medium to safeguard the interest of good tour operators and ATTOI as the body of tour operators decided to take this initiative. www.mytourreview.com is this technological medium with which ATTOI intends to achieve this objective. ATTOI wants to arrest this negative trend of tour operations business by bringing reliable tour operators closer to prospective clients. www.mytourreview.com is a start up concept developed in-house by ATTOI. This portal will function as reliable source of reviews of travellers for travellers contributed by travellers who look for personalised and experiential holidays.

Reviews and referrals play a crucial role in making a decision when you plan your travel. Since hotel reviews are available, customer tend to look at various options before booking online with hotels. As a traveller there was no standardization or bench marking available online to find quality tour operators.

ATTOI President Shri. Anish Kumar believes that this global platform will enhance business opportunities within the tour operator community. He believes it will provide real time feedbacks to clients who are in the planning stages just like review sites for hotels. ATTOI with this initiative is confident it will help bring back more clients to tour operators.

There is no better marketing tool than the ‘Word of mouth’ propaganda; even with all the technological advancement, this medium beats all even today. ATTOI has decided to use this popular medium and with the help of technology intends to reach across to millions of travellers around the world. This well proven model with contributions from travellers who have experienced services with tour companies will have a detrimental effect on decision making process of future travellers, just like it has with hotels today.

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