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Amritsar, the Golden Temple

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Agra, The Taj Mahal

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Secrets of the Thar Desert - Mihir Garh

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Festivals

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Jawai Leopard Camp Breakfast

50 Most Luxurious Experiences -JAWAI

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50 Most Luxurious Experiences - Amanbagh

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Best Beaches Hotels in Kerala

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50 Most Luxurious Experiences - Amarvilas Agra

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Maharajas' Express Dinning

Luxury Train Journeys in Rajasthan

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A picture of the Leela Kovalam"s club pool taken on a luxury holiday wth Greaves India

Best Beach Hotels in Kerala - Leela Kovalam

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Glenburg Tea Estate

Glenburg Tea Estate

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Sujoy Ghosh

Exploring Kolkata with Bollywood Director Sujoy Ghosh

For Sujoy Ghosh, one of the top directors working in India today, there is no subject more inspiring than the city of Kolkata. Though he now lives in Mumbai, Ghosh can’t resist a nostalgic memory trip through the streets of his hometown. Read on to learn about how he got started in the film industry, for tips on his favourite Kolkata locations…and why a book fair might be the best introduction to the city.

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For Sujoy Ghosh, one of the top directors working in India today, there is no subject more inspiring than the city of Kolkata. In his 2012 film, Kahaani, he captured all the energy and exhilaration of West Bengal's capital during Durga Puja (one of the most important Bengali festivals). Reviews praised his vision of the city, and its old-meets-new beauty… and Kahaani had such a phenomenal run at the box-office that a sequel is planned for release in November.

Sujoy Ghosh

Sujoy Ghosh is an actor and screenwriter, in addition to being one of Bollywood's top directors © Daboo Ratnani

Though he now lives in Mumbai, Sujoy Ghosh - who also works as an actor and a screenwriter - can't resist a nostalgic memory trip through the streets of his hometown. Read on to learn about how he got started in the film industry, for tips on his favourite Kolkata locations…and why a book fair might be the best introduction to the city.

Greaves: What are your memories of growing up in Kolkata? How has the culture influenced you as a filmmaker?

Sujoy Ghosh: 'When I was growing up, we were into reading and watching films, and we had time to discuss them. Art and creativity is enhanced and evolves when you interact and engage, and for that you need time - and we had a lot of it back in those days! As a child, I did quaint things like go to the library to borrow books, which my kids find weird (laughs). By definition, Kolkata is hugely art and literature-oriented.

When I make films, I'm hugely inspired by art. A painter sees things differently - when I was shooting for Kahaani, I referenced paintings by various artists. I wanted to see Kolkata through their eyes - which offered me a different perspective on the city.

One thing I love about Kolkata is that a lot of characters and landmarks from the '70s and '80s still exist. I used to buy these spicy lozenges for five paisa as a child and I found them again. Big shops have been built around the little shop that sold them, but it still exists! Heritage architecture has survived - though for how much longer is another question.'

Sujoy Ghosh | Kolkata

Beautiful and dynamic Kolkata is Ghosh's subject and muse © Rajarshi Mitra/Flickr

Could you recommend authors and filmmakers who have captured the essence of West Bengal and its capital with nuance?

'With the classics, Bengali authors like Sunil Ganguly, Rabindranath Tagore and Sarat Chandra captured the world very well. In film, Tarun Majumdar, Satyajit Ray, and Tapan Sinha are brilliant directors who have influenced me.'

What's your favourite local cultural hotspot?

'The Kolkata Book Fair - for me, it begins and ends there. It's now visited by two million people over the course of two days, and there's a lot of nostalgia and childhood memories involved. For me, Bengali culture is Durga Puja, art discussions, and the book fair.'

Sujoy Ghosh | Durga Puja

Durga Puja is one of Kolkata's biggest celebrations © Prithwish Basu/Flickr

Could you describe Durga Puja for a first-time traveller to Kolkata?

'Durga Puja is a festival that is very close to a Bengali's heart. During the season (September or October), you can see the festivities everywhere - and pandal hopping [visiting the Goddess Durga displays, to whom the festival is dedicated] is quite the thing to do. For me, the festival is all about people, happiness and food. No one has problems during the festival - people are happy and stress-free. Maa Durga [the Goddess] is in town - let her solve the problems!

It's also junk food time, as it's a great source of income for people who put up food stalls. Dressing up, eating and going out is part of the culture.'

Sujoy Ghosh | Kalimpong

Kalimpong and the wild northeast of India are among Ghosh's favourite travel destinations © Abhijit Kar Gupta/Flickr

Which places in India are on your bucket list?

'I inevitably end up going to the same places, and am not a very planned traveller. But I'm addicted to the northeast of Bengal - I love the hill stations of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. I also love Goa. And I'd love to go to Kashmir - that's on my bucket list.'

Tell us about the street food culture of Kolkata.

'Street food culture in Kolkata is bigger and cheaper than in Mumbai. Mumbai's street food is a little more international, as it offers dishes like Middle Eastern shawarmas. In Kolkata, it's all about local treats like Mughlai parathas, puchkas and mutton rolls.

I also love Kolkata's pice hotels - the casual restaurants where you eat to your heart's content and pay a maximum of Rs 100. These establishments, which traditionally cater to working-class people, have been around for many years - and you can get a standard (and delicious) thali of fish, dal, mutton, and rice.'

Sujoy Ghosh | Kolkata Street Scene

Colourful Kolkata is a must-visit destination © Aotaro/Flickr

Finally, what does India offer that no other place does?

'Warmth - in terms of the people. A place is made not by the architecture, but by the people. They'll make you want to come back again and again.'

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Explore the Taj Mahal | Taj At Night

Four New Ways to Explore the Taj Mahal

For many, visiting the Taj Mahal is at the very top of a bucket list of life experiences. And there’s more than one way to admire this World Heritage site. For those travellers looking for a different perspective on the white marble beauty, here are a few suggestions of new ways to explore the Taj Mahal, from moonlit visits to luxury hotel vistas.

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For many, visiting the Taj Mahal is at the very top of a bucket list of life experiences. And we can attest that seeing this iconic landmark - which was famously described as "a teardrop on the cheek of eternity" by poet Rabindranath Tagore - in real life is every bit as extraordinary as you would expect.

And yet, there's more than one way to admire this World Heritage site. For travellers looking for a different perspective on the white marble beauty, we have a few suggestions for new ways to explore the Taj Mahal. From moonlit visits to luxury hotel vistas, no matter how you choose to discover it, you're certain to come away with lasting memories. 

Mehtab Bagh

Explore the Taj Mahal | Mehtab Bagh

The Mughal-era Mehtab Bagh offers perfect Taj Mahal views © powerofforever/iStock

Though the Mehtab Bagh - a beautiful garden complex located just across the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal - was built well before Shah Jahan's mausoleum was constructed, it's now one of the finest places to drink in views of the landmark. The Shah himself was said to have singled out the 16th century, Mughal-era gardens as the perfect viewing location. Be sure to linger amidst the fountains and flowerbeds, which, after extensive restorations in the 1990s, have now been returned to their antique glory.

A Moonlit Visit

Explore the Taj Mahal | Taj At Night

Seeing the Taj Mahal by moonlight is a once-in-a-lifetime experience © AlexSava/iStock

The Taj Mahal is stunningly picturesque by day. And by night? Let's just say that its white marble façade is flattered by moonlight. Though the site is normally closed in the evenings, at times when the moon is full, visitors are granted rare access to explore the Taj Mahal between the hours of 8:30 pm and 12:30 am. It's only in recent years that travellers have been able to drop in after dark, so if your visit coincides with a full moon, don't miss this rare opportunity.

The Agra Fort

Explore the Taj Mahal | Agra Fort

Visitors to the Agra Fort can enjoy views of both landmarks at once © tunart/iStock

It's not uncommon for visitors to Agra to overlook the city's other landmarks in favour of the Taj Mahal - but in the case of the Agra Fort, that decision would be a mistake. The gorgeous fort, famous for its red sandstone exterior and ornate architecture, isn't only a well-preserved relic of the region's Mughal past - it's also a UNESCO World Heritage site, and an absolute must for visitors to the city. Additionally, it's worth knowing that the Agra Fort, built on the banks of the Yamuna River, is just adjacent to the Taj Mahal…and that lucky visitors can enjoy views of both at once. 

Oberoi Amarvilas

Explore the Taj Mahal | Oberoi Amarvilas

Guests at the Oberoi Amarvilas have views of the Taj wherever they go © Oberoi Hotels and Resorts

Looking for a place to stay while visiting Agra? You can't do much better than the splendid Oberoi Amarvilas, one of the city's most opulent hotels. The five-star stay features an open-air swimming pool, sprawling spa, and plush rooms that are ideal for post-touring relaxation. And given that the Oberoi Amarvilas is also located a mere 600 metres from the Taj Mahal, guests can also look forward to uninterrupted views of the landmark from each of the guestrooms, as well as from the private dining terrace.

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Hari Nayak

Chef Hari Nayak: Traditional Indian Cooking with a Modern Twist

Trained at the Culinary Institute of America, an apprentice under the legendary Alain Ducasse, and an author who’s worked alongside Daniel Boulud, Chef Hari Nayak has impressive fine dining credentials. The chef and restaurateur is also behind a number of culinary projects (Utsav in New York and Matt & Meera in Hoboken, to name but a couple), as well as six well-regarded cookbooks, including Modern Indian Cooking. Read on to learn more about Nayak’s foodie past, plus his tips on how best to introduce yourself to India’s incredible cuisine.

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With all of its spices, its diverse culinary traditions, and its intensity of flavour, Indian food can be daunting - even to the most dedicated of foodies. If you find yourself intimidated by its complexity, you're not alone: Chef Hari Nayak sympathises.

Hari Nayak

Hari Nayak is a top chef, cookbook author, and restaurateur © Chef Hari Nayak

Trained at the Culinary Institute of America, an apprentice under the legendary Alain Ducasse, and an author who's worked alongside Daniel Boulud, Chef Hari Nayak has impressive fine dining credentials. The chef and restaurateur is also behind a number of culinary projects (Utsav in New York and Matt & Meera in Hoboken, to name but a couple), as well as six well-regarded cookbooks, including Modern Indian Cooking. But fundamentally, he understands that Indian food traditions can be overwhelming for some - and he strives to support a message of epicurean simplicity. Read on to learn more about Nayak's foodie past, plus his tips on how best to introduce yourself to India's incredible cuisine.

Hari Nayak | Meen Pollichathu

Meen Pollichathu, a fish preparation, is a Keralan delicacy © Chef Hari Nayak

Greaves: What drives you as a chef? How has growing up in Karnataka influenced your cooking?

Chef Hari Nayak: 'Living in New York now, I am drawn towards market trends and the local produce available here. I am a very spontaneous cook - there could be an ingredient, something I tasted during my travels, or just my childhood memories that get me going.

Growing up, I was very inspired by the way my grandmother would cook for the family. She would wake up at 4am to grind fresh batter, make spice pastes or prep vegetables that would be cooked during the day. We took it for granted that there would be freshly cooked food ready for every meal. The happiness she felt when we sat together and savoured and enjoyed each bite was incredible - every meal was like a celebration. I draw a lot of inspiration from this feeling of cooking from your heart, of bringing people together and celebrating food.'

Hari Nayak | Paneer Chile Relleno

A poblano pepper stuffed with paneer cheese exemplifies Nayak's globetrotting approach © Chef Hari Nayak

You frequently say that Indian cooking doesn't need to be complex. Could you give us practical examples of how you've simplified it? 

'I have taken Indian recipes that are known for their long lists of spices and herbs, and simplified them using ingredients that can be found in most American grocery stores. Dishes like biryani can be made easily using minimum ingredients and prep steps, while recipes like Curry in a Hurry let you make a delicious-tasting chicken curry in less than 20 minutes. Home cooks can also make spice mixes and blends ahead of time to make the process faster and less intimidating.'

How do you adapt to appeal to a diverse audience without losing the essence of the original recipes? 

'My cookbook, Modern Indian Cooking, is a collection of easy-to-prepare recipes created for the adventurous home cook. The recipes are exciting and approachable, while exploring how Indian cuisine can be fused with other cuisines around the world. 

The cooking techniques have been adapted to the Western styles quite a bit, and the traditional flavours of Indian cooking are given an international twist. My dishes are Indian by nature, but their global flavours help make them appealing to a wide audience. I want to create a childlike sense of curiosity for the new and unfamiliar.'

Hari Nayak | Kerala Uni Moilee

Chef Nayak's food, like this Keralan uni moilee, is a balance of the modern and traditional © Chef Hari Nayak

Which dishes would you recommend a first-time traveller to India try? 

'I'd suggest ordering a thali meal in any region, as it gives you a variety of dishes to sample. Also, each region has its own specialty. Pav bhaji in Mumbai; masala dosa in South India; tandoori chicken, dal makhni and roti from a real Punjabi dhaba in North India; biryani in Lucknow. The list is never-ending!'

Do you have a signature dish that you are most proud of?

'I like experimenting with dishes I grew up with in Udupi, and giving them a contemporary reinvention. Some of my favourites are roasted beetroot rasam, ghee roast duck, chipotle chilli chicken, sea bass coconut rasa, coconut crab papdi and octopus varuval, to name a few.'

Hari Nayak | Coconut Papdi

Coconut crab papdi is one of Chef Nayak's signature dishes © Chef Hari Nayak

What challenges have you faced within the fine dining scene? 

'There is a gap in educating consumers about the diversity of our cuisine. It can also be challenging when customers are not willing to pay for top-quality ingredients and products. Indian cuisine has a long reputation of being cheap eats. Breaking that barrier to present an elevated experience and charge the right price is a challenge.' 

Has the perception of Indian food changed globally? Are there any trends you foresee? 

'It is changing rapidly. I believe we have a long way to go, but I am very positive that someday soon, Indian will be one of the top three popular cuisines in the world.

There are many young chefs who are part of this trend, of the elevated Indian dining experience. Some have taken it too far, and one questions the integrity of the dish - but I do feel it is necessary that as chefs we challenge ourselves, innovate, and make the cuisine progressive. Maintaining the right balance between traditions and innovation is the key. I foresee food going back to basics with simple ingredients, no-fuss presentation and a new focus on regional cooking.'

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Hotels in the Andaman Islands | Jalakara

Hotels in the Andaman Islands: An Interview with Jalakara Owner Mark Hill

Deep within the Andaman Islands – among the most remote places on Earth – you’ll find an oasis of luxury in the form of Jalakara. The newly opened boutique hotel, co-owned by London expats Mark Hill and Atalanta Weller, is located on the paradisiacal Havelock Island, where tropical jungles run almost straight up to the white sand beaches.

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Deep within the Andaman Islands - among the most remote places on Earth - you'll find an oasis of luxury in the form of Jalakara. The newly opened boutique hotel, co-owned by London expats Mark Hill and Atalanta Weller, is located on the paradisiacal Havelock Island, where tropical jungles run almost straight up to the white sand beaches.

Hotels in the Andaman Islands | Beach

The Andaman Islands are famous for their gorgeous beach and jungle scenery © Ed Reeve

One of the loveliest hotels in the Andaman Islands, the magical setting is only part of Jalakara's appeal: within the seven-room hotel, guests will discover contemporary design, an infinity pool, a delicious culinary programme, activities ranging from yoga classes to stargazing sessions, and a supreme air of relaxation. To learn more about this splendid venue, read on for our interview with Mark Hill. He gives us tips on his Andaman musts - and tells us why the best massages happen in the middle of the jungle. 

Greaves: First, tell us: how did you come to open a boutique hotel in the Andaman Islands? 

Mark Hill: 'Back in 2007, I had just sold my London restaurant business and was looking for the next step: ideally, somewhere that was the polar opposite to modern metropolitan living, and somewhere where I could build the hotel of my dreams. At that point, I only knew one person who had visited the Andaman Islands. He gave me the following advice: "Do yourself a favour - just go. It's paradise!" I went, he was right, and the rest is history.'

Hotels in the Andaman Islands | Jalakara

Jalakara is an oasis of comfort in the midst of Havelock Island © Ed Reeve

For many travellers, the Andaman Islands are still quite unknown. What would you say are the islands' top draws?

'The Andamans have a unique combination of clean, crystal-clear sea, gorgeous white sand beaches, and a stunningly lush rainforest interior that runs right down to the beach. The diving is amazing, and the local people - and other tourists - are friendly and welcoming.'

Your location is pretty paradisiacal - what are some of the natural highlights in the immediate vicinity of Jalakara? And what's worth venturing to slightly farther afield?

'Jalakara nestles into the side of a hill and backs onto rainforest. This beautifully tropical location gives us amazing, far-reaching views over the jungle, and our gardens are alive with rare tropical birds and butterflies. It is definitely worth chartering a boat and spending the day exploring the archipelago of uninhabited islands and virgin beaches in the region  - a true day in paradise!'

Hotels in the Andaman Islands | Pool

Jalakara's infinity pool overlooks the jungle foliage © Ed Reeve

How have hotels in the Andaman Islands - and the overall hospitality scene - evolved in the last few years?

'The hospitality scene has definitely changed in the nine years I've been coming to the Andamans. We are definitely better connected by air and sea than before. This has made more services and products available, and we can certainly offer significantly more comfort to guests - whilst retaining the magic of a frontier destination.'

Hotels in the Andaman Islands | Bar

The lounge bar is the perfect place for a lively evening drink © Ed Reeve

What are some of the exciting activities, both on the hotel grounds and beyond, that guests at Jalakara have to look forward to?

'The unpolluted Andaman sea is the main attraction of the islands. Whether you like fishing for tuna, snorkelling around the coral reefs, or scuba diving, the water teems with aquatic life. On land, a trek through the rainforest at sunrise for the dawn chorus is not to be missed. At Jalakara, life revolves around our Ozone infinity pool and lively lounge bar - think Bowers & Wilkins speakers, a groaning shelf of bar games, discreet staff and a great list of cocktails (I also run a gin company in London!). It's a perfect setting for sundowners and lively nights.'

Hotels in the Andaman Islands | Bedroom

Jalakara was built using traditional Indian techniques, materials and craftsmanship © Ed Reeve

Tell us more about the design ethos that underlies Jalakara.

'My objective was to create a contemporary, design-led, tropical hideaway that was true to its location and was at the same time friendly, welcoming and fun. We worked alongside the inspirational architect Ajith Andagere. Jalakara was built using very traditional Indian construction techniques, with the assistance of master craftsman from across the country, and natural materials ranging from wood, bamboo, stone, and clay to copper and pigmented, hand polished plaster. I am really pleased with how our vision has been realised.'

What is the cuisine of the Andaman Islands like, and how is it reflected in Jalakara's culinary programme?

'The Andaman Islands were mainly populated by Bengali settlers in the 1960s. As such, the prevalent cuisine on the islands is actually North Indian, but using the abundant seafood and tropical vegetables as substitutes for some of the more traditional ingredients. We make use of the ultra-fresh seafood and the bounty of tropical ingredients available to us, and our kitchen takes its cues from Thai and Vietnamese recipes as much as it does from South Indian cuisine.'

Hotels in the Andaman Islands | Sunset

Guests can watch the sunset from the comfort of their room © Ed Reeve

What are some of Jalakara's most luxurious creature comforts? What makes it a standout among the hotels in the Andaman Islands?

'Jalakara is all about the senses and relaxation. We believe luxury in the most remote of locations makes it all the more unexpected and spoiling. We have gorgeous cotton sheets, goose-feather toppers, down pillows, and giant, thick, pocket-sprung mattresses, all designed for the perfect night's sleep. Our toiletries are handmade in the Himalayas using 100% natural ingredients. And our spa is particularly memorable, as it's where you can receive an expert massage alongside the soothing soundtrack of the jungle.'

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Urban India | Rickshaws

Bright Lights, Big City: 15 Inspiring Images of Urban India

India is one of the world’s most vibrant and beautiful places, and nowhere is this more apparent than in its whirlwind cities. From colossal megalopolises to cities amidst Himalayan peaks, from ancient forts to modern skyscrapers, we’ve picked 15 photos of urban India that are pure inspiration. There’s only one question: where would you go first?

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"It was as if all my life I had been seeing the world in black and white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant technicolour."

So said former National Geographic Traveler editor Keith Bellows about his time in India, and who are we to argue? India is one of the world's most vibrant and beautiful places, and nowhere is this more apparent than in its whirlwind cities. From colossal megalopolises to cities amidst Himalayan peaks, from ancient forts to modern skyscrapers, we've picked 15 photos of urban India that are pure inspiration. There's only one question: where would you go first?

1. Delhi's famous Connaught Place is at its most beautiful during the golden hour, right before sunset.

Urban India | Connaught Place

 © SoumenNath/iStock

2. The Varanasi Ghats - which lead directly to the sacred Ganges River - epitomise the colour and frenetic activity of urban India.

Urban India | Varanasi Ghats

© aluxum/iStock

3. Next time you visit the Taj Mahal, pay attention to the crowds around you: people-watching at the famous landmark can be almost as captivating as the architecture.

Urban India | Taj Mahal

© powerofforever/iStock

4. One of the most iconic images of urban India: the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, which dates to the 19th century.

Urban India | Mumbai Terminus

© Predrag Vuckovic/iStock

5. Bordering Lake Pichola and in view of the Aravalli Hills, Udaipur is one of India's most stunning cities.

Urban India | Udaipur

© byheaven/iStock

6. In Delhi, navigating a rickshaw through the crowded streets is no easy task.

Urban India | Rickshaws

© Mattia Latini/iStock

7. It's no mystery why Jodhpur is known as "the Blue City."

Urban India | Jodhpur

© f9photos/iStock

8. Amritsar's Golden Temple may be at its most beautiful after sundown.

Urban India | Golden Temple

© Pavliha/iStock

9. Visiting Hyderabad? No trip is complete without visiting the striking Charminar mosque.

Urban India | Charminar

© Anantheswar/iStock

10. India's cities may be busy, but they still leave room for quiet contemplation. Head to the Amber Fort in Jaipur for a moment of beautiful tranquillity.

Urban India | Amber Fort

© Elena-studio/iStock

11. A whirlwind of colour, movement, and light, Delhi by night is no less active than during the day.

Urban India | Delhi Night

© Bartosz Hadyniak/iStock

12. In the foreground: the city of Darjeeling. In the background: Kanchenjunga, the world's third tallest mountain. It's hard to believe that locals could get used to this incredible view. 

Urban India | Darjeeling

© Bartosz Hadyniak/iStock

13. Who wouldn't want to go for a shopping excursion at this market in Jodhpur?

Urban India | Jodhpur Market

© helenecanada/iStock

14. For a moment of calm in busy Bangalore, Lalbagh Botanical Gardens are a must-visit.

Urban India | Bangalore

© Noppasin Wongchum/iStock

15. Whether it's your first time or a repeat visit, exploring India's cities is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Urban India | Mumbai

© helenecanada/iStock

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Indian Gardens | Lodhi Gardens

Five of the Most Beautiful Indian Gardens

Ready to explore some of India’s most beautiful, relaxing corners? It’s time to go on a botanical tour of the Subcontinent. We’ve handpicked five of the most beautiful Indian gardens to guide your floral explorations. From sprawling botanical creations and parks with 15th century landmarks to rose gardens, cactus gardens – even sculpture gardens – here’s where to indulge in a beautifully tranquil spell in the fresh air.

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Ready to explore some of India's most beautiful, relaxing corners? It's time to go on a botanical tour of the Subcontinent. We've handpicked five of the most beautiful Indian gardens to guide your floral explorations. From sprawling botanical creations and parks with 15th century landmarks to rose gardens, cactus gardens - even sculpture gardens - here's where to indulge in a beautifully tranquil spell in the fresh air. 

The Government Botanical Gardens, Ooty

Indian Gardens | Ooty Botanical Gardens

Ooty is a haven of green - and its Government Botanical Gardens are some of the most beautiful in India © Adam Jones/Flickr

Set amidst gorgeously green tea plantations and scenic, rolling hills, Ooty in Tamil Nadu is already a perfect destination for those after a natural retreat. But for a true garden oasis, be sure to visit the city's Government Botanical Gardens. Set across 55 acres, the terraced garden was first established in 1848. Today, it offers visitors the chance to wander amidst rose gardens, discover the public conservatory, seek relaxation in the arboretum and otherwise admire the more than 1,000 plant species on display. 

Brindavan Gardens, Mysore

Indian Gardens | Brindavan Gardens

The Brindavan Gardens are famous for their illuminated fountain show © saiko3p/iStock

Located along the Kaveri River in southern Karnataka, Mysore's Brindavan Gardens are among the most beautiful Indian gardens of all. Designed in the Mughal style, the symmetric gardens are spread across three terraces, and feature colourful flowerbeds, gazebos, fountains, and other scenic elements. If you're after an extra dose of showmanship, be sure to visit the Brindavan Gardens in the evening as well, when the popular illuminated fountain performance is held. 

Lodhi Gardens, Delhi

Indian Gardens | Lodhi Gardens

Delhi's Lodhi Gardens are an oasis in the busy city © bonniecaton/iStock

Within the chaotic heart of Delhi, the Lodhi Gardens offer visitors a touch of paradise. Spread across 90 acres, the park is a popular oasis for locals seeking a peaceful pause, but the Lodhi Gardens are also home to some of the city's most treasured architectural landmarks. A number of tombs of Sayyid and Lodhi rulers, dating as early as the 15th century, are dotted across the greenery, of which the Bara Gumbad and Shisha Gumbad are two of the most celebrated. The garden's lake - crossed by the arcaded Athpula Bridge - is another must-see for park visitors.

The Gardens of Chandigarh

Indian Gardens | Chandigarh Gardens

Chandigarh is a city of many gardens © rakheeghelani/iStock

It's no wonder that Chandigarh is known as The Garden City of India - it hosts a number of famous green spaces. The Nek Chand Rock Garden is a one-of-a-kind landmark that blends open-air sites with sculptural art, while the city's Rose Garden contains a staggering 50,000 plants. Then there's the Botanical Garden, Cactus Garden, and the 100-acre Pinjore Gardens. And beyond the gardens, it's worth knowing that the city of Chandigarh, capital of both Haryana and Punjab states, was famously designed by Le Corbusier - it's certainly not short on visual splendour.

Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur

Indian Gardens | Umaid Bhawan Palace

The Umaid Bhawan Palace isn't only famous for being one of the world's largest homes - its gardens are well-known, too © Taj Hotels

Completed in 1943, the colossal Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur has the distinction of being one of the world's largest residences. Home to the Jodhpur royal family, a heritage museum, as well as a Taj hotel property, it's a striking landmark in its own right. And for the green-fingered, it offers one further enchantment: one of the most beautiful Indian gardens. Comprising 15 acres, the manicured gardens are the perfect place to soak up the Rajasthani sun - while also admiring views of the famous Mehrangarh Fort in the distance.

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Indian Dosas | DOSA

Where to Eat Indian Dosas in San Francisco

Never tried a dosa? That’s a mistake we’d recommend rectifying immediately. These South Indian “pancakes” – thin, crepe-like, made from fermented rice and lentil batter, and stuffed with all matter of flavoursome fillings – are exceedingly, unabashedly delicious. And good news for those with large appetites: Indian dosas are generally cooked to generous proportions, and, even when folded, tend to extend beyond the edge of your plate.

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Never tried a dosa? That's a mistake we'd recommend rectifying immediately. These South Indian "pancakes" - thin, crepe-like, made from fermented rice and lentil batter, and stuffed with all matter of flavoursome fillings - are exceedingly, unabashedly delicious. And good news for those with large appetites: Indian dosas are generally cooked to generous proportions, and, even when folded, tend to extend beyond the edge of your plate.

In the US, there are few better places to try this specialty for yourself than in the Bay Area. The region's lively food scene has long made it a pilgrimage point for gastronomes, and its thriving Asian communities mean plenty of excellent restaurants to seek out. For those looking for quality, authentic fare, here are a few of our favourite places to try Indian dosas in San Francisco. 

DOSA

Indian Dosas | DOSA

Unsurprisingly, DOSA is one of the best places in San Francisco to try dosas © Aubrie Pick

Yes, it's little wonder that the aptly named DOSA is ground zero when it comes to Indian dosas in San Francisco. With locations in the Mission and Fillmore Districts, the stylish restaurant was founded by husband-and-wife team Anjan and Emily Mitra, and specialises in the diverse cuisine of South India. That means you can expect everything from idli sambar to Goan coconut masala on the menu, but dosas are, naturally, the true standout. Opt for the classic masala dosa, which is filled with spiced, mashed potatoes and onions, or choose from roughly a dozen other options, including spicy basil and white truffle masala dosas.

The Dosa Brothers

Indian Dosas | The Dosa Brothers

Operating across two stalls, The Dosa Brothers turn out quick, casual - and delicious - dosas © The Dosa Brothers

Offering a dosa experience that's slightly more casual - but no less delicious - are The Dosa Brothers, who sling their creations at two different open-air stalls. Their dosa menu is unfussy: diners can choose between a potato pea curry-stuffed or a paneer matter-filled option (or opt for a mix of both). The generously proportioned dosas are then topped up with coconut chutney, sambar and "awesome sauce" - a blend of sour cream, jalapenos, and coriander. The latter may not be traditional, but it is delicious.

Udupi Palace

Indian Dosas | Udupi Palace

Udupi Palace offers a dozen varieties of dosas to sample © eROMAZe/iStock

The ever-reliable Udupi Palace may not look like much, but who cares when the dosas are this delicious, and generous (for the record, the average dosa share the proportions of your arm)? Dosa novices here have a dozen varieties to pick from, ranging from the unadorned sada dosa to the Udupi Special Spring Dosa, a Mysore masala dosa crammed full of fresh veggies. For the complete South Indian experience, begin your meal with a bowl of spicy, brothy rasam and moreish idli sambar.

Juhu Beach Club 

Indian Dosas | Juhu Beach Club

At the inventive Juhu Beach Club, dosas are combined with Belgian waffles to create "doswaffles" © Juhu Beach Club

The Oakland-based Juhu Beach Club is many things: stylish, vibrant, and beloved by food world celebrities the likes of Anthony Bourdain. What it isn't is wholly traditional. While Juhu Beach Club may not sling traditional Indian dosas, what it offers weekend brunch diners instead is a one-of-a-kind hybrid: the dosa-waffle, or doswaffle. Described as a "union of the South Indian dosa with the Belgian-style waffle," they're served both sweet and savoury. The truly indulgent can even order theirs topped with green chilli fried chicken and black pepper butter.

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Default 10:19
Dev Shree | Night

Dev Shree: Exploring Rajasthan’s Magical New Guest House

The resplendent Dev Shree may look like an ancestral home, but what if we told you that this stunning guest house was actually brand new? Opened just last year by owners Bhavna Kumari and Shatrunjai Singh, the hotel is at once an architectural homage to traditional Rajasthan and a high-end stay full of modern comforts. To learn more about what it takes to construct a destination guest-house from scratch – and what makes Dev Shree special, from its airy courtyard and Mewari cookery to its sponsored village walks and evening Jeep excursions – we got the inside scoop from Bhavna Kumari herself.

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The resplendent Dev Shree may look like an ancestral home, but what if we told you that this stunning guest house was actually brand new? Opened just last year by owners Bhavna Kumari and Shatrunjai Singh, the hotel is at once an architectural homage to traditional Rajasthan and a high-end stay full of modern comforts.

To learn more about what it takes to construct a destination guest house from scratch - and what makes Dev Shree special, from its airy courtyard and Mewari cooking to its sponsored village walks and evening Jeep excursions - we got the inside scoop from Bhavna Kumari herself. 

Dev Shree | Night

Dev Shree looks like a heritage property, though it's actually a contemporary construction © Dev Shree

Greaves: Tell us about Dev Shree. What was the process like of creating the new guest house? 

Bhavna Kumari: 'Shatrunjai and I had planned to build a home for ourselves, which we envisioned as an extension of our personalities. We wanted to create the venue ourselves, without a designer. We drew up our plans and went to an architect for help with the structural design and construction details. Since we love meeting people and entertaining, our home had to be a place for friends and family to enjoy, and that's how the guest house came to be.' 

Dev Shree | Exterior

Dev Shree's carved stone columns are one of its many stunning architectural features © Dev Shree

What are some of Dev Shree's interesting architectural features? What makes it a classical Rajasthani guest house in looks?

'The house has been constructed in a traditional haveli style, characterised by deep verandas, pretty courtyards, and other Rajput architectural influences. The interiors are airy and spacious, and the décor has a contemporary twist. In the words of one of our guests, "gone is the musty, dusty feel so often associated with traditional rural properties."

The pillars, carved from a local stone from Nimbahera in Chittorgarh district, are probably the most interesting architectural feature of the property. They're meant to allude to the havelis and palaces of Udaipur - the style had to be true to the area. Also, all the bedrooms open out onto a central courtyard, which is a very typical Indian style - it's a lovely way of keeping the whole house cool in the summer and warm and cosy in the winter.'

What makes Deogarh such a special corner of Rajasthan to visit? Which local sights should guests be sure to see?

'Deogarh is at a height of 2,300 feet above sea level, which makes it cooler than most of Rajasthan. When cities like Jodhpur and Jaipur start to get warm in March and April, we can still have guests living comfortably. It's also a very scenic area, with mountains, lakes, and rock formations that make it greener, cooler and very different from other parts of Rajasthan. And, being almost in the centre of the state, we're within easy access of Jodhpur, Udaipur, and Jaipur, for guests who want to explore more of the region.'

Dev Shree | Room

A stylish guest room © Dev Shree

Tell us about the unique activities that Dev Shree offers to its guests.

'One of the unique activities is a special local train, which traverses down the Aravalli Hills and through the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary. It's a wonderful opportunity for guests to meet and travel with locals, and we send a guide from the hotel along as part of the complimentary trip. It makes for a morning well spent, as guests leave after breakfast and are back in time for lunch.

We also have an interactive session at a local tea stall, which Shatrunjai hosts. He invites local people as well as guests to interact and exchange views on the differences between Eastern and Western cultures. It's a brilliant exchange - we call it Chaibucks!

Additionally, we offer a guided village walk along Deogarh's artisan trail, where one can see the local potters, flag makers, tailors and carpenters at work. At the end, guests finish on Deogarh's high street, where bargains can be had on antiques, silver jewellery, textiles, or even spices.' 

Dev Shree | Cooking

Dev Shree's cookery programme focusses on celebrating local traditions © Dev Shree

Can you tell us more about the culinary programme at Dev Shree? What are some of your specialty dishes?

'The food at Dev Shree is the product of our personal kitchen, and it is true Indian home-cooked food, with local specialities and even a few continental dishes as part of the menu. It is not "hotel" food. We source many of our vegetables, fruit, and herbs from our own garden, and our grains and garlic come from our own farms. My mother-in-law's dairy supplies us our dairy products. We are working on preserving the region's traditional Mewari dishes, and they form part of our daily menu.'

Dev Shree | Courtyard

An interior courtyard view © Dev Shree

What other luxurious, unique amenities does the hotel offer?

'It's a simple luxury, but our hot, high-pressure showers are the best way to unwind in the evenings. We use Kama Ayurveda products, which is a high-end herbal toiletry brand. At the same time, we have a water harvesting system in place for environmental reasons.

We've also just constructed a swimming pool, which is set amidst palm trees. It has a salt-water filter, and is chlorine-free.'

Do you have any other exciting, future plans to share with us?

'There are plans in the works to expand our spa facilities, and we're currently working to offer Ayurvedic meals, massages, and yoga classes for our guests.

We are also planning to open a small boutique, which will stock uniquely local, high-end products. That should be ready for the coming season.'

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Indian Whisky Brands | Amrut Fusion

Indian Whisky Brands: An Essential Guide to India’s Craft Distilleries

For whisky lovers, there’s never been a better time to visit India. Forget the imports: in recent years, the country has seen the arrival of two Indian whisky brands dedicated to producing their own premium single malts.

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It's been a long time coming. Though Scottish single malts have been enjoyed in the Subcontinent since the mid-19th century, India's own craft-distilling culture has been slow to grow (despite the fact that India remains one of the world's top whisky consumers). It doesn't help that, in India, the bulk of the whisky being sold is distilled from molasses and blended - while this should make these spirits closer in nature to rum, the lack of geographical indications or protected definitions mean "whisky" has been used as a broad, catch-all term.

Indian Whisky Brands | Cocktail

India's whisky scene is on the rise © Kokova Ltd/Flickr

But times and tastes are changing, and India's blossoming distilling culture has produced whiskies of exceptional quality. Honey, cinnamon, and toast are adjectives frequently used to describe India's moreish craft whiskies, which are fruity and malt-forward; thanks to India's sultry climate, they also require less barrel-ageing to take on truly complex flavour profiles. From classic single malts to peated and flavoured whiskies, read on to learn more about the best Indian whisky brands to try on your next trip. 

Indian Whisky Brands | Stills

A behind-the-scenes glimpse reveals whisky stills © Paul John

Amrut

Though Amrut Distilleries has been in operation since the 1940s, it's only within the last 12 years that it's established itself as one of the foremost Indian whisky brands for single malt lovers.

Indian Whisky Brands | Amrut Fusion

Amrut Fusion was named the World's Third Best Whisky © Amrut

The distillery launched its first single malt expression - the very first in India, in fact - in 2004. In 2009, its Fusion Single Malt (a heavily oaked, complex expression) was named the World's Third Best Whisky in Jim Murray's Whisky Bible. And since then, Amrut has only continued to garner awards and acclaim for its exceptional distillations. It helps that Amrut works with high-quality ingredients; the distillery sources barley grown in the Himalayan foothills, so tasters can look forward to discovering true Indian terroir.

For sippers eager to sample, the classic Amrut expression is a good place to start. Lovers of Islay whiskies, meanwhile, should look for its well-rated Peated Indian Single Malt Whisky, which balances its strong, dry peat flavours with a good dose of brown sugar sweetness and a delicious, butterscotch finish. Those after a first-hand experience can additionally reach out to the distillery; Amrut offers regular tours of its Bangalore headquarters.

Paul John

Indian Whisky Brands | Paul John

Paul John has been making exceptional single malts since 2008 © Daryl Jewell/Flickr

Paul John has also emerged as a standout in the Indian single malt scene. Like Amrut, John Distilleries, founded in 1992, had a history of producing blended, molasses whiskies. But in 2008, it moved into the single-malt market with its Goa-based distillery, and those expressions have won plenty of fans and acclaim since.

Paul John's production begins with Himalayan-grown barley, which is distilled using Indian-made copper pot stills and then aged in American white oak barrels during the maturation process. The distillery now produces a wide range of expressions; the vibrant, bourbon-barrel aged Brilliance is a good place to begin, while the exclusive range of single-cask distillations, available both peated and unpeated, capture the very essence of Indian single malts.

Indian Whisky Brands | Paul John Distillery

Paul John's barrel-ageing programme © Paul John

No matter your tastes, don't hesitate to try Indian whisky on your next trip to the Subcontinent. India's burgeoning whisky scene truly deserves a toast.

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Bujera Fort | Pool

Udaipur’s First Boutique Hotel: An Interview with Bujera Fort Owner Richard Hanlon

Though Bujera Fort, located west of Lake Pichola, has only been open since autumn of last year, it looks like it’s been around for centuries. Designed to resemble a historic Rajasthani fort, the hotel is brimming with vintage accessories and traditional architectural flourishes. It’s a veritable oasis of luxury and comfort in a quiet stretch of the Aravalli Hills.To learn more about this standout venue – and why it’s a must-stay for travellers to Rajasthan – we spoke with owner Richard Hanlon.

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Though Bujera Fort, located west of Lake Pichola, has only been open since autumn of last year, it looks like it's been around for centuries. Designed to resemble a historic Rajasthani fort, the hotel is brimming with vintage accessories and traditional architectural flourishes. It's a veritable oasis of luxury and comfort in a quiet stretch of the Aravalli Hills.

Opened by English owners Richard Hanlon and Trish McFarlane, the gorgeous new venue has the distinction of being Udaipur's very first boutique hotel, and is already being celebrated by the likes of Condé Nast Traveller. To learn more about this standout venue - and why it's a must-stay for travellers to Rajasthan - we went straight to the source.

Bujera Fort | Pool

Bujera Fort was designed to look like a historic Rajasthani landmark © Bujera Fort

Greaves: Bujera Fort has the distinction of being Udaipur's first boutique hotel. Can you tell us what inspired you to open it?

Richard Hanlon: 'Firstly, Trish and I didn't want to grow old in the UK, and we needed something to do. So, why not a holiday home in India? I got the idea after reading These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach, which was the source and inspiration for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films. Funnily enough, the films were actually made in Udaipur, and had we managed to open in time, the cast of the second film might have stayed here!

While we first imagined owning a haveli on the lake, in the end, we found a large plot of land west of Lake Pichola in the Aravalli Hills, which overlooks the palaces and surrounding fields.'

Bujera Fort | Pavilion

Bujera Fort was constructed using salvaged, locally sourced materials © Bujera Fort

You built Bujera Fort from scratch. What was the construction process like? What features makes the property special?

'It was a long process, between finding the location for the hotel and opening it - there followed two years of bureaucracy and almost six years of construction. We wanted Bujera Fort to feel like a traditional haveli, but with all the modern comforts, and with no steps (except the staircases). The idea was that it should look as if it had always been here - and most people now think it has!

We used salvaged materials wherever possible, and only made six doors and five windows - the rest were sourced from all over Gujarat and Rajasthan. The building also features cloister columns that were hand-carved on site, light fittings made to our designs in Firozabad, and copies of lanterns made in Belgium in the 19th century for the Royal Palaces in Bhuj. Local marble was used everywhere, and we sourced vintage Indian ikat fabrics and quilts, as well as modern British textiles.

Then there are a few special details: the sofas in the library, for example, were reupholstered with linen that began life as my grandmother's dining room curtains! We commissioned silver four-poster beds, found a baby grand piano which we covered in silver, and sourced furniture and antiques from Rajasthan and beyond. It is very much home to us now, and most importantly, we want our guests to feel that it is their home, too. And I think we've been successful - we've had guests who stayed for three days in December returning for three more weeks in February!'

Bujera Fort | Room

Each room is full of beautiful, colourful touches © Bujera Fort

What are some of the special amenities available to Bujera Fort's guests?

'The fort is built around a huge courtyard with a central swimming pool. Surrounding it are wide cloisters with two large pavilions for dining and relaxing. For those looking to soak up sun, we have a Moghul garden with a fountain and private seating areas, a vintage swing, and extensive gardens with many terraces and areas for quiet contemplation.

We also have a well-stocked library, a drawing room with a piano, and six working fireplaces for chilly December nights. The kitchen is open to guests at all times, and the chefs are very happy to do cookery demonstrations and make anything special. And for those missing home, we offer afternoon tea, with a special selection of teas and cakes - even homemade hob nobs!

Outside of the hotel, there are many places to potter and sit and enjoy the exuberant wildlife and the views of the City Palace, Monsoon Palace, and the Aravalli Hills. We have bicycles for guest use, and also offer village walks and more serious walking trips in the surrounding hills.

This year, we also have some exciting updates; our spa will open this season, and will offer yoga sessions, a world-class in-house physiotherapist, and three treatment rooms (one for couples). We'll also be opening our shop in September, which will stock textiles, vintage architectural artefacts, drawings, and all sorts of other unique local souvenirs.'

Bujera Fort | Courtyard

A beautiful view of the central courtyard © Bujera Fort

Tell us more about your Aravalli Hills location. Do you offer excursions or opportunities for guests to explore the region?

'As mentioned, we offer village and hill walks. We're also in partnership with a company that offers serious cycling tours around the region every day.

We're also close to a number of incredible local sights. Within a two-hour drive, guests can encounter the Jain Temples at Ranakpur, the Kumbhalgarh Fort, the Eklingji Temple, and the Fort and Palace at Dungarpur. And for those who don't mind going a little farther, we're about four hours from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, which has one of the finest textile museums in the country. The area is so rich in sights that really, the list is endless.'

Bujera Fort | Evening

Guests can relax in Bujera Fort's open-air pavilions © Bujera Fort

How is Bujera Fort a green resort? What eco-friendly policies do you have in place?

'Bujera Fort has virtually zero emissions. We collect almost every drop of water that falls on our roof, which is stored in large underground tanks. Water heating is largely solar, the lighting is 100% LED, and virtually all the windows and doors are salvaged. And one of the most unique touches: our roof is insulated by over 70,000 handmade clay pots!'

Bujera Fort | Garden

Bujera Fort's organic garden supplies much of its produce © Bujera Fort

What are some of Udaipur's unmissable attractions that you would recommend to guests?

'Udaipur has so many unmissable sights. There's the City Palace Museum, which was built in the 16th century and is home to the finest collection of miniature paintings in the world, as well as the stunning Crystal Gallery. Lake Pichola is beautiful all year, and visitors can take sunset cruises with a stop on Jag Mandir Island, where they can see its magnificent gardens and 16th-century buildings.

Then there's the Vintage and Classic Car Collection Museum, the historic Bagore-Ki-Haveli in the Old City, and the Gardens of the Maids of Honour. Visitors should encounter the wonders of the Old City and its vegetable, spice, and flower markets. Then there's the Jagdish Temple, and the Ganesh Emporium: one of the most handsome buildings in town, and home to a treasure trove of textiles old and new, within a series of courtyards and endless rooms full of magical things to buy. Not to be missed.'

When is the best time of year to visit Udaipur?

'The official season is September to March; however, April is a glorious time to visit, when it's just getting warmer. May and June are hot, but the flowers are out and the trees are in full bloom, with jacaranda, flame of the forest, and hedgerows ablaze with colour. It's quiet and peaceful. Even during the monsoon in July and August, it can be beautiful. At that time of year, Udaipur is wonderfully green, the rivers are flowing, and it's a marvelous time to enjoy India in relative peace.'

Bujera Fort | Hotel

The hotel is a perfect base for exploring Udaipur and Rajasthan © Bujera Fort

Wellness is an important part of your dining programme. Do you have other wellness initiatives?

'Wellness is at the very heart of Bujera Fort. We are totally produce-driven, have a policy of cooking fresh food every day, and have a large organic vegetable garden, which provides much of our food. We source much of our meat locally and have plans to make our own goat cheese in the future. Otherwise, we cater to all kinds of special diets, and use as little salt and sugar as possible.

From 16th - 22nd October this year, we are also offering a special Mindfulness Week package. During the six-night stay, guests will enjoy wellness meals, daily yoga, hill walks and other activities, and consultations with Terrence the Teacher, a London-based mindfulness coach.'

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Adventure Sports in India | Surfing

Seven of the Most Thrilling Adventure Sports in India

India may be the perfect destination for a pampering spa trip, a luxurious train tour, or a laidback beach holiday. But don’t forget that the Subcontinent is also a destination for adrenaline junkies. From white water rafting along choppy Himalayan waters to rock climbing in the Aravalli Range, there’s no shortage of thrilling adventure sports in India. Here’s where to get your blood pumping.

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India may be the perfect destination for a pampering spa trip, a luxurious train tour, or a laidback beach holiday. But don't forget that the Subcontinent is also a destination for adrenaline junkies. From white water rafting along choppy Himalayan waters to rock climbing in the Aravalli Range, there's no shortage of thrilling adventure sports in India. Here's where to get your blood pumping. 

White Water Rafting in Rishikesh

Adventure Sports in India | Rishikesh

In Rishikesh, the churning rapids of the Ganges are perfect for white water rafting © alexsl/iStock

In the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, the Ganges flows down from the mountains to the plains below. No wonder its waters are choppy and fast moving along this stretch - and for visitors to the sacred city of Rishikesh, white water rafting is the perfect way to harness those currents. A number of tour operators offer rafting experiences, which range from the placid to the intense.

Zip Lining in Jodhpur

Adventure Sports in India | Zip Lining

A zip line adventure is one of the best ways to take advantage of Jodhpur's incredible scenery © KittyKaht/Flickr

When it comes to adventure sports in India, it's hard to have a more memorable experience than the Flying Fox zip line in Jodhpur - it helps, after all, that the zip tour comprises more than 1,150 metres of flight, all with breathtaking views of the iconic Mehrangarh Fort. 

Rock Climbing in the Aravalli Range

Adventure Sports in India | Aravalli Range

One of the world's oldest mountain ranges, the Aravalli Range is also ideal for climbers © Daniel Bhim-Rao/iStock

When it comes to memorable rock climbing locations, it's hard to do better than the Aravalli Range. Stretching from Delhi through Rajasthan and into Gujarat, it's one of the world's oldest mountain ranges, and offers incredible views (and opportunities to scale the granite heights). Follow adrenaline seekers to popular climbing sites at Dhauj, Damdama, and Nuh in Haryana.

Hot Air Ballooning in Pushkar

Adventure Sports in India | Hot Air Balloons

The best way to drink in Rajasthani views? By hot air balloon, of course © Bijoliane/Flickr

The desert city of Pushkar in Rajasthan isn't only famous for its annual Camel Fair (though that earns it plenty of international acclaim) - it's also a destination for hot air ballooning. During the multi-hour journeys, visitors will be able to drink in the views, including the shining Pushkar Lake. 

Mountain Biking AND MOTORCYCLING in Ladakh

Adventure Sports in India | Ladakh

Hilly Ladakh draws adventurous travellers with its rugged scenery © kiramogilenskikh/iStock

There's nothing like biking through the Himalayas to feel the burn - or enjoy the scenery. It's no surprise, then, that Ladakh in Kashmir is a magnet for mountain bikers and motorcyclists. Whether they take to the Khardungla Pass - the world's highest motorable road - or simply thread through the region's many stunning trails, it's bound to be the ride of a lifetime.

Scuba Diving in the Andaman Islands

Adventure Sports in India | Scuba Diving

The Andaman Islands rival the Caribbean for their pristine scuba diving conditions © Louise Ireland/Flickr

Glance quickly at the Andaman Islands and you could easily think you were in the Caribbean - those brilliant white beaches, those turquoise waters, those tropical palm trees waving in the breeze! This chain of islands also happens to be home to some of the best scuba diving in the region. Strap on those flippers and discover rainbow-coloured fish, coral reefs, and other submarine scenes.

Surfing in Tamil Nadu

Adventure Sports in India | Surfing

Tamil Nadu is a popular pilgrimmage point for daring surfers © Wings and Petals/Flickr

Looking to hang ten on your next trip to India? Make your way to Tamil Nadu in the South, which is home to some of the Subcontinent's best-known surfing spots. Follow the pros to areas like Mahabalipuram and Covelong - and if you're in more of a spectatorial frame of mind, look out for the Covelong Point Classic Surf, Music, and Yoga Festival for some jaw-dropping surf performances, on the water and off.

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Default 10:59
The Bagel Shop | Terrace

Classic Mumbai Restaurants: Celebrating 10 Years of The Bagel Shop

When it comes to Mumbai’s must-visit restaurants, don’t forget to add The Bagel Shop to your list. Bagels in Mumbai may sound surprising…but this local landmark goes well beyond a casual place to fill up on carbs.

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When it comes to Mumbai's must-visit restaurants, don't forget to add The Bagel Shop to your list. Bagels in Mumbai may sound surprising…but this local landmark goes well beyond a casual place to fill up on carbs.

The Bagel Shop | Terrace

The Bagel Shop is celebrating 10 years in Bandra in 2016 © Prashant Bhat

Opened 10 years ago, The Bagel Shop, located in the city's trendy Bandra neighbourhood, has long functioned as a creative hub where writers, filmmakers, DJs, entrepreneurs and expats gather. Sandwiched (pardon the pun) between the Carter Road Promenade and posh Pali Hill, its sunlit terraces are packed with laptop warriors, and its coffee is some of the best in the neighbourhood. And its food? Bagels certainly are one of the menu's main focuses, but The Bagel Shop's eclectic, East-meets-West cuisine also goes well beyond breakfast. 

The Bagel Shop | Interior

The Bagel Shop is a local landmark for its food and creative scene © Prashant Bhat

Anil Kably, the restaurateur behind the now-iconic eatery, recalls that when the idea of a bagel cafe was proposed to him in 2004, he thought it was a joke. Kably and his Dutch business partner Matan Schabracq were riding high on the success of Zenzi, their late-night Bandra venue known for its electronic music DJs. It was Schabracq's idea to open up a breakfast hangout. "I was sceptical. But Matan was insistent that at the end of the day, it's just a sandwich. He said - you have the money, give it to me! So I gave it to him," Kably recalls, laughing. 

At the time, Bandra was changing and there was an influx of new culinary possibility. "Expats chose Bandra as a home because of the way it looked," Kably reflects. "The European vibe was familiar and had a comfort factor. At the same time, there was also an influx of younger people coming from all over the country. They found Bandra was their spot - tolerant, liberal. We just happened to be there at the right time."

The Bagel Shop | Chorizo Bagel

The chorizo bagel is an Indian twist on the breakfast staple, and one of The Bagel Shop's most popular dishes © Jill Dsouza

The Bagel Shop was immediately successful among the neighbourhood's creative and expat sets; housed in what was once a garment factory, the relaxed space is well-suited to lazy breakfasts. While the menu includes classics like lox and cream cheese bagels, some of the more popular items - including a Goan chorizo bagel sandwich - reflect local tastes.

But it's The Bagel's Shop's just-debuted evening menu that's winning it new acclaim. Designed by chef Lester Pereira, the Quiemada Menu is a celebration of Bandra's culinary diversity. Featuring East Indian dishes - Bandra has a large population of East Indian immigrants - combined with Portuguese flavours, it's a neighbourhood first. 

The Bagel Shop | Restaurant

The restaurant's new Quiemada menu caters to evening diners after something different © Prashant Bhat

"With Quiemada, we are celebrating Bandra," says Kably. "Before the British, the Portuguese were here. From them, the community has enjoyed Portuguese-influenced dishes like vindaloo and sorpotel."

Adding a liberal dash of East Indian flavour to the menu, meanwhile, is 'bottle masala,' a classic spice mix whose recipe is passed down generation-to-generation and guarded jealously. Traditionally, the spices are roasted, pounded by hand and then stored in brown beer bottles to shade them from the sun - hence the name.

The Bagel Shop | Pickled Chicken

Dishes on the Quiemada menu feature Portuguese and East Indian influences © Jill Dsouza

As Kably goes into raptures over his favourite dish - Beef Olives, which includes smoked bacon, diced potatoes, and carrots wrapped in an escalope of beef - Chef Lester Pereira also highlights the Mutton Khuddi, a dish of tender mutton cooked in aromatic spices and a roasted coconut gravy. "East Indian food looks spicy, but because we use Kashmiri chilli, it's actually quite mild," says the chef, so chilli-averse travellers shouldn't be afraid to sample.

Whether you're craving the comfort foods of home or are looking to sample new Indian flavours, The Bagel Shop remains one of Mumbai's most surprising and beloved eateries. Few other restaurants better symbolise the city's intermingling of culinary traditions. 

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Chef Vikas Khanna | Vikas Khanna

From Amritsar to New York: An Interview with Chef Vikas Khanna

Though he helms the kitchen at Junoon in New York City, Chef Vikas Khanna didn’t grow up with soaring culinary aspirations – but he achieved them nonetheless. The Amritsar-born chef has gone from being a child who ‘just wanted to be invisible’ to a culinary ambassador who’s cooked for the Dalai Lama and President Obama, served as a judge on MasterChef, and even earned a Michelin star. From his start cooking with his grandmother to the moment he made Gordon Ramsay laugh, read more to learn about Khanna’s incredible journey into the culinary stratosphere.

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Though he helms the kitchen at Junoon in New York City, Chef Vikas Khanna didn't grow up with soaring culinary aspirations - but he achieved them nonetheless. The Amritsar-born chef has gone from being a child who 'just wanted to be invisible' to a culinary ambassador who's cooked for the Dalai Lama and President Obama, served as a judge on MasterChef, and even earned a Michelin star. From his start cooking with his grandmother to the moment he made Gordon Ramsay laugh, read more to learn about Khanna's incredible journey into the culinary stratosphere.

Chef Vikas Khanna | Vikas Khanna

Chef Vikas Khanna is one of the brightest lights in modern Indian cooking © Vikas Khanna

Greaves: You got your start cooking with your grandmother. How has that influence translated into your food?

Chef Vikas Khanna: 'I wanted to be invisible as a child, and used to go to the kitchen with my grandmother to hide. When you're raised in a lower-middle class family, you cook the same food every day - you just use different seasonal vegetables, since what is seasonal is available in abundance and hence the cheapest. Our food at home was soulful, healing and comforting. Today, I still try to bring this simplicity and soul into my dishes.

I didn't have an American dream. I thought I could just come and work in a small restaurant, and that people back home wouldn't notice I was missing! At the time, Indian culture was coming to the fore, and the Indian food scene was expanding in the United States. In big cities like New York, diners wanted to know more about Indian food, culture and heritage. Sometimes when you don't ask too much of life, the universe starts planning for you.'

Chef Vikas Khanna | Junoon Dish

Junoon is one of New York's two Michelin-starred Indian restaurants © Junoon

What do you think makes your style of contemporary Indian cooking appealing to diverse palates?

'Typically, the first time Americans taste Indian food isn't in India - either it's at home, or they travel to England, fall in love with the curry shops there, and want to try more upon their return.

I do a lot of tasting menus, which is a newer concept within Indian restaurants. I don't change the essence of the food; I use Western ingredients but treat them with Indian flavours. One of my desserts is a good example of this: I made a South Indian-inspired chocolate roll smoked in sandalwood and served with coconut tapioca pudding. Instead of pistachios on the pudding, I made pistachio-flavoured poppadums and served fresh haldi (turmeric) ice cream on the side.

Food is one of the greatest Indian imports, and the soft power of the country. And here in the US, when people know a chef is passionate about his cooking, it gets a lot of attention. You might even get invited to the White House!'

Chef Vikas Khanna | Junoon Dessert

A citrusy dessert at Junoon © Junoon

How did your time on MasterChef  happen?

'I truly believe that when I moved to America, I just changed my postcode. I still work with Punjabis, still make the food that I know, and I still speak Pinglish! The first time I met Gordon Ramsay, I said, "Chef, you really expired me. I have all your books." Astonished, he asked what he had done to me! He started laughing and said "I've got to get you on TV!" When you do something authentic, people become very forgiving.'

Chef Vikas Khanna | Culinary Museum

Chef Vikas Khanna is in the midst of establishing a culinary museum in India © Vikas Khanna

You're currently working on a culinary museum project in Manipal - can you tell us more about this?

'When I was 17, my dad bought me a tandoor. It holds so many memories for me, and my museum project is ultimately a way of thanking my father for this gesture. The museum will showcase India's amazingly diverse cooking utensils, and the heritage they represent. In India, the big cities are too cosmopolitan but in the remote areas, many traditional utensils are still in use. 

In New York, I had amassed an incredible collection of 10,000 utensils, and I had a mourning ceremony before shipping them off. But you have to be the custodian of the heritage. Also, America gave me a second life - the utensils also deserve a second life instead of being melted or discarded.'

Chef Vikas Khanna | Chef Vikas Khanna

Vikas Khanna has cooked for luminaries like President Obama and the Dalai Lama © Vikas Khanna

Can you offer one tip to readers travelling to India for the first time?

'A traveller should never refuse an invitation to a local's home. If you're approachable, people will invite you - and you'll discover the kind of food you'll never find in restaurants. Indians are very hospitable and you'll understand India when you eat with the people.'

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Navratri Festival | Dancers

An Essential Guide to the Navratri Festival

There are few better times to be in India than during the Navratri Festival, one of the most important dates in the Hindu calendar. Though several iterations of the festival are celebrated throughout the year, the most important edition of Navratri falls at the beginning of October (1st – 10th in 2016), and coincides with the harvest season. It’s a time of great colour, dance, and celebration – and visitors to Gujarat, where some of the liveliest festivities are held, are in for a spellbinding experience.

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There are few better times to be in India than during the Navratri Festival, one of the most important events in the Hindu calendar. Though several iterations of the festival are celebrated throughout the year, the most important edition of Navratri falls at the beginning of October (1st - 10th in 2016), and coincides with the harvest season. It's a time of great colour, dance, and celebration - and visitors to Gujarat, where some of the liveliest festivities are held, are in for a spellbinding experience. 

Navratri Festival | Dancers

Navratri is one of India's most ebullient festivals © Gujarat Tourism

Navratri, whose Sanskrit name translates to "nine nights," celebrates the victory of good over evil. It's also the time when three different forms of female divinity are honoured: Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswathi, who are said, respectively, to destroy vices, bestow spiritual wealth, and foster wisdom. For those who are celebrating the festival, the spiritual devotion translates to dance - and lots of it.

Navratri Festival | Performers

Performers engage in several traditional dances during Navratri © Gujarat Tourism

The Navratri Festival is said to be one of the world's longest dance festivals, and for nine nights, revellers participate in a number of traditional dances. In Gujarat, one of the key dances is the Garba, which is performed to honour Durga and divine motherhood, and sees participants circle around a glowing lamp. Typically, dancers wear brightly coloured, lavishly embroidered outfits, as well as heavy jewellery, resulting in a gorgeous devotional spectacle.

Navratri Festival | Dance

Navratri is described as one of the world's longest dance festivals © Gujarat Tourism

Another traditional Navratri dance is the Dandiya Raas, which follows the Garba performances. The high-energy dance consists of complicated choreography between male and female participants, who perform while holding and hitting dandiyas - small sticks that are meant to symbolise Durga's swords. In recent years, these traditional dances have also been supplemented by evenings of acoustic music, contemporary dance, and other glittering performances.

Navratri Festival | Lanterns

Flickering lanterns and candles are an important part of the festivities © Gujarat Tourism

In addition to dance, the Navratri Festival inspires other forms of celebration and devotion: think feasts of generous proportions, an abundance of flickering earthenware lanterns lit to symbolise divine power, and beautifully elaborate costumes. Navratri is also thought to be an auspicious time to buy gold jewellery, so those who are after an excuse to indulge in some glittering tokens would do well to visit the gold markets that cater to seasonal shoppers.

Looking to experience the colour and joy of the Navratri Festival for yourself? While even small villages across Gujarat will be hosting events of their own, for access to the widest range of events, it's wise to plan a stay in Ahmedabad, the state's largest city. Look for large-scale dance events that blend the modern and the traditional.

Navratri Festival | Performance

A number of large-scale performances are held in Ahmedabad © Gujarat Tourism

In addition to the many performances and events held in Ahmedabad, visitors can learn more about traditional Gujarati culture during their time in the city. Heritage Walks are a popular way to explore, and travellers can also pay homage to Gandhi at the Sabarmati Ashram and discover local landmarks like the multi-hued Swaminarayan Temple. Other holy sights in the region - including the Ambaji Temple - also draw their share of devotees. But whatever's on your agenda, don't miss the chance to enjoy the Navratri Festival in all of its energy and splendour. 

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Luxury Backpacking | Goa

Hampi and Goa: The New Luxury Backpacking Trail

For a long time, both Hampi – a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Karnataka – and the beaches of Goa were magnets for India’s backpacking crowd. And while the two destinations still offer up many possibilities for those after a laidback journey, a number of new hospitality offerings are refashioning both as hubs on the luxury backpacking trail. From high-end train journeys to top-rated boutique hotels, 2016 is the year to discover the stylish sides of Hampi and Goa. After all, everyone needs a bit of pampering now and then.

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For a long time, both Hampi - a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Karnataka - and the beaches of Goa were magnets for India's backpacking crowd.

Luxury Backpacking | Goa

Goa is now a destination for the luxury backpacking circuit © Necip Yanmaz/iStock

And while the two destinations still offer up many possibilities for those after a laidback journey, a number of new hospitality offerings are refashioning both as hubs on the luxury backpacking trail. From high-end train journeys to top-rated boutique hotels, 2016 is the year to discover the stylish sides of Hampi and Goa. After all, everyone needs a bit of pampering now and then. 

Hampi

Hampi is, without a doubt, one of the most extraordinary sites in all of India. The landmark consists of the ruins of a once-thriving capital city, which was pillaged in the 16th century. The remnants today include temple complexes, shrines, and other architectural flourishes.

Luxury Backpacking | Orange County Hampi

Orange County Hampi is now open on the very outskirts of Hampi © Orange County Resorts

For many years, basic backpacker hotels were the primary hospitality offering in the region. That's changed this year with the opening of Orange County Hampi, the newest resort in the group's portfolio of high-end properties, and perfect for visitors on the luxury backpacking trail. Located just between Hampi and the city of Hospet, the hotel may be newly built, but it was designed to mirror the historic Vijayanagar architecture of the region. Guests are invited to go on customised tours of Hampi's ruins by day and enjoy the hotel's lavish amenities by night - including in-room Jacuzzis, a spa, pool, and two on-site restaurants.

Luxury Backpacking | Hampi

Travellers can also explore Hampi during a luxury train journey © byheaven/iStock

Prefer to do your sightseeing and your relaxing all at once? Deccan Odyssey, one of India's top luxury train providers, is now offering a Jewels of the Deccan itinerary, an eight-day journey that transports guests from Mumbai to Hampi and back again. During their time in Hampi, visitors will be able to discover the ruins up-close, walk along the Tungabhadra River and explore Hampi's Royal Centre before returning to the train and continuing on their way. 

Goa

Though it's a popular destination among students on gap years and the beach party set, Goa is more than just its nightlife. In recent years, the seaside destination has quietly expanded its range of destination-worthy boutique stays - and now, for luxury-seekers, there's plenty to discover. 

Luxury Backpacking | Ahilya By The Sea

Ahilya by the Sea is one of Goa's most coveted boutique stays © Ahilya by the Sea

Opened last year, Ahilya by the Sea has already earned a distinction as one of Goa's most coveted stays. Overlooking Coco Beach (and with an infinity pool all its own), this hotel is all about cultivating an air of luxurious relaxation, whether that means going for a paddle, reading on the veranda, or enjoying the house chef's delicious curries.

Luxury Backpacking | Elsewhere

Elsewhere is a hidden-away boutique gem © Elsewhere

Beyond Ahilya, those only familiar with the chaos of northern Goa will be surprised to learn that the region is a haven for other tranquil boutique stays. The hidden-away Avanilaya - which doesn't even have any signs to advertise it - is surrounded by lush tropical foliage, and includes three stylish villas. Elsewhere is another of Goa's best-kept secrets, though its beachy location along the Arabian Sea makes it ideal for sun-worshippers.  

All this goes to show that you don't have to rough it to see some of India's prettiest corners. Hit the luxury backpacking trail and prepare for a stylish mode of discovery.

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Rishikesh Guide | Rishikesh

A Beginner’s Rishikesh Guide: 10 Things to Discover

Whether you’re drawn by the Himalayan views, crave the adventure of white water rafting, are studying yoga or are simply intrigued by the aura of spirituality, it’s about time you discovered Rishikesh. Located in wild and beautiful Uttarakhand, this small city has ancient heritage, but first gained international fame in the late 1960s, thanks to a timely visit by the Beatles. Nowadays, this beautiful city appeals to all kinds of travellers – and our beginner’s Rishikesh guide will help you make the most of your explorations.

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Whether you're drawn by the Himalayan views, crave the adventure of white water rafting, are studying yoga or are simply intrigued by the aura of spirituality, it's about time you discovered Rishikesh. Located in wild and beautiful Uttarakhand, this small city has ancient heritage, but first gained international fame in the late 1960s, thanks to a timely visit by the Beatles. Nowadays, this beautiful city appeals to all kinds of travellers - and our beginner's Rishikesh guide will help you make the most of your explorations. 

1. Yoga Retreats

It's no accident that Rishikesh is also known as the 'Yoga Capital of the World' - it's home to dozens of prominent ashrams, where yoga classes - and the pursuit of enlightenment - are taken seriously. Parmarth Niketan, one of the largest ashrams in the country, is an excellent place to start.

Rishikesh Guide | White Water Rafting

White water rafting is one of Rishikesh's biggest draws © BostjanT/iStock

2. White Water Rafting

Though Rishikesh is renowned as a spiritual centre, it's also well suited to adventurers and adrenaline junkies. Some of the city's biggest thrills come from its white water rafting excursions, which are held along a choppy and fast-moving portion of the Ganges River (though less experienced rafters will also have the chance to paddle along calmer stretches). 

3. Day Treks

Rishikesh has the advantage of being positioned at the gateway to the Himalayas: prime trekking territory, in other words. While many embark from the city on multi-day Himalayan trips, shorter journeys are also on offer; a trek to the nearby Kunjapuri Temple is one popular option.

Rishikesh Guide | Ganga Aarti

The Ganga Aarti is a sacred ritual held each night along the Ganges © triloks/iStock

4. The Ganga Aarti

The Ganges is more than just a river: in India, this sacred waterway is considered to be a goddess. Join devotees for the special Ganga Aarti ceremony in Rishikesh. Held every evening, the ritual consists of devotional songs, prayers, and fire offerings.

5. The Beatles Ashram

No Rishikesh guide would be complete without the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram. It's what put this city on the international map: in 1968, the Beatles paid a visit to learn the ins and outs of transcendental meditation. Once a spiritual pilgrimage point, the abandoned ashram is now frequented by fans of the Fab Four.

Rishikesh Guide | Bridge

Historic suspension bridges offer up beautiful Rishikesh views © saiko3p/iStock

6. Walk the Suspension Bridges

One of the most scenic ways to take in Rishikesh's sights is by bridge. Cross the Ganges on the Ram Jhula or the Lakshman Jhula - historic, pedestrianised iron suspension bridges - and reward yourself with a trip to a teahouse once you've reached the other side. Just a word of warning: the bridges tend to sway on windy days.

7. Take a Boat Trip

If white water rafting is a touch too extreme for your tastes, you can still chart your way down the Ganges on a riverboat tour. Shorter day-cruises are offered by local tour operators, as are multi-day journeys along the river.

Rishikesh Guide | Rishikesh

The shores of the Ganges were made for picnics © ivan604/iStock

8. Picnic Along the River

It may sound unlikely - Rishikesh is very, very far from the sea - but along the Ganges, visitors will find some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in all of India. Camping is popular among travellers who don't mind roughing it, but a picnic is a perfectly lovely way to experience these shores.

9. Trek to the Source of the Ganges

The Ganges originates in the Gangotri Glacier, a rugged segment of the Himalayas in the very north of Uttarakhand. Those after an adventure of epic scope can embark from Rishikesh on a multi-day trek to the river's source, through some of the most beautiful terrain on Earth.

Rishikesh Guide | Ananda

Ayurveda, yoga, and meditation are the perfect way to wind up a Rishikesh holiday © Ananda in the Himalayas

10. End with a Stay at Ananda in the Himalayas

After all the trekking and sightseeing, the rafting and exploring, the best way to wind down our Rishikesh guide? A soothing dip in to the world of Ayurveda, we say. Treat yourself to a stay at Ananda in the Himalayas, where Ayurvedic treatments, beautiful nature, meditation sessions, and other soothing offerings are on tap.

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Indian Wildlife | Leopard

Lions and Tigers and Bears (and Beyond): 15 Unbelievable Photos of Indian Wildlife

The Jungle Book was no lie: India really is home to some of the most magnificent animals on the planet. From striking Bengal tigers to herds of majestic elephants, from shy leopards and lazy sloth bears to flocks of rainbow-coloured tropical birds, the Subcontinent is a true paradise for nature lovers. Inspire your next safari with these unbelievable photos of Indian wildlife. Which one is your favourite?

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The Jungle Book was no lie: India reallyis home to some of the most magnificent animals on the planet. From striking Bengal tigers to herds of majestic elephants, from shy leopards and lazy sloth bears to flocks of rainbow-coloured tropical birds, the Subcontinent is a true paradise for nature lovers. Inspire your next safari with these unbelievable photos of Indian wildlife. Which one is your favourite?

1. If you're obsessed with tigers, we've got good news: India is one of the best places on Earth to see them in the wild (you just might want to give this particular tiger some space).

Indian Wildlife | Bengal Tiger

© Guenter Guni/iStock

2. This adorable grey langur almost seems to know he's getting his portrait taken.

Indian Wildlife | Monkey

© sabirmallick/iStock

3. Have you ever seen a happier elephant? A cooling splash session on a hot day is just the thing to raise spirits (and lower temperatures). 

Indian Wildlife | Elephant

© Gilitukha/iStock

4. If you needed proof that leopards are among the most beautiful Indian wildlife around, here you have it.

Indian Wildlife | Leopard

© Dirk Freder/iStock

5. Herds of elegant antelope can be found in many of India's national parks.

Indian Wildlife | Antelopes

© AlexSava/iStock

6. That's one way to get noticed - this Great Hornbill is certainly hard to miss.

Indian Wildlife | Hornbill

© wandee007/iStock

7. Sloth bears may have an unfair reputation for being lazy (no thanks to Baloo), but this mother bear is kept busy by her two cuddly cubs.

Indian Wildlife | Sloth Bears

© Liz Leyden/iStock

8. Is there anything cuter in the animal kingdom than this fuzzy tiger cub?

Indian Wildlife | Tiger Cub

© Mark Kostich/iStock

9. Peacocks are among the most colourful examples of Indian wildlife - unless they're white peacocks, that is.

Indian Wildlife | Peacock

© Sami Sert/iStock

10. What big teeth you have! The gharial, also known as the fish-eating crocodile, isn't a creature you'd want to cross.

Indian Wildlife | Gharial

© PytyCzech/iStock

11. Thought lions were only found in Africa? Meet the elusive Asiatic lion, which roams the Gir Forest National Park in Gujarat.

Indian Wildlife | Asiatic Lions

© jay45/iStock

12. That goes for rhinos, too, which are native to both Africa and Asia. This one-horned rhinoceros is found in North India and Nepal.

Indian Wildlife | Rhino

© sabirmallick/iStock

13. The endangered snow leopard is one of the most beautiful animals in India, and can be found roaming the Himalayan Mountains and foothills.

Indian Wildlife | Snow Leopard

© Andrea Izzotti/iStock

14. Nope, not a cow: visitors to India's Himalayan regions can expect to encounter plenty of furry yaks on their travels.

Indian Wildlife | Yak

© TERADAT SANTIVIVUT/iStock

15. On your next trip to India, take advantage of the beautiful wildlife and experience The Jungle Book come to life!

Indian Wildlife | Egret

© eROMAZe/iStock

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Indian Restaurants in Sydney | Indu

Five of the Best Indian Restaurants in Sydney

Sydney has long been famous for its Asian restaurants, though Thai, Taiwanese and Vietnamese have traditionally dominated. But things are beginning to change down under, and cuisine from the Subcontinent is starting to flourish. The following five eateries are some of the best Indian restaurants in Sydney, and their bold flavours, beautiful design, and warm hospitality are paving the way for a new appreciation of Indian cooking.

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Sydney has long been famous for its Asian restaurants, though Thai, Taiwanese and Vietnamese have traditionally dominated. But things are beginning to change down under, and cuisine from the Subcontinent is starting to flourish. The following five eateries are some of the best Indian restaurants in Sydney, and their bold flavours, beautiful design, and warm hospitality are paving the way for a new appreciation of Indian cooking. 

Indu

Indian Restaurants in Sydney | Indu

Opulent Indu has transformed the Sydney dining scene since opening last year © Indu

Glamorous Indu, a basement restaurant in the CBD that opened at the end of last year, is Indian cooking at its most opulent - and also its most charitable. The restaurant has partnered with grassroots organisations in India that aim to build thriving small-scale, village economies. Happily, the cooking at Indu is just as good as its mission statement. While flavours hail from South India and Sri Lanka, the menu has given them a gourmet twist: expect coconut sambal to be made tableside with a pestle and mortar, while those looking to indulge can opt for the multi-course Indu Feast menu.

Zaaffran

Indian Restaurants in Sydney | Zaaffran

Zaaffran offers up delicious cooking and stunning views of the Harbour © Zaaffran

Harbourside Zaaffran offers up delectable Indian cooking with a side of impressive views; little wonder that it's one of the best Indian restaurants in Sydney. The vastness of the modern dining area is only challenged by the scope of the menu, and diners would do well to travel en masse in order to sample widely. Much of the food here is barbecued or cooked in the tandoor, though other highlights include biryani - baked in pastry - as well as the elegant selection of bite-sized khoomcha snacks, which range from beetroot naan with minced chicken to refreshing papri chaat. 

Aki's Indian

Indian Restaurants in Sydney | Aki's Indian

Aki's Indian serves comforting Indian dishes with a haute cuisine twist © Aki's Indian

Smart and sophisticated Aki's has long been a crowd-pleaser among the Indian restaurants in Sydney. Based in Woolloomooloo, the restaurant trades equally in indulgent comfort food and haute cuisine. In the former category: scallops that come poached in a brilliantly hued saffron butter sauce; and pulled lamb shoulder with garam masala. In the latter: paneer cigars aside saffron gelee and brique pastry; and duck and chicken kebabs with date, plum and ginger coulis. No matter which path you take, you'll be rewarded with big, bold flavours.

Malabar

Indian Restaurants in Sydney | Malabar

Experience the flavours of South India at Malabar © Malabar

The food of South India is incredibly vibrant; laced with fragrant asafoetida and curry leaves, spiked with chilli and coconut, bright with seafood and tropical fruit, it's a completely different world from the thick gravies and heavy meat dishes of the north. In Sydney, there are few better places to go on a South Indian gastronomic adventure than Malabar, which has locations in Darlinghurst and Crows Nest. No meal is complete without a dosa or tiger prawns tossed with local spices. The restaurant's special vegan menus also cater to non-carnivores. 

Bang Street Food

Indian Restaurants in Sydney | Bang Street Food

Bengali cuisine is on order at Bang Street Food © Bang Street Food

Stylish, playful, and undeniably hip, Bang Street Food is a revelation. In Surry Hills, the buzzing restaurant pulls inspiration from the flavours of Bangladesh and Bengal; the resulting flavour-bomb dishes are almost too good to share. Eclectic plates range from duck egg omelettes with blue swimmer crab to pawpaw salad with green mango to honey roasted paneer and veal jalfrezi curry. If you haven't yet discovered the culinary tradition from this corner of the Subcontinent, now's your chance.

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Actress Sayani Gupta | Sayani Gupta

Drama is in the Air: An Interview with Bollywood Actress Sayani Gupta

For Bollywood hopefuls, actress Sayani Gupta offers up an inspiring story. With no prior connections, the Kolkata-born talent enrolled in film school, moved to Mumbai and quickly ascended the film world ranks. From what life is like inside the Bollywood whirlwind to her most inspiring filming experiences, read on for a vision of India through Sayani’s eyes.

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For Bollywood hopefuls, actress Sayani Gupta offers up an inspiring story. With no prior connections, the Kolkata-born talent enrolled in film school, moved to Mumbai and quickly ascended the film world ranks.

Actress Sayani Gupta

Actress Sayani Gupta is one of Bollywood's brightest rising stars © Jade Couture by Monica&Karishma; photo by Rohan Hoole 

Before her remarkable indie film debut, Margarita with a Straw, firmly established her as a rising talent, Gupta had dabbled in everything from ad campaigns to theatre roles. Now, she's appearing in Bollywood-led star vehicles, like Fan (where she acted alongside superstar Shah Rukh Khan) and Baar Baar Dekho.

From what life is like inside the Bollywood whirlwind to her most inspiring filming experiences, read on for a vision of India through Sayani's eyes.

Greaves: Your films range from the alternative to the mainstream. Tell us about your journey through Bollywood.

Actress Sayani Gupta: 'After graduating from the Film and Television Institute of India, my first film was Second Marriage Dot Com in 2011. Around the same time, I also did a Bangla feature film, ads, theatre and shot (and doubled up as crew) for Saeed Mirza's docu-fiction travelogue, Yeh Hai India Meri Jaan, where we travelled through the interiors of India.

Eventually, I auditioned for Margarita with a Straw; I lived like a blind person for a month for that role. At the time, I thought that the film would make my career or break it. Thankfully, it worked, and then mainstream work followed! I recently finished shooting for Anurag Basu's Jagga Jasoos, which hasn't been released yet. Making Fan with Shah Rukh Khan was also an amazing experience.

Beyond film, I also trained in classical Bharata Natyam dance for 16 years - but sadly, no one gives me any song and dance roles! I had two songs in Baar Baar Dekho and I've never been happier.'

Actress Sayani Gupta | Sayani Gupta

Sayani Gupta quickly rose from film-world hopeful to successful actress © Jade Couture by Monica&Karishma; photo by Rohan Hoole 

Can you describe the cultural scene in Mumbai and Kolkata?

'In Kolkata, I grew up in a culturally vibrant space. My father was a musician, singer and lyricist with AIR (All India Radio) in Kolkata, and he also helped found an annual classical music festival. As a family, we watched world cinema, not Bollywood! In terms of local cultural destinations, Nandan on Park Street used to be a big hub, and we would walk into Rabindra Sadan for film screenings and theatre performances.

In Mumbai, the cultural scene is in town around the Kala Ghoda area, and in coffee shops where exciting ideas are brewed. Directors like Rajat Kapoor and Atul Kumar are doing good work in theatre.

I'd also recommend visiting Delhi, which has lovely cultural centres like Max Mueller, IIC, and Habitat Centre - there's always something going on there.'

Actress Sayani Gupta | Ladakh

While filming Yeh Hai India Meri Jaan, Sayani travelled to beautiful Kashmir © Praveen/Flickr

Could you share an anecdote from your travels when making Yeh Hai India Meri Jaan  with Saeed Mirza? 

'We travelled 200 kilometres every day for five months, and went to the tiniest villages across 16 states. In Gujarat, we went to an isolated village where we met an old woman with a distinctive face, whom everyone called 'Amma.'

There were two wells in the village, but the water was very salty and only good for camels. For drinking water, women in the village had to walk 24 kilometres every day. My colleague and I were invited to Amma's house. It was bare, with a mud roof, and she asked her son to make us tea. This was precious water that she was using for us. It really moved me.

We also spent a night with nomadic goat herders in Patnitop, Kashmir. We sang and danced with them, and they cooked for us in earthenware pots with tomatoes and vegetables they picked themselves. We were in the Himalayas, surrounded by waterfalls, and it was the most exquisite meal I've ever had.

If we could capture 10% of India's stories in our films, we'd be the leading filmmaking nation in the world.'

Is there a director whose vision of India you particularly admire?

'Ketan Mehta's films (Mirch Masala, Bhavni Bhavai) are set in Gujarat, and they really give you a distinct flavour of the place and culture. Satyajit Ray's films depict Bengal in a way that you can almost smell the place - it's very palpable and stunning, even if it's not the image of 'Incredible India' that the world wants to see. Recently, Aamir Bashir's Harud captured Kashmir really well. I also think director Mani Ratnam showcases the south of India beautifully.'

Actress Sayani Gupta | Sikkim

The northeast of India is on Sayani's travel wishlist © Namrata Bhawnani/Ecophiles

What's the most incredible place in India you have visited?

'I'd highly recommend visiting Kashmir and Ladakh - the topography is unmatchable, the people are beautiful, the food is incredible, it's simply grand. It's sad what's happening in Kashmir politically, but it really is heaven on earth. I'm now waiting to explore the northeast.'

Where do you like shopping in India? Any designers you would recommend? 

'Delhi is fabulous for shopping - from high-end designer outfits to clothes for Rs 100 that you can also wear to a party. I really like the couture brand Jade by Monica & Karishma, and Sahil Kochhar is someone to watch out for - his creations are art. I also love Payal Khandwala's designs for their bold block colours.

Actress Sayani Gupta | Sayani Gupta Portrait

Sayani's travels have taken her across the Subcontinent - and beyond © Jade Couture by Monica&Karishma; photo by Rohan Hoole 

Could you recommend your favourite places to eat in Mumbai and Kolkata? 

'6 Ballygunge Place in Kolkata serves Bengali cuisine, and they do a date palm jaggery ice cream that's exquisite. I like Mocambo, and always seek Kolkata's roadside food, particularly Bedouin rolls and puchkas.

In Mumbai, Bombay Salad Co. in Bandra does very good salads, rolls and wraps. It's hard to get good sushi here, but Ruka in Juhu is great.'

Finally, what does India offer that no other place can match?  

'Drama! There's so much drama in the air; we are a gregarious people. The culture is vibrant, people like to be together in clusters and there's much warmth - you can have a conversation with anyone!'

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Visit Kathmandu | Kathmandu

One Year Later: Why Now’s the Perfect Time to Visit Kathmandu

On 25 April 2015, Nepal suffered a terrible earthquake that caused shocking damage and destruction. Now, more than one year later, many travellers are asking: is it a good time to visit Kathmandu and the rest of Nepal? In a word: yes. In fact, this is the perfect opportunity to schedule a trip to this stunningly beautiful mountain country.

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On 25 April 2015, Nepal suffered a terrible earthquake that caused shocking damage and destruction. Now, more than one year later, many travellers are asking: is it a good time to visit Kathmandu and the rest of Nepal?

Visit Kathmandu | Kathmandu

This is the perfecttime to visit vibrant Kathmandu © kapulya/iStock

In a word: yes. In fact, this is the perfect opportunity to schedule a trip to this stunningly beautiful mountain country. Despite the strength of the quake, many of Nepal's most famous landmarks remain in good condition, and a number of its UNESCO World Heritage sites have re-opened. A British-sponsored structural engineering firm has also determined that the country - and its famous peaks - are safe to visit. Airports are operating normally, hotels and restaurants are open, and the tourist infrastructure is ready to welcome guests.

Those planning to visit Kathmandu are additionally helping contribute to recovery efforts: for a country whose economy relies heavily on tourism, last year's 65% drop in the number of tourists was further damaging. Take some time, then, to discover the wild nature, stunning vistas, and hospitable culture that the country offers. Read on for what to do during your next stay in Kathmandu - and beyond.

Famous Landmarks

Visit Kathmandu | Boudhanath

Boudhanath Stupa escaped with minimal damage © fotoVoyager/iStock

Although photographs taken after the earthquake captured piles of rubble and destruction, in reality many of the most famous landmarks in Kathmandu and the surrounding valley are still standing, many with only minor damage.

Bhaktapur, an ancient city just east of Kathmandu, saw some of its famous brick buildings collapse, though many of its most famous structures - including the Nyatapola Temple, the country's highest - are still standing tall. The famous Boudhanath Stupa, the largest stupa in the country, also escaped with only minimal damage, as did Swayambhunath, another ancient religious landmark.

Visit Kathmandu | Swayambhunath

The famous Swayambhunath temple is also in good condition © korionov/iStock

In the heart of Kathmandu, Durbar Square did suffer the wrath of the temblor - several of the square's most famous temples fully collapsed - but the UNESCO site is in the midst of regeneration, and has now officially reopened for visitors. 

Markets and Restaurants

Visit Kathmandu | Fabric

Kathmandu's colourful markets turn up a trove of treasures © Csondy/iStock

Kathmandu has always been a lively and colourful city, pulsing with rickshaws, busy with markets, and crowded with restaurants, and that reality hasn't changed. In the neighbourhood of Thamel, keep an eye out for street markets, where cashmere, jewellery, and other textiles can be picked up for reasonable prices.

A stay in Kathmandu is also the perfect opportunity to sample traditional delicacies, from moreish momos - hearty Nepalese dumplings - to warming noodle soups. Travellers can also venture to destination restaurants like The Old House for a taste of Nepalese fine dining.

And Beyond…

Visit Kathmandu | Pokhara

From Kathmandu, venture to Pokhara and Nepal's other stunning destinations © Cn0ra/iStock

First, visit Kathmandu, and then consider branching out to discover more of Nepal's charms.

Just outside of the city is Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, a green oasis that's a gateway to the country's wild side.

Many visitors also head from Kathmandu to Chitwan National Park - where the gorgeous new Meghauli Serai Taj Safari Lodge has just opened - to get up close and personal with exotic wildlife. And trekking season is back to its normal routines in 2016 - a jaunt over to Pokhara should appeal to adventurous spirits. 

Make 2016 the year you visit Nepal, then. You'll uncover a wonderland of natural beauty and world-famous sites, friendly faces, and the chance to speed along recovery efforts.

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