Let 2018 be the year of fulfilling of travel goals. From Deccan rail travel to floating in the Dead Sea, here are a few must-do, once-in-a-lifetime experiences
ROMANCE DECCAN INDIA IN A WORLD-CLASS LUXURY TRAIN
Many love trains but never end up taking them as they’re always in a hurry to reach where they can start their vacation. But, why just get somewhere when you can make the journey as glorious as the destination? Though we may like the idea of reaching a destination in hours rather than days, there’s nothing that can quite match the thrill of rail travel. The rhythm of the wheels, the guard’s piercing whistle, the sound of horn as the train approaches and departs a station, watching the ever-changing landscape from the window seat, chatting with fellow passengers; these little things come together to create a certain magic on board a train. Besides, train journeys reveal a country as flights can never do. Lured by the idea of a long, leisurely train trip with a cabin to yourself. Look no furthur than the luxurious Deccan Odyssey.
Imagine the palatial Deccan Odyssey winding its way through the historical and architectural jewels of the country, unmasking their heritage, beauty and character, layer by layer.
If you opt for the Deccan route, you have eight days aboard the train, disembarking each day to experience a new marvel, beginning with Bijapur, moving on to Aihole-Badami-Pattadakal, then Hampi, followed by Hyderabad and finally to the stunning Ellora and Ajanta Caves, before heading back to Mumbai.
What make the epic journey even more remarkable are traditional folk dance performances by men and women dressed in vibrant, traditional garb.
Alternatively, you can also rediscover Gujarat by opting for the “Hidden Treasures of Gujarat” itinerary that starts at Mumbai, covers Vadodara, Palitana and Sasan Gir, taking you to Somnath, Little Rann of Kutch and Modhera-Patan, moving on to Nashik and finally concluding the journey at Mumbai. A train trip around India indeed reinforces your belief in the phrase “Incredible India”!
CRUISE THE LITTLE-EXPLORED PERUVIAN AMAZON
From a chance meeting with an anaconda and boating down black, mirror-like waters to canopy walking in a dense rainforest and discovering the magical powers of ayahuasca, traversing the Amazon Rainforest in Peru is about many firsts.
Given names like “The Jewel of the Earth”, “World’s Largest Pharmacy”, “The Lungs of the Earth”, the dense tropical rainforest and the jungle region of Peru makes for the 60 per cent of the country’s territory and shares its borders with Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil and Bolivia. If you have around four to five days on hand, it is a good idea to explore the northen selva which is accessible from Iquitos; a flight of an hour and a half from the capital city Lima. Sitting at the mouth of the Amazon, the jungle-locked Iquitos can be reached by boat or plane and is the only gateway to the remote and extraordinary Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.
Unlike most luxury cruise holidays that are more about on-board entertainment; Amazon river cruises, with their limited capacity, encourage you to disconnect, relax and discover the true essence of the jungle.
There are several ways to spend your time in the magical setting of the Amazon rainforest depending on whether you prefer luxury lodges and cruises or no-frills cottages and survival expeditions. However, one of the most sought-after and unique experiences is sailing aboard a luxury cruise while admiring the beauty of the reserve.
Here’s where you get to soak up the beauty of the ever-changing landscape from the panoramic windows of your room, unwind in the warm waters of the jacuzzi as the cold wind passes through, and devour regional delicacies and exotic fruits and vegetables extracted from the jungles.
FLOAT IN THE DEAD SEA OF ISRAEL
If anyone tells you floating in the Dead Sea is overrated, don’t believe them. If you haven’t been to the Dead Sea, you haven’t been to Israel. Known in Hebrew as Yam Ha-Melakh (the Sea of Salt), it is situated 400m below sea level – the lowest point on dry land. Just lay back, relax and enjoy this natural phenomenon at one of the beaches at Ein Bokek, in the southern Dead Sea. The minute your feet and legs are in the salty water, you feel as if they are being pushed up, and as you go deeper, you feel your body become lighter and more buoyant.
Try bringing your favourite book or newspaper along to read while you bob with ease. Indeed therapeutic! Or even better, mask yourself with the mineral-rich mud and let it work its magic on your skin.
Situated 420m below sea level, the lake enjoys a higher atmospheric pressure with more oxygen, as well as lower levels of harmful ultraviolet rays. Hence, you can stay in the sun for hours without sunscreen and not get a tan! Whatever you do, do not try to swim or dunk your head in the water. If you don’t wish to hit the beach, many hotels boast of in-house Dead Sea water pools; these mini pools very well give you the floating experience; but nothing like flotaing in the nature’s very own spa! As souvenirs, bring the therapeutic Dead Sea mud, minerals and water back home in the form of natural skin care products sold in the region.
LOOK DOWN ON ETHEREAL MACHU PICCHU
As Mark Twain once said, “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.” Taking inspiration from Twain’s words, let everything else take a back seat and take off to South America to witness the spectacular bucket–list destination Machu Picchu. Your journey to the UNESCO World Heritage Site starts at Cusco – a city in the Peruvian Andes that was once the capital of the Inca Empire, and a gateway to the heavenly site.
Taking a three-and-a-half hour train journey is the only way to get to the Inca ruins other than hiking the arduous 4-day Inca Trail that goes through the Sacred Valley.
You can opt for a first-class voyage aboard the enchanting Belmond Hiram Bingham train that departs from Poroy station, located on the outskirts of Cusco (a 30-minute ride from Cusco).
The train takes its name from the famous American explorer and Yale University lecturer – Hiram Bingham, who brought Lost City of the Incas to the world’s attention, when he stumbled across the citadel in 1911.
When it comes to the ancient splendour called Machu Picchu, there are a million secrets about the place and the people who built it and so much that’s yet to be discovered! The lush-green architectural gem, peppered with aqueducts, granite and limestone temples is absolutely Instagram worthy. While you may lose yourself in the intricate stone constructions and epic hilltop views, make sure to find a secluded spot and the right angle for a tourist-free photograph! And all this, not for social media but to freeze your once-in-a-lifetime moment!