Jodhpur…Romancing the Desert Capital

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Meherangarh Fort, Jodhpur

The Blue City sprawls at the foot of Meherangarh Fort, like the mirage of an oasis at the edge of the Thar Desert. But what appears to be a chaotic maze from up above, is actually a warren of tiny lanes, like rivulets, that wind their way around the indigo stained dwellings of the city. Looming overhead, Meherangarh Fort is perched in its very heart, a powerful testament to an era of courage and bravery – the foundations on which Jodhpur was raised.

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Blue City, Jodhpur

Meherangarh Fort comes alive several times a year, thanks to the current Maharaja of Jodhpur, who is a driving force behind preserving the kingdom’s heritage and culture. From polo tournaments to music festivals, weddings and grand events, Meherangarh’s ramparts echo with spirit and life.

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Polo Tournament, Jodhpur

Founded by the Rathore clan, Jodhpur was named for its dynamic leader, Rao Jodha of Mandore, who grew the city to become a thriving kingdom, under his reign. Even though the Mughals and the British did have some control over the dominion, the Rathores retained a semi independence right up until the Partition of India and Pakistan.

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Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur

Jodhpur is known for its magnificent palaces and havelis (several of which have now been turned into gorgeous boutique hotels). The Umaid Bhawan Palace is perhaps one of the finest examples of palace architecture – and one of the largest residences in the world – in existence today. It’s magnificent gold sand-stone facade is crowned by an enormous dome that can be seen for miles around. The palace has an interesting history. It was commissioned by Maharaja Umaid Singh during a drastic famine in the 1920s, to provide employment to the populace. The exterior is an exotic blend of Indo-Saracenic and European elements, while the interiors are entirely art deco – right down to the wall murals by a Polish artist called Norbilsk. The ship carrying the palace’s first consignments of furniture sank, but once finished, it has proudly stood the test of time to become one of the finest palace residences in the world. Today, it is a luxury heritage hotel that is operated by The Taj Group. Sleeker and more chic, is the “new” Raas – a heritage haveli that has been converted into a Design Hotel. A crisp and contemporary flair emerges out of the bedrock of this gorgeous ancient haveli – which even has its own stepwell restaurant!

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Raas Haveli, Jodhpur

If you’re a shopaholic at heart, Jodhpur is a pleasure to explore. From charmingly discreet antique shops, to old silver and semi-precious stone jewellery, hand woven textiles and ethnic furniture, to camel leather shoes and world class haute-couture – Jodhpur is home to the atelier of top fashion designer, Raghuvinder Rathore – Jodhpur is a delightful place to shop till you drop. The bazaars of the old city have to be explored and here you will find everything from copper vessels to glass bangles.

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Bishnoi Tribal Dance Performance, Jodhpur

A short distance from the city will find you amidst the sand dunes of the Thar, where several members of the Bishnoi and Bhil tribes reside. Discover their tribal way of life, the music and dance, and their arts and crafts. This is a far cry from urban India. This desert wilderness is also home to several species of birds and animals, including the beautiful Black Buck, which roams wild in these parts. Set off into the desert for a picnic or better yet – an evening of tribal song, dance and music amid the sand dunes underneath the stars.

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Black Buck, Jodhpur

Come August and September, when a little rain has splattered this frontier city, the harsh summer sun cools down to a pleasing temperature, the oases and lakes are refilled, and new green shoots dot the sandy countryside. Jodhpur is a terrific destination for honeymooners and families, alike. The city has many layers that can be tapped to suit a range of interests and age-groups. A range of activities from equestrian sports to bicycling to ziplining make it fun for young adults (or just adults who are young at heart!), while those who prefer a gentler pace can literally cool their heels at Jodhpur’s gorgeous hotel spas.

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Zip-lining at Meherangarh Fort, Jodhpur

Travel before the crowds of high season hit. Visit our website (www.wiyotravel) now to plan your Jodhpur getaway.

 

 

 

Cruise Control…The Dalmatian Coast

From the Dinaric Alps in the North to the Mediterranean in the South, the Dalmatian Coast stretches languidly as the Adriatic sea laps at its shores. Dalmatia is a delightful blend of old world influences. Venetian clock towers, Greek fortresses, Byzantine art, and Roman ruins meld into a vintage as mellow as the fine wines from its vineyards.

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Our first favourite port of call is Rovinj. Perched at the western most tip of the Istrian Peninsula, Rovinj is a town steeped in romance. Perched on a rocky outcrop just across the sea from Venice, tall spires rise out of a colourful cloud of charming buildings, nestled among narrow cobblestoned by-lanes. One can spend hours just walking its streets, stopping at local konobas for a coffee or a chilled pint of beer.

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Waterfront View, Rovinj

Rovinj is one of the jumping off spots from which one can visit the Istrian Peninsula’s Byzantine and Roman ruins in places like Porec and Pula, stroll through its vineyards, hunt for truffles in its forests, or take a delightful bicycle ride through its quaint villages where Austro-Hungarian remnants of empire blend in with Venetian and Roman vestiges of history.

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The Main Square, Zadar

Take a turn south to continue to Zadar. This medieval era fortification makes a powerful impression, even today. A walk through this walled city takes you back to another world. But Zadar transports you to another world in a literal sense as well – this is the place from where one can explore the beautiful Kornati Archipelago – thousands of tiny islands that collectively make up a national heritage site. For those who love nature and the water, Kornati is a piece of heaven. Snorkel, dive, sail through the azure waters that snake through these delightful islands.

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The Kornati Archipelago

As we head further south, we pause for a brief moment at Trogir. A tiny island joined to the mainland by a causeway, Trogir oozes charm, serenity and romance. As the church bells toll and the water laps gently at its limestone walls, time stands still. Sunsets at Trogir have a fairy-tale quality – a honeymooner’s delight. Dine on delightful fresh seafood, olive oil and wine from local vineyards. Blissfully peaceful, Trogir is the perfect place to catch your breath along the journey – even as it takes your breath away.

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The Waterfront, Island of Trogir

Smack dab in the center of the Dalmatian Coast, Split’s name suits its location – it literally divides the north of Dalmatia from the south. Vastly dominated by the vestiges of Emperor Diocletian’s roman palace complex, Split is a study in living history. Live, dine, shop, explore and wander among the ancient walls of this magnificent complex that stretches out in the city center for miles. Lively and full of warm friendly people, Split is non-stop fun. The bustling water front is a great place to sit at a café and watch the world go by, even as the boats line up at the harbor from all across the coast. It’s also the ideal place from which to explore some of the best islands in Croatia including Hvar, Brac and Vis.

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Diocletian’s Palace, Split

Imbibe the island vibe the minute you step foot on Hvar. In July and August, the lavender fields bloom in purple splendor, giving the landscape a heady fragrance and dusky hue. Clearly we aren’t the only ones who think Hvar is something special. The Romans, Spaniards, Venetians, Greeks, Byzantines and Ottomans each staked their claim in Hvar at different points in time. As a result, the island is a historical patchwork of architectural styles, history, and culture. It’s also grown into one of Central Europe’s hottest party spots and the sleepy village by day turns into a vibrant hot spot at night as you dance your life away under the stars.

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Lavender Fields, The Island of Hvar

They don’t call it the Pearl of the Adriatic for nothing – Dubrovnik continues to charm all those who visit. The glorious Southern European sun bounces happily off the white limestone walls of this city steeped in history. Dubrovnik has a picture-postcard quality to it – red tiled roofs overlook a quaint harbor and the sparkling serenity of the Adriatic Sea. One can wander its streets for days on end and still not see it all. It is a city full of serendipity – impromptu street performances, a church concert, an art gallery tucked into the side of an old monastery, a gelateria that makes you swoon, this is Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is an architecture lover’s delight and its stunning facades and interiors tell of many stories.

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Old Harbour, Dubrovnik

Fascinated already? Travel with us to discover more.

 

 

Kerala… A Sojourn for the Senses

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Flashes of green iridescence, a cool wind at your neck, and droplets of water sparkling in the sun.

It’s the first week of June and the heavens have opened in God’s Own Country. Kerala comes into its own with the onset of the monsoon.

Whether you are up in the heights of the Western Ghats or meandering down the backwaters towards the Arabian Sea, this tropical paradise awakens after its summer slumber.

Cosmopolitan. Cochin.

Kerala’s capital city oozes charm. Our favourite district is Fort Cochin – a melting pot of cultural influences for centuries. Wander among antique shops, pause at local art galleries, lunch on the fresh catch of the day against the dramatic backdrop of the Chinese Fishing Nets, explore the Dutch Palace, and pause for a moment at the world’s oldest Sephardic Synagogue, browse through the aisles of the Mattancherry Spice Market. Cochin is a revelation for all those who visit. Don’t miss it.

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Chinese Fishing Nets in Cochin, Kerala

Authentic. Ayurveda.

The ancient science of Ayurveda has its roots in Kerala. There’s no better time to experience its maximum benefit than during the monsoon, when the moisture in the air allows the medicinal oils to soak deep into your skin. Learn more about yourself as you relax. Discover the correct diet for your body type – and your personality. Detox your organs, circulate your blood, and breathe fully, with a series of massage and oil rituals that leave you feeling serene. Emerge healthier in body, lighter in mind, and more fulfilled in spirit.

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Ayurvedic Therapy, Kerala

Mystical. Munnar.

The highlands of the Western Ghats of Kerala are a nature lover’s paradise. Lush foliage, tea and spice plantations, and a riot of flora and fauna collide to form a stunningly picturesque landscape. Munnar lies at the center of it all and there’s no better place to base yourself if you want to take long walks through the forest or simply watch the clouds gather overhead and be blessed by a gentle drizzle. Munnar is also a stone’s throw away from the Erivakulam game sanctuary – one of the last natural habitats of the Nilgiri Tahr (a rare breed of Ibex). Munnar is also a bird-lover’s paradise and several species are endemic to the area.

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Nilgiri Tahr, Kerala

Beach. Backwaters. 

Kerala is blessed with one of the finest coastlines in the world, and several of its beaches are pristine. From Bekal in the north to Marari in the south, long stretches of sand run into the Arabian Sea. Towering cliffs topped with fortress ruins dot the coastline, from where many battles were fought (and many a movie has been shot!). Whether you want to indulge your energy in water sports or unwind at the spa, stretch yourself with a spot of beach yoga, or just rock yourself to sleep in a hammock, Kerala probably has what you need.

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Marari Beach, Kerala

Running through God’s Own Country is a meandering series of canals that zig-zag their way across the landscape. Dotted with coconut plantations and tropical foliage, these are the streets of India’s south. Slip along these narrow waterways and explore the quaint settlements on either shore. You can also overnight in a kettuvellam – a traditional houseboat – if you’re so inclined. Our favourite time of day – sunset. The backwaters are truly at their best when the sun dips towards the horizon, casting its serene glow over everything.

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Backwaters, Kerala

Convinced already? Visit our website (www.wiyotravel.com) to create your Kerala sojourn today.