Jaisalmer: The Golden City

In the far west of Rajasthan, amid the dunes of the Thar Desert, Jaisalmer rises out of the sand like a mirage in the sun. Known as the Golden City, its pale yellow sandstone architecture shimmers magnificently giving it an aura of magic.

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Jaisalmer has a checkered past. It was founded by Rawal Singh in 1156 and became a major trading post along the ancient Silk Route in India. The merchants of Jaisalmer prospered throughout the rise of the caravanserai’s prominence and this is evident even today, in the city’s magnificent golden sandstone architecture. As a result, its nickname is the Golden City. The crown jewel is the magnificent fortress, which contains several palaces and gardens within its walls. The fortress thrives even today and several residents of Jaisalmer continue to reside within its ramparts. It was immortalized in Satyajit Ray’s film, Sonar Kella, and is one of the principal attractions of the city.

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The Golden City is home to some exquisite architecture in the form of ancient havelis or mansions of rich merchants who made it big while trading on the Silk Route. Beautifully carved edifices, majestic doorways, delicate balustrades, overhanging balconies, and beautiful jaali work windows are to be seen all over the ancient city. Some of the more noteworthy havelis include Kothari’s Patwa ki Haveli, Nathmal ki Haveli, and Salim Singh ki Haveli.

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Jaisalmer is also a prominent center of Jainism and there are seven Jain temples that are within the walls of the fort. Exquisitely carved out of sandstone, they are some of the finest examples of Jain temple architecture in India. Jaisalmer is also home to one of the oldest libraries which contains volumes on Jainism.

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The city is also the gateway to the culture of the Thar Desert. Starkly beautiful, the sand dunes of Khuri and Sam stretch endlessly towards the horizon. It’s worth the drive out – or for the more adventurous, a camel ride – across the dunes. Scattered tribal settlements, migratory birds, and several species of desert flora and fauna give you a fascinating glimpse into desert culture.

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A short drive from the city, the Akal Fossil park is home to some of the oldest fossils in the world! Step back in time to the Jurassic era where a forest once stood, that was submerged beneath the sea. Ancient trunks, fossilized by the elements lie scattered across 21 hectares of parkland.

For those who are interested in the ecosystem of the Thar Desert, the Desert National Park, is a must do. A bird lover’s delight, it is an absolute haven for several species of migratory birds, as well as several birds of prey such as eagles, kestrels, falcons and the Great Indian Buzzard – perhaps the greatest attraction of all. Several of the species here are heavily endangered and are now endemic to this region. It is also home to several fascinating reptiles and small mammals such as the desert fox.

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Back in the center of the city, the Gadi Sagar lake is a focal point and is a serene water body in the heart of Jaisalmer. A tranquil boat ride across its waters, reveal several waterfowl.

The old town is a lively bazaar full of artisans making beautiful handicrafts out of camel leather, embroidery, handloom textiles, and lacquer. The by-lanes echo with whimsical charm as a street musician strums a plaintive tune, and the colourful bandhani tye-dye saris of the local women are ruffled in the breeze.

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Come dusk, and the city takes on a mystical aura as the sun sets over the infinite horizon. Birds twitter as they settle down for the evening, and the walls of the fortress take on a softer glow. Intriguing, inspiring, Jaisalmer is a perennial favourite on our Rajasthan wish list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why WIYO? Because…

“We have done multiple international vacations through WIYO travels and they have invariably been impeccably organized, with a personalized touch from Jay and his team.” – Uday S.

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Travel is art – the beauty lies in the experience

There are a lot of travel agencies out there, but fewer curators of exceptional experiences. So what precisely are the criteria that create a curator?

Can we book your air – sure! But is that all we do – no.

In fact, booking your air without any hassle and ensuring that you get amazing seats, pre-booked meals, luggage handled, a friendly face on the ground, a prioritized pass through immigration, visas with minimal hassle… these are just a few of the thoughtful touches we provide as a service to our customer. It’s not just about a place or the things you will see. It’s about all the master brushstrokes that we blend seamlessly with one another to paint that canvas we call the world – the world is your oyster…

You need a gluten-free breakfast?

How about having it in a hot air balloon over the Masai Mara?

At WIYO, we believe in service.

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Travel is service – it holds the doors open to new experiences

You’re considering a trip to the Peruvian Amazon?

We will get you to that clay-lick at the correct hour, with an experienced guide, in the correct season so that you can get a perfect shot (photography of course) at the Macaws.

At WIYO, we believe in value.

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Travel is value – it is the only thing you buy which makes you richer

You’re worried about the negative impact of mass tourism in South East Asia?

We work with products and partners who share our ethos of authenticity and eco-friendliness. We ensure that your tourism dollars are going back to the right causes and communities.

At WIYO, we believe in responsible and sustainable travel.

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Travel is sustainable – it never gets old

You’re wondering if you should do a trip to Turkey?

Everyone does a dinner cruise down the Bosphorus in Istanbul. But did you know that you could whirl with the dervishes in Konya? Watch the sunrise in a hot air balloon over Cappadocia? Visit Ephesus with an archaeologist?

At WIYO, we believe in turning around a once in a lifetime travel experience within 24 hours from your request.

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Travel is about timing – don’t wait.

You love to dance and have never been to Buenos Aires?

Call us. It takes two to tango – and we’ll find you an expert to teach you how to do it.

At WIYO, we believe that “doing” is better than “seeing”.

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Travel is education – it is knowledge in action

You adore Chinese caligraphy, and want to learn how to do it. 

Try one of our fully curated traveling workshops with a like-minded expert.

At WIYO, we believe that you should travel for your passion.

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Travel is a passion – indulge it

You travel to surf… but you’re not sure where to go next?

Ask us. The Andaman Sea might just be the edgiest surf spot yet.

At WIYO, we believe in sharing our expertise with you.

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Travel is vision – know where to go next

 You want to take your kids on a ski trip to Kashmir but you’re worried about weather, flight delays and cancellations?

Don’t. We are at your service and if needed, will always find you an alternative solution before they even realize there’s a change.

At WIYO, you can count on us to be reliable and be there for you in every situation.

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Travel is about reliability – we care to be there no matter what happens

You would love to take that trip to Egypt – but you’ve heard so many stories from good to bad. Should you do it?

Absolutely. We vet our people on the ground to ensure that they are reliable and as thorough in their approach as we are.

At WIYO, we believe in working with the best.

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Travel is about stories and the people behind them – especially the ones who guide you on your journey

You’re an independent traveller and while you are comfortable working with a travel professional, you want to make sure you have the option of changing things up as you go along the journey?

Of course. It’s your trip and we understand that you may want to adapt to things that come up. Just let us know what you’re thinking and we’ll do what we can to make it happen.

At WIYO, we believe in flexibility.

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Travel is about flexibility – do what you want, when you want.

You rather just make your own bookings because you hate having to pay for unexpected things that you didn’t know about when making the reservation, you find that agents often screw up your paperwork, and that your credit card got swiped for someone else’s trip by mistake.

Try us once. We pride ourselves in being transparent, efficient, and always respect your privacy. We will never reveal your personal information or details to anyone who is unauthorized to have it.

At WIYO, we believe that there should never be hidden costs and will always protect your privacy.

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Travel is about trust – place it in our hands

You usually find that most agents try and sell you a pre-packaged itinerary that is easy for them to book – not necessarily what you want.

We work differently. We listen to you. We ask you questions. We create an experience that is not only what you want but exceeds your wildest expectations.

At WIYO, we believe in personalized attention.

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Travel is personal – feel special

You land up at the airport and they try to offload you because you don’t have the right visas or vaccines?

Never. Whether it’s making sure you’re carrying your yellow fever certificate, or that the turndown service will place a teddy-bear at the bedside for your five year old child, we’ll take care of it.

At WIYO, we believe in attention to detail.

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Travel  is attention to detail – we’ve got you covered, before you even think to ask

Why WIYO?

Because we’re not just advisors. We’re inspirers.

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Travel is our inspiration – let it be yours.

Don’t wait. The World Is Your Oyster.

The Culture Quotient – October 2016 to March 2017

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Come October, and the global culturati swings into top gear. It’s a new theatre season, folk and Sufi music pervade the atmosphere, jazz steps up the beat, and local traditions and festivals step up the ante. As the seasons turn, we thought we would share our own calendar of awesome events around the world from October to March. Vivid and vibrant, festivals and events are a great way to introduce culture to your children. They are also an incredible celebration of the spirit and leave you feeling warm, happy and uplifted!

October:

In India, Jodhpur is the place to be in October. More specifically, at the Meherangarh Fort, where the finest folk musicians from across the Indian North West come together for the Rajasthan International Folk Festival, fondly known as RIFF. In a tribute to the indigenous communities of the Thar Desert, this super spectacle of folk dance, music and community is a fabulous experience.

Jodhpur can be combined with Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Ranakpur and Udaipur to create a terrific journey through Rajasthan.

 In Germany, Oktoberfest is celebrated in high spirit, and you probably want to find yourself in Munich. One of Germany’s most fun, cultural and simply enjoyable cities to roam around in, Munich is well worth the visit any time of year – but especially over Oktoberfest. People spill out of the city’s “biergartens” and bars, the music is lively and the vibe is filled with tons of fun.

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Munich can be combined with Leipzig, Dresden, Potsdam, Berlin, and Prague to create an incredible journey through Bavaria.

 November:

What better way to celebrate November than Diwali! India literally steps into the limelight during this festival, which is celebrated with joy and happiness across the country by everybody. From sacred pujas to wild Diwali parties, and we must not forget, the sweets – Diwali is a gorgeous time to be in India. One of our favourite places to visit for Diwali – Delhi! The capital literally lights up and everyone is immersed in a spirit of festivity.

Delhi can be combined with Amritsar, Jaipur, Agra and Varanasi for an awesome and inspiring Diwali sojourn.

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On the other side of the pond, the USA is celebrating Thanksgiving! There are few bigger holidays in the USA, celebrated with the same amount of exuberance, than this holiday. Foodies, put your bibs on! This is when the old world traditional cuisine of North America comes to the forefront. Whether it’s that roasted Turkey bird, golden corn on the cob dripping with melted butter, or green bean casserole, topped off with a dollop of cranberry jelly, we guarantee you won’t be moving for several hours after the feast.

Some of our favourite places to spend Thanksgiving in the USA include Vermont – for the Fall colors, Washington DC, and Seattle (if you’re looking for your Turkey with a slightly Asian glaze!)

December:

Christmas & New Year is universal and few holidays have the same charm and appeal. A few of our favorite Christmas moments include… the Christmas celebrations and New Year’s events in Austria – Vienna is a top favourite! From it’s Christmas markets to its incredible concerts, operas and balls, Vienna really comes to life in the week between Christmas and New Year.

You can combine a visit to Vienna with a trip to Salzburg and the Benedictine Abbey at Melk.

Christmas in the sun! Celebrate your “white Christmas” on a beach in the Southern Hemisphere – Rio de Janeiro is a great place to start and then continue the wild revelry in the sunny south in the island province of Santa Catarina as you jump the waves, all dressed in white, over Reveillon!

Start your Brazilian revelry in the heavenly environs of Rio de Janeiro, before flying south to Florianopolis to explore the beauty of Santa Catarina.

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Or if you’re looking for that white and snowy Christmas, then there are few more inspiring places in the world than St. Petersburg, Russia. From its mystical incense filled Orthodox Churches, to its beautiful choirs, added attractions are the St. Petersburg Philharmonic’s music festival a couple of days after Christmas, rounded off by the opulent magnificence of the Tsar’s Ball at Catherine’s Palace. It doesn’t get better than this.

St. Petersburg combines perfectly with Moscow. There is no better time to explore the Tsar and Tatar heritage of Russia than in the peace of winter when the summer tourists are in abeyance and the theater is in full swing!

South India’s cultural calendar swings into high gear from mid-December to mid-January with the Marghazi Dance & Music Festival in Chennai. Marghazi brings to life the classical dance and music culture of Tamil Nadu, celebrating some of the finest artists in India’s southernmost state.

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Chennai is beautifully combined with a visit to the ancient temple towns of Mahaballipuram and Madurai, and the colonial charm of Pondicherry.

January:

Ah yes, you’re still recovering from the debauchery over New Year’s, but it’s a new year, a new beginning and you need to aim high! Head to Ahmedabad in Gujarat for the International Kite Festival! Compete with the best and most colourful kite enthusiasts as you take to the winds!

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Ahmedabad is a wonderful place to start a journey into Gujarat and the magnificent landscape, tribal culture and wildlife of the Great Rann of Kutch.

The Kochi Muziris Art Biennale is one of Asia’s edgiest art events. It runs each year from December through March in the heart of Fort Cochin. Watch artistes of every hue and style bring their work to life in this stupendous event of art and culture.

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Cochin can be combined with a relaxing sojourn along the backwaters to Kumarakom and a beach break at Kovalam. In January the weather is perfect!

 Another noteworthy event on the January calendar – Jaipur LitFest. One of the most prestigious literature festivals in India, Jaipur LitFest is a super platform to hear more about Asia’s emerging authors in a global context.

Jaipur is one of the major cities of the Golden Triangle and can also be combined with Jodhpur and Udaipur.

And if you really want to keep the celebrations rolling, Chinese New Year in 2017 kicks off on January 28! There’s no bigger celebration in the Middle Kingdom than the ringing in of the New Year!

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Beijing and Shanghai are must-dos in China. If you want to see the Chinese countryside, head south west to Lijian, Dalian and Kunming or into the countryside outside of Shanghai!

February:

It’s back to Rajasthan in February. The Thar Desert echoes with sufi music at the World Sacred Spirit Festival in Nagaur and Jodhpur. Truly one of the most soul-stirring experiences on the global cultural calendar, this is an event worth chalking into your diary today!

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Jodhpur and Nagaur are a trip in themselves. Explore more of Rajasthan by heading up to its North Western region to Bikaner and Gajjner.

Mumbai comes to life in February! Kick off with the Kala Ghoda Arts and Crafts Festival, a week long extravaganza of art, literature, dance, music and crafts. This delightful street festival brings South Mumbai to life as everyone comes out to celebrate the indomitable spirit of the city.

Mumbai can be combined with a trip to the vineyards of Nashik, or a short trip down to Goa!

We would be remiss not to mention Carnevale! February is Carnevale month across the world. From Goa to Rijeka, to Venice to Salvador de Bahia. Carnevale spirit is a heady frenzy of fun and craziness. Lose yourself to the rhythm and join the party!

Life’s a party – plan your vacation in Brazil, Italy, Croatia or India around Carnevale celebrations!

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March:

It’s Spring! What better way to celebrate than with Holi! This multicoloured multicultural festival is truly a celebration of life! Get your hands dirty as you play with coloured powders and bring back the child in you!

Holi is everywhere but nowhere better than in North India! Rajasthan, Punjab, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh are all super options to experience the festival of colours!

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Prague comes to life in March with the Spring Music Festival. Celebrate Prague’s incredible theater culture with a fabulous repertoire of western classical music.

Prague can be combined with Budapest, Vienna, Krakow, or the Czech Countryside.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Call us today to plan your cultural calendar across the world and soak in the incredible range of art, music, dance and diversity!

Colombo: A South Asian Stew of Culture & Heritage

Talk about a phoenix rising out of the ashes. Colombo has emerged as a beacon of what’s chic and cool in South Asia. The capital city of the emerald isle, old rubs shoulders with new within the same space, breathing new life into Sri Lanka’s multi-cultural heritage.

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Old Dutch Hospital, Colombo

Take the Old Dutch Hospital, a rambling piece of colonial heritage that hails from the 1600s, smack in the middle of the erstwhile Fort district. The ramparts, which once housed gurneys, are now home to chic boutiques, cozy restaurants and vibrant bars. Its shady courtyard is littered with al fresco diners, and for those who need a break from the buzz, it even houses a spa.

 

A stop at Colombo’s National Museum takes you back in time to revisit Sri Lanka’s heritage from its early Buddhist roots to its later colonial legacy. Ninth century Boddhisattva sandals are juxtaposed against galleries of British era paintings and a series of hand crafted masks, as well as several other well preserved artefacts. Don’t miss a quick stop at Wolvendaal Church with its striking architecture.

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Wolvendaal Church, Colombo

Shaped like a Greek cross, it is home to some of the finest wood craftsmanship carved out of ebony. Pause to visit the Dutch Period Museum. Originally the home of the Dutch governor, it’s a poignant monument to Sri Lanka’s past as this is where the original treaty between Holland and the Kingdom of Kandy was signed.

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Dutch Period Museum, Colombo

Most people don’t realize that the Dutch colonized Sri Lanka for almost 150 years and that Sri Lanka was the battleground for many European empires. The Sinhalese originally courted Dutch help to get rid of the Portuguese. The Dutch had a vested economic interest in defeating both the Spanish and the Portuguese and dominate the trade routes between South East Asia and Europe. However, Rajasinghe II, surrounded by Europeans from all sides, thought he would hedge his bets by giving the fort of Trincomalee to the French. In a game of colonial chess, the Dutch defeated the French at Trincomalee and captured the fort, but the treaty that made Sri Lanka a Dutch protectorate was never implemented. The Dutch brought Tamil slaves from Tanjore (present day Thanjavur) to work the cinnamon and tobacco plantations.

Step out beyond the fort area and you will find yourself approaching Pettah. This manically chaotic district is the hub of Colombo’s colourful markets – and some excellent street food! Golden Sinhalese coconuts stand along side mountains of tropical fruit and fresh veggies as you stroll along the pavements.

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Pettah Market, Colombo

Along side Colombo’s colonial era architecture and its cutting edge contemporary new rise buildings, are plenty of temples particularly of the Buddhist variety. Of these, the Gangaramaya temple is well known, standing on a tree-lined street, in the heart of the city. It is the center of extravagant Vesak celebrations and is not only a place of worship, but also has a well kept museum and library on the premises.

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Gangaramaya Temple Museum, Colombo

Masks are one of the most vivid and eye-catching forms of Sri Lankan craftsmanship. The mask tradition originally came to Sri Lanka from Kerala and South India but took on a life of its own as Sri Lankan craftsmen enhanced the masks with lurid colours and carving. The masks were primarily used in traditional forms of ethnic dance – particularly the devil dance. A privately owned museum in Ambalangoda tells of the many legends behind these elaborate masks, and their myriad uses in traditional folklore. (read more about Sri Lanka’s mask heritage here: https://www.lanka.com/about/interests/masks/)

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Mask Museum, Ambalangoda

Puppetry is another ancient Sri Lankan art form and the Puppetry Museum in Colombo pays a fitting tribute to this rich heritage. A vast collection of puppets, some of which are nearly life-sized, speak of a rich and evocative history.

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Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo

Colombo was originally known as the Garden City – even today it has several beautiful open spaces, green areas, and both lake and seaside waterfronts. Galle Face Green is the arterial promenade which runs along the sea face. Others such as the Cinnamon Gardens and the Viharamahadeva Park are a delightful place to stroll through at any time of the day.

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Galle Face Hotel, Colombo

Accommodations are plentiful in Colombo and there is an exponential growth of beautifully designed boutique hotels that have a quirky charm and plenty of personality. Other stalwarts like the Galle Face Hotel (which has recently been restored) are graceful reminders of Sri Lanka’s long heritage of hospitality. It is also known for its shopping – from designer clothes to local handicrafts.

Bustling and buzzing yet laid back and relaxing, Colombo is full of charm. Culture, adventure and cuisine are all within striking distance of the city’s walls. Road and rail connectivity to the rest of the country make Colombo a great jumping off spot from which to explore the emerald isle – or even a city break weekend in itself.

 

Kenya – A Wake Up Call for the Curious and Adventurous

Umeamkaje? (How did you wake?) is a preface to almost any conversation in Kenya. It makes one stop and pause… how did we wake?

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Was it with the harsh ring of an alarm clock so that we could board our small plane in time to make it to Meru National Park?

Was it a wide-eyed eye opener onto stunning views of Mount Kenya?

While watching a herd of giraffe grazing over the Serengeti?

In Kenya, any of these could have been our umeamkaje moment – or yours.

Arrive Nairobi.

Nairobi is not the reason most people visit Kenya. The city’s reputation lives up to its gritty nature. But scratch beneath its layers of sweat and blood, and you will find a few unexpected surprises – such as its music scene. Yes – the Kenyan capital is one of the hubs of contemporary East African music and its many bands and bustling clubs are a testament to its musical vibe.

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Nairobi’s suburbia is a national park – literally. The Nairobi National Park is just on the outskirts of the city and makes a terrific getaway from the capital’s hustle – not that the rest of Kenya lies far away.

Head two hours south, out of the urban sprawl, and into the magnificent trough of the Great Rift Valley.

The Great Rift Valley. 

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A 6000 kilometer continental fault traverses across continents from Jordan to Mozambique. We know it as the Rift Valley. But it is really in Kenya that its anthropological importance has been magnified as a cradle of Maasai culture and early human civilization. From Hell’s Gate, which supported some of the earliest human settlements on its shores, to beautiful lakes like Naishiva and Nakuru, this is a craggy and serendipitous landscape where vast water bodies, give way to sweeping grasslands, and sudden cliff faces. Flocks of flamingoes, herds of wildebeest, and elephants roam these grassy plains though many animals have moved higher up to avoid the burgeoning populations. While the Maasai once populated the entire Rift Valley, they were pushed deep into the south during Europe’s colonization of Kenya. Today, the most authentic Maasai communities are still in the south of the country.

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Kenyan Wilderness.

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Kenya’s initial draw is usually its wildlife. As you travel down the Mombasa Highway between Nairobi and Mombassa, several of the best and lesser known parks dot the countryside that lies on either side of this arterial thoroughfare.

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2000 meters above sea level, the Maasai Mara is by far the best-known park in Kenya – not least because of its enormous wildebeest migration each year. Herds of these magnificent creatures cross these plains in the thousands. Well watered by ample rainfall, the animals migrate to the Maasai Mara away from the dry lands of Tanzania. No matter when you visit, the Mara is always full of abundant wildlife and one can spot many different species of wildlife in large numbers.

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The Maasai Mara may be the best known, but Tsavo is the largest. So large in fact that it is split into two – Tsavo East and Tsavo West. Tsavo East is the larger of the two, and is largely bush land punctuated by a surreal landscape of Baobab trees. Tsavo’s vastness makes it ideal for those who want to wander off the beaten path. Having waged a massive war against poachers, Tsavo’s elephant numbers are back on the rise, and thanks to its relative isolation, one can also spot several rare species here such as the Kudu or Serval.

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If it is elephants you seek, then Amboseli, though smaller, could be the place to go. Dominated by beautiful views of Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background, this park is well frequented by visitors. Stark and uninviting in the dry season, Amboseli’s true beauty comes to the fore during the rains.

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Some of Kenya’s more esoteric species like the Grevy’s zebra and the Beisa oryx are best viewed in Samburu.

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In contrast, Meru is a lesser known jewel among Kenya’s national parks. The landscape alone will lull you into a sense of tranquility as streams rush through its wavy grasses and copses of Doum palms, amid riverine swamp jungle, give it an other-worldly quality. Meru’s animal sightings have increased recently and if you seek to venture off the beaten path, this could be an opportunity worth taking.

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Lake Victoria and the West & The Central Highlands.

If you want to get to know Kenya intimately, without the tourists snapping at your heels, then the western part of the country is well worth the explore. Here the equatorial rainforest teems with wildlife such as Black Rhinos, giraffes, several species of birds and many animals that are completely endemic to the region. Lake Victoria and the many beautiful islands within it warrant a couple of days as does the charming tea-growing region around Kericho.

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If you are enthused by history and politics, then the Central Highlands of Kenya cannot be missed. This was the main territory which saw powerful clashes between the native African tribes and the European colonizers, especially the British. This was the part of Kenya that saw the most anti-colonial resistance that ended up in the Mau Mau uprising of the Kenyans against British rule. The Central Highlands have long lonesome moors where large cats are known to roam. Some of these are melanistic species of cats such as leopards and serval. The Central Highland region is also where Mount Kenya is situated – a massive volcanic cone that gives the country its name. Spectacular scenery makes this great hiking and walking country, especially along the paths of the Aberdare range.

Mombasa and the Indian Ocean

Where Nairobi is about commerce and hustling the next buck, Mombasa has a far deeper sense of community and culture. Mombasa has a faded charm that seeps through its skin.

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Mombasa has historically been a melting pot of many different ethnicities and influences. This was the central heart of Kenyan’s Swahili culture and even today, you will see its deep roots in the language, dress and culture of the people who live here. Mombasa has also embraced the Arab and South Asian influences that washed up on its shores and as a result there are several mosques, Hindu temples, Sikh gurudwaras and various degrees of worship make themselves felt in chaotic harmony. Mombasa was where de Gama first made his landfall in East Africa and the Portuguese never looked back from here. The Portuguese established themselves until the Omani Arabs overthrew them, who held sway until they in turn were ousted by the British.

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Mombasa is also the entry point to some of Kenya’s most gorgeous beaches and for marine life enthusiasts, a lesser known fact about Kenya is the vast marine diversity that exists among its coral reefs. PADI and SSI Dive centers dot the beaches along the coast and there’s plenty to be seen even just a few feet into the surf!

So how do you choose to wake? Call us today to craft your once in a lifetime Kenyan adventure and wake up the curious and adventurous soul within you.

 

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.

Umaid Bhawan Palace
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.