Holiest Places in India
Birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism, and home to many Muslims and Christians, spirituality is at the centre of Indian culture - so much so that religious diversity and tolerance are protected by law. India is home to some of the holiest places on the planet:
• Bodhygaya The epicentre of Buddhism in India, Bodhygaya is visited by endless numbers of pilgrims each year, all in search of tranquility, mediation and enlightenment.
• Rishikesh Famed as the birthplace of yoga, Rishikesh is the place to go if you’re looking to find yourself – head to a remote ashram or a yoga institute, or seek a more thrilling form of enlightenment on a whitewater rafting adventure down the Ganges.
• Amritsar The holiest shrine for Sikhs in India can be found in Amritsar – the arresting Golden Temple will stop you in your tracks, and draws a crowd of both pilgrims and travellers from all over the world.
• Haridwar Known also as the Gateway to God, and nestled away in the foothills of Uttarakhand’s Himalayan region, Hindus travel the entire breadth of the country to wash in the clean waters of Haridwar.
Sri Lanka's Ancient Cities
Intricately carved statues, ornate and delicately decorated temples, complex irrigation techniques that were designed well in advance of any modern systems – Sri Lanka’s Ancient Cities are striking reminders of a civilisation that prospered here thousands of years ago. And these three are not to be missed if you're heading to Sri Lanka, the 'Pearl of the Indian Ocean':
Best Treks in Nepal
All the luxury in the world can’t compete with the challenge of trekking along a steep mountain pass. And the Indian and Nepalese Himalayan region offers some of the greatest trekking on earth:
• Everest Basecamp If you need a lofty goal to get you out of bed in the morning, they don’t come much lofiter than trekking to Basecamp. Put it this way, no matter where you go in life, you’ll never forget the moment you stood beneath Everest - or Chomolungma as the locals refer to her. Find out more about Everest Basecamp
• Gokyo Lakes Some of the highest lakes on earth, worshipped by Hindus and Buddhists alike, the Gokyo Lakes area is considered extremely sacred. Trekking to Basecamp via this route takes travellers across unparalleled landscapes and into the heartland of Nepal’s Sherpa people. Click here for more trip info
• Mt. Kangchenjunga One of the most remote treks in the Himalayan region, Kangchenjunga is the third-highest peak in the world, and offers adventurers a much less crowded alternative to the Everest and Annapurna circuits.
• Dolpa Circuit With green pastures reminiscent of European Alpine surrounds, to the barren moonscapes of its Tibetan plateaus, the Dolpa Circuit is a remote and often strenuous trekking option that rewards travellers with a spectacular view of Everest, as well as Nepal’s highest waterfall, Phoksundo.
Indian Food - North v South
Although India is famous for spicy, fragrant curries, there are some big differences between northern and southern cuisine - in the north, the people have been exposed to many other regional influences and cultures, and this is evident in the food. In the south, the food remains faithful to more traditional Indian cuisines that existed hundreds of years ago. Here's an outline of some of the differences you can expect to find:
• Rice v. bread Although most of us think of Indian cuisine as being accompanied by rice, this is mainly only common in the south of India. In the north of India, it’s more common to enjoy your meal with breads such as chapati, naan or roti. This is because rice grows well in the tropical and semi-tropical climates further to the south, whereas wheat grows well in the cooler northern climate.
• Sauces The 'rice v. bread' effect has a direct influence on the style of sauces you’ll try – if you’re in the north you’ll find that sauces are thicker as it makes them easier to scoop with the bread, wheras in the south, rice dishes absorb thinner sauces well.
• Spices and flavours In the south of India, you can expect more freshly prepared herbs and spices in the dishes, and the use of tamarind and sour flavours is common. In the north, powdered seasonings are more commonplace, and there is a wider use of garlic and onions. Fresh chilli is also used more abundantly in the south, so expect the hottest curries the further south you go.
• Meat v. veg North Indians eat more meat than their southern neighbours due to the Mughal influence, whereas the southern areas tend to be largely vegetarian. They are also able to grow fresh fruit and vegetables in the southern areas due to the tropical climate, but the more arid areas in the north will substitute these with Dahls and preserves.