A Summer Getaway to Tirthan Valley in Himachal Pradesh, India | Things to do in Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh on a family vacation

Tirthan Valley in Himachal Pradesh is a pristine Himalayan region in the kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, India. The Great Himalayan National Park (one of the largest biosphere reserves in India and UNESO World Heritage site) is located in the Tirthan valley and if you are looking for a quiet time away with family amidst lofty mountains and mesmerising natural beauty, then this is the place to head on a summer vacation.  The first time I visited Tirthan Valley and Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP)on a solo trip was in 2006 and was completely charmed by the pretty valley as well the warm locals. However, despite my best efforts, I could only visit it next time last year (2017) on a long weekend getaway at Tirthan Anglers’ Retreat with friends. I so much wanted to come back with my family to Tirthan Valley, so this year, our summer family road trip destination was to Tirthan Valley. It took us 1.5 days to reach the Tirthan Valley from Delhi and equal time to get back, however, the 6 days we spent here absolute bliss and my family was totally taken in by the charms of the pretty valley. Sharing our experiences of a summer family vacation in Tirthan Valley :

By the Tirthan River in Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh

Continue reading “A Summer Getaway to Tirthan Valley in Himachal Pradesh, India | Things to do in Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh on a family vacation”

Schengen Visa from Switzerland | Detailed Guide to applying for Schengen Visa from Switzerland for Indians/Indian Passport Holders

Every year in summer, scores of Indians make their ultimate travel dreams come true by visiting Switzerland (alongwith some cities of Europe). One of the main preparations for a Switzerland or Europe trip is applying for a Schengen Visa for Indian Passport holders, which is also a main pre-requisite to travel to Europe. When me and the husband were preparing for our self- planned trip to Switzerland last summer, one of the most time-consuming process was for applying for Schengen Visa from Switzerland. We had to research a lot on the internet, ask our friends and colleagues who had previously gone on how to obtain a Schengen Visa for Indian Passport holders. I have written this post on Detailed guide to applying Schengen Visa for Indian Passport Holders from Switzerland, based on our experiences, collating all the information as well as practical issues faced (and how we resolved them). Read on:

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Things to do in Lucerne (Luzern) Switzerland | Day visit travel guide to Lucern in SWitzerland

Lucerne (or Luzern) is one of major cities in central Switzerland, popular with tourists all year round due to its charming landscape and heritage. We visited Lucerne on a day trip from Basel (Switzerland) on our 8 day self-planned trip to Switzerland. The pretty city with its beautiful lake, interesting heritage and friendly people made for an enjoyable day spent. Sharing my list of things to do in Lucerne, Switzerland :

Lake Lucerne, Switzerland on a beautiful sunny day

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Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus from Lucerne | Travel guide to doing the Golden Round-trip Mount Pilatus in Switzerland

Mount Pilatus or Pilatus Massif is a group of mountain peaks in central Switzerland, overlooking the pretty & popular canton of Lucerne. One of the top attractions for visitors to Lucerne is the ‘Golden Round Trip’ to Mount Pilatus from Lucerne and back. As the name suggests, the ‘Golden round trip to Mount Pilatus’ is a round trip which takes travellers through some of the most charming swiss alpine landscapes via boat, cogwheel railway, aerial cableway and Panorama Gondolas to the main peak of Mount Pilatus (which is Pilatus Kulm) and back.  On our 8 day self-planned trip through Switzerland, we planned to visit Lucerne and do the golden round trip along with the main attractions of the city. The Golden round trip to Mount Pilatus was definitely the highlight of our Lucerne visit and am sharing our experience as well as pro-tips here:

Travellers on the boat ride to Alpnachstad on the Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus

Continue reading “Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus from Lucerne | Travel guide to doing the Golden Round-trip Mount Pilatus in Switzerland”

Self-Planned Travel Guide to Switzerland for Indians | How to plan for Switzerland trip from India – Trips & Hacks and Frequently Asked Questions for planning a trip to Switzerland

Switzerland ~ the beautiful alpine country sandwiched between France, Germany, Italy & Austria is one of the most scenic countries in Europe. For Indians, the beauty of Switzerland has been immortalized in films by iconic director Yash Chopra and served as the reason for innumerable trips to this country. In fact, one of the best-selling travel packages by all Indian tour companies is to Switzerland (coupled with Europe). We wanted to travel to Switzerland by ourselves and as luck would have it, my husband’s work trip brought us the perfect opportunity to plan a Switzerland by ourselves.

A self-planned trip to Switzerland is always a better idea economically as well in terms of experience both quantitively & qualitatively. I have broken down the Trip Planning into 5 major components – (1) Schengen Visa from Switzerland, (2) Booking Flights and Accommodation for Switzerland, (3) Food & Drinks in Switzerland (Eating Out in Switzerland), (4) Transportation in Switzerland and (5) Travel Itinerary in Switzerland (Places to Visit in Switzerland).

Applying for Schengen Visa from Switzerland

We had to apply for Schengen Visa from Switzerland around 4 months in advance, as it was official travel for my husband and I was also not a dependent (since I am working professional), which requires a number of attaching documents and statements. It takes around 15-25 days of visa processing by VFS, however, ours took only around 10 days. I am in process of writing a detailed post on ‘How to apply for Schengen Visa from Switzerland for Indians’ so keep an eye on my blog. In summary, it’s a good idea to apply much in advance if the travel dates are finalized, rather than later.

Booking Flights and Accommodation for Switzerland

Confirmed Return Flights and hotel bookings are a pre-requisite for applying for Schengen Visa from Switzerland. There are many flight options to Switzerland and depending on budget & destination/departure city of Switzerland, one can book the best fit. We were based in Basel city and booked flights till Zurich and took the train to Basel using our Swiss Travel Pass.

For accommodation, one thing has to be kept in mind that the visa application only recognizes bookings done in hotels, therefore, any bookings done on Airbnb are not valid as per visa requirements. The way to get around this is to book double – book on Airbnb as well as via booking.com (where there are no cancellation charges).

Our experience of Airbnb stay in Switzerland was pleasant; we got single room apartment with kitchen and toilet, which gave us the privacy as well as comfort of living on our own & freedom of planning our day to day excursions from Basel. We had opted for an accommodation with kitchen, which not only saved us money on food, it also was quite liberating to buy & cook fresh food on our own from the grocery stores. I would totally recommend to book stay via Airbnb for families & couples visiting Switzerland. There are many options suiting everybody.  We stayed in hotel on our transit from Zurich on last day and we really felt the difference!

Food & Drinks in Switzerland (Eating Out in Switzerland)

Food and drinks are expensive all throughout Europe, particularly in Switzerland and it forms a chunk of the travel budget. We packed a lot of ready to eat meals, snacks and biscuits in our luggage. In addition, we found out during our trip planning research that there are two popular supermarket chains in Switzerland – Coop and Migros, which stocked all the grocery needs. We bought everyday items and cooked on our own (such as eggs, bread, cheese, etc.) in the Airbnb kitchen as per our needs. We also ate out at times during our day excursions and it cost around 60-100 swiss francs on an average per meal.

Drinking water is not an issue in Switzerland, as the public faucet water is of drinking quality and available all over the cities at public fountains in the country. So the only thing to remember is to carry a bottle around to refill and drink. Otherwise, bottled water is highly expensive affair!!

Transportation in Switzerland

To say that Switzerland has one of the best public transport systems in the world would be stating the obvious.  However, it came as a surprise to me when many people asked me how I travelled all through Switzerland using public transport, when I wrote about my self-planned holiday in Switzerland. I realised that many people are unaware about Swiss Travel System and how to make best use of Swiss Travel Pass. We used the Swiss Travel Pass to get around all the attractions and places in Switzerland and I have written a detailed post on ‘How to use Swiss Travel Pass to travel in Switzerland’ here.


Recommended Read: Day Trip UNESCO World Heritage and capital city of Switzerland – Bern.


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Views from Cable Car on the Golden Round Trip on Mount Pilatus ❤️🇨🇭❤️ . . I absolutely loved the Mt. Pilatus #goldenroundtrip which was part of the #swisstravelpass with @swisstravelsystem . . Read my #swisstravelsystem experience on www.myunfinishedlife.com #linkinbio ————————————– #mountpilatus #mtpilatus #cablecar #travellingthroughtheworld #switzerland_vacations #inlovewithswitzerland #travelphotography #swissness #girlslovetravel #womenwhotravel #doyoutravel #living_europe #wanderlust #visitswitzerland #myswitzerland #journey #exploreswitzerland #exploretheglobe #awesometravel #igtravel #Luzern #traveller #travelguide #summerineurope #beautifuldestinations #mountainsofinstagram

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Zähringen Fountain in Bern, Switzerland ~ The Zähringen fountain is the oldest persevered figure fountain in the UNESCO world heritage city of Bern and dates back to 1535. The distinctive Renaissance columns feature 4 shields with inscriptions commemorating founding of the town in 1191 and the figure is of beer with full armor carrying shield & banner emblazoned with Bern's Zähringen coat of arms, symbolizing Bern government's legitimacy. . . Read my #travelogues on www.myunfinishedlife.com (link in profile) —————————————- #myswitzerland #bern #ilovebern #iloveswitzerland #visitswitzerland #switzerlandpictures #UNESCOworldheritagesite #unescoworldheritage #heritage #living_europe #travelawesome #Europe #europetrip #summerineurope #europediaries #lpmi #cntgiveitashot #natgeotravelpic #doyoutravel #journey #explorer #welivetoexplore #womenwhotravel #discoverglobe #Zähringen #fountainsofinstagram #igersbern

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Travel Itinerary in Switzerland (Places to Visit in Switzerland).

We planned to spend 8 days in Switzerland, taking in 1 day extra each into account, flying in and out. Since the husband also had some work to do in Basel, it became our base for travelling & sightseeing through Switzerland. Due to a 14 hour Flight delay from Delhi to Munich and then to Basel, our one whole day went waste in the beginning of our trip itself! Anyways, we still had 7 days and our day wise Itinerary for Switzerland was this:

Day 1: Visit and Sightseeing in Bern and Thun

Day 2: Visit/ Sightseeing Luzern and taking the Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus.

Day 3: Sightseeing Basel

Day 4: Sightseeing in Fribourg-Gruyers region: Visit to Maison Cailler (Chocolate Factory) and Cheese Factory.

Day 5: Visit to Interlaken and Jungfrau (Top of Europe).

Day 6: Sightseeing in Zurich

Day 7: Sightseeing in Zurich and taking flight back to Delhi

I have written a detailed day to day itinerary guide on my blog, please see here.

 

So, if you are thinking of visiting Switzerland this summer from India…ditch the tour operator and take a self-planned trip to this charming country all by yourself!


You may like to read my other articles on Switzerland trip here :

Day visit to Thun in Switzerland 

Places to visit in Basel, Switzerland

Family Road Trips in India – A Guide | Essential Tips, Hacks & Frequently asked Questions for Driving Holidays in India with kids & family

As a traveller and travelling couple for many years, we encountered a ‘major travel life moment’ after having our baby four years back. Happy as we were being parents, we wanted to experience the happiness and joy of travel & experiencing India with our baby. So we dived headlong into the adventure in the best possible way we thought it can be done – Taking Family Road Trips with our infant who’s now an experienced road tripper toddler of 4.5 years. As we shared our travel stories, we got many curious and incredulous reactions & queries. We realised that what we were doing was something people thought of, but didn’t try out due to many reasons, some of them genuine and some of them only mere mind blocks. As I answered many queries separately over the years to various friends & colleagues and also in various travel forums as an Indian Travel Blogger, I realised I needed to write a comprehensive guide covering all the Essential Tips, Hacks & Frequently asked Questions for Driving Holidays in India with kids & family’. Here is my guide to taking family road Trips in India in Question & Answer Format:

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Things to do in Pondicherry | Travel Guide to Pondicherry, India

Pondicherry or Puducherry, in the south of India is a quaint former French colony and one of the biggest union territories of India. It is popular for its French colonial heritage & architecture and its strong association with the spiritual movement led by Sri Aurobindo. Pondicherry also happens to be one of the few destinations in India I can visit many times and not get bored. In fact, its one of the few places which call out to me when I wish for few moments of tranquillity. Sharing my favourite things to do in Pondicherry:

Promenade Rock Beach views

1)      Relax and Stroll by the Promenade Rock Beach – I can spend hours, if not days by the serene rock beach by the promenade. Looking out to the Indian Ocean, the rock beach is also popular with locals and tourists alike. It offers charming views of the sea as well as very interesting sights of daily life of locals.

People watching in Pondicherry
White Town in Pondicherry

2)      Heritage Walk around White Town – The town planning of Pondicherry can be distinguished into parts – The White Town and the Tamil Quarters. As is evident by its name, The White Town is the erstwhile town means for the French colonial crowd. Today, its inhabited by people of all colours and the beautiful wide avenues with the French flavoured villas, colourful walls and buildings are a visual delight. I have spent many mornings and evenings walking around the White Town and being regaled by the visual delights in its many nooks & crannies.

1)      Visit Aurobindo Ashram – Pondicherry’s history and culture would be incomplete without mentioning Sri Aurobindo and his spiritual movement.  The Aurobindo Ashram is located right in the heart of White Town and it’s a very soothing experience.

2)      Visit Auroville –  This experimental town is located around 16 kms from the main city of Pondicherry and is the vision of ‘Mother’ the spiritual companion of Sri Aurbindo. In essence, it is said to be a physical manifest of the Aurobindo  spiritual movement. Visiting this town is quite an experience! I was totally blown over by the scale of vision and the calm surroundings.

3)      Shopping – Pondicherry has many interesting places to shop, the most famous home grown brand being Hidesign –  which has its origins and production based in Pondicherry. The Hidesign store in Pondicherry offers many discounts and every time I’m in Pondicherry, I make sure to pick up my favourites at discounted prices. The other shops I like there are Ma Pondy Cherie (for interesting souvenirs), Cluny Embroidery Centre (for interesting embroidered pieces in linen) and Auroville in-house shops.

Hidesign Shop in Pondicherry

4)      Eating out – Pondicherry has a thriving culture of eateries & pubs serving a plethora of cuisines from south Indian, French, French-Creole, Italian and much more. Some of my favourite places to eat out are La Villa, Rendezvous (for its pizza), Baker Street (for its yummilicious desserts), Choko La (for its sinful hot chocolate) Bay of Buddha (for its asian cuisine) and Surguru restaurant.

So if you are thinking of visiting Pondicherry sometime, make it soon!!


Read my other travelogues in South India here :

Visit to Thiruvannthapuram, Kerala

Visit to Munnar in Kerala

Visit to Kanyakumari, southern most part of mainland India

Visit to Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu

Visit to Madurai, Tamil Nadu

Visit to  Cochin in Kerala

How Uzbekistan transformed the way I travel | Travel Musings

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” 
― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It

As a kid, I was a fan of author Mark Twain and also geography subject. I would read both with equal enthusiasm; while Mark Twain’s accounts of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in the far back region of Mississippi would evoke a sense of adventure & also empathy for my fellow kids in less fortunate circumstances, reading about all the fascinating regions & countries in my geography textbooks would fire my imagination as well as wanderlust. I so longed to visit the majestic ruins of Petra in Jordan, the brilliant cities of Samarkand & Bukhara on the great silk road, the seemingly unreal cold Gobi Desert in Mongolia and ofcourse the  charming Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur in south India, among many destinations.

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A day trip to Greater Chimgan Mountains and Charvak Lake in Uzbekistan | Uzbekistan Travel Diaries

On my Uzbekistan trip, one of the most pleasant day trips was to the Greater Chimgan mountains and Charvak Lake. The Greater Chimgan mountains of the Chatkal Mountain range is located in the territory of the Ugam-Chatkal National Park, of Tashkent province of Uzbekistan. It is around 100 kms from Tashkent city and take around an hour drive from the city.

Charvak Lake, Uzbekistan

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City guide of Tashkent in Uzbekistan | Uzbekistan Travel Diaries

Tashkent is not only the capital city of Uzbekistan, it is also the gateway to the Silk Road tourist trail of the country. For Indians, it has a special connect as one of the most popular Prime Ministers of the country Mr. Lal Bahadur Shastri died here suddenly when on a diplomatic tour. I visited the city briefly while flying in and out on my Uzbekistan travels and explored as much as I could. Sharing my – City Guide to Tashkent Uzbekistan.

Khast Imam Mosque complex Tashkent, Uzbekistan

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