The Zuri Kumarakom, a slice of romantic paradise!

Early last year, I was a guest at The Zuri Kumarakom for a day. To be honest, it might have been too short a stay for me to write a review about any hotel, but I decided to make an exception this one time because this wasn’t just any hotel… this was THE ZURI KUMARAKOM!

I have stayed at a few luxury hotels in the past even though on most days I would choose the chatty confines of a hostel dorm over the quiet plush comforts of a star hotel. But every once in a while, when you have been traveling quite a bit, you feel the urge to pamper yourself. Well, whether tired or not, five star pampering is always welcome, especially when it is from the heart of God’s Own Country.

As part of the first KeralaBlogExpress, I was part of the group of travel bloggers that was chosen to stay at the impressive Zuri Kumarakom. Though our time there was really really short, from 6 pm on day 1 to around 11 am the next day, it was enough for most of us to realize that we had just experienced hospitality of the highest order. The team at the hotel led by the General Manager Mr. Sarat Valsraj left no stone unturned to ensure that we had the most incredible time at the hotel.

Amongst the many amazing luxuries offered by the hotel, I managed to try a few which included viewing the famed sunset over the Vembanad lake from the hotel’s jetty, a swim in the surreal pool, an ayurvedic massage session, a four course dinner and of course an amazing night spent in one of the hotel’s lavish cottages. In more ways than one, I think the hotel would be the perfect honeymoon destination. The Zuri Kumarakom, like its name (Zuri in Swahili means ‘far beyond expectation’), was a hotel that had given me a taste of luxury far beyond my expectations!

Here are the top 5 reasons why I think that The Zuri Kumarakom is a Slice of Paradise that you must definitely visit with your partner.

THE ARCHITECTURE & THE SPACES WITHIN

The Zuri Kumarakom kerala resort & Spa (5)

The building that houses the hotel reception and lobby.

The Zuri Kumarakom kerala resort & Spa_ Lobby (33)

The reception lobby and guest lounge area.

THE LAGOON

Pan Shot_Zuri Kumk

The lagoon that connects to the magnificent Vembanad lake.

THE MAYA SPA

MAYA SPA (25)

The couple massage area at the Maya Spa.

The jacuzzi at the spa.

The jacuzzi at the spa.

THE ELEPHANT POOL

The Zuri Kumarakom kerala resort & Spa (34)

The pool that looks over the lagoon with the Vembanad lake in the distance.

MAYA SPA

The Maya Spa and the Elephant pool at night.

THE DREAM COTTAGES

The Zuri Kumarakom kerala resort & Spa_Presidential Pool Villa (41)

Some of the cottages have their own private plunge pools with a view of the Vembanad lake!

A cottage with a balcony opening out to the lagoon.

A cottage with a balcony opening out to the lagoon.

A private plunge pool in one of the cotages.

A private plunge pool in one of the cotages.

 

*All the photographs posted here have been provided by the hotel management on my request as I did not have enough time to shoot photographs of the hotel during my stay. Though my stay at the hotel was complimentary, the thoughts and views in this post are my own.
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10 Portraits from Jordan

Jordanians are some of the warmest people I have come across during my travels. Whether it was the taxi driver who welled up telling me about his kids who were at university in America or the young boy who gifted me a bunch of postcards just because I offered him half the sandwich that I was carrying during my visit to Petra; every person I met had something personal to share.

I did not mind getting lost in Amman at night or even losing my phone (which was amazingly returned to me later!) because the experiences I had during my time there would make up for everything else. Never in my craziest dreams had I imagined that I would spend 20 minutes of my life singing the title song of ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ (a 1977 Bollywood movie featuring the legend Amitabh Bachhan!) with a cab driver while we were both trying to find the way to a cheap hostel in the heart of downtown Amman! (You may want to check out the video of the original song here… it will help you understand what an incredibly hilarious experience it must have been for me!)

I could go on and on about the experiences but I will limit this post to sharing the portraits that I managed to capture of the beautiful people I met in Jordan. The stories will follow in later posts!

At Petra, he gifted me a bunch of postcards and 5 minutes of his time.

At Petra, he gifted me a bunch of postcards and 5 minutes of his time.

The Bedouin woman who along with her friend shared cups of tea with me.

The Bedouin woman who along with her friend shared cups of tea with me.

He didn't speak a word. Offered me a smoke and we sat quietly in the Siq soaking in the rays of sun streaming in.

He didn’t speak a word. Offered me a smoke and we sat, absolutely silent, in the Siq for a few minutes soaking in the first rays of the morning sun streaming.

Yasmin only wanted sweets from us. She sat by the rocky steps leading to the Monastery as her mother swept the ground nearby. She broke into this smile when I gave her a packet of cake.

Yasmin only wanted sweets from us. She sat by the rocky steps leading to the Monastery as her mother swept the ground nearby. She broke into this smile when I gave her the slice of cake I was carrying.

The first man I photographed in Amman. Was standing by his stall in the downtown area. He was smiling all the while but put on this look when I asked him if I could take a photo.

The first man I photographed in Amman. Was standing by his stall in the downtown area. He was smiling all the while but put on this look when I asked him if I could take a photo.

He wanted me to buy some 'original' antique coins and wasn't very happy when I refused.

He wanted me to buy some ‘original’ antique coins and wasn’t very happy when I refused.

One of the confident young Bedouin men from the Wadi Rum village. They all loved to pose for the camera!

A young Bedouin man from the Wadi Musa village. He knew a thing or two about fashion and how he wanted his portrait to be taken. They all loved to pose for the camera!

Hussain, my cab driver for a day in Amman. Ex-footballer and university coach, now an honest hard-working cab driver.

Hussain, my cab driver for a day in Amman. Ex-footballer and university coach, now an honest hard-working cab driver.

Zidane Al-Zalabieh, the owner of the Bedouin Meditation Camp in Wadi Rum and one of the most interesting people I have met.

Zidane Al-Zalabieh, the owner of the Bedouin Meditation Camp in Wadi Rum. An amazing host and a very interesting man who has hundreds of stories to share.

I lost my phone a few hours before I was supposed to leave Jordan. He spent almost 3 hours helping me find the phone and getting it back to me. He only spoke Arabic and I don't understand a word of the language, but we communicated just fine! :)

I lost my phone a few hours before I was supposed to leave Jordan. He spent almost 3 hours helping me find the phone and getting it back to me. He only spoke Arabic and I don’t understand a word of the language, but we communicated just fine! 🙂

Why you will fall in love with Wadi Rum!

It was my second day at Wadi Rum and I had a few hours to kill before my host drove me back to the camp. 24 hours had passed since I had arrived and I was mesmerized by the magnificence of the vast desert. I had spent hours sipping on cups of Bedouin tea in the company of Zedane (my host, the owner of the Bedouin Meditation Camp), explored the majestic rock formations of Wadi Rum during the day and slept under the stars in the night. I was pretty sure I was in love. It wasn’t the first time that I had been swept off my feet by a destination and it sure wasn’t going to be the last. But yet this was special. Almost unreal.

When Zedane offered me a ride to Wadi Musa after our morning tour of the desert, I couldn’t refuse the opportunity of meeting locals and chatting with them. We reached the sleepy village a good couple of hours into the afternoon when the sun was still in a relentless mood. As my host went about finishing the errands that he had set out do, I excused myself to take a walk through the almost desolate looking village. With tall and rugged rocky hills on two sides, the red desert sand on the other two and most buildings in a pretty dilapidated condition, the village looked like a settlement that had been flattened during some fierce intergalactic war years ago on the surface of Mars!

Now that we’re done with the dramatic description of the context, let’s zoom into the scene!

I stood by the side of a tiny shop in the village smoking a cigarette. The shade was a welcome relief after having spent now almost 45 minutes photographing excited school kids who were more than eager to pose for me. An old run down Landcruiser came and parked next to me. The driver, a young lad with a serious demeanor, looked at me and greeted me with a Salaam alaikum. I responded, Walaikum salaam. After we had introduced ourselves, I offered him a cigarette and we began chatting.

A few minutes into the chat, I asked him about what he loved about his life at Wadi Rum. Hamad had just told me that he had spent his whole life living there and had never had the urge to venture out. For someone like me who couldn’t fathom a life without travel, this was the most obvious question to ask. This post was inspired by his answer. He spoke with incredible maturity and he was only 23. His answer was simple and honest. It was the truth.

“My friend, I love this desert. It is very big and it’s all mine. Every night there are many stars. I feel like they are all mine too. I don’t need anything more. I am happy.”

 

Hamad, the man who showed me what it was that made Wadi Rum special.

Wadi Rum and the Bedouin way of life

From the minute you reach the visitors center in Wadi Rum village, you will feel like you have time travelled back to the past when life wasn’t in such a hurry. The Bedouins are laid back to an extent where you with your crazy sense of time and punctuality (which comes from the machine-like existence that city life enforces) might think they don’t seem to be eager enough to extend an enthusiastic welcome. What you might not realize is that your hosts are just being themselves. It’s time for you to relax.

The Bedouin way of life has changed over a period of time with Wadi Rum becoming a major tourist attraction but at the very core, things haven’t changed that much. Though he makes more than what his family needs by catering to a constant stream of guests from around the world visiting his property nestled in the shadow of one of the many sandstone hills that dot Wadi Rum, my host Zedane spent time tending his sheep every morning after making sure the guests had had their tea and breakfast. He, like all the other locals, had managed to hang on to a life that was all that he had known when he was a little boy.

This photo was shot after I had climbed up and settled atop one of the hills to soak in the warmth of the morning sun and I saw Zedane with his sheep. The frame seemed to capture everything that Wadi Rum was about. I could see the sandstone mountains in the horizon, the red desert sand laid out in front of me and the simple Bedouin way of life, all in one shot.Wadi Rum and a Bedouin tending sheep

 

*During my time at Wadi Rum, I stayed at the Bedouin Meditation Camp for 2 nights. I would highly recommend this camp to everyone who plans on travelling to Wadi Rum especially for the great hospitality and warmth that Zedane (the owner) and his sons extended to me. I booked my stay through the Booking.com website but you can also contact the camp site through their website – www.wadirumbedouinmeditationcamp.com

Indian Woman Travellers, Leading the Way into 2014 – Part 6 (Final Part)

This is Part 6, the final part, of the series featuring Indian Women Travellers. For this series, a set of questions were sent to Indian women travel bloggers with the aim of finding out a bit more about their lives and what motivated them. The underlying purpose of this series is to get more people from India and around the world to get inspired and seek out the many fantastic adventures and sights that India has to offer.

To know more about this series, please read the post – “Indian Women Travellers, Leading the Way into 2014 – Part 1”.

Featured here in Part 6 are 5 women travellers from India who have been exploring destinations solo.

1) TRUPTI DEVDAS NAYAK (http://exploringthebluemarble.wordpress.com/)

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: I’ve been traveling internationally most of my adult life. As a child, I was lucky to get to travel and explore many parts of India with my parents and siblings.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: Travel has become a way of life for me. I love discovering new places and learning about various cultures and history. I enjoy meeting and befriending new people. A foodie at heart, I’m always up for trying local cuisines and interesting dishes. With travel, I get to see places and experience things I’ve only read or heard about. The anticipation and planning that goes into travel gives me a lot of joy even before the trip starts. I love nature, national parks and wildlife and have camped in 30+ parks around the world (many in the United States).

You can read about my outdoor adventures at Trailbound, a Wanderlust & Lipstick blog (http://wanderlustandlipstick.com/blogs/trailbound/).

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: On the occasions that I have traveled solo, I have been pleasantly surprised by the openness and helpful nature of people, rather than facing any serious challenges. This also depends on where you travel solo. In some countries or cities where women might not generally be perceived as being intrepid or independent, a solo woman traveler might face some prejudices and would need to overcome them bravely. In my experience, being street smart and reasonably cautious goes a long way in safeguarding oneself.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: Any destination or experience is lesser known until you’ve seen and experienced it for yourself. As Proust said, “The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”. The best way to discover new places is to start in one’s own backyard. You can explore the city you live in, learn about its history and meet the locals. International travel opens up a host of exciting destinations, some well known, some hidden gems, both leaving a lasting impact on the traveler. From my recent travels, two places I recall fondly are Machu Picchu in Peru and the Amazon rainforest. You can read about my 4-day trek to Machu Picchu here (http://wanderlustandlipstick.com/blogs/trailbound/2014/02/24/hiking-the-inca-trail-to-machu-picchu/). Having grown up reading about wild adventures in the Amazon, our week-long stay in the heart of the Amazon rainforest in Peru was a dream come true. In India, the fabulous ruins of Hampi are close to my heart. You can read more about Hampi in my article “Poetry in Stone” (http://travelthruhistory.com/html/historic118.html). I would encourage everybody to travel to places they have always yearned to see, whether you’ve read about it in a book, seen a documentary on it, or have always just wanted to visit and experience it for yourself.

Follow Trupti on Twitter – @TruptiDevdas

2) SHIKHA GAUTAM (http://nomadscribblings.com/)

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: 4 years.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: A nomadic life, the realisation that I can wake up to a sunrise in a very different, new landscape if I wish to.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: An acute lack of basic facilities, like washrooms, in India. Also, a simple “hi” is assumed to be a call for more talks and an invitation to get over-friendly. Trying not to talk to people around you even when you’re stuck for 2 nights in a train journey is an ordeal.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: I loved Diu for the entirely solitary beaches. For women travellers going solo, the whole of north east India is a blessing. Especially Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, where you meet the finest of folks. These places are so safe that I ended up feeling like being in one of those uber safe Scandinavian countries!

Follow Shikha on Twitter – @shikhagautam

3) SUSHMITA SARKAR (http://www.myunfinishedlife.com/)

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: Since my teens.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: I have always been addicted to travel, from my childhood. When I chose to be and Engineer, my profession allowed me to travel to remote places in India, starting with Gujarat. This trip was a great source of inspiration for me to travel solo as a woman.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: For me, the biggest challenge is to find a proper loo in the remote areas.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: I would recommend a road trip in Kathiawad region of Gujarat, India. It is remote, hauntingly harsh but beautiful landscape, with colorful and friendly people and very different type of cuisine.

Follow Sushmita on Twitter – @MyUnfinishedlyf

4) DIIPTI (http://www.diipti.in/)

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: 10 years, may be more…

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: Travel is not an addiction. Its like saying what got you addicted to breathing. Humans by nature are made to wander, explore, find new territories, expand their boundaries. I like home as much as I like to travel, the essence being to explore the world and come back to find my place anew.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: I am yet to face a challenge on my travels. People are people, when you treat them with respect they reciprocate. People have their share of peculiarities and prejudices but when you talk to them as an equal, they respect that and see beyond your gender, caste, race; its as simple as that. 

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: Ghoomakad – a community space and eco-stay, 10 kms away from Dharamshala. Travel beyond the sights and sounds, travel to fulfill your incomplete thoughts and ideas to to help a community fulfill theirs, this and more you can fulfill here at Ghoomakad. www.ghoomakad.im

Follow Diipti on Twitter – @diipti

5) SHIRLEY D’COSTA (https://www.flickr.com/photos/wanderblah)

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: 7 years.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: I think if you live within 4 walls you’re bound to believe that’s what the world is like, so I like getting out there and surprising myself, and I’ve had a pretty fabulous time doing that. Every single time and every single place I’ve travelled to leaves me sort of humbled about how little I actually know about things around me.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: I’ve never actually bothered about being a solo ‘woman’ traveller per se. I started travelling alone initially cos co-ordinating leaves was difficult, and I wanted to make the most of my ticket to London and so backpacked around. You do the usual – avoid empty streets when late, watch your back, tell people you’re headed some place even if you dont have a plan, and trust your gut! But that apart, travelling alone has meant having some of the nicest conversations with absolute strangers – both locals and tourists, and making some great friends along the way.  

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: In India I’d say Hampi (rent yourself a cycle and explore!), outside I’d say Florence (you’ll never have enough days here. Hop over to Cinque Terre if you can) More importantly, dont bother with detailed itineraries and rushing through checklists. Chuck the museum and the monuments, ask the locals where to eat, get a map and just walk/ cycle around and you’ll have a far more enriching holiday!

Follow Shirley on Twitter – @wanderblah

 

This was the last post of the series ‘Indian Women Travellers’. Over the past six months, 39 solo Indian women travellers were interviewed. Hopefully the example they have set and the stories they have shared in this series will inspire many more women and men to explore Incredible India on their own.

 

The Dubai Fountain – 5 minutes of WOW!

Dubai is known for the superlatives it boasts of and the Dubai Fountain is another one of those. If you are in Dubai, whether on a visit or in transit, make sure to add ‘view the Dubai Fountains’ into your to-do list; even if it was the only thing on your list. What about the Burj Khalifa or the Burj Al Arab or even The Atlantis, you ask? For starters, these are not free attractions. You have to pay a fee to have a true experience at any of them. Moreover, these either need you to spend longer periods of time or make bookings in advance. The Dubai Fountain is an awesome experience that comes for FREE!

Get on the Metro or take a cab and get yourself to the Dubai Mall, make your way to the Souk Al Bahar and just wait for the party to start. Performances take place at 1:00 pm and at 1:30 pm as well as every 30 minutes from 6 pm to 10 pm on weekdays, and from 6 pm to 11 pm on weekends (weekends being Thursday, Friday, and Saturday). Make sure to find a good viewing spot 5 minutes before the show starts as the crowd (especially on weekends), I promise you won’t be disappointed. And yeah, try not to say wow when the tallest spray hits a height of 500 feet (45 floors!) and you hear the boom!

As a bonus, while you wait for the performance to start, you get to stand next to the world’s tallest structure and gape skywards in awe. You may even try to fit the amazing Burj Khalifa into your camera’s viewfinder but try doing that without hitting some interesting poses for some other sneaky photographers (like me!). A fun post on the Burj Khalifa and the health benefits associated with it will be up on the blog in the very near future! 😉

Anyways, to make you believe that a visit to the fountain is worth it, I risked ruining my camera lens while putting it up against a constant spray of fountain mist! Now that I have managed to use my brilliant skills to stop crazy kids from knocking down my tripod while at the same time protecting my lens, you get to see one of the versions (and there are quite a few!) of the Dubai Fountain! Enjoy. 🙂

Indian Woman Travellers, Leading the Way into 2014 – Part 5

This is Part 5 of the series featuring Indian Women Travellers. For this series, a set of questions were sent to Indian women travel bloggers with the aim of finding out a bit more about their lives and what motivated them. The underlying purpose of this series is to get more people from India and around the world to get inspired and seek out the many fantastic adventures and sights that India has to offer.

To know more about this series, please read the post – “Indian Women Travellers, Leading the Way into 2014 – Part 1”.

Featured here in Part 5 are 6 women travellers from India who have been exploring destinations solo.

1) JAI BHARATHI (http://www.gounesco.com/traveler/jaibharathi/)

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: Have been travelling on work for almost more than 10 years,but started Solo Travel since last 2 years.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: Never ending roads,Old monuments & beautiful landscapes always lured me to travel often.After winning GoUnesco Challenge for 2012, my curiosity to visit more Heritage Sites increased multifold and hence from then on I have decided to visit all the World Heritage Sites in which ever country I visit.That lead me to a Solo trip to Turkey to visit all the 11 WHS in Turkey in 11 days on a tight budget of just INR 90000/- (including return airfares).

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: Safety is always a biggest challenge, but I’m glad I could overcome this with the kind of solo trips I have done until now. Next big thing is finding a proper accommodation, for which my solution is to travel during the nights which cuts down both on finding a better accommodation & also saving up money. Last but not the least, the gut feeling to talk or trust strangers who may not always be harmful.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: Champaner Pavagadh in Gujarat, is an amazing example of a prehistoric Mughal city. More than 100 monuments at the site are designated under the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Very few people visit this place & hence its very peaceful & worth spending a day.
Safranbolu in Turkey – the entire city is designated under UNESCO WHS for its well preserved Ottoman era houses and architecture.

Follow Jai Bharathi on Twitter – @JaiBharathi

2) ADITI MITTAL (the-sailing-bee.com)

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: 5 years.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: When I first ventured out of India to the UK for studies, I was caught between the diverse cultures from the people I met. Their stories and travel ventures made me realize that there is so much in this world to see and experience and life is too short. It is since then I take every opportunity that allows me to explore far away lands and a new culture to experience.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: For a solo woman traveler even the safest places become not so safe. I think people see opportunity in a solo woman traveler which is definitely not the case when they are ‘women’. I was robbed in Slovenia, stalked in Budapest and cheated by a policeman in Pisa. After facing so much I do take safety measures and am more vigil but sometimes you can’t predict the danger.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: It’s not lesser known, but I would definitely recommend taking the Auschwitz Concentration Camp tour in Krakow, Poland once in life. The whole visit is still so embedded in my mind. Everyone who has read on Jewish memoirs would relate to this. I was appalled by the place and it’s obviously not a happy place instead makes you to introspect that how lucky we are for not losing anyone dear in the Holocaust.

Follow Aditi on Twitter – @My_Mouthpiece

3) SHREYASI GHOSH (http://bhukkadtravelstories.wordpress.com/)

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: Traveling since I was 5. Traveling alone since a year. 🙂

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: We used to travel as a family every year. My parents made it a point that we should go on at least one trip every year. With relatives in the army & a bohemian uncle who also happens to be into wildlife photography helped. Also I grew up on a steady diet of travelogues, travel magazines and travel shows on National Geographic & Discovery Channel.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: I once got followed by a creepy man on a bike in Goa. I ran inside a cafe and asked the owner for help. The biggest challenge would be to convince people that you are not easy game and to know who to trust. Word of mouth helps when booking a hostel or a ride but otherwise when making new acquaintances one should trust their instincts and not take any unnecessary risks!

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: On my last solo trip to Anjuna, Goa, which is notorious for various reasons, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it isn’t as bad as it is made out to be. I stayed in a hostel where the people were exceptionally nice and helpful. I met a really fun bunch of people with whom I mostly used to hang out. My advice is trust your instincts when you’re traveling solo, irrespective of your gender. If you feel something’s amiss, back off immediately. But having said that, know that you aren’t the only one traveling alone and help is easy to find too, if you ask for it. This is purely subjective and I know detractors of solo travel would disagree. But a little courage is all it takes. 🙂

Follow Shreyasi on Twitter – @gshreyasi

4) SHRUTI SUNDERRAMAN (https://medium.com/@sundermanbegins)

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: For almost three years now.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: Right since my childhood I’ve been someone who doesn’t like any brackets. Basically, I loved having freedom and cosmological amounts of space for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Stepping out, watching life unfold around me gave my annoyingly curious mind a certain amount of satisfaction. I don’t know at what point I “got addicted to travel” per se, because I don’t remember not wanting to travel even for a single minute in my life. I don’t know why I travel. I just know why I cannot stop travelling – because sharks cannot stop swimming.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: Surprisingly, it was not safety. Actually, most people (especially in the interiors of India) were very accommodative and in fact, concerned that I was a single woman travelling; some even went out of the way to make me feel comfortable. I’ve faced the same challenge every solo traveller, woman or not, has faced – natural, man-made and unexpected.

The only difference I have come across, is in the reactions people have given me as compared to the ones given to my fellow male travellers. People seem awestruck and almost shocked that I’m ‘a woman travelling alone’. My point is, all the awestruckness aside, doesn’t your shock reflect an assumption that women can’t manage to travel alone? After a while, ‘Oh My God, you’re a solo woman traveller’ doesn’t feel like a compliment. It only feels like a sophisticated attempt at covering subtle misogyny. 

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: South India has a lot of hidden gems waiting to be uncovered. For example, most travellers head to Rishikesh for river rafting. While you can’t deny the fury of the Ganges and the subsequent thrill it gives you, the Kali river in Dandeli, Karnataka, will surprise you with it’s own arrows of adventure. The interiors of Karnataka are definitely something everyone should explore. For that matter, even northern Kerala has a more relaxed, non-commercial vibe floating around. I’d say, skip the bustling beaches of south Kerala and head up north.
South India is much, much more than temples and the heat, if only you are willing to look and experience. Also, in my travels, I’ve felt that South India is more accommodative of solo female travellers.

Similarly, abroad, I’d say Northern Ireland is underrated. The maximum people do is go to Scotland and turn back, not knowing that some of most picturesque and historical locations are just a ferry ride away. Northern Ireland is truly stunning.

Follow Shruti on Twitter – @sundermanbegins

5) SUMAN DOOGAR (http://blog.nomadicshoes.com/)

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: 3 years.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: The sense of freedom,exploring unknown destinations and connecting to yourself.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: Traveling in public transport and men trying to be ‘extra’ helpful. 

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: Aru Valley, trek from Aru Valley to Liddarwat.

Follow Suman on Twitter – @sumandoogar1

6) SARITA SANTOSHINI (http://crumbsfromyourtale.wordpress.com/)

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: A year.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: For me, travel is the freedom to understand and soak in the world for what it is. What got me addicted was being able to meet such kind and interesting people in the most unexpected of places and learning so much from them. We grow up studying about how diverse the world, or India for that matter is; but it is only since I’ve travelled that I’ve known what that diversity really means, feels and looks like.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: My biggest challenge has been dealing with my own fears. It took me a while to accept that odd stares and questions are going to be a part of the journey, irrespective of where I am. After my first solo trip to a state as hospitable as Kerala, I realised that I would feel safe only as long as I trusted myself enough and was confident. I started out as someone who wouldn’t eat alone in a dhaba en route a long bus journey for the mere reason that I was too conscious of being alone in a crowd. But then, I felt silly to be losing out on experiences (and good food) because of my fear of the way I was being perceived or judged. I’m so glad I’ve shaken it off ever since.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: I was born and raised in Assam, and even though I thought I had seen everything there was to see in the state, I explored it last winter only to stumble upon some of its best kept secrets. Pristine rainforests that are best experienced through a hike, British era towns, and quaint villages by the Brahmaputra and its tributaries that have been holding on to the traditions of small immigrant communities for decades now. Most people traverse miles to see something extraordinary, while such great discoveries lie tucked away in their own neighbourhoods. So, I’d say, go back to your home towns and states and rediscover it. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

Follow Sarita on Twitter – @BlissisTheWord