Rishikesh is a city in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand, in the Himalayan foothills beside the Ganges River. The river is considered holy, and the city is renowned as a center for studying yoga and meditation. Temples and ashrams (centers for spiritual studies) line the eastern bank around Swarg Ashram, a traffic-free, alcohol-free and vegetarian enclave upstream from Rishikesh town.

Ever since the Beatles rocked up at the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late '60s, Rishikesh has been a magnet for spiritual seekers. Today it styles itself as the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’, with masses of ashrams and all kinds of yoga and meditation classes. Most of this action is north of the main town, where the exquisite setting on the fast-flowing Ganges, surrounded by forested hills, is conducive to meditation and mind expansion. In the evening, an almost supernatural breeze blows down the valley, setting temple bells ringing as sadhus ('holy' men), pilgrims and tourists prepare for the nightly ganga aarti (river worship ceremony). You can learn to play the sitar or tabla; try Hasya yoga (laughter therapy), practise meditation or take a punt on crystal healing.

Rishikesh is town in the Dehradun District of Uttarakhand state in India. Total population of Rishikesh is 75,020 (53% male and 47 % female) as of 2001. Rishikesh is situated at 409 meters above sea level in the foothills of Garhwal Himalayan Range and surrounded by the Shivalik range. Rishikesh is 35 kms far from Haridwar, 90 Kms from Mussoorie, 25 Kms far from Jollygrant airport Dehradun, and 240 kms far from New Delhi.

Rishikesh has spectacular view of jungle-clad hills. Rishikesh has also confluence of River Ganges and Chandrabhaga. The glorious attraction of Rishikesh is none other than the great river Ganges herself, running rapidly throughout the city. In the ancient time and still so many yogis, rishis, sages and sannyasis attracted to Rishikesh to practice yoga in this peaceful location. Since then, Rishikesh has known as an abode of sages. Rishikesh is a holy town with so many Ashrams and it is famous for the yoga world wide. Rishikesh is now world famous as a Yoga Capital of the world. Every year during the March month one week long International yoga festival is hosted by Rishikesh.

Rishikesh is also known as gateway to the Char Dham. Char Dham is four popular holy temples on the hills (Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri) Thousands of people attracted every year to Rishikesh for spiritual relief, peace, learn yoga, adventure and to take a dip for salvation. The famous among them were Beatles, Kate Winslet and many more others celebrities. It is believed that by meditation in Rishikesh one can get "Moksha" (liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth) as well as holy dip in the river Ganges.

Apart from spirituality now Rishikesh is also hub for the adventure activities such as rafting, camping, trekking and bungee jumping. Rishikesh is full of tourist every time. There are also big ashrams, centers for Yoga, Meditation, Ayurvedic Massage and astrology are here. Rishikesh is also known as the white water rafting capital of India.

Two big suspension bridges play a major role (such as nerve system in body) in day- to- day life of Rishikesh. These two bridges (jhulas) are know as Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula(Named after lord Ram and his brother Lakshman, the heroes of the Ramayana, who supposedly crossed the river Ganges at Rishikesh on their way up to the hills.). Rishikesh is divided loosely in many parts such as Rishikesh, Ram Jhula (Shivanand Nagar), Muni Ki Reti, Lakshman Jhula or Tapovan and Swarg Ashram, Pashulok Barrage, Dhalwala, 14 Bigha and Shisham Jhari.

From Ram Jhula one can take a boat on sharing basis or walk on the bridge to cross the river. Both sides of the bridge is always crowded with shops of cloths, holy beads, shawls, precious and semi precious stones, replicas of deities, astrological gems, Ayurvedic medicines and Vedic treatises as well as signs of marketing yoga, meditation classes and Ayurvedic massage. Other side of the bridge is known as Swarg Ashram area. So many big ashrams are here such as Swarg Ashram, Gita bhawan and Parmarth Niketan. When you cross the river temples welcomes you with their engraved deities and music shops greets you divine sacred ragas.

In evening beautiful Ganges Ceremony(Ganga Aarti) is organized at Parmarth Niketan and Triveni Ghat. The Brahmin Pundits (priests) performs Ganges Puja (ritual worship) with Vedic hymns, sound of hands clapping and the drums (tabla). Hundreds of people come to witness this Pooja and offer leaf bowls which are filled with flowers and small oil lamps to the goddess. The small sparkling lights floating lamps, river Ganges and auspicious atmosphere creates such a magnificent view and feeling that can attract anyone to join the prayer even the visitors from outside India who can't understand the vedic songs.

manali leh road trip

Ladakh by Road

Traveling to Ladakh by Road is perhaps one of the most thrilling road adventures in India or for that matter anywhere in the world. Traveling Ladakh by road involves crossing some of the highest motorable mountain passes in the world, driving through vast semi-arid planes and glimpses of pristine lifestyle of nomads who live in small settlements all along the way. Ladakh by road offers spectacular sights of barren mountains in Greater Himalaya and Zanskar range, sweeping valleys and stunning panoramas. Colorful Tibetan prayer flags, prayer bells, monasteries and Tibetan Buddist populace that one meets along the way are some unique aspect of traveling to Ladakh region by road. There are two roads that bikers, road trippers and drivers take to reach Leh town. One is Srinagar-Leh Highway and the more popular one is Leh-Manali Highway.

When it comes to road trip the first thing that strikes your mind are the most celebrated Manali to Leh trip. Riding through the criss coss terrain on your beast is something which will be captured in your heart forever. This time while you are on your road trip, get a chance to explore the incandescent beauty of the region. With the snow-capped mountains, distant valleys and the cool mountain breeze make it all more exciting. As you continue your ride through the rugged terrain you will come across some of the most well-known passes. Marvel at the sight of the amazing beauty of this region while you hit the roads on this amazing road trip.

Manali - Leh Highway: Ladakh by Road

Out of the two highways which lead to Leh- Ladakh, one is Manali- Leh Highway, the perfect road for adventure enthusiasts, the other one being Srinagar - Leh Highway. This highway is 464 km long, out of which 350 km, does not have any civilization. For 365 km on this highway, there is no fuel pump as well. Thus, traveling on this highway needs proper amount of planning.

It is anytime better that that you should try Leh to Manali instead  of Manali to Leh. The main reason for this is, you are already comfortable to such high altitudes, moving downwards will not be much of a problem.

You can halt at Sarchu, which is at an equal distance from both the destinations. It is a beautiful place and has numerous accommodation options too. If you do the other way round, day 1 will be Manali – Keylong and day 2 will be Keylong to Leh. Since Sarchu is placed on high altitude, it is not advisable to have a nigh halt here.

Zanskar Valley, Laddakh

Zanskar Valley is one of the least visited spots in ladakh and this is mainly due to the distance and fact that roads here are dirt tracks for the most part. Most people like to take this excursion at the end of their trip while returning from Ladakh via Srinagar; however there are few who like to cover Zanskar first, while a smaller number do it in the middle of their trip.

Zanskar Valley, Laddakh

 Kargil – Panikhar (Suru Valley) (68 kms): It is better to have your breakfast in Kargil itself and also to get the supplies, both for your vehicles and yourself from Kargil. Since there are no petrol pumps in Suru or Zanskar Valley so please ensure you have enough petrol/diesel to travel for 550kms. From Kargil to Panikhar the roads are metalled and barring few freshly laid stretches, it’s full of potholes but easy to negotiate.
First major town you will come across after leaving Kargil would be Sankoo, 42kms from Kargil. It is recommended to have your breakfast here if you haven’t already had it in Kargil, since the next major stop is Rangdum, 88kms from here. Roads from Sankoo start improving as you enter Panikhar and you are greeted with lush green valley and snow covered mountains peaks and glaciers dotting the horizon. Panikhar is one of the most scenic places in Suru Valley and a photography stop here is highly recommended.
Zanskar Valley, Laddakh

 Panikhar – Rangdum (Suru Valley) (62 kms): As one leaves the town of Panikhar, road conditions start to deteriorate once again and the once metalled road becomes a dirt trail. From here onward it’s a dirt trail all the way to the outskirts of Padum. Roughly 40 kms before the town of Rangdum is Parakachik, from here the vistas change dramatically and the real beauty of Suru Valley starts becoming apparent, to relish this beauty it is recommended to come here in late September or October since the grass at that time has shades of orange and that combined with the arid mountain backdrop makes it even more dramatic.

Panhala Fort: Kolhapur

Panhala or Panhalgarh, about 19kms north-west of Kolhapur, is possibly the largest and most important fort of the Deccan. Roughly triangular in shape, the hill fort stands at a height of about 850 metres and has a circumference of approximately 7.25kms. Half of its length is protected by a natural scarp reinforced by a parapet wall and the remaining half is surrounded by a strong stone wall strengthened with bastions. The fort had three magnificent double walled gates, out of which two have survived. The Teen Darwaza to the west is an imposing and powerful structure. There are a number of ruined monuments in the fort. The most impressive among them are the three huge granaries. The largest among them, the Ganga Kothi, cover nearly 950 sq m space and 10.7 metres high. In the north-east corner there is a double story building, called Sajja Kothi, where Shivaji had imprisoned his errant son, Sambhaji.

Panhala was the capital of the Shilahara king Bhoja II during 1178-1209 Ad. It was successively held by the Yadava and Bahamani Kings. In 1489 AD, the fort and the territory was taken over by the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur. Shivaji seized the fort in 1659 AD. It was from here that Shivaji, when encircled by the forces of Siddi Johar, escaped one rainy night to Vishalgarh. Later, the fort remained with the Marathas, except for a short period in between, when it went to the Mughals. The fort remained with the Kolhapur State till India achieved independence.

The famous Marathi poet Moropanta (1729-94Ad) was bron and brought up at Panhala. There is also the Samadhi of Ramachandra Amatya, the author of Ajnapatra, an important work on statecraft, including for construction. Today, Panhala is a sort of hill station and provides all the necessary facilities for tourists.

Srirangapatnam Fort : Srirangapatnam

One of the prime attractions in Mysore, Karnataka is the famous Srirangapatnam fort. Built in the year 1537 by a feudal lord, this magnificent fort is considered to be the second toughest fort of India. The Srirangapatna Fort has four main entrances known by the names of Delhi, Bangalore, Mysore and Water and Elephant gates. The fort has a double wall defense system, which is what makes it impenetrable. The legendary Tipu Sultan's residence was inside this fort. Hence, it is also known as Tipu Sultan Fort.

Tipu Sultan was known as the Mysore Tiger since he fought the British forces here with true courage and valor. It is here that he breathed his last while fighting the British forces in Mysore during the 18th century. The credit of keeping the British away from southern India truly goes to Tipu Sultan and his father who was another courageous leader, Hyder Ali. The fort is located on an island in midst of River Cauvery. The landscape surrounding the fort is very serene and beautiful and is a must visit if you are traveling to Karnataka.

The architectural style of the fort is supposed to be Indo-Islamic and there is a Persian inscription on the gateway that announces its date of construction. There are two dungeons in the lower chambers of the fort that were used to imprison captured British officers. It is also said that Buddha visited and stayed on one of the islands near Srirangapatnam. A temple dedicated to Lord Sriranganatha is also situated over here that is yet another important landmark and tourist attraction.

Chittaurgarh Fort : Chittaurgarh

Chittorgarh, also called Chittaur, from the 7th century to the 16th, was the capital of Mewar under the Rajputs. Chittaur evokes memories of great heroism and sacrifice by Rajput men and women in the intermittent battles that they had to fight against invaders from Northwest or Delhi. Chittaur witnessed both the ravages of war and the triumphs of the spirit. Allaudin Khilji who coveted Queen Padmini of Chittaur, invaded the city in 1303 A.D. Queen Padmini and the women of the court sacrificed themselves in a pyre of fire rather than submit to anybody. This supreme sacrifice has been called 'Jauhar' and epitomises the fiery spirit of the Rajputs of the day. The city stands strewn with monuments and battlements as evidence of the blood and gore that it went through in medieval times.

The Chittaur Fort is the best known fort in Rajasthan. Its origins are traced to the Pandavas of Mahabharata. It is said that Bhima, one of the Pandava brothers, built the fort. Standing on 180 meters high hill, the fort covers an area of 700 Acres. Inside it is the Meera and Khumba Shyam Temple. It is associated with Meera, a mystic poetess devoted to Lord Krishna whose life and bhajans have become part of the folklore and literary traditions of the region and several parts of India.

Chittorgarh (Chittaurgarh) is the epitome of Rajput pride, romance and spirit. It reverberates with history of heroism and sacrifice, which is evident as it echoes with the tales sung by the Bards of Rajasthan. The main reason for visiting Chittorgarh is its massive hilltop fort, which is a depiction of Rajput culture and values.

The fort of Chittor is regarded as one of the most outstanding forts of the country and is indeed the "Pride of Rajasthan State". The formidable fort is perched atop a 180 meter high hillock covering a massive area of 700 acres and is a standing sentinel to the courage and valour of Chittorgarh. It is belived that the fort was build by the Mauryans in 7th century and further strucres were added to it by the successive Mewar rulers.

The one mile long serpentine road to the fort is quite steep and exhastive. The fort is approached through seven huge gateways or ´pols´, which are guarded by watch tower and massive iron spiked doors.

Kangra Fort : Kangra

The Fort, occupying a long strip of land is enclosed with high rampart and the walls cover a circuit of about four kilometres. The main entrance gate is called the Ranjit Singh Gate which is followed by a narrow path leading to Jahangir gate, through the Ahani and Amiri Darwaza, both attributed to Nawab Alif Khan, the first Mughal Governor of Kangra. Thereafter is the Andheri Darwaza from where the path is forked into two directions. The path to the left, through Darsani Darwaza, leads to the portion containing the Laxminarayan temple, datable to Circa ninth-tenth century AD and shrines of Sitala and Ambika Devi. To the north between the two last mentioned buildings is a staircase led up to the palace, known as Shish Mahal and further beyond to the south-west is the polygonal watch tower overlooking the valley. The other path leads to the portion containing the mihrab of a mosque built in Jahangir's time, the Kapoor Sagar tank and other structures.

The most valuable monuments in the Kangra Fort are the so-called temples of Laxminarayan and Sitala, two square chambers profusely decorated with carvings. The ceilings of the Laxminarayan temple is remarkable for its elaborate decoration: The destruction of these two temples is due to earthquake and is perhaps great loss of an irreparable nature. The temple of Ambika Devi, still used for worship is much plainer structure evidently of no great age. The only ancient portion seams to be the pillars and architraves of the mandapa covered by a flat dome. To the south of the Ambika Devi temple are two small Jaina shrines facing west, one of them contains a plain pedestal and in the other is placed a seated image of Adinath, with partly obliterated inscription dated Samvat 1523 i.e.AD 1466 in the reign of Katoch Raja, Sansar Chand I.

The clearance and conservation work brought to light number of loose sculptures and architectural members of the monument which have been kept in a sculpture shed. The important ones, six in numbers have been exhibited in the Himachal State Museum, Shimla. There is a proposal to exhibit the remaining loose sculptures and architectural members by renovating and reconditioning the' existing portions of the monument.

Red Fort : Agra

The majestic Agra fort was built by the great Mughal emperor, Akbar in 1565-75. The Agra fort contains numerous impressive structures like the Jahangir Mahal, Khas Mahal, Diwan-i-Khass, Diwan-i-Am, Machchhi Bhawan and Moti Masjid. The Agra fort is enclosed by a double battlemented massive wall of red sandstone. This wall is about 2 km in perimeter and is interrupted by graceful curves and lofty bastions. Many of the buildings inside the Taj Mahal were pulled down by Shah Jahan, who erected some new ones. The Agra fort has four gates, of which the Delhi Gate is the most impressive.

The fort of Agra stands about 2 km from the Taj Mahal on the same bank of River Yamuna. The Agra fort stretches for almost 2.5 km. At present the visitors are allowed to enter the Agra fort from the Amar Singh Gate. The Amar Singh Gate leads to the courtyard. The magnificent Diwan-I-Am (Hall of Public Audience) is on the right side. A little further lay the royal pavilions (containing Nagina Masjid and Mina Masjid), palaces (Macchi Bhavan, Khas Mahal, Shish Mahal, Shah Jahani Mahal) and the Zenana Mina Bazaar. It is interesting to note that to rooms cool, the walls were made hollow and filled with running water. A very nice view of the Taj Mahal can be had from the balconies in the pavilions.

Shah Jahan was imprisoned in the Agra fort by his son Aurangzeb. Shah Jahan spent his last days in the Musamman Burj of the Agra fort. The Musamman Burj is located on the left of the Khaas Mahal. It is a beautiful octagonal tower with an open pavilion. With its openness, elevation and the benefit of cool evening breezes flowing in off the Yamuna River. From the Musamman Burj one has the best view of the Taj Mahal.

Jaisalmer Fort : Jaisalmer

One of the oldest and massive forts of Rajasthan, Jaisalmer fort is located in the remote Thar Desert. In the medieval times, the location of Jaisalmer on the trade route made it a prosperous town. Jaisalmer came to be celebrated for the chivalry and bravery of its rulers and also for the aesthetic sense represented by its palaces and Havelis. The rulers and merchants of Jaisalmer engaged craftsmen to work on the sandstone mansions, buildings and palaces, filling up the front with sculptural filigree, screen windows, delicate pavilions and beautiful balconies. The Jaisalmer fort is two hundred and fifty feet tall and reinforced by an imposing crenellated sandstone wall of 30 feet height. The fort has 99 bastions.

Jaisalmer fort crowns the Trikuta Hill. Within the walls of Jaisalmer fort lays the old city, which is nearly a quarter of modern Jaisalmer. Jaisalmer fort stands almost 30 meters over the Jaisalmer city and houses an entire living area within massive battlements. Jaisalmer fort is approached through many gates. The Akshya Pol is the entrance gate of the fort. Across the road is the Suraj-Pol. The Suraj Pol is embellished with a figure of Sun. The Hawa Pol (Wind Pol) is an enormous Gateway, girdled by palaces and courtyard and was constructed during the 17th century AD.

The steep cobbled pathways leading to the royal palace pass through four gates. The fort was made invincible by pathways having sharp and twisting turns. Jaisalmer Fort is a five story architectural monument embroidered with balconies and windows, exhibiting fine craftsmanship of Rajput style. Jaisalmer fort has five interconnected palaces. All the palaces have amazing "Jali" and 'jharokha' work.

Outside the Jaisalmer fort is the main market place called Manek Chowk. From the walls of the Jaisalmer fort one can have a marvelous view of the Old City and the adjoining desert.

Golconda fort Hyderabad

A majestic fortress on the outskirts of Hyderabad, Golconda Fort is one of the grandest forts of India. Built around 12th and 16th Century by various Qutub Shahi rulers, this fort has a rich history that is almost 400 years old. It is definitely a place worth visiting in case you are traveling to the south of India. One can see the elegance and grandeur of the Nawabi culture on visiting the famous Golkunda Fort of Andhra Pradesh. A tour around the fort would leave you absolutely mesmerized and you would be completely bowled over by the sheer magnitude of the fort.

The Golconda fort is a fine example of magnificent architecture. The fort was renowned for its diamond trade and it is said that the world famous "Kohinoor" diamond was found here. The architecture of the fort is such that a mere clap at the entrance could be used as a distress signal thus alerting others of any unseen dangers. The technique that was used was of advanced acoustics. The clever architectural plan also allowed uninterrupted supply of water throughout the year. The fort had sprawling gardens and dancing fountains, which are now in ruins.

The fort is built on a granite hill at a height of around 120 meters and is bordered by thick walls. The stone blocks used for constructing these massive walls weigh several tons. The structure is such that though closed, it allows much space for all over ventilation, thus allowing circulation of cool breeze that provides respite from the summer heat.

The entrance gates of the fort are colossal and are fitted with iron spikes to thwart elephants from damaging them. The entire township of Golconda is surrounded by an outer wall, which is about 11 kilometers long. This long road used to be a busy market in the by gone where one could get stuff like jewellery, diamonds, pearls and other gems.