Ten Crazy-Cool Experiences in India

Thomas at the Chariot Festival in Hampi

Having spent almost a year and a half in India, we know there is no other country on the planet more overloaded with cultural attractions, spectacular architecture, gorgeous scenery, impressive wildlife, and bustling markets. India is also full of quirky surprises. The country managed to leave us gaping in astonishment on a daily basis.

To capture just a bit of what this awe-inspiring country has to offer visitors, we decided to put together our list of ten unique experiences that make a visit so intriguing. And with Etihad booking, finding a flight into any corner of India is easier than ever.

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Komodo, Diver’s Paradise

Tony diving off the coast of Rinca

It’s not exactly a secret among experienced divers, but Komodo has some of the best diving in the world. While land-lubbers are more focused on the famous Komodo dragons, underwater fans realize that Komodo National Park protects some of the best-preserved coral and underwater life on the planet.

Why? As with Nusa Lembongan, deep channels with cold currents from the south seem to be protecting much of the coral from the hot water streams that have ravaged calmer Asian waters to the north. So far, bleaching seems to be less of a problem than in other parts areas of the tropics. Moreover, nature has gifted Komodo with wild ripping currents which make dynamite fishing difficult. Poachers can blow up the reef, but the strong currents drag all the fish away.

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Beautiful Bruges

Wandering through the streets of Bruges

As I said in our Srinagar post, it seems that every city with canals is inevitably compared to Venice. Perhaps, they should be compared to Bruges instead. Simply put, beautiful Bruges is northern Europe’s most enchanting, atmospheric town. A stunning medieval canvas embroidered with lovely canals and cobblestone streets, Bruges is one of those rare, perfectly preserved fairy-tale destinations – which I personally love, love, love! Some, however, will disagree.

Filled with chocolatiers, cafes, horse-drawn carriages, candy shops, pubs and cute little boutique hotels, some will dismiss Bruges as one of those tourist traps artificially maintained to keep visitors happy. Lonely Planet Online goes out of its way to suggest Bruges is part fabrication, reminding us that much of its architecture was redone in the 19th and 20th centuries.

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Gocta Lodge Adventures – Kuelap, Revash, Mummies and More

View of Gocta Falls from Gocta Lodge
See note at end of post on changes since our visit.

Stepping out onto the balcony of our room here at Gocta Lodge, it’s hard to believe this view isn’t on the cover of every travel magazine on the planet. We came to Chachapoyas to explore Peru’s rising star Kuelap, which many are calling the Machu Picchu of the north. Yet, the view from our hotel room may eclipse that rising star.

We look out over a jungle-filled canyon framing the spectacular two-tier Gocta Waterfall, which has only recently been named one of the highest in the world. A flock of several dozen parrots swoops by above our heads. Hummingbirds dart from flower to flower below.

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Remembering Legzira, Southern Morrocco’s Most Spectacular Beach

Thomas at Legzira Beach in Morocco

You never know when one of your adventures will end up becoming a legendary piece of travel lore. You think you are going for a stroll on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Instead, you end up witnessing the last precious moments of a natural wonder that has survived the tests of time… until now.

The central arch on the gorgeous triple-arched Moroccan beach of Legzira is gone. It collapsed in 2016, just a few weeks after we visited, but we only heard the news recently. It’s an enormous loss for Morocco as well as our planet’s natural heritage. Bizarrely, this is the second world famous arch we have visited, which later collapsed.

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Traveling through Magical Maharashtra

Azad Maidan in Mumbai

India is overflowing with rich history, tradition, natural heritage, and glorious architecture. To say the country is overly blessed with attractions is the understatement of the century. One destination which offers up an excellent cross-section of attractions is magical Maharashtra, India’s second most populous state.

Whether arriving via a convenient Delhi to Mumbai flight or making your way overland as we did from Madya Pradesh, the region’s highlights are easily combined into an adventurous circuit which should satisfy even the most jaded travelers (including yours truly).

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Kyoto Autumn Leaves: Japan’s Most Colorful Season

Excited about the foliage in Kyoto's Eikando Temple

I’ll admit that our trip to Japan was a bit last minute, but that didn’t mean our timing was totally random. For years, we had been wanting to experience one of the country’s most stunning natural spectacles, the Technicolor fall foliage season. Autumn leaves? Don’t you mean cherry blossoms?

No. While most Westerners associate the country with the world famous spring cherry blossoms, many Asian tourists are equally drawn to Japan’s gorgeous fall colors, which for religious and cultural reasons have become something quite unlike anything else on the planet.

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Seeing a Kathakali Performance in Kerala

Demoness in Kathakali performance

For visitors to the Indian state of Kerala, one of the obvious highlights – besides exploring the Kerala backwaters by houseboat – is attending a traditional Kathakali performance. Dating back to the 17th century, these colorful musical performances offer up a combination of traditional dance and rhythmic music punctuated with wild shrieks and maniacal laughs. They are quite the experience!

So what is it all about? Plotlines are usually drawn from the Hindu classics such as the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Puranas as well as folk mythology.

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The World’s Most Amazing Adventures

Thomas climbing to the Skylodge in Peru

Yes, these are crazy times. World travel has suddenly come screeching to a halt. From the isles of Oceania to the glaciers of Chile to sweeping sands of the Sahara, adventurers around the globe have had to buckle down and wait for Covid-19 to pass. Fantasies of exotic destinations will have to remain just that for the time being… fantasies.

Yet for those arm-chair travelers who still dare to dream, here is a list of 20 of our favorite adventures to put on your bucket list. Hopefully, the world will start up again in the not-too-distant future. Hang in there, people, this too shall pass.

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The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta Pisa

So is a title even necessary for this post? Or did you miss it peeking out from behind the cathedral? The Leaning Tower of Pisa is certainly one of the most recognized monuments on the planet. It’s the perfect place to start a trip to Tuscany and Umbria, and it’s also a great day trip if you happen to be in Florence. What? Too typical, too beaten-track you say?

Travelers with a major ‘tude might write the tower off as the ultimate travel cliché. It’s not. The famous Leaning Tower of Pisa and the stunning cathedral complex, including its monumental baptistry, are serious traveler eye-candy. If you need a more highbrow motivation, it’s the perfect place to study the very unique Pisan take on Romanesque architecture and search for hints of early Gothic. And, of course, there’s the whole leaning thing.

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