Antarctica: A journey to the worlds end Day 5 – Day 7

                                                                      By Alifiya Calcuttawala

Day 5 : Sunday, March 12th2017


LAT. 65°11’S LONG. 64°10’W

WIND (AM): 4kn variable – TEMP. (AM): 3ºC (partially cloudy)


LAT. 65°15’S LONG.64°16’W


WIND (PM): 1kn variable – TEMP. (PM): 3ºC (partially cloudy)

Once again it was, fortunately, a calm day with a beautiful morning. The ship was already positioned in the Penola Strait ready to allow us for a visit to Petermann Island. Though some icebergs might difficult our attempt to reach the island, we could step on the rounded rocks near the Argentine hut, named “Refugio Naval Groussac”, and proceed with the quest for Adelie penguins.

Some Fur Seals were already waiting ashore and, of course, lots of Gentoos too. Walking on icy snow and somewhat slippery rocks the staff showed us the way to see the penguins with the blackheads and the white ocular ring. Cormorants are nesting in the area as well. The visibility was very good and it was easy to reach the lookout point that has been offered on the southwestern end of the island. Skuas were always around the chicks that were being fed by the adult penguins. A gentle walk and time to admire the views of the peninsula across the Penola Strait consumed our morning and we had enough time to visit the island named after the German geographer August Petermann.

Once on board we enjoyed lunch and got prepared for a visit to a scientific Antarctic station from Ukraine called Vernadsky. Since the group had to be divided in two, we could also inspect a historic house, Wordie House, which in fact was the initial Base, precursor for the future UK Faraday station that operated until the early ‘90s. When the British government was looking forward to discontinue their activities there and dismantle the facilities in the Argentine Islands, they came across a request by the Ukarine authorities concerning their needs to develop Antarctic research and had an agreement to transfer the station from the UK to the Ukarine for just 1£ under the condition that the east European researchers would continue with the collection of data and research programs that the British scientists commenced several decades before.

The visit to the scientific station was a guided tour inside their working areas, offered by the different members of the Ukrainian staff, the meteorologist, the biologist, and the medical doctor, among others. Surprisingly it ended in the southernmost bar they have in the upper level of their main building, where they have a common area to rest. The base commander and his colleagues offered us some “homemade Vodka”, opened their Post Office for sending our post-cards, and sold some of their traditional items in the gift shop, while we were all having nice conversations with them. Our passports got a stamp too, which is a perfect reminder of our visit to the southernmost point of the trip.

At the end of the day, it looked possible to go so we would attempt to pass through this narrow and scenic opening limited by steep cliffs of rocky mountains and hanging glaciers.

This was a wonderful end of the day with the Lemaire Channel navigation and another spectacular sunset on the open ocean to the West. While having dinner the ship moved further North along the Gerlache strait for a new location of Antarctic explorations.

Day 6: Monday, March 13th2017


640 54.7’S, 0620 52.3’ W

WIND (AM): 2kn SE– TEMP. (AM): 1ºC (cloudy)


640 32.4’S, 0610 59.9’ W


WIND (PM): 30kn SE– TEMP. (PM): 2ºC (partially cloudy)

After a wonderful breakfast, we got prepared for our first continental landing! It was at the Argentinian base “Brown”, named after the Father of the Argentinian Navy, the Irish Admiral Guillermo Brown. Half of the group went on Zodiac cruising and the other half landed, taking turns afterwards. The scenic view, for that on land, delivered to some of us a couple of glacier breakings, while the others spent some time sledging on improvised tracks. Sarah received us on the top of a little cliff, showing us, for the first time, a Deschampsia Antarctica, one of the two native flowered plant species. She found also some larvae from a “wingless fly”, Belgica Antarctica, very tiny, under the rocks. During the zodiacs cruises around the Paradise Bay. We make use of all the information we had from the previous geology lecture and H-ice-story recap from the night before.

Slowly, the cloudy sky opened, letting wonderful warm sun rays to reach our faces. And during this so nice feeling, a new smell, that came revealed a surprise, an “asado” (barbequed meat) was being prepared: the ship has its own “parrilla” (where it was prepared).

As we sailed to Foyn Harbour, in between clouds and rain, we get to spot many Humpback whales, in different groups, showing us most of their physical displays, almost everywhere. The ship sailed in circles to let us keep on this observation activity. Zodiac sailing was possible, so we took turns for it.

More humpback whales, fur seals and icebergs. The staff showed us a 1915 shipwreck: the Governoren whaler’s ship. The stern was submerged, what it was still possible to see the wooden deck, some barrels and the exploding harpoons. It was incredibly preserved. Between the snow and more whales, we returned to the ship to have a hot chocolate. After we regained some energy, we had a short recap of tomorrow’s experience and the necessary briefing for the expected sailing. After dinner, some remained in the bar, and the exhausted went early to bed.

Day 7: Sunday, March 14th2017


LAT. 62°59’S LONG. 060°43’W

WIND (AM): 8kn N – TEMP. (AM): 0ºC (partially cloudy)

WIND (PM): 20kn NE– TEMP. (PM): 2ºC (partially cloudy)

Last day in Antarctica, almost last landing. Deception Island received us with a glorious entrance at sunrise. Through the Neptune’s Bellows, we sailed through up to Telefon Bay, near Foster Harbour. Deception Island is an active volcano, which erupted several times (1800, 1812, 1842, 1871, 1912, 1956, 1967, 1969 and 1970). This is the largest of three recent volcanic centres in the archipelago. Deception´s rim has an average elevation of 984 feet (300 meters), with its highest points at Mt. Pond to the east and Mt. Kirkwood to the southwest. Above 328 feet (100 meters) Deception´s cinder motif yields to glaciers and ash-covered ice, which reach the sea at many places along the coastline.

The landscape is full of volcanic rocks and sands, blacks and whites paint the scenery. We went hiking to one little hill, from which we spotted a hidden little lagoon and a couple of streams, which were born from a very dark glacier. It was strange, one felt a little desolated, with no animals nor plants to look at. Back at the ship, and after lunch, we could get prepared for a fantastic ‘momento’: the Antarctic Plunge at Whaler’s Bay, near the Bellow’s. Many of us wore a swimsuit for underwear, just in case. In the land long area, there used to be some buildings, which were initially used for whale’s oil extraction (and many other deeds with the rest of the whale’s body). It eventually becomes a British scientific station, and it was destroyed after the eruption between 1969 and 1970. The beach, station and its sorroundings were full of southern fur seals, which were pretty amazing. These animals seem to be peaceful and joyful, but if feeling at risk or get intimidated, they can sprint like a dog. And bite like one, too. Walking along the abandoned buildings and keeping safe distance, we returned to the landing point. Fumes all over the beach, due to the volcanic remanents underground, that heated the sand and water on hiding tides. When the tides begin to lower, steam arrises between the volcanic sand. And the expected materialized. The Plunge wasn’t for everyone, but those who dared will keep an unforgettable experience. The day ended with a windy and very cold evening. At night we sailed back towards the Drake Passage.


Antarctica: A journey to the worlds end Day 1 – Day 4

  By – Alifiya Calcuttawala

” A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip, a trip takes us.”  – John Steinbeck 

Expedition Log – March 8thto March 17th, 2017

 South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula

Wednesday, March8th2017


Lat. 54°48’S  Long. 68°18’W

WIND (PM): calm– TEMP. (PM): 5ºC (partially cloudy)

Departure was scheduled at 6:00PM, the ropes were lifted from the quayside, and our expedition ship moved off and headed out into the Beagle Channel to begin the long expected journey to Antarctica.

Once onboard, we settled into our cabins, and then gathered in the bar for a Welcome Cocktail. This gave us all a first chance to interact with our fellow passengers and to know the Expedition Staff, as well as some members of the crew. Before inviting us for a welcoming toast, our Expedition Leader also presented our biologist and Assistant Expedition Leader, the naturalist, the guide, and the geographer. They would help us understand the wonders we were about to explore and give lectures during the trip. Expedition Leader also introduced the doctor on board, and our hotel manager, who would be in charge of our well-being with a little help from his kitchen, dining room and cabin staff.

In the meantime, the Expedition Ship was starting to leave the pier in Ushuaia. We were sailing through the scenic Beagle Channel, heading for the open South Atlantic Ocean. After a short while, Our Expedition Leader called us again for an important briefing on safety on board and the abandon ship drill. Shortly after, the ship´s alarm gave us the signal to execute this emergency drill. Moving to our cabins, we donned ourselves with the warmest clothes we could find, picked up our life jackets, and then headed to the muster station, which was at the back of the bar. After a roll call, we knew that everybody was acknowledged for and were led to the orange egg-shaped lifeboats. We felt quite safe but at the same time, we were hoping never have to use them at all.

A nice dinner awaited us shortly after the lifeboat drill giving a chance for everybody to get a bit more acquainted. The evening allowed some of us to be on the decks to enjoy the great scenery of the Beagle Channel, where some of the first birds were spotted. Later, after dinner, we were offered to watch the documentary “Trapped in the end of the World”, about Nordensjolk epic adventure, and we went to bed.

Thursday, March9th2017


WIND (AM): 8kn SSE– TEMP. (AM): 4ºC (cloudy)

WIND (PM): 15kn W – TEMP. (PM): 4ºC (cloudy)

Once we left Tierra del Fuego behind the night before, we were in open waters heading South on our way to Antarctica. It was a little windy, the swell was of up to 5m and the ship moved a bit. Bird watching on the outer decks was fairly good, leading afterwards our way into the bar, where the Assistant Expedition Leader was waiting for us to share his knowledge about ‘Penguins’

After a lunch that not everyone attended, early in the afternoon at the bar, Pablo showed us how different nations could put differences away, and create the ‘Antarctic treaty’. Short after tea time,  The Expedition Leader was in charge of making a general approach to several Antarctic outstanding facts through his lecture “Antarctica, Land of records”. We slowly started to perceive the adventure that we were about to live.

Our movie time after a Drake proven dinner was the documentary Frozen Planet. Many of us went to bed quite early, and no one stayed up late.

Antarctica is getting closer …

Friday, March10th2017


WIND (AM): 8kn S– TEMP. (AM): 2ºC (partially cloudy)


620 35.7’S, 0590 54.2’ WIND (PM): calm– TEMP. (PM): 6ºC (partially cloudy)

A little ship rolling, and a gray, windy sky strayed most of us to the bar or our cabins. Weather inspired us to attend Juan’s lecture, about Antarctic geology. And briefly afterwards the Expedition Leader gave us a mandatory IAATO talk about the required behaviour and equipment for a successful landing to Antarctica. Then we were also introduced to safe “Zodiac” operations, concerning the use of the pneumatic boats for landings and short scenic navigations. A quick introduction on how to dress for the outdoor activities was given too. So, we only needed to check our cameras, load batteries and, generally speaking, be ready for the big adventure, which awaited us.

Soon, in the afternoon, the South Shetland Islands were sighted and we entered them between Greenwich and Livingstone islands through Mac Farlane Strait. Once in the channel, we landed at Half Moon Island where Camara station (Argentina) is located. Finally stepping on Antarctic soil! In the area we could finally stretch our legs in a cold late afternoon, surrounded by Gentoo penguins with their grown chicks and a number of fur seals, and some skuas. After we had enjoyed this landing the boats were ready to return us onboard the Expedition Ship.

In the calmer waters of the South Shetlands we had dinner, a short briefing with the activities for the coming day, and finally went to rest thinking about our first sight of Antarctic penguins.

 Saturday, March 11th 2017


630 54’S, 0600 47’ W

WIND (AM): 7kn SW– TEMP. (AM): 1ºC (partially cloudy)


640 09’S, 0600 53’ W

WIND (PM): variable – TEMP. (PM): 3ºC (cloudy)

Starting our day with a cloudy and cold morning, it got just better and better. After having breakfast sooner than yesterday, we prepared for our next landing, at Trinity Island in the Mikkelsen Harbour. Between diving penguins, we landed in an impressive historical remaining of the whale hunt industry were shown and wore off as soon as we step on the beach. Ribs of boats and ribs of whales, a strange metaphor for a forgotten way of living. Some Gentoo penguins and a couple of Southern Fur Seals invited us to walk the Island, as the staff members proposed a secure trail. From seemingly nowhere, an Argentine refuge hut, which was being restored, but we didn´t get the chance to go into it. A very interesting and intriguing landscape, indeed. We boarded the Expedition Ship anxious for the hot meal that was waiting for us. We sailed a little further, to the Cierva Cove, near the Argentine base “Primavera”, which means, in Spanish, “Spring”. We took two turns to sail on the Zodiacs, for more than one hour each. Nothing prepared us for what we were going to experience. At the very beginning, we could just be wondered over the fishing activities of a couple of Humpback Whales groups. These whales have two different hunting behaviours over krill or fishes. They can just widen up the mouth and engulf lots of krill, pushing afterwards the water through their baleens using their tong. Or they can “Bubble Net”: expelling air bubbles in a kind of circular net.

This air rises to the surface and increasing its volume, the victims get trapped in those and latter eaten the same way than before, engulfing and filtering. They even showed us their tails, laterals fins, blows, and even a little cub was showing off. As we continued our sailing, we could take a real close look at a leopard seal that was resting on an iceberg, just like in a couch. They are not usually aggressive, and she let us take many pictures. Hey predate over fishes and, in some occasions, over penguin’s chick, unexperinced in this cold and dangerous waters. The same kind of sighting for several crabeaters seals we encountered some icebergs further. They get their name from what they eat, not crabs, but krill, which is also a crustacean. A group of gentoo penguins were rehearsing the sea diving skills, near the entrance to the base. The big BIG surprise was just after the second group arrived to the ship. Some humpback whales got curious, very curious, and approached the ship´s stern… We were left wordless, feeling like blessed for the presence of this majestic animals, like ambassadors from another world. Some of us got lucky enough to watch the visit on their zodiacs, and the rest of us contemplated from the stern. A while after, everybody onboard, the guide prepared a recap, just a little info about Antarctic bases and just right after the briefing we had dinner. Today´s bar special: Martini Night!

9 Things That Nobody Told You About Vacationing In Italy

Italy Banner PagePic Courtesy: Shutterstock

Italy is a European country like no other! A wise traveler once said, ‘Put all of Europe on one side and Italy on the other and Italy will still come up trumps’. Maybe it’s as true for their brand of football, wine and food as well, but I guess in his mildly inebriated state he meant it from the tourism point of view! This boot-shaped country has got beautiful landscape with a remarkable coastline and mountains, rolling wine country, an ancient culture which is hard to beat and architecture which will take your breath away. And after you have been suitably mesmerized by Rome, Florence and the Tuscany region, you land up in Venice and think, what the hell were these guys up to? How could they pull off such an incredible feat as building the city of Venice? And then off course there’s the incredible food and wine and the typical Italian way of life ~La Dolce Vita~

1) That Italy is NOT for a hop-skip-jump visit.

St_Peter's_Square,_Vatican_City_-_April_2007Pic Courtesy:

If you are looking at Italy as a 3 night stopover in Rome, don’t waste your time. Go someplace else. That’s a frank advice. You can’t do justice to what this country did in 5000 years and attempt to even try and understand it in 3 days. Minimum spend 10 days. Anything short of that is a blasphemy! Rome and the Vatican needs 4 days; Florence and Tuscany another 4 days; Venice a good 2 full days; Amalfi Coast another 3days. Then there’s Sicily which if you want to get a feel you need 4days. Exploring it would require 6-7 days. And we haven’t covered Milan and the Lake Como region or the Dolomites! So, there you are. In 10 days you would be able to rush through Rome, Florence and a stay in a Tuscan villa, Venice and a bit of the Amalfi Coast.

2) Make a wishlist and dump that checklist.

37013-1920x1200 (1)- PositanoPic Courtesy: Shutterstock

For those who want to see a bit of everything and have a hassle free guided tour where even your meals are accounted for, go for the coach tours. Yeah bring out your laundry list for Italy! But if you have your own wishlist and want to see the Duomo in Florence at leisure or check out the ambiance of Tuscany by staying on a farm or a villa or want to enter Venice in style aboard a cruising yacht or spend endless hours in a piazza in Rome or stand transfixed for hours on end in front of the Coliseum, or stay in Taormina in Sicily for the awesome views of Mt.Etna and the Mediterranean, then go for the independent holidays. Don’t get chaperoned like on a guided coach tour and spend all your time in the world to savor the beauty of Italy like you would your red wine while seated in a café in front of the Pantheon or at the Trevi fountain!

3) Add that ‘self drive’ star to your trip.

venice-341468_960_720Pic Courtesy: Pixabay

Firstly, the ‘self-drive’ houseboat holidays near Venice. It’s a lifestyle holiday that’s so reasonably priced that it’s quite unbelievable. Imagine having a private yacht with 1-4 cabins with en suite loos, a small kitchenette, its own music system, the freedom to navigate down the river, choosing where you want to eat, where you want to moor and go for long walks or cycle down pretty pathways in villages you would never have seen otherwise. The second is self drive car holidays all over mainland Italy where we will chalk out your route and book you in pretty places all over Italy. The 3rd is the enchanting and myth laden island of Sicily. From short breaks to 10 day holidays in Sicily and covering Taormina, a climb to Mt. Etna, Cefalu, Palermo, Agrigento etc.

4) Don’t throw caution to the wind.

ponte-vecchio-691789_960_720Pic Courtesy: Pixabay

They have never given suparis to Indian tourists. Not even in Sicily. At least not yet. The Godfathers are yet to hear about ‘India Shining’ out there. But yes, we keep hearing from people or reading in news that there have been purse snatching or pickpocketing. I have never ‘met’ someone who has been at the wrong end of Italian hospitality. But since they say its that way in Italy, why not just be more careful and don’t go hanging your new Mont Blanc wallet around your neck!

5) Don’t visit at the wrong time of year and regret.

5592923075_3c5953a89d_oPic Courtesy: Flickr

June to Sep is summer. The scent of a warm summer breeze, pretty cafes open till late at night, fashion laden locals and hordes of mesmerized tourists waltzing down every narrow lane, music pouring out from street corners and pubs. It’s a heady cocktail of splendid architecture, food & wine, fashion, amazing landscapes and warm people. You will find it hard not be swept into the philosophy of La dolce vita. Apr/May & Oct would have a bit of all that but less in its intensity as well as price.

6) Don’t be the last minute Indian while VISA application.

suitcase-841200_960_720Pic Courtesy: Pixabay

Not a problem, if you have your papers in order. In perfect order. It’s a Schengen country. But during the summer months, the consulate is loaded with applications, so don’t plan to apply at the last moment.

7) Don’t club in random countries with Italy and regret later.

794px-Isola_SuperiorePic Courtesy: Wikimedia

France, Switzerland and Austria make a good combination. All of them are well connected by trains. For eg, you can combine Geneva (Switzerland), Chamonix (France) with a trip to Lake Como and Milan in Italy. Or you could wander to the Lake side triangle of Lugano (Switzerland), Como and Maggiore in Italy. The schengen visa will suffice for all these countries.

8) Exercise caution while hotel booking for ultimate savings.

ColiséePic Courtesy: Wikipedia

It depends entirely on your budget and the kind of location you like. But we would advise that in Rome choose a centrally located hotel between the Tiber river and Termini stn. Preferably within walking distance of the metro. In Florence choose any hotel close to the station. It’s a walking town. In Tuscany if you want to stay in a vineyard or on a farm, there are plenty of places to choose from. Check with us for ideas. In Venice, if you stay ‘inside’ Venice city, then prepare to pay a stratospheric price for a measly sized room but you may hear the gondola guys serenade you right below the window! Or you may opt to stay instead at Mestre, which is just across the creek and a 3min train ride away. Here you will get a decent 4 star hotel (eg Hotel Bologna) at the cost of a ‘so-called’ 3star hotel in Venice city.

9) Eat through Italy.

7849604206_34015c89cd_oPic Courtesy: Flickr

Italy is a foodie’s delight. The further south you travel the more elaborate the meal becomes, so much so that in Sicily, 1-4pm is siesta time which I guess is more to do with their lunch than with rest. If an Italian decides to host you for lunch or dinner, do keep aside 2-3 hrs for that and no meetings afterwards. Nothing is short of a 3-course meal with wine overflowing. It’s not a Veg food paradise, but veggies will survive well. Indian restaurants are there in the main cities but these are not cheap. A simple dinner for 2 at the only Indian restaurant in Venice will set you back by Euro 40-50. Tap water is safe for drinking in Italy. But then in Italy who drinks water!

Holler if you finally want to take that Italy vacation or just click here to see our awesome Italy package: 16 Days Italy – The Wanderers Way!

March to the Gobi desert

By Alifiya Calcuttawala

When you speak of Mongolia the first thought that strikes is of ‘Genghis Khan’. Most people only read about it in history but how many have actually thought of travelling to Mongolia? I got a fantastic opportunity to travel to this amazing country last summer with a small group of clients’ from Kolkata.

Mongolia is said to be the least densely populated country in the world- an isolated yet magnificent landscape untainted by the modernist hands of destruction and sprawl. An ideal canvas for those who enjoy basic and slow travel, Mongolia is off the beaten track at its very best.

As I flew over the Gobi desert and made my way to the capital city of Ulanbaatar, much of my time was spent in awe – looking out at and being within a staggering expanse of serene, undisturbed wilderness.

Ulaanbaatar is the usual starting point for your trip across Mongolia; the bustling capital city offers everything from temples, museums and public squares, to international cuisine and busy nightlife.

We drove through the seoul street and WOW who would expect such a sight in this far away land – Irish pubs , grill bars , karoke, youngsters walking in designer labels, night clubs in full swing…. It was endless. The Mongols definitely took their Friday night fun quite seriously!

As we headed back to the hotel – my impression of Ulanbaatar had completely changed in those 3 hours – from a city trying to be modern to the most happening city in this part of the world.

After a night of rest in Ulanbaatar my journey to explore the land of blue skies finally started.

My first destination was Hustai National Park – the land of wild horses. One should be prepared that the country doesn’t have a well-trodden tourist track. Dirt tracks are more common than paved roads and a 14 km distance can take up to 3 hours.

As I left the city, I moved through vistas of various colours and textures and was soon greeted by the sights of white ger camps against the backdrop of mountains.

Staying in a traditional ger is a unique and unforgettable experience. Complete with a toasty coal fire heating system it gives you the opportunity to sample local food and the 5 am wake up calls by horses and goats rustling around the outside walls.

Hustai National Park is world famous for the successful re-introduction of the Przewalski horse, Takhi, the only still living wild ancestor of the domestic horse. I spent some time on learning about these beautiful creatures, watching a documentary and as evening descended, I proceeded to see them in their spectacular natural surroundings. These horses do not graze when the sun is as it’s zenith – they usually come out in the open when it gets a little cooler, towards the evening. I have never seen such beautiful creatures – the shutter bugs in our group frantically clicked every movement of the animal. White horses , beautiful grasslands that stretched mountain after mountain, the setting sun.. all of this threw myriad hues of colours on the landscape which turned truly heavenly!!

My journey further continued to the capital city of Genghis Khan – the Karakorum. Although nature dominates, history remains in this ancient city. Be sure to check out the Erdene Zuu Monastery in Kharkhorin. The most important Monastery in the country, it is the first Buddhist monastery in Mongolia which once had over 100 temples and 1,000 monks before the Communist purges in 1937. Like many other scared sites, not much was left standing after this era of destruction, but the Mongolians preserve what is left of their history with great pride.

As the day passed, we shifted South from the mountains to the flat lands to make our way towards the famous red flaming cliffs in Gobi desert. We stopped in between at a massive stretch of green for a comfort break and were totally blown off by the strong winds. The landscape was desolate, not a single human being in sight for as long as you could see, not even an animal or a vehicle passing by – just long stretches of grasslands with rolling mountains in the distance and clear blue skies with small white tufts of cotton clouds and our vans romancing in this surreal landscape.

In the middle of the Gobi where the roads are non-existent with almost no civilisation, lies a tiny village – Ongi. The Ongi ger camp where we stayed the night  is nothing less than an oasis in the middle of this vast desert. With facilities like massage, Sauna rooms, restaurant, showers etc it is a true paradise for the travellers.

After a relaxed day at Ongi it was time to proceed for the last leg of my journey – the Flaming Cliffs site. Also known as Bayanzag, this region of the Gobi Desert in the Ömnögovi Province of Mongolia is an important place in archaeology as fossil finds have been unearthed here. The area is most famous for its first discovery of dinosaur eggs.

Sitting in the verandah, overlooking the unobstructed Gobi desert, I went back to the day my adventure trip started. Travelling through Mongolia is like travelling back into time- seeing surroundings that haven’t changed in decades or even centuries, where locals still live simply, inviting you into their homes with an eagerness to share their wonderful and unique way of life. Wandering through the distinct lack of infrastructure and amenities you realise you are a part of the Mongolian life.

The great outdoors await you with plentiful opportunities for walks, hikes and adventure. Clamber through rock formations, marvel at the hot to cold contrasts of Gobi desert or attempt the strenuous climb of the Khongoryn Els sand dunes, only for the excitement of running or rolling down them afterwards. Race the two-humped camels and soak in the dramatic scenery of the eagle valley.

What you hear about Mongolia with its green hues, herds of wild horses and the golden desert expanse..well, all of that is true. For me, it was an experience like no other. I lost myself for 10 days, embraced the beauty that came from simplicity, and indulged in the overwhelming sense of liberation that came only from standing in an uninhabited place.

(Alifiya Calcuttawala, Regional Director- The Wanderers Kolkata travelled to Mongolia in the summer of 2013 with a group of clients from Kolkata. She is an avid traveller,  always in search of a tryst with the sublime)  


Check out our latest Photography Tour in Mongolia

Why you should visit the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

By Farzana Haque 

Aug 1st to 25th – Mark your dates for one of the best art and theatre festivals of the world!

Festivals… India’s so full of them, we must have one every day! As much as we enjoy celebrating them in our home country, it’s interesting to know that there are many festivals celebrated around the world, and amongst a few avid travellers a fetish to visit them. They are definitely not all Religious, while a few could have started with some tradition or the other, many are related to the customs of the place, the season, the sport, music genres, films, food, drink and even education! To name a few which would certainly ring a bell for most of you are the La Tomatina festival, Sundance festival, Mardi Gras New Orleans, Carnival of Rio de Janeiro, the famous Lantern festival in Taiwan, Oktoberfest.

In my visit to Scotland last summer in August, a family reunion of sorts, we were driving across the country from our base at Killin and ended the trip with a stay at Edinburgh. This was around the 18th of August. This Scottish town, famous world over for its University, its Arts and Architecture program and of course the Edinburgh castle, just bowled us over. What a beautiful town, a pleasure to explore on foot the many museums, historical buildings and markets. But what luck! We happened to be bang in the middle of the famous FRINGE FESTIVAL. It goes on from the 1st to the 25th of August and it’s the largest street art and theatre festival in the world! There are over 3000 shows to choose from around the world and the entire city’s restaurants, pubs and halls participate in holding these shows.

The most interesting part of the Fringe festival is that combined with the shows, is the street fair on The Royal Mile, an entire stretch of road that’s converted into a non-traffic zone with a full carnival atmosphere. All the participants from across the world are selling their shows on this street in the most innovative ways… you have human statues, actual scenes from Shakespeare being played out, music fests, gory scenes, comedy all of it showcased to gain your attention. A square at the Royal Mile is converted into a kind of stage and one of the best acts we saw was by an Argentinian comedian cum dancer, you can’t really get enough of it.

Yes for sure Indians also participate, so there were some Indian acts too! Besides this there are a lot of quaint shops and stalls selling Scottish good, curios, bag piper, kilts, chocolates and antiquities. You hardly realize how you’ve passed the day meandering in between these and the show people.

In the snaps you see a blue colour lady statue, well she’s live and acting, most amazing. Each act is a total surprise.

If you are planning a visit to the UK this summer, especially in August… do drop into Edinburgh and catch the FRINGE, it’s certainly a must do on a long list of must see’s, must do’s of travel. You’ll not only have fun, but get to see so many cultures and theatre from across the world, it’ll only leave you wanting more.


Written by: Farzana Haque (The Wanderers, Nagpur)

Insiders View on London

The Wanderers in conversation with Minaxi Mistry

Everything the guide books or tourism websites won’t tell you about the place.

One little known fact/trivia that everyone should know about when travelling to London

That the London Underground Tube service is excellent, efficient, and the fastest and easiest way to get around the City

What is a must buy when in London?

English Tea!

One take-away after a visit to London? 

British pomp and pageantry – no one does it quite like the British.

What is your advice to first time travellers?

Purchase an Oyster Card, it’s the fastest, smartest and most cost effective way to pay for travel around the City.

One thing to definitely pack when travelling to London

Jumper / Umbrella as you can never predict the down-turn in temperature

One activity anyone travelling to London should not miss.

Hop On / Hop Off Red Bus – excellent way to see all the amazing sights properly with guided information

Where should anyone, travelling to London, definitely get their picture taken?

Buckingham Palace

Which is the best place to get a panoramic photo?

By Big Ben / Westminster Abbey

Best place to enjoy sunset/sunrise?

London Bridge

Most romantic place to take a special someone to?

Duck & Waffle located on the 40th Floor of the Heron Tower – the highest restaurant in the UK !

Best place to have local food?

Any good old fashioned London Pub

Your favourite local dish and drink that you would recommend?

Traditional Fish & Chips served in newspaper and a refreshing Gin & Tonic

One place only the locals would know?

Camden Lock Market for it’s sheer funkiness and eccentricity……you will see sights here of the wackiest people that you will only ever see in London

The best pub and best place to catch up for a drink?

The Royal Standard of England – 900 years old making it the oldest Freehouse in England.  Wonderful food, dog friendly and very cosy.

A local festival you feel more travellers should come and see?

Trooping Of  the Colour Parade is the celebration of the Queen’s official birthday in June. You can watch it for free as it marches past Buckingham Palace and down The Mall, but the real spectacle takes place on Horse Guards Parade, where the Queen will take the salute from one of her Household regiments

The things guide books will not tell anyone about London?

How Expensive just about Everything is in London from Food to Accommodation to Travel Expenses

Is there any particular month you would not recommend travel to London and what would that reason be?

January / February as it can be quite depressing – dark, dismal days

In one sentence,  London is innovative, dynamic, and outrageous, with history and culture leaking from every brick and individual style around every corner.

It’s a supremely cosmopolitan city , with excellent restaurants, quirky pubs, avant-garde shops, unparalleled museums – most of which are now free – superb theatre and attractions and a blitzing nightlife.

Born in Lancaster in the North of England (near the Lake District) in the UK, Minaxi Mistry moved to London when she was 6 years old.  All her education and working life has been in London so she is definitely a Londoner through and through – accent and all.  For the last 25 years, she has worked in a sales capacity and always in the Travel Industry which she absolutely adores. Minaxi  has travelled extensively and her aim is to still travel lots more as nothing makes a person richer and wiser and gives more of a thrill than Travel!

An insiders view of Geneva

The Wanderers in conversation with Kristelle Gentina

Everything the guide books or tourism websites won’t tell you about the place.

One little known fact/trivia that everyone should know about when travelling to Geneva..

The Geneva Transport Card is your free passport to Geneva’s transport network, which means that taking the tram, the bus and the train within Geneva, will not cost you a penny.  You even can cross the lake with the yellow taxi-boats for free. If you stay in a hotel, a youth hostel or at a campsite, you receive the Geneva Transport Card free of charge.  This personal and non-transferable card is offered to you at arrival. During your stay in Geneva, you can use the entire Geneva transport network (UNIRESO) bus and tram (TPG), train (CFF) and taxi-boats (Mouettes Genevoises).  If you arrive at Geneva International Airport, you can get an 80-minute ticket free of charge for a ride to the place of your accommodation. The ticket machine is in the luggage retrieval hall at the airport.

One take-away after a visit to Geneva..

A box of Favarger chocolates – This delicate, high-quality chocolate is a world-famous Geneva speciality. The company, founded in 1826, was initially located on the Pont de l’Ile (in order to use the waters of the Rhone to drive the machinery), but in 1875 it moved to Versoix. Specialities include ‘Avelines’, ‘Nougalines de Genève’ and chocolate fondue.

What is your advice to first time travellers?

Once you check in at your hotel, go straight to the shore of the lake and enjoy the beautiful view of our Geneva’s Water Fountain (Jet d’eau) and the Mont Blanc in the backdrop (Europe highest summit).

One thing to definitely pack when travelling to Geneva.

A pair of sunglass and extra luggage space to bring all your souvenirs and chocolates back with you.

One activity anyone travelling to Geneva should not miss.

One of Geneva Tourism new product:  the Geneva Mystery – a great discovery of the Old Town where you are the hero of your own story.

Where should anyone, travelling to Geneva, definitely get their picture taken.

In front of the Jet d’Eau or in front of the flower clock!

Which is the best place to get a panoramic photo?

At the top of St Peter Cathedral North tower!

After climbing the 157 stairs of the tower, you can enjoy a 360° view of Geneva.

Best place to enjoy sunset/sunrise?

Les Bains des Pâquis – All year round; the Bains des Pâquis is for those who know how to relax.
The ‘city beach’ lies just across from the Jet d’Eau. Visitors can enjoy a splendid view of the lake. Every season has its own activities, but it’s one of the coolest place to enjoy the sunrise.

Most romantic place to take a special someone to..

I would suggest the Rose Garden of the Parc La Grange!
The Parc La Grange has the most beautiful rose garden in Geneva with more than 200 varieties of roses. Adjacent to the Parc des Eaux-Vives, the Parc de la Grange has a splendid view of the lakeside. In summer, the Théâtre de la Verdure organises free concerts here. The Parc de la Grange is one of Geneva’s lakeside parks where you can relax without leaving the city and is a legacy from the Favre family in Geneva who gave it to the city in 1918 and opened it to the public. At the lower end of the park is a gate which leads to the Parc des Eaux-Vives. A manor house with fountains and beautiful flower gardens dominates the gentle slope leading to the lake.

Best place to have local food?

Definitely the Brasserie de l’Hotel de Ville : Grand-Rue 39, 1204 Genève!

Your favourite local dish and drink that you would recommend.

Anyone travelling along the sunny side of Lake Geneva will notice them time and again on menus – freshly caught “filets de perches” (perch fillets), served fried, à la meunière, or in a fine white-wine sauce!

Professional fishermen sail out onto the lake early in the morning to collect the perch from their nets. Their glittering catch can be bought at the harbours in Lausanne, Montreux and Vevey, as well as at the region’s markets. Or you can simply head out onto a breakwater with your rod and try your luck.

One place only the locals would know.

During summer, trendy locals would invade a private beach (normally reserved for a windsurfing school) and enjoy DJ music and freshly squizz juice at LE TROPICAL CORNER.

The best pub and best place to catch up for a drink..

One of my favourite pubs in town is La Clémence. Located in the Old Town, this bar/café is the meeting point of local Genevean. Enjoy our local beer: the calvinus. This beer is an unfiltered organic beer
that has been brewed by the Papinot brothers for 10 years now. It is made from spring water and organically grown barley, hops and yeast; it’s fresh and tasty. There are three types: light, wheat and dark.

La Clémence : Place du Bourg-de-Four 20, 1204 Genève

A local festival you feel more travelers should come and see

The Geneva Festival – Imagine a month of festivities taking place, and to crown it all, one of the world’s most spectacular musical firework displays. A city celebrating!

Hundreds of concerts and activities, a huge funfair, more than 200 food stalls, as well as arts and crafts stands… The whole world seems to be attending the Fêtes de Genève.

Things guide books will not tell anyone about Geneva?

During summer, enjoy a free private transfer on a luxury motor boat to one of the best five stars hotel in town, La Réserve  – Only few people know that this free ride exist and is allowed to anyone (hotel resident or none resident).

At la Réserve, enjoy a beautiful view of the Alps and pamper yourself in their beautiful garden.

Is there any particular month you would not recommend travel to Geneva and what would that reason be?

I think that the month to avoid travelling to Geneva is November.

The weather is not the best, very cold and windy and the city is very calm. People are not buzzing anymore as it is the end of summer and are not ready yet for the Christmas shopping fever.

What is the best month to visit Geneva?

To me the best month to come is June-beginning of July. The weather is as its best, the sun sets late, so you can enjoy a typical summer day. You can enjoy a swimming session in the lake, or just a sunbath in one of Geneva’s park and garden, and enjoy Geneva’s best quality of life.

 In one sentence, Geneva is… A world on its own!

Kristelle is the PR & Media Relations Manager for Tourism Geneva and  in charge of the overseas markets including India. She feels her multi-cultural background is what has made me fall in love with the travel industry!

Born and raised in Geneva, she started her career in Paris and London.  She always loved travelling and loves to be connected to people. Working in Travel PR has helped her unite her two passions. 

Insiders view on Whistler

The Wanderers in conversation with Carly McMillan

Everything the guide books or tourism websites won’t tell you about the place..

One little known fact/trivia that everyone should know about Whistler..

Whistler was the official host mountain for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

What is a must buy when in Whistler?

A Toque (Canadian word for a beanie)

One take-away after a visit to Whistler?

The magical Whistler winter experience!

What is your advice to first time travellers?

Stay for at least 03 – 04 nights and start planning all the fun and amazing things you wish to try while you are here. There is more to do than you realize and even four nights will not be enough to experience it all.

One thing to definitely pack when travelling to Whistler ?

Your camera!

One activity anyone travelling to Whistler should not miss..

Zip lining is one of the most popular things to do when visiting Whistler. Whistler has the longest zip line in Canada!

Where should anyone, travelling to Whistler, definitely get their picture taken..

Up on the mountains (perhaps in the Peak 2 Peak Gondola) – no better view than from up there!

Which is the best place to get a panoramic photo of Whistler?

From the Peak 2 Peak Gondola on a clear day.

Best place to enjoy sunset/sunrise in Whistler?

Experience an exclusive sunrise by going up the mountains for Fresh Tracks breakfast early in the morning. Sunset can be experienced at the Whistler Brewhouse, for après after a day on the mountains.

Most romantic place to take a special someone to?

A sleigh ride & fondue dinner

Best place to have local food?

Multiple restaurants support the local community, but Pasta Lupino is a great local spot.

Your favourite local dish and drink that you would recommend..

These suggestions reflect my personal opinion:

Budget: Poutine and a Caesar

Otherwise: Super Hiro Roll and Spicy Tofu at Sushi Village with a Sake Margarita

One place only the locals would know..

If you want to join the locals for après, go to the Crystal Lounge, Araxi Bar or Cinnamon Bear Bar.

The best pub and best place to catch up for a drink..

Garibaldi Lift Co. (aka. GLC)

A local festival you feel more travellers should come and see.

Wanderlust Festival and Cornucopia Food and Wine Festival.

The things guide books won’t tell anyone about Whistler?

Stay longer than you originally planned – you won’t regret it!

Is there any particular month you wouldn’t recommend travel to Whistler and what would that reason be?

There is no bad time to visit, but check out the events calendar before you book so you don’t miss anything you might find interesting!

In one sentence, Whistler is.. The best, most unforgettable place that will create everlasting memories for you and your family.

Carly McMillan has been living in Whistler for the past 6.5 years.  A native of England, UK, she came to experience one ski season and never went back home!

She now lives in a year round resort in this magical village that is amazing all year round, and loves taking about life in Whistler.

Mongolia – Heaven on Earth

 by Sonashree Roy 

Mongolia was nothing short of ‘Heaven on Earth’ for me or may be the closest replica on the face of Earth. I had the privilege of visiting this Virgin, untouched, unexplored country this summer, which has somehow managed to keep itself alien to the travel loving Indian.

It is here that I first saw a complete semi circle of a rainbow and experienced the thrill of unobstructed view of flat land, for as far as the eyes could see. At any given point of time, in the countryside, you can see at least four different colours of nature, bright and in great contrast. For miles and miles, you will not come across another soul and still you somehow end up enjoying the solitude from civilization and the return to the Cradle of Nature. Mongolia’s Capital, Ulaan Baatar is one of the best mixes of Tradition and Modernization. Everything about this country was mesmerizing, be it the simplicity of its people, its rich culture and heritage or the fact that the country is in perfect sync with nature.

Mongolia shelters the world’s last Horse riding Nomadic culture and once you see them in action, one can only wish if more countries had protected their culture half as wisely. The Ger camps outside Ulaan Baatar, with their simple and basic interiors, are a constant reminder of the many centuries this country is taking you back.

Check out our latest Photography Tour in Mongolia 

Prague: Indeed the best..

When it comes to cities in Europe –  Paris, London, Berlin, Rome –  none of these well-known cities have really made it to being the most beautiful city in Europe.  Yes, these cities have their own charm and a sense of beauty and while it’s not easy to make a categorical statement, my recent trip to Prague put it right up there with the best in the continent.

(Disclaimer: I haven’t come close to seeing all the cities in Europe, but I do have to my credit a few sojourns.)

Prague is a very underrated city in the sense that it’s not usually the first place which comes to mind when one talks about Europe.

However, friends who had visited Prague vouched for it and this was my impetus to visit the city.

Once the center of the world, today, the city is bustling…It has seen many rulers in its time, and it’s only since 1989 – when Czechoslovakia became a democracy that Prague took off as a tourist destination.

What it has:  Gorgeous monuments, great architecture and one of the most thriving classical music scenes in Europe.

The gorgeous Jewish quarter, the old town square, the river side of Vlatva are just some of the main attractions of the city. I was fortunate enough to  experience the exceptional Royal Philharmonic perform Mozart and Strauss at the lovely Municipal House.

I’m no classical music aficionado, but these guys were real professionals. The ballet and singing also added to the experience, but for me the music was the standout aspect.

I’m reliably told that Prague has a great nightlife, but sadly that’s not my thing. Whatever be the status of Prague as a hip night spot, Prague the city, is breathtaking at night. No photograph does justice to the skyline as you walk along the river – the castle on a hill in the distance, the illuminated buildings and bridges.

Decadent Delight

The food wasn’t spectacular in the Italian sense of the word. But it was very good. We went to a restaurant named after Marie Antoinette’s mother, which we were told serves traditional Czech food. Although we did play it safe by ordering pork goulash and a solid Czech beer, the food was wholesome, the meat tender, the service hospitable and the Medovnik (a honey cake topped with crushed walnuts) a delight. The white bread dumplings served alongside the bread reminded me of sannas served at Mangalorean dinners, as an accompaniment  with curry. There are also local liqueurs to be sampled – the Becherovka flavoured with cinnamon, anise seed and more herbs is one potent combination.

The people. Hmm… that’s an interesting one. Perhaps because I travelled from the Netherlands, the people came across as not particularly friendly. They weren’t courteous, but were never really rude either. They didn’t smile so much, but the fact that they don’t speak much English also adds to the distance. But at no point did we feel unwelcome or unsafe, even though we walked in the city till past midnight. I read only after my trip that the city has some problems with pick pocketing. Thankfully I didn’t experience it firsthand.

A relatively cheap city as far as Europe goes, especially for food and drink, although I have heard of restaurants overcharging people by charging them double tax as well as taxi drivers taking tourists for a ride.

One thing you shouldn’t try to do in Prague is try to pronounce all the names. Many words and names sound like they are missing vowels, but don’t tell the locals that. They probably know their spellings.

All in all, Prague’s a gorgeous city – worth visiting and spending time in. I know I’m going there a second time!

Check out our latest package on Slovenia