Unbelievable Bali

Beaches, natural beauty, cultural heritage – the paradise “Glorious Bali Island” has it all. The most popular tourist destination in the Indonesian archipelago, Bali has been well known to the entire world since World War II, with epithets ranging from “Island of Gods”, “Island of thousand Temples” to “The Last Paradise” and “Island of Artist”.

Bali has a tropical climate, so the best time to visit is from May to August, with bright sunshine interspersed with occasional drizzle leading to pleasant temperatures. The wet season lasts from October to March.

In ancient times, the people of Indonesia lived by animism and ancestor worship, till about 600 AD when Indian beliefs began to spread through Southeast Asia, leading to the rise of Buddhism and Hinduism. During the Hindu era, the royalty patronized the native arts of Bali, which was displayed in the palaces – exquisitely carved wood panels, paintings, silk materials and gilded umbrellas adorned the pavilions. Native performing arts such as gamelan music, dances and songs in Kawi were showcased for entertainment and encouraged. Do make time to catch a Barong dance performance. Most art was based on the great Hindu epics. The 16th century Tanah Lot temple dedicated to the Balinese sea Gods has a significant Hindu influence, and is a must-visit on your trip to Bali.

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In the first decade of the 20th century, the Dutch took over the island, and introduced the western way of art and life in Bali, leading to experimentation in style and media by local artists. Art permeates everything in Balinese life even today, from the steeply-terraced rice cultivation to the elaborate temple offerings of flowers at times of celebration. The traditional and modern arts can be viewed at various places: Museum Bali in Denpasar exhibits Balinese art from prehistoric times to the early 20th century, and modern art. Werdi Budaya Arts Center in Denpasar hosts exhibitions and sales of local handicrafts and handloom fabric. Head to Sukawati market for Balinese handicrafts and clothes, Celuk for silver and gold jewelry, Peliatan for art, Tohpati for fine batik, Mas for wooden craft and Ubud for paintings. Traditional Balinese paintings, woodcarvings, woven baskets and batiks make great souvenirs.

Ubud, the “Artist’s Town” and “Creative Heart of the Island" has a lot to offer apart from art – from its tranquil atmosphere along the breathtaking panorama of the Ayung River valley and the stepped rice terraces, to its traditional market and numerous shops which line the road to the Monkey Forest. This little "Royal Town” invites people to “Eat, Pray, Love”. The road from Denpasar, the nearest airport, to Ubud is lined with artisan villages, such as Batubalan (stone carvings), Batuan (paintings) and Celuk. In the town center, the interesting places to see are the Puri (the court of palace of former kings), and the main market just opposite Puri selling T-shirts, paintings, wood carvings. Nearby is the Puri Lukisan (Museum of Paintings). Established in 1954, it is dedicated to showing the works of local artists. There are several places near Ubud that you could visit – the road to Tegalalang has beautiful views of terraced rice fields, Sayan offers a stunning panorama of Ayung River valley and spectacular views of gorges, palms and rice fields, Campuhan, where three rivers meet is a sacred site. There is a very beautiful temple called Pura Gunung Lebah is worth a visit. To the north is Petulu village which is known for kokokan or white herons. To the south is the Monkey Forest with hundreds of tame monkeys and a temple in the middle.

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If you are a nature lover, you simply have to go to Jatiluwih in Tabanan, with never-ending panoramas of fertile rice fields stretching from the foothills of Batukaru volcano to the south coast. The view from Jatiluwih oversees the whole of South Bali. On the route to the mountain village from the town, you will be amazed by the wonderful rural ambience – farmhouses, shrines dedicated to Dewi Sri the Goddess of rice, flocks of ducks and cascading terraces of rice fields. The journey continues up the road till Pura Luhur Batukaru, one of Bali’s most venerated nine “directional” temples that protect the Balinese from evil spirits. The surrounding dense rainforests are rich in wild orchids, healing herbs, fragrant spices and exotic trees. Finally, at the top is Jatiluwih with its magnificent views.

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Bali is the ultimate destination for beach lovers, with warm sunshine during the day and dance and cultural shows on the beach at night. The nightlife on Kuta beach remains vibrant till the wee hours of morning. When there’s a full moon, the Balinese people organize beach games. Bali also has scuba diving, with an extensive range of sea life inhabiting the virgin coral reefs. To see the corals, take a trip to Nusa Penida. Tanjung Benoa beach has a whole range of water sports, from jet skis to banana boats and parasailing. Uluwatu and Sanur beaches are the best place to surf. Try a Reef Cruise from Sanur.

There are several terrestrial activities as well in Bali such as horse riding, elephant rides, quad & buggy ride, bungy jumping, forest trekking, mountain hiking and white water rafting.

Bali is a great destination for relaxation with scenic landscapes, magnificent mountains, beaches, forests and spas where you can unwind, and temples and cultural attractions where you can marvel at the art.

Tours for Movie Buffs

If you’re the person who quotes Fight Club in casual conversation and shares “One does not simply (walk into Mordor)” memes, dreams about visiting Middle Earth and studying at Hogwarts, then you should definitely have a bucket list of movie locations to visit.

Our top 10 recommendations on movie tours for the avid cinephile –

  1. Los Angeles – The home of Hollywood has to be top of the charts. LA may be a multiethnic sprawl with state-of-the-art entertainment facilities downtown, Bohemian culture in Venice Beach area and a multitude of artists, poets, writers and musicians in the suburbs, but there’s bits of movie magic all around. This City of Angels is difficult to navigate for tourists, so you can take the Hollywood Movie Location Tour (5 star rating: Highly Recommended – 11 reviews) to experience first-hand the city’s deeply rooted cinematic culture, showcasing the best movies – Sunset BoulevardChinatown, L.A. Confidential, Back to the Future, Pretty Woman, Grease, The Aviator and Terminator, to name a few.
    Alternately, you could try the Hollywood – Behind the Scenes Walking Tour (5 star rating: Highly Recommended – 13 reviews) to discover landmarks such as the Walk of Fame, Blossom Room – site of the first Oscars, Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre and many more.
  2. New Zealand – With breathtaking landscapes, from towering mountain peaks and glaciers to volcanoes, bubbling mud springs, lush green fields and rolling hills, New Zealand was the obvious choice for Middle Earth and the Shire in Lord of the Rings. Join a Small-Group Tour: The Lord of the Rings Hobbiton Movie Set Tour from Auckland (5 star rating: Highly Recommended – 42 reviews), see the Green Dragon Inn, Bilbo Baggins’ house and lunch at The Shire’s Rest Cafe. Alternately, from Rotorua you can visit Hobbiton as part of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ Hobbiton Movie Set Tour ( 4.5 star rating: Recommended – 20 reviews), or pass by the Ithilien Camp, Isengard, Forest of Amon Hen and Lothlorien with the Glenorchy Movie Locations Tour: The Lord of the Rings (4.5 star rating: Recommended – 12 reviews) from Queenstown.
     
  3. Hawaii – Hawaii’s dramatic landscapes have been the setting of countless movies based in a different world, such as Jurassic Park, Godzilla, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Lost series. The Kauai Movie Sites Tour (4.5 star rating: Recommended – 14 reviews) through sparkling turquoise bays, white sandy beaches along the Pacific, lush forests and plunging waterfalls highlights the movie locations on the Kauai island, with lunch at Tahiti Nui where The Descendants was filmed. If you’re on Oahu, take the Small-Group Oahu TV and Movie Locations Hummer Tour (4.5 star rating: Recommended – 48 reviews) to see where Karate Kid II, 50 First Dates, Pearl Harbour and Lost were filmed.

  4. London – This is your chance as a muggle to discover the world of magic, from Diagon Alley to the Leaky Cauldron, by a black taxi Private Tour: Harry Potter Black Taxi Tour of London (4.5 star rating: Recommended – 132 reviews). 007 fans, find out more about your favorite MI6 agent  as you go around Central London with the James Bond Film Location Tour (4 star rating: Recommended – 2 reviews).
  5. Paris – Synonymous with art and home to poets and philosophers, Paris has been the subject of numerous movies that have tried to capture the artistic free-thinking spirit of the City of Romance. Join an expert guide on a cinematic exploration of the quaint neighbourhood of Montmarte, the setting of Amelie, Moulin Rouge and Midnight in Paris, with the sublime Sacre Coeur Basilica in the background as part of the Paris Movie Tour of Montmarte. For a coach tour through locations of 50 major movies and TV series such as The Da Vinci Code, The Bourne Identity, Ratatouille, Taken and James Bond, hop onto the Paris Movie and TV Locations Tour.
  6. Barcelona – A vibrant city famous for its architecture, Barcelona is also the perfect destination to unwind. Discover Barcelona like Vicky and Cristina with the Barcelona Movie Locations Walking Tour, ending at the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Palau de la Música Catalana.
  7. New York – The quintessentially cosmopolitan way of life in NYC has inspired several film and TV series writers to use the Big Apple as the setting for their scripts. Let a local actor guide you around Manhattan as part of your New York TV and Movie Sites Tour (4.5 star rating: Recommended – 298 reviews), showing you the the locations from Spider Man, Woody Allen’s Manhattan, I am Legend, Friends, Ugly Betty and others. Central Park, considered NYC’s lungs, where you can stroll along its leafy boulevards and paddle in ponds is the site of several scenes from movies such as Serendipity, When Harry met Sally and The Avengers, which you can discover during the Central Park Movie Sites Walking Tour
  8. Chicago – The Windy City is the heart and soul of America’s Midwest, with one of the most recognizable skylines in the US comprising landmarks of American architecture such as the Sears Tower. See sites of movies such as My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Untouchables and Transformers 3, and get a whiff of the history of the city’s famous neighbourhoods such as Gold Coast, Old Town and Lincoln Park as part of the Chicago Film Tour (4.5 star rating: Recommended – 21 reviews).
  9. Austria – Watch the hills come alive with the Sound of Music in Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, with The Original Sound of Music Tour (4.5 star rating: Recommended – 866 reviews) through Mirabell Gardens, Hellbrunn Castle, Nonnberg Abbey – the oldest convent in German-speaking Europe, and Mondsee Cathedral. Discover Vienna In the Footsteps of ‘The Third Man’ (4.5 star rating: Recommended – 14 reviews) through the places where Harry Lime lived, via the Old Town, along the Danube Canal and imagine the Vienna of post World War II times.
  10. Mumbai – The list would remain incomplete without a mention of Bollywood, its musicals, rom-coms and suspension of reality. For an intense Bollywood experience, spend almost an entire day with the Bollywood Studio Tour of Mumbai, understanding the history of Indian cinema, touring the Film City where you can see live shoots, and end your day by watching a movie at Eros, a cozy theatre in South Mumbai. For a casual introduction, just stroll along the Walk of the Stars, ride a rickshaw past celebrity homes and watch a typical Bollywood film at a local theater.

Sailing this Summer

If your “soul is full of longing, for the secret of the sea”, it’s a call to go sailing this summer.

With steady breeze and warm sunshine, navigating the blue seas can be a fun activity to indulge in during summers. Here’s our pick of the top 5 sailing destinations this year.

Aruba – Aruba is just a picture perfect oasis of relaxation, with beaches and beautiful weather. It is the best place to experience the care-free spirit of the Caribbean. White sand beaches, seagulls floating, drinks with little umbrella straws make this the ultimate destination for a summer getaway. Book some sailing and snorkeling time in the crystal clear waters with Palm Pleasure Sunset Sail (5 star rating: Highly Recommended – 12 reviews)

Fiji – The tiny Pacific island of Fiji is “where happiness finds you”. A paradise for water lovers, you can go swimming, snorkeling and relax on a private island on Fijian Islands and Snorkel Full-Day Whale Tales Cruise incl Beach BBQ Lunch (5 star rating: Highly Recommended – 179 reviews)

San Francisco – With the Golden Gate bridge in the backdrop, sail the bay waters and pass by Alcatraz. Get a gorgeous view of the SF skyline and just chill out on the San Francisco Bay Sailing Cruise (5 star rating: Highly Recommended – 79 reviews)

Stockholm – When you’ve had your fill of Ikea, spend a day on a Swedish  yacht and explore few of the 24000 fascinating islands that make up the Stockholm archipelago with the Stockholm Archipelago Sailing Adventure (5 star rating: Highly Recommended – 4 reviews)

Langkawi –  The honeymoon island of Langkawi in Malaysia is heaven for nature lovers, with a gorgeous rainforest that is millions of years old, home to stunning wildlife. The surrounding azure seas and white sand beaches make it an amazing retreat for an extended break. Explore the tropical islands off the coast of Pulau Langkawi and admire the view of the archipelago as part of your Langkawi Sailing and Island Hopping Adventure (5 star rating: Highly Recommended – 3 reviews)

It’s Hanami time in Japan

In Japan, March marks the beginning of the season of Hanami, a pastime of millions of Japanese and overseas tourists during the spring season. Take a stroll down lovely avenues and admire the delicate, ethereal cherry blossoms, called Sakura in Japanese. Check out the region-wise predicted dates for the 2015 season at http://www.jnto.go.jp/sakura/eng/index.php.

Here’s the top 5 places to get blown away by the sheer beauty of the bloom in spring –

  1. Mount Yoshino, Nara

    Mount Yoshino in Nara prefecture has more than 30,000 cherry blossom trees of 200 varieties along the slopes, with trees at different elevations blooming at different times for an extended hanami season. Yoshino is a UNESCO World Heritage site with ancient temples and shrines, so a great place at any time of the year, and undoubtedly one of the best places for Hanami during spring. Book a sightseeing tour of the highlights of Nara at http://www.holidayen.com/compare/s/d2017-kyoto/d4691-nara

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  2. Ueno Park, Tokyo

    A sprawling public park with temples and museums, Ueno is one of the most popular spaces in the city for Sakura viewing with over 1000 trees.

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  3. Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo

    Originally the samurai residence of the Naito family during the Edo era, Shinjuku is a spacious landscape garden with 1500 cherry blossom trees. In Tokyo, you could also take a Cherry Blossom Tour.

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  4. Daigoji Temple, Kyoto

    With a 5 storeyed pagoda and traditional Japanese garden, this UNESCO World Heritage site houses the temple where Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s famous Hanami party of 1598 was held. Based on this event, the Hotaiko Hanami Gyoretsu, a costume parade, is held on the second Sunday of every April. Alternately in Tokyo, you could take a Sightseeing Tour of all landmarks and see the best of the blossoms.

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  5. Hirosaki Park, Tohoku

    5000 blossoming trees surround the Takaoka Castle in late-April, with Mt Iwaki in the distance. The 120 year-old Somei Yoshino here is the oldest cherry tree in Japan.

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Yozakura, the viewing of cherry blossoms at night, is specially arranged at some temples and shrines, with the best lighting and views at Osaka-jo.

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Nature at its best – Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park, located primarily in Wyoming with some parts in Montana and Idaho, is famous for its geothermal activity and the wildlife inhabiting it. It is one of the few remaining ecosystems which have been untouched by commercialization, with inhabitants that lived in the region when first explored by white exploration teams, living there to this day. Yellowstone was made a national park in 1872, and has since welcomed millions of visitors for hiking and camping. Summer is one of the best times to visit, autumn is a good time and less crowded, winters are freezing cold with fantastic skiing trails. Spring brings vagarious weather and is avoidable.

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Approximately 80% forest and the the rest grassland, Yellowstone National Park covers an area of about 2,221,766 acres, made up of lakes, canyons, mountain ranges, and rivers. It lies in the Yellowstone Plateau region at an altitude of around 8,000 ft above sea level and is surrounded by mountains. Mount Washburn, which is 10,243 ft high, is the most visited and prominent mountain peak in the park.

The Continental Divide through the southwest part of the park is a topographic feature that separates the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans water drainage. Some of the rivers such as Yellowstone and Snake rivers originate near each other but due to the divide, the Snake drains into the Pacific Ocean while the Yellowstone drains into the Atlantic Ocean through the Gulf of Mexico. The Yellowstone originates near the Yellowstone River Picnic Area and rises up to the eastern tip of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, offering some magnificent views of the Canyon along the trail.

Approximately half of the world’s geothermal energy is located in Yellowstone, with continuous volcanic activity here. The largest volcano on the continent, the Yellowstone Caldera, has had several eruptions over the last two million years. The underlying magma body that releases tremendous heat is responsible for the beautiful geysers and springs in the area, with the color being added by bacterial population. The soaring geysers and vibrant blue-green geothermal pools make it the ultimate destination for nature lovers. The Old Faithful, Artist Paintpots, Mammoth Springs and a lot of other geothermal marvels are the highlights of the park. Yellowstone Lake on top of Caldera is one of the highest altitude lakes in North America at 7,733 ft above sea level, and has long, beautiful stretches along its banks for hikers to enjoy.

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Obviously, there are numerous hiking trails in the area –

  • Beaver Ponds – One of Yellowstone’s shorter loops trailing through both meadows and forest. Black bears and wild flowers usually dominate the flora and fauna of this part of the world.
  • Monument Geyser Basin – This is short but steep hike, where you can see the stunning view of Elk Park meadow and the meandering Gibbon River leading to Monument Geyser Basin.
  • Pelican Valley – This moderately easy hike goes through prime habitat for bison and other grassland animals, with bridges, a forest, valley and a hydrothermal area on the way.
  • Specimen Ridge – This trail leads to the tip of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone at the one mile point, then to east reaching the top of the Amethyst Mountain.
  • Grebe Lake – A trail used mainly by fishermen and backpackers, the trail goes to Grebe Lake, the headwater of the Gibbon River system. Deer and moose are often spotted along the trail and at the lake.
  • Fairy Falls – The 197-foot Fairy Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in the Yellowstone.
  • Bunsen – This moderately strenuous trail goes up to the summit of Bunsen Peak, offering panoramic views of the Blacktail Plateau, Swan Lake Flat, Gallatin Mountain Range, and the Yellowstone Valley.
  • Osprey Falls – Travel about three miles along the road from Bunsen Peak to reach the breathtaking Osprey Falls Trail.
  • Grizzly Lake – Starting out in a meadow, then climbing 250 feet up a ridge and traveling through burned forest, the route offers excellent views of Mount Holmes and the Gallatin Range.
  • Lost Lake – An easy trail, which starts behind Roosevelt Lodge (Tower Junction), then goes into the forested hillside, coming to a fork, going westwards to the Lost Lake which is about quarter of a mile away.

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Wildlife is abundant and exceptional – black bears, wolves, moose, coyotes, mountain lions, white pelicans and more inhabit the vast, pristine areas. Herds of the once endangered North American Bison graze the rolling grasslands and Grizzly Bears hunt in the forests.

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There are numerous ranches and lodges to stay, or you can camp out in the park. The log-made Old Faithful Inn, one of the few of its kind in the USA, is a must-visit, and a great place to stay. There is also fly fishing and kayaking.

One of the most visually stunning places in the world, the Yellowstone National Park is an incredible place to witness and appreciate the glory of nature. You must spend atleast a couple of days here but if you are unable to, try a day tour through the park at  http://www.partner.viator.com/en/12401/tours/Jackson-Hole/Yellowstone-National-Park-Tour-from-Jackson-/d5261-6055YSNP

The Last Shangri La

The landlocked Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, locally called the Land of the Thunder Dragon is one of the most isolated and pristine countries in the world. It is the one of the few places preserving the Himalayan Buddhist culture, with longstanding traditions remaining unchanged since the 7th century when Buddhism became the dominant religion in the country. This peaceful way of life in the lap of nature with free education and healthcare for all, is probably why Bhutan often ranks among the happiest nations on earth. The unpolluted, virgin scenery, undulating landscapes and warm and hospitable people are reason enough to visit Bhutan.

The national Royal Bhutan Airlines Drukair, the only carrier that operates international flights to Bhutan, flies into Paro from Bangkok, Singapore, India (Delhi, Kolkata, Bagdogra, and Gaya), Dhaka and Kathmandu every week. The flight from Kathmandu offers spectacular views of the Himalayas, including Mount Everest. You require a visa to enter, unless you are a citizen of India, Bangladesh or Maldives. Also, if you’re not Indian, you have to travel with a government-authorized agency. Indian nationals can enter by road through Phuentsholing on the border, starting from Jaigaon. March to May and October to November are the best months to visit.

Apart from the sheer beauty of the Himalayas, there is much to see and enjoy on your Bhutan holiday. To get around in Bhutan, you can take inter-town buses. Within the town, you can walk around or take a cab. There are 3 main towns you can visit – Thimphu, Paro and Punakha.

The capital Thimphu has an old world feel to it, with historical monasteries and fortresses (dzongs). Trashichhoe dzong, the “fortress of the glorious religion” is the seat of the King of Bhutan and an important attraction. It also hosts the festive tsechu celebrations. The Changanga Lhakhang and Zangtho Pelri Lhakhang monasteries are worth a visit. The Statue of Sakyamuni Buddha at Buddha Point atop Kuensel Phodrang is the largest statue in Bhutan. It also offers spectacular views of the valley during sunset and at nights. Try to plan your Bhutan visit such that you spend a weekend in Thimphu – the Weekend Market on the banks of the Wang Chhu is a great place to interact with locals, buy foodstuff, clothes and handicrafts. The National Memorial Chorten is the daily prayer place of the locals, with art depicting the Buddha’s teachings. The National Library houses several ancient texts and a copy of the world’s largest printed book. Simtokha, about 5 km to the south of Thimphu, has pretty carvings and houses the Institute for Language and Cultural Studies.

Paro is a must-visit on your trip to Bhutan. If there was only one place you could go to, it would have to be the Tiger’s Nest (Taktsang temple) in Paro. It is an awe-inspiring trek to an equally magnificent monastery sitting alongside a steep vertical cliff thousands of feet above the valley. It’s built into a series of caves that give the impression of a face when viewed from some distance. This site is believed to be where Guru Rimpoche landed, riding a flying tiger and defeated the demon that lived on the mountain. It is a revered religious site to this day. Paro has several other dzongs and monasteries that you could visit, such as the 7th century Kyichhu Lhakhang, the Rinpung dzong and Drukgyel dzong.

In Punakha you will see the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, one of the greatest displays of fine Bhutanese art and architecture, with a scenic hike leading to it.

Apart from these main towns, there’s also Bumthang District, the historically significant spiritual hub of Bhutan with several ancient, sacred sites.

There’s a lot of untouched natural beauty which you can discover on your treks. Find all routes on http://www.tourism.gov.bt/activities/trek.

Drive through lush landscapes to the Jigme Dorji National Park to see snow leopards and tigers, drop by at the Motithang Takin Preserv to see Takin or Cattle Chamois – the national animal of Bhutan, visit the Haa Valley.

The Bhutanese are warm, friendly people, so you may just get invited to lunch at a village home. You must try the momos, thukpas, salted butter tea and the cheesy, yummy Ema Datshi.

One of the best places to take a break from fast-paced, materialistic lifestyles to re-discover simple joys, find peace and happiness, Bhutan is indeed the world’s last Shangri La.

Tips to Beat Jet Lag

Long distance flights are rarely fun – fatigue, dehydration and jetlag can leave you disoriented and irritable. From shining light behind your knees to flying during certain times only to starving during the flight – there is no end to the number of suggested “remedies” to jetlag. Here are a few reasonable tips to beat jet lag and get the most out of your business trip or holiday.

Before the trip

If possible, try adjusting your sleep time to be closer to the newer time zone a week before you leave. This can help ease the harsh impact that large time differences can have on your body. If you can also alter your meal timings, this will further help in acclimatization.

Before you leave, make sure your trip is well-planned (we can help J), as stress can contribute to jet lag and exhaustion. Exercising and being in good spirits also help.

During the trip

As soon as you get onto the flight, set your watch to the destination time zone and sleep accordingly.

Drink plenty of hydrating fluids, and avoid alcohol.

Elevate your feet as much as possible during your flight.

And if you’re okay with getting a little attention during the flight, you can try some light exercises, such as lifts and walking the aisles. Of course, you have to be mindful of the passengers around you.

While sleeping on the plane, use earplugs, blindfolds, neck pillows and relaxing music, if needed. Take your shoes off and wear comfortable socks. Compression socks also work for some people.

You might also consider some medicines and sleeping aids to prevent jet lag, but only under the advice of a doctor.

After the trip

After arrival, stay awake till the next local bedtime. And then, sleep for adequate time so that you are well-rested. In case you are unable to sleep, try aromatherapy or a spa treatment.

Spend some time outdoors in sunlight on your first day. Light is a powerful natural cue that regulates sleeping hours, and spending time outside helps in better syncing your biological clock to the new time zone.

Do some simple exercises after you arrive at your destination, take a walk or go for a swim. When your body exercises, it gets the extra energy to help you adapt to changing time zones.

Hope you find these tips useful for your next long distance trip. And if you’ve got a different way of dealing with jet lag that works, we’d love to know.

Off the beaten path to Ecuador

Located in the Andes, Ecuador is a land of natural beauty and intrigue for travelers. You can trek the Amazon, climb volcanoes, relax on beautiful beaches, and best of all – visit the famous Galapagos Islands. The tropical location offset by the elevation in the center of the country and the moderating effect of the cold coastal Humboldt Current makes the weather inviting. Warm in the lowlands but extremely pleasant in Quito – there is good weather almost everywhere until you climb high enough.

Quito, the capital, is in the Andes, at 9350 feet above sea level. A relic of colonial architecture, the city is considered one of the most beautiful in South America with architecturally masterpieces of white washed buildings with red tile roofs. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, the climate is delightful all year round. The quaint, charming “Old Quito”, a UNESCO World Heritage site with Spanish architecture and narrow roads has the main plaza of San Francisco and La Compania church. In this city of churches, the Iglesia de La Compania de Jesus stands out with its baroque, colonial architecture and the Basilica is noteworthy for its stained glass windows. The Casa de Alabado is an enchanting art museum, with exhibits from the pre-Columbian times.  The Avenue of the Amazons, “Avenida Amazonas” is a bustling commercial area with outdoor cafes.

The area north of Quito is known as Otavalo country, about a 2 hour drive away, with the towns of Peguche and Cayambe on the way. In the Otavalo Market, the Otavalo Indians bring trade goods from miles around for sale or barter.  It is a bustling open air market, and the Otavalo Indians are a proud and independent indigenous group from the north of Quito.

Further north is Ibarra, a colonial town with fine wooden craftsmanship. Here at the Museo Regional Sierra Norte, you can learn about the Inca history of the continent.

South of Quito, the Avenue of the Volcanoes is a must see. Running down each side of the valley are mountain peaks dotted with dormant volcanoes. Get a breathtaking view of the snow-covered Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. Small villages throughout the valley give the area an old world vibe. You can stay at the nearby town of Baños de Agua Santa, usually just called Baños. It is in the Andes Mountains at the foot of the volcano Tungurahua, with an abundance of hot water springs. Take one of the open buses called “chivas” which go around the city and then take you up to the mountains, where you could catch an eruption. There is a zoo, waterfalls, lovely colonial architecture and great weather in the town – definitely worth visiting.

The Chimborazo peak is the furthest point from the center of the Earth, even further out there than Everest and the coldest place in Ecuador. A risky hike to the summit is fraught with falling rocks, vagarious weather and rarified atmosphere. To climb Mount Chimborazo, you can find a guide in Riobamba, one of the nearest cities with frequent buses to the Chimborazo National Park. It’s also cheaper if you’re part of a group.

Cuenca, also called the Athens of Ecuador, is another UNESCO World Heritage city with gorgeous architecture. From here, you can also go to Ingapirca, the largest Inca ruins in the world.

Roughly 600 miles off the mainland, the Galapagos Islands consist of 13 large islands with exotic wildlife. The island of the Galapogos archipelago are home to the unique plant and animal species that inspired Charles Darwin to formulate and expound his theory of evolution in “The Origin of Species”, and have captured the imagination of poets and biologists alike. Today, travelers can view the same species that Darwin did. Separated from the mainland in the waters of Ecuador, evolution created stunning endemic creatures such as the giant tortoise and the sea iguana, animals found only on the Galapagos. You can reach the islands by flying from Quito either into the Baltra Airport which is the most preferred option or Puerto Baquerizo Moreno at San Cristobal. From there you can either take a cruise around the islands, or take smaller boats and travel on land. You can go snorkeling, diving, sailing on glass bottom boats and see sharks, sea lions, fur seals, turtles, rays and a lot of fascinating marine life. The terrestrial flora and fauna is equally captivating.

Ecuador has much to offer travelers looking for something astounding off the beaten path. Go there to get inspired by the landscape and the wildlife, and come away with a memorable experience.