Four Unique Events in Himachal Pradesh

Himachal Pradesh, situated on the Western Himalayas, is an area of pristine beauty and serenity. The state’s name roughly translates to “land of snow,” which is fitting considering the range of snow-capped mountains it possesses.  Known for its rich culture and beautiful, natural scenery, Himachal Pradesh is not a destination to miss out on. Travelers can explore the many river valleys and looming mountains, as well as Buddhist art and monasteries, due to the strong Tibetan influence on the area. In addition to the Tibetan influence, visitors will also find a strong British influence, particularly in the hill town of Shimla. Outdoor adventure enthusiasts will be thrilled with the activities the area offers. From skiing to paragliding, Himachal Pradesh has plenty to offer in outdoor excursions. Below we offer some unique festivals and events to the region:

 

  1. Holi Festival

Celebrated every March in Palampur, the Holi Festival or the “Festival of Colors,” is one of the city’s most lively celebrations. Traditionally, the day before Holi, the women of the town make baskets out of small twigs from the Kamal tree and then offer these to the elderly men of the town. Small bonfires are lit all over town and people chase after one another to color each other with colored powder or water. The festival – a joyous celebration to welcome spring – includes plenty of singing, dancing and laughing.

Paragliding India

Paragliding in Himachal Pradesh / Photo: Munish Chandel (via Flickr)

 

  1. Paragliding World Cup 2015

India will host the 2015 Paragliding World Cup in the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh this year. The event will be held from October 24-31st. There are expected to be approximately 150 pilots participating in the competition. Himachal Pradesh, specifically the village of Bir, is ranked as the second best paragliding site in the world, following Lake Como in Italy. Thrill-seekers can enjoy the international competition or experience top-notch paragliding for themselves.

 

  1. Kullu Dussehra

Serving as one of the most important festivals in India, Kullu Dussehra takes place in the Kullu Valley – also known as the “Valley of the Living Gods.” The ten day festival occurs in October and is considered one of the most scared times of the year in Himachal Pradesh, as it represents the conquering of good over evil. Festivities include lots of drinking, dancing and some sacrificial ceremonies.

 

  1. Bird Watching Festival

Held every January in Maharana Pratap Sagar in Kangra, the Bird Watching Festival is a great time to explore the diverse avian life found in the region. The festival attracts bird lovers from all over the country to watch more than 220 different species of birds with varying colors and features. The site of the bird watching is around one of the biggest man-made lakes in India, attracting a wide variety of migratory bird species.

24 Hours in Himachal Pradesh

With tea garden filled plains on one side and the pine forests of the Dhauladhar mountain range on the other, Palampur is full of natural beauty and countless opportunities for its visitors. The city is located in the Himachal Pradesh region of India at an elevation of 4500 feet above sea level. Palampur has a wonderful mix of attractions for the history buff, as well as the adventurous at heart.  From breathtaking hikes to serene tea gardens this city has something for everyone. Palampur and the surrounding areas in Himachal Pradesh are full of things to do, see, and taste. We compiled a 24-hour itinerary for a free day spent in the region.

7:00 a.m. “Start the Day out Right”- Get a start to the day by enjoying a typical northern Indian breakfast. Choose between paratha (an Indian flatbread) stuffed with aloo (potato), paneer, or mooli (radish) and served with chutney, pickles, and tea.

8:00 a.m. “Stimulate Your Senses”– Visiting the markets of Palampur is a must. The markets are filled with stalls selling Tibetan handicrafts, textiles, wooden trinkets, and Kangra tea. Awaken your senses as your stroll through the market in search of souvenirs to document the experience.

10:00 a.m. “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” – Get out of the busy city and spend your morning at the Gopalpur Zoo. Surrounded by the Dhauladhar Range, the zoo is filled with native species from the region, including Asiatic lions, Himalayan black bears, Indian hog deer, angora rabbits, Indian crested porcupine, and many more. The zoo grounds are also filled with a variety of plant species, from maple trees to horse chestnut and Deodar trees.

12:00 p.m. “Lunch with a View” – Next, head north of Palampur and grab lunch at Neugal Café. Make sure to have a piping hot cup of flavorful Kangra tea with you meal, while overlooking the beautiful Himalayan range of Dhauladhar.

1:00 p.m. “A Garden Stroll”– After lunch, stroll across the old suspension bridge spanning Neugal Khad – a 300 meter wide channel.

Neugal Khad / Manjula Vasudevan via Flickr

Neugal Khad / Manjula Vasudevan via Flickr

Though it remains a stream during much of the year, Neugal Khad swells to become a raging river during monsoon season. Make sure to stop and take in the views as you cross the bridge – a sight that rivals any other. Continue to Surabh Van Vihar across the channel to learn about the medicinal plants found throughout the gardens. Lastly, rent a boat and get out on the small lake to get a whole other view of the gardens and mountains.

3:00 p.m. “Get Lost in the Clouds” – Get close and personal with the mountains on a short hike to Birni Devi Temple, the highest easily accessible temple in Himachal Pradesh. Depending on your starting point, the hike can take from 30 minutes to 2 hours. No matter your preference in hike length, you will not be disappointed with the panoramic views over the region.

6:00 p.m. “Find Peace in the City”– After heading back into town, make a stop at Tashi Jong Monastery. This peaceful, brightly colored monastery is home to various artifacts, idols, carvings, and paintings.

7:00 p.m. “Get Your Fill”– Finally, end your day with some delicious traditional food. Taj Restaurant is one of the oldest in Palampur and has a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian Indian dishes. Pick from an assortment of curries to soak up the freshly baked naan.

9:00 p.m. “Tea Party”– Spend the evening relaxing and reflecting on your day at one of the many cafés of Palampur. Get to know some of the locals over a cup of tea – Palampur is the tea capital of northwest India – or relax with a good book.

11:00 p.m. “Home Away From Home”– At the end of the night, make your may back to the volunteer house to catch up with your roommates and new friends.

 

Goa’s Best Beaches

Each year, travelers from around the world flock to India’s southwestern state of Goa. The region has earned itself a name as one of the top destinations in India, not just for the exquisite architecture or delicious coastal cuisine, but for its beautiful, white sand beaches. Rivaling those of Bali or Brazil, the world-renowned beaches of Goa are not to be missed. Below are a few of our favorites:

  1. Patnem

A bit more secluded than its neighbors, Patnem is the perfect spot for a quiet, relaxing day at the beach. Backed by shacks and huts, Patnem gives off a casual vibe and peaceful atmosphere. At night, visitors may listen to live music along the shore or head up the street to do some shopping.

 

  1. Majorda

Similar in its seclusion to Patnem, Majorda is wonderful location for a peaceful getaway. Visitors can relax beneath a beach umbrella with a good book, enjoy the local cuisine at one of the restaurants along the beach, or go for a swim in the sparkling waters. Be sure to stop by the bakery while you’re there – Majorda is well-known for its delicious breads and pastries.

 

  1. Arambol

Located within the Pernem region of northern Goa, Arambol Beach is largely considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the state of Goa. Over the years, Arambol has become well-known for its distinct bohemian feel, which attracts many visitors from around the world. When not lounging in the sun, beachgoers can join in on a seaside yoga session or try their hand at kite surfing.

 

  1. Benaulim

Benaulim beach, having retained much of its original Portuguese influence, is primarily known for its role as a fishing community. However, the beach is every bit as beautiful and welcoming as its neighbors, and with fewer crowds. Visitors are free to relax, with restaurant waiters circling the beach to take orders. Dolphin watching excursions are also one of the top reasons for a visit, with many taking off throughout the day!

 

  1. Morjim

A beautiful and relatively quiet beach, Morjim attracts people from around the world to its shores. Although, the beach is primarily home to a whole other type of species: the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle. Embraced by the local community through conservation efforts, this endangered species nests on the shore of Morjim Beach. Many visitors come to the beach to see the turtles nesting habitats, and relax by the water.

 

 

Featured Program: Women’s Development in India

Our new Women’s Development Program in India is one of a kind. Volunteers contribute their efforts to the work of local women’s shelters, social work agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Volunteers will have the opportunity to implement a variety of educational and confidence-building activities that are currently being organized for the benefit of adolescent girls and women of the local community. These activities are geared towards expanding the horizon of this often neglected population of the community with the purpose of giving them a sense of self-worth and empowerment.

 

Participants typically start their day by enjoying a traditional Indian breakfast at the accommodation facility, possibly followed by an early morning yoga session. Volunteers spend the majority of the day working at their respective projects and assisting with a variety of different tasks, including:

  • Teaching conversational and basic written English
  • Organizing confidence-building activities
  • Teaching computer skills lessons
  • Organizing recreational and awareness activities

 

Volunteering in the field of Women’s Development is a unique way to form close connections with community members, while providing assistance to women in difficult situations. This project addresses the unique needs and challenges that women face every day in developing countries. In addition to their valuable contributions at their project site, volunteers learn about the challenges that women face around the world and bring this knowledge home with them, shedding light on an important issue and learning how to create needed change.

New Program: Volunteer in Goa

We’re thrilled to announce the launch of another new program in India: Volunteering in Goa! Goa has long been a favorite destination among travelers to India and we’re very excited to offer volunteers the opportunity to experience this beautiful coastal state.

Our volunteers in Goa will primarily be based in Salcete, a southern district. This area is largely untouched by heavy tourist traffic, making it an ideal destination for travelers wanting to experience a quieter side of India. Volunteers will be able to choose from a number of available volunteer projects:

  • Women’s Development
  • Childcare & Orphanage Assistance
  • Teaching
  • Community Development
  • Youth Sports Coaching
  • Healthcare

Please join us in welcoming this new addition to our Volunteer in India program! For more information about Goa, Salcete, and the available projects, please visit our website or contact a World Endeavors Advisor:

http://worldendeavors.com/programs/volunteer/volunteer-in-india

Email: info@worldendeavors.com

Phone: (612)729-3400

New Program: Volunteer in Himachal Pradesh

It is with much excitement that we announce the first of many wonderful new program additions to come – Volunteering in Himachal Pradesh! This new program comes with some exciting new projects and a whole new way for our volunteers to experience India.
Himachal Pradesh – a Northern state in India’s Himalayas – is divided into twelve districts. Our programs will primarily be based in Palampur, located within the Kangra district. At an elevation of 4500 feet, Palampur is known for its breathtaking views, mild climate, and lush landscape.

Aside from the relaxing environment, Palampur offers many wonderful opportunities for World Endeavors volunteers to get involved within the community. Some of the available projects include:

  • Childcare & Orphanage Assistance
  • Community Development
  • Healthcare
  • Teaching
  • Women’s Development
  • Youth Sports Coaching

We invite you to celebrate with us as we welcome this new program addition! For more information about Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, and our available volunteer projects, please visit our website:

http://worldendeavors.com/programs/volunteer/volunteer-in-india

Top Five Things to Do In: Jaipur, India

Jaipur is the largest city in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan and offers a diverse amount of attractions–ancient palaces, observatories, and street markets full of beautiful fabrics await. Read on for our top five things to do in Jaipur!

Visit the Jantar Mantarjaipur

A UNESCO world heritage site, this astronomical observatory was constructed in 1728 and includes around twenty main instruments. It is referred to as one of the most comprehensive of India’s preserved historic observatories and is home to many sun dials and other astronomical instruments that are remarkably very accurate. Spend a couple hours wandering around–the sculpture-like instruments also provide some excellent photo-ops!

Dive into the culinary options

India is one of the world’s most vegetarian-friendly countries and has some of the most delicious cuisine available for a fairly inexpensive price. Jaipur has food tours available where you and your friends can take a guided tour of some of the best foods in the city and get acquainted with some of the more authentic options. As the largest city in Rajasthan, Jaipur presents a multitude of options, whether that is real Indian curry (which can be surprisingly not as spicy as you would think) or slow-cooked chicken. Your best bet to get the most authentic Indian food is to venture into some local restaurants instead of the most touristy ones.

Get out and explore Rajasthan

Rajasthan, the northwest Indian state in which Jaipur is located, in general presents a more traditional view of Indian life. Home to many natural and man-made attractions, Rajasthan possesses a lot of sites that are not to be missed during a trip to Jaipur. Home to a vast desert and an impressive mountain range in addition to ancient palaces and towering skyscrapers, Rajasthan has quite a bit to offer. If time allows, check out two other cities of the region–Jodhpur and Udaipur, which also are home to both historic and charming palaces and other landmarks. Another popular attraction in the region is visiting elephant zoos–spend a day caring for and learning about elephants and end the  day by taking a ride on one.

Practice the art of negotiation

India is the perfect place to practice your negotiating skills, as little comes without at least some bartering. Rajasthan, and particularly Jaipur, is known for the brightly colored fabrics sold in markets and shops across the region. Check out the street markets in the city and barter your way into buying several of the most beautiful Indian fabrics to bring back home. Mastering the art of negotiation in street markets is no easy feat–it comes with much practice, patience, and knowing a fair price. Try to hit the markets, especially in the Pink City part of Jaipur, early in the morning before most tourists venture in to get the best deals.

Go to the City Palace in the Pink City

Jaipur is often referenced as the Pink City, due to the color of many buildings. The Pink City in particular refers to an old part of town. The City Palace, located within the Pink City, was built between 1729 and 1732 AD with certain parts having been added later on. The unique architecture of the courtyards, gardens, and buildings, in addition to the amazing views of the city it offers make it one of the top destinations  of Jaipur. Additionally, it is in close proximity to some great restaurants and shopping in the Pink City.