[The Complete List] The Ideal 7 Day Meghalaya Itinerary

As a nature lover and an avid hiker, Meghalaya has held my fascination since ages.  Last year me and my best friend decided to bring in the new year from this scenic wonderland.  I don’t think I have ever had a better start to a year than this.

From the unforgettable living root bridge trek to the sight of numerous thundering waterfalls plunging from the skies to sparkling green rivers, turquoise blue natural pools and green villages in the heart of nature, it is a visual epiphany all the way.

Living Root Bridge Trek
The Living Root Bridge Trail

Although i packed all of this in 4 days’ time, here is a 7 day ideal Meghalaya itinerary that I highly recommend.

1. Day 1 – Arrive in Guwahati and go to Cherrapunjee

If you are traveling to this side of Northeast, chances are, you will land up mostly in Guwahati. It is well connected to Meghalaya. From the airport you should go to Paltan Bazaar, from where you can get shared cabs to Cherrapunjee.

These shared cabs don’t directly run till Cherrapunjee. They take you to Shillong and from there, you can take another one to Cherrapunjee (Also known as Sohra)

The total journey including breaks might take around 4-5 hours. So ensure you reach early morning in Guwahati.

Where to stay: Coniferous Resort

2. Day 2 – Mawsmai cave, Seven Sister falls and Nohkalikai Falls

Mawsmai Cave

Meghalaya is known for its numerous cave systems and the most popular amongst them is the Mawsmai cave. It’s one of the smaller caves in Sohra, but quite good to get a feel of caving.

Mawsmai Cave

The cave is spacious at most parts with only a few narrow passages which require squeezing and ducking. You can spot stalagmites and stalactites of various shapes and sizes at every nook and corner. The limestone formations inside the cave glittered when we beamed our flash lights on them.

The entire trail in the cave is well-marked and well-lit from entry to exit. If you are a little adventurous, you can go off track, crawl through tiny passages and discover massive hidden caverns. I did that, only to reach a dead end.

Don’t worry; it’s hard to get lost in this cave. And surprisingly i did not spot even a single bat in the cave.

How to reach: It is around 6 kms from Cherrapunjee. Since you would be visiting a couple of spots today, it makes sense to hire a private cab for the day. Also the entry to the cave starts only at 9.00 a.m.

Seven Sister Falls/ Nohsngithiang Falls

If you are traveling to Meghalaya in the monsoon time, then this waterfall will have your jaws touching the ground in no time.

seven sister falls
Image Credit: https://www.instagram.com/sushobhanr/

A cascade of multiple streams plunging down 1000 foot cliffs, this waterfall epitomizes the beauty of Meghalaya during rains. A sea of clouds swirling over the lush green valley below just makes it picture perfect.

Nohkalikai falls

While most waterfalls in Meghalaya are at their prettiest in monsoons, Nohkalikai remains majestic even during the winter months.

At 1,115 feet, it is India’s highest plunge waterfall, dropping straight from the top of the plateau to the emerald green pool below. While we admired the grandeur of the falls from a view point, I later came to know that there are stairs you can take down the cliff to get even closer to the falls.

nohkalikai falls

In the non-monsoon season, it’s possible to even trek to the bottom of the falls and swim in the pool formed underneath the fall. If you intend to do this, it’s better to take a guide with you.

The fall got its name from a tragic legend about a woman named Ka Likai who jumped to her death from the cliff. It is said that she was fed remains of her own daughter by her husband. The guilt made her commit suicide by taking the plunge. Hence the name stuck as Nohkalikai or “the leap of Likai”.

How to reach: The view point for Nohkalikai falls is just a 20 minute drive from Cherrapunjee.

3. Day 3 – Living Root bridge Trek

Like I keep saying, if there is one experience that perfectly encapsulates the beauty of Meghalaya, it is the living root bridge trek.

You will see an art of nature found nowhere else in the world. And to an extent it is man-made. Living root bridges are formed when massive roots are guided by villagers over a span of 15 years to mingle with each other and form sturdy bridges strong enough to support people. Over time, they get stronger.

Living Root Bridge Trek
Double Decker Root Bridge – The only one of its kind in the world

They were actually built to help locals cross raging streams in the monsoon. Today, they have captured the travel world by storm.

The village of Nongriat has a double decker root bridge – one bridge stacked over another, a unique wonder found only in this village. There are single root bridges in other villages too.

The trek itself is so fascinating that you are left with a question. Which is better? The sight of the root bridge or the hike itself?

Living Root Bridge Trek

Walking through lush green forests, crossing wobbly bridges suspended over electric blue pools and swimming in the transparent waters of Rainbow falls is bound to drive your senses into a frenzy.

It’s that beautiful.

If you have a day more to spend, you can actually stay in Nongriat Village. There are two guesthouses where you can stay for as much as INR 300 per night.

Now, here is a disclaimer, the entire trek from the base village Tyrna to Nongriat takes around 5-6 hours and requires you to descend 2500- 3000 steps one way. The climb back up is certainly daunting, especially if you are not an active person. It is doable though. You just need to pace yourself well enough and start the trek early.

Living Root Bridge Trek

As the trek is long and tiring, it makes sense to carry some energy bars and 2-3 bottles of water with you. Of course, there are villages along the trek from where you can buy them.

How to reach: The base village Tyrna is a 30 minute drive from Cherrapunjee

4. Day 4 – Mawlynnong, Asia’s cleanest village

I had never heard of this village until I started researching about Meghalaya. Dubbed “Asia’s cleanest village” in 2003, Mawlynnong is like a breath of fresh air. Actually, most of Meghalaya is like that.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into this village were its tree houses. Made of bamboo, these charming houses rise over tree-tops to give you a sneak peek into neighbouring Bangladesh. It’s a great place to spend your evenings, gazing at the sunset while sipping a cup of coffee.

Mawlynnong
The Tree Houses

A walk around the village reveals why it’s so clean. There are bamboo made dustbins across the village. There are specific rules to be followed when it comes to dumping waste, and it’s posted on a board right at the centre of the village.

There are neat walk ways built throughout the village, along which lie traditional thatched huts. Most of these houses have small gardens with colorful flowers. Needless to say, it’s a paradise for nature lovers.

But scenic beauty aside, it is a place where peace and tranquility are always within touching distance.

How to reach: It is a 4 hour drive from Cherrapunjee along pretty winding cliff side roads.
Where to stay: Henry’s Guesthouse

Note:  Adventure freaks can try ziplining at Mawkdok Dympep Valley. It’s probably one of the best in India.

5. Day 5 – Umngot River in Dawki, Shnongpdeng and drive back to Shillong

Umngot River

Sometimes all it takes is an image to inspire you to travel. Ever since the unreal images of river Umngot took the internet world by storm, I’ve been swooning over its beauty.

The river flows through Dawki, a town on the Indo-Bangladesh border, which is a 2 hour drive from Mawlynnong.  Even the drive to Dawki through the forest is a visual feast.

Umngot River

True to its fame, the Umngot is as sublime as the pictures claim. But like any natural wonder, pictures or words will fail to do justice to it.

Although most people take a boat ride across the river to appreciate its beauty, I trekked along the river gorge and found a rock to sit on and admire its translucent waters. And when the sun shines over it, the river sparkles and you can see all the way to the bottom. Nature at its dazzling best!

Shnongpdeng

Umngot River
Image Credit: https://www.instagram.com/sushobhanr/

There is a village near Dawki called Shnongpdeng where the river is clearer and prettier. Unfortunately, I missed it on my trip, but hopefully you won’t. But then like all places I have been to, I have a reason to go back, yet again.

From Dawki, you can hire a shared cab to Shillong. The drive would take around 3-4 hours.

6. Day 6 – Elephant Falls, Umiam Lake  and Laitlum Canyon in Shillong

Shillong, in comparison to the rest of the places on this list will seem a bit touristy.

Umiam Lake

One of the popular places is Umiam Lake, also called “Bara Pani” or Big Water. It’s a pretty lake wrapped around lush green hills. And there are these small islands which pop out in between, which make the lake even prettier. You can try boating and kayaking on the lake.

Elephant Falls

Falling in multiple cascades, Elephant falls got its name from an Elephant faced stone at the lower most layer. Although I must say, I could barely identify an elephant face in the rocks.

Elephant Falls

There are three different vantage points from where you can view each of the three layers. There are stairs built along the entire route.

How to reach: It’s a 30 minute ride from Shillong.

There are tonnes of other places you can visit like Wards Lake, Shillong Peak and the Don Bosco Museum. You can also shop at Police Bazaar.

If you have another day to spare, you can check out Laitlum Canyons, a little explored haunt with views of stunning gorges and mist covered valleys. I highly recommend it.

Where to stay in Shillong: Eee Cee Hotel

7. Day 7 – Shillong to Guwahati

Take a shared cab from Shillong and head to Paltan Bazaar Guwahati. The journey will take around 2-3 hours. From Paltan Bazaar you can head to the Airport.

Best time to visit Meghalaya

Although Meghalaya is prettiest during monsoons, when lashing rains lend it a resplendent green avatar, traveling could get hit due to heavy rains. So the best time to visit is ideally between October to April.

Complete Guide to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge Trek

If there is one experience that perfectly encapsulates the beauty of Meghalaya, it is the living root bridge trek. In this trek, you will not only come across the only  bridge of its kind in the world, but walking through evergreen jungles, crossing rickety bridges over the bluest natural pools you would have seen so far, makes the journey just as beautiful as the destination. Needless to say, if Meghalaya is on your mind, then this hike should definitely be on your bucket list.

The trek starts from Tyrna, a village in Cherrapunjee, often labeled as the “wettest place on earth”. Of course, now its neighbour Mawsynram, wears this crown.

How to reach Cherrapunjee
If you are traveling from Guwahati, take a shared cab to Shillong and from there another shared cab to Cherrapunjee. This is the cheapest way to get there. The total journey would take about 3-4 hours.

Note: If you are a little more adventurous, then you can take the route from Nohkalikai falls too, but if you are a first time trekker, or going with family, then I would recommend the route from Tyrna.

1. Trail from Tyrna

The trail from Tyrna is well-marked and you can do it on your own, although you will find a lot of guides at the village itself, who will take you for a nominal charge.

The trek initially starts with a steep descent along cemented steps, leading you deep into the forest below. You will cross quite a few traditional huts along the way. There are small shops where you can buy candy, mineral water, snacks and juices.

Since its a long trek, carry energy bars and lots of water.

Living Root Bridge Trek
Trail along the evergreen forest

You will continue along this route till you come across a Y-shaped fork, left of which leads to the double decker bridge (Jingkieng Nongriat) and the right one leads to the single decker bridge (Jingkieng Ri-Tymmen), the longest root-bridge in the world.

The trek on both sides involves either ascending or descending a series of steps along a straightforward and well-marked route. So you can choose to take any route first and then come back up the same path and visit the other bridge.

Note: From the Y-junction, the single decker root bridge takes only about 10 minutes. So it makes sense to go for the double decker one first, since it’s a longer route.

Living Root Bridge Trek

We took the left route first, continuing along the forest trail. As an avid trekker, I have done plenty of treks in the Sahyadri’s, but rarely have I seen a forest as green as this one. It is truly a treat for the senses.

Living Root Bridge Trek
The first Iron Bridge

After walking for a while, we came across the first of the iron bridges. Suspension bridges, which sway every time you walk on it. The irony is, there is an instruction on the board which says “Do not shake the bridge”. Well, despite my best efforts to adhere to that, it shook and swung as I walked over it.

A disclaimer here, if you are afraid of heights, then you will surely feel a knot in the pit of your stomach, but don’t worry, these bridges are quite sturdy. Just keep calm and walk slowly.

Since I went in winter, the river was dry. Otherwise these bridges have actually been built to help locals cross over raging rivers in the monsoon.

2. The Bluest natural pool I’ve ever seen

After crossing that bridge, another short walk takes you to the second bridge.  There were two of them in fact, the first one made of bamboo while the second one was longer and made of rusty iron cables and both had steel wires to hold onto for support.

This one swayed even more when i walked over it. But I must say, walking on this wobbly bridge, suspended 25-30 feet in the air was an experience in itself.

Living Root Bridge Trek
The bridge to Nongriat

On the other side of this primitive piece of engineering stood the village of Nongriat, home to the double decker bridge.

And just below this bridge lies one of the most beautiful natural pools you can lay your eyes on. It’s clean and transparent to an extent that we could see the pile of rocks at the bottom. It was hard to resist its alluring beauty and we scrambled down some rocks to take a dip in its icy cold waters.

Living Root Bridge Trek

3. The Village of Nongriat

Nongriat welcomes you with a little root bridge and from there you can see the majestic double decker root bridge. We walked up ahead to look at it from close quarters.

Living Root Bridge Trek
Can you resist a dip in this pool?

Descending up till this point can take around 2-3 hours, as you are going to be descending around 2500-3000 steps.

I was famished by the time I reached. Luckily there was a stall selling steaming hot maggi and tea.

We took a much needed break sitting on the rocks and just swooning over the picture perfect scenery around us.

The gentle stream underneath the bridge, which transforms into a monstrous rapid in monsoon, had little fishes swimming about. You can sit on the banks and get fish pedicure if you wish to.

4. How were the living root bridges formed?

Living root bridges are formed by roots of trees, which over a span of 15 years were guided by villagers to intertwine with each other and become strong enough to support people.  They are actually said to gain strength with time.

They were created by villagers to help cross torrential rivers during monsoon. In Nongriat, one fine monsoon, the water levels rose above the root bridge and that is why, another layer was added to create this unique wonder called the double decker root bridge.

Double Decker Living Root Bridge

Now that it has become popular among travelers, a third layer is set to be made. One fine day, we will get to see a triple decker root bridge.

I can only imagine the patience and perseverance needed to build something of this kind.

5. Rainbow Falls

If you have energy and time on your side, you should further hike up to Rainbow falls. An enchanting cascade of water that plunges into turquoise blue pools, it is nature at its dazzling best.

This trek takes around 1.5 – 2 hours from Nongriat, again over cemented paths and after crossing a few more iron bridges.

Note: If you want to trek further to Rainbow falls, you have to start the trek from Tyrna as early as 6-7 a.m. to make it back by sundown.

6. Where to stay in Nongriat

Nongriat is almost like a place straight from fairy tales. Despite being commercialized, there is no hint of it and its remoteness ensures that you are pretty much cut off from the world. It’s a good place to stay for a couple of nights and just listen to the sounds of nature.

Living Root Bridge Trek
The stream under the living root bridge

There are two guesthouses where you can stay. The rates start from INR 300 per bed. You can stay here and do the trek to Rainbow falls the next day. It’s a good way to break the exhausting trek.

7. Hike Back to the Y-Junction

The hike back up is the hardest, physically and mentally. It’s a long walk right from Nongriat/ Rainbow falls back to the Y junction. And you have to take the exact same route to reach the fork. There is nothing new to see, so the mind is a bit reluctant to push the body.

A short 10 minute walk from the fork will take you to the single decker root bridge. This is the longest root bridge and believed to be over 120 years old.

Living Root Bridge Trek

Another gentle stream runs underneath it. As somebody who loves scrambling over rocks, I was monkeying around the whole time.

We then took a short break lazing around the rocks and munching on some bars, before starting the uphill climb.

The last part, the ascend to Tyrna is devilish. It’s a steep hike over 700 odd steps. So if you are someone who has been living on a couch so far, you are going to have a hard time clearing this stretch.

While we were climbing, we saw a lot of people just sitting on the steps and taking a break. I even remember seeing an old lady. So yes, as hard it sounds, it’s doable. Do it at your own pace but.

8. Where to stay in Cherrapunjee

I stayed at this wonderful place called Coniferous Resort. Another popular resort is Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort.

No matter where you stay, you can hire a cab and reach Tyrna in no time.

9. Root Bridge in Mawlynnong

If after reading this, you feel, that you are not physically fit to do this trek, then there is an alternative.

Mawlynnong, considered one of the cleanest villages in Asia, is home to a living root bridge. To reach it, you can drive down to Riwai village, a few kms before Mawlynnong. It’s a short walk to the root bridge from there.

12 Amazing Places to visit in Paris in 2 Days

Paris was the first international city that I set foot in, the city which kick-started my 15 day Europe trip. My excitement levels were sky-rocketing. For me, stepping on foreign soil was a big deal then. And to top it, it was Paris, one of the most popular destinations in the world, a bucket list item ready to be ticked off. I had about 2 days to explore this beautiful city, before I headed to Belgium.

The fashion capital of the world was like any first-world metro was expected to be – highly organized with its world class infrastructure and highly advanced transportation systems with its TGV’s and metro lines. But as I discovered in the subsequent days, while Paris was an epitome of modernity, it had lost none of its old – worldly charm. Sadly I din’t have enough time to immerse myself in this charming city.

So like me, if you just have 48 hours to absorb the best of Paris, here are the best places to visit. Feel free to stitch this list the way you like.

1. Sacre Coeur Basilica – Montmartre

The Sacre Coeur Basilica is a cathedral situated atop the summit of Montmartre, a hill in the northern part of the city.

The top of the hill provides magnificent views of the Paris city line; You can even see the Eiffel tower from here. Unfortunately it was raining the day we went. It was windy on the summit and even holding an umbrella was getting difficult.  But despite the irritating weather, i couldn’t stop admiring the architectural beauty that stood beside me.

Sacre Coeur Basilica

The moment I entered the church, I was transfixed by what I saw. There was a large mosaic of Jesus Christ, one of the most exquisite works of art that I have ever seen. It looked more like a painting from a distance. The domes were just as impressive from the inside.

But more than being an architectural marvel, it was a place that exuded tranquility. After walking inside the church for a bit, we just sat facing the crypt for some time. It was one of those times where you just pause and absorb the peacefulness of the moment.

I wanted to bask in the calmness of the place for more time, but a tight itinerary meant we had to cut short on peace time.

Note: There are stairs which lead to the church and alternatively, there is an automatic funicular railway which ferries passengers to the top of the hill. I would recommend taking the stairs.

Other things you can do in Montmartre

2. Shop in Montmartre

There are multiple winding alleys which to lead to the base of Sacre Coeur Basilica, each of them lined with tonnes of shops.  This is the probably the best place to buy souvenirs in Paris.

3. Get a caricature done by a real artist

 The main street Place du Tertre is teeming with artists. You can get a caricature or a silhouette done by one of these.  It would make for a cool souvenir to take back home. And although they may ask around 20 Euros for it, you can always bargain to get it done cheaper.

4. Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge needs no introduction. Known as the birthplace of can-can, the seductive dance, this cabaret makes for some great night time entertainment.

5. Notre Dame Paris

Notre Dame

Our tour in Paris started in the evening, when the city of lights was in its full glory. We went to visit the Notre Dame, one of the most famed cathedrals in France.

It was superbly lit and under a moonlit sky, looked straight out of a portrait. We just sat facing the entrance to the Notre Dame watching people go about their business.

Other things you can see around Notre Dame

6. Lock Bridge

Lock Bridge

Near the cathedral lies the Lock Bridge whose sides are filled with thousands of locks tied by couples in hopes of immortalizing their love.

Note: Tying locks is no longer permitted

7. Walk along River Seine

River Seine

Walking along the river Seine was one of my favourite experiences in Paris. After passing the lock bridge, we took the stairs that led to the promenade along river Seine. And just sat there watching the reflections of the city lights on the still water, occasionally disturbed by a canal cruise.

A cool December breeze was blowing and there was silence all around making it feel like you are miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Note: You can also go for a cruise along the river Seine and see the city’s attractions at close quarters. Since I had done a canal cruise in Amsterdam, I skipped this one.

8. Shakespeare and Company

If you are an avid reader, this book store is a must-visit. Besides being a popular store, having featured in the movie “Before Sunset”, it’s a great place to find second-hand, antique books. It also acts a free reading library

9. Ride the Paris Metro

Paris Metro

The Paris metro is undoubtedly one of the most efficient transport systems in the world. I used the metro extensively and i don’t remember waiting for more than 3-4 minutes at any point during my travel.

The metro is also where you get to see the diverse populace of France going about their daily routine. I also saw for the first time, pet dogs following their masters literally everywhere. We usually had our furry friends for company in the metro and I was actually surprised by how well – behaved they were.

The sight of a trained helper dog guiding a visually impaired lady out of the train is going to remain an unforgettable memory.

10. Eiffel Tower

A trip to Paris would be incomplete without a visit to one of the most romanticized structures known to man.

The first time I saw the Eiffel tower, was from a distance. It was evening and already dark. The Eiffel was completely lit up and glittering. We walked closer towards it till we were standing almost beneath it. It looked resplendent in its golden uniform, but I was not fascinated.

Eiffel Tower

The reputation it had earned seemed over hyped at that point of time. We spent some time walking in the nearby lawns and when we were about to leave, we witnessed a light show for a few seconds when the Eiffel started sparkling. I went back ticking an item off my checklist.

The next morning, my cousin said we should pay another visit to the Eiffel Tower before embarking on our ten day round trip from Paris. We took the metro and got down at Trocadero, the metro station closest to the tower.

We walked for about 50 meters, took a left turn and then stood mesmerized by what lay before us. It was the same Eiffel tower that I had seen the night before, but against a clear blue sky marked by jet streaks, with dawn just about to descend on the city, it had acquired a beauty of its own. It was only a silhouette eclipsed by the forces of nature, yet it emanated a soulful charm.

Like my cousin succinctly put it, in isolation the Eiffel tower is an ordinary structure, but it is the sky, the sun and the river Seine flowing alongside that lends it the magical look it is renowned for.

Eiffel Tower

Other places you can visit in Paris
11. The Louvre

Louvre

The Louvre is the world’s largest art museum and also one of the most visited ones in the world. In the pecking order, I guess it comes only second to the Eiffel tower.

It would take a lot of time to cover, so if you are short on time, just click some photos of the famed pyramid at centre (This is precisely what I did). Unless of course, you are a connoisseur of art.

12. Walk down Champs Elysees

Champs Elysées is considered to be one of the most beautiful avenues in the world. Lined by trees on both sides, it’s one of the roads that leads to the Arc de Triomphe, another popular landmark in Paris. Champs Elysees is also the house of luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Cartier.

I went during christmas and the entire street was teeming with stalls selling exotic stuff. It’s almost like Disneyland for the shopaholics. There is something for everyone.

15 Days in Europe – My First International Sojourn

I was whizzing past the countryside at breakneck speed. It was early afternoon and the sky was clear. Lush green farmlands stretched out as far as the eye could see. Lone cottages were scattered amidst the fields. It was a scene to be soaked in at leisure. I was on the highway heading from Reims to Paris, a 140 kms. odd ride on impeccable roads. A delayed train meant hopping onto the next available Mercedes Benz taxi, which had even our driver stare at us in disbelief. And thus began my European journey and I had already become a pauper.

Eiffel Tower
Mornings at Eiffel Tower

My travels took me from the Parisian streets to the medieval squares of Bruges to the quaint city of Strasbourg to the Swiss Alps. The one major change this travel brought in me was a new found appreciation for architecture, more so because I always thought that I was a nature person and that man – made wonders wouldn’t really fascinate me.

Reims
Notre Dame, Reims, France

Right from the jaw droppingly beautiful cathedrals of Notre Dame in France to the impressive squares of Brussels and Bruges to the Grand Centraal railway station in Amsterdam, it was an architectural extravaganza all the way.

Silhouetted against clear skies, walking along these structures was akin to living postcards in reality. If they captivated you during the day, adorned by lights, they assumed a beauty of different proportion at night. You could spend hours sitting at these places just watching people go about their business.

Bruges
Houses from a lego set?

The atmosphere at night was livelier, with the city being lit up and giant christmas trees popping up at every corner. The streets were teeming with christmas markets selling enticing souvenirs’. Despite my dislike for shopping, I did fall prey to these charming little shops.

When I wanted to take a break from the bustling European cities, I took refuge in towns like Bruges and Strasbourg. Ever since I saw the movie “In Bruges”, I have wanted to walk by its pretty canals. I was a student then, and naturally locked this dream in some recesses of my wandering mind.

Brussels
Walking the streets of Brussels

Little did I know that one day I would end up walking through this timeless town. With its cobbled lanes, winding canals, soaring towers and ancient churches, a place doesn’t get more medieval than Bruges.

Strasbourg was a transit stop for me while coming from Switzerland by train, but I wish I could have spent more time walking around its winding alleys.  Like Bruges, it’s the simplicity of the town and its old world charm that made it so appealing.

Strasbourg
Foggy mornings at Strasbourg

If I was bowled over by these quaint European towns, the scenic landscapes of Switzerland had me enamored even more. The Swiss rail experience was by far the best train journey that I had ever taken in my life.

The entire rail route meandered around lush green mountains dotted with pine trees, crystal clear lakes and provided a view of the Alps in the distance. All i did during these journeys was listen to music and gaze outside. I was lost.

While the Swiss rail pass can cost a bomb, it is still value for money given the numerous benefits that it offers.

Switzerland
The vintage Airbnb stay in Switzerland

Our Airbnb stay in Switzerland was the best thing that happened to us by chance. It was a house nestled in the hills providing breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks by the day and a sky blanketed by stars in the night.

And every day, when you are having your morning cup of coffee on the porch of a vintage farmhouse in the hills and waiting for the first rays of the sun to illuminate the snow-capped peaks, you know you are living in the moment.

The overwhelming hospitality of our hosts only made the experience even more beautiful.

Switzerland
Can you spot the topmost house? That’s where we stayed

Last but not the least, I found the people of Europe to be very warm and friendly, right from random strangers whom we asked for directions to our Airbnb hosts who made us feel at home and without these people, it would not have been such a fulfilling experience.

In retrospect, I wish I had more time to immerse myself in each of these cities. Nevertheless, this European sojourn has only managed to further stoke my insatiable appetite for travel and I am sure i will be going back for more.

Zostel Manali – My home away from home in the mountains

Zostel Manali had been my home for most part of the Himachal trip that i did a few years back. I went to Manali to just chill, hike in the mountains and from there, head to Parvati and Tirthan valley. In a way, i looked at Manali as a pit stop. I booked Zostel Manali for 2 nights.

It was a fantastic property located in Old Manali overlooking the mountains. The days i was just relaxing in the hostel, i would sit in the lawn in the morning, basking under the sun and just watch the mountains. The roof top was even better, with a 360 degree view of the mountains. With my camera, i would zoom into those snow clad peaks.

Zostel Manali
My favorite pass time at Zostel Manali,zooming into those snow-clad peaks

I extended my stay by 2 days.

I was getting used to having my breakfast while listening wide eyed to fellow travelers as they narrated their incredible travel experiences. Every day i met someone new and more stories were exchanged.

The day i was leaving, there was a guy who had arrived by paragliding all the way from Bir Billing to Manali, a distance of 180 kms by road. This usually takes 7-8 hours by bus. He casually said it took him 2 hours as he soared at over 5000 feet for nearly 50 kms and landed in a valley nearby. We just stood staring at him incredulously.

I mean how often do you meet such amazing people?

While this was meant to be a solo trip, i hardly traveled alone. I made tonnes of friends and together we explored the mountains on bikes, trekked to remote villages, dined at riverside cafes, stood on the rooftop watching the stars, played games and had conversations on everything under the sun.

Most of the days, we would sit outside after dinner and talk despite the biting cold. It was hard to believe that people could bond so well, sometimes having met just a day earlier. When i was leaving for Parvati valley, Bharat, the manager at Zostel told me i would return in 3 days and i called him up exactly after 3 days and said i am coming back.

Zostel Manali
I used to sit here and just watch the mountains

I stayed for 3 more days in Zostel Manali. I had started to miss the warm, friendly and welcoming ambience of the place.

The second time I went, the experience was just as memorable. I wanted to celebrate my birthday in the mountains, and i couldn’t think of a better place than Zostel Manali.

I met tonnes of amazing people, a guy who had hiked 3000 kms, literally one end of New Zealand to the other. A 20 year old Canadian power-lifter who was traipsing around the world. A wedding photographer moonlighting as a traveler. I learnt a lot about the world i din’t know existed, just by listening to them talk.

Zostel Manali
The rooftop at Zostel Manali

On the day i was going to leave, we made a spontaneous plan to go rock climbing, after rounding up a bunch of people from different corners of the world. I went despite having a bus to catch the same afternoon.  More than the thrill of trying something adventurous, it was more about spending time with my new found friends.

Every time i have been to Zostel ( And i am sure this is true of most hostels around the world), i have met people who shared an incredible passion for travel and adventure. An openness to embrace anything the road threw at them. A mind receptive to alternative ways of living and radical points of view. And that is precisely why, i love the traveler fraternity.

And that is precisely the reason why i shall make it a point to travel solo, to meet more of them, to learn from them, and make memories with them.

Zostel Manali

If Zostel Manali is such a beautiful place to stay, the credit for that goes to Bharat Thakur, one of the coolest people around. He has this way of making you extend your stay by recommending one good ( read offbeat) place at a time.

Jokes apart, it’s his friendly nature and ability to personally connect with every traveler who steps into Zostel that makes it such a wonderful place. And last but not the least, how can i forget Frodo and Drogo, my cute furry friends who had this magical ability of appearing under the table from nowhere when food was being served.

As with most experiences that stay with you, it’s the human connections that you cherish the most. The camaraderie that we as a group of travelers shared at Zostel Manali is what made my stay so memorable. It was with a heavy heart that I bid adieu, but knowing very well that i would soon return to my retreat in the mountains.

P.S. This is not a sponsored post, just that i am way too biased about Zostel 😛