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D-Mad Travel Adventures!

The world through our lens and our fun(ny) experience!

Florida – Beaches, Gators, Dinsey & Dives

Florida never ceases to entertain us, we haven’t been blessed with the best weather there all the time but despite that it is definitely one of our favorite vacation destinations. I have made 4 trips to Florida and each time I have been as enthralled about the place as the first time.

The good thing about going to Florida is that you have an option to fly to one of the many fairly big airports (Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Panama City beach) there, so you can choose the one with the cheapest airfare.  And every other popular city is just a ~3 hour drive away. More often than not, you may find Fort Lauderdale to be the one with the cheapest airfare.

Here are probably the best places to visit in Florida. Continue reading “Florida – Beaches, Gators, Dinsey & Dives”

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Cappadocia – Where miracles of nature meets history!

Kappadokya wins the “Best place to visit in Turkey” hands down! Sights you have never seen will soar up in front of your face. The city of Goreme, Urgup and surrounding areas are filled with mammoth hoodoos with tiny windows and multi-storey  underground cities which have so many tales to tell.

Goreme has so many hoodoos converted into hotels so you can stay inside the cave like structures to see how people lived there before. These were used by Romans and Byzantines to hide from the Turk invasion. You can see so many churches built inside of this hoodoos which have beautiful paintings which are centuries old! We were here only for 2 days but I wish I had stayed for atleast a day or two more.

What are hoodoos did you ask? Hoodoos are rock formations which shoot up to the sky from ground which have soft sand like rock inside and harder rock layer outside. This makes carving into a hollow on the inside easier.

Things not to miss –

  1. Goreme Open Air Museum – For its cave churches
  2. Zelve Open Air Museum – For the variety of formations.
  3. Pasabag – For those beautiful fairy chimneys.
  4. Love valley, Pigeon Valley and Rose valley – You can drive through these places and stop everywhere to take in the views
  5. Uchisar Castle – a CASTLE built inside these formations!! How awesome is that? Is you are pressed for time, I would drive up to it just to be amazed by the structure and see what they did with it!
  6. Underground cities of Kaymakli & Derinkuyu – MUST visit at least one of them. The entire city including cattle would hide inside this 9 storey’s of winding underground city to escape from invasions. Do not forget to get a guide as you will definitely get lost inside. I loved Kaymakli and my guide who happened to be the first govt appointed guide for that area and he knew 10 different languages!!
  7. Sunrise and hot air balloon  mass ascension from Panorama point – Panaroma point is in Goreme right on top of the hill behind the cave hotel – Caravenserai Cave Hotel we stayed at. There are no directions to this place so walk the road, where this hotel is at, uphill till you hit a dead end and all you can see is an entrance to sunset hotel (or some other hotel). I went directly into this sunset hotel which led me to a small scary lane which suddenly put me on to a paved road and then it was easy to hike up. If you don’t find it just scout around till you find that paved road! It is only a 500m walk but it gives a 360 deg view of the entire city of Goreme. It is magical to see sunrise on one side and hoodoos on the other and hundreds of balloons rising up in the air. My recommendation is to take a walk and see the place the previous evening by asking the locals so that you can easily find it the next morning.

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Continue reading “Cappadocia – Where miracles of nature meets history!”

Utah – Life Elevated!!

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We did a road trip a year ago from Las Vegas,NV to Denver, CO driving through the beautiful landscape of Utah. Our goal was to get a lot of hiking done and cover most of the national parks on the way. We covered 5 national parks and few other amazing sites. Here is an account of the same.

We drove from Vegas straight to Zion National Park. You require at least 1.5 – 2 days to explore Zion. We did 2 long hikes Angels Landing and Observation Point. We could not do the Narrows hike as the water level was too high. But, on good days I would skip Observation Point hike for Narrows. So keep these 3 in mind. Zion also offers great views and shorter hikes. You can drive around for 2-3 hours and be amazed!

Our next stop was Bryce Canyon National Park which was around 2 hours from Zion. We reached there before Sunset and did the Sunset Point hike which takes you into the canyons where you feel so insignificant around the hoodoos surrounding you. You can decide the length of your hike depending on the amount of time you have. Make sure you get back in time for Sunset at the Inspiration point. This is a great panorama point to soak in the beauty of this place when the sun setting behind you lights up all the hoodoos.

Oh I just remembered something. You need to book a hotel at Zion well in advance if you are planning to go there during any long weekend. It is a small town and there are way too many visitors. We were not aware of this and our plan was not yet concrete so when we actually started looking at the hotels it was too late and everything was booked out, including the campsites. Even the first come first serve campsites were taken when we reached there. So we drove into some deserted crossroad and slept in the car! If you end up in that situation make sure your car has a moon roof because if the weather is good and skies are clear you see millions of stars in the sky!

We crashed at a hotel in Kenab the next night, which is a good stopping point between Bryce and Page AZ. Next morning we drove from Kenab to Page, AZ stopping at Lone Rock beach, Glen Canyon dam and other vista points of the Glen Canyon National Park. Though this park is very picturesque, most of it is only accessible  by water. So if you own/rent a boat, you can explore a lot. The color of the water is beautiful and with a lone rock at the center and many mountains behind. This is a nice stop for some pictures. Continue reading “Utah – Life Elevated!!”

Byzantium? Constantinople? Istanbul!

This has to be the most intriguing cities we have been to so far! The idea of a trip to Turkey was planted in my mind by a good friend of mine and I had wanted to visit ever since. Turkish Airlines had some great deals on flights from Chicago to Delhi with a stop over in Turkey for a week. Hence, we planned a Turkey vacation around Turkey day (Thanksgiving) 😛 !! Since it is off-season  for travel everything was cheap and luckily weather was great to us. This trip is more memorable as we got to share our adventure with my parents who absolutely loved Turkey too! Since there is so much to talk about this beautiful country one post will not be enough. Hence, I will break it down and start with Istanbul. 773626_586127721402964_519331272_o Istanbul is a unique city where two continents meet, two cultures amalgamate and two architectures concoct! Being the largest metro in Europe in terms of population, is like any other big city bustling with a lot of people  and activities. But the highlight is, it is clean, safe and people are amazing. Also, they love people from Hindisthan 🙂 (Yes that is what they call us Indians). 4 days in Istanbul was enough to weave memories for life. Places not to miss –

  1. Hagia Sofia – Originally a church and then a mosque; just beautiful inside and out!
  2. Blue Mosque – Loved the low and gigantic chandeliers!
  3. Grand Bazaar – Largest and busiest indoor market in the world!
  4. Spice Bazaar – You can go in early and finish your breakfast here. The vendors are very generous with the sample sizes and there are lots of heaps of different dry fruits and spices. Largest exporter of figs!
  5. Galata Tower – Beautiful 360 deg views of old and new Istanbul, those beautiful mosques and the sea.
  6. Topkapi palace – Huge!!
  7. Basilica Cistern – Go inside for a great surprise!
  8. Bosphorous bridge – Connecting the continents of Europe and Asia!

Accommodation & Transportation – Anywhere in Sultanahmet is the most convenient. There are tons of cheap and expensive hotels in the area which is walking distance from the metro stop and all hotels in the area have airport transfers for just 5 Euros from as early as 2.30 am. Getting to and from airport is very convenient as the metros run till 12 am. Unless you have too many bags, you can easily travel around in the metro. Only flip side to using the metro is you have to pay 3Liras every time you exit and re-enter. To avoid this purchase, buy a refill card at the airport itself as most vending machines in other stations seem to have problems vending one. Here is the link to the latest metro map. Most places the new routes are not updated, so take a print of this.

 

Continue reading “Byzantium? Constantinople? Istanbul!”

New Mexico – The land of Enchantment!

Three reasons to visit New Mexico –

  1. Food
  2. Culture
  3. Balloon Fiesta!!

My dad agreed to come and visit me in the US only after I promised him that I would show him that part of USA which usually do not feature on postcards. To keep that word we narrowed down on New Mexico. The timing was perfect! It was my birthday and there was the International Balloon Fiesta – the largest hot air balloon festival in the world!

We woke up at 4am in the morning and headed to the fiesta grounds for the Dawn Patrol at 5.30am followed by mass ascension. When we reached there I realized that I had over enthusiastically bought more tickets than we needed. I made Madhu stand there and sell the extra tickets but since people got very suspicious (given that we were brown and also had 2 tickets on one sheet printed back to back to save paper), we had to give them out for free (they did not care about our skin color then 😐 ). Our day started out with a net loss of $53. But once we were in we just forgot about it. The balloons being fired is so magical in the dark. It just illuminates everything around you and you realize there are hundreds and hundreds of people there!

The mass ascension was so dramatic. It was set against the back drop of Sandia Mountains with sun gradually emerging providing silhouettes of thousands of balloons in air. In less than 30 minutes there were many balloons in air than I could count. Mom and I just wrapped ourselves in blankets and lay on the grass gazing at the sky filled with balloons of all shapes, sizes and colors. 

If that did not inspire you to get to NM, this definitely will. Food is amazing in this part of the world. Being a vegetarian Indian, I absolutely loved the food! It is cheesy, spicy and yummy. They have red/green chili sauce on everything! We even got to eat Indian Naan with Chili on top at one of the many stalls at the Balloon Fiesta. We devoured so much on great spicy New Mexican cuisine that we ended up with stomach cramps. Oh No!

Continue reading “New Mexico – The land of Enchantment!”

Glacier National Park!

My colleague today told me, “I have decided that I will travel the world vicariously with you from now on. So, what’s your new adventure?”. Now I have an obligation to write about my recent trip.

We just returned from a hiking trip to Glacier National Park, Montana. This I would say gives a very close competition to Yellowstone National Park in the category of  “Our most favorite National Park in Mainland USA”. If you Photoshop the mountains of Colorado with a few hundreds of lakes from Minnesota, change the color of lakes to Turquoise and add some saturation, you get GNP! Oh, also add all the wildlife from Yellowstone and more!!

We flew in to Billings airport and drove 6.5 hours to reach St.Mary side of GNP because it was cheaper that way. The closest economic airport on the east side is Great Falls,MT which is again a 2 hour drive to GNP. Our campsite for Day 1 was at McDonald lake which is on the west side of GNP. A very clear and peaceful lake with beautiful views. We had to drive from St. Mary to Apgar to reach Mc Donald Lake through the famous Going-to-the-Sun (GTTS) road. It was a beautiful drive on a small winding road with huge mountains everywhere and deep valleys.

The next day we took a ranger led hike to Grinnel Glacier. This hike had everything from waterfalls and wildlife to miles and miles of views! You are, for most part, walking on the edge of the cliff which overlooks Grinnel lake – the most turquoise lake I have ever seen. And after a strenuous hike the destination was breathtaking – the glacier, the floating ice bergs, the mountains around and a small waterfall. It was totally worth the 11 miles we walked for it.

After the long hike, we stopped at St. Mary for a nice late lunch at Park Cafe. They have the most amazing homemade pies ever! I tried Huckleberry, Peach & Strawberry, Strawberry & Rhubarb and the Razzleberry Pie. Razzleberry being our favorite, we kept going back for more yummy strength for our next hike.

Continue reading “Glacier National Park!”

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