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Discover our ultimate list of top 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites of 2019 from exotic destinations around the world.  

Ancient ruins, prehistoric jungles, and indigenous cultures worthy of preservation – UNESCO has long sought to protect the cultural and natural heritage of the world. Every UNESCO World Heritage site is a little window to the genius of mankind, a witness to long lost cultures and traditions, a symbol of artistic brilliance and a reminder of the astounding natural beauty and diversity of the world we live in.

For travelers in search of the remarkable and unique, each of these sites can be your trip of a lifetime. Imagine wandering through a sprawling Inca citadel towering over the clouds some 2000 meters above sea level. Or watching the golden sun set behind the Taj Mahal – an eternal ode to love. Centuries old traditions live on at atmospheric Asian temples built thousands of years ago and still in use. In Sumatra, the jungle comes alive with the daily activity of endangered species.

Rich in history, culture and raw appeal, these are some of the most awe-inspiring destinations in the world. Here are some essential tips to help you discover these gems.

1Machu Picchu, Peru

The mist-laden summits of Machu Picchu in Peru may have been ‘forgotten’ until the early 20th century but today, it’s firmly imprinted in our collective consciousness as one of the top UNESCO-listed sites in the world. Getting to the top is no mean feat but if you’re looking for gorgeous panoramas as well, we advise making the trek up the Wayna Picchu – a mountain just across from the citadel.

The trail is steep but worthwhile with great birds-eye views of the lost city and the surrounding Andean peaks. Because of the narrow trail and popular demand, there are only two timings allowed for the climb which must be booked in advance, which we are happy to do for you!

Panoramic view of Machu Picchu, lost city of the Incas
Gateway to Machu Picchu Huayna or Wayna Picchu with its terraces and buildings View of Wayna Picchu Wandering around the ruins of the citadel

Tip: We recommend rising early to get the best views between 0700 and 0800, before the heat and the crowds arrive!

When to visit: June to August is the best time to visit Machu Picchu, however, expect large crowds and long queues. This is also a great time to go hiking on the Inca trail. The shoulder season between April – May, and September – October, offers great weather and fewer crowds. Read more about the best time to visit Peru

Stay: Inkaterra Machu Picchu, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge

2Rapa Nui / Easter Island, Chile

Firmly off the radar for mass tourism, Chile’s Easter Island is a dream destination for history and nature enthusiasts alike. One of the remotest corners of the world, expect lush green meadows, volcanic craters, soft white sandy beaches and some of the world’s best (and least known) diving, snorkeling and surfing opportunities at Rapa Nui, as the locals call it. The island’s largest attractions however, are the 870-odd gravity-defying, mysterious Moai statues that date back to the 1200s!

Mysterious Moai statues in Chile’s Easter Island
Aerial view of volcanic caldera in Easter Island Visitors at the UNESCO World Heritage site Anakena – A beautiful white coral sand beach at Easter Island Ovahe Beach in Easter Island

When to visit: The best time to visit the Easter Islands is during the first two weeks of February when the Tapati festival takes place. Read more about the best time to visit Chile

Stay: Explora Rapa Nui, Altiplanico Rapa Nui

3Coffee Region, Colombia

If you think Colombia’s Coffee Region deserves any less mention than the rest on this list, think again. Nestled by the majestic Andes, this 348,700 acre area boasts rolling valleys, verdant plantations, numerous bird and plant species and – you guessed it – some of the best Arabica in the world! Over the last 150 years coffee growing has shaped the culture and identity of the local community, with practices passed down through generations.

Not just caffeine-induced journeys, you could have a host of other adventures in this region – trekking and hiking in the other-worldly cloud forests, riding horses through rolling valleys, taking leisurely walks through Andean mountain villages, or bathing in the hot springs of Santa Rosa de Cabal

Panoramic view of the Coffee Region in Colombia – a UNESCO World Heritage site

When to visit: The warm months of December to February offer sunny skies and perfect weather for visiting this mountainous region. Read more about the best time to visit Colombia

Stay: Hacienda Bambusa, Estrella del Monte

4Medina of Fes, Morocco

At this UNESCO-listed site, 1300 years of history and heritage are yours to discover! Touted by locals as the most beautiful medina in all of Morocco, you’ll be awed at the exquisite examples of Islamic art and architecture. These narrow streets are flanked on either side by bustling souks occupied by tailors, artists, and traders, quaint cafes that lead to outdoor markets, the covered bazaar, and quiet squares where you can spot children at play. The new medina, the medersa or Islamic educational institute, and the iconic Bab Boujloud or Blue Gate, are great places to indulge in people watching.

A souk or market in Fes, Morocco
Gateway to the walled medina of Fes in Morocco Fes is famous for its tanneries Beautiful alleyways of the city Medersa Bou Inania of Fes in Morocco

When to visit: Travel to

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Read on to discover the best beaches in Sri Lanka and why they should feature in your customized trip to spectacular Sri Lanka!

Best Beaches in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka boasts an overwhelming 1,340 kilometer coastline and is known for is its beaches, with the warm Indian Ocean waters delightful for swimming. The pristine, gin-clear waters with glinting coral reefs make for great dive locations, while gentle sandbars are ideal for first time surfers.

An island nation, Sri Lanka is blessed with soft sands and pristine waters

Beach frolickers are spoiled for choice – choose from long golden beaches to small delicate ones, from wind-lashed and wave-splashed beaches to secluded ones, from laid-back beaches to vibrant ones.

Regardless which you choose, the best beaches in Sri Lanka are bewitchingly beautiful.

No matter which time of year you decide to go beach-hopping in Sri Lanka, you can be rest assured that if it’s raining on one coast, it’ll be sunny on another. Being a tropical country without any distinct wet season, different beaches are best at different times. For sunny weather and calm seas, the best time to visit Sri Lanka‘s southern or western beaches is November – April, and eastern beaches from May – September.

Here’s our guide to what we consider to be some of the best beaches in Sri Lanka.

Here is our list of the best beaches in Sri Lanka Galle Beach
Quaint and charming Galle Beach

The sleepy port town of Galle with its fine old-walled Dutch Fort, idyllic bohemian vibe and amazing nearby beaches is often the first beach that visitors think of in Sri Lanka.

Devoid of its own beach, Galle is perfect for exploring restaurants, shops and Unawatuna, Thalpe and Wijaya beaches.

Unwind, rejuvenate, relax.

Unawatuna Beach, south of Galle, is famous for its 18-karat hued sands, calm opaline waters and beachfront eateries.

This is one of the most beautiful and busiest horseshoe-shaped beaches, with a motley of cafes, shacks, all-budget hotels and ruins of old colonial buildings.

Nothing spells fun for kids more than a vacation to a beach

The natural lagoon of Wijaya Beach forms a safe paddling pool for tots, while between the rocks lie many a natural Jacuzzi.

Take long walks on coconut tree fringed beaches

A couple of kilometers east of Unawatuna lies the unspoiled beach of Thalpe, providing tranquility to visitors unaccustomed to Unawatuna’s fast pace.

Thalpe’s reef with undisturbed golden sand has areas safe for swimming and surfing during the season.

Deep South Beach
Ah, the magic of the greens and blues.

Nestled on the south eastern-most tip is a piece of paradise, Tangalle Beach. A splendid stretch of off-white sands kissed by azure waters and coconut palms, Tangalle is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka.

Tangalle exudes an old-world charm and is the defining point between the panoramic tropical coves of the southwest coast and the long, wave-lashed beaches on the island’s southeastern corner.

Southwest Beaches
Spend all day working on your tan

A two hour coastal drive from Colombo brings you to the small, picturesque fishing village of Balapitiya. The soft, golden beaches at Balapitiya make it the perfect getaway from mainstream tourist destinations.

Sweet water lagoons and tiny hamlets strewn along the beach can be found.

Nearby beaches include Bentota – a major beach destination, Aluthgama – famous for mask-carvings, Hikkaduwa – a surfers paradise and Galle.

Warm waters and a gentle breeze await

Bentota Beach is a magnificent palm-fringed beach stretch along the southwest coast. The Beruwala Bay Beach at Bentota Bridge and Bentota Bay Beach just over the bridge, are the most popular coastal twin beaches.

Bentota is rife with busy restaurants, hotels and activities.

Go snorkeling to discover an amazing underwater world

Calm waters from November to April make Bentota ideal for beach lovers, featuring windsurfing, sailing, water-skiing, diving, snorkeling and deep-sea fishing in traditional canoes. It’s consistently rated by travelers as one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka.

Ready, set, surf!

The coastal town of Hikkaduwa Beach has some stunning beaches with dreamy sunsets and a party atmosphere at night.

Coral gardens and colorful fishes to be discovered

Snorkeling and diving (to over four nearby shipwrecks) amazes with stunning underwater marine life, while multicolored coral gardens enclosed by limestone protected reefs house a variety of fish and turtles.

Get an adrenaline high with some fabulous surfing oppurtunities

The shores of laid back Wadduwa Beach are considered the most beautiful here, with waves great for surfing, the long beach curve and clear waters ideal for swimming and the firm beach perfect for volleyball.

Best Beaches in Sri Lanka for Kids

Unawatuna and Uppuveli have the calmest, safest seas for swimming.

Sand castle time!
Best Snorkeling

Pigeon island off Nilaveli beach with pristine waters, shallow reefs and colorful fish.

Go scuba diving for an unparalleled sightings of the rich marine life
Best Boutique Hotels

Bentota Beach offers a wonderful collection of boutique hotels in Sri Lanka.

Unwind in stylish hotels that dot the coast
Best for Whale and Dolphin Watching

Whales and dolphins can be seen all along Sri Lanka’s coast, but Galle and Mirissa Beach are ideal for seeing five whale types and four dolphin types.

Sri Lanka provides wonderful whale watching opportunities
Best  for Turtle Farm & Hatchery Visits

North of Balapitiya is a turtle hatchery constructed to rescue and protect turtle eggs. Visitors may get to release baby turtles into the ocean at night or perhaps glimpse two very rare albino turtles in conservation.

Release baby turtles into the sea
We all need some Vitamin Sea

You can never have too much beach, so, if you want to taste salt in the ocean air and feel sand shake out from your hair, then head to Sri Lanka! Contact us for more information on Asia custom trips.

Sri Lanka’s Wild Side and Blissful Beaches 14 Days: $ 3,376 / person
Sri Lanka tours are all about experiencing variety! Whether it is delving into the ancient and Buddhist civilizations, to enjoying the tea plantations or wildlife, or simply relaxing on the country’s lovely beaches, you will love this trip that covers more than just the usual highlights!
Ancient Wonders and Beaches of Sri Lanka 16 Days: $ 4,426 / person
Immerse yourself in the spirit of Sri Lanka with its rich Buddhist heritage, and let friendly locals welcome you with a warm smile. Explore colonial hill stations, tea plantations and ancient, lost cities.
Luxurious Introduction to Sri Lanka 12 Days: $ 9,355 / person
Your journey begins at Colombo, the lively capital of Sri Lanka where East meets West and the old and new coexist to create interesting cultural contrasts. Travel onward to the famed cultural triangle, where impressive testimonies of ancient civilizations await you on this private luxury tour of Sri Lanka.

The post A Beautiful Escape: Best Beaches in Sri Lanka appeared first on Enchanting Travels.

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Iguazú Falls sits right at the border of Brazil and Argentina with both countries claiming to provide the best Iguazú experience. So, which country delivers? Enchanting Travels provides the lowdown for your trip to South America

The Brazilian side provides a more stunning panorama, but the Argentine side has more vantage points from where you can actually get up close and personal with the falls.

Marvel at rainbows that appear alongside the magnificent falls

The Iguazú Falls are heralded as the most dramatic and among the most monumental waterfalls in the world, tumbling over the cliffs on the border with the Argentine province of Misiones and Brazilian state of Paraná. Voted as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Iguazú Falls are undoubtedly the most visited place in Misiones and one of the most imposing natural attractions in the world.

Did you know? On her first sight of the tremendous Iguazú Falls, former First Lady of the USA Eleanor Roosevelt exclaimed, “Poor Niagara!”

When you think of waterfalls, the first names that automatically come to mind are of the dramatic Niagara Falls and the magnificent Victoria Falls.

Now, the Niagara Falls are undoubtedly the world’s most famous, the Victoria Falls are surely the world’s largest, but the Iguazú Falls are unhesitatingly the most impressive and exquisite! During a trip to Argentina, it’s something you just cannot miss!

The name Iguazú translates to ‘Great Waters’ and one look at the falls and you’ll know why.

Also known as the Iguassu Falls and the Iguaçu Falls, the term Iguazú means ‘great waters’ in Tupi and Guarani language.

Ancient Brazilian tribes always knew about these tumultuous thunderous falls, but it was little known worldwide until it was officially discovered by the European explorer and Spanish Conquistador Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541. Today, the falls are owned by the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Iguazú National Park in Argentina and the Iguaçu National Park in Brazil.

Taller than Niagara and wider than Victoria, the Iguazú Falls are the result of a volcanic eruption that left a large crack in the earth. The waterfall system consists of 275 falls along 2.7 km (1.67 miles) of the Iguazú River.

The thundering Iguazú falls

At an 80 meter canyon in the fierce foaming cauldron of the Devil’s Throat, the water produces a thundering sound. Here, several falls join together hurtling down a sheer drop, then draining into the Paraná river.

Make a trip to Argentina during the spring and fall for the best views of the falls.

So which is the better side to view the Iguazú? – The Argentine or Brazilian side?

Both sides are simply wonderful, and it’s definitely worth seeing from both places. It all depends on what you want to see and how you want to do so – on ground or aerial.

Iguazu: Birds’ eye view

Two thirds of the falls are within the Argentine territory. If you wish to see and ‘feel’ the falls from a height, then that’s best done from the Argentine side.

The Argentine side has two basic viewing circuits – an upper path and a lower path. The upper path offers exhilarating panoramic vistas and dizzying views from a footbridge/catwalk vantage point – truly an unforgettable experience! There may be some occasional mist.

Walk along the bridge for spectacular views of the falls

An aerial view lets you experience the sheer power and enormity of the falls. On the lower path leading to the base of the falls, the spray happily moistens you. This circuit also offers a boat trip to Isla San Martín. The Argentine side is ideal for seeing radiant poly-chromatic single or double rainbows.

360° views

Brazil offers an astounding multi-dimensional panorama! If its picture-perfect views and flawless shutter exposures you want, then head on over to experience the falls from the Brazilian side.

The Brazilian side offers a 360° view.

Consisting of a network of 275 waterfalls spanning an area of nearly 3 km wide, incredible vistas of the falls from virtually every angle in a 360° view takes your breath away! If you wish to enjoy a helicopter ride, then the Brazilian side is the place to do it.

“One’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things” ~ Henry Miller

The verdict?

The Argentine side trumps with just that wee bit more to offer.

Although the Brazilian side may have fantastic views and give ideal photographic opportunities, the Argentine side trumps with just that wee bit more to offer – variety of vantage viewing points, easy travel trails and a choice of activities.

The mist rising as the waters crash onto the rocks

The Iguazú Falls has earned such a reputation, that they have been featured in movies like – Mr. Magoo and Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Read more about the top 10 waterfalls in exotic destinations that you need to visit.

At Enchanting Travels, we help you spark an adventure and make memories all over the world – Iguazú Falls is just one such! Don’t just be a tourist, be a traveler!

Glaciers, Wildlife and Waterfalls in Argentina 13 Days: $ 8,895 / person
This is the ideal vacation for discovering the most memorable landscapes of Argentina. Begin amid the bustling lanes and colorful Latin American lifestyle of Buenos Aires and make your way to way to the majestic Perito Moreno glacier.
Argentina and Brazil: Classic Cities and Falls 9 Days: $ 3,335 / person
Explore the captivating metropolises of Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro during your tour to Brazil and Argentina. Discover the natural wonder of the world that unites these two countries – the magnificent Iguazú Falls.
Simply Brazil: Highlights & Beach 14 Days: $ 4,100 / person
Discover the highlights, diversity and natural beauty of Brazil on this private tour. Beginning Sao Paolo – the largest city of Brazil, travel to magnificent Iguazu Falls set on the border with Argentina.

The post Iguazú Falls – The World’s Largest Waterfalls appeared first on Enchanting Travels.

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As a travel company, we know a thing or two about traveling and we’ve got a list of our top five tips to happy travels. We’ve always believed that life is all about the experiences we have and our tips are all about having richer and more meaningful experiences. It represents a way of life that values experience and living rather than the flashy shine of big spending.

Once you have enough money to meet your basic needs, the rest is superfluous and won’t really impact your individual Gross Domestic Happiness (a term coined by Bhutan’s current monarch). However the way you spend your money can really increase your happiness. This is what a team of researchers consisting of Elizabeth Dunn, a psychologist from the University of British Columbia, and Michael Norton, who does research on marketing at the Harvard Business School, have concluded.

If you’re thinking that spending money to buy happiness equals buying luxury, comfort and extravagance, think again! The professors discovered that it isn’t flashy big buys that ensure happiness. If money can be spent to increase happiness, it’s by following five cardinal principles. They lay these out in their new book, “Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending” and we take a closer look, based on an article by lawyer and entrepreneur, Marelisa Fabrega.

It seems that the secrets to happiness lie in cherishing experiences and knowing how these have to be created, rather than expecting them to come from sheer money-spending.

Here are our five tips to happy travels 1 Buy experiences

The happiness you get from spending your money on a material good will only last a short amount of time since humans adapt quickly to new things. For this reason, buying experiences makes it our list of top five tips to happy travels. With an experience, you “live” it, it enters you, forms a part of your memory to be relived over and over and is often a duo or group activity with others involved, which enriches the experience. Try to compare buying a new designer outfit with a hot air balloon ride over Masai Mara.

Our guest Judith Wilson recently wrote this about her balloon safari:

“We loaded tightly into our balloon and took flight at sunrise. It was breathtaking to see the scope of the park and to see thousands of wildebeest on their amazing journey.”

“We could see a lioness stalking her prey and zebra and Thomson gazelle following the wildebeest on their journey. After landing we had a champagne breakfast in the middle of the park with animals roaming and grazing around us.“

Invest in experiences – They will stay with you forever

We’re sure you’ll agree this experience was nothing quite like the excitement over a recently open box of, say, noise canceling earphones!

DESIGN MY VACATION! 2 Treat yourself!

When something, however small, feels like an indulgence or an out-of-the-way experience, it immediately becomes a treat. Instead of indulging in a spa massage every evening, if you were to treat yourself to it at the end of an especially grueling day, it would feel extraordinarily special!

The book attempted an experiment involving research subjects who were asked to eat chocolate everyday for a week; the control group abstained for a week. Both groups then reconvened and everyone got some chocolate. Those who had abstained cherished the experience far more than those for who it had become routine.

When you travel with Enchanting Travels, we ensure you enjoy special treats.

It’s not uncommon for guests to be treated to an unexpected bottle of wine at their dinner table, an upgrade to a fantastic suite or a luxurious massage at the hotel spa. One of our guests was treated to a suite with its own private plunge pool!

Savoring a glass of wine with a marvelous view of the Taj Mahal is something you will cherish for a long time to come

DESIGN MY VACATION! 3 Buy time

You’re probably wondering where to buy time. How come you never heard about this miracle before? But buying time just means spending it wisely to ensure “time affluence”. Time is, probably, the most precious thing in the world and that is why the act of making time for special experiences makes it to our list of five tips to happy travels. As far as possible, try to save time for yourself. This could translate into outsourcing a lawn mowing job, or getting an excellent travel company to spend the long hours planning your trip, leaving you only to enjoy it.

Try us: all we ask is for your time on an initial phone call to tell us what you’re looking for. We’ll take it from there – doing the planning, charting out the itinerary and activities, and making sure you’re met and guided through your trip! Get in touch here.

4 Pay now, consume later

There are few back-to-earth shocks worse than emerging from a candlelit spa massage into the bright lights of a reception where someone is waiting for your cash by a credit card machine. Save yourself the harsh reality by paying for a service or an experience up ahead!

DESIGN MY VACATION!

Pamper yourself – You deserve it

By the time you experience it, the cost won’t be the first thing on your mind, leaving you to enjoy the experience. This is a principle we rely on at Enchanting Travels. When you arrive, there is no negotiation or transaction at hotels, with drivers and for entrance fees. Instead you can sail through your trip as though you were being fully hosted, paying only for personal consumption. Have you also noticed that when you are in the pre-holiday phase that you feel more peppy and positive? It’s a psychological fact and another reason to have a vacation all planned out in advance!

5 Invest in others

The researchers show that spending money on others offers more happiness than spending it solely on yourself. Research subjects were given dollar bills and some were told to spend it on others in addition to themselves. By evening, they realized that those who spent it on others were more happy than those who self-indulged! We often have guests at Enchanting who want to invest in others and in local communities when they travel. We came up with the extraordinary Pack With a Purpose scheme, allowing guests to invest in others when they travel. Remember to check with your Travel Consultant how you can participate on your next Enchanting journey!

Now that you’ve read our list, allow us the pleasure of increasing your happiness index!

The post Our Five Tips to Happy Travels! appeared first on Enchanting Travels.

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Go on a journey back in time exploring the country’s rich colonial history with a stay at India’s Finest Colonial Retreats.

When thinking of India, many of us may have romantic notions of sipping a cool gin and tonic amidst lush tropical gardens, sat beneath a lacy parasol, just as one did in Victorian times, frittering the day away by doing not much at all whilst watching the world go by. Luckily, many of the architectural gems previously housing palaces and private mansions are now beautifully restored to their former glory, converted to plush hotels and guest houses.

Whether you are planning a self-treat, romantic getaway ‘a deux’ or clandestine meeting (not that we are suggesting…), we have shortlisted India’s finest colonial retreats from across the country that exude that old world, nostalgic atmosphere we so adore. Put these on your list for private travel to India and you will not be disappointed!

Taj Lake Palace – Udaipur

Following years of decay, the former royal residence , Lake Palace in Udaipur, was restored by Taj Hotels in the early 1970’s, earning it both the ‘most romantic hotel’ accolade in India and the world.

It’s not difficult to see why – set amidst an awe inspiring fairytale surrounding in the middle of Lake Pichola, its approach by boat alone transports you to a different universe.

Get treated like royalty at the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur

Sumptuous rooms are filled with exquisite antiques, feature ornate cornicing and plushness all around with ‘royal butlers’ – descendants of the original palace retainers – in chic uniform attending to any of your needs.

Live the life of a maharajah at the hotel

Not only home to royalty for centuries, its regal ambience attracted the likes of Lord Curzon, Vivien Leigh, Queen Elizabeth, the Shah of Iran, the King of Nepal and style icon Jackie Kennedy.

The Imperial – Delhi

What appears understated externally, exuding minimal chic with its clean and linear art deco lines, unleashes an explosion of Victorian and colonial splendour internally. Baroque-esque furnishings with a smattering of Indian antiques result in a glamorous, opulent ambience we all have come to love and expect from this Delhi stalwart of sophistication.

The Victorian-era inspired interiors of The Imperial

Built in 1931 by Blomfield, an associate of Sir Edwin Lutyens, The Imperial Hotel was inaugurated by Lord Willingdon in 1936 and makes a great vantage point for exploring Lutyens’ Delhi and its architectural delights which are in the surrounding areas.

A stroll through the diplomatic enclave with its grand houses will give a glimpse back to colonial times and how highly ranking officials used to live.

Stay in elegantly decorated rooms that feature four-poster ornately carved beds
The Oberoi Grand – Kolkata

Affectionately named the Grande Dame of Calcutta, The Oberoi Grand Hotel in Kolkata exudes grandeur and colonial chic with its pillared entrance, neo-classical facade and Palladian influences. Built over 125 years ago as separate buildings, the then owner combined a succession of houses to create the hotel.

The ornate lobby of The Oberoi Grand

The stuccoed frontage, ornate balconies and canopied verandahs certainly are reminiscent of the salubrious streets of Kensington or Westminster and it soon became a hot spot for the British stationed in Calcutta with the hotel’s New Year’s parties becoming legendary for their decadence.

Nighttime with the building lit up, its vision mirrored in the pool, is the perfect backdrop for an evening cocktail, imagining eras gone by.

Enjoy a cocktail poolside or dive in for refreshing dip
Glenburn Tea Estate – Darjeeling

A gorgeous retreat high up in the Himalayas, Glenburn Tea Estate was established by a Scottish tea company in 1859 but meanwhile changed hands and is run by the third and fourth generation of the charming and welcoming Prakash family.

Set amidst rolling hills or tea plantations in Darjeeling along the banks of the River Rungeet, views of surrounding valleys and the Kanchenjunga mountain range are second to none.

Spread across two quaint Victorian bungalows with verandahs, accommodation is lovingly furnished and decorated in keeping with their colonial heritage. Cup of darjeeling, anyone?

Get an insight into plantation life at the Glenburg Tea Estate
Maison Perumal – Pondicherry

Located in the Tamil quarter of what has to be one of the prettiest French colonial towns outside France – Pondicherry – you will find Maison Perumal, a little gem that envelopes you in its cozy atmosphere the moment you step through its doors.

Stay at Maison Perumal – a hidden gem located in the Tamil quarter in Pondicherry

Previously a family mansion, the building’s fusion of architectural styles with verandahs, arched windows and collonaded courtyards exudes colonial heritage.

Painstakingly restored by its current owner using local experts reviving old crafts, the building was given a new lease of life. Clever use of stained glass projects charming patterns on white washed walls on pillared walkways, whilst Cuduppah stone creates a sense of drama.

The result? C’est tres, tres chic! An oasis of calm with rustic yet elegant interiors you will find difficult to leave.

Visalam – Chettinad

For a journey back in time visit Chettinad in South India, famous for its cuisine and palatial mansions dating back as far as the 18th century. Visalam was built by a wealthy merchant for his beloved daughter Visalakshi which was highly unusual at the time, as women would see their husband’s home as their own.

Chettinad is famous for its mansions and cuisine

Lovingly restored by its current owner, the sizeable mansion retains its many stunning art deco features. A communal pool invites for some quiet time or a refreshing dip, whilst staff will be delighted if you get your creative juices flowing and join for a round of ‘rangoli’, the traditional art of sprinkling rice powder and colours on the floor to create pretty patterns on the ground.

The Oberoi Wildflower Hall – Shimla

Imagine yourself in a Grimm brothers fairy tale and you’ve pretty much arrived at The Oberoi Wildflower Hall.

Set high atop in Shimla – one of the main capitals of the British empire – in what could be a magical forest sits The Oberoi Wildflower Hall, a majestic castle like structure with turrets and magnificent vistas.

The Oberoi Wildflower Hall is set in the midst of lush greenery

Rooms are sumptuous, British influences evident throughout with rich fabrics and textures, creating a cozy atmosphere, perhaps attributed to this being the former residence of Lord Kitchener.

The pièce de résistance has be the outdoor jacuzzi, featuring what may be the best views of the Himalayas one can admire lying poolside.

Infinite views of the valley from the infinity pool

Inspired by our list of India’s finest colonial retreats? Explore India’s rich heritage with our customized vacation packages.

The post India’s Finest Colonial Retreats appeared first on Enchanting Travels.

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Kandy Festival: An Introduction

If it’s August in Sri Lanka, then it’s time for the Kandy Festival of Perahera. Majestic elephants amble through the streets, resplendent in ornate regalia. All around you, the frenetic drumming and exotic chants electrify the atmosphere. Sparkling lights and the shining gold of opulent costumes dancing just out of reach, dazzles the eye everywhere you look.

It’s that time of the year in Kandy – the Perahera, one of the most spectacular festivals of Sri Lanka has begun!

Every year, around July – August, the royal city of Kandy, cosily nestled in the picturesque hill country of Sri Lanka, is caught up in a frenzy. During the ten days starting from the new moon, the streets of Kandy come alive with magnificent festive processions, to pay homage to the sacred tooth relic of the Gautam Buddha – the founder of Buddhism.

The city of Kandy lies in the scenic hill country of Sri Lanka
The Origin Of The Kandy Festival

Although the origin of the Kandy Perahera is hotly debated, most believe that it is a confluence of two Peraheras – Esala, a ritual requesting the God’s for rainfall, and Dalada, which, most believe, began once the Tooth was brought to Sri Lanka in the 4th Century CE.

The Tooth: An Ancient Symbol of Power

The legend goes that when the Buddha – Siddhārtha Gautama, died, his body was consigned to the flames but one tooth remained unharmed.

Over the next 800 years, the belief that whoever owned the tooth had the divine right to rule, made it a precious possession indeed! Many wars were fought, many lives lost, and many kingdoms destroyed, but somehow the tooth survived!

Drummers in magnificent robes accompany the procession at Kandy

800 years after the Buddha’s death, hidden in the hair of princess Hemamala, the tooth traveled to Sri Lanka, which the Buddha had once described as a safe haven.

The Sacred Tooth Relic In Sri Lanka

The King of Sri Lanka received the tooth and its bearers with open arms, acknowledging the relic as a symbol of spiritualism. He ordered for the Perahera (procession) or the Kandy festival, to commemorate the day on which the relic arrived in Sri Lanka.

Over the next few centuries, the land saw many wars. Finally, the tooth was taken to Kandy, where it has rested till date in a temple built to protect it. Whether this relic is an original however, is debatable.

The servants of the Temple dress in ornate white and gold robes.
The Perahera in the present day

Around the Temple of The Sacred Tooth Relic, called Sri Dalada Maligawa in Sri Lanka, there are four other shrines of Hindu origin – the Natha Devale, the Vishnu Devale, the Katharagama Devale and the Pattini Devale. Each of them send out their own procession during the Perahera, to join forces with the main pageant in the Kandy festival.

Temple Festivities in the Kandy Festival

Every year, the Kandy festival begins on the day of the New Moon and this year, the first five days of the Kumbal Perahera start on 20th August 2015. The five main temples of Kandy are decorated and each night one of the temples becomes the main attraction with exciting processions taking place from the temple premises.

The Temple of the Tooth, where the Sacred Tooth Relic is kept, decorated for Perahera.

Five nights after the Kumbal Perahera, Randolis, the idols of Gods, travel through the city lit up by torches in ornate gold palanquins.

In 2016, the Kandy festival of Randoli Perahera will begin on 13th August and continue until 17th August.

What To Expect At The Kandy Perahera

Expect hushed silence throughout the city as people wait eagerly for the Perahera procession to begin. Suddenly, the thundering noise of cannon fire is heard from the temple, signalling the start. And lo! The devotees from the Temple of the Tooth leave the shrine to begin the procession through the streets of Kandy.

Each Temple sends out flag bearers with their insignia, for the pageant

The Kandy festival begins with a train consisting of proud torch-bearers and gorgeously dressed men brandishing long whips. Each stroke of the whip breaks the silence and the glorious light from the torches bring a mystical touch to the atmosphere. Buddhist flag bearers follow in the footsteps of the drummers who come next.

Fire artists at Perahera, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Musicians in silken white robes and bright red sashes belt out wonderfully exotic songs as dancers and acrobats whirl around, performing impossible feats! Finally, you see the priests and the servants of the temple, accompanied by richly decorated elephants – a wondrous finale to the magical Kandy festival.

The last three days of the pageant are the highlights of the event – in 2016, they are on the 15th, 16th and 17th August.

The grand procession is the highlight of the Kandy Perahera
The Sacred Tooth Relic traveling through the streets of Kandy on the back of a specially decorated elephant

On the final day, 17th August 2016, you will find the tooth relic traveling on the back of a specially decorated elephant (the Maligawa Tusker) through the streets. This allows it to be viewed by all who have gathered to watch, with hundreds of elephants and revelers following in its wake.

For the artists as well as the elephant owners, being part of this religious Kandy festival is a matter of great prestige, and participation is a tradition passed down through generations!

The Final Procession

At dawn on the last day, some worshippers from all five shrines walk to the Mahaweli River where the diya-kepeema ritual or water cutting ceremony takes place. Holy water is collected and preserved for cleaning the streets before the next Perahera.

Priests from the temple perform a water cutting ceremony on the final day of the Perahera; Editorial Credit: Suranga SL / Shutterstock.com

Finally, it is over and the devotees walk back to the city to end the Kandy festival with a day procession – a perfect opportunity to observe the difference between the nightly processions and the one held during the daytime.

Top Tip: Book your trip well in advance to avoid accommodation availability disappointment during the key dates of the Kandy festival. 

Sri Lanka is a country filled with spectacular natural beauty and unique cultural experiences. Talk to our travel consultants about creating a Sri Lanka vacation itinerary that best matches your interests.

Sri Lanka’s Heritage Cities and Unspoiled Landscapes 15 Days: $ 5,090 / person
Unspoiled natural beauty, fascinating wildlife and ancient heritage – discover the best of Sri Lanka, far away from the beaten track. Spend time in remote national parks and on pristine beaches, and also see famous architectural and cultural gems in the heritage cities of Kandy and Galle.
Sri Lanka’s Wild Side and Blissful Beaches 14 Days: $ 3,376 / person
Sri Lanka tours are all about experiencing variety! Whether it is delving into the ancient and Buddhist civilizations, to enjoying the tea plantations or wildlife, or simply relaxing on the country’s lovely beaches, you will love this trip that covers more than just the usual highlights!
Ancient Wonders and Beaches of Sri Lanka 16 Days: $ 4,426 / person
Immerse yourself in the spirit of Sri Lanka with its rich Buddhist heritage, and let friendly locals welcome you with a warm smile. Explore colonial hill stations, tea plantations and ancient, lost cities.

The post Kandy Festival of Perahera: What To Expect appeared first on Enchanting Travels.

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The magnificent pyramids of Tikal National Park rise from deep within the forests of Guatemala, having stood witness to the growth and decline of one of the greatest Mayan civilizations of all times. Journey through the remains of a society known for its architectural brilliance and astronomical prowess. Mystical and magical, Tikal National Park, with its soaring monoliths, grand complexes, and spectacular biodiversity will leave you spellbound.

3 reasons why Tikal National Park needs to be part of your Guatemala vacation itinerary
  1. The ruins – A UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most important archaeological ruins related to Mayan culture, it is tough not to be awed by the sheer grandeur of Tikal National Park. The site is home to dozens of pyramids and ancient structures, excavated after decades of archaeological work. Inhabited, according to most expert opinions, from 6th century BC to the 10th century AD, the ruins of Tikal are shrouded in mystery. Some of the structures record events that are more than five million years old and the reasons for the decline of the kingdom are still an unsolved riddle.
  2. The rich biodiversity of the region – Peeking through colossal kapok and tall silk, cedar, and mahogany trees, the ruins of Tikal sit at the heart of the rich Maya Biosphere Reserve that is home to a spectacular range of fauna including jaguars, howler and spider monkeys, crocodiles and over 300 species of birds. In fact, Tikal National Park has been recognized by UNESCO for both its extraordinarily well-preserved historical ruins and rich natural biodiversity. A trip to Tikal is a cultural excursion and wildlife safari rolled into one.
  3. There is more to Tikal than meets the eye – What you see above at Tikal National Park will amaze you but it is what lies underground that will intrigue you. It is estimated that 70% of the ruins still remain unexcavated, lying buried deep under the forest. So take a moment, if you can, to imagine the grandeur and scale of this kingdom that was once home to over 100,000 Mayans.

In fact, so other-worldly are the ruins that they were portrayed as the fictional moon Yavin IV in George Lucas’s Star Wars.

The magnificent ruins of Tikal peeking through the mist. The Central Plaza and Temple I The North Acropolis complex at Tikal A panoramic view of Tikal National Park and the surrounding Maya Biosphere Reserve. Take in the spectacular views of the ancient Mayan city of Tikal.
What to see and do in Tikal?

The 6 sq.miles of the Tikal National Park that have been excavated is the site of numerous buildings and structures in various states of ruin and reconstruction. Start at the imposing Central Plaza, the grand ceremonial and religious center of Tikal, before moving on to Temple I and II that act as guardians on either end of the Plaza. Temple I once housed the tomb of Lord Chocolat (Ah Cacau) who ruled the kingdom from the late 7th century A.D to mid-8th century and features nine tiers that correspond to the nine stages of afterlife that the Mayan society believed in. Temple II is known as the Temple of Masks for the two huge stone masks that stand at the entrance of the stairway. For the best views of the surrounding jungle, you will have to ascend Temple IV, the tallest structure in Tikal National Park measuring about 65 meters in height, that opens up to spectacular views of the environs.

While a climb up Temple IV is definitely not for the faint of heart, those who dare to accept the challenge are taken above the tree canopy of the surrounding jungle and rewarded with expansive views of the lush forest and impressive ruins.

Explore the Central Acropolis, a network of interconnected courtyards thought to have housed the royal families of the Tikal dynasty, and the North Acropolis that was the cemetery site of members of the Mayan royalty. Visit the Plaza of the Seven Temples, one of the largest architectural complexes of the ruins and the location of seven nearly identical temples. Not to be missed is the Mundo Perdido complex, the site of the Lost World Pyramid built in 900 BC and the oldest structure in Tikal.

Tikal is one of the few Mayan ruins set in the midst of a rich tropical rainforest and is an absolute birder’s paradise. Grab your binoculars and catch sight of Ocellated Turkeys, Brown Jays, Olive-throated Parakeets, Crested Guan and an incredible variety of raptors and parrots.

Tikal National Park is a haven for birding enthusiasts. An Emerald toucanet peeking from its nest. The popular notion is that you will see more birds than people in Tikal. Catch sight of some of the 300 plus bird species that call the Tikal National Park home.

Early mornings, late evenings, and treks to temple tops yield some of the best glimpses of these feathered wonders.

History buffs will love a visit to the Sylvanus G.Morley museum that houses the tomb of Ha Sawa Chan K’awil, one of the main architects of Tikal, and a superb collection of ceramics, masks and a variety of ancient Mayan artifacts. The Stelae Museum showcases many of the stone pillars found at the site including a reproduction of the bound captive, a powerful image from the ruins carved onto one of the pillars.

When to visit?

Tikal, being set in the middle of a rainforest, experiences rain throughout the year. The best time to visit Tikal and Guatemala is from November to April, the (relatively) dry season.

Tikal National Park is open from 6 am – 5 pm daily, while the museums are open from 8 am – 6 pm and closed for national holidays.

Insider tip – The ruins take on a magical dimension during sunrise and sunset. Watching the sunrise with the ruins in the foreground is a surreal experience. Add to this the fact that the heat is much less in the morning, thus making exploring the vast ruins a far more pleasant activity.

Viewing the glorious sunset from the Lost World pyramid is a popular activity and one that we highly recommend.

How to get there?

The city of Flores is the closest airport to Tikal National Park and is a 90-minute drive from the airport to the ruins. Another starting point is Belize city, a 3-hour journey from Tikal.

Where to stay?

The Tikal Jungle Lodge, located at the entrance of the ruins, makes for a convenient and comfortable accommodation with its jungle-themed rooms. Flores is the biggest city near Tikal and acts as a good base for exploring Guatemala’s first national park. Flores has many charming accommodation options including the Isla de Flores Guesthouse, Las Lagunas Boutique Lodge, and Villa Maya.

Things to remember
  • Make sure you have sufficient cash as credit cards are not accepted.
  • Comfortable clothes and shoes are recommended as the tours involve a lot of walking.
  • Bring water, hats, and sunscreen and most importantly, start early.

Tikal National Park is just one of the many gems waiting to be discovered in Guatemala. Explore the colonial architecture of Antigua, the cultural highlights of Guatemala City and the spectacular natural beauty of Lake Atitlan on a fully-customized luxury tour through this beautiful country.

Plan your tailor made vacation to Guatemala with Enchanting Travels.

The post Tikal National Park – The Complete Guide appeared first on Enchanting Travels.

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With the warmer months fast approaching, now is a great time to start booking that all-important summer getaway. Whether you want to switch off for two weeks on a beautiful beach or expand your horizons with a trip to one of the world’s most intriguing locales, here’s just a handful of sensational luxury vacation ideas for summer 2019.  

1. Discover untouched landscapes and ancient temples in Cambodia

Asia is always a wonderful region for an unforgettable trip, but few countries come as packed with cultural and natural treasures as Cambodia. It’s a nation that’s really opened up to tourism over the last decade, with sites like the magnificent Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap now counting as one of the modern wonders of the world.

Angkor Thom gate

It’s often best to discover a country’s history and hidden gems under the guidance of a local, which is why our signature Cambodia’s Culture, History and Pristine Beaches tour is an excellent pick. As well as exploring ancient ruins and learning about Cambodia’s recent military history, you’ll also savor fragrant local cuisine, enjoy some down time on the untouched beaches of Koh Rong, and stay in some of the most luxurious resorts and hotels the country has to offer.

2. Soak up some sunshine in the Seychelles

Located in the heart of the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles really is the pinnacle of heavenly beach destinations. It’s made up of 115 idyllic tropical islands, including the main island of Mahe, that’s awash with stunning coves, gorgeous resorts and even a tea plantation, and farther flung Aldabra, which is home to hundreds of giant tortoises.

Mahe Island in the Seychelles La Digue Island, Seychelles Swimming with turtles in the Seychelles

The Seychelles is a prime spot for unbelievable snorkeling and diving as well as experiencing genuine Creole culture. For those looking for luxury, the Banyan Tree Resort & Spa on Mahe Island is a sublime choice thanks to its private villas set in lush surroundings. Alternatively, head to the sleepier island of La Digue that’s home to Anse Source D’Argent (one of the most attractive beaches in the world) and smaller hotels like boutique Le Repaire, which boasts just nine rooms overlooking the ocean.

3. Enjoy an eco-conscious adventure in Namibia

If you’ve always dreamed of glimpsing the spots of a leopard or watching desert-adapted ellies playing near watering holes, Namibia is an absolute must. As well as its stunning nature reserves, you’ll also find the stark but beautiful Namib desert and its famed Skeleton Coast. Since it’s winter in Namibia during our summer months, this is also the best time to visit Namibia.

Etosha National Park Walking on the Big Daddy dune in Sossusvlei Skeleton Coast, Namibia

For a holiday that also helps the planet, stay among the sand dunes of the Sossusvlei region at eco-friendly Desert Homestead, a luxury lodge that’s completely powered by the sun. If you simply can’t decide what you want to see in Namibia, why not see it all with our Wings Over Namibia luxury tour which includes nine days of exploration through cities, deserts and African planes.

4. Head into the jungles of Costa Rica

Filled with wild rainforests and dramatic volcanoes, Costa Rica is a haven for the outdoor adventurist. Hundreds of species of animal call the country home, from sleepy sloths through to colorful macaws, making it perfect for avid nature lovers. Keen hikers will also find much to fuel their imagination in the verdant area surrounding the Arenal Volcano.

Arenal volcano Canopy Walk in Monteverde Cloud Forest Uvita beach in Costa Rica

Costa Rica isn’t just for holidaymakers after adventure, though. Its coastline is dotted with glorious sandy beaches such as Manuel Antonio, while the forest regions such as Monteverde additionally play host to thermal pools and serene botanical scenery. Opting for one of our tailored luxury travel tours of Costa Rica is a wonderful way to experience every aspect.

Classic Costa Rica and Guatemala 14 Days: $ 5,565 / person
From scenic volcanic mountains and tropical forests to picture perfect beaches and pristine lakes, this classic tour of Costa Rica and Guatemala is a nature lover’s delight! Also on offer are unique excursions in the vibrant cities of Antigua and Flores.
Classic Namibia and Botswana Overland 20 Days: $ 6,990 / person
This African vacation begins with a classic road trip through impressive landscapes in Namibia where you can explore ancient deserts, ruggedly beautiful canyons and national parks. Also included are a tour of the spectacular Victoria Falls and game drives at Chobe National Park, as well as safari flights that allow you to soak in the […]
Vietnam and Cambodia with Mekong Meander 16 Days: $ 4,430 / person
Tours of Vietnam and Cambodia don’t come better than this! With this private travel experience you can enjoy a fascinating cruise on the Mekong River and take in the magnificent Angkor temples.

Feeling inspired? Make sure you book your next summer vacation through a luxury travel company to ensure the very best level of service and a truly memorable, personalized experience.

The post Summer 2019 Trip Ideas From Around The World appeared first on Enchanting Travels.

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As an emerging destination, Bhutan Tourism is all set to take off with authentic initiatives and encounters directed at benefiting the community. Let’s take you on a journey of the stunning Mountain Kingdom.

Have you heard about Bhutan and its bundles of happiness? Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness philosophy guides Bhutan’s government and measure the collective happiness and well being of the population. Yet there is more to Bhutan than its happiness index.

While we often choose specific regions, the entire country of Bhutan is the perfect example of a considered destination for Enchanting Travels. Why? Bhutan is a much lesser visited destination compared with neighboring Nepal and is therefore more able to integrate visitors into its existing infrastructure.

We applaud the efforts that Bhutan as a country has taken to not only promote sustainable tourism but also act responsibly towards her people and environment. In recent years, the Bhutanese has passed many laws that support the environment, including writing into its Constitution the requirement that 60% of the country’s land remains forested. The government has banned all plastic bags and is committed to creating carbon neutrality, which means that CO2 reduction is part of daily business and life, and that any carbon emissions created within the country need to be offset with responsible projects. The country is entirely smoke free, and supports only local shops, which in turn supports the local economy. You won’t find many large chain stores or corporations in Bhutan.

Punakha Dzong in Bhutan Dining out at Uma Como in Paro Biking in the Bhutan countryside

Even Bhutan’s food is locally sourced, with most of the country’s citizens tending to their own kitchen gardens. For our guests, this guarantees meals with deliciously fresh ingredients!

Probably the most wonderful aspect of tourism in Bhutan is the fact that 65% of what guests pay is retained by the government to be used for societal welfare.

Our Bhutan Tours: Considered Accommodation

What we love about our accommodation providers in Bhutan is that they choose to employ local staff, so that guests can have social interactions with diverse groups in the community. For example, Thimpu Towers in Thimpu has a hotel owner who personally engages with lower income women and trains them to be part of the staff.

Zhiwa Ling Ascent in Thimpu believe that the best education is hands-on, so offers training experiences to local Bhutanese students wishing to learn and work in hospitality. The hotel’s own professional team supervise the students with 120 hours of hands-on training, equipping them with valuable skills, from spa therapy and reservations to housekeeping and culinary arts. The result are confident students who are proud to share their Bhutanese culture with guests.

Zhiwa Ling Ascent in Thimphu, Bhutan
Bhutan Tourism and Authentic Experiences

You can experience a Prayer Ceremony in Probjikha Valley, in which our partners in Bhutan never charge or take any commission from. Your donation that you are asked to give during the ceremony directly goes to the monks conducting the prayers.

Our Local Guide Sangay Wangdi Welcomes You
Our guide Sangay Wangdi with the Enchanting Travels team

“My name is Sangay Wangdi and: I am from Gasa, which is one of the remotest districts in Bhutan. I am very proud to be Bhutanes, we are a small country in the world but we have our own identity and a unique culture and traditions that are still alive. We look for peace and happiness within ourselves.

Bhutan is a Himalayan country filled with natural beauty and mountain peaks. Everywhere you go you can experience different ways that people choose to live in rural areas, and you’ll get a feeling of untouched cultural heritage in the remotest of places. To become a tour guide in Bhutan one has to overcome many personal challenges, including the ability to have good communications skills and to share our culture appropriately with guests. I wanted to become a tour guide so that I could visit many of the holy places in Bhutan and also learn about the world from our guests.Enchanting Travels has given me an ample opportunity to upgrade my career. “

“Enchanting Travels really understand the value of humans and appreciate different lifestyles, and all the guests I have shown around are really amazing people. I am glad that I got an opportunity to work with the most renowned tour operator in the world!”

The post Spotlight on … Bhutan Tourism appeared first on Enchanting Travels.

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