Today on 25 January, National Tourism Day is celebrated in India for promoting tourism.
As the new year has begun, people find late January and early February the right time to travel to places which are not so expensive and where they can enjoy to the fullest.
Want to travel abroad and visit some picture-perfect places? Want to experience different cultures and taste exotic food? Why not take a step back and take that long overdue vacation abroad? Before you raise your hand in protest at the HUGE cost involved in travelling outside the country, let us tell you we are talking about places which are beautiful while still being affordable. Their currency is weaker than ours and you’ll have ample scope to indulge in tourist-y activities. Don’t believe us? See for yourself!
The only country to adopt Gross National Happiness (GNP) as a marker of prosperity and development, Bhutan is truly a dream come true. It is a quaint kingdom with regal mountains, serene monasteries and friendly locals often strutting about in gho and kira. The capital city of Thimphu is home to the National Memorial Chorten, the National Folk Heritage Museum and the National Library, all of which give a glimpse into the unique culture and traditions of Bhutan.
The city is replete with Dzongs (fortified buildings encompassing administrative and monastic institutions) which are home to monks and where people go to pray and meditate. The Punakha Dzong, in fact, is one of the most majestic structures in Bhutan.
A visit to the Zorig Chusum School of traditional arts can be interesting as it shows how young Bhutanese students learn the 13 traditional arts of Bhutan. Don’t forget to indulge in some ema datsi while going around the country discovering hidden gems. The crafts bazaar is also a must visit and you could also pick up souvenirs on your way back.
Currency Exchange: 1.00 Indian Rupee = 1 Bhutanese Ngultrum
A visit to Angkor Wat is in order if you want to get away from the madding crowd and intrusive city life. The temple ruins bear testimony to the rich heritage and culture of Cambodia. The best part about holidaying in Cambodia is that not only does it have calm, serene places but it also has bustling areas such as the Sihanoukville Beach. Other interesting places you could visit include Tonie Sap City, Siem Reap and Bokor hill station.
Currency Exchange: 1 Indian Rupee = 57.38 Cambodian Riel
All food and coffee junkies should make their way to Vietnam. The country, which is the second biggest producer of coffee in the world, sure knows how to do it right. As for the food, the streets of Vietnam are dotted with local delicacies such as pho and bun ca, noodle soup and more. In fact, gorging on street food is one of the most exciting experiences in Vietnam.
The country is home to some of the most gigantic caves, some of which have been discovered as late as 2009. Vietnam is also home to Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Gulf of Tonkin. It makes for an exceptional sightseeing experience.
Currency Exchange: 1 Indian Rupee = 325.42 Vietnamese Dong
4. Sri Lanka
Proximity to the country, weaker currency and an abundance of beauty is what makes Sri Lanka a hit among travellers from India. Adventure enthusiasts find themselves spoilt for choices. There are avenues for rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing and much more. Besides, there is so much to see in Sri Lanka. (Did you know the island is home to eight UNESCO world heritage sites?)
Sri Lanka shares an exotic relationship with wildlife. You can play with elephants, visit turtle hatcheries and spot giant blue whales in the azure waters close to Galle, Hikkaduwa and Mirissa. What’s more – if you want to go back in time, just ride one of the trains in Sri Lanka which will make their way through the beautiful hills and valleys of the country. The capital city of Colombo is a treat in itself – a combination of modernity and tradition, offering a wide range of tourist-y things to do.
Sri Lanka houses some of the best tea estates in Nuwara Eliya, or ‘Little England’. If you’re a tea lover, mark your calendars and plan your trip to Sri Lanka NOW!
Currency Exchange: 1 Indian Rupee = 2.48 Sri Lankan Rupee
5. Costa Rica
With a host of beaches, rain forests, wide expanse of coffee plantations, active volcanoes and much more, Costa Rica packs a powerful punch for travellers and tourists alike.
The beautiful Manuel Antonio National Park which marks the union of white sand and lush rainforest has monkeys tip-toeing on tree branches among a host of other wild creatures. Likewise, the cloud forest reserve of Monteverde is home to 450 species of orchids.
Other notable places to visit include Arenal Volcano and the quaint beach town of Manzanillo. Any trip to Costa Rica remains incomplete without a visit to the sprawling coffee plantations. You have the option of seeing firsthand how coffee is cultivated, processed and roasted.
Costa Rica can be visited at any time of the year but if you happen to travel there in October, don’t forget to revel in the party spirit of the very famous Limon Carnival – a beach extravaganza with colourful costumes, lots of dancing, partying and finger-licking Creole dishes.
Currency Exchange: 1 Indian Rupee = 8.00 Costa Rican Colón
No visa hassles, no extravagant expenses and a weaker currency. Do you need more reasons to visit Nepal? Well, there are more. From white water rafting and exciting trekking trails to jungle safaris at Chitwan, there is a lot that Nepal offers. Explore the Chaitwan National Park riding on an elephant to see sloth bears, rhinos and even the Royal Bengal Tiger. If you are a trek junkie, embark on the Lungtak trek and witness Nepal in its majestic greenery. Pokhara in itself makes for an array of adventures – ranging from paragliding to hiring pedalos.
Lumbini, the birth place of Gautam Buddha, is another attraction for the soul-searching traveller.
And if you feel too adventurous, try your luck at one of the many casinos in Kathmandu.
Currency Exchange: 1 Indian Rupee = 1.58 Nepalese Rupee
Indonesia is brimming with beauty. There are sandy beaches, expansive paddy fields, architectural marvels and a lot more which are exclusive to Indonesia. For instance, Bukit Lawang in Indonesia happens to be the only place where you can spot orangutans.
The place is home to some of the most beautiful temples in the world such as the Prambanan Temple, Borobudur Temple and Tirta Gangga. There are also islands, museums and world-class spa centres. Indonesia is also home to Lake Toba, the largest natural volcanic lake. The trek to Mount Bromo is one of the unique attractions in Indonesia as is the diving spot of Raja Ampat.
Bali is a must-visit place on the list of almost every traveller going to Indonesia. While in Bali, do not forget to visit Ubud, a vivid crafts centre. Also visit the Besakih Temple, also known as the “Mother Temple of Bali”, which is nothing short of a pilgrimage for the local people.
One tip for travellers bound to Indonesia is to look beyond Bali and explore the rest of the beautiful country. For instance, there can’t be a better shopping paradise than Jakarta!
Currency Exchange: 1 Indian Rupee = 200.56 Indonesian Rupiah