Feeling Heady In Hyderabad


The Taj Falaknuma Palace – the restored Nizam’s Palace – is yet another jewel in the crown of the city that boasts of the Charminar

taj-falaknuma-palace-courtyardTo enter the Taj Falaknuma Palace involves many steps. You drive to the entrance of the 32-acre palace; then, get on a horse carriage, which takes you to the entrance. You are greeted with vetiver juice. A flag bearer carrying a golden flag-pole bearing a coat of arms marches ahead as you climb the white staircase. Then the rose petal shower.

Taj-Falaknuma-Palace-bWalk into the Ritz Carlton in Miami or George V in Paris and all you get is a form asking for your credit card details. Here in the East, we take hospitality much more seriously, garlanding our guests, giving them a welcome drink, offering them attar and sandalwood paste, or, in this instance, showering petals on them.

cn_image_2.size.taj-falaknuma-palace-hyderabad-india-112405-11Built by Vicar Ul-Umra, the prime minister and son-in-law of then the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1893, the Falaknuma (meaning ‘mirror of the sky’) has had a chequered history. Sir Vicar as he was called, built and inhabited it for a mere five years when he heard that the Nizam was coming for tea. Tea extended to dinner and then overnight. Twenty days later, the Nizam was still in residence. What happened next was typical of the tehzeeb or etiquette of the era, when words were pregnant with hidden meaning. Sir Vicar watched his master’s delight in the palace and the curious questions: “How have you built a palace so wonderful?” He intuited that the Nizam coveted the palace that he had bankrupted himself to build and decided to give it to the Nizam as a nasr or offering. “Huzoor, I have built it for you,” said he. That same evening, three generations of Sir Vicar’s family, along with their retinue of staff, moved out of the palace. To give up something so substantial is not easy for any person, but that was the ethos of the era. The Nizam insisted on paying more than what the palace had cost to build. He presented Sir Vicar with Rs 68 lakh (10 lakh = 1 million), small change for a man who was on the cover of Time magazine with the headline, “The richest man in the world.” The Nizam had his own currency, airline, railways, a fleet of Rolls-Royce, some of which were used to dump the household garbage, and the 48-carat Jacob’s diamond that rolled about his table in lieu of a paperweight.

The-Spectacular-Taj-Falaknuma-Palace-in-Hyderabad-11The Nizam’s family used the Falaknuma till after Independence, when they entertained India’s first President Dr Rajendra Prasad in 1951. After that, the palace fell out of use and into disrepair till the current Nizam’s estranged wife, a princess belonging to the Turkish nobility, decided to restore it. Princess Esra Jah reconciled with her husband, the current Nizam, who lives in Australia, during her son’s wedding. In 2000, she decided to restore the palace in partnership with the Taj Group of Hotels. By then, the palace was in an advanced state of disrepair. Water poured through the roof, rats were running around, the furniture and upholstery were chipped and broken, and cobwebs hung throughout the place. “I was among the first persons to see the palace and it was scary,” says the historian, Mr. Prabhakar.

It took ten years and countless iterations to get the palace back into its pristine glory. The walls were painted a hundred times to match the shade that Princess Esra had in mind: the colour of the sky at dusk. Today, the Falaknuma is a Victorian pastiche of many architectural styles. There are Corinthian columns, Italian frescoes, Carrara marble fountains, Tudor arches, Venetian cut-glass chandeliers, French trompe d’0eil paintings that make cement look like wood, fleur de lis on stained glass windows, English paintings and upholstery. “Not one of the objects or influence is Indian,” says Mr Prabhakar proudly. The result is stunning but a little disconcerting. It is as if the palace was airlifted from Europe and placed atop the hill in Hyderabad.

char minarThe city sparkles far below as Sufi singers sing on the Gol Bangla’s terrace. It is a city built for love, when Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah, whose portrait hangs in the Smithsonian, fell in love with a maiden called Bhagmati. In 1591, he moved his capital from Golconda to what was then a tiny village on the banks of the Musi village. He named the new city after his wife, Hyder Mahal. The city was modelled on Esfahan in Iran, with water-bodies for moon-watching, fountains, fragrant gardens and broad boulevards. When the bubonic plague hit the city, Quli Qutb Shah prayed to Allah to release his people from its clutches and built the Charminar (Four Minarets) in gratitude. Diagonally across from the Charminar is the Makkah Masjid, among the holiest shrines in India, built using soil and stones from Mecca. Ten thousand of the faithful can pray together here.

Today, the roads that radiate from the Charminar sell rhinestone-studded lac bangles that are a signature of the city. Countless shops glitter with these coloured gem-like ornaments. Vendors sell burqas, dupattas, vessels, fruits, knives, clothes, Unani medicines, orthopaedic massages and anything else that a person can need. It is a hub of humans and commerce. The Chowmuhallah Palace down the road is quieter. Built over 45 acres in the 18th century, it is now a museum and used for weddings and other ceremonies. Only 14 acres remain since the current Nizam fled to Turkey and then Australia to escape debt payments from his wives and concubines. I attend a wedding there one night. The palace is stunning when lit up at night. Tuberose garlands cast their heady scent and the aroma of slow-cooking biryanis makes the tongue pucker. This is a city that takes it meat seriously. Men can argue for hours over the right technique to cook patther ka gosht, or lamb seared on a stone slab.

lac benglesTextile expert Soraiya Hassan Bose belongs to an old family. Today, she and a band of weavers sell the state’s kalamkari and ikat weaves in her eponymous shop. Hyderabad’s hand-loomed, hand-woven textiles are known throughout the country for their quality.

Local fashion designers such as Anand Kabra use the state’s weaves in their designs and infuse it with a modern cut. Jewellery designer Suhani Pittie lives in a heritage mansion that houses her contemporary creations. Both are passionate about their home state and its rich traditions.

There are two Hyderabad today, one is the city around Hussein Sagar Lake; the modern city that attracts IT companies to its Hi-Tec City or Cyberabad. Then, there is the slower, more leisurely city that was created by kings and Nizams; the Hyderabad of slow-cooked meals and exquisite etiquette.

Courtesy by K.T.

Family Holidays – Kids Please


Five destinations guaranteed to put a smile on children’s faces…

1)      Orlando, Florida

orlandoThere are many reasons Orlando remains a top destination for families: the sun usually shines, there are hotels to suit all tastes, but above all, it’s home to two of the best theme parks in the world. Walt Disney World, Florida, is where you will find the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and the Hollywood Studios, plus the brilliant water parks at Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Trust us, even if you don’t consider yourself a Disney fan, resistance to the charms of the House of Mouse is futile – one ride on the superb Soarin’, Splash Mountain or The Tower of Terror and we guarantee you will be hooked and singing it’s a Small World for ever more.

Universal’s Islands of Adventure (www.universalorlando.com), meanwhile, is home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – a mind-blowing recreation of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, complete with rides, talking portraits and shops selling wands. Universal also has roller coasters such as The Incredible Hulk and a whole section dedicated to Dr. Seuss, which will appear to younger children and those who remember The Cat in the Hat books first time around. Just over an hour’s drive away is Daytona, with its glorious sandy beach, ideal for surfing, and the Nascar racetrack, where you can take a spin inside a real stock car. A holiday in Orlando is exhilarating, but exhausting and requires lots of advance planning.

2)      Rome, Italy

romeKids fans of Horrible Histories? Then take them to Rome, where at the Colosseum, one of the best preserved Roman Amphitheatres in the world, they can run around and imagine what life must have been like for the gladiators and animals that fought here nearly 2000 years ago. You can even enrol them at Gladiator school for the afternoon while you go off to explore the designer shops along the Via Condotti. They will marvel at the apparent traffic chaos by the impressive Vittorio Emanuele II monument where you can see foolhardy tourists riding Segways (our advice is not to try this); at the Trevi Fountain they can throw a short walk to the magnificent Pantheon, built in AD126. Rome is, of course, also a fantiastic place to introduce your children to the wonders of authentic Italian gastronomy where you opt for a pizza in Piazza Navona, pasta in Trastevere or gelati (ice cream) on the banks of the Tiber River, Rome offers a feast for all the senses.

 

 

 

 

3)      Sydney, Australia

australiaAs the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge discovered on their recent trip to Sydney, this Australian city has heaps to offer – and while Prince George is perhaps a little too young to enjoy it right now, for children aged two and up, it is an absolute paradise of wildlife, history and, of course, all those fantastic beaches, including Bondi, which has a children’s pool and playground. At the excellent Featherdale Wildlife Park (www.featherdale.com.au) they (and you) can cuddle up to Koalas, hand-feed kangaroos, see dingoes or check out the crocs and snakes. No child will be able to resist the Tyrannosayrs exhibition at the Australian Museum (www.australianmuseum.net.au), a homage to the most feared of all the dinosaurs. Much-loved Luna Park has lots of rides and a giant Ferris Wheel, while children aged 10 and up (and their brave parents) will jump at the chance to climb the Harbour Bridge (www.bridgeclim.com). Sydney is a very easy city to get around and children will also enjoy a ferry ride over to Manly Bay, particularly if it is a bit choppy. If you have a few days to spare, combine a trip to Sydney with a visit to Uluru (Ayers Rock) or Queensland for the Great Barrier Reef and you will have a holiday to remember.

4)      Kerala, India

keralaIf you want to introduce your children to the fabulousness of India, vibrant, colourful Kerala, with its breathtaking landscapes, glorious beaches, distinct cuisine and amazing wildlife, is the perfect place to do it. Once firmly on the hippie tourist trail, it has evolved to become the hottest destination in India and it is easy to explore. Your children will see wild elephants and jungles, and magnificent natural wonders including the beautiful Athirapally Falls and the Chalakudy River; banana, rubber and tapioca crops; and at Periyar National Park they can look for real-life animals straight out of The Jungle Book, including, if they are very lucky, tigers. (Our advice is not to make any promises, just in case the big cats are feeling a little shy when you visit.)

5)      Stockholm, Sweden

stockholmStockholm is known for being cool city for adults. But it’s also officially one of the most child-friendly cities in the world, with a whole island, Djurgarden, dedicated to families. At Skansen open-air museum you will find traditional Swedish homes, experience life in the 19th century, and at its open-air zoo you can see native wildlife including adorable Swedish brown bears. For fans of Vikings and Disney’s Frozen there is the Vasa, a museum housing the only preserved 17th-century ship in world. There is lots of creative play to be held at Junibacken, dedicated to children’s character Pipi Longstocking and Emil. You may even persuade your kids to visit the brilliant Abba Museum (www.abbathemuseum.com), which has lots of interactive exhibits. Visit Stockholm in the summer, when it’s the midnight sun and there is a non-stop calendar of festivals to experience. Your children will enjoy the novelty of nights that never get dark as well as medieval performances, hot-air balloon races and fireworks against the bright sky. And you will also love exploring Nordiska Kompaniet, or NK, quite simply one of the most stylish luxury department stores in the world.

Courtesy by G.N.

Taj Goa – 4th Complimentary (July Onwards)

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE


India’s forests, wetlands, deserts, mountains, rivers and rainforests host a diversity of bird and wildlife that is one of the richest in the world. We give you practical tips and suggestions about where to sight…

Asiatic Lion: The only place in the world where you are likely to spot the wild, uncaged, endangered Asiatic lion, is ironically, at the former hunting ground for the king of the jungle – the Gir National Park in Gujarat, which has a population of about 400 Asiatic lions. Since, as a rule, lions are known not to attack once they have had a good meal, if you are lucky, you might chance upon a pride of lions in post-prandial hushful response.

asiatic lion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bengal-Tiger-4Bengal Tiger: The ultimate lone ranger, the Bengal Tiger survives by itself, often hunts in the dead of the night, is mighty sneaky and pretty spry and the sound of its roar can be heard three kilometres away. Though critically endangered, you are most likely to spot the Bengal Tiger at national parks like Bandhavgarh, Corbett, Kanha and also at the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve.

 

 

 

leopardLeopard: The leopard is superjock – an excellent swimmer, a superb climber and armed with plenty of stealth, muscles and power, it makes for a formidable predator in the wild. The best places to spot the leopard are the Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka and the tiny hamlet of Bera in Rajasthan. You can also try your luck at the Bandipur National Park in Karnataka or at Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand.

 

 

 

desert foxDesert Fox: The best place to spot the desert fox, also known as the white-footed fox, is in the massive parchedness of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan or in the salt marshes of the Wild Ass Sanctuary in the Little Ran of Kutch in Gujarat. While in the sanctuary, you might as well appreciate the Indian Wild Ass, that exists only here and in the high plateus of Tibet.

 

 

 

hyenaHyena: May be it’s the singular sound they make or maybe it’s the fact they are scavengers, but hyenas have, for centuries now, endured general contempt and obloquy. They don’t quite deserve it though, for they are usually smart, surprisingly monogamous and generally step out of their dens only when it’s dark. Head to the Blackbuck National Park in Velavadar, Gujarat for a sure-shot sighting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

indian_wolf_jpg_69460Indian wolf: The wild dog-like Indian wolf can look misleadingly demesticable. But know that even though it is smallest of the wolf subspecies, the Indian wolf is ferocious and known to prey on human when natural prey is not available. They usually move in packs of six or eight and hunt by ambush. To check them out, head to the Blackbuck National Park in Velavadar, Gujarat or to the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Nannaj, Maharasthra.

 

 

 

golden langurGolden Langur: There are only two places in the world where you can see the lush beauty of golden langur: India and Bhutan. An herbivore, the golden langur lives on fruits, nuts, seeds and leaves. Today, the golden langur is endangered and very few individuals survive in the wild. Head to Manas National Park in Assam and try to look upward on high trees to see if you can catch a glimpse of this gorgeous primate.

 

 

 

 

ridlet turtleOlive Ridley Sea Turtles: These turtles make their way to the sea after hatching at the Rushikulua, Devi and Gahirmatha in Odisha from the largest breeding ground for these turtles in India. The synchronised nesting (anywhere between 100000-500000 annually) and march of these turtles towards the seas makes for a spectacular site that is not one to be missed.

The Best of Tanzania


tanzania

From the snow-capped summit of Mount Kilimanjaro to the game-rich Ngorongoro Crater, from the endless plains of the Serengeti to the baobabs of the Tarangire, Tanzania is the safari insider’s hot tip. Boasting 14 national parks and numerous game reserves, this is home to the largest wildlife herds on the African continent, as well as the palm-fringed island of Zanzibar, ideal for post-safari relaxation.  Many people do not realize that the famous Wildebeest Migration is in Tanzania for 8 months a year, giving birth around February and crossing the Grumeti River in June.

The Serengeti & the Ngorongoro Crater

SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK
lion

Tanzania’s oldest and most popular national park, also a world heritage site and recently proclaimed a 7th world wide wonder, the Serengeti is famed for its annual migration, when some six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson’s gazelle join the wildebeest’s trek for fresh grazing. Yet even when the migration is quiet, the Serengeti offers arguably the most scintillating game-viewing in Africa: great herds of buffalo, smaller groups of elephant and giraffe, and thousands upon thousands of eland, topi, kongoni, impala and Grant’s gazelle.

The spectacle of predator versus prey dominates Tanzania’s greatest park. Golden-maned lion prides feast on the abundance of plain grazers. Solitary leopards haunt the acacia trees lining the Seronera River, while a high density of cheetahs prowls the southeastern plains. Almost uniquely, all three African jackal species occur here, alongside the spotted hyena and a host of more elusive small predators, ranging from the insectivorous aardwolf to the beautiful serval cat.

But there is more to Serengeti than large mammals. Gaudy agama lizards and rock hyraxes scuffle around the surfaces of the park’s isolated granite koppies. A full 100 varieties of dung beetle have been recorded, as have 500-plus bird species, ranging from the outsized ostrich and bizarre secretary bird of the open grassland, to the black eagles that soar effortlessly above the Lobo Hills.
As enduring as the game-viewing is the liberating sense of space that characteristics the Serengeti Plains, stretching across sunburnt savannah to a shimmering golden horizon at the end of the earth. Yet, after the rains, this golden expanse of grass is transformed into an endless green carpet flecked with wildflowers. And there are also wooded hills and towering termite mounds, rivers lined with fig trees and acacia woodland stained orange by dust.

NGORONGORO CRATER
elephant

A trip to Northern Tanzania has to include the Ngorongoro, it is an exceptional place to interact with the Masaai and is one of the most beautiful natural wildlife safari sites in the world.

The advantage of staying at a hotel on the Crater rim is the view, the advantage of staying away from the Crater at nearby Karatu is that there are less people around, the lodges are smaller and more personal offering a range of activities such as walking and mountain biking.

The Ngorongoro Crater and surrounding highlands are one of Africa’s most beautiful regions.  Volcanic craters form stunning backdrops to some of the richest grazing grounds in Africa.  The most famous is without question the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera; home to the highest density of big game in Africa.  With 600 metre high walls and a rich volcanic floor that plays host to the big five, the Ngorongoro is one of the continent’s most famous safari destinations.

The Ngorongoro is the best place in Tanzania to see the big five.  A healthy population of black rhino and some of the largest tusker elephants left in Africa today are the prize spots, but the Crater is home to strong populations of lion, leopard and hyena along with good herds of wildebeest, buffalo and zebra.  Other game in the Ngorongoro includes serval cat, cheetah, jackal, Grant’s and Thompson’s gazelle, flamingo and bat eared foxes along with approximately 400 species of bird.

We also offer Holiday Packages to Tanzania, Uganda & Rwanda, South Africa & Botswana

Write to us on adler-tours@hotmail.com or visit http://www.adler-tours.com

Joy In the Rains


Monsoons In Maharashtra

A Rain Rendezvous In Kolad, Khandala, Harnai and Lavasa

lavasa

Discover Konkans scenic coastal beaches unique culture and cuisine that is specially lovely in the rains. Monsoon is when the locals love to visit the Sahyadris, when rain brings new life to the region and the water laden clouds hungs so low that you can walk in the clouds. With hundreds of waterfalls mushrooming all over the state, you are transported to a surreal, dreamy world of misty mornings, pleasant afternoons and chilly evenings.

Wake up to the sunrise on a mountain or sea fort and sunsets on a remote beach. Explore the myriad Konkan, its forests, forts and beaches. Go hiking, walking, rafting, segway riding, nature trailing, camping, driving or just watch the rain from your patio.

Experience the best of multiple landscapes in the same trip - Enjoy River, Ocean, Mountains and the Wilderness in the same trip with many ‘unique experiences’ for everybody in the family that makes for a forever memorable experience in Maharashtra Unlimited.

  1. Konkan – In the Middle of the River Kundalika in Kolad at Rivertrail Eco
  2. Konkan – On the Harnai Beach at Lotus Beach Resort
  3. Western Ghats – Overlooking the Valley at The Duke’s Retreat in Khandala and Ekaant Resort in Lavasa

For bookings write to us on adler-tours@hotmail.com or adlertourssafaris6@gmail.com 

 

The City of Lavasa


Nestled a midst the majestic Sahyadri mountains, along the contours of the sprawling Warasgaon Lake, is the planned hill city of Lavasa. Built on the principles of New Urban-ism, its a city where people can live work, learn and play in harmony with nature.

Where in Lavasa, make sure you

  • Start the day with a walk along the serene Nature Trails
  • Explore picturesque locules cruising along the city via the Trackless Train
  • Take a photograph from the numerious Viewing Galleries present
  • Jet Ski across the lake at Lake shore Water sports taking in the beauty of the valley
  • play a veriety of games like Electric Dart Machines, Photo Games & Bowling at the Neospark Games Arcade
  • Discover the city in an eco-friendly way through Robin – A self-balancing joyride ( available at Neospark )
  • Go camping at Xthrill Adventure Academy
  • Unwind at the spa at Dasvino Town & Country Club
  • Spend a peaceful evening strolling at the lakeside promenade

For inquiries / bookings :-

Weddings | MICE | Educational Tours | Summer Special Packages ( April 1st – June 30th ) | Mesmerizing Monsoon Packages ( July 1st – September 30th ) | Festive Fiesta Packages ( October 1st – December 31st )

Email us on adler-tours@hotmail.com or visit http://www.adler-tours.com 

Golf Breaks

3Day / 2Nights and Leisure fun in Macau


Day 01 :-

After arriving in Hong Kong international Airport, take a direct ferry to Macau and check into the hotel. Freshen up and set out to explore the city.macau

Begin with A-Ma temple, which is dedicated to the worship of Matsu, the goddess of seafarers and fishermen. Head over to the Rusins of St. Paul’s, where only the church’s front facede and grand stone stairs remain, and Senado Square. Next, stop at Macau Fisherman’s Wharf to smaple Macau’s world –class cuisine or good Indian Food.

Catch The house of Dancing Water, a breathtaking water-based show at the City of Dreams, and the Performance Lake featuring a cornucopia of water, light and fire elements in the open area in front of Wtnn Macau. Families can dine and shop at The Venetian Macao, while adults can try their luck at the casinos.

Day 02:-

Start the day on a high note with a visit to the 228m Macau Tower, the worlds 10th highest free standing tower. Here, adrenaline junkies can climb 100m up the mast’s vertical ladder to the summit, free fall from a 223m platform – deemed the worlds highest bungee jump – or take a thrilling walk around the main outer rim of the tower sans hand rails ( safety is guaranteed via an overhead rail system ). And whilst the adventure seekers are having fun, the women can go for a relaxing spa session.

In the afternoon, visits to the Macau Museum, Wine Museum and Grand Prix Museum are highly recommended. Come evening, visit MGM Macau, which boasts European – inspired facades, a dramatic skylight dome, myriad terraces invoking an old-world Portugal feel, and a light and some show each evening.

Day 03:-

Depart for Hong Kong.

For Packages write us on adler-tours@hotmail.com or visit us at http://www.adler-tours.com

Colombo, Sri Lanka ( Things not to miss out for !! )


For Packages write us on adler-tours@hotmail.com or visit us athttp://www.adler-tours.com

Getting There

Colombo, situated one hour’s drive south of the Bandaranaike International Airport, is the largest metropolis on the island, stretching about 12 km along the coast from its southern beach suburb of Mount Lavinia to the Fort and inland to Kelaniya.  The city’s main roadway, Galle Road, is the main road south to the city of Galle and beyond.  This makes Colombo a convenient resting point at the start or the end of your holiday.  The best way to reach the town from the airport remains a private taxi. Useful drive times include:  Colombo to Bentota (2 hours); Colombo to Galle (3.5 hours); Colombo to Kandy (3.5 hours); Colombo to Dambulla (4 hours).

Historical Background

Colombo is the commercial capital of Sri Lanka and lies alongside the present administrative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura, Kotte. Colombo’s port was influential as early as the 5th century when ships from Rome, Arabia, and China traded with Sinhalese kings for food supplies, spices and jewels. Colombo’s destiny changed over the centuries as many nations fought for dominance over the island’s valuable treasures including Arab settlers in the 8th century, followed by the Portuguese, the Dutch and, finally, the British who captured Colombo in 1796. This era of western domination ended peacefully with independence in 1948, followed by a separatist war fought by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) that lasted over two and a half decades, the affects of which were felt through out the country. Terrorism was eradicated from the Sri Lanka in May 2009 and peace continues to rain on the island once more. Through out it all, the city of Colombo has remained stable and comparatively safe and today’s two million population in the city represents a mix of cultures. Sinhalese, Moors, Tamils, Burghers (Dutch descendents), Chinese, and Malay populations all contribute towards the colourful fabric of Colombo society.

Sights

The city of Colombo is a blend of the old and the new.  Seventeenth century buildings – some restored as hotels, shops, and government offices – stand side-by-side with the rest of Colombo’s modern skyline and rudimentary small shops. Several ancient Buddhist temples, Hindu Kovils, churches, and mosques are found in the heart of the city as well as in the suburbs.  Museums, art galleries, golf courses and gyms, spas and salons, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, all add to Colombo’s appeal.

Accommodation

Colombo offers a wide range of accommodation options from the five-star city hotels expected in an Asian capital to a clutch of interesting boutique hotels. There are mid-range city hotels, too, although the great value of the top-end hotels makes it hard for them to compete. There is a shortage of quality guesthouse accommodation in the centre of town. On the outskirts of the centre a couple of villas make a welcome change from standard hotels. The best city hotel is arguably Cinnamon Grand, reinvigorated by the John Keells Group. Their selection of restaurants is unrivalled. Trans Asia and the Hilton trail only marginally behind. Ceylon Continental, a friendly if more limited five-star on the seafront, offers outstanding value. The Galle Face Hotel, which now has a boutique-wing called The Regency, is the favourite for those wanting some colonial charm and a seaside location. Consider Colombo City Hotel as a simple, modern budget choice. If you are after a beach, though, Mount Lavinia Hotel is the only option. The boutique selection includes the stylish Tintagel, opened in 2008, Park Street Hotel run by the acclaimed Taru Villas Group and the eclectic CASA Colombo. For those looking for a villa ambience on the edge of town, choose form Havelock Place Bungalow, Villa Talangama and Java Moon. Mount Lavinia also offers two appealing houses: Mount Lavinia House and Mount Lodge.

Food & Drink

Food is a highlight of Colombo, much more so than you might imagine. You won’t go hungry here with its wide selection of small restaurants serving local hawker-style favourites like meat patties, fish buns, egg rolls, string hoppers, lamprais, kothu roti and biryani. All the local restaurants are extremely cheap. There is also a wide variety of fast food outlets, including McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC. Colombo is the best place in the island for Indian cuisine and the following are recommended: Agra, Mango Tree and Navaratna. For those looking for fusion or European-style food, there are some very special treats. For the quality of its food, especially its meats, Chesa Suisse, a Swiss restaurant, is outstanding. The most popular dining-out experience is at the Paradise Road Gallery Cafe, the restaurant with the most seductive ambience in the island. The owner of the Gallery Cafe, Shan Fernando, has also now opened Tintagel, a private hotel and restaurant that offers a more refined menu. For a more informal open-air dining experience, the Barefoot Cafe, managed by colourful celebrity chef Kollu, is popular and often has live jazz. The best seafood restaurant in the town is Lagoon at the Cinnamon Grand. The best Thai restaurant is the Royal Thai at Trans Asia. There is a huge selection of Chinese restaurants but we recommend two: No. 168 off the Galle Road, which is an authentic no-frills restaurant popular with the local Chinese community, and the Emperors Wok at the Hilton. If you are searching for authentic Sri Lankan food then choose from the Palmyrah Restaurant at Renuka Hotel, the Peninsula in Rajaigiriya suburbs, Hilton’s Curry Leaf and the iconic Green Cabin Restaurant on Galle Road. Colombo by night can be fun with a scattering of pubs and nighclubs that come alive especially on Friday and Saturday nights and features live bands or DJ music.  H20, D’s, and Zetter are more popular with the younger lot.  Bistro Latino, Rhythm & Blues, The Library at Trans Asia and Sugar located on top of H2O appeal to a more mature crowd.  Characterful pubs include the Breeze Bar and Cheers Pub at Cinnamon Grand, Cricket Club Café,  and Inn on the Green nearby Galle Face in Colombo.

Shopping

From buzzing bazaars to stylish boutique outlets, Colombo is increasingly becoming a popular shopping destination within Asia. Odels is Sri Lanka’s most famous shop, a growing department store in the centre of town.  Western-label clothes are sold at a fraction of overseas prices. Other attractions include homewear stores like Paradise Road, Suriya and Gandhara. Saffron Villas is popular for antique furniture. Barefoot is famous for its handspun and vibrantly-coloured fabrics. There are several good quality jewellers. If you want to get a feel for the trading heart of the city, spend a hectic morning wandering the narrow streets of Pettah Bazaar where you will find anything from steel pots to the latest mobile phones. If you accept anybody’s offer to act as a guide, ensure you know the financial basis upon which this has been offered!

Events

Colombo’s streets come alive in January for the annual `Duruthu Perahara’ organised by the Kelaniya Temple and again in February for the `Navam Perehara’ organised by the Gangaramaya Temple.  These processions display traditional folklore, music and the rhythmic dance forms.  Dancers, drummers and flag bearers represent the different provinces. Chieftains in traditional attire and scores of elephants dressed in glittering cloaks are all a part of these colourful pageants.  Vel, a Hindu festival that pays homage to Lord Murakan, takes place in July or August where an ornately decorated Vel chariot, drawn by a pair of snow-white bulls carrying the statue of Lord Murukan, parades the streets of Colombo.  The chariot moves slowly while the drums throb, the bells tinkle, the Tanjore band plays and a “Bajan” gathering singing divine songs follow the chariot.  The arts, sadly, remain largely inactive. The most popular event in Colombo’s art calendar is the Kala Pola (art fair) held in February which sees the shady sidewalks along Green Path filled with the creative works of local artists. Activities

Colonial architecture of Fort & Pettah

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Colombo’s three-mile long rampart, cordoning off the area covered by today’s Fort and Pettah, was originally built in the sixteenth century by the Portuguese and then further developed by the Dutch and the British. Today, it is the commercial hub of the country, consisting of government offices, banks, five-star hotels and the country’s largest wholesale bazaar, which sells a huge range of items. In the Fort many of the old colonial buildings still stand alongside a slowly modernizing skyline.

Geoffrey Bawa Architecture

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The late Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka’s most influential architect, was responsible for linking the ancient architecture of this island with that of the modern world. Sri Lanka’s Parliament, which Bawa was commissioned to design, was created in the centre of a vast man-made lake. The building incorporates traditional Sri Lankan and South Indian architectural features with a series of pavilions with copper roofs. We also recommend a visit to the Paradise Road Gallery Café, formerly the studio of Geoffrey Bawa. His imprint still remains strong here with courtyards, ponds, walkways and open pavilions – spaces that inspired a creative genius.

Art Galleries

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Permanent collections & temporary art exhibits of Sri Lankan artists are held regularly at the National Art Gallery, Sapumal Foundation, the Lionel Wendt, Barefoot Art Gallery and Paradise Road Gallery Café.

Music & theatre

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Classical to contemporary forms of music in Sinhala, Tamil and English by local as well as foreign artists is available on CD at various music outlets in Colombo including ODEL, Barefoot, and Torana at Majestic City. Live performances featuring local jazz, pop, and folkrock artists take place at Rhythm & Blues, Barefoot or on a Sunday at the SSC club in Colombo 7. English theatre is limited, but there are occasional local productions that are interesting and usually take place at the Bishop’s College and British School auditoriums or the Lionel Wendt.

The National Museum

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Colombo’s National Museum, established in 1877, is housed in an impressive colonial building in the heart of the city surrounded by extensive gardens. The museum comprises several galleries dedicated to Sri Lanka’s history and cultural heritage, literature, coins, rock sculptures from the ancient cities, period furniture, artistic theatre traditions, as well as a museum of Natural History. The National Museum is closed on Fridays.

Dutch Period Museum in Pettah

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The Dutch Period Museum is housed in the old Dutch House, built by Count August Carl Van Ranzow in the latter part of the 17th century. The museum provides an insight into the Dutch period in Sri Lanka and houses artifacts including furniture, ceramics, coins and photographs. The museum is closed on Fridays.

Kelaniya Temple

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The ancient Kelani Raja Maha Viharaya, situated six miles from Colombo, stands alongside the Kelani River. According to the Mahavamsa, Lord Buddha stopped at this ancient temple during a visit to Sri Lanka in 523 BC where he was invited to preach at the invitation of the king. The Buddha sat and preached on a gem-studded throne on which the Buddha sat and preached. This temple is also famous for its image of the reclining Buddha and paintings, which depict important events in the life of the Buddha and history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Bellanwilla Temple

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Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya, located close to Mount Lavinia, has a long and hallowed history. The great sanctity attached to this temple is due to its sacred Bo Tree, which according to ancient texts is one of the thirty two saplings that sprang from the sacred Bo tree at Anuradhapura, planted in the 3rd century B.C. This ancient Buddhist temple houses elaborate statues of Buddha and frescoes depicting his life.

Hindu Kovils

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The city of Colombo has several Hindu Kovils with colourful and ornate statues and shrines dedicated to different gods and deities. A visit to a kovil, especially during the time of a pooja (ritual offering devotion to the gods), is a special experience with the clanging of bells, chanting of prayers and intoxicating smell of oil lamps and incense. The New and old Kathiresan Kovils dedicated to God Skanda, the god of war and victory, are located in Pettah. The oldest kovil in Colombo is the Sri Kailawasanthan Swami Devasthanam.

Churches built during Colonial period

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St. Peter’s Church near the Grand Oriental Hotel in Fort was previously a Dutch Governor’s banquet Hall until first used as a church in 1804. St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk built in 1842 is located on Galle Road next to Cinnamon Grand. Wolvendaal Church (Colombo’s oldest Dutch Church) is in Fort.

Royal Colombo Golf Club

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Royal Colombo, built in 1879, is a welcome escape from the hectic city centre. Located in Borella, a short distance from central Colombo, the course is a green oasis accompanied by a clubhouse of colonial charm. Listen to your attentive caddie to avoid the numerous water hazards. Despite being in the centre of Colombo, the course maintains its tranquillity, although the occasional commuter train running along the 6th fairway can prove hazardous.

Cycling Colombo to Negombo

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If you are looking for a challenge, jump on a mountain bike and take the coastal route to Negombo. Leaving early in the morning from near Colombo docks, the route quickly takes you away from the busy roads and into the communities of the Colombo suburbs. It is a fascinating transition from the commercial hub of Colombo, exploring some of the cities poorer communities before cycling through the fishing villages of this untouristy coastline. A three-hour ride brings you to Negombo, a vibrant fishing port and holiday centre. Lunch well in Negombo before retracing your steps – or hiring a minivan from Red Dot to collect you.

Rock climbing & caving

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Hideaway, a small boutique villa in Wathuregama, offers abseiling and caving in the surrounding natural caves and rock faces. State of the art safety equipment including helmets, headlight torches, abseiling equipment and experienced guides are provided by the hotel. This activity is only for guests of Hideaway and prior notice is required.

Spa

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The Angsana City Club and Spa of the Cinnamon Grand is a luxurious facility providing a range of Ayurvedic and aromatherapy massages and treatments, a fully-equipped gym and roof terrace swimming pool. Crown Saloon, also centrally located, provides Aromatherapy spa treatments as well as beauty and salon facilities. The Water’s Edge Golf & Country Club’s Aryana Spa overlooks the magnificent vistas across the golfing green. This spa features a menu of Balinese, Thai and Ayurvedic relaxing and rejuvenating treatments. The Sanctuary Spa, opened in 2002, in the heart of Colombo city, is a day spa where clients can spend the entire day or just pop in at lunchtime. Red Dot clients get a small discount.

Ayurveda

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The Siddhalepa Ayurveda Centre offers holistic wellbeing based on the ancient healing wisdom of Ayurveda through their centres located in Dehiwala and Wijerama Mawatha in Colombo 7. The history of Siddhalepa on this island dates back to 200 years with generations of the owning Hettigoda family playing a vital role in promoting the philosophy of Ayurveda in the country.

Yoga

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Regular Yoga sessions are offered in some of the gyms in Colombo including the Hilton Residencies Sports Center, Global Fitness Gym in Colombo 5 and the Lifestyles Gym in Colombo 7.

Meditation

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Several Buddhist centres in Colombo conduct guided meditation sessions and Buddhist discussions. These include Vishva Niketan International Peace Centre, Sarvodaya, the International Vipassana Meditation center down Wijerama Mawatha in Colombo 7, Vajiraramaya temple in Bambalapitiya and the International Buddhist Research & Information center (IBRIC) located at the Naradha Centre in Colombo 7. Books, DVDs and recorded audio tapes on Buddhist teachings are also available in some of these Centres.

Colombo area wetlands

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The Diyawanna Oya and Talangama wetlands located in the Kotte suburbs offer opportunities for bird watching. These areas are a combination of tanks, canals and paddy fields which have recently been declared as protected natural areas and are supported by the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka. Further south, in the suburbs of Piliyandala, is the Bolgoda Lake, Sri Lankan largest natural fresh water basin. Many species of birds, butterflies, monitor lizards and monkeys can be spotted in this area.

Gampaha’s ancient rock temples and wilderness

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The ancient Maligathanne temple and the Pillikuttuwa temples dating back to over 2,000 years are situated in the suburbs in Gampaha about 45 minutes from the main city centre. The Pillikuttuwa temple and its surrounding wilderness covers an area of around 200 acres and consists of a natural forest reserve and several caves. The Maligathanne temple is perched on a two tiered rock that is considered the highest point in the Colombo district with panoramic views. King Valagamba built the rock temple to safeguard the sacred tooth relic which is now enshrined in Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth. Situated over an area of about 65 acres, Maligathanne has 20 caves to explore.

Sri Lanka’s traditional dance

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Traditional dance in Sri Lanka is associated with rituals and ceremonies intended to expel sickness and misfortune as well as evoke blessings during auspicious occasions. There are several dance forms including Kandyan (up country), Sabaragamuwa (central province), Ruhunu (low country). Each of these differs in dress, rhythm of the drums, dance movements, and folk songs. Sri Lanka’s Tourism ministry organises dance performances each Friday at 5:30 pm at the Hotel School Auditorium, 78 Galle Road, Colombo 3. This auditorium is situated right opposite the Cinnamon Grand hotel and nearby several other hotels in the Galle Fort area.

Colombo city walks

Take a stroll through the city of Colombo and experience this vibrant and yet laid back capital city with its mix of ethnic communities living; centuries old colonial period architecture to contemporary Bawa architecture; and road side eateries and restaurants serving a variety of local foods and beverage. Personalised Colombo city walks are now on offer and will take up to three to four hours. The walks are conducted in the evening-time when it’s less humid. The rate includes entry permits, hosting fee, food and beverages while on walk as well as a complimentary beer/wine at the end of the walk. Group of up to six guests are accommodated on this personalized experience. For those preferring to omit the walk and do only a drive through Colombo, there is also a `Colombo City night-drive’ on offer.

We do have packages for Sri Lanka, write us onadler-tours@hotmail.com or visit our sitehttp://www.adler-tours.com

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