NGT India’s Top 10 Stories of 2018

As 2019 dawns, we give you a round-up of last year's best features.  
Best of 2018 1

 1. 10 Indian Dishes to Get Packing For

“Eat a dish in its hometown, advocates Chef Thomas Zacharias, executive chef-partner at the very popular Bombay Canteen in Mumbai. The food served at his restaurant is modern Indian, drawing heavily on India’s rich culinary legacy, but the recipes come from Thomas’s imagination and interpretation. Over the past few years, he has travelled extensively across India… to meet locals and discover authentic, regional cuisine. On every trip, he tastes at least 25 to 30 new dishes, and has never come back to the kitchen uninspired. Clarity, he believes, comes from travel and curiosity…

If his lucid descriptions aren’t enough, the accompanying food illustrations will definitely inspire you to make the journey, to sample a slice of India, one plate at a time.”

Chef Thomas Zacharias tells us what dishes to try where—and why.

NGT India's Top 10 Stories of 2018

The gushtaba at Kareema, a small joint in Kashmir, is one of Thomas’s favourites. Illustration by: Sachin Pandit

 

2. Smart Travel: Four World Destinations Easy on the Wallet

“Tasting kottu rotis in Sri Lanka or riding the cave-waters in Laos; Márquez trail in Colombia or volcano-watching in Chile—there’s no dearth of inspiring travel experiences on a budget, in countries with currencies cheaper than INR.”

Find inspiring travel experiences on a budget, in countries with currencies cheaper than INR.

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Traditional dancers rev up the energy in the streets of Iquique. Photo by: John Elk/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

 

3. Best List: 25 Unsung Indian Heritage Gems

“Of all of India’s hallowed heritage grounds, my favourite is the slightly out-of-the-way, 1,000-year-old, 180-foot-tall Gangaikondacholeeswaram temple [in Tamil Nadu]. Still a functioning temple, it’s perhaps the finest example of Chola architectural art and the only surviving monument of the capital built by a Tamil king who ruled from here and up to the Ganges, which is the meaning of the name Gangaikondacholapuram.”

Read about 25 of India’s historically significant spots, where you might be the only tourist in sight.

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Aihole is often known as the cradle of Indian rock temple architecture. Photo by: Peter Schickert/Alamy/indiapicture

 

4. Goa Beyond its Beaches

“… Villa Blanche Bistro warns you at the entrance: “No Wi-Fi” and “No Stupid Questions.” With a confusingly French name, it serves delicious German food from an exquisite old bungalow. It is typical of the famously fetching homes that the Goans returning from Portuguese colonies built, giving rise to the indigenous Indo-Portuguese style of building, a pastiche whose pomp has aged gracefully.”

Revel in the charms of Assagao here.

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Villagers in Goa are adept at manoeuvring two-wheelers through heavy downpours. Photo by Matthew Parker

 

5. An Insider’s Guide to the Best of Greece

“Viewed from above, the three-fingered Halkidiki peninsula looks like it’s reaching into the Aegean to scoop up some soft, powdery sand. This is where Greeks from across the north flock for their summer vacations. There are miles of beaches to explore on the two fingers nearest Thessaloniki. Kassandra is the busier of the two—think thumping beach clubs and spring break–style all-inclusives—so rent a car and head to Sithonia, where you can pull to the side of the road and pitch a tent under the palms.”

An Athens-based writer gives a lowdown on all that the country has to offer.

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If there’s one thing the Greeks can brag about, it’s the timeless pleasures of a Mediterranean summer. Photo by: Calin Stan/Shutterstock

 

6. Singing Along to Benaras’s Classical Music Traditions

“I was struck by how steeped its classical music culture was… On many of my aimless walks through its winding gullies, I acquainted myself with the city’s cafés that always seemed to be teeming with tourists.

For a newbie, these are ideal venues to experience classical music. Amidst a steady throng of hippies and hipsters, most cafés offer intimate live music evenings for free. The musicians here are more accessible, the small venues are informal and exude the feel of your own private concert.”

Amble along Benaras as a first-timer experiences the city’s music in four cosy neighbourhood cafés.

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Performances by Anshuman Maharaj and Ram Mishra are one of the big draws of the bakery. Photo by: Harry Boeki

 

7. Eye on the Tiger in Madhya Pradesh

“It was 11 a.m. An hour to go before the drive wrapped up. We were settling down for breakfast at Pench’s famous Alikatta square when the Gypsy in front of us revved up and drove off. A knowing glance passed between the guides of both vehicles.

“Quick, we have to go,” Chinmay said. Steering his vehicle as fast he could, he rammed us straight into a long dusty lane with lantana outgrowth on both sides. We were late. Ahead, a stream of 4x4s were backed up, one after the other, tourists standing up on the backseats and drivers’ seats looking to one side. “Woh rahi,” one of them shouted. Chinmay stood up, gestured to us, “Look, you see her… Collarwaali?””

Discover more about the wildly different jungle experiences at the Kanha Earth Lodge and Pench Tree Lodge.

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Pench Tree Lodge, spread over 40 acres, has six tree houses and six cottages suitable for larger groups. Photo courtesy: Pugdundee Safaris

 

8. Trekking to Auden’s Col, for Beauty and Belief

 “For the longest time, I couldn’t fathom what has made Uttarakhand the cynosure of mountaineers and geologists for decades…

I find it rather shameful that after nearly a decade of trekking in the Indian Himalayas, I had only just found my way to the mother ship where countless peaks and endless glaciers prevailed in relative isolation, protected by inclement weather and the torment of the rough landscape. Trekking to Auden’s Col meant days spent gawking at the glistening granites and snow-covered massifs in the Gangotri group of mountains.”

Read about braving snowstorms, snowy peaks, and sweet prasad, when trekking Auden’s Col in the Garhwal Himalayas.

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The climb towards Mayali Pass, a 16,400-high crossing connecting Bhilangana and Mandakini valleys, is a vision in white. It is the third mountain crossing on the challenging Auden’s Col trek that begins in Gangotri and ends at Kedarnath, in Uttarakhand (top left). The group wades through bone-freezing waters to reach the campsite at Chowki (bottom left). On the last climb before the end of the expedition, the trekkers pass Vasuki Tal, a lake near the Kedarnath shrine which attracts plenty of pilgrims (right). Photos by: Neelima Vallangi

 

9. On a Craft Trail in Andhra Pradesh

 “It’s early afternoon in late October. I walk past a few verandas strewn with chips of wood in odd shapes and sizes, and small tubs of paint in vibrant primary colours. A radio croons softly in the background. A couple of men huddle over the wood, carving shapes. I take a few pictures. One of them looks up. My companion, a native Telegu speaker, asks him if we could sit and watch him work for a few minutes. But Hanumanth Rao gets up and leaves without a word. A little puzzled we look to the two women who continue to smile and paint. As we prepare to leave, Hanumanth returns with a small stick of wood no taller than four inches, points to my camera, picks up what looks like a miniature sickle and starts carving. I set the camera to record and watch, mesmerised.”

Journey to the villages of Kondapalli and Masulipatnam, where every verandah is an art and craft workshop.

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Dancing girls with tilting heads, bullock carts and figures of all kinds are painstakingly put together following a rigorous step-by-step procedure. Photo by NOAH SEELAM/Stringer/Getty Images.

 

10. Sleigh It Like Santa in Finland

“No one speaks on the drive back. We thank Harri profusely before entering the hotel, where the receptionist casually tells us that in case we’re interested, the lights are visible from the back. There’s a stunned silence. And then we run.

Standing at the back of the hotel, we see the aurora borealis light up the sky of Finland’s biggest ski town, artificial lighting be damned. This time, I could see the green with my eyes. I stay a while thinking of the golden rules and alerts, and the science. Then my thoughts go to L. I wish she too could have witnessed this. For under these glorious lights, even the most jaded can melt.”

Find accounts of a winter in the Finnish Lapland, where all childhood dreams (and some grown-up ones) come true.

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Silvery pine forests, pink skies, and a snowy landscape as far as the eye can see—Lapland is the quintessential winter wonderland. Photo Courtesy: Jani Kärppä/VisitFinland

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