Johannesburg Explorer & Kruger Experience

Johannesburg Explorer & Kruger Experience  4 Star –
5 Nights / 6 Days

DAY 1 – Sunday  

On arrival at O.R. Tambo International Airport you will be transferred to your hotel.  Afternoon collection from your hotel for a scheduled afternoon Gold Reef City Tour.  This magical trip down memory lane will tell you all about how Johannesburg came into being, how gold was discovered on the reef and how the lives of men and women formed an integral part of a rich and fascinating heritage.  Return to the hotel in the early evening for overnight.

 DAY 2 – Monday (B)

This morning you will be collected for your scheduled morning Half Day Soweto Tour. Soweto is a cluster of townships located at the South Western flank of Johannesburg.  It is from here that most of the struggle was fought against the injustices of the apartheid  regime and is home to sites of historical importance. The tour ends with drop-off at your hotel in the early afternoon.

DAY 3 – Tuesday (D)

Morning departure from Johannesburg with your Travel guide.  Travel to the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ – Mpumalanga.  Your 5 ½ hour journey takes you through incredible scenery – mountains, panoramic passes, valleys, rivers, waterfalls and forests characterise the landscape.  Arrive at your hotel in the late afternoon.  Check in to start your Kruger Experience immediately with an afternoon open vehicle game drive into the Kruger National Park.  All safaris in the Kruger National Park are operated in specially designed open safari vehicles and you  are accompanied by a qualified and experienced FGASA and SATOUR registered guide.

Kruger National Park consists of nearly 2 million hectares of unrivalled diversity of life forms fused with historical and archaeological sites – this is real Africa. The world-renowned Kruger National Park offers a wildlife  experience that ranks with the best in Africa. Established in 1898 to protect the wildlife of the South African Lowveld, the park is a world leader in advanced environmental management techniques and policies. Truly the flagship of the South African national parks, Kruger is home to an impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals.

After the sun has set on your first exhilarating day, return to the hotel for dinner and overnight.

 DAY 4 – Wednesday  (FIGD)

After breakfast, embark on a full day safari into the Kruger National Park.  The safari starts early in the morning and your guide will cover as much area as possible. Stops will be included at the various lookout points within the park and you will be given the opportunity to explore man’s interaction with the Lowveld environment over many centuries – from bushman rock paintings to majestic archaeological sites like Masorini and Thulamela. These treasures represent the cultures, persons and events that played a role in the history of the Kruger National Park and are conserved along with the park’s natural assets. A packed lunch will be enjoyed inside the park. Return to the hotel in the early evening in time for dinner at the hotel.

 DAY 5 – Thursday (B)

After an early breakfast, depart the Kruger National Park and travel back to Johannesburg via the ‘Panorama Route’. The Panorama Route is best known for its cultural heritage and its dramatic landscapes. It leads through the rugged mountain range of the northern Drakensberg in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa.

Travel through “Gods playground” to God’s Window overlooking the green Lowveld. Further north along  the route, stop along many well-positioned vantage points from where one has a view of the 33 km long Blyde River Canyon gorge, which starts at “Bourke’s Luck Potholes” and ends at the “Three Rondavels“.

The Potholes are very impressive rock formations that were shaped millions of years ago by erosion. The bizarre swirl holes developed when the once rapid river carried masses of sand and debris. Time and weather permitting, stop at various waterfalls along the way. The tour ends on arrival at your Johannesburg based hotel by 18h00.

DAY 6 – Friday (B)

After breakfast this morning check out and transfer to the airport for your onward flight.

Is TURKEY the Right Holiday Destination For You?

Turkey is at the crossroads of continents, cultures and civilizations.
But that’s not all…

THE BASICS

Largest Cities:
Istanbul, Ankara (Capital), Izmir, Bursa
Weather:
Warmest Months                              Coolest Months
June, July, August,                                           December, January, February,
September                                                            March

Currency:
1 Turkish Lira = 29.39 Indian Rupees

Official Language:
Turkish

Population:
78 million

Visa Preparation Time: 3 to 4 working days. Visa on arrival if you have a validSchengen, USA or UK visa.

Holiday Planning:
Contact the Turkey Experts at www.namasteturkey.com

NATURE – Pamukkale


Meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, Pamukkale  is a natural site in Denizli Province in south-western Turkey. The city contains hot springs and travertines – terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water. The ancient city of Hierapolis was built on top of the white “castle” which is in total approximately 2700 metres long, 600 metres wide and 160 metres high. It can be seen from the hills on the opposite side of the valley in the town of Denizli, 20 kilometres away. In 1988, Pamukkale was declared a World Heritage Site.

CULTURE – Whirling Dervishes

Whirling is a physically active meditation which originated among Sufis, and which is still practiced by the Sufi Dervishes of the Mevlevi order from Konya.  It is a customary dance performed within the Sema, or worship ceremony, through which dervishes aim to reach the source of all perfection. This is sought through abandoning one’s personal desires, by listening to the music and spinning one’s body in repetitive circles, which has been seen as a symbolic imitation of planets in the solar system orbiting the sun.

ADVENTURE – Rafting on Çoruh River

The Çoruh River rises in the Mescit Mountains in north-eastern Turkey. Its valley lies within the Caucasus ecological zone, which is considered by many authorities to be a biodiversity hotspot. The Çoruh Valley is recognised by Turkish conservation organisations as an important plant area, an important bird area, a key biodiversity area and has been nominated as a high priority area for protection. The Çoruh River has been called “an eco-tourism gem” and “Turkey’s last remaining wild river”, and is being promoted for whitewater kayaking by the Eastern Anatolia Tourism Development Project. It attracts kayakers and rafters from all over the world and was the site of the 2005 Çoruh Extreme kayak competition.

HISTORY – Ancient Ruins of Ephesus

Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk in the Izmir Province. It was for many years the second largest city of the Roman Empire – ranking behind Rome, the empire’s capital. Ephesus had a population of more than 250000 in the 1st Century BC, which also made it the second largest city in the world. The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The city’s importance as a commercial center declined as the harbor was slowly silted up by the Cayster River. The ruins of Ephesus are a favorite international and local tourist attraction, partly owing to their easy access from Adnan Menderes Airport and via the port of Kuşadasi.

SPORTS – F1 Grand Prix in Istanbul

Located on the edge of one of the world’s most exotic cities, the F1 Grand Prix at Istanbul Park sets new standards in motor racing – for drivers and fans alike. Host of the Turkish Grand Prix since its inception in 2005, the anti-clockwise circuit combines one of the Formula One calendar’s most challenging layouts, with superb spectator access and unparalleled levels of hospitality.  This year’s race will be held from 6-8 May.

ROMANCE – Balloon over Cappadocia

Cappadocia is a region in central Turkey, largely in the Nevşehir Province. It is a region of exceptional natural wonders, particularly characterized by fairy chimneys and a unique historical and cultural heritage. One of the most romantic and memorable activities in this region is taking a Hot Air Balloon ride over the breathtaking Cappadocian moonscape dotted with villages, vineyards and fruit orchards.  After descending in a farmer’s field an hour later, a traditional champagne toast to a successful aeronautical adventure awaits you. The best flying weather is from April through October when the skies are clear and the winds are light at dawn.

FAMILY FUN – Biggest Aquapark in Europe

Regarded as one of the 10 best aquaparks of the world, Adaland is spread out over 25 acres with more than 20 rides providing fun, thrills and excitement for the full family. Set in the lush green surroundings of Kusadasi, a wide range of excellent facilities and water-based rides are available, whether splashing in the cool blue waves, take a plunge down the thrilling water slides, leisurely floating along the lazy river or just soaking up the sun on the cool grassy beaches.

TURKEY- A Holiday For All Ages

When the Founder of Namaste Turkey (www.namasteturkey.com) decided to launch his enterprise, he wanted to personally make sure that Turkey could offer an unforgettable holiday regardless of age or budget. What better way to experience the unmatched hospitality of Turkey than with his family, whose ages range from 7 to 75 years.

In Istanbul, you can experienced the traditions of a Turkish bellydance, the serenity of Prince’s Island and the excitement of a premier football match.

Kids can enjoy the largest aquapark in Europe at Kusadasi.  The awe-inspiring natural wonders of Pamukkale will take everyone’s breath away.

The resort town of Bodrum is the perfect getaway.  The fresh air, crystal clear water and the abundance of activities make it a great addition to your holiday.

Interested in a Turkey holiday? Contact the Turkey experts at info@compacttravels.com or read more about Turkey travel experiences at www.namasteturkey.com

Your Indian Connection to Turkey

Interview with H.E. Murat Ahmet Yörük- Consul General of the Republic of Turkey in Mumbai

 

H.E. Murat Ahmet Yörük has completed two years in Mumbai as the Consul General of the Republic of Turkey and he shares his experiences of the increase in trade, tourism and cultural exchanges between Turkey and India.

GLOBAL TIES
You began your role as the Consul General of Turkey in Mumbai in February 2009. How do you see the role of your office in areas of tourism, trade promotion and cultural exchanges during this period?

I was appointed to Mumbai to establish a new Consulate General. This move was the natural result of the rapidly developing relations between India and Turkey. There is a strong political will between the Turkish and Indian Governments to further our ties and cooperation in every possible field. In the last three years, we have witnessed mutual high-level visits between our countries. H.E. Ali Babacan, then Turkish Foreign Minister, and H.E.  Kürşat Tüzmen, then Minister of Foreign Trade, have visited India in 2008. Towards the end of 2008, H.E Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey, visited India as well. More recently, in February 2010, H.E. Abdullah Gül, the President of the Republic of Turkey, paid an official visit to India. These visits were usually accompanied with large delegations of Turkish businessmen to encourage economic and commercial ties.

In 2011, this positive momentum will continue through official and business contacts.  There are also additional bi-lateral cooperation agreements and exchange programs across different fields between Turkey and India being discussed as well. Parallel to this positive momentum, our Government decided to open a Consulate General in Mumbai in 2008. Since then, the Turkish Government has also decided to open Consulate General offices across India including Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. When we finalize the establishment of these Consulates across India, then Turkey will be among the most officially represented countries in India.

The Turkish Government has also decided to change the visa regime towards India. Since May 2010, we have put into practice a new measure providing entry visas for Indian citizens upon arrival into Turkey with the condition of having a valid Schengen, U.S. or U.K. visa.

With regards to the role of my office, we started providing basic consular services in January 2010 and the office was officially inaugurated by the Turkish President in February 2010. Since then we have started providing full-fledged consular services. During that time, my efforts were basically focused on establishing the Consulate; and creating the interaction and networks between Turkish and Indian business communities. We also organized and participated in cultural and trade events. In fact, approximately 65000 Indians travelled to Turkey in 2010 and the Mumbai Consulate issued approximately 23000 of those visas. I believe that a lot was accomplished in one year. But of course, there are still new targets and goals left to reach and achieve.

Before being posted to Mumbai as Consul General, you were at the Turkish Embassy in Delhi for one and a half years. How has India changed during your time here and how is Mumbai different from Delhi?

It is a well known fact that India is one of the rising stars on the global stage. It is also known by the international community that India is one of the major contributors to the growth of the global economy and trade. As a career diplomat, I considered myself lucky to be posted in India. I have arrived India in August 2007, and in the past 4 years in India, I have been witnessing a tremendous transformation in India. I have observed the dynamism of the economy, and the drive and enthusiasm of the youth to achieve more. It has been amazing to see this transformation happen so rapidly across the country.

What were the major highlights of interesting events organized both professionally and personally in 2010?

Within the first year of setting up the Consulate General, we tried to cover a long distance. We were able to organize a few cultural events to promote Turkey and our official presence in Mumbai. Among these, the most important to me was the “Turkish Movie Days Festival”.  Mumbai is not only a financial and economic hub of India, but also the heart of India’s film industry. Of the main cultural activities, I decided to start with the Turkish Film Festival. I believe that cinema is one of the best ways to communicate with other cultures. We chose as the opening movie a film whose leading actor is also taking part in one of the forthcoming Bollywood movies. I wanted to highlight the connection between the Turkish and Indian movie industries. In fact, the producer of that opening movie is also the President of the Turkish Movie and TV Producers Association. We invited them for the opening of this festival so that the representatives of Turkish and Indian cinema could meet, and come together to explore business opportunities. This was certainly one of the most significant cultural activities that we organized last year.

The photography exhibition conducted with my wife in September 2010 was also a very special event for me, not just as a Consul General, but as a photographer as well. It was special because the exhibition was a compilation of our photographs of India. I think many people were expecting us to showcase photographs of Turkey. Since we had lived in India for about 4 years, we wanted to share our experiences and understanding of India with the community.

What are the interesting events lined up in 2011 in India and in Turkey to increase awareness between the two nations?

As a result of the high-level visits of political dignitaries between our countries, there will continue to be high-level exchanges between our countries in 2011. There will also be many events and road-shows taking place. For example, “The India Show” with the collaboration of the Engineering Export Promotion Council and the Indian Ministry of Industry and Commerce will take place in Istanbul in February 2011. Also, the Indian Merchants’ Chamber (IMC) will hold their international conference which is called “India Calling” in Turkey in April 2011. Their local counterpart in Turkey which is the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (İTO) has also taken a decision to support this international conference in Istanbul. We are also planning to organize an exhibition of Turkish products in Mumbai before the end of 2011.

Of course as we attach significant importance for cooperation in the tourism sector, we also continue to organize tourism workshops in different cities throughout India.

We have also planned a few cultural activities such as bringing a troupe of Whirling Dervishes to attend a Sufi festival which is organized annually by the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA). I know that Sufi culture is very well understood and highly popular in India. In addition to that, I would also like to bring to Mumbai a lively and colorful group of folk dancers from the different regions of Turkey and arrange exhibitions of well known Turkish artists – and perhaps even have another photography exhibition with my wife.

How well known is India in Turkey and what is the perception of Indians and India in Turkey?

I can say that the perception of India and Indians in Turkey is very positive. For example, a generation of Turkish people born between 1940 and 1970 all know of the famous Bollywood classic Awaara with Raj Kapoor. Till now I can still hum the melody of the popular song of the movie.


Actually, the relationship between India and Turkey dates back many centuries. When you look at the daily lives of Indians and Turks, you will see many commonalities. Throughout our relationship, we have mutually affected each other’s traditions, costumes, cuisines, architecture and even languages.  In fact, this relationship is underlined very well by a common word which is shared between our languages: “dost”  meaning friend in both Hindi and Turkish.

TURKISH  = HINDI
(and the English translation)

dost = dost (friend)
çay = chai (tea)
dünya = dunya (world)
kitap = kitab (book)
kalem = kalam (pen)
canım = janaam (sweetheart)
adalet = adalat (court)
taze = taaza (fresh)
sebze = sabzi (vegetables)
nar = anar (pomegranate)
badem = badam (almonds)

Interestingly, spices are called “baharat” in Turkish, perhaps derived from “Bharat”, India being the only source of spices in the world then.

ABOUT TURKEY

The year 2010 was very important for Istanbul as it was a European Cultural Capital. What are some reasons why Istanbul is one of the most significant cities in the world for tourism, trade and events?

It has been said by Napoleon Bonaparte that; “If the world were a unified State, Istanbul would have been its capital”. Istanbul has been the capital of empires and the meeting point of cultures and civilizations. These are some of the phrases that describe Istanbul. Yet there are no words or stories about Istanbul which would be sufficient in describing the spirit or charm of Istanbul. I encourage everyone to experience the beauty of Istanbul for themselves.
Istanbul is also the largest and most developed city in Turkey with a population of approximately 13 million. In fact, when I first came to Mumbai I discovered some similarities between the two cities in terms of their vibrancy and dynamism. Of course, like Mumbai for India, Istanbul is also Turkey’s capital of finance and commerce.

Istanbul also has an optimum geo-strategic location being between Europe and Asia. Most of the international companies conducting operations in southeastern Europe, the Middle East, western Asia and central Asia have chosen Istanbul as their headquarters.

With its historical and cultural background, prime trade and commercial location, panoramic vistas, shopping opportunities in some of the largest malls in Europe, the high velocity of nightlife, the distinguished restaurants and hotel chains and the international events , Istanbul is a city like no other.

Recently Mumbai hosted another edition of the Mumbai Marathon. Are there any such interesting events that take place in Turkey and when?

The Istanbul Marathon – officially called Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon – is an international athletics event organized by the metropolitan municipality in Istanbul, Turkey, every year on a Sunday in October since 1979. The marathon starts on the Asian shore of Istanbul, first crossing the Bosphorus Bridge and then the Golden Horn Bridge and passing under the Valens Aqueduct on the way to the beach on the Marmara Sea. For professional athletes, the marathon finishes on the European side at the Hippodrome – one of the oldest racetracks in the world, situated in the historic district of Sultanahmet, which has an abundance of ancient monuments and sites.

BEYOND ISTANBUL

Although Istanbul is a fascinating city, there is much more to Turkey. Can you elaborate on this?

When you compare Turkey with India in terms of land size, Turkey is perhaps equal to the size of Maharashtra State. But, when you compare Turkey to European countries, Turkey is one of the largest in her respective region. Of course, there is much to be seen in the other parts of Turkey, which is geographically called Anatolia. Also, considering the fact that Turkey has been a cradle for more than 400 civilizations in over 5000 years, it is not a surprise that Turkey has been referred to as the largest open-air museum in the world. Accordingly, where ever you go in Turkey – not only in Istanbul – you will find this history and culture in abundance.

Of course, other parts of Turkey are also popular with tourists such as Antalya, Cappadocia, Pamukkale and Ephesus. There are still however places in Turkey which are not frequently visited, but well worth the visit. In the north along the Black Sea coast for example, you will see different charms such as the virgin forests and the high plateaus.

In fact in 2010, Turkey placed as the number one destination across the world in the highly reputable Condé Nast Traveller reader’s travel awards.

Of course, tourism is a very important sector for Turkey which generates almost 3% of the GDP.  According to the statistics, approximately 29 million people visited Turkey last year. Therefore, it is not a coincidence or a surprise that Turkey is one of the top ten holiday destinations across the world.

What do you think of the concept of http://www.namasteturkey.com, a dedicated website to encourage tourism amongst the Indian outbound traveller?

I think that as the website is dedicated to Turkey, so is the owner dedicated to Turkey. I was actually aware of the website when I came to Mumbai. I went through each and every item that was displayed on the website and I think any person who wanted information about travelling to Turkey would be more than satisfied. It is very easy to navigate and user-friendly. The information that has been conveyed to the user is very well compiled and presented. I found it very useful and highly attractive.

TRADE & INVESTMENT

In terms of trade and tourism, what has been the growth in these areas between the two States in 2009-10 and what is the estimated growth expected in 2010-11?

We have observed a significant increase in our trade volume and private sector ties for the last 6 years. The trade volume between Turkey and India has almost tripled between 2003 and 2009 from 795 million US dollars to 2.3 billion US dollars. As of November 2010, though the figures have not been officially announced, the trade volume reached 3.1 billion US dollars. Also, during the official visit of the Turkish Prime Minister to India in November 2008, a target of 6 billion US dollars by the end of 2011 was mutually set by the respective heads of our governments. As a Consul General, I am very glad to see that during 2010 about half the visas issued by my Consulate were for business purposes. It is a tangible representation that the commercial and business ties between our countries are strengthening rapidly.

Lastly, in order to give a greater thrust to our economic and trade relations, we are expecting the signing of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Turkey and India. With the prospect of this agreement, Indian companies will be able to easily enter the Turkish market. If you consider the population of Turkey which is over 70 million and the benefits of preferential market access, Indian companies will also be able to obtain industrial inputs necessary for the export of some of their products to the European Union and other markets. We hope that the negotiations towards the Free Trade Agreement will be finalized soon and then we can expect a tremendous boost in our commercial activities.
In terms of tourism, we have a total of 14 weekly direct flights between India and Turkey. We do not however consider this to be enough to increase the business interactions between our countries.  Our civil aviation authorities are planning to add 7 more destinations from India to Turkey in addition to Delhi and Mumbai.

The new visa provisions for the Indian traveller are also meant to facilitate the needs of the Indian businessman. For example, if you are a businessman in Chennai and you need to attend a meeting in Istanbul in 2 days, you would have to send your passport to Mumbai which would take a minimum of 2 days to be processed and delivered. With the new provisions, you can immediately take the first flight to Istanbul and collect your visa at the airport. We are trying to eliminate the barriers for commercial and trade activities between our countries. We would also like to strengthen the presence of our Consulate General and we are expecting the opening of a trade office affiliated to the Consulate. This is supposed to take place before the end of 2011.

I am also so happy to observe that as of 2010, the number of annual visitors to Turkey from India has reached almost 65000. Considering that this number was approximately 5000 as little as 7 years ago, this is a significant achievement. Of course, we are targeting 100000 Indian visitors to Turkey in the near future.

ABOUT THE EXPERT

This is your first posting as a Consul General. What were the challenges and what is your general perception of India and Mumbai in particular?

Before coming to India, I was the Head of Department for Bilateral Political Affairs for South Asian countries at my Ministry. So I was quite familiar with India before my arrival, especially regarding the key facts and figures. I cannot say that when I came to India that I faced a lot of challenges because I was mentally ready to deal with the bilateral files.

When it comes to Mumbai, I feel it is the most vibrant city in India and it is not a secret that the heart of India is beating in Mumbai. In that sense, opening and establishing a Consulate General in Mumbai was a significant challenge in terms of finding a suitable location; and recruiting and training the local staff. As a whole, the process was very challenging. However, the most challenging part for me was when we moved into our official buildings and signed the leasing agreements, it was the beginning of the monsoon season. And of course, during the monsoons, the city takes on a new rhythm and things slow down considerably. I was trying to push and move things quickly, but the circumstances made expediting tasks difficult. I decided to take it easy and enjoy the rains.

When did you start taking interest in photography and what are the standout experiences of capturing moments in India?

Actually, my interest in photography began almost 15 years ago as my wife began taking interest in photography.  Since then, photography has always been a part of our daily life, whether it is discussing her work or exhibitions. On occasion, I have even accompanied her on photography shoots and observed her carefully.

My personal practice of photography has been for about 2 years since I have been in India. This is because India is a very photogenic country and is like an open buffet in terms of visual experiences. I could not resist the temptation of practicing photography in India. Now my wife and I are enjoying photography together. When we find time, mostly during the weekends, we go out together for shootings.

The most exciting and standout experience of practicing photography in India was after a 19-hour trip with the entire family from Mumbai to Jabalpur by train and Jabalpur to Bandhavgarh by road.  It was our first trip to a wildlife sanctuary in India. We visited Bandhavgarh National Park. We went there on the recommendation of our dear friend and famous wildlife photographer, Mr. Kakubhai Kothari.

We spent the morning looking for tigers and it was not until the evening when we were about to leave that we came face to face with the most well known tiger of the park called B2. He is very famous and popular among wildlife photographers. He was going to a small river bank by himself. It was our pure luck. We started taking photographs, but that moment will always be remembered. It was my first time to see a tiger in its natural habitat. And our luck continued during that trip as we saw 8 tigers including mothers with their cubs. That was truly anunforgettable photography moment.

Which is your favourite destination in Turkey and in India?

As a photographer and a person who likes all outdoor activities, I cannot confine myself to one or two destinations either in Turkey or in India. One of my favourites however is the Black Sea region in northern Turkey. I would like to encourage everyone to visit the Black Sea region because it has a geography like no other. Very roughly, I can compare it to the Swiss Alps. It is filled with mountains running parallel to the Black Sea coast and virgin forests. The local people are very warm and friendly. Even in the remotest of areas in the region, people will still open their doors and offer to share their food with you. It is an amazing place and whenever I go there, I find myself at peace with a spiritual satisfaction.

In India, there are still many places that I would like to visit. India is more like a continent than a country. Before I leave this beautiful country, I would really like to visit the northern part of India such as Ladakh. As a photographer, I would also like to see the northeastern tribal areas because these regions are not usually visited by the average traveller. I am also very eager to visit Lakshadweep or Andaman islands.  I would really like to visit these places if my time in India permits.

What has been your children’s experience of travelling around India and how have they adapted to staying in India?

Like all children of diplomats the country they live in becomes their second home.  Our children enjoy their stay in India very much. They go to a local school with an IB curriculum so they have a more local experience. Their knowledge of Hindi is much better than ours, so during our travels we sometimes ask for their assistance as translators.

PARTING MESSAGE

What is your message to the readers and why should they visit Turkey in 2011?

For the readers who are in the business and commercial sectors, I would like to convey that as India is a rising star, so has Turkey become a centre of attraction for the global economy and trade in its region. When you look at the statistics and figures, you will see that Turkey has the 16th largest economy in the world and for the last 5 years, Turkey has had an average growth rate of 7% with a GDP of approximately 750 billion US dollars. Like India, Turkey also has a young and well educated population with a motivated and qualified labour force. Turkey is one of the best places for making investments or conducting business. For Indian entrepreneurs, Turkey also provides a good opportunity for selling and promoting their products to the European Union market. Since 1995, Turkey has been enjoying the Customs Union with the European Union which means if an Indian entrepreneur manufactures their product in Turkey, they will be able to sell their product to the European Union without any tariff barriers or customs duties. Also the geostrategic location of Turkey allows you to reach over 50 countries, or a quarter of the world’s population, within a 4-hour flight time. Ten years ago, the number of foreign companies which were functioning in Turkey was around 5000. In 2010, this number has approximately reached 25000. These companies are managing their operations through Turkey. Among these, approximately 80 Indian companies have established their business in Turkey. I would like to invite your readers to look to Turkey for developing their business.

For the travellers, I would like to remind them that we have 4 seasons in Turkey and they should not confine themselves to a single season. Turkey provides opportunities for all types of travellers and their interests whether from cross-country skiing to relaxing on the beach. Turkey also hosts many events for the corporate traveller.

I would also like to bring to the kind attention of your readers that there is a misunderstanding that vegetarian travellers will not be able to find suitable food in Turkey. I would like to underline the fact that Turkish cuisine is based on Mediterranean cuisine so there are many exciting vegetarian and healthy options available.

Lastly, the Turkish people are renowned for their warmth and hospitality and I assure you that you will feel at home no matter where you are in Turkey.

 

Dost by by Ahmet Yoruk

Interview with Şeniz Yörük – Photographer

Şeniz Yörük has participated in various photography exhibits and international festivals. Her photographs are in private collections worldwide. She shares with us how her interest in photography developed, how photography can connect travellers to a destination and her favourite holiday spots.

What have been your impressions of India? What  are the similarities between Turkey and India?

I feel privileged to live in India and try to get the most of this opportunity, be it getting to know the rich cultural heritage and as a photographer I enjoy savouring what I call the “visual energy” that India has to offer.  India and Turkey have a lot of similarities.

When I first came to India in 2007, I had the opportunity to contribute as a photographer to a great book project entitled “Indo-Turkish Architecture”. This book academically illustrates the similarities between the two architectural styles comparing monuments from Central Asia, Turkey and India.

It would be interesting to know that a scientific study showed that there are almost 9000 words in common between Turkish and the languages spoken in India. Even only this fact shows how close our cultures are to each other.

Dancer by Seniz Yoruk

How were you first introduced to photography and the creative arts?

My father was an enthusiastic hobbyist photographer. My mother is a painter. Living in a house full of art gave me an artistic perspective from the beginning.
I welcome every photographic opportunity from recording a moment in my life to the most subliminal landscape. I define my photography as “travel photography”  in a broader sense because life is a journey to try and capture the moments that I encounter during my own journey.

How has being married to a diplomat influenced your photographic and cultural outlook of the world?

It has given me the opportunity to get to know different continents, geographies, climates, cultures from up close.

Wherever we live on our postings, we are neither tourists nor permanent residents. I think this adds a unique perspective to my photography.

Frozen Cildir Lake

Which locations of Turkey do  you recommend to the aspiring travel photographer?

Just like India, Turkey is a photographer’s delight with the ever photogenic Istanbul, turquiose blue waters of the Mediterranean, patchwork of prairie landscapes in the Central Anatolian countryside, unique architecture of the old city of Mardin, famous sunrise near the ruins of Nemrut, wonderful mountain landscapes of the Black Sea highlands, wind eroded rock formations of Cappadocia and the list goes on.

How can tourism boards and destinations use photography as a tool to establish their presence in India?

I think photography really has the power to transport you to places. In tourism brochures and posters and other printed material, I personally prefer photographs with a natural feel rather than digital collages.

With the advent of digital cameras, photography has become even more accessible than before to everybody. Organizing photo contests is a popular way of promoting countries and locations through photography.

In September 2010, you held a photography exhibition showcasing India. Tell us about this and the various other exhibits and international festivals which you have participated in.Our exhibition entitled “India in Motion” was special to us because it was our first in India and our first photo exhibition together with my husband. After 3 years, we wanted to share our visual experience of India in India. It was very well attended and received and also enjoyed great media coverage. We also took the same exhibition to the “Pune Unplugged” festival in October 2010.

Other exhibitions that I have participated in are:
· March 2005, Seasons of Canada, National Press Club, Ottawa, Canada
· December 2006, DIMED Exhibition Transparan Art Gallery, Ankara, Turkey
· June 2007 Turco-Greek Friendship Festival Photo Exhibition, Antalya-  Turkey, Rhodes-Greece
· Mart 2009, Colours of the World, Bakrac Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
· February 2010, Turkish Festival at Hyatt Regency, Mumbai, India
· August 2010, Doruk Art Gallery, Summer Exhibition, Istanbul, Turkey

Which attractions of Turkey would you recommend for a romantic holiday?

I would recommend having a romantic dinner in the restaurant in Leander’s Tower (aka Maiden’s Tower, Kiz Kulesi in Turkish) which is a 2500 year old tower on an islet at the entrance of the Bosphorus from the Marmara Sea.

You will be literally between Asia and Europe enjoying a breathtaking view of  both continents. If you go there during early afternoon the light and the view gets better and better from a beautiful sunset to the illuminiated skyline of Istanbul’s historical peninsula. Historically, the tower was believed to be built around 408 BC, and rebuilt and restored many times since then. It had been used as a lighthouse and a watchtower, and now is being used for touristic purposes where you can take a boat to the tower and have your breakfast or dinner.Another romantic option is spending time in front of the fireplace in one of the restored old Turkish homes in the town of Safranbolu.  The whole town of Safranbolu makes you feel you have entered a time machine and transports you to a bygone era where life was much simpler and slower than it is today.

Which are the special interest tours that you would recommend to Indian visitors to experience the true flavours of Turkey?

I would recommend Blue voyage, cultural tours, adventure tourism, religious tours, organic farm stays to wine tastings and art festivals. Something I would personally love to do is horseback riding in Cappadocia.

I would also recommend Sebi Aruz, the Urs of Rumi, Konya in December of which the highlight is the Whirling  Dervishes ceremony.

Which are your favourite holiday destinations in Turkey?

In Turkey, we are blessed with one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. So for every Turkish family spending a beach holiday on the Aegean and Mediterrean coasts to recharge the batteries is a must.

These days, besides the traditional seaside holiday, more and more people are also opting for alternative holidays. Our favourite as a couple is the Black Sea region. The Black Sea region is the northern part of  Turkey with a mountainous landscape and the most dense forest areas thanks to its abundant rainfall throughout the year. As a gift of its unique geography, it has a distinctive culture of its own. When we spend a week in Naldehra, Shimla we found it to be a very similar landscape to the highland villages of the Black Sea region in Turkey.
In the Black Sea region rather than spending time in the city, we like to head to the mountains right away. We like to spend at least a week of trekking from one highland village to the other. We love chatting with the locals over the locally grown black tea and accepting their offers of local snacks made of corn flour, home-made butter and cheese. We enjoy the breathtaking landscape, walking literally on top of the clouds, the local hospitality and food and even an impromptu night of local “horon” dance and music whenever the occasion arises.

Which are your favourite holiday destinations in India?

To the traveller at heart, India offers so many possibilities. It is almost frustrating to know you will never have enough time to do  justice.
My personal favourite is Rajasthan. Every city, every village has its own unique characteristics – the beauty of the rugged landscape, colourful men and grace and beauty of the local women, Rajasthani dances and music.

What is your message to readers and how can photography be used as a medium to bring out their creativity?

I believe that everybody is a photographer. From the moment we are born we take mental images of our surroundings. When one decides to be a photographer the only thing that is left to do is to learn how the camera sees things differently than our eye. Being a photographer is a mental state more than anything.

 

Photographs courtesy of Şeniz Yörük (www.senizyoruk.com)

Interview with Özgür Aytürk

Özgür Aytürk has been the Culture and Tourism Counsellor of the Turkish Embassy in India for one month now. He shares with us how he plans to promote Turkey as a holiday destination for the Indian traveller and a few unexplored locations for the intrepid traveller.

How long have you been in India and what are your plans in terms of increasing tourism to Turkey from India?

I have been in India for a month now.  We are in the midst of finalizing our campaigns and promotions for this year, which would include a pan-India media campaign, consumer promotions and joint promotions with leading tour operators.

What were your previous assignments and how important is the Indian tourism market for Turkey?

My previous assignment was with Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. India is a special and growing market.  From 20000 Indian visitors in the year 2007 to 60000 Indian visitors in year 2010, Indian arrivals to Turkey have been growing at a rate of 12%.

What are the choices for a repeat traveler who has already visited Istanbul, the Aegean coast and Cappadocia?

Travellers can also have amazing trips to the Black Sea region, Southeastern Anatolia and Eastern Anatolia. There are in fact numerous destinations I can recommend, but let me give one or two samples for the readers.

In Southeastern Anatolia, Mount Nemrut is one of the best options for travellers where you can see the huge statues of lions, eagles and the old gods of Greeks and Persians, which were built by the king of the Commagene Kingdom, Antiochus I in 62 BC. Mount Nemrut, which is on the list of UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites in Turkey, is also known as the best place in the world where people can get the most beautiful view of sunrise and sunset. There are 8 more cultural and natural heritage sites like Mount Nemrut in different regions of Turkey and each one is worth spending at least a couple of days.

My second recommendation would be the city Van in Eastern Anatolia. Our Ministry is now promoting Van intensively by arranging some special events and festivals. You can trace the signs of the civilizations back to 4000 BC in Van, and it was also the capital of the Urartians. People can visit Van Castle which was built by the Urartians in the 9th Century BC near Lake Van, the largest lake in Turkey.

Lake Van

What according to you is the ideal number of days to spend in Turkey for diverse holiday experiences?

An ideal vacation in Turkey can be enjoyed in a trip of 7 to 10 days in which one can see historical sites of Istanbul, enjoy sun and sand at Antalya, visit the natural wonders of Cappadocia and experience the nightlife of Bodrum or Izmir.

What are your views on Namaste Turkey (www.namasteturkey.com), a dedicated website for the Indian outbound traveller?

It is very suggestive and I must say that I was very surprised by seeing an amazing promotion of Turkey in India! We really appreciate the effort and we look forward to collaborating on many such products in the near future.

What is your message to the readers?

India is a very special country with which Turkey has very warm and cordial relations based on historical and cultural links. It is also one of the important emerging markets for Turkey. In my endeavour to make Turkey a popular destination with Indian travellers, I am looking forward to my time in India and building lasting relationships.

ARGENTINA: GLACIERS & FALLS, A Travel Diary by Subhash Motwani, Argentina Specialist

Argentina is truly an enormous country with great diversity and stunning landscapes. Being the 8th largest country in the world, it was not surprising to note that it takes 6 hours by flight to reach from Buenos Aires to the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia – which is the capital of the province of Tierra del Fuego in Patagonia. Those who plan to take the Antarctica cruise can do so from Ushuaia- a hub for Antarctic cruises.

BEYOND BUENOS AIRES

Our next destination after visiting the Paris of the Southern Hemisphere and the capital of Argentina was the city of El Calafate which is half way to Ushuaia. It takes 3 hours by flight to reach El Calafate – the city better known for its spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier, an icefield which was created millions of years ago by a gap formed in the Andes Mountains.

Whilst flying within Argentina it is essential to note that one has to keep sufficient time between connecting flights as the domestic flights tend to get delayed and a 3-hour flight can at times take 3 hours and 30 minutes. Flights within Argentina can be quite expensive and at times if you are lucky you can get some good deals as well. A return flight from Buenos Aires to El Calafate can cost you around USD 600 and there are several airlines which fly within Argentina such as Sol, TAM, Aerolineas Argentinas, Andes and LAN to name a few. So a specialist on the destination can definitely help you in getting the best deals provided you plan your trip well in advance.

LEGENDS OF PATAGONIA

The region of Patagonia is truly a delight for the adventure seeker and Cerro Castor which is 26 kilometres from Ushuaia is one of the most exclusive ski resorts in Argentina. It is located on the same latitude in the Southern Hemisphere as Moscow is in the Northern Hemisphere. This region receives the longest snow season in Latin America and one of the reasons being that the southern slopes do not receive direct sunlight. As a result skiing in Cerro Castor is a delight as it enjoys the best snow quality that you will find anywhere in the world.  Areas such as Cerro Chapelco, Bayo, Catedral, Las Leñas, Penitentes, Caviahue and La Hoya are regions where you can enjoy skiing across the region of Patagonia as well as other snow activities such as snowboarding, snow tubing, husky sledge rides and even golf as well.  From the green field and the fertile Rio Negro valley to the Andes Mountain range and the arid Patagonia plateau, the last home of the dinosaurs, to foots of hills and volcanoes, sport fishing and stays in estancias or large cattle ranches, one can spend days experiencing different activities in Patagonia and the 3 major cities worth visiting here are Bariloche, El Calafate and Ushuaia amongst others. The region is home to 13 glaciers including Uppsala – the largest of glacier in Los Glaciares National Park which derives its name from the Uppsala University which sponsored the first glaciological study in the region. Another glacier worth visiting is Spegazzini – one of the highest glaciers reaching a height of 135 metres.  The Patagonian region comprises of 17000 square kilometres of which 2000 square kilometers are in Argentina and the rest belong to Chile.

What we were to witness is the Perito Moreno glacier during our short stay in El Calafate. The Perito Moreno Glacier is located 80 kilometres from El Calafate and is the only glacier which can be viewed from a balcony stretching almost 4 kilometres.  As our flight approached El Calafate we noticed the turquoise colour of Lago Argentino – the biggest freshwater lake of Argentina in the Santa Cruz province of Patagonia. It is from this lake that the Argentinian flag derives it colour. The lake has a surface area of 1600 sq kilometres with a depth of 120 metres.



THE PRESIDENTIAL SUITE

Our hotel Los Sauces which incidentally belongs to the President of Argentina was located 20 kilometres from the airport in one of the most picturesque locations. In fact the entire drive was a perfect post card picture experience. Puerto Natales which is the Chilean border is 300 kilometres away and can be covered in a driving distance of 3.5 to 4 hours. So if you don’t have a Chilean visa but still want to get close to Chile, a day trip from El Calafate is a possibility.

The capital of Santa Cruz province is Rio Gallegos, located 300 kilometres from El Calafate. The town of El Calafate, known as the national capital of the glaciers has over 7000 inhabitants and is on the southern end of Lago Argentino (Lake Argentina) and a minimum 3 days stay is recommended to explore the region.

During our short stay we were highly pampered and taken care by the exceptional staff at Los Sauces – a world class luxury property with exquisite cuisine and suite style accommodation. Each room is tastefully decorated and the rooms are pretty spacious with wide windows and views of Mount Calafate or Lake Argentina. I was in one of the rooms which was roughly 40 square metres and the entire property is located in a traditional ranch estate in an area comprising of 4 acres of immaculate landscape giving you the feel of a country style accommodation. On a cool wintry day you can spend a couple of hours in front of the log fire and soak in some authentic local character with fine furnishings comprising of some striking Argentine paintings and sculptures.

La Comarca restaurant serves some fine gourmet cuisine with the suckling Patagonian lamb being an absolute specialty. The Southern Hake (fish) is another specialty. And after a full day of adventure – be it visiting the Glacier or going on horseback, you can relax in the octagonal designed spa known as Las Piedras which is fully equipped with a state of the art gym, Jacuzzi, sauna and spa.

FOOTHILLS OF THE ANDES

After a sumptuous lunch, we left for an exciting 4×4 adventure to Huyliche, a working ranch which raises cattle and criollo horses and is barely 3 kilometres from El Calafate. We could hear the sound of the wind blowing and it was the end of winter with a temperature around 5˚ C. This was probably the highlight of our entire trip to get some stunning views as we moved up the foothills of the Andean mountains on our 4×4 overlooking valleys, creeks, rivers and as we moved higher in altitude we could see some snow across the horizon.

Not only did we get the opportunity to drive on the snow but also experienced a gentle snowstorm.The amazing landscapes and spectacular views made this experience much beyond the exceptional. The region of El Calafate is known for its tourism and meat produce and is one of the few places to experience some unique Farm Tours, sheep shearing, visits to the Eola and Cristina farms which are highly recommended for the discerning travelers. Whether it is horse riding, trekking or even visiting the 3 major glaciers of the region – Upsala, Spegazzini and Perito Moreno, the Santa Cruz province of Patagonia and the city of El Calafate should be right on top of your must visit excursions when you visit the South American Continent.

The following day we had one of the best and most efficient guides in Patagonia – Paula. Paula Podromos incidentally runs a vegetarian restaurant in Patagonia and given her knowledge and expertise, I do recommend the Indian vegetarian guests to visit Veggies Patagonicos. Incidentally Paula did tell us that Sri Sri Ravishankar is likely to visit Argentina this December and there are satsangs every Friday in El Calafate – surely an Indian connection out there to Argentina.

THE GROWING GLACIER

In winter, the sun rises around 0930 hours and we left for the Perito Moreno Glacier at the break of dawn (around 0900 hours) to see both ends of the Glacier which is located 80 kilometres or a 90-minute drive from El Calafate.  El Calafate is 400 kilometres away from the Atlantic Ocean and most of the drive is alongside Lago Argentino. Our guide Paula shared some interesting facts en route such as the temperature of the water is an average of 3°C all year around.  The Perito Moreno Glacier is part of the southern Patagonian Icefield camp and the average temperature in summer is between 16°C and 18°C. No doubt the period between September and April is the peak tourist season out here. It is remarkable to note that inspite of such high temperatures in summer, the glacier remains intact all year round.

There is just one hotel in Los Glaciares National Park and you need big pockets to spend a night at Los Notros which overlooks the Glacier. The Glacier can be viewed by boat from the southern side and from the balconies in the northern side. To enter the National Park, an entrance fee of 80 ARS (Argentine Pesos) – approx INR 1000 has to be paid by international visitors. This 250-square kilometre ice formation stretches 30 kilometres in length and is shared with Chile and is the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water. The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the three Patagonian glaciers which is growing and scientists have to still figure out the mystery behind this.

LUNCH ON ICE

After a boat ride, we had lunch at the restaurant located at the north side of the Glacier. The restaurant known as “Nativos de Patagonia” serves a meal comprising of a starter, a main course and a dessert for 90 Pesos (approx Rs 1080) and for vegetarians there are options like the Cremosa Sopa de Calabaza or the pumpkin soup with red onions and chorizo, Ensalada Tibla de Vegales or warm salads and to finish a meal a chocolate y dulce de leche is the recommended choice and would cost you 18 Pesos.

After a good meal, we descended to go to the balcony comprising of 2000 steps and is 4 kilometres long. If you are lucky, you could see large chunks of ice rupture in front of your eyes, although the ruptures are not as frequent and at times it takes place once every 4 years. The rupture of the natural dam formed over the L-shaped Lago Argentino is a rare phenomena as the water level rises upto 30 metres and the enormous pressure produced by the height breaks the ice barrier creating this unique rupture cycle. These spectacular towering chunks of eroding ice is something you must surely look out for.

GLACIER WALKS


Patagonia comprises of 5 provinces and 70% of the landscape is Patagonian steppes and receives 200 mm of rainfall every year. Incidentally the Chilean border from the Glacier is merely 20 kilometres away but you need to drive almost 400 kilometres from here to go to Chile. Another way to view the Glacier is to undertake a Glacier Walk comprising of 8 hours out of which 90 minutes is walk on the actual glacier. The boat trip is definitely a good option for the less adventurous and is an interesting 60 minutes ride and takes you very close to the glacier. The North side of the Glacier is 2.5 kilometres long, 60 metres high and 180 metres in water. The glacier stretches 30 kilometres into Chile. It was incredible to note that the total ice between Argentina and Chile comprises of 13000 sq.kilometres which is of the size of Belgium of which 80% is in Chile and 20% is in Argentina. The ice was supposedly formed 40 million years ago and is 2000 metres above sea level. There are as many as 200 glaciers in the area and the major part of the Chilean side of the ice formation is in the sea whereas the Argentine side is in fresh water and the Perito Moreno glacier moves 1.50 metres every day and is in balance and this is indeed an incredible phenomenon. The Perito Moreno glacier was named after the explorer scientist Francisco Moreno who incidentally did not see the glacier himself. For the adventure seekers, they can do a glacier walk not only at Perito Moreno but also at El Chalten which belongs to the Fitzroy Mountains and is the trekking capital of Argentina and at an altitude of 3400 metres above sea level.

WILDLIFE SPOTTING


As we head back Paula, our guide told us how El Calafate derived its name. It is from the Calafate plant which is grown on the Patagonian steppes. The Los Glaciares National Park is also home to several birds and quite often you spot the Condor – the biggest bird in South America – 3 metres long, 1 metre high and only eats carcasses of animals. We were lucky to spot a few Condors as we were traversing the balconies on the northern side of the glaciers. Besides Condors, one could also see the Caracara birds and Eagles and as one goes deeper into the National Park, one may be able to spot the Geoffrey’s Cat, South Andean Deer which is nearing extinction and the Mara-Hare or the Patagonian Hare which also is found only in Patagonia and nearing extinction as well. This sub-Antarctic forest is also home to lesser Rhea which looks like an Ostrich, the Guanacos from the Llama family though smaller in size than the Llama. The wool of Guanaco is supposedly the best wool available although quite often you find shops in El Calafate selling you wool of Merino Sheep which incidentally comes from Australia and New Zealand and not from Patagonia.

During our short stay in Patagonia, we got a glimpse of El Calafate, the capital of the Santa Cruz province, although Patagonia has lots to offer – from Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego province to San Martin los Andes in Neuquen, to Puerto Madryn which is well known for penguins, whales and seals in the Chubut province to Bariloche in Rio Negro.

HEADING NORTH


Our flight left at 1918 hours and with a stop at Bariloche, we reached Buenos Aires nearing midnight.  Our next stop was in the Litoral region and the province of Misiones to see the spectacular Iguazú Falls – the widest falls in the world bordering Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. After spending an overnight at Buenos Aires, we flew on LAN the following morning for a 90-minute flight to Iguazú Falls.

At Iguazú we were staying at one of the boutique properties – Loi Suites which is in a beautiful location in the middle of the jungle. The most striking part of the diversity of Argentina is that as we headed up north more towards a sub-tropical climate, the temperature in winter changed dramatically from 5°C in El Calafate to about 10°C in Buenos Aires and eventually to 28°C in Iguazú Falls. The falls are 22 kilometres from the city centre and is in the direction of Paraguay and Brazil. Iguazú receives 2300 mm rainfall per year and incidentally the minimum rainfall is in August. Between December and February it rains 1 hour every day. Iguazú Falls is barely 6 kilometres or an hour’s drive to Brazil. After arrival in Iguazú and checking into our hotel, we left to head to the Iguazú Forest and we were warmly received by Vin Diesel lookalike Jose who ensured that we could get the best of Iguazú during our short stay in this very interesting region offering a combination of rivers and forest. The plains and forests are surrounded by heavy flow rivers of which the Parana and Iguazú river are of great significance as they play an important part in the formation of the magnanimous Iguazú Falls. The Parana river divides Argentina and Paraguay.

ACTION BEFORE THE FALLS

En route to the forest we stopped on the way to see the Guarani Tribe – Guaranis are a group of culturally indigenous people of South America and they speak the Guarani language. They are spread across 4 countries- Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia of which over 1000 Guaranis are in Argentina. It took us 40 minutes from our hotel to reach the Iguazú Forest where we did a 4 hour excursion comprising of 3 adventure activities – Canopy, Rappelling and Hiking. We were asked to get into a heavy duty truck and our first halt was in the Forest where we would rappel down a descent of rocks of 15 metres tied to a harness and the experience was indeed very invigorating after which we hiked across the narrow paths within the forest and arrived at a waterfall. The last of the activities was the most exhilarating – the Canopy.  After climbing a treetop through a stairway, we slided from one tree to another fastened by a harness which was attached to a steel cable enjoying the views of the forest from a height and zipped passed a distance of over a kilometer in no time.

We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and if one has more time in hand, one could easily add an ATV ride experience to the four hour excursion comprising of 3 adventure activities. Later in the evening we visited Aqva – a restaurant which specializes in sea food and when in Iguazú it is recommended to try the Suruvy fish which is a local river fish. The restaurant itself is one of the best restaurants in the region and I would highly recommend a meal for anyone who plans visiting the Argentina side of the Iguazú falls.

THE ROAR OF IGUAZÚ


Next morning we were accompanied by our guide Miriam who quite resembled the President of Argentina and she took us to the Iguazú National Park where we spent the entire day to see what is undoubtedly the most spectacular falls in the world which borders 3 countries. Known as the Aguas Gerantes or Big Water by the Guaranis, the Iguazú Falls has over 275 falls and the border between Argentina and Brazil is marked by the most spectacular of them all – the Garganta del Diablo or the Devil’s Throat. The water from the falls plunges to 70 metres in the abyss below and the park besides the falls is also home to over 2000 species of plants and 400 species of birds as well. Iguazú Falls, which is one of the natural wonders of the world, has 2100 metres of the falls on the Argentina side and 600 metres on the Brazilian side. The Brazilian side is known as Foz de Iguazú and has a population of 350000 whereas the Argentina side known as the Puerto Iguazú has a population comprising of 50000 people. Paraguay, the Ciudad de l’Este which is located on the other side of the Parana River  from Argentina has 200000 inhabitants, a majority of them from the Guarani Tribe.

NAVIGATING THE DEVIL’S THROAT

The amazing part of the falls is that it changes every day as the rainfall in the area determines the falls. It was Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca from Spain who discovered the falls for the first time in 1542 and initially called it Santa Maria. Later in 1934, it was named the Iguazú National Park – one of the 32 National Parks in Argentina.  Today Iguazú receives almost 3000 to 4000 visitors a day and over a million tourists every year. To reach the falls one has to take a train which leaves every 30 minutes and takes you to the Devil’s Throat. Thereafter you have to walk over 1.3 kilometres on a walking trail known as the cat walk. En route, one can see lot of birds like we spotted the plush crested jay birds at various points along the way. Almost 80% of the falls are on the Argentine side and comprises of 3 horseshoe shaped valleys. It is a good idea to take Mate – the local drink made of herbs – along with you and the herbs, which act as anti-oxidants and has vitamin C, is a good thirst quencher especially as you are in sub-tropical climate and the average temperature is around 25 degrees Celsius with a very high humidity. It takes easily a couple of hours to see the 270 odd cataracts from various panoramic views and you have to spend almost the entire day to see the falls.  En route we also saw coaties which are type of raccoons and seem to be pretty friendly animals though it is best advised not to get very close to them.

Another activity which is worth doing is a boat trip on the gentle Iguazú river where you can view the falls and go in close proximity with the risk of getting fully drenched inspite of having a raincoat on. The boat trip in a large rubber-raft is worth it provided you carry a change of clothes or else you will come out soaking wet at the end of the trip. If you do have a Brazilian visa you can view the falls from the Brazilian side or else you can explore other exciting cities of Argentina.

SAY NAMASTE TO ARGENTINA

Argentina is truly a country of six continents and in my short trip of 7 days I got a glimpse of three unique experiences from the glaciers to the vibrant capital city and eventually the most majestic falls – truly the eight wonder of the world. I carried back pleasant memories of the land of Tango, Football, Wine, Adventure, Glaciers, Falls and much more.  From the Andes Mountains and Cuyo in the north to Patagonia in the south, Argentina truly attracts the discerning traveller. So pack your bags and get ready to say Namaste Argentina and explore a land full of varied experiences in one unique destination.

Plan Your Holidays  with the Argentina Specialists

Your Indian Connection to Argentina

http://www.namasteargentina.com

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