Tag Archives: Turkey

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 Travelogue, by Col. Davis & Geeta Davis

It was with a sense of anticipation and expectation that we planned a trip to Turkey, Austria and Hungary in May 2009 and surely we were not disappointed.

Our visit to Turkey began with Istanbul, the capital city of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. The city still ranks as one of the most ancient living cities of the world. The city was founded during the reign of Emperor Constantine. The Roman ruler desired to build a city that would rival Rome on the site of the old Greek colony of Byzantium at the entrance of the Bosphorus. This was dedicated in the early 4th century AD as Constantinople.

After we checked into our hotel, without losing any time we were taken to the Grand Topkapi Palace of the Ottoman Sultans. We were impressed by the palace, especially the sections that displayed jewels, precious stones, crystals, porcelain used by former sultans housed in the highly ornate halls. It is situated on a high ground from where one could have a panoramic view of the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara, separating Europe and Asia. Later our visit to the 15th century Grand Bazaar was an unforgettable experience because no where in the world is there such a huge covered market with decorated arches leading to various shopping areas – some 4000 shops full of treasures! After dinner we had an opportunity to see a traditional Turkish show that included belly dancing which was very enjoyable.

The next day included a visit to the old city Sultanahmet where the magnificent structures of St. Sophia and the Blue Mosque are located. We walked through the ancient Hippodrome of the Byzantine period which was the scene of games and races. There are three columns exhibited here – the obelisk, Serpentine Column and the Column of Constantine. Roman ruler Justinian left a majestic landmark – the basilica of St. Sophia, constructed around 535 AD. This is an architectural marvel when one considers the period in which it was constructed. The well-laid garden around was full of tulips and other flowers in full bloom which was a feast to the eyes. Later we visited the 16th century Sultanahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque because of the breathtaking intricate designs created with blue Iznik tiles. Of course a visit to Istanbul never ends without a cruise along the shores of the legendary Bosphorus. The waterway is lined with historic mansions and Baroque Palaces and the crowded skyline is dotted with dominating domes and tall minarets.

After Istanbul, we continued our long journey to Gallipoli along the highway overlooking the Sea of Marmara amidst the beautiful landscape. The Gallipoli Peninsula was the scene of the First World War. During the battles, thousands of soldiers from Australia and New Zealand sacrificed their lives. Even today the deployment of AZNAC troops (25th April 1915) is commemorated every year. We were engrossed with the numerous trenches, war cemeteries and a well-maintained museum. This region particularly evoked keen interest in me since my father was part of the Indian Army contingent which participated in the campaign. After ferrying across the Dardanelles straits we had a comfortable stay in a spacious resort by the sea shore at Canakkale.

Our visit to Troy the next morning was also interesting. We were amazed to see the excavations of consecutive civilizations dating back to 3500 BC. It reminded us of the legendary Trojan War – the Trojan horse that was used in the Hollywood movie Troy was displayed there. The siege of Troy took place about 1200BC. After a brief visit to a factory, manufacturing Onix products, semi precious stones and jewellery, we continued to Kusadasi – a quaint charming town skirting the Aegean Sea. From our hotel we could see the busy port right across the boulevard where cruise ships were docking everyday. It is a bustling town with the port handling about 650 ships a year. Hundreds of tourists disembarked and proceeded for the offshore excursion to Ephesus. Seeing the ships to the Greek Islands we longingly wished that we had time to visit these, though we had visas!

We left for Ephesus the next morning and we were literally transported to a bygone era of Roman civilization. Prior to occupation by the Romans, this was an ancient Greek city in the 6th century BC. It revealed to us a highly sophisticated Roman city with huge mansions, pathways, temples and theatres. We also saw the ruins of the temple of Artemis – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – the pillars which were incorporated in the structures of St. Sophia in Istanbul. We also visited the house of Virgin Mary, supposedly where St. John brought her to spend her final days.

On the way to Pamukkale the next day, we were taken to one of the famous leather garment production centres of the region. Later we visited the ancient Roman city of Hieropolis which is situated near the hot springs called the ‘Cotton Castle’ rising over 400 metres above the fertile Menderes Valley. Hot mineral water gushes out of the earth and cascades over cliffs forming limestone pools and streams – a very picturesque scene indeed. The therapeutic value of the springs was even known to the Romans! The hotel where we stayed had a thermal spa and was one of the best hotels in the region.

The following morning, we proceeded to our last destination – Cappadocia, the moonscape town. We enjoyed the drive from Denzile to Nevsehir in a luxury coach speeding through mountains dotted with villages, orchards, open fields and poplar trees.  We traversed the town of Isparta and a few huge lakes before reaching the plains of Konya in the Central Anatolian region with snow capped peaks at a distance. We were picked up by a travel representative at Nevsehir late in the evening and were taken to a lovely cave hotel in Cappadocia wherein every suite was carved into hillocks. The décor was keeping in touch with the archaic beauty and there was a personal touch and warmth about everything.

Cappadocia is a very unique place with fascinating conical volcanic formations created about 10 million years ago. It is a bizarre landscape with ravines and rock perched pinnacles spread over 400 square kilometres. We visited a number of caves, on the cliff where people lived and worshipped. There were churches built within the caves which still have well preserved Byzantine frescoes. Another amazing place is the Derinkuyu underground city where early Christians lived in hiding from Romans. It was indeed a wonder how they managed to live in such a self-sufficient manner. There were various living quarters, areas for storage of grains, place for cattle, ventilation shafts and much more. There was even a winery! We were taken down to about 25 metres, beyond which is prohibited due to safety concerns. The walk through a beautiful narrow valley along the river was enjoyable though a bit lengthy. The “Rose Walk” on the next day through volcanic formations was fascinating. In the afternoon, we were taken to a factory in Avanos which had a fantastic collection of pottery. Later in the evening, we were picked up for our flight from Kayseri to Istanbul. After a few hours of rest in the hotel we were back at Istanbul airport again for our second leg of tour – Austria!

We had a wonderful tour of Turkey for 10 days and we cherish the memories! The tour was very well organized by Namaste Turkey, Mumbai at a very competitive price!

Interview with N. Sevgi Boz, Culture and Tourism Counsellor of Turkey

N. SEVGI BOZ State Culture and Tourism Counsellor of Turkey shares with us her views on Turkey promotion in India.

How long have you been the Culture and Tourism Counsellor in India and how has tourism to Turkey grown during this period?

I have been in India since the beginning of 2008. We started a new office and I had started first as the Counsellor of Culture and Tourism. India is a big market and one of the largest emerging markets for Turkey recently. India is a very special country and Turkey has a very warm and friendly relationship with India based on our diverse cultural connections. The Turkish Government realizes the importance of having a base in India and decided to open a new Culture and Tourism Office. Our office is part of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism and one of the 40 offices across the globe and a part of Turkish Embassy in Delhi.

We are primarily here because of the importance of the growing Indian market and we thought that we needed to create awareness in the minds of Indian people about Turkey as a destination. We see that many Indians do not know much about Turkey beyond Istanbul which is quite a famous destination. Most Indians do not have enough information about what Turkey has to offer beyond Istanbul. We want to promote Turkey as a holiday destination. We have a holiday destination campaign which we are marketing extensively in India. We are participating in expos, travel and trade fairs and trying to reach the travel agents and the end consumers as well.  We are also organizing Familiarization trips as well as training workshops.

Where in India do you actively promote Turkey?

Initially, we conducted a workshop covering five important cities of India: Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Chennai. There were almost 16 travel companies that came from Turkey to participate in this workshop followed by another 14 companies and we had 10 travel companies participating in the TTF/OTM this year.

We want people to catch up with the most important holiday period during April and May. It is the Tulip season as well. For the last two years we are constantly encouraging Indian writers and media persons to write about Turkey. We are inviting them to Turkey so they can have a personal and firsthand experience. We have allocated funds to arrange trips of Indian travel writers. As a Turkish national, I know Turkey well but if people hear firsthand experiences from an Indian traveller then the whole perspective changes. Maybe our experiences vary from the Indians, so if they see, hear and read something from Indian writers then they can relate to it better.

One of the best ways to promote a destination is via cinema. Are you encouraging Indian movies to be shot on location in Turkey?

From the beginning we have been encouraging films to be shot in Turkey as we know Bollywood is the largest film producing industry in the world. Bollywood movies have an audience spread across the world. Not only Indians but many other foreign nationals also take keen interest in watching Bollywood films. We know the importance of Bollywood. We are very eager to support Indian film makers to come and shoot in Turkey. We are also looking forward to having an Indian celebrity as our brand ambassador that should follow in a span of time.

What are the special activities to be held in Istanbul as it has been selected to be a European Capital of Culture for 2010?


Istanbul is the gateway city of Turkey and one of the most famous destinations. It has also been declared to be a European Capital of Culture for 2010 by the European Union. Throughout the year there will be many festivals and art exhibitions. For example, the Tulip is the symbol of Istanbul and the Minister of Istanbul has decided to decorate Istanbul with tulips. It is the only city in the entire world that is based in two continents, Asia and Europe. Napoleon once said “That if ever the World has to have one single Capital then it has to be Istanbul.” It is also called the melting pot of 3 continents.

How many visitors are travelling to Turkey each year from India?

In 2009, we did not reach the expected number of Indian visitors because of the economic crisis. We received approximately 55000 visitors from India last year.  In 2007, it was 45000. That means an increase of 10000 people in 2 years. These numbers are good but not enough. Big numbers are expected in 2010 and we are promoting Turkey exclusively and aggressively to the Indian market and tapping the great potential of Indian travellers. We see everything settled for the travel industry between India and Turkey this year.

Overall, how many tourists visit Turkey from all over the world?

Turkey receives more than 27 million visitors from across the globe every year. There are nearly 5 million people traveling from Germany followed by Russia with nearly 3 million. Then we have a large number of people traveling from England, Netherland and France.  The entire European market is very important for us.


Now that there are direct and daily flights to Turkey from Delhi and Mumbai and with the new Consulate General opened in Mumbai, do you see forthcoming remarkable growth?

We are definitely going to see a remarkable growth this year. All participants in travel expos and travel fairs have given us very positive feedback as they are expecting a lot more people to visit Turkey this year. All those who have participated in these events are very hopeful and I look forward to a successful year ahead for the Turkish tour operators, our Indian partners and us at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. We are expecting the number of Indian visitors to reach 100000. All I can say is that Turkey is ready.

For a first time traveller, what is the recommended minimum number of days to get a good glimpse of Turkey?

We are promoting Turkey as a traditional, historical, and cultural destination which also emphasizes adventure, sport activities, hospitality, shopping opportunities, golf, leisure and family activities and honeymoon options.

To even begin experiencing Turkey in its fullest, you would require a minimum of a month. Unfortunately, that is not possible for every traveller.

Istanbul is the gateway city and no trip can be started without a visit to Istanbul. We recommend Indian travellers a minimum of 3 days in Istanbul and then they can combine the Western part of Turkey. We strongly recommend exploring beyond Istanbul beginning with Cappadocia and the Aegean coast and the Mediterranean Coast. We have noticed however that Indian travellers are not as attracted to seaside holidays as Europeans. That trend is slowly changing and Turkey’s coasts are certainly worth a visit. Thus Istanbul and Cappadocia would be a good combination or Istanbul, Cappadocia and Antalya or Istanbul, Aegean Coast and Antalya. A minimum of 10 days is a must so that you can see the major attractions in the Western part of Turkey.

After having spent two years in India, what is your opinion of India as a tourism destination?

India is a fantastic and vibrant country. Before coming here, it was my dream to visit India as a tourist. Fortunately, now I am appointed as its Culture and Tourism Counsellor for Turkey.

Since the beginning I have been trying to explore as much of India as possible.  So far, we have been able to visit Delhi, Shimla, Jaipur, Bangalore, Chennai and of course Agra which is the Mecca for tourists, and needless to say Mumbai.

As a family, I would like to visit Kerala for its backwaters, Jammu and Kashmir to experience the breathtaking landscapes, South India to visit the temples and national parks, and also go up north to Haridwar and Mussoorie. India has lots of attractions to offer and if time permits we will try to discover more before going back to Turkey.

What is your opinion on Namaste Turkey as a concept to promote Turkish tourism to Indian travellers?

Namaste Turkey (www.namasteturkey.com) is a warm and welcoming concept. It is very informative and useful for the Indian traveller to Turkey. The platform establishes good relations between India and Turkey and I appreciate the efforts of Namaste Turkey in promoting tourism exchange between our two countries.  I wish the team of Namaste Turkey the very best.

Lastly, what is your message to Indian travellers visiting Turkey this year?

I would like to invite all Indians to Turkey. This year is especially significant as Istanbul has been chosen to be a European Capital of Culture. However there is much more to Turkey than Istanbul so I would also recommend visiting places beyond Istanbul such as Kusadasi, Antalya and Cappadocia. I believe that Turkey will never let its guests down.

12 Months, 12 Destinations

JANUARY: Australia

Australia – the land of kangaroos and koalas – is home to range of tourism icons from one of the most scenic ocean drives to the only natural wonder visible from the moon.

Apart from its picturesque beaches and iconic Opera House, Australia is known for its natural miracle – Uluru (also known as Ayer’s Rock). This huge monolith that changes colour according to the time of the day is also the world’s largest single rock mass. Then there is Vivid Sydney, the festival of colour and music in which the Sydney Opera House lights up like never before. Swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef or catch a crab at Terranora Lakes. Explore the exhaustive flora of the world’s oldest rainforest, Daintree or snorkel amidst vibrant coral and exotic fish at the world’s largest living organism. So refreshing and charming is the Great Barrier Reef that taking care of Hamilton Island off the reef coast has been mooted as the “Best Job in the World.”  And when you are done with everything, head northwest where Roebuck Bay offers you the romantic spectacle of a lifetime. On full moon nights at low tide, the moonlight gets so reflected on the undulating land and sea that a magical staircase leading to the moon appears! It is easy to fall in love.

FEBRUARY: New Zealand

From bungee jumping to zorbing to the more traditional activities of skiing and trekking, New Zealand has some of the best adventure sports facilities in the world.

For those keen on adventure, New Zealand is a heaven without limits. Taupo offers the opportunity to jump with a friend from a height of 5000 metres. Mount Cook has the fascinating provision of helicopter landing right on top of a glacier – an unforgettable experience. As if this was not enough, two of its cities are the world’s premier adventure sites – so much so that Queenstown is called the Adventure Capital of the World and Auckland is billed as the City of Sails. Apart from the world of adventure, New Zealand also offers some exotic experiences. Rainbow Springs in Rotorua boasts of a Kiwi encounter. Waitomo has underground caves which are illuminated naturally by thousands of glowworms. And the southernmost point of New Zealand, Stirling Point boasts of a “hundred percent pure” snow mountain experience not found anywhere else.

MARCH: Egypt

Egypt is not only home to the only surviving wonder of the ancient world.  The resort town of Sharm El Sheikh is world famous for diving and snorkeling

Does Egypt conjure up images of monuments thousands of years old? Cairo has so many tombs of the ancient pharaohs that a part of it is called the “City of the Dead”. Luxor, regarded as the largest open air museum in the world, is an entire city that has battled 4000 years of time. Abu Simbel is a millennia old temple carved out of a single piece of rock. Mount Moses was where the Ten Commandments were first spoken. But not many know that Egypt also has a lot to offer someone who wants a laidback holiday. With splendid beaches at Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh and the Pearl of the Mediterranean – Alexandria, along with a lazy trek through the Black Desert, it is a mixed bag.

APRIL:  Spain

Being a land of diversity – from bull fights to major sporting events to fine wines and diverse cultures to the most unusual festivals – Spain is a country worth exploring.

They say there is not just one Spain, but many. There is the Spain of Barcelona with its stunning Gaudi architecture and smart shopping streets. There is the Spain of historical landmarks like the world’s oldest lighthouse in Galicia, the medieval wonder of the Mosque of Cordoba and the romantic Moorish palace of Alhambra. There is the Spain of adventure with the active volcano treks of Tenerife and both skiing and sunbathing in the same place in Andalusia. The Spain of Ibiza with its dazzling beaches and exotic resorts is a different world altogether; the island is mooted as the Party Capital of the World. And then there is the most unforgettable Spain, that cannot be missed – the Spain of Seville’s amazing pre-Easter fiesta, Madrid’s unique bull-festival and Buñol’s ravishing La Tomatina food fight festival.

MAY: Turkey

Istanbul is the European Capital of Culture for 2010 and also the only city in two continents. It hosts the F1 Grand Prix in May 2010 and is the ideal hub to visit various wonders of Turkey.

For anyone wanting to uncover a world of ancient civilizations, Turkey is heaven. From the ruins of Troy to the Roman remnants of Ephesus and from the ancient mosque of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul to the sculptures of Mount Nemrut, Turkey is soaked in history. Yet it also has unique experiences to offer. Experience what it would be like to live in a cave hotel at Cappadocia. Raft along the rapids of Çoruh River – one of the fastest in the world. Gaze in wonder at the cotton castle of Pamukkale – hot springs naturally filled up in spectacular rock formations. Trek up Mount Ararat which legend says was the only place high enough for Noah’s Ark to land. And lap it all up with a historic Blue Voyage cruise along the Turkish Riviera. And last but not least, experience the city at the crossroads of cultures and continents as well as being a European Capital of Culture in 2010, Istanbul.

JUNE: South Africa

South Africa – the Rainbow Nation – has hosted a myriad of Indian experiences from Bollywood shoots, fashion extravaganzas, IPL and now hosts FIFA 2010 – the biggest sporting event of the year.

South Africa boasts of the Big Five of Africa’s greatest wild animals – the lion, leopard, elephant, wild buffalo and rhinoceros – all of which can be found roaming oblivious to the ruckus of the world in their natural habitats at Kruger National Park, one of the most beautiful nature reserves of the world. Even outside of Kruger, South Africa offers unique glimpses into the lives of animals, rarely found elsewhere. Stroll with penguins at the Cape Peninsula. Cage dive at Gansbaai to experience the thrill of being within inches of perilous white sharks. Pet a cheetah near Cape Town. And when done with it, explore the other fascinating facets of this country which is also well known for its beautiful cities and archaeological marvels. The city of Cape Town has been rated the “World’s Best City” by London newspaper, Telegraph. Durban boasts of Africa’s largest shopping mall. Vredefort Dome offers a peek at the biggest meteor crater on Earth. And Sterkfontein presents the fascinating opportunity of seeing 2 million year old human bones being excavated.

JULY: Scandinavia

The National Geographic channel has rated the Fjords of Norway as the best place to be in the world and Denmark and Sweden are ranked amongst the top 5 happiest nations – thus making Scandinavia a must visit for all.

Scandinavia provides a refreshing world in summer when it is known as the “Land of the Midnight Sun.”There is also the beauty of snow-peaked mountains from the Bergen to Kirkenes Cruise in Norway that the Fjords through which the cruise passes have been declared the “Best Place in the World” by National Geographic. Not far behind is the Copenhagen Cruise which is Europe’s leading cruise destination. An interesting fact about Scandinavia is that it offers natural attractions like no other country owing to its cold climate. Travel on a reindeer sled as you watch the Northern Lights or watch polar bears at Svalbard. Feel how it is at Andenes, a place where the sun never sets. Live in the world’s largest ice hotel which is rebuilt from fresh ice every year in the Swedish Lapland. Simulate the experience of skiing and jumping down 60 metres of slope from one of the world’s oldest ski-jumps. And then of course there is something about the Scandinavian Christmas that no one can beat – meeting the real Santa at the Arctic Circle.

AUGUST: France

Fashion, gastronomy, the fastest train, fine beaches, castle stays, wine and romantic river cruises make France a country that appeals to all.

The Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum are so popular throughout the world that France hardly needs any introduction. Not many know however that France also offers many more unforgettable experiences that have made it the most visited tourist destination in the world; Like barging along the river Seine at twilight as the majestic Eiffel Tower slides by; Or living in a 200 year old heritage castle in the Loire Valley; Or tasting one of the world’s best champagnes in the region of Champagne in northern France; or forgetting the cares of the world while relaxing on a beach at the French Riviera; Or gasping with excitement while travelling in the world’s fastest train from Paris to Lille; Or enjoying tantalizing delicacies served in chivalrous French fashion at Lyon – the gastronomical Capital of the World; Or witnessing the Wonder of the Western World that Mont St Michel is regarded as; Or taking part in one of the world’s largest Christian pilgrimages at Lourdes; France is a must-visit destination in 2010.

SEPTEMBER: Germany

2010 is a year of several celebrations for Germany – from the Passion Play to 200 years of Beer Fest, 300 years of Porcelain and the 200th birthday of Robert Schumann, Germany is a nation of unity amongst diversity.

2010 is definitely the year to visit Germany. Along with the Ruhr Valley being a European Capital of Culture, the “world’s biggest party” Oktoberfest will also celebrate its 200th anniversary in Munich when more than six million people are expected to surrender themselves to a festival of food, shopping and beer. The legendary Oberammergau Passion Play which takes place every 10 years will also occur in 2010. To make it even better, shop at Europe’s best Christmas Market in Nuremberg. Traverse the scenic locales of the Romantic Road and Black Forest. Experience the magic of the fairy tale castle of Neuschwanstein. Stroll through the biggest cities of the world in miniature at Hamburg. Taste a slice of history at the tallest church in the world at Ulm. And be mesmerized at nature’s diversity as you take a peep at 1400 species of animals at Berlin Zoo – the largest in the world.

OCTOBER: Central Europe

Central Europe – still to adopt the Euro currency – is a great value for money region comprising of the Visegrád quartet of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

If all of Europe’s prime temptations were bundled up and offered at a discounted price, we would be talking of Central Europe. The Czech Republic abounds with castles hundreds of years old including the largest castle in the world – the Prague Castle. Prague itself boasts of a subtle blend of a glorious past and excellent modern infrastructure and is aptly called the City of a Hundred Spires. And as if to make up for the elegant charms of Paris, there is Budapest – the Paris of the East. Relax in the lap of nature at Masurian Lake district which boasts 2000 lakes. Trek at the Tatra Mountains, long favoured by Bollywood to portray natural beauty. Enjoy adventure sports at the world’s leading green resort AquaCity in Slovakia or dine at Europe’s oldest restaurant in Krakow.

NOVEMBER: Austria

From Sachertorte to Mozart’s birthplace to imperial palaces, Austria is truly a class apart.

Just over 250 years ago, Austria’s love affair with music began when Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born. It continues till today at Mozart’s birthplace of Salzburg – which hosts the world famous Salzburg Festival of Music every year. It is therefore not a surprise that the Academy Award-winning musical “Sound of Music” was shot almost entirely in Austria. But music is not Austria’s only asset. Its capital Vienna offers such a varied cocktail of architectural specimens, shopping and cuisine that it is often called “Europe’s Main Street.” Austria is also home to the world’s most expensive crystal – the Swarovski crystal which has an entire museum dedicated to it near Innsbruck. Nature too has been very kind with this cultural paradise. The Hohe Tauern National Park is the Alps’ largest Nature Reserve while Eisriesenwelt has the world’s largest ice caves. And for the historically inclined there is the archeological park of Carnuntum where a 2000 year old Roman city has been reconstructed.  To add to all this is the unique Museum of the Future in Linz completed in 2009 which depicts the state of Earth decades from now.

DECEMBER: Jordan

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is easily accessible with visas on arrival for Indians and offers a truly royal experience.

If one phrase had to describe what Jordan has to offer, it would be “The Land of History, Mystery and Mythology.” At Jerash in northern Jordan, actors immaculately dressed as Roman Warriors enact a stunning display of ancient civilizations with fast paced Chariot Races and Gladiator Fights. The desert castles of the east are some of the finest and earliest examples of Islamic art in the world. Incidentally one of the holiest places for Christians around the world is in Jordan too. “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” is where Jesus was baptized. For a cocktail of adventure and history, follow Lawrence of Arabia’s trail in the Wadi Rum desert or explore the Treasury of Indiana Jones fame at Petra. And to relax royally as the kings of yore, take a dip in the 1700 year old Turkish bath at Aqaba. Interestingly, as if to add a modern touch to its glorious historical heritage, Jordan’s capital Amman has one of the best collections of super luxury vintage cars in the world belonging to the royalty and are now part of the Royal Automobile Museum.