Is there truly a better way to explore a place than on foot? With no vehicular restrictions and a pace that can be controlled, a walk through a town’s historic centre, a clamber up a challenging mountain road or a stroll through city streets magnifies the thrill of discovery tenfold. From scenic walks across Esztergom, Hungary and Shakespeare’s house in Stratford-Upon-Avon to challenging hikes and treks in Uttarakhand and Nairobi—our readers share their ‘walks to remember’.
When I was young, I had saved a newspaper clipping of breathtaking monastery perched at a cliff’s edge with me for years. Turns out, this was the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, in Paro, Bhutan, a site which I visited 16 years later, for my son’s second birthday. Also known as the Paro Taktsang or Taktsang Palphug, the monastery is located 3,120 meters above sea level.
With my infant son in my arms, we started our hike around 8.45 a.m. from the base of the mountain to reach the monastery. After ascending 700 steps, crossing a large waterfall and a bridge, we climbed another 300 stairs and made it to the monastery, gazing out at the the majestic Paro valley below.
Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Paro, Bhutan. Photo Courtesy: Chaitra Arjunpuri
I had planned a solo trip to Seville when I was stationed in Madrid for work. The place is fairly easy and safe to navigate on foot. So, I decided to start with The Royal Alcázar of Seville, an exemplary palace designed in various styles of architecture. I then visited the Giralda, a bell tower of the Seville Cathedral; before touring Plaza de España, a famous square in Seville; and Plaza de Toros, the largest and most important arena for bullfighting in Spain. I had also booked a guided tour of the Jewish quarters, which took me through the colourful neighbourhood of Santa Cruz. I also packed in a quick tour of Cordoba, located two hours away. The people there have a tradition of decorating their houses with bright coloured potted plants. I strolled the street of Calleja de las Flores, where every single house was something out of a fairytale. I absorbed the rich history of the Mezquita-Catedral and walked on the 1,085-foot Roman bridge of Córdoba that dates back to the 1st Century B.C. I was blown away by the region’s rich culture and history.
A walk along Stratford-upon-Avon, U.K.. Photo Courtesy: Saahil Agnelo Periwal
A stall at the Stratford Town Centre Food Festival. Photo Courtesy: Saahil Agnelo Periwal
In the summer of 2019, my sister and I were fortunate enough to visit the idyllic market town of Stratford-upon-Avon during our U.K. sojourn. After visiting Stratford’s most iconic attraction—William Shakespeare’s house–we strolled through doors of the Royal Shakespeare Company—an experience which helped bring our favourite works of literature to life.
Fortunately, our visit coincided with the famous Stratford Town Centre Food Festival. Apart from the pleasant revelry, there were endless delicacies to feast on. And before we could walk off the extra calories, the English rain played spoilsport. It all ended quickly, leaving us to lament, “…and summer’s lease hath all too short a date!”
One of the biggest draws from my Taipri trip of 2017, was the Shilin Night Market, which also happens to be one of the most bustling regions in the city. Unable to cover the grounds in a single night, I strolled through its streets over the course of two days. From delicacies like the Taiwanese tempura, to bubble tea and variations of tofu to fabric and souvenirs, one can find everything they need, here.
Even as a female solo traveller, I felt so safe walking around the night market. Shilin is well connected to the metro station, though it’s convenient to take a taxi at midnight to reach the market without hassle.
In the summer of 2019, I took a memorable road trip through Croatia with my brother. On our last day, we decided to visit Lake Bled in Slovenia. As we parked the car and got closer to the lake, we were in awe of the view stretching out for miles ahead of us. I quickly searched for the closest viewpoint, which turned out to be an hour’s hike, and off we went! The weather didn’t particularly agree with us, as the clouds grew darker above us, the journey was made more challenging, considering we didn’t have any hiking gear and I was carrying my camera equipment. Somehow, we huffed and puffed our way to the top, where we found wooden picnic tables littering an expanse of natural forests.
All of that effort turned out to be worth it when we saw the view from the top, and the dark clouds outlining the Slovenian Alps. Straight out of a postcard!
On a solo adventure to Rajasthan, I took an impromptu detour to Jaisalmer, where I lived in the eponymous fort and explored the backroads, which looked like a place straight out of my favourite childhood film, The Mummy, set in faraway Egypt. Discovering the town (which has remained unchanged for over eight centuries) on foot felt surreal. Hawa Pol, also known as Wind Pol, caught my attention. Irrespective of the time of day or the month, standing near this gate is equivalent to standing atop a windy hillock, a respite to the sweltering heat. I even spent a night camping in the Thar desert and walked barefoot on the sand dunes.
Lake Naivasha, Nairobi. Photo Courtesy: Nishita Singh Jandu
I undertook a series of hikes around Lake Naivasha, Nairobi, encountering a valley that ran from Beqaa Valley, Lebanon to Mozambique, South Africa–an expanse of approximately 7000 kilometres. During my first hike, I took in a Cherubi Village, Mt. Longonot (a stratovolcano) and Lake Bogoria. On my second, I chanced upon a zebra with its baby, swans out for an evening swim and baboons swinging between trees. It was all capped off when I made my way back, stopping to watch a giraffes sauntering to the jungle’s edge, a light drizzle only adding to the grand spectacle.
The hike from Cherrapunji’s Tyrna village up to Nongriat, where the world’s only double decker root bridge is located, is spectacular. The first half of the nearly six-hours trail through small khasi hamlets revealed a lush green view of the Garo-Khasi hills. With no sound, save the incessant birds chirping and wind rustling through the forests, the setting couldn’t have been more theatrical.
The path ahead posed numerous hurdles including navigating a mossy, leech-infested trail that led to two iron rope bridges, which swayed to the gusty winds. The 17-foot-long bridge made of a local rubber plant used by villagers for their daily commute finally came into view: a postcard-worthy backdrop of a waterfall with a natural pool. Below, fellow hikers took a plunge into the pool and I followed suit. A hot bowl of spicy jadoh and nakham bitchi from the stalls at Tyrna were the much needed closure to my spellbinding experience.
On my solo trip to Austria, I made a stop at the beautiful city of Salzburg. I set off on foot to see the cultural and historic centre, first enjoying the magnificent Mirabell gardens followed by Mozart’s birthplace, the Domplatz, Mozart Square and Mozartplatz fountain. The splendid medieval buildings, horse carriages, and people dressed in traditional attires, teleported me to the 18th century. I shelved my plans to go to the Hohensalzburg castle, and took the advice of a local to see the Mönchsberg plateau instead. I walked through the woods and meadows to first reach Richterhöhe—the highest point on the Mönchsberg at 1,660 feet, and then Aufzug, both of which offer spectacular vistas into different directions of the region. The walk back to my B&B, led me to crossing the Müllner steg (bridge) with the medieval Baroque architecture of the Old Town on the other side of river Salzach serving as a glorious backdrop.
I first visited England in December 2019, and a rain-soaked London welcomed me. As soon as the skies cleared up, I decided to explore the city on foot. I walked to the famous Tower bridge, where tourists lined up to take photos. That is where I met a fellow solo traveller from South Korea, whom I instantly connected with. We spent the day together visited a museum, walked to the Thames and the Borough market. She suggested a few musicals I could catch that week. We stopped to grab coffee and took pictures of the place. In between sips of the brew, the conversation swirled around travelling in Europe, our home countries and food. We grabbed dinner later that night before parting ways. When I look back at my trip, I think back to this stranger about whom I knew very little. Yet I forged a beautiful connection in a city unbeknownst to me.
A still from Varanasi. Photo Courtesy: Tejas Ghate
I visited Varanasi in monsoon when the ghats were practically non-existent because of the flooded river. Every street had a surprise in store for me. I met a fourth-generation sculptor devoted to his family’s idol-making legacy, visited a 200-year-old akhara, and climbed a hidden step well inside a temple complex far away from the tourist attractions. Add to this visual treat, the aroma of kachori sabzi, aloo chaat and the famous Banarasi paan emanating from every nook and corner. My search for the ‘perfect paan’ ended in a realisation that there is no such thing! Every paanwala in Banaras has a different way of making paan. What is common to all of them is the precision with which they are prepared.
Hiking across the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage villages in Italy’s Cinque Terre in 2018 was a unique experience. While it is easy to be dazzled by the pretty, shimmering waters and slow strolls between gelato stops, each of the Cinque Terre towns have a rich history. A botanical garden and bird watching centre sits on a rocky facade up the hill from its pebbly beach in Riomaggiore. The grapevines that surround Manarola produce the Cinque Terre wine Sciacchetrà, and the promenade lined with fishing boats is a reminder of everyday village life. Vernazza’s characteristic narrow lanes rise almost vertically, a maze of stairs and tiny terraces, with big blue sea views popping at every turn. Corniglia’s tangled streets lead to a broad and breezy sea-facing terrace, the only vantage point from which you can see all five villages at once.
When I visited the Skogafoss waterfalls in Iceland in 2019, a co-traveller from Australia and I decided to go to Kvernufoss, a secret waterfall that he said not a lot of people knew about. We drove to a pin on the map, parked our cars and started walking.
We arrived at a thin fence, with a tiny stair to get to the other side. We climbed on it, and started hiking. After a long while, I still couldn’t see the waterfalls, so I wasn’t totally sure if we were at the right spot. After a while, we heard the sound of the waterfalls at a distance. What came next was a spectacular sight: a stunning waterfall that was 30 metres high. We climbed up to the crest of the falls and got close to gushing water. I took some photos and then we hiked back to the cars.
En route the 35-kilometre hike connecting the beaches in Kelshi to Ladghar. Photo Courtesy: Vidhi Dedhia
The 35-kilometre hike connecting the beaches in Kelshi to Ladghar, situated on the coast of Maharashtra, is stunning. Through the hike, I crossed 10 beaches, four creek crossings, one sea fort and two land forts, cherishing every moment to the fullest.
On my first visit to Spain in March 2019, our tour director took me on the other side of the Puente de Isabel II Bridge, to explore Triana—a neighborhood in Seville where he grew up. The beauty of Triana is its small, quaint streets, colourful houses, local pottery makers, bakeries. I picked up the famous saffron and olive oil of Seville at the Mercado de Triana. Then we passed by the Castle of San Jorge, as the tour director enlightened me about the history and cultural origins of Seville and Triana as we walked down those streets. We stopped at the Cathedral Iglesia de Santa Ana, which was very beautiful from the inside, with a lot of paintings. Then we sat for a while in front of a musician playing in the street and street dancers practicing for the night shows of flamenco, before making our way back to the bridge.
Back in September 2019, I began documenting traditions associated with Durga Puja across royal zamindari houses when I discovered several old bonedi baris, tucked away in the quiet bylanes of old Kolkata, unidentified on any popular maps used by travellers.
While walking through the narrow alleys of the Pathuriaghata neighbourhood, I stumbled upon a household puja in progress in a dilapidated residence, with only an ominous warning inscribed outside ‘Beware, Dangerous House’. Perhaps it was a ruse to keep curious eyes away from the rapturous musical Saptami celebrations that I witnessed, a confluence of the tabla and the sitarheightened by the good old dhaak’s hypnotic rhythms.
Fourteen years ago, when my husband and I were honeymooning in New Zealand—we were at the Franz Jozef Glacier, exploring the flora around the place on foot. We reached what could be called the base of the glacier and it was a magnificent sight to behold. We were so thoroughly enjoying our walk that we had not realized that we had walked across to the other side of the walk and there were barely any visitors on that side with us. One person told us to hurry and cross over as suddenly the water level at the base had started rising and was gushing. I must have had some blessing as I finally managed to reach dry land. I was soaked and shivering and caught a furious cold that refused to leave me for the month or so.
Last month, we went trekking in the Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli. Having walked for long distances, from Ghangaria to Govindghat, we came across a little stream, alongside which was a huge boulder from where, one had a beautiful view of the valley. In that moment we felt so grateful to have completed such a long trek together. When the time came to trek back down to Ghangaria we did not want to leave, but knowing that the Valley is always going to be there, as magnificent as ever, waiting to welcome us back was motivation enough.
The small town of Leer, Germany. Photo Courtesy: Subhasish Dutta
On our trip to the northern German coast, my girlfriend and I roamed the old, narrow alleys of a small town called Leer, its streets flanked by red brick houses and cute little coffee shops. Prep for a weekly flower market was underway. Finally, we reached the harbour along Leda river, lined by boats from Germany and Netherlands. Sitting at the promenade and watching the coastal town slowly awaken as we polished off our herring sandwiches, we realised that this detour will remain a beloved memory for long.
On a solo tour to Budapest, I ambled about Esztergom, a Hungarian town from the medieval ages that had also been the country’s capital. I started my walk towards the famous Esztergom Basilica, the largest church and the tallest building in Hungary, passed the famous Széchényi Square, and had lunch and beer at a local restaurant. Finally, I could see the gorgeous dome of the Basilica which also houses a castle in its green campus. On the way, I spied posters for the Hungarian circus, apparently still a big draw here. After a steep hike to the castle and the Basilica grounds, I went to the other side overlooking the Víziváros (Watertown) by the Danube.
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