Northern lights which is also called as Aurora Borealis or dancing lights are caused by collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun when it enters the earth atmosphere. The lights are mostly visible above the northern or southernmost hemispheres and closer to the magnetic poles.
I have always been fascinated by Astrophysics since my college days and I was very close to pursuing my career in Astrophysics when I was invited for an interview with MP Birla Institute, even though I did not study what fascinated me the most, I never let the passion for astronomy die down. It’s that passion which took me to Iceland in chase of those Green Lights but unfortunately, I was unlucky. When one is adamant, you never let go of it easily. When I learnt that Northern Lights can be seen from Canada as well, I did so much research to know the best places to see the lights and have visited most of dark night preserves only to come disappointed mostly because of overcast or the lights were very weak.
Finally, when we were in Victoria, BC, there was an alert on my phone that Northern Lights will be visible from most parts of Canada and off we went looking for less light polluted area and after a long wait lights finally made her way into the dark sky but very weak. For the naked eye, we could only see dancing grey lights which is very hard to even know its northern lights, but I knew instantly what we were seeing was what we have been chancing for so long. Even though it was not what I always anticipated it to be, I am extremely happy to have captured under the lens and to have lived that experience. My hunt for stronger lights will continue, until then here are some pictures:
Kanyakumari is the Southernmost tip of India in the state of Tamil Nadu. At this very place, we get to see the union of three oceans Indian Ocean, Arabian Ocean and Bay of Bengal. It is mostly famous for religious purpose as most of the tourist come here to visit the famous and most ancient temple of Goddess Kanyakumari who prayed to Lord Shiva to be accepted as his wife.
How to get here?
Kanyakumari makes it for a very good road trip as you can visit many tourist locations on the way or in and around Kanyakumari. There is other mode of transports as well and its very well connected to Thiruvananthapuram International Airport by flight or by Train.
Where to Stay?
Kanyakumari is crowded any time of the year, so try making an early booking or else you will have to settle in for not so popular hotels. Some hotels with good reviews are Sparsa Resort, The Seashore Hotel and Hotel Temple Citi.
Places to Visit
- Swami Vivekananda Memorial: Its a belief that Swami Vivekananda swam to this rock and meditated in quest for enlightenment. For me this is one of the finest piece of architecture in India.
- Thiruvalluvar Statue: Thiruvalluvar was a very well known poet in Tamil Nadu and this 133 feet tall stone sculpture was constructed in his memory.
- Kumari Amman Temple: This is the most gorgeous looking goddess and everything about this goddess is so surreal but photography is not allowed in the temple.
- Sunset Point: Its really worth taking that extra effort to get here early for a good view of Sunset, its simple the best sunset I have ever seen.
- Thirparappu Falls: We did not get time to visit the falls but don’t miss it and make the same mistake as us.
Beauty of the world is what makes one a traveler!
As a kid did you ever draw a cute little house surrounded by trees, a stream flowing by the house, a garden in front, birds flying in the clear blue sky and you standing on the bridge admiring the beauty? Well, if you did and ever dreamed of picture coming into reality, visit Manitoulin island.
One word for this place is DREAMY, you can just keep driving around the Island without the urge to return back and you will easily get lost in the beauty. Calm, rejuvenating, peaceful, friendly and so different from rest of Ontario. No wonder the Ontario’s prettiest village Kagawong is located on this Island.
How to Get there?
You can either reach the place by land or water. Our suggestion is take the sea and return by land. We took the Chi-Cheemaun from Tobermory to South Baymouth and drove back. Driving back from Manitoulin to Toronto would give you lot of opportunity to visit so many Provincial Parks on the way.
www.ontarioferries.com/Chi-cheemaun make early reservations.
Where to Stay?
If you ask me, don’t look beyond Gordon’s Park. We visited Manitoulin as we wanted to visit Gordon Park’s dark night preserve to see the Milky Way and Northern Lights. This is just one of the places in Ontario which has dark night preserve and offers accommodation ranging from Star Gazing Cabins, Tipi Tenting, Milky Way Bunkie and B&B’s. Make sure to book in advance.
Visit www.gordonspark.com for more information.
What is in stored for you?
- Bridal Veil Falls
- Kagawong Village: Museum, Lighthouse and the don’t miss to visit the Chocolate Factory.
- Cup and Saucer Trail: Make sure the trail is open and plan accordingly as these trails are closed at times.
- Gordon’s Park, if you are not staying here make sure to attend their Astronomy Session.
- Providence Bay Beach
- If you are visiting in summer, make sure you visit during the First Nations Pow-wow dance contest. It’s also an opportunity to learn about their culture, language and history.
PS: Google Maps are no good here, so ask the friendly locals for direction.
It’s worth every minute spent on this Island rich in Culture, heritage and history. You will be amused how much knowledge you gain learning about Ontario and the locals who shared their land with each one of us.
You blink, its gone. That’s exactly how Summer is in Canada. There are some conventional things we all do every summer, like visiting Central Island, Scarborough Bluff, Zoo, African Lion Safari and beaches, though we very religiously visit these places every summer, there are other things that we have enjoyed doing out of ordinary, sharing a few experiences here:
Cheltenham Badlands: About an hour from Toronto, Badlands makes a very good day outing for adults and kids, especially if you haven’t seen anything like this before. Badlands are dry terrain where sedimentary rocks and clay rich soils have been eroded. (it was closed for public last year so check before you go).
Address: 1501 0 1901 Olde Base Line Road, Caledon, ON
Lavender Farm: Though, there are a lot of lavender farms in and around Toronto, we visited “Terre Bleu Lavender Farm”. It simply takes you to a fairy land with the fresh lavender smell. They also have picnic tables, who wouldn’t like to eat overlooking beautiful flowers. Don’t miss their lavender Ice cream.
Address: 2501, 25 Side Road, Campbellville, ON
Thousand Islands, Kingston: National Park which is closest to Toronto is Thousand Island National park which is just about 2.5 hours drive. If you fancy seeing a castle, tons of Islands, lighthouse, beautiful waterfront houses then take the cruise, relax and enjoy cruising through the island.
Harbourfront Boat Tour: We visit Toronto Harbourfront every year during summer as it has such a lively atmosphere and there is something going on during summertime every single day. We had also seen a lot of sail boats, though we have been on cruise, ships and boats, we had never been on a sail boat. It was such an amazing experience sailing on Kajama and the view of Toronto Skyline was mesmerizing.
Blue Jays Game: If you are living in Toronto, you definitely know how crazy people are about Baseball season. You will not understand until you actually attend a game to witness yourself. Though, I had no clue about the rules or how the game is played, we still went to watch a match. Sitting in Roger center with the dome open filled with people was reason enough to get into the vibe and feel the craze but by end of the match, I had become a fan myself and yes, I understand the game now!
Enjoy the little things in life, they give you immense happiness!
Montreal in Quebec is the largest city in the Province and second most popular city in the country. This is one of the most beautiful cities that I have been to in Canada. Even before I had explored Toronto, I had seen more of Montreal and had completely fallen in love with it, its only fair I write about my memories about Montreal, before its too late.
Montreal is about 5hrs drive from Toronto, so it makes a very good road trip from Toronto. I have taken train, bus and driven down “n” number of times, I think I enjoy the drive more than anything. You get to stop in Kingston, Ottawa and other beautiful locations, if you want to have a relaxed road trip, without taking much of a deviation.
Montreal is also the second largest city in the country, having said that, you can easily see the place in about 3 complete days, if you are pinched for time. You can visit the city anytime of the year, as it has so much to offer but, winter can be really brutal, so I would suggest summer is the best time, though I visited Montreal for the first time in Winter and loved every bit of it.
Top things to see and do:
Pebble Stone Street in Old Montreal: Music, art, food, shopping and just the lively feel is reason enough to visit this place. Take a stroll in the evening enjoying the music, shows, art and shopping, choose from umpteen number of best restaurants to settle in for a nice dinner or binge on home made ice creams and yummy dessert, this place will not disappoint you for sure.
Carriage Ride and Biking Trails: Take a carriage ride around the old Montreal, it gives you such a royal feel and introduces to where you should be heading after the ride, this is definitely a must do in the city.
Montreal has amazing biking trails, you can hire the bicycles in and around the city and set off on discovering the nook and corners of beautiful Montreal.
Biking Trail Map:www.mapmyride.com/ca/montreal-quebec/
Notre-Dame Basilica and old port: Located in the historic district of Old Montreal, it gives such a dramatic architectural feel when you visit the church.
Old port is along the St.Lawrence river and stretches for about 2kms and it is a very good walk along the river. There is a park if you are tired and want to just relax.
All the above places are located in Old Montreal and can be visited in one day.
Biodome and Olympic Stadium: Biodome is located in Olympic park, it has a indoor zoo, aquarium and four different eco-system and totally worth making a visit. You can easily spend one complete day here and I just don’t get tired visiting this place.
Visit the tallest inclined tower in the world and take the ride up to see the Montreal Tower Observatory and the view is just breathtaking. It is suppose to be award wining panoramic view of Montreal.
Mont Royal and Saint Josephs Oratory: Are you an early bird who enjoys watching the sun rise or the one who gets energized as the sun is ready to set, either ways, I am sure this is the place you want to be in Montreal. Along with beautiful sun rise and sun set, you also get a amazing view of Montreal.
Saint Josephs Oratory is Canada’s largest Church, exceptionally beautiful and architectural wonder. It is also famous for its healing miracles.
Laughter Festival (Just for laughs): Montreal is the city of festivals. There is something or the other going on through out the year but Just for laughs is something that I have enjoyed the most in summer time, which is held in the month of July. This is also largest international comedy festival in the world. This year its held between July 12 to 31st, 2017.
French is the official language of Montreal, so if you love just listening to people speak French, like I do, go say “Bonjour Montreal”.
Planning a vacation can be taxing but surely rewarding and if everything goes as planned, then its a cherry on the cake 🙂
Continuing with my travel itinerary, here is the exciting part, fruits of what you sow, places I visited and experiences I cherish:
Total Days: 5 days and 5 Nights, 5 complete days is more than enough to explore the country. Even though the day light was only for about 5hours, I did not feel that I missed out on anything, at all. If you are visiting in the summer, then with extended day light for about 20hours (its tempting to visit again in Summers, which I will for sure), 5 days will be more than sufficient.
Day 1 – Things I did:
- Walking tour: Took a 2-hour walking tour to know the city better. This is something one should do first thing when you visit a new place, explore the place either on your own or with somebody who knows the city really well. There are free tours offered, so you don’t even have to spend a dollar. www.citywalk.is
- Blue Lagoon: This needs a booking at least 1month in advance since this is the most visited place in Iceland, though I felt it was very expensive and little hyped, it is definitely worth a visit.(pictures I accidently deleted and couldn’t recover unlike other pictures I could after a long time:() www.bluelagoon.com
- I had booked a Northern lights tour which got cancelled hence I went to explore city in rain, which was fun. Though, I did not get to see Northern lights even one night, I would suggest you book the northern lights tour on the first night, if you are not lucky the first night, you can at least try your luck remaining days.
Day 2 – Things I did:
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfalls: The highlight of Seljalandsfoss falls is that you can walk behind the waterfalls, which is spectacular. I spent good 20 to 30min behind the falls admiring the majestic beauty, I could do that because I had my rain coat on, though a lot of people were just there for about 5min. Even if you have a winter jacket, make sure to carry a raincoat which is very helpful, if you are travelling in winter.
- Skogafoss Waterfalls: This is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland and there is also a belief that the first Viking settlers have hidden the treasure behind the waterfalls. Looking for some treasure hunt, this could be the one 😛
- Glacier Hike: I can go on about my glacier hike adventure but I feel pity for the reader who have already read “My Iceland Adventure” article, hence not saying much.
- Black Sand beach: This is the most gorgeous beach that I have seen so far, though it’s also one of the most dangerous beach and tourist are advised against going even close to the beach, forget dipping your feet. Make sure you visit the beach when there is day light.
Day 3 – Things I did:
- Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon: This is my first ever experience seeing a glacier lagoon and it could not have gotten any better. Words or pictures cannot do any justice to what you witness in-person. Just go visit is all that I would say. Btw, a lot of films and music videos are shot at this place.
- Diamond Beach: Diamond beach is just opposite to Glacier Lagoon and you can see the glacier washed off to the beach. Glacier in a beach, doesn’t that sound exciting?
- Ice Cave: This is something which attracted me to visit Iceland in winter as the cave will be filled with water in summer, so if you are even thinking of a visit to Iceland in summer, look at the pictures, though not very impressive, I can bet you will thank me after visiting this place.
Day 4 – Things I did:
- Gullfoss Waterfalls: Gullfoss waterfalls is also called Golden Waterfalls, this is in South of Iceland and part of Golden Circle. There is a very interesting story behind this waterfalls. This was privately owned by a farmer who wanted to sell this waterfalls to foreign investors to harness electricity but his daughter opposed him and took him to court only to have won the case. Icelanders are grateful to Sigridur Tomasdittir for saving it from being destroyed. Frankly, this waterfalls is as majestic or ever more than Niagara Falls.
- Strokkur: Strokkur, natural fountain Geyser is located in Geothermal area. Well, this is something which left me spellbound. I was not really expecting something this phenomenal when I reached the place. Just when I was trying to figure out which way I should be heading to see the natural geyser, it just shot up right in front of me leaving me speechless. The feeling is something which cannot be put in words. It has a lot of hot water blow holes too.
- Pingvellir National Park: Pingvellir also called as Thingvellir is a National park and a historic site. This is located between two tectonic plates Eurasia and America. Though its a little crowded comparatively, I loved visiting this place. There are a few waterfalls which has some interesting stories of their own and who wouldn’t like to be in Europe and America at the same time. The landscape is just enthralling and makes a good walk just exploring the place.
Day 5 – Things I did:
Snorkeling Tour: Booked it with www.Dive.in, you can be picked up from your hostel/hotel with extra cost. As I have already written about my experience, I am not saying much here. This is easily a day activity, even though you get back to your hotel by 4pm, you need to sit back relish the experience, when you are there snorkeling it doesn’t hit you as you are trying to fight the cold, but when you are back and think of the experience is when you feel so good about yourself for doing it in such cold weather.
Iceland is surely one of the places which will stay very close to my heart for the longest time and I am already thinking of visiting it again in next summer. If you are looking for some adventure, Iceland is the place.