3 Amazing Sights in India Besides the Taj Mahal

Book a trip to India, and there is one staple sight you’re going to try and see — the Taj Mahal. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to visit India’s most popular tourist destination, but to visit the Taj Mahal and only the Taj Mahal would mean missing out on some of the most breathtaking views a country could offer.

Before you start filling up your calendar with the things you’ll see and do, make sure the following three sights are somewhere on your itinerary. They’ll help you see a side of India you didn’t know existed while also providing a glimpse into the early history of the South Asian nation.

Humayun’s Tomb, New Delhi

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As a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) site, Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi draws plenty of attention. The tomb, which shares a similar appearance to the famed Taj Mahal, was built in 1565 A.D. after the death of Humayun, also known as Nasir-ud-Din Muhammad. The second emperor of the Mughal Empire is joined by several other Mughal rulers, who are buried within the walls of Humayun’s Tomb.

When Humayun passed away after a fall down a flight of stairs, his widow, Queen Bega Begum, undertook the task of having a mausoleum built for the emperor. Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas took on the job under the supervision of Bega Begum.

Once an incredible structure marked by ornate designs, a lack of maintenance over the years allowed much of it to pale. In the early 20th century, a restoration project tackled the decaying structure and the surrounding gardens, which were taken over by the English in the 19th century, and returned the building to its original form.

Basgo Monastery, Ladakh

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Located in the Leh District of Basgo, some 24 miles from Leh, travelers will find the remains of the Basgo Monastery. In 1680, the monastery was constructed for the Namgyal rulers who overtook the land. Built from bricks of mud, the monastery overlooks Ladakh and is tucked between the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges.

Grags-pa-bum, a Tibetan king, started construction of the structure. At the center of the manmade complex is a series of temples dedicated to the Maitreya Buddha, or fifth incarnation of Sakyamuni, or Buddha. Murals that depict snippets of the life of Buddha are painted along the interior walls.

Though much of the monastery has deteriorated over time, it’s still used for ceremonies and holidays by the inhabitants of the nearby Hemis monastery.

Sundarbans, West Bengal

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Not every incredible sight in India is going to be manmade. In West Bengal, travelers will find the Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Found on the southeastern tip of the 24 Paraganas district, the Sundarbans is named for the Sundari mangrove plant that grows within the region.

The wilds of West Bengal come to life in the Sundarbans, which is the world’s largest deltaic mangrove forest. Along with a striking beauty and exotic appearance, the Sundarbans are home to an icon of India — the Royal Bengal Tiger.

This natural stretch of mangrove offers a unique experience for anyone who travels down the still waters that run alongside vibrant green coastlines. Visitors will get to say they’ve been inside the world’s largest estuarine forest and existed among tigers and crocodiles.

Trials and Pain: The Back Side of the Desert

 

TOZER

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. —Exodus 3:1

We should quickly review here the kinds of preparation Moses had gone through for his leadership role under God. Reared in Pharaoh’s palace, he had been educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. He had the prerequisites for almost any kind of career. In our day a man with his qualifications would be sought for election as a bishop or the president of any of the great church denominations.

Then, too, Moses had a most unusual but highly effective postgraduate course. God took him out of the activity and the noise of Egypt and placed him in the silence of the open spaces. He kept the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law. Tending the sheep, he learned lessons of meditation and observation that he could only have learned in the silence.

Probably more important than anything else, Moses learned to know himself. That knowledge was a part of God’s preparation of the man for his future tasks. We, today, know everything but ourselves. We never really come to know ourselves because we cannot get quiet enough. Men Who Met God, p. 70

“Lord, I pray this morning for the hurting pastor who is languishing in ‘the silence of the open spaces,’ on the back side of the desert. Encourage him; instruct him; then show Him how You can use him mightily in Your way and in Your time. Amen.”

5 Central American Vacations To Take This Winter

If the forecast of snow and ice has got you down, then it’s time to pack your swimsuit and head south to Central America. Why put up with the winter chill when you can find a secluded beach in Belize or snorkel in the warm waters off the coast of Honduras? There’s no time like the present to take a fantastic winter vacation to one of these five tropical Central American getaways.

Swim with the Sharks in Ambergris Caye

BELIZE

Clear blue water with homes on shore with palm trees in Belize Cayes
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Belize has become a popular winter getaway. And if you’re looking for an out-of-the-way tropical destination, then you’ll love Ambergris Caye. This gorgeous island off the coast of Belize is home to remarkable mangrove swamps and the second-largest barrier reef system in the world. The cay is a divers’ haven with 4 of the 5 best dive sites in Belize. You can swim with sharks and rays and relax on breathtaking private beaches. The food is fresh and tasty, and the best place to gobble up some of the freshest sushi around is Blue Water Grill, complete with breathtaking views of the reef. A stay in a beachfront thatched-roof cabana at Ramon’s Village Resort will recharge your batteries.

Commune with Nature in Monteverde

COSTA RICA

Hanging Bridge, Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
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Costa Rica’s cloud forest is the perfect winter vacation for the nature lover in all of us. Monteverde is tucked in the mountains of northwestern Costa Rica, and offers a rich and diverse ecosystem that’s a result of the constant clouds that hang low over the vegetation.  Forget shoveling snow and hike to beautiful waterfalls, spot abundant wildlife in the nature reserves, and lose yourself in the amazing butterfly gardens. If you’re up for an adventure, have one of the local guides take you on a night hike to hang out with some friendly sloths, or zipline through the canopy. You’ll work up an appetite while hanging out in the trees, so check out the San Lucas Treetop Dining Experience, an intimate and unique experience that offers Costa Rican farm-to-table fusion dinner served among the trees. Stay at the rustic “Tica House” designed Camino Verde Bed & Breakfast Monteverde, and enjoy unforgettable views from your private patio.

Enjoy the Solitude of Caye Caulker

BELIZE

Aerial view of Caye Caulker Island in Caribbean Sea
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If you are ready to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and just need some peace and quiet, catch a 45-minute water tax ride from Belize to the tiny island of Caye Caulker. This narrow island is truly a paradise far from the cruise ship crowds. The serenity of the cay comes from the fact that cars are not allowed on the island; people get around on bikes and electric golf carts. The motto of the island is “go slow,” and you’ll be reminded of that wherever you go. There are tons of water-related activities, like snorkeling with manatees in the Blue Hole or kayaking through the serene mangrove swamps. When you get hungry, just stop by any eatery, and you’ll be offered Caye Caulker’s specialty—fry jacks—a fried tortilla stuffed with scrambled egg, cheese, and bacon. Book a night at the best spot on the beach at the Seaside Villas. You can sit on your veranda at sunset and watch the gulls flock to the fishing boats as they come in with their daily haul of fresh fish.

Explore the Mayan ruins of Flores

GUATEMALA

Maya Tikal Ruins in Guatemala
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Flores is a scenic little village located on a small island on Lake Peten Itza in Guatemala. The island is small (you can walk it in 20 minutes), but it’s packed with some amazing views and tons to do. Its proximity to Tikal National Park has made it a backpacker’s haven, and many use Flores as a gateway to the surrounding Mayan ruins of Tikal and Uaxactún. Visitors should also check out Ixpanpajul Natural Park, where you can watch for local wildlife as you hike through the dense jungle, swing through the forest on a zip-line, and walk along the sky way.

Lay on the Beaches of West Bay, Roatan

HONDURAS

Beach and crystal clear water with cliffside in West Bay, Roatan
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Even though West Bay tops many travel magazines’ lists of must-see beaches in the Caribbean and Central America, it remains surprisingly under frequented.  Featuring a mile of white sand, palm trees, and crystal-clear calm waters, this beach remains relatively empty so you’ll have plenty of space to stretch out and enjoy. The coral reef comes within a few yards off the shore, making it perfect for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, or catching a charter boat to explore nearby islands. After a day of relaxation or fun in the sun, head to the most popular place to eat around, Beachers. This iconic hot spot is famous for its seafood and views of the Caribbean from its patio. To make this winter vacation complete, stay at the Infinity Bay Spa & Beach Resort, where all of their rooms boast balconies with views of the pool, exotic gardens, and turquoise water.

Born in Paris, Jim is a retired lecturer of African Studies and self-described life-long global trekker. His career as an Air Force officer gave him the chance to experience amazing and exotic destinations in Europe, Asia and Africa. He is at home on the golf course or backpacking anywhere there is a story to tell.