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Sri Lanka gets 700,000 tourists




Colombo, April 9 (IANS) Sri Lanka received 707,924 tourists in the first three months of this year, an increase of 17.1 per cent compared with the corresponding period last year, a minister said on Monday.

Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga told Xinhua news agency that the country could have attracted more tourists in March if not for the outbreak of communal violence in Galle and the subsequent declaration of the state of Emergency.

India, China, Germany, France and the UK are the biggest tourist markets for Sri Lanka.

Quoting the latest statistics released by the Sri Lankan Tourism Development Authority, he said the country received 233,382 tourist arrivals in March.

“It is a drop against 235,618 tourists we received in February. Despite the slight decline, we can sustain the growth momentum for the future as the country is now normal,” Amaratunga added.



Travelling to US this summer? Apply for visa early



Photo Credit: New Media Travel

New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) The US Embassy here on Tuesday said that Indians planning to visit the US this summer should apply early for visas due to heavy demand.

In a statement, the Embassy said that applicants across India may have to wait 30 days or more for a visa interview appointment to become available and that it expects this wait time to continue for at least the next few months

“Mission India’s non-immigrant visa workload is one of the largest in the world, processing over a million visas a year,” the statement said.

“In the last five years, the demand for visas to travel to the United States has increased by over 60 percent.”

According to the statement, the Embassy in New Delhi and the four Consulates across India “are constantly working to improve service and meet demand, but applicants should be aware that the summer is a peak travel season and there will be delays in getting visa appointments”.

It also advised applicants are to beware of scams and fraud and reminded them that the only way to get a US visa is through official channels.

“Someone can either apply and have an interview at a US Embassy or Consulate, or if they have had a visa before and meet certain criteria, they may qualify to have their visa renewed,” the statement said.

“Anyone claiming they can guarantee a visa in exchange for a fee is attempting to defraud you. Applicants should be smart and apply the right way,” it added.


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The unexplored Indian paradise

While travelling through the North East, also experience a safari with a difference on yaks. Get a chance to explore the breathtaking beauty of Sikkim on one of the colourfully-adorned yaks, an experience definitely beyond compare!



Sikkim Tourism

When you end up with some time for yourself, an escapist spirit awakens among many of us. Such is the chaos of our cities that we cherish even minor respites from it. One such respite is the Spiti Valley in the Himachal where the journey is just as blissful as the destination.

Once you hop onto your bike, you can choose between two routes to reach the scenic town of Spiti. The first option is entry from Manali via Rohtang and Kunzum La. Once you have passed Rohtang, it’s truly a heavenly experience, with the highest point being the snow-covered Kanzum pass with a breathtaking view of the Shigri Glacier. Alternatively, you can also opt for the more comfortable, yet longer, road from Shimla.

An absolutely breathtaking land, Spiti is a treat for all travellers, but especially bikers, with the majestic Himalayan landscape, amazing views, rich history and warm and friendly people. Also, be prepared for an overnight stay along the way preferably at Reckong Peo which is known to be a calm and serene stopover.

A ride through the beautiful barren landscapes of the Himalayas is the biggest draw of the valley. Another highlight of Spiti is the magnificently rich cultural past that is still alive in the ancient Gompas (monasteries) of the region and the enlightened monks that reside within them. Though they can be reserved initially, your curiosity for their culture and few smiles can win their hearts enough for them to offer you some refreshing cups of teas and insight into the Gompas like no other could. Amongst others that you might choose to visit, Key Gompa, Saskyagongmig Gompa and Dhankar Gompa are a must visit. If your curiosity for the local culture still refuses to subside, head over to the Tabo Monastery. 50 Kms from Kaza, it is one of the oldest functioning Buddhist monasteries in the world (est. 996 AD), with extremely well-preserved wall paintings and artifacts!

The Seven Sisters, as the North Eastern Indian states are commonly known, are where lush green forests, picturesque valleys and vibrant cultures come together to create magic. Each state has something special to offer and we are sure that these places will be the high points of your trip to the vibrant North-East.

Starting with Arunachal Pradesh, the Siang River is a must visit. A tributary of the mighty and ferocious Brahmaputra River, it’s a great spot for river rafting, an adventure that few can match up to in terms of thrills.

Moving on, situated in the valley of the Tawang River in the northwestern part of Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang Monastery is the largest monastery in India and second largest in the world after the Potala Palace in Tibet. Founded in 1680-1681 in accordance with the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama, it is known as in Tibetan as Galden Namgey Lhatse, which translates to ‘celestial paradise in a clear night’. Surrounded by lush green hills, the monastery provides a visually colourful contrast with the colour-rich murals on its walls, exquisite architecture and vibrant atmosphere. With peaceful serene atmosphere so strong, the monastery possesses an otherworldly quality to it that drives away all worries and stress you had.

From the ferocious avatar, we move on to Brahmaputra’s calmer side in Majuli. The biggest river island in the world, it is home to a number of tribes, each with a colourful vibrant culture that will enchant you on your visit here. While there, you can enjoy yourself with fun activities like pottery making, mask making or just soak in the natural beauty of its magnificent sunsets.

Talking of Meghalaya, you have your pick of nature with lush green hills and breathtaking views, quite a refreshing break from the city’s chaos. But look closer and you’ll find an experience that much richer. Littered among these hills are limestone deposits and a number of caves that will enthrall the explorer in you. Considering that many of these caves are some of the longest and deepest found in India, you are sure to feel all Indiana Jones during this once in a lifetime trek.

While travelling through the North East, also experience a safari with a difference on yaks. Get a chance to explore the breathtaking beauty of Sikkim on one of the colourfully-adorned yaks, an experience definitely beyond compare!

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Cave Tourism: An Emerging trend



Whether you are in India or Vietnam or Europe or America or somewhere in between, the underground caves are always worthy additions to any vacation.

Caving traditionally is a recreational pastime of exploring wild cave systems, today cave tourism is associated with exploring wild cave systems and also caves that have been carved out by men and have historical significance.

Caving is also called as ‘spelunking’. Adventure enthusiasts, eco-tourists and fearless curiosity seekers can be found exploring the cramped, lightless corners of the underground world. Exploring wild cave systems has some challenges involved and they can vary. There is a total absence of light beyond the entrance and often include negotiation of pitches, squeezes and water hazards.

Some of the most famous caves have become hot tourist spots and these caves offer a complete path with handrails, lights that illuminate the interesting formations and fossils and different caves offer a different level of accessibility. This means that the traveller’s can choose their cave destination based on their tolerance for adventure and their willingness to crawl through the tight spaces.

Following are some of the World’s Incredible Caves:

Blue Grotto, Italy

The Blue Grotto is a sea cave on the coast of the island of Capri in Southern Italy. It is well known to all tourists visiting this area. The cave is unique for its brilliant blue glow which comes from the two sources – entrance to the caves and a bigger whole beneath the entrance. One can enter the caves only using a small row boat. When viewed from inside the cave, the entrance appears as a brilliant white light just above the waterline, while the underwater hole, which is a larger source of light provides a blue glow.

Krubera Cave, Georgia

Krubaera caves were found in 1960 and are considered to be the deepest known cave on earth. Its depth is over 2,000 metres and the cave is also known as Voronia Cave which means ‘the cave of the crows’ in Russian language. This name was used as a number of crows were found nesting at the entrance of the caves. The original name was given after a noted Russian Geographer – Alexander Kruber.

Cave of the Crystals in Chihuahua, Mexico

Miners had discovered Cave of Swords located directly above the cave of crystals in the year 1910. The crystals there are much smaller than seen in the Cave of the Crystals. The cave of the crystals was discovered in the year 2000 and contains largest natural selenite crystals ever found. The biggest crystal found here was 12 metres in length and 4 metres in diameter. The average temperature in these caves was found to be 50-58 degrees Celsius. Due to the extreme heat, the scientists and researchers with proper gears could also stay here only for 30-45 minutes. A interesting fact about these caves is that the caves were only accessible because of pumping operation of the mining company that was working in the nearby Mine. Once the mine stopped operations in 2017, the cave has been re-flooded.

Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave in Werfen, Austria

Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave is a natural limestone ice cave, largest of its kind. The cave extends 42 kms into the earth. Even though the cave is massive, only the first kilometer of the cave is covered in ice and opens to tourists. The rest of the cave is just made up of limestone. The oldest layer of ice I the cave is believed to be dated back 1,000 years. The cave was formed by Salzach river which slowly eroded passageways in the mountains.

Phong Nha Cave, Vietnam

Phong Nha cave is located in Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park of Vietnam and is a UNESCO world heritage site. The cave is 7,729 metres long and contains 14 grottoes as well as a 13,969-metre underground river. The park has nearly 300 caves, though only a few of the caves have been surveyed in detail. The limestone rocks are interspersed with other types of rock, making this an interesting place for anyone with knowledge of geology. Only the first mile or so of the Phong Nha’s tunnels are accessible to tourists. Phong Nha has been voted as one of the most wonderful caves in the world for a number of reasons: for its longest underground river, for its most beautiful underground lake. for its highest and widest entrance, for its most beautiful and widest dry cave, for its most beautiful sandbank and reef, as well as for its most spectacular stalactites, stalagmites and longest water grottos.

Jay Kantawala from WIYO Travel commented that we have several caves spread all over the world and Cave tourism is extremely popular amongst the enthusiasts. Some of the caves offer thrilling experiences during their visit, some are open limited times in a year, some have no infrastructure. Most of these caves offer unique experiences and fascinating sites and are a must visit.

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