A Quick Travel Guide to Chicago

With millions of people visiting this destination each year, Chicago has become on the most popular cities in the United States. It not only has hundreds of activities for everyone, but it provides dozens of discount hotels. With its historical landmarks and an overabundance of culture, Chicago will surely continue to be one of the most popular travel destinations.

The first thing to do while booking your trip to Chicago is to research on the internet. Surprisingly, there are several websites which provide users with special discounts and cheap rates. The most popular services located on the web are Orbitz.com and Travelocity.com. These websites are wonderful when trying to find the best prices. Therefore, it could be quite simple to find Chicago hotels at an affordable price. No matter what you are looking for – whether it be a discount hotel or one of luxury, these services will give you the best information. Fortunately, these websites are not looking to manipulate you. They will effortlessly provide you with the best deals, even if it means you are able to save money.

Once you have booked your discount hotel or any Chicago hotel for that matter, you are on your way to a great vacation. There are hundreds of activities to do in this infamous city, no matter how old or young you may be. If you have children, the Brookfield Zoo is a dream come true. With thousands of animals on display, your children will be able to experience wild life at its finest.

If you are looking for something a little different, there are hundreds of other alternatives. For instance, the well known Apollo Theatre is located in the heart of Chicago. This stage has been home to thousands of performers, and there are always many popular shows going on there. If you are lucky, you may just be able to walk from your Chicago hotel and end up at the Apollo! There are many discount hotels that are only a walking distance from this infamous landmark.

With history almost oozing from its streets, Chicago has some of the most beautiful landmarks in the country. The Sears Tower allows you to look at the entire city from its sky deck. With the highest place to observe the illustrious city, it is sure to stun new visitors. It is a beautiful view – complete with stunning city lights and a great breeze. Most visitors tend to visit this tower at night, as it is much prettier when the sun is just setting. The Sears Tower was actually the tallest building in the world until 1996.

For many travelers, Chicago is a breathtaking city. Although the city is expensive, you can easily find discount hotels in the area. As long as you plan months ahead and do your research, finding a Chicago hotel with a great price should not be a problem. No matter where you decide to stay, every Chicago hotel will provide you with a wonderful experience. The city never sleeps; therefore if you keep up with the city, you may not need a hotel in the first place!

Chandigarh Travel Guide – Visit The Beautiful City of India

Chandigarh is one of the beautiful cities of India and is the capital of both Haryana and Punjab and is itself a union territory that is directly administered by the Central Government of India. The hilly backdrop and the neat straight angled roads are the striking features of Chandigarh. The city got its name from the goddess Chandi, the temple of which is situated at a distance of 15 kilometers from Chandigarh.

Chandigarh is divided into 47 sectors and they are divided into quarters that have residences, offices and government buildings in different places. The neat geometrical design reflects the architectural genius of the planners of the city Albert Mayer and Mathew Novicki. This is not only a place of tourist attraction but also a commercial and industrial center.

The city has an attractive airport which has regular flights to major Indian cities. You can get into the city by air or by train or by road. There are frequent trains to and from New Delhi and there are daily trains to Mumbai, Howrah, Lucknow and Jaipur. Chandigarh is the gateway to the state of Himachal Pradesh from its southern parts. If you are traveling from Delhi or Noida or nearby cities, you can also hire cars. There are numerous car rentals that operate from these places regularly. The most ideal choice would be to reach Chandigarh by buses. There are Volvo buses that ply from Delhi to Chandigarh and their fares are comparatively higher.

There are many places of visit in Chandigarh such as Rock Garden, Sukhna Lake, Rose Garden, The High Court, The Secretariat, The Legislative Assembly, Pinjore Gardens, Museum and Art Gallery, Mohali Cricket Stadium and Cactus Garden. Apart from these places there are many shopping areas in the city in Sector 17, Sector 22 and Sector 35. However the prices of the items sold here are slightly higher than that in Delhi and you cannot expect to get good bargains.

Chandigarh is the home to many renowned educational centers and the students of nearby states come and stay here for higher education. There are many engineering and medical colleges located within the city. This has led to the high influx of students’ community. Also the ever growing IT and BPO industry has led to the expansion of the city and all these have brought about a revolution in the hotel industry. Many hotels have sprung up in various parts of Chandigarh. To meet the demands, the city administration had introduced the bed and breakfast scheme at affordable prices.

Most of the hotels in Chandigarh also have restaurants in them. These restaurants serve Punjabi and Chhattisgarh cuisine. Continental, North Indian and South Indian dishes are also served. Many roadside outlets are seen in Sector 8 where Amritsari fish and special Waraqi wraps are popular. To find out the good Chandigarh hotels and Chandigarh restaurants, you have to refer a reliable Chandigarh travel guide. This will make your travel smoother.

Agra Travel Guide

INTRODUCTION:

Agra, famously known as the city of the Taj, ushers tourists from all over the world with its aura of love that dates back to the era of the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan. It harbours the Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world (now also a part of the newly declared seven wonders), and many other significant tourist attractions.The precise geographical location of the city is on the banks of the river Yamuna in the state of Uttar Pradesh in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent. This beautiful city is at a distance of about 201 km from New Delhi, the capital city of India. As boundaries, Agrahas Mathura on the north, Dhaulpur on the south,Firozabad on the east, Fatehabad on the south-east and Bharatpur on the west. The intricate architectural design of the mausoleums, the forts and the palaces bear testimony to the affluence of the powerful Mughals, who made Agra their capital in the 16th and the early 17th centuries. The reputed legacy of inlay work on marble and soapstone is continued by craftsmen who are descendants of those who were occupied under the Mughals. As recorded by the UNESCO, there are three world heritage sites in this city, namely, the Taj Mahal, the AgraFort and Fatehpur Sikri. The magnificent view of the Taj, the symbol of eternal love, is an experience to cherish for a lifetime!

HISTORY:

A city with such rich heritage sites as the Taj Mahal is bound to have a rich history. Popular belief goes that Sultan Sikandar Lodi, the Ruler of Delhi Sultanate established this city in the year 1504. After the demise of Sikandar Lodi, his son Sultan Ibrahim Lodi succeeded him. He continued ruling his Sultanate from Agra till the year 1526, when he was overpowered by Babur in the First battle of Panipat. The city, flourished under the Mughal rule and was the capital city of three successive Mughal emperors, Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan till 1649, when Emperor Shah Jahan moved his capital to Shahjahanabad, for more efficient administration. Then known as Akbarabad, this city was embellished by the Mughals with beautiful constructions. Babar, the forefather of the Mughal reign established the first Persian garden on the banks of river Yamuna, which is known as Aram Bagh or the Garden of Relaxation. Akbar, the most powerful of the Mughal emperors patronised the development of arts, commerce and religion in Akbarabad besides constructing the great Red Fort and establishing the city of Fatehpur Sikri (a city near the suburbs of Akbarabad). Akbar’s son Jahangir, a lover of plants and wildlife, decorated the Red Fort with many gardens. But the city of Akbarabad or Agra got its most awe inspiring edifice, the Taj Mahal, from Shah Jahan, the emperor who was known to be a connoisseur in architecture. This magnificent monument was built in the memory of Shahjahan’s beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, and is also her mausoleum. Shah Jahan afterwards moved his capital to Delhi. However, his son Aurangzeb again made Akbarabad his capital and locked up his father Shahjahan in the Fort there. In the year 1653, Aurangzeb moved his capital to Aurangabad in the Deccan. With the gradual decline of the Mughal Empire, the Marathas and the Jats took possession of the city and named it Agra. Finally in 1803, the city was occupied by the British and was under their control till India got her independence.

HOW TO REACH:

Reaching Agra is not a very arduous task. The city has a good network of railways and roads through which it is connected to other cities (including Delhi, from which it is 200 km apart) and tourist spots. Other railway stations include the Agra Fort railway station close to the Agra Fort and the Raja Ki Mandi railway station in the center of the city. The main railway route is from Delhi to Agra. Apart from the regular trains, a deluxe train named the Palace on Wheels’ has been introduced exclusively for the tourists which has Agra as one of its destinations. Moreover the tourists can also avail of bus service from New Delhi to Agra. One can also travel by bus from Jaipur via National Highway 11, from Gwalior via National Highway 3 and from Kanpur via National Highway 2. For taking a tour of the city, taxis and rickshaws are always at your service.

ACCOMMODATION:

The city of the Taj provides comfortable accommodation to every traveller according to his means. Some of the popular five star hotels include the Jaypee Palace Hotel, the Welcomegroup Mughal Sheraton, Hotel Amar Vilas, Hotel the Trident, Hotel Clarks Shiraz, Hotel Agra Ashok and Hotel Taj View. The main four star hotels are Howard Park Plaza International and Hotel Holiday Inn while Hotel Amar, Hotel Deedar E taj, Athithi Hotel, Mansingh Palace, Grand Hotel and Hotel Kant are the chief three star hotels.

PLACES TO VISIT:

There are a variety of tourist spots in Agra to enthrall the tourists. The most famous and striking among them is the Taj Mahal, which has withstood the ravages of time to stand firm as the symbol of eternal love. Completed in the year 1653, it is in fact the final abode of Shahjahan’s beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal. This beautiful monument is the result of years of hard work put in by Mughal artisans (the chief architect was Ustad Isa) under the patronisation of Shahjahan. The Taj Mahal appears like a mirage from the Agra Fort, the place where Shahjahan spent the final eight years of his life imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb. This chimerical effect is brought about by skillful application of lime, brick and white marble. As one enters through the main gate one comes across the verses of the Holy Koran (the religious book of the Muslims) and 22 small domes. The number 22 is suggestive of the number of years it took the artisans to build the monument. The entire structure, embellished by exquisite stones, lies on a marble platform which in turn is built on a sandstone platform. The tomb of Mumtaz Mahal as well as that of Shahjahan (erected after his death by his son Aurangzeb, next to Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb) lies benath the most graceful dome of the Taj. Each minute detail of this magnificent marble edifice, from the minarets to the beautifully laid garden adorned by the fountains is as harmonious as the melody of love. This man made beauty juxtaposes perfectly with the beauty of the ever-changing sky to provide a fantastic view.      

Another attraction is the Agra Fort, which is semi-circular in shape and lies on the right bank of the river Yamuna. The Mughal Emperor Akbar started the building of the Agra Fort in the year 1565. However, structures were incorporated until the reign of his grandson Shah Jahan. One of the exquisite features of this fort is its double wall made up of red sandstone (which gives it the name Red Fort). The external wall rises to a height of about 40 feet while the inner wall has a height of 70 feet. A wide and deep moat encircles the fort. The fort constitutes battlements with towers and bastions at calculated intervals. Two of the bastions, onlooking the river Yamuna, are known as the Shah Burj and the Bengali Burj. There are four gateways, namely the  Delhi Gate on the western side, which constitutes the chief entrance to the fort, the Amar Singh Gate or Akbar Darwazah on the southern part (nowadays, visitors enter the fort through this gate), the Jal Darwazah or Water Gate, a gate exclusively meant for the women and the fourth gateway facing the northeastern side. Various structures within the Agrafort include the Akbari Mahal, the Anguri Bagh, the Diwan-i-am, the Diwan-e-khas, the Jehangiri Mahal, the Khas Mahal, the Machchhi Bhawan, the Mayura Mandapa, the Mina Masjid, the Moti Masjid, the Musamman Buri, the Nagina Masjid and the Shish Mahal. Each structure is beautifully carved to serve its respective purpose. Then there is the Sikandra, the mausoleum of emperor Akbar started by Akbar himself, and was completed by Jahangir in the year 1613. The architectural style perfectly blends Hindu, Islamic, Christian, Buddhist and Jain design and themes and is an apt manifestation of Akbar’s religious broadmindedness. The entire building is a five storeyed truncated pyramid while the chief tomb has a square shape. It comprises of delicately carved three-storeyed red sandstone minarets. The ground floor is traversed by many airy passages. The southern part has a vestibule, richly adorned with carvings and paintings. The other tombs in this enclosure include those of Shakrul Nisha Begum and Aram Bano, the daughters of Akbar.Itmad-ud-Daulah, another tourist attraction in Agra, is actually a tomb constructed by  Nur Jehan, the queen of Mughal Emperor Jehangir, for her father Mirza Shiyath Beg. When Jehangir married Noorjahan, her father came to hold the position of the Prime Minister of the Empire and acquired the title of ’Itimad-ud-Daulah’, which literally means “Treasurer of the Empire”. The characteristic marble work of this tomb was later to be used by Shahjahan in building the Taj Mahal. The unique feature of this tomb is that it is shaped like a silver jewel box. Close to Agrais the city of Fatehpur Sikri. This beautiful city was built by Akbar to express his gratitude to the saint Sheikh Salim Chishti when his (Akbar’s) son was born. The artistic marble tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti in this city attracts numerous tourists and devotees who come here to be blessed by the saint.       

Another tourist spot, the Radhaswami Samadhi, is the official centre of the followers of the Radhaswami religion. This holy place, where the ashes of the forefather of the Radhaswami religion lie, has a temple with exquisite stone carvings of different flora. The Chinni Ka Rauza is the tomb of Mulla Shukrullah Shirazi, who was a renowned poet (wrote poetry under the nom de plume of ‘Allami’) as well as the Prime Minister of Mughal emperor Shahjahan. This tomb was built by Afzal Khan, an administrator belonging to the court of Shahjahan. The structure which incorporates glazed tiles is a perfect manifestation of Persian artistic excellence.      

One can also visit the Jama Masjid,built in the year 1648, by Jehanera Begum, the daughter of Shahjahan, in order to commemorate Shiekh Salim Chistti and his grand son Islam Khan. This building, with an open courtyard, reflects the use of Iranian architectural patterns.   

Then there is Mariyam’s tomb, built by Jehangir for his mother who was the Rajput queen of Akbar. Akbar gave her the name of Mariyam Zamani, which means ‘compassionate to the world’. The tomb is built of red sandstone in the characteristic Mughal architectural style. Apart from all these, other monuments in the city of Agra include the Battis Khambah, the Chhatri Rani Hada, Hessing’s tomb, Humayun’s mosque, Sarai Nurjahan, the tomb of Itibar Khan, the tomb of Salabat Khan and the like.   There are also many other religious places, namely the Kailash temple, the Mankameshwar temple, the Balkeshwar temple, the Prithvinath temple, the Rajeshwar temple, the Guru kr Tal Gurudwara, the Baptist Church, the Catholic Church and the Digambar Jain Mandir. Agraalso provides scope for excursions to other tourist spots outside the city, like Bateshwar, Keetham Lake,Mathura, Vrindavan, the Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, the Patna Bird sanctuary etc.

FESTIVALS:

The city of Agra is a festive place with many fairs and festivals held throughout the year.  The most popular among these is the Taj Mahotsav, which paints the entire city in colours of joy. It involves a ten day long celebration in the month of February of the glorious tradition of Uttar Pradesh’s culture, crafts, arts, cuisine, dance and music. The celebration venue is Shilpagram, almost close to the Taj Mahal. The festival starts with a procession reflecting the Mughal grandeur. It seems as if the era of magnificence established by the Mughals has been brought back to life again. Another significant fairs include the Kailash fair, the Sheetla fair, the Bateshwar fair, Urs and Ram Barat.

HANDICRAFTS:

As if all these tourist attractions are not enough, the city produces exclusive handicraft works such as Zari Zardozi, Strone carving and Inley work as well as carpets with various types of decorations and leather shoes. To add a feather to the cap there are two Padam Shree Award winners for handicrafts, Mr. Sekh Samruddin and Shri Hari Kishan Badal. The monuments, the festivals, the handicrafts, everything combine to make Agra, a perfect blend of culture, heritage and harmony, which finds its ultimate personification in the Taj Mahal.