Here are the top five things to do in these air-bubbled countries.
They say, even a caged bird sings. Similarly, even a virus-caged traveller dreams of new destinations, new memories. With new countries added to India’s air-bubble, you now have new itineraries to think of. The latest in Ministry of Civil Aviation’s air-bubble list of 21 countries include Rwanda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ukraine, Nigeria and Oman.
Here are the top five things to do in these air-bubbled countries.
Kigali Genocide Memorial: In 1994, a genocide wrecked Rwanda. In 100 days, nearly 1 million Tutsis were killed and buried in mass graves. The memorial is a powerful reminder of Rwanda’s past and 250,000 people who were interred here. Opt for the audio tour ($15).
Volcanoes National Park: Comprising 5 volcanoes, the Virungas is probably the best place to see Rwanda’s famous mountain gorillas. The Park is also a huge hit with mountaineers and trekkers.
Kings Palace Museum: Forget the political past of the African country. In the King’s Palace Museum, gape at details/history of Rwandan monarchical system and its royal residences. Do not miss Inyambo, the long-horned royal cows grazing in the backyard.
Rubona Peninsula: Take a boat or a moto-taxi to Rubona Peninsula famous for its natural hot springs that not only cure ailments but are great for boiling potatoes and eggs!
Nkotsi Village: It is a must-do for the culture vultures who can pick from learning various Rwandan skills: basket weaving, brewing, bee-keeping, drumming, and traditional medicine.
Must eat: Isombe, Brochettes, Agatogo, Ibirayi, Urwagwa
Currency: 1 Rwandan Franc = 0.076 INR
Visa: Indian nationals are eligible for e-visa; a single-entry visa is valid for 30 days
Sunflowers & more Sunflowers: This might just be the first thing to do in Ukraine. Stare at miles & miles of sunflower fields. Get photographed amidst the bright yellow flowers and be sure of a million likes on social media.
Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle: One of the most important architectural monuments in the country, Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle once comprised 175 buildings within its premises. Now, it is an open-air museum and site for the popular Hot Air Balloon Festival.
Walk through the Tunnel of Love: If romance is your trap, head to the sleepy village of Klevan and walk straight to the green tunnel. Not a concrete tunnel but a tunnel made by intertwining branches of trees & bushes. Pretty place for a perfect kiss.
Ride the trolley over the river in Kiev: This one is not for the faint-hearted. A 532-meter-long (1,745 feet) long trolley ride over Dnieper River in 40 seconds. In a blink the trolley drops you on the silken sands of Trukhaniv Island’s beach.
Sofiyivka Botanical Park: Beautiful trees, splendid waterfalls, rock designs and stunning statues, this park is a must-visit.
Must eat: Paska, Borscht, Varenyky, Holubtsi, Deruni
Currency: 1 Ukranian hryvnia = 2.65 INR
Visa details: https://www.vfsglobal.com/ukraine/india/
Safaris: Safaris continue to be the prime reason to visit Tanzania. So, book a safari or two. The main safari destinations can be split into the north (The Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater) or the south (The Selous and Ruaha). Take your pick.
Conquer Mount Kilimanjaro: A dormant volcano, the highest mountain in Africa and the highest single free-standing mountain in the world, Mount Kilimanjaro stands tall at 5,895 metres (19,341 ft). On every mountaineer’s must-do list, this one is not easy to conquer.
Witness the Great Migration: It is the world’s most fascinating migration. Nearly two million ungulates (hoofed animals) - wildebeest, plus zebra, gazelles and eland - run, falter, stumble through the endless savannah of Tanzania’s Serengeti. This one is surely on the before-you-die must-see list.
Visit Zanzibar: At the heart of ancient trade, Zanzibar was the hub of spice and slave trade. Located 15 miles off the coast of Tanzania is the Zanzibar Island. Explore the World Heritage Site of Stone Town, Zanzibar City’s old quarter. Or beach hop between fishing villages.
Visit Tanga: Not the typical touristy crowd but port city of Tanga has fascinating sites including limestone caverns of the Amboni Caves and European Cemetery. Walk through the Art Deco mansions or do a full-day snorkelling and fishing trip from the city.
Must eat: Chipsi mayai, Nyama Choma, Ugali, Mshikaki, Zanzibar pizza
Currency: 1 Tanzanian Shilling= 0.032 INR
Visa: Visa-on-arrival for Indian nationals - the passport has to be valid for 6 months; proof of onward travel is mandatory
Sultan Qaboos Mosque: Made of sandstone, Sultan Qaboos Mosque in Muscat is an architectural delight and the world’s second largest mosque. Do not miss a look at the chandelier and the handwoven carpet, both at the time the mosque was built, were the largest in the world.
Nizwa Fort: One of Oman’s oldest and most beautiful castles, Nizwa Fort takes one back in time. The tall tower was the highlight of the fort which is also famous for its winding staircase, trap doors, secret shafts. Walk to the Nizwa Souk to buy Omani dates, souvenirs and clay pottery.
Wahiba Sands (Oman Desert): Wahiba Sands is the perfect place for camping and glamping. Dunes rise as high as 300 ft and getting lost is easy. Follow the tracks of Bedouin tribes. Within the brown sandy landscape live 16,000 different species of invertebrates as well as 200 species of mammals, birds and reptiles.
Wadi Shab: Nearly 90-minute drive from Muscat, Wadi Shah is a green gorge with warm blue pools , a secret cave and a hidden waterfall. Swim in Bimmah Sinkhole.
Jabal Akhdar Mountains: You’ll need a 4x4 Jeep to manoeuvre the steep inclines and hairpin bends of the Jabal Akhdar Mountains that rises 2,980 metres. Best to hire a local/experienced driver.
Must eat: Kahwa with dates, Shuwa, Kasba Dajaj, Lokhemat, Sambusa
Currency: 1 Omani Rial= 194 INR
Visa: Visa on arrival for Indian nationals. Proof of confirmed return ticket and hotel accommodation mandatory.
Ikogosi Warm Springs: Imagine a warm spring gurgling down a mountain next to a cold spring. Strangely, both originate from the same source. The confluence of this hot/cold spring is believed to have medicinal properties to cure various ailments.
Calabar Carnival: Mark your December calendar for this annual Carnival held in the city of Calabar (Cross Rivers State). Known as Africa’s biggest street party, it has everything one needs for merriment: boat regattas, fashion shows, concerts and traditional dances/music.
Climb the Magical Idanre Hills: Located in the ancient town of Idanre, Magical Idanre Hills showcase well-preserved signs of early habitation and civilisation. You’d need a pair of sturdy lungs to walk up 667 steps to the highest peak.
Visit the Museums: Step into Nigeria National Museum in Lagos that has a remarkable collection of Nigerian art (pieces of statuary/carvings, archaeological and ethnographic exhibits, terracotta human head). Badagry Slave Museum and Black History Museum shed light on one of the darkest periods in Nigeria’s history.
Art Experience: The most sought-after galleries in Nigeria include Nike Art Centre, Omenka and Hourglass. But art lives everywhere in Nigeria. Keep an eye on street art and graffiti.
Must eat: Jollof rice, Garri, Pounded yam, Egusi soup, Suya
Currency: 1 Nigerian Naira = 0.20 INR
Visa details: https://portal.immigration.gov.ng/pages/visaguidelines. Visa fee: USD 253 per person
Good to know:
For details about travel in/out of air-bubbled countries, read the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s notification at: https://www.civilaviation.gov.in/en/about-air-transport-bubblesPreeti Verma Lal is a Goa-based freelance writer/photographer.