A few of our Favorite Things: Tech Edition


Do you ever feel like your carry-on looks a little something like this? We can empathize. Whether you’re traveling for business or leisure, you’re bound to have a wire or two, as well as some specific tech needs to ensure you can connect, capture and share your memories as you go.

At Ventours we are always on the lookout for travel apps, gadgets and gear that make life on the road just a little easier.  Here is a list of our travel must haves.

Leatherology CORD WRAP

Cord-Wrap-Red-754-297_baseLeatherology’s magnetic closure cord wrap is a simple solution to secure your wires on the go. It comes in several colors and there is the option to personalize it by adding a monogram.

$15  www.leatherology.com

UE Ultimate Ears Speaker

main-ueroll-familyWe are big fans of UE Boom speakers! At just about the height of an iPhone and 9 hours of battery life, this little guy is the best bet for travel. It’s even waterproof!

$99.99 www.UltimateEars.com

Fujifilm Instax Instant Printer

32651408_010_bIt’s great to share your photos on social media and tag the new friends you’ve made along your journey, but what if you could hand them a keepsake in realtime printed straight from your smartphone? A throwback to the days of Polaroid, this Fujifilm printer is less than 5 inches tall, only 9 oz, and will spit out some quality prints in seconds.

$149 www.Amazon.com

Belkin Lightning to USB Leather Tassel


There is nothing worse than leaving your iPhone charger at home when you’re on the go. Now you can always have it on hand (or bag!) without cluttering the rest of your carryall. Attach this cute yet functional accessory and charge through an airport or car USB port at a moments notice.

$34.99 www.Belkin.com

LifeProof FRĒ iPHONE Case

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 12.35.16 PMIt is hard to imagine a bigger bummer than ruining your phone that doubles as your camera. We’ve seen a slip of the grip into a sunset Mai Tai, and the disappointment when guests are preparing for a manta ray dive in the Maldives and realize they don’t have a waterproof camera.  The FRĒ will transform your smartphone for the sea and has a myriad of other perks too!

$89.99 www.LifeProof.com

Google Offline Maps

FullSizeRender 3It’s not exactly a gadget, but it’s an app that will change your navigation when you don’t want to run up your international roaming bill. No sim? No Problem! Just enter the area you are staying in over wifi and tap the lines on the top left of your Google map for a pull down option for ‘offline areas’. You will then be able to use that map with no fees while you are on the go!

FREE  www.google.com

Keep track of the latest travel apps, gadgets and gear finds on our Ventours Pinterest board and feel free to tag us on Instagram to share your favorites.

*Photos are sourced from the associated product links. Opinions are of Ventours International Travel.  



Sri Lanka, the Resplendent Island


It’s a steamy but cool morning. At least compared to the several previous. The kind of morning that when you set foot out the door you are enveloped in the sense that a taste of tropical lifestyle, a mouth full of spice, and the joy of the unexpected awaits.

This particular morning’s wake up call is earlier than usual (hence the lower temperature), but no one is balking at the time since what is revealed to us is the landscape of the lawn at the banks of Kandalama Lake where we had spent the most elegant evening two nights prior. The memory of being surrounded by no less than 1,000 lanterns and sending our own filled with well-wishes into the atmosphere is now complemented with a sun-soaked impression. As we make our way through the grounds of a Small Luxury Hotel in Dambulla, Signature by Amaya, an excitement wafts through the group as we know we are en route to bathe a Sri Lankan elephant. After a short drive we make our way down a lush dirt path to climb into our next mode of transport. Some of us are under cover in small, bright tuk-tuks, others bounce around in the flatbed of a home made tractor-like contraption.

Nothing like a Tuk Tuk to feel the wind in your hair!
Nothing like a Tuk-tuk to feel the wind in your hair!

Smiles abound and hands hold tight until we can finally see the lake, which is a mirror image of it’s hilly backdrop drenched in the early morning light of a photographer’s dream. But where is the elephant? Feeling a bit like an equatorial rendition of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, we are told to hop on pontoon canoes and off we row clad in florescent-orange life jackets, which surprisingly complement our colorful surroundings. This is spectacular, we think.

The bow of our canoe pontoon.
The bow of our canoe pontoon.

IMG_9715We glide ashore next to the majestic creature and her mahout. Though many of the travel professionals on our Rebecca Recommends FAM have had previous encounters with elephants, we soon learned why this was such a remarkable experience– Manika was at ease and inviting us into her own habitat. We weren’t visiting a herd in a barn or looking down on a circus ring. We were outdoors with the people who love her and diligently look after every need. We were so close that we were instantly aware of our small stature compared to the power and immensity of the natural world. For the next hour our group took turns wading in the lake using a coconut husk to scrub and massage Manika’s ancient armor.  To our delight, her response was obvious enjoyment.

This was just one of the many elements of surprise and delight along our two week journey though the ‘Resplendent Island’, the English translation from the Sanskrit name given so recently in 1972. Sri Lanka’s list of names is about as long as its rich and complex history. A few weeks certainly is not long enough to fully comprehend its past, however, there is an amazing amount of physical evidence that helps visitors piece together the remarkable events that have transpired on the island nation measuring just over 25,000 square miles. (Roughly the size of West Virginia or Tasmania, for our Aussie friends.)

With a landscape that ranges from a pulsing metropolis, to the tea-growing highlands where you can cozy up to a fire, to spectacular coasts with world-class beaches and marine life, there is something for everyone.


It is one of the few destinations with entertainment for all types of travellers: surfers to foodies, interior designers to spa junkies, teetotalers (in the most literal sense) to sports enthusiasts, and the list goes on! Can you imagine many places that would attract famous architects and Si-Fi authors alike?

No. 11 -- Geoffrey Bawa's residence
No. 11 Geoffrey Bawa’s residence
Arthur C Clark's entry.
Arthur C Clark’s entry

Yet, Geoffrey Bawa and Arthur C. Clark both found solace and inspiration in Sri Lanka, and certainly left their mark. Similarly, there is a combination of elegance and playfulness in the local culture, with both high tea and comedians so deeply ingrained.

Unsure if you want to laugh or cry? We'll guarantee seeing a Kilam masked dance and comedy routine will generate at least a slight grin!
Unsure if you want to laugh or cry at the sight of this fellow? We’ll guarantee seeing a Kolam masked dance and comedy routine at Kandy House will generate at least a slight grin!

In some ways it feels like Sri Lanka is trying to assert its identity to Western travelers who seem to still categorize it with India. The contrast is stark as Sri Lanka lacks much of the infamous chaos that we know (and also love) about Northern India. In addition, it has a strong personality of its own– a jovial, superstitious one that our brilliant guide, Walter, brought to life during many animated discussions concerning construction site scarecrows, sea pencils (we later figured were urchins), the intimate lives of kings, and weekend wedding classifieds. We spent several hours on the road howling in laughter or with furrowed brows, intently trying to grasp every word. In both cases our wealth of knowledge and fondness for Sri Lanka grew exponentially.

In general, Sri Lanka is easy. It is full of smiles, great food, creativity and luxurious accommodations. There is no surprise why we consistently see the small island nation pop up in the news and on travel lists.

Ventours Welcome Documents
Ventours Welcome Documents which include a full itinerary, destination information and a notebook to track your own discoveries.

Denoted as last year’s Destination of the Year by the Sunday Times, highlighted in The Telegraph’s article, 23 Reasons to Visit Sri Lanka, and listed in Travel + Leisure’s Best Places to Travel in 2016, it’s not a destination you want to miss. What’s more is that Sri Lanka is remarkably safe for tourists and at present there is no risk of Zika or malaria.

Already seven years after the end of the Civil War Sri Lanka’s doors are open and inviting you to take part in the most recent turn in its history– the one which puts it on the map as a must-experience destination. It would be an absolute pleasure to share more about this stunning country with you, and help craft your next Journey East to Sri Lanka!

Known as the most valuable historical monuments of Sri Lanka, Sigiriya, a gigantic rock formation, boasts two massive lion claws just before the final ascent.
A well embellished door at the Temple of the Tooth
A well embellished door at the Buddhist Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka.
A beautiful lotus offering at a Buddhist Temple.
Selecting the perfect young tea leaves is an art!
These smiling school children and their lovely singing voices made our day!
The Royal Botanical Gardens are a must for orchid lovers.
Pull up a seat for a little relaxation at Cape Weligama.
When you have had enough sun rest your head down in this perfectly appointed Cape Weligama room.
Polonnaruwa was the capital between the 10th and 12th century AD.
Inside the Dambulla World Heritage site are frescoes over 2000 years old!
The Gal Vihara rock temple was constructed in the 12th Century by Parakramabahu I.
A very special thank you to our Rebecca Recommends FAM trip participants! We hope to welcome you and your guests back very soon.
A very special thank you to our Rebecca Recommends FAM trip participants! We hope to welcome you and your guests back very soon.

For more information about Sri Lanka itineraries please contact us at ventbom@ventours.com and visit us at www.ventours.com.

writing and photography by Lindsay Cope 

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Mysterious and Magnificent Bhutan

This man circles the stupa an auspicious 108 times with his prayer wheel in hand.

Bhutan! The very word conjures a sense of perplexity and complexity, and perhaps an apprehension that it’s hard to reach, controlled, or inhibited. By now we hope you have already seen a number of our recent Instagram and Facebook posts to catch a glimpse of the contrasting truth about the fun-loving, respectful nature of Bhutan and Bhutanese people.

Though some time has passed, participants of our recent Rebecca Recommends FAM trip fondly recall the weeks leading up to our 8-day journey through Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey, Jakar, and Paro. Some spoke romantically about the unknowns of a journey to the Last Shangri-La, while others held fast to the opening scene of Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1995 film, Little Buddha. With days packed preparing to leave various offices there wasn’t much time for prior research, nor a desire to spoil a fresh, new experience with more preconceptions.

Landing in the lush Paro Valley is an adventure in itself!
Landing in the lush Paro Valley is an adventure in itself!

Questions or comments we’ve often heard include ‘where exactly is Bhutan?’, ‘Why is it so restricted?’ ‘It’s impossible to get to. They don’t let that many people in’, ‘the visa is a hassle…’, and so on. And while we want to argue that these are all myths (which they are) there is something about them that keeps this jovial country at a safe enough distance from the less becoming elements of tourism. Knowing what I know now, part of me likes the sense of trepidation Bhutan inspires. It keeps its deeply rooted ancestral mysticism alive in a modern way.

Just off the heels of an extremely successful FAM in Nepal, there was a curious concern that nothing could compare. However, from beginning to end our trip was full of surprises, laughter and luxury, which became immediately apparent as we found ourselves swerving past mountain peaks and landing in a shock of green. Once off the plane in Paro Valley it was hard to get past how fresh the air smelled and how perfect the temperature was: the epitome of clean and comfortable! Even more of a shock was the ornate painted architecture of the airport, the majority of Bhutanese in traditional garb, ‘Ghos’ for men, ‘Kiras’ for women, and the smiles from customs officials as they eased us through immigration. How unusual!

The architecture throughout Bhutan is outstanding, and plays a large role in preserving their unique culture.
The architecture throughout Bhutan is outstanding, and plays a large role in preserving their unique culture.

As our journey progressed, the green got greener, the air cleaner, the smiles brighter. We saw some of the bluest skies we have ever seen next to the most intensely dramatic clouds and landscapes you could imagine. We quickly learned that Bhutan is a series fascinating paradoxes starting with its endless tradeoffs of mountain peaks and contrasting valleys, lending to an incredibly simple, yet extremely complicated culture. Almost everything about Bhutan is both formidable and serene all at the same time, and these elements are so opposing they complement each other perfectly.

Bhutan is a nation built on respecting elders, the monarchy, religion and environment. It is uncomplicated by serious crime or conflict, but the history and mythology that led Bhutan to where it is today is so involved it is amazing anyone can keep the who’s who of the last several centuries straight. There is extensive lore involving demons and saviors, the unifier and bearded men, a treasure finder, and four harmonious friends. Even the national animal, the Takin is an ungulate thought to be created by a Buddhist saint who put the head of a goat on the body of a cow and ordered it on its way.

Learning about these important characters and the lineage of Tantric Buddhism, not to mention the yaks, yetis and other lurking creatures you most certainly will not set your eyes on, made me feel a little like I was on the most incredible snipe hunt one could image. But the way in which our local guides could rattle off the related facts and figures made you believe you might just get swept away by a garuda at any moment for 108 laps clockwise around the sun!

The towering Dordenma Statue of Shakyamuni in Thimphu measures 169 feet tall (half the height of the Statue of Liberty!). Made of bronze and gilded in gold, this Buddha is thought to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world.
The towering Dordenma Statue of Shakyamuni in Thimphu measures 169 feet tall (half the height of the Statue of Liberty!). Made of bronze and gilded in gold, this Buddha is thought to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world.

Jokes aside, which is actually hard to do since the Bhutanese are quite clever and comic, religion is truly paramount and karma governs as your actions in this life influence the fate of your next. Bhutan’s history is a fascinating narrative that keeps healthy a nation more reminiscent of bygone years. It may very well be the last place on earth so deeply committed to doing so considering tourism was only allowed starting in the 70s and TV only available in the late 90s. The big Bhutanese cities feel more like small towns, and there are no traffic lamps, rather white-gloved police officers (men and women) guiding drivers through the busier intersections. As with other aspects of life construction, style of dress and cuisine carry on as per usual throughout time.

On paper, this description still may lend to the image an archaic society ruled by strong-armed old king keeping the country closed off, conservative and controlled. But it’s quite the opposite. There is not a sense of government paranoia like in other places, and you may be surprised to learn the King is only 35! As a democratic constitutional monarchy the executive power is vested in the cabinet, headed by Prime Minister, and social policies tend toward liberal democratic culture with socialized healthcare, education, and access to electricity.

IMG_8237 2In fact, Bhutan feels more ‘free’ than almost anywhere I have been. Life in Bhutan can be tough in some ways considering the climate and livelihood practices, but happiness abounds and is taken seriously as it’s been denoted the best indicator of national success. Bhutan is authentic, refreshing, and to be honest, hard to describe in just a few paragraphs! There is nothing like it in the world so we highly suggest you visit the Land of the Thunder Dragon to get a sense of it for yourself.

For more information about our itinerary and details about the Land of the Thunder Dragon please contact Ventours directly and we suggest you read Rebecca Recommends recent Bespoke Bhutan with Ventours International newsletter.



Welcome back! In Part I of our Subcontinent Celebrations blog we highlighted a few of our favorite festivals in India and Nepal, two countries world renowned for their vibrant parties and multifaceted traditions.

Here we share with you some of the most memorable moments for their global neighbors in Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Tibet. Don’t worry! We are not ignoring Bhutan’s famous festival culture—quite the opposite. This week we go live on social media directly from Bhutan and we hope you will stay tuned for upcoming Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts that will give you a closer look at life, luxury and elaborate celebratory styles from Paro to Bumthang and our many stops along the way. 

Sri Lanka

A country with Dutch, British and Portuguese influence, Sri Lanka is as diverse in culture as it in landscape. You can go from verdant hills to  sandy  beaches, the cosmopolitan capital of Colombo to sacred sites, and atmospheric luxury villas to earthy tea plantations– all within this tiny teardrop-shaped island!

In Sri Lanka, not a month goes by without an involved celebration, most of which are known for participants’ intricate traditional garb as well as dancing with fire and whips. As in India and Nepal, Sri Lankans celebrate Diwali and Vesak, but here one unique to the nation formerly known as Ceylon.

Esala Perahera

Date  July or August as appointed by an astrologer who determines the most auspicious start day
Length  10 days
Location  The Temple of the Tooth, in central Sri Lanka, the country’s most important Buddhist Shrine
Type  Buddhist; rituals are conducted by Monks of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters
Celebrating Dalada Maligawa, the Buddha’s Tooth Relic, which has been located in Kandy since the 16th Century. In addition, this ‘Grand Festival of Esala’ also honors the gods Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and the goddess Pattini.

A photograph of the Esala Perehera festival in Kandy, taken around 1885. Photo credit: ESPN Cricinfo travel_Kandy
A photograph of the Esala Perehera festival in Kandy, taken around 1885. Photo credit: ESPN Cricinfo travel_Kandy

Celebrated by parading the Tooth Relic through the streets in a casket on the back of an ornately decorated elephant. Traditional Sri Lankan fire and whip dances are also preformed for the thousands who come to join the festivities. Don’t forget about acrobats and jugglers who make for more great entertainment!
Interesting tidbit According to Sri Lankan legend, when the Buddha died in 543 BCE, his body was cremated but his left canine tooth was retrieved from the funeral pyre by his disciple. However, there are other temples around the world that claim to have tooth relics from the Buddha, including one in Rosemead, Southern California.


The Maldives is comprised of a double chain of 26 atolls. Though one of the world’s most geographically dispersed nation, it is South Asia’s smallest in terms of actual land mass and population. Given its layout, you can imagine it is not exactly easy to congregate for celebrations. However the Maldives are connected by ferry and for tourists, float plane taxi, which can give you lift from your resort to check out the main celebrations in the capitol, Malé. Another note of interest as of 2006, the local literacy rate is 99% — and that is something to celebrate! Taj Exotica Resort Seaplane

Maldives Independence Day
Date  July 26
Length  1 day
Location  Republic Square, Malé
Type  National
Celebrating  the independence from the British in 1965
Celebrated by  marching floats and processions by the National Security Service and the National Cadet Corps, followed by drills and traditional dances performed by hundreds of school children.
Interesting tidbit  Prior to British rule, the Maldives was previously a Portuguese and Dutch colony. In 1965 they gained independence becoming a monarchy, then a few years later on November 11, 1968  the Maldives switched to a republic. In addition to Independence day they also celebrate Republic Day annually.

Fisherman’s Day
Date  December 10
Length  1 day
Location  Malé Fish Market
Type  National
Celebrating  the importance of fishermen to the Maldivian economy
Celebrated by  competitions for swimming, boat rowing, fish filleting and, not surprisingly, fishing. Festivities are also accompanied by a local fishing industry trade fair.
Interesting tidbit  With over 1,000 coral islands, you can imagine shells and fish are bountiful! Historically, Maldives was a source for the once most used currency, the  cowry shell. Now that the world has shifted to what we would like to think of as less volatile currency, the Maldives largest percent of GDP comes from tourism, followed by fishing. Exporting fish is it’s largest foreign trade, though scrap metal is not far behind!


Also known as Xizang Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, or Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Tibet might just be the exact opposite of the Maldives. While the island nation is world’s lowest country at an average of 1.5 meters (4.9 ft) above sea level, landlocked Tibet, sharing the Everest boarder with Nepal, is the highest plateau in the world, averaging 4,500 meters (14,800 ft). As you can imagine, Tibet does not have a booming fishing industry, but rather one that relies heavily on subsistence agriculture with a history of pastoralism. Farming is very limited in the Maldives due to lack of fertile land or contiguous space to roam upon, and most agriculture is imported– though hydroponic farming might have hope for the future. Maldivians are predominately Muslim, while Tibetans Buddhist. The Maldives tropical, Tibet has snow.  The list goes on…

What these two unlikely countries do have in common that the cowry shells procured in the Maldives was used as currency in Tibet, arriving by way of Begal. They also make an important appearance in the famed Tibetan dice game, Sho, which is placed during many festivities. They also both celebrate their most important animals to their diet and culture , fish and yaks respectively. Plus they can be visited with Ventours!

During Tibet’s tumultuous relationship with China, several celebrations have been banned, especially those relating to the Dalai Lama. However, some occasions are still celebrated despite a ban, and festivals still remain numerous in this Himalayan country. From festivals that use yoghurt to worship Buddha (Sho Dun Festival) to ones that wash away greed and jealousy (Golden Star) or those that scare away prowling ghosts (Incense Festival), you are sure to see something new if you are fortunate enough to partake in the merriment that might include sacred long life pills, picnics and vivid masks.

Tibetan Butter Lamp Festival
Date The 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan lunar calendar, which is about 4-6 weeks behind the solar calendar.
Length The Lamp Festival is technically one day, but it falls within the Monlam Prayer Festival, which falls during the holiday season starting with New Year Losar Festival. Needless to say, it’s a very exciting time in Tibet.
Location Lhasa, especially notable on Barkhor Street

Butter Lamps | Photo: Lindsay Cope
Butter Lamps | Photo: Lindsay Cope

Type Buddhist
Celebrating The Buddha’s wisdom and the Shakyamuni Buddha’s legendary during victory in the 1409 great debate in Sravasti, India. The Monlam Festival also celebrates Buddha’s miracles.
Celebrated by lighting lamps literally made of butter and displaying butter sculptures, or ‘Tormas’ of various colors, often in the shape of animals, flowers and Buddhas. There is also dancing and singing.
Interesting tidbit Salted or unsalted, you ask? These lamps are traditionally made of clarified yak butter with a wick, but vegetable oil is also used now. Tibetan Buddhists believe that many lights together aid meditation and focusing of the mind, rather important for monks and the Dalai Lamas who would go to the Jokhang Temple to administer a question and answer test for the highest-ranking monk. This event is still carried out today in Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama now lives.

Gyantse Horse Race Festival
Date The 18th day of the 4th lunar month of the Tibetan calendar
Length 4 days Location Gynatse, LhasaHorse race festival | photo: Prweb.com
Celebrating horses, athletics and Tibetan culture
Celebrate by toad racing. Just kidding! Horse racing of course, and also yak races and archery contests, a past time of Tibetans. In addition there is wrestling, weightlifting, other track and field events, and Tibetan Opera!
Interesting tidbit Gynatse is one of the highest towns in the highest region.. so it’s up there! At 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) these feats of athletics are impressive. Onlookers might be tuckered out by just walking around and watching, let alone performing the 100 meter dash, or possibly harder, gasping for air while belting out a tune.

We hope we’ve piqued your interest in the many festivities that help make Ventours destinations as unique as they are. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions about these festivals, or others in the region. Plus, we would love for you to follow our Subcontinent Celebrations Pinterest board to see photos of these exceptional celebrations.

Lastly- don’t forget! We are making our way through an exceptional itinerary in Bhutan and posting live on social media. Follow us to see many more photos of South Asia’s majestic marvels!

Subcontinent Celebrations | Part I

There is no better way to immerse yourself in culture when traveling than by joining the local festivities. Ventours’ destinations are known for magnificent celebrations that are rich in history, tell tales of local lore, highlight aspects of religion, and bring about the best traditional fare, music and dress. The thought of festivals on the Indian subcontinent conjures quintessential images of Holi with faces splashed in blue and pink hues, or the twinkle of thousands of lights illuminating Diwali nights. While these momentous occasions are without a doubt worth planning around, there are hundreds of additional celebrations in the region that truly add to the exceptional festival culture of South Asia.

Ventours destinations include India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Tibet, Nepal and the Maldives, all of which are incredibly diverse and have numerous religions, historical events, cultures and sub-cultures, and livelihood practices. Their holidays and celebrations even revolve around multiple lunar and solar calendars including Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, Tibetan, and Gregorian. Given the sheer number of festivals, there is a good chance you will come across one or two during your stay, but timing is everything and you certainly don’t want to miss a memorable opportunity to see an elephant bearing the Buddha’s tooth or a Dashain sky cloaked in kites while taking a whirl on a bamboo swing! The vibrancy of South Asia celebrations is unparalleled, and can only be realized through personal experience. This is the first of a two part blog on subcontinent celebrations where we will first highlight a few favorites in India and Nepal. And while in no way is this a comprehensive list (or you would be reading for days!), we urge you to scroll down and see which celebrations pique your interest. We are happy to answer additional questions about these and others in the region. We also hope you will stop by our Subcontinent Celebrations Pinterest page for a more visual glimpse of merriment to come!


India celebrates over 190 festivals per year, including festivals within festivals. India also ranks number one for the amount of public holidays at twenty-one, and sometimes more depending on the state. The U.S. pales in comparison with only ten! Needless to say, India takes its celebrations seriously, going all out on the color, culinary and clothing front while honoring Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, and Christian occasions.

Date  March 23, 2016
Length  2 Days
AKA  The Festival of Color / Festival of light

Holi from a New York Times perspective

Type  Hindu | Gregorian calendar
Location  Nationwide, and also in Nepal as well as Indian diaspora countries including Fiji, Mauritius, Trinidad, Jamaica, and Guyana
Celebrating  the victory of good over evil
Celebrated by  throwing colored powder and water all over.  The wet and bright celebration also includes music and dance.
Interesting tidbits  Let’s get these tidbits started with a Bhang! A cannabis cocktail, Bhang Thandai, is a favorite drink during the Holi Festival. The cannabis paste is mixed with milk and spices. Serve cold. Cheers! Now you are probably asking, is this legal?

Date  Nov 11, 2015 / Oct 30, 2016
Length  5 Days
AKA  The Festival of Lights / Deepavali
Location  Throughout India, Sri Lanka and Nepal
Type  Hindu, Sikhs, Jains (though celebrated for different reasons) | Hindu Lunisolar calendar
Celebrating  The start of the Hindu New Year and the victory of light over darkness
Celebrated by  Lighting diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their homes, creating Rangolis, or patterns out of colored rice, flower and sand to bring good luck, and partaking in family prayers, or puja. People exchange gifts and feast, followed by spectacular fireworks– an estimated US$800 million worth in 2013!
Interesting tidbits  The first day of Diwali celebrates the birth of Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, and therefore is regarded as an auspicious time to invest money. Despite it being a national holiday, the stock market opens for Muhurat trading for one hour where investors place token orders and buy stocks for their children, a symbolic ritual that has taken place for years.

Kerala Temple Festivals & Elephant Pageants
Date  Various from January – May
Length  Pageants are 1 day, though temple celebrations might go on longer
Type  Hindu | Malayalam calendar
Celebrating ‘God’s Own Country’, Kerala’s other name, which is home to many Hindu Temples. Each temple has unique traditions and holds exotic festivals celebrating the specific God of worship.

Kerala Temple Festival, photo: wikimedia.org
Kerala Temple Festival, photo: wikimedia.org

Celebrated by  parading the idol of the given Temple’s god atop a caparisoned elephant. Neighbors present offerings to the God and enjoy parades with colorful floats, music and dance as they meander through the streets.
Interesting tidbits  These festivals are especially known for their elaborate elephant pageants, showing off Kerala’s state animal. Elephants typically have three mahouts who decorate, ride and direct the elephants during festivals, as well as care for them by bathing them and giving massages with small stones. During the off-season, the elephants take a trip to the spa to undergo Ayurvedic rejuvenation treatments called Sukha Chikitsa. Though this may seem like the plush life, these giant grey creatures do work very hard in the heat and it may be no surprise that animal rights groups are not big fans of these festivals. The opposing argument by supporters notes that money earned during pageants helps pay for their care which otherwise would be too expensive. In addition, the Forest Department has implemented rules to protect them during the events.

Pushkar Camel Fair
Date  November 19-25, 2015 / November 8-14, 2016
Length  5 Days
Location  Lake Pushkar, Rajasthan
Celebrating Well! Camels of course…
Celebrated by  transporting an estimated 50,000 camels to the tiny desert town of Pushkar, Rajasthan for trade and entertainment. Camels are dressed up, paraded, shaved, raced and entered into beauty contests. Can’t you just imagine ‘Miss Pushkar?’
Interesting tidbit  Experiencing the Pushkar Camel Festival takes you back to India’s traditional roots. Camel trade is important, and yes, the camels are the main attraction, however additional human competitions are held as well, including the  longest mustache, matka phod, and bridal competitions.

Pushkar Camel Fair photo from: pushkarcamelfair.in
Pushkar Camel Fair photo from: pushkarcamelfair.in


Nepal definitely gives India a great run for its money when it comes to the number and intensity of festivals. The Nepalese celebrate many of the same religious festivals as its neighbor, but also commemorate its diverse landscape, flora and fauna, and with over sixty different ethnic groups you can imagine there are several unique traditions known only to this Himalayan country.

The Living Goddess of Kathmandu, photo: Lindsay Cope
The Living Goddess of Kathmandu, photo: Lindsay Cope

Kumari Jatra — Kumara (Part of theYenyā festival)
Date  Late spring
Length  11 Days
Location  Kathmandu Durbar Square
Type  Hindu | Lunar calendar
Celebrating  The Living Goddess
Celebrated by  A chariot procession of the goddess and by hosting the biggest street festivals in Nepal
Interesting tidbit  Yenyā means ‘Kathmandu Festival’ in the local language, and it is the biggest religious street festival in Nepal.  The Kumari Jatra began in 1756 AD and each year, the Nepalese King (or more recently the president) seeks the blessing of the Royal Kumari. This is one of the only occasions in which the Living Goddess leaves her palace (she is only six years old!).

Buddha Jayanti
Date  May 2016, the full moon of the month of Vesākha
Length  11 Days
AKA  Buddha’s birthday or Vesak, in Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and Tibet
Location  Nationwide, Patan and Bhaktapur for the best festivities
Type  Hindu | Lunisolar calendar
Celebrating  Buddha’s birth on earth

Boudhanath Stupa, Image: Lindsay Cope
Boudhanath Stupa, Image: Lindsay Cope

Celebrated by Throwing a massive birthday party! As the birthplace of Buddhism, Nepalese and Bhuddist pilgrims from all around the world visit the UNESCO world heritage site Lumbini, where the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was born. Crowds also gather at Bodhnath and Swayambhunath Stupas in Kathmandu.
Interesting tidbits – Buddha’s birthday is the same day he reached enlightenment and nirvana.  For celebration, Buddhists wear white and also set caged birds free.

Nepal: Going More than 15 km Deep

Durbar Square, Kathmandu

Though it has already been a month, the aftermath of the initial earthquake remains raw in Nepal. Now the realization that it can and did happen again looms renewing a sense of fear and international compassion. Teams are on the ground thwarting health crises such as cholera outbreaks and lack of access to services and healthcare supplies, people are still discovering the damage, and the entire country is picking up the pieces of broken hearts and broken buildings, and as some might say, a broken approach to aid.

Crushed too are we for the fact that this quake has deeply impacted the trajectory of the country’s growth and development and will forever change the way people view our beloved Nepal. Globally, it is not a completely understood place. In part due to the Hippie trail and freely growing cannabis, it was often thought of a hippie haven, or for adventure junkies daring to summit the highest mountain on earth. Kathmandu is recognized for chaos and pollution, and Everest for its intimidating grandeur, and in many circles that is where it ends.

While there is no doubt that it is important to share the reality of the current situation– the destruction, the health and economic implications, the corruption– our regret is that people who knew little about Nepal before the quake, will now see it for sadness, loss, and fear. With drone and mapping technology a natural disaster is made more real than ever before to those who can fly over the ruble and refugees from the safety of their own computer thousands of miles away.

Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu
Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu

Of course, it is only natural to share what was once and is no longer – the World Heritage sites that were demolished and the mountainsides that have slipped away, but we want to ensure that the world knows that Nepal is greater than the sum of its parts, and that we believe our neighbors are strong enough to keep their extraordinary, unique identity which is joyful, welcoming and radiant.

Though Ventours is based over the border in India, we have been working closely with our Nepali counterparts for nearly 30 years to share what has become a second home where we seek both solace and excitement. To us, Nepal is about its people and the way in which its incredible landscape has shaped them. Though nearly 75% of the country is covered in mountains, the quintessential snowcapped view is only the tip of the iceberg. A melting pot given its geographic location bordering India and the Tibetan region of China, and close proximity to Bhutan and Bangladesh, plus the harmonious coexistence of Buddhism and Hinduism, Nepal is a mecca for art, creativity, cuisine, adventure and luxury. Full of character with its Holy men lining the banks of the Bagmati River and traditions like the Living Goddesses of the Kathmandu Valley, full of history from the ancient salt trade to the recent Maoist regime, it is, simply put, full of surprises.

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Long time friend of Ventours, Ang Tshiring Sherpa, popping the cork at the highest of heights! Photo courtesy of Martha Merle

Many don’t imagine Nepal for champagne brunches at the edge of the atmosphere, or a round of golf at one of the finest courses in the world, for mustang horses on arid landscapes, historic libraries filled with giant prayer books inscribed in gold, or for sushi restaurants, cheese, or courtyards reminiscent of Marrakesh. But again, that is just a fragment of what Nepal has to offer.

And for those familiar, a day in Kathmandu conjures images not of the arduous chaos of other large, developing cities, but one of ebb and flow and vibrant life where it is impossible to soak up everything interesting around them. Imagine gilded roofs with richly carved wood details, copper bowls filled with vivid orange and crimson marigolds…revolving prayer wheels spun by monks seemingly whizzing by as you are caught still, captivated by a frenzy of prayer Nepal-Marigoldsflags whipping wildly in the wind. Yet you feel calm and at peace as you marvel at how welcomed you have been in a place so different from your own home.

As the sun sets just right to illuminate the many stupas speckling the city, and the bustle of life shifts from day to night, the one thing that catches your mind’s eye is that everything seems to be smiling. Certainty the people, and the golden hue of surrounding spires, but also colorful bicycle rickshaws, the miniature wind-up-toy like cars, Nepal-3585the tails of Sanskrit characters splashed colorfully on crumbling walls, the upturned ends of pagoda buildings, and somehow even the rats nest of wires that miraculously allows electricity to keep pace.

Throughout Nepal there is a complementary sense of calm and energy, of discovery and comfort. It is a place that keeps you on your toes, and on very rare occasions, shows its ability to knock you over, reminding you of the causes of its natural beauty and also of its peoples’ strength and resilience.

The cotton candy kid - another delightful surprise in Nepal!
The cotton candy kid – another delightful surprise in Nepal!

Perhaps it seems unfair that we tempt your travel bug with a glimpse of such a magnificent yet currently inaccessible place. But that is our goal. Nepal is inaccessible only for the moment and we hope you keep it at the forefront of your mind as you consider both how to help and your future travel plans. We encourage you to read Patricia Shultz’s article in Travel Weekly to better understand why a future visit to Nepal is the Key to its recovery, and to join us back here to learn what you can do to help Ventours’ humanitarian assistance efforts. We look forward to further discussion about resilience and the need for normalcy when bouncing back from traumatic experiences.

When the time is right, explore with us and let the Nepalese welcome you, just as they always have, with open arms and huge smiles.Holy men of Kathmandu


Thanks for visiting the Ventours Blog!  

Join us to see what is behind this inviting door (The Vitarka Mudra hand position evokes the energy of teaching and intellectual discussion!)

We look forward to bringing these pages to life by sharing photos and words about the world as we see it. When you venture through the Indian sub-continent with us, we help unveil the beauty, mystery and delight of the places we hold so dear in our hearts. We hope you will follow our blog to read about our unique perspectives on travel and culture and catch a glimpse of the journeys we are so excited about.

Each hand picked destination has its own magic, and often a harmonious combination of tranquility and madness that will forever be ingrained in your memory. The rich history, traditions, architecture, colors and scents reveal magnificent stories. We invite you relax, dream, discover and grow with Ventours as your friend and guide.

With nearly 30 years of luxury and adventure travel under our belt, Ventours experiences remain personal and authentic as every aspect is tailored to your desire.  Please check in with us often to hear the latest news about Ventours destinations, philanthropy, travel tips, and much much more.

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Welcome! and enjoy the ride…



The Journey East