Hyderabad an old world charm

via Daily Prompt: Spicy

The city of Hyderabad is famous for irani chai, Charminar, spicy biriyani and pearls.

I love this quaint city with its old world charm and slow paced lifestyle which makes visitors feel at home.  So when I was given the task of showing K around ,I decided to take him to these places that I felt captured the essence of this city so well.

1. Charminar :

All tourism posters of Hyderabad show this lovely monument located in the old city. Interestingly it was erected as a token of gratitude to the gods after the plague affecting the city had come to an end in 1591.

Surrounded by bazaars and thronged by people on almost all days I thought K deserved to see this place when it was quieter in the wee hours of the morning. So the two of us woke up early and admired the Charminar as It stood  like a sentinel watching the residents stir awake as the sun rose. Visitors are allowed in between : 9am -5:30 pm and can climb up to 1 floor to be able to Get a panoramic view of the surrounding marketplace, the mecca masjid a few feet away and the hustle bustle below.

Source:wikipedia

2. Govind bhai’s dosa:

Come Sunday my friends and I would head out for  breakfast to Govind bhai’s food stall.  It was located in ghanzi bazaar opposite Agra sweets just around the corner to Charminar. Since K and I were already in the area and were famished we went over and we patted ourselves on the back for the good decision. His tawa idlis and butter dosas were to die for. The stall opens at 6:30 am and closes at 1 pm. He has an outlet in Banjara hills as well on  road no 14.  Off late other dosa places around Hyderabad have started emulating his style of cooking, however I personally felt that his dosas are unparalleled.

3. Laad bazaar:

A trip to Charminar and Hyderabad is considered incomplete if you don’t venture into Laad bazaar. The bazaar stretches across..  And K surprisingly insisted that he wanted to go shopping in Laad bazaar . The sheer variety of wares being sold there took me by surprise.  Semi precious stones, dress materials, sarees, bangles, bindis, jewellery, kolhapuri chappals, decorations, dry fruits, pearls and all kind of food. The best way of exploring the bazaar is ofcourse on foot so you can take a look at all the stores, just make sure you strike a good bargain.

4. Birla mandir :

This temple of marble has been built by the birlas and is located on hill fort road.  The best time to visit is early morning  to catch the sunrise or just before The sun sets.  The main shrine is dedicated to lord venkateshwara and goddess padmavati,however there are shrines for the Buddha, lakshmi,ganesha,shakti ,shiva.

Source:wikipedia

5.Bhongiri fort :

Tribhuvanagiri as it was originally called, was built in the 11th century by the chalukhyan ruler Tribhuvanamalla vikramaditya the sixth.  The fort is built on  a monolith rock which was recently discovered to be a batholith(which is a large igneous rock formed beneath the surface of the earth due to the intrusion and cooling of magma). Apart from being steeped in history this monument also offers adventure lovers an opportunity to try activities such as rock climbing and rapelling thanks to the rock climbing school located at the base.

Source:wikipedia

6.Tank bund :

Hussain sagar or tank bund as its locally referred to, is a huge man made lake in the center of the city.  There is a statue of the Buddha in the middle of tank bund and government boats  ferry visitors  across to the statue. The Buddha statue is said to be the largest monolith in Asia.   There are 33 bronze statues of famous people who have played instrumental roles in their respective fields on the tank bund road. In the evenings the entire road around tank bund is lit up in lights and appears like a necklace, lending it the name necklace road.

 

Source:wikipedia

7.Taramati baradari:

Located near Golconda fort this place  was built especially for Taramati who was the favorite courtesan of Abdullah qutub shah. The hall has been designed in such a way that her voice could be heard clearly while she sang all the way to Golconda fort Located 2 km away. The pavilion has 12 doorways that allowed for cross ventilation and also kept the hall cool during the summers. Present day it has been converted into an auditorium.

source:wikipedia

8.Salarjung museum:

Located on the southern bank of the Musi river,this is a lovely museum to visit especially on a hot day when you would rather be indoors. The  salar jung museum is believed to be the largest one man collection to be known and had many notable artifacts from all over the world. My all time favorites are the veiled Rebecca, the double statue of Mephistopheles and Margareta and the cuckoo clock at the center. The museum is the perfect place to spend hours marveling at the elegance and the creativity of the human mind and is sure to take the fancy of  many a dreamer.

Source :wikipedia
Source:wikipedia

 

Have you been to Hyderabad? I would love to hear about which place you hold close to your heart,do write in.

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Flashback-Araku valley

via Daily Prompt: Casual

As we traveled by the train from Vishakapatnam to Araku,our excitement knew no bounds.

araku
source:wikipedia

The long train weaved in and out of the many tunnels along the route and we screamed for fun whenever we passed through the pitch dark tunnels.

Araku valley was considered to be an offbeat place in those days and not many people used to visit it.  So there weren’t many options  available when it came to accommodations. During a time when home-stays were not heard off ,a kind acquaintance of ours invited us to stay with them for the entire duration of the trip.

We rented bicycles and rode around the valley exploring the nearby villages. The valley was covered in mist and small stalls serving hot tea and snacks opened up early in the morning.  Most of the day was spent leisurely strolling around, playing with the fluffiest most chubby puppies we had set our young eyes on or cycling casually  in the valley. We were lucky enough to witness the celebrations of the tribal people who lived there performing their famous dhimsa dance; they  also sprinkled water that was presumably mixed with plant dyes as we passed by and asked for coins in exchange.

dhimsa
Dhimsa dance. source: wikipedia

There is a special museum showcasing the lifestyle of the tribes that live there, their artwork, cooking utensils, their head-gear etc.  The museum is spread over two levels and is quite unique as it has been constructed with mud and clay.

Our host had children who were our age which worked out great for us since we had playmates throughout our stay at Araku. The next day our host took us as well as our playmates to chaparai waterfalls,  it wasn’t exactly a waterfall in context of height;  it was more of a stream cascading over smooth rocks. We were lucky to be the only ones there and we spent the entire day frolicking in the water and had a small picnic on the banks of the river.

I hear its overcrowded these days and could use some cleaning up, thanks to all the litter left behind on the banks by inconsiderate tourists.

Araku valley is perfect for just relaxing and enjoying the simple things in life. Located just 115 km away from Vishakhapatnam, it can be reached by bus,  train and the newly introduced vistadome coaches which are glass roof coaches that provide a panoramic view while traveling to Araku.

araku 1
source: wikipedia

Borra caves are also a must see while visiting either Araku or Vizag as they’re one of the largest cave systems in India.Home to irregularly shaped stalactites and stalagmites it was discovered in 1807 by William King. The caves are open from 10 am -5 pm with lunch break from 1pm -2pm.

 

Araku valley is definitely one of my favorite places that i have been to as a child and i am curious to see how it has changed as time has passed; Has it been exploited by the uncountable hotels and resorts that seem to be springing up like mushrooms or have they managed to preserve the integrity of this place that was once only frequented by the zany traveler, who visited and quietly went by without disturbing the balance of this place.

Staying fit on the road

I walked into the doctors office and went through the customary weight and  BP check up.

The nurse loudly announced my weight and height for everyone to hear, not really caring that I was cringing in embarrassment especially when she mentioned the weight .

I racked my brains thinking of how I had put on ten kilos in such a short time.

I realized that with all the travelling and work I never really made time to exercise and of course with the plethora of snacks that seem to be so readily available these days ,it was getting harder for me to say no to the delicious yet unhealthy food .

I promised myself that i would chalk out a plan and stick to it to not only lose weight but also become stronger and healthier by altering my lifestyle in the following ways.walk
1. Walk. Walk and walk some more:

As far as possible, K and I try to use the local transport and walk as much as possible when we travel.  For starters it helps that our average step count per day when we do this is easily a whopping 18,000.  Another thing it does is it helps you experience the place better and truly take in the essence of the place you are traveling to when you walk around and who knows what hidden treasures you may find on foot which would have been most likely missed when you sped past in a car or a two wheeler.

2. Eat local :

We are big believers in eating local wherever we go. Of course sometimes vegetarian options are a little hard to come by.  As much as possible we try to eat the local delicacies and the food that is specific to that region because I have observed that the food in the mountains vary from the food in the plains and the coastal regions since the people there cook according to the climate and their particular nutrition needs. I have noticed that I tend to be healthier when eating local produce and local food which inadvertently makes it a more fulfilling travel experience.

3. Stay hydrated :

I drink like a camel on normal days. So it becomes particularly tough when i can’t guzzle water as usual thanks to the unavailability of clean restrooms while on the move. This time when I was on the road I Soaked a spoon of sabja seeds (sweet basil) and drank the water and the seeds. It Was enough to keep me hydrated and is also known as a natural coolant of the body.

sabja

4. To snack or not to snack!

One thing all  of us who travel will agree on is that as soon as you sit in a train or car or whatever vehicle you get hungry like crazy. Especially the urge to open that bag of chips or to dig into those piping hot samosas.

This time I was  prepared when the samosa vendor walked by,  I had brought my own bag of healthy goodies like Cashews,Almonds, raisins, sunflower seeds, roasted peanuts and Fruits.  These snacks are healthy as well as full of fiber and ensure that you feel fuller for a longer period of time.

 

5.Slipping in a workout

I often try to do a short workout depending on our sightseeing plan for the day. Let’s  say we have a lot of trekking or outdoor activities planned for that day I just do whole body stretching exercises ,or if its just going to be something less outdoorsy before starting out i do some whole body free exercises. It helps to have a specific sequence of exercises already planned out along with the hold time and the number of sets/repetitions.

yoga

5. Apps:

There are some must have apps available for android as well as ios that help plan specific workouts depending upon the results you want to achieve. I personally love sworkit and musclematics. There are some apps that help you log the food you eat to help you better understand where you could be slipping up, my favorite is my fitness pal since it  also helps you log in and calculate traditional Indian food as well which I eat on a daily basis. Activity trackers are a great way to be motivated to stay in shape since you can literally take it with you anywhere and everywhere.

6. Travel friendly equipment :

I know the word equipment conjures up images of heavy machinery. Relax!  I’m not asking you to lug around stuff when you,re trying to have a good time.  I’m talking therabands and resistance tubes which are a great way to tone up your upper limb muscles and core as well. They’re easy to carry around since they occupy very little space and are very light.  It Pays to work those arms too since the more muscle mass you have the more calories you burn.

7. Make exercise fun:

Try to include as many outdoor fun activities while travelling so you can mix fitness with pleasure. Most of the hotels have swimming pools ,gyms and some form of outdoor sports, so work up a sweat while enjoying yourself. If you are a long term traveler look around for a dance , zumba or a martial arts class.

So try out these 7 simple ideas and let me know if you have some tips that i could add to this list.

Yercaud- A tryst in the Shervarayan range

The itch to travel started a little too soon this time.

Eyebrows were raised when we announced we were going away for the weekend ,yet again.

Anyway, this time we were joined by my dear sis. We boarded a train at Chennai and five hours later we were at Salem. From Salem to Yercaud you can either travel by a bus or a car.The skies darkened as we ascended the Shervaroy hills and Salem city twinkled merrily in the distance.

We were shivering by the time we reached our room at TGI star holiday resort.The resort was situated down slope from the main road and about ten minutes away from the Yercaud lake.

We checked in and dragged our trolleys up slope to our rooms,we passed by a campfire and an open air theater they had in the common area of the resort.People huddled around the fire and watched keenly as they played Bahubali 2 .We spent some time at the campfire,walked around a bit and fell asleep exhausted from all the travel.

We were up by 5:30 am the next day and walked to the lake which was also called the Emerald lake owing to its green color.Since it was so early we were the only ones around the lake and we watched the sun rise from the mountains behind the lake.The tea shops and tiffin centres started opening serving hot food which beckoned to us invitingly.

We made arrangements to go sightseeing that day with a cab driver we had met when we arrived in Yercaud.

1.Shervarayan temple:

Our first stop he informed us,was the Shervarayan temple; the locals placed idols of their god Shervarayan and goddess Kaveri in this cave temple and people from all the 67 villages surrounding the hill, came to worship here. The cave was rumored to extend all the way to Coorg. We arrived at the temple before anyone else did and had to stoop to be able to enter.once inside there was enough room to stand up.There were two small idols adorned with flowers and a small lamp and incense stick burned next to them. The mouth of the cave is enclosed in a frame and adorned with bells. A  few feet away from the temple is a raised viewing platform from where you can see the mist rising up from the valley below.IMG20170626094442

Along the same road is Bear’s cave which we couldn’t see since it requires special permission to visit as it is located in  Norton’s estate.The cave is said to have been used by Tipu Sultan during war time as a hideout.

2.Sri Chakra Maha Meru temple:

Next we stopped at the Sri Chakra Maha Meru temple which had been built recently.  This temple has the largest Sri chakra in the world. The presiding deity in this temple is  Sri Lalitha Thripoora Sundari. The temple is serene yet vibrant, sitting amidst coffee plantations and pepper plants.

Read in detail about this temple here: Sri chakra maha meru temple

3.Sri Rajarajeswari temple: The Rajarajeswari temple was dedicated to a beautiful powerful goddess as well.

4.Karidiyur viewpoint:

Karadiyur literally means bear town,since it used to be the home to many sloth bears.However now it is a hamlet and We had to walk through a dirt road to reach this viewpoint. It is actually a short walk of maybe 10-15 minutes, however the three of us kept stopping to look at butterflies ,at jamun trees, at centipedes and so it took us a while to get there. Since it was a public  holiday,it looked like most of the people from Salem had ventured out for a picnic. We can see Salem, and Mettur dam from this viewpoint. However the most memorable thing about this place was seeing an entire tree filled with butterflies ,whenever a breeze shook the tree they flitted out and hovered around the branches it was mesmerising to watch.IMG20170626113109IMG20170626113022IMG20170626110321IMG20170626110047IMG20170626110248

5. Pagoda point:

I was curious when the guide told us we would be visiting pakoda point next.We laughed when we realized that he was referring to the pagoda and not the indian snack pakoda!  The pagoda point got its name because of the piles of stones placed there which look like pagodas;the British people used the pagodas as landmarks to identify the route from the plains to the hill top. Ayothiapattinum and Attur are visible from this viewpoint.The atmosphere there was similar to a fair/carnival with lots of rides,stalls and games to entertain tourists.

6. Retreat point:

The Retreat  was founded in 1945 by the brothers of Don Bosco.  The main building is a place for students of the religious order to stay and study.  The public had access only to the football field.It was by far my favorite place  since we were the only people there and we sat down and took in the beauty of the hills from the end of the world bench there. The sun suddenly shone on us and we were able to have a look and figure out how to work the sun dial on the grounds.

7. Ladies,Gent’s and childrens seat:

We visited lady’s , gents and children’s seat, I know the names are a bit strange! We were caught in the rain and they were overcrowded so I just couldn’t wait to get away from there.

Children’s seat had three different viewpoints located far enough from each other so everyone had their space. The rain stopped and we walked down from children’s seat through the horticultural farm to the rose garden. The horticultural farm was beautifully maintained and we came across some women warming themselves by a small bonfire they had started. We chatted with them for a while they told us about the local fruit that grew in abundance like the jack fruit, fig trees, avocado, pepper and aatu kaal kalangu loosely translated as goat hoof tuber since it looks like a goats hoof. Rose garden was full of rose trees as the name suggests.IMG20170626152324

Day 2

8.Emerald lake:

The Yercaud lake  is one of the main attractions of this small hill station.The boathouse opens only at 9 am. There are rowboats,peddle boats and motor boats available for rent for varying prices and time duration’s.The motorboat and rowboats are manned by people from the boathouse.So we opted for a peddleboat.

The ride around the lake itself was fun, and we even spotted a man line fishing we tried to get a closer look but backed off when it dawned on us that we might scare the fish away. Once we got off the back we went to where he was fishing and he showed us his catch and told us he used jamun as bait.

Since we had time to spare we checked out the deer park adjacent to the lake.

9. Handicraft/perfumery: We loved the handicraft store right opposite the lake.They had a delightful collection of wooden toys, pens, utensils, combs,agarbathi stands, wall hangings and every variety of tea and coffee imaginable. They had a lot of spices, perfumes and even sherbets. Always one to try new things K bought a hibiscus sherbet which ended up being really delicious when we added a dash of lime and ginger.

10. Explore the town on foot:

We enjoyed exploring the town on foot ans were lucky enough to come across a house where wedding celebrations were afoot.What struck me were the Eco friendly decorations that were used to adorn the doorways. They were all biodegradable and natural,so they were prettier than anything human hands could have designed.

 

 

 

 

 

Why i chose to travel

​”Why do you travel so much ?”    My colleague asked incredulously as i signed yet another leave application and hurried to human resources.

Huh!? I had never really thought about it.
It felt natural to me to be traveling to a new place or to visit my folks whenever I  had enough vacation time.
So i was caught off guard when she posed me that question.
I looked around and realized that travelling was not the obvious choice for most others at my workplace or anywhere else.
I remembered my childhood when my parents would walk in and announce that we would be leaving for Goa, Delhi or Badrinath ,yet again during our vacations . We would try and reason with them that we would rather stay back  with grandma and play with our friends. ( friends and cousins were the only thing that mattered to us when we were 10).
“Sorry guys the tickets are already booked, come and pack your bags”,my mom would reply cheerily.
Ultimately my sister and I would end up having the best time ever during those biannual trips to different places around the country. They were enriching and we learnt a great deal about our history and culture when we traveled,than through our text books.We also ended up seeing the happier,relaxed and younger versions of our parents during those trips.

Fast forward to today and I feel a familiar thrill when I sit with K and coordinate our leaves, book hotel rooms, pore over train timetables and pack for the upcoming trip.
Its so thrilling to be traveling,never really sure of what is coming up next, to never be rushed to meet deadlines,  to try new food, to spend the entire day soaking up the culture of the place and the people, to listen to their tales and ambitions,to be able to stand still and look at the rising sun from amidst dew kissed fields, to spend an entire day just bathing in the waterfalls, to spend an entire night gazing at the stars, to spend the day discovering a new place, to lounge around your tent doodling and drinking hot tea,to be able to saunter through a new town; the kind of freedom travelling offers  to one’s spirit is second to none.IMG_2607

Travelling subtly takes you out of your comfort zone,prior to travelling so much ,i was a shy person not really the most adventurous,but being in a new place surprisingly made me feel and act more brave i tried out a lot of adventure sports i normally would have steered clear of.  IMG_3599

Travelling made me a more relaxed ,easy going person. It made me realize that the stuff we usually fret and worry about isn’t all that important.I found out much to my surprise that it is OK if things don’t go exactly as per my plan,in fact sometimes the unplanned stuff is way more fun and memorable.

As  Miriam Beard once said“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” 

 

Offbeat things to do when in Pondicherry

I woke up shivering as the wind blew in, through the open door.

I looked around groggily and noticed a faint orange glow in the distance.

K called out excitedly, “Hey its almost sunrise, lets head to the beach”.
It was December and one of the best times to visit Pondicherry. The weather was cold as compared to the usual hot and humid climate as was the norm. We had visited  many times before and wanted to spend this weekend doing something more offbeat.IMG_0863

We were lucky to be living a few feet away from the beach, at a hatchery in Markanam. The wind was howling and we pulled our jackets closer as we walked towards the beach.
The sun rose steadily as the ocean shimmered,in beautiful shades of orange and pink. We were the only people on the beach,except for some young boys practicing somersaults a few feet away; we watched some fishing boats in the distance laying out their nets. We walked for a while and chanced upon some driftwood which still had some sea anemones growing on it, we came upon some voodoo dolls, beautiful shells, turtles and the most interesting varieties of crabs that kept getting washed ashore by the gentle waves. Soon the fishermen hauled in their catch and started sorting them out. K spoke to one of them and they offered to take us out to sea and show us a nearby fort.

Since it was low tide ,the ocean was calm and we climbed into the small fishing boat and as we went a little deeper the waves crashed on the side of the boat ,spraying us with water. The fisherman killed the motor and we just floated in the water for a while to see the direction of the flow. To be right there surrounded by the sea on all sides ,makes you so still and also fills you with great peace.The boatman showed us some mangrove forests in the distance and told us that  although he had a MCA degree, he earned more through fishing and decided to live here as opposed to the city since it was  also his hometown.IMG_0732

We were nearing the shore and the ruins of a small fort appeared in the distance. This fort looked picturesque even though it was in ruins, built during the Mughal era between 1736-1740 AD it was under the control of the Nawab of Arcot. It was given to the French and then lost to the British who demolished the fort in 1760. It used to be the main port of trade for the Arcot nawabs . There was a mint here, which was later shifted to Pondicherry. Soon other tourists started trickling into the fort by the time we had reached the shore. It was called Alamparai fort and at the centre of the ruins was a mausoleum. The fort proved to be a photographers paradise and soon there were cameras everywhere, people bringing out their picnic baskets and some venturing to climb to the top of the fort.IMG_2169

We went back to Markanam checked out the salt flats and went to the olive ridley turtle hatchery nearby. It was humbling to see the efforts put in by the locals to save the turtles and protect them from predators and some inconsiderate fellow humans.

The next day,we decided to spend some time in Paradise beach.
True to its name this beach was more like an island and was accessible by boat from the Chunnambar boat house located about 8 km from Pondicherry on the Cuddalore road. The white sands and the blue waters gave the beach an exotic look. Since there is an entry fee, it is not as crowded as the other beaches around Pondicherry . We enjoyed playing in the gentle waves and enjoyed a yummy though somewhat expensive meal at the shacks that are present on the beach.  There were some very crude shower and change areas. The last boat back to the boathouse was at 6pm. We headed back to Chennai vowing to come back and try our hand at surfing and SUP soon.DSC_1639 (2)

 

 Top 10 Things to do in and around Ocala Florida

Ocala is a small town in Central Florida full of beautiful weeping willows and oak trees. Known as the horse capital of the world, most of the horses racing in the Kentucky Derby are grown here. At first glance it may seem that there’s not much to do.. Au contraire!  There is plenty to do here for the patient traveler

1. Ride the glass bottom boat – Silver springs

This park was one of Florida’s first tourist attractions. The primary attraction here is the glass bottom boat ride, around the Silver river.  One can spot the wildlife that thrives around the river above water as well as underwater. The feeling when you peer down the boat and see the origin of the spring is indescribable.The presence of the native american artifacts resting below the water take you back to a time when they traveled the waters in a canoe. Apart from this there are options for renting kayaks and paddle boards. Don’t miss the horseshoe shaped palm tree which brings you 5 years of good luck when  you take  a picture with it. The deck is a nice place to relax,  with old fashioned ice cream shops and hot dog stands.

IMG_20151214_161651

2. Go fishing in Crystal river

Located 40 miles from ocala it takes about an hour to reach there. Pete’s pier  stands tall in the distance  as you take your boat out.  We were lucky enough to spend tine there with our friends and got to drive a motor boat in the gulf of Mexico.  For those who want to kick back and relax  they can just drift around taking a nap or read a book or throw in a fishing  line and spend the day in leisure. The best part is to be able to explore the by lanes of the river on the banks of which there are many  quaint houses.
3. Kayak in the 3 sisters spring :

If you’re like me and you can’t swim but still seem to be attracted to watersports,  this definitely is for you.  The calm waters of the spring are perfect for  kayaking beginners. Kayaks are available for rent and the price varies according to the number of hours as well as if it is a single or double kayak . Apart from kayaks people can also rent paddleboards and in some areas we are allowed to swim. This spring is one of the favorite haunts of the beautiful manatees, especially in the winter time.
4. Homosassa state park:

Right next to the 3 sisters spring is the Homosassa state park.  Home to 3 resident manatees,  bobcats, alligators, Lu the hippopotamus, nurse sharks, rescued birds of prey,migratory birds, white tailed deer, jackals, etc it is an interesting place to visit. There is a floating observatory to get close to the manatees and the visitors can observe then during their feeding time.
5. Appleton museum :

The Appleton museum of art is located in Ocala and is governed by the college of central Florida. It houses art from all over the world and includes modern art as well and some very interesting sculptures made of metal and other recyclable products. The display  on the ground floor keeps changing and I was lucky enough to see a lot of contemporary art when I visited the second time. They have a lovely store near the exit which sells a lot of souvenirs, my favorite being a bird whistle.

6. Art walk

Starting September every year,  the first Friday of the month is observed as the art walk in downtown ocala. This series of events continues till the month of May  and is an opportunity for the local artists to showcase their talents and also for the people of the town to enjoy interacting with them. The art walk is held in the history district in downtown ocala. It is a great way to start the weekend with great food and musicIMG_20160107_112127

7. Giving a hoot-Owl  sanctuary:

This sanctuary is owned by a native American and his partner who to me are real life heroes. Their sanctuary started with one owl ‘ Hobo’who had lost his mate and was nearly dead when they found him.  They nurtured him back to health and slowly they had wounded and rescued animals being dropped off at their doorstep to be taken care of. They have truly opened their doors to these helpless creatures and continue their good work.  Its definitely worth visiting. They also undertake educational talks at schools and other events.

8. EARS-endangered animal rescue sanctuary

Located in citra-florida this sanctuary was started in 2001 and is home to many rescued and previously abused animals. At EARS you can catch a glimpse of the rare liger,  many tigers, a black bear couple and super naughty capuchin monkeys. This organization is completely non profit and is run primarily on donations. You should drop by if you’re in or around ocala.

9. Shalom park-

Another non profit botanical garden that is a must visit in Ocala.  The park is beautiful with so many winding paved paths to walk on, water bodies, meadows and woodlands,  its hard to believe you’re not walking through a wood from long ago. This place is perfect to meditate, sketch/paint or just lie on your back and enjoy a book.

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10. Gainesville :

The university town of Gainesville is ‘the’place to be if you are in party mode.  Home to the prestigious University of Florida, there is always something fun happening here. Apart from that devil’s millhopper geological state park which has  a charming  native american legend associated with it and the butterfly museum are definitely worth checking out.

I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions about other places to visit in and near Ocala.