Attending the Uttar Pradesh Travel Writers’ Conclave 2016

Attending the Uttar Pradesh Travel Writers’ Conclave 2016

In October 2016 I was honoured to attend the 2nd Uttar Pradesh Travel Writers’ Conclave in Varanasi hosting by Uttar Pradesh Tourism Board and Lonely Planet Magazine India.

I was really excited to attend as most of the tourism boards in India, unlike those in Europe and America, have not been so quick on the uptake of the benefits of working with bloggers and new media professionals and marketing their destinations online so it’s really exciting to be part of this and I was honoured to be invited.

What is the Uttar Pradesh Travel Writers’ Conclave?

The Uttar Pradesh Travel Writers’ Conclave was first held last year in 2015 and sees about 40 travel writers, journalists, photographers and bloggers from India and across the world explore the best that the intriguing state of Uttar Pradesh has to offer over 3 days in the 3 different destinations that make up Uttar Pradesh’s Heritage Arc.

The Taj Mahal, in Agra, Uttar Pradesh

The Taj Mahal, in Agra, Uttar Pradesh

The Uttar Pradesh Heritage Arc

The UP Heritage Arc includes – Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, Lucknow, the capital of UP and home to some amazing Mughal architecture and food and Varanasi, home to the holy river Ganges and the holiest city in India.

For the Uttar Pradesh Travel Writers’ Conclave, the writers were given the choice of which of these 3 cities they would like to visit. I’d visited both Agra and Varanasi before in early 2013 on my first trip around India but decided to visit Varanasi again as I wanted to experience this spiritually important city again and felt that there was so much more I wanted I see.

Along the ghats of the holy River Ganges in Varanasi

Along the ghats of the holy River Ganges in Varanasi

Exploring Varanasi

Varanasi, also called Benares and Kashi (meaning city of life) is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth and is just a fascinating and unique place to explore.

In Varanasi, we took a boat ride along the Ganges at sunrise and watched as all of the rituals of life, and death, were played out along the river bank in the glow of the rising sun and attended the nightly ganga aarti (puja) ceremony at Dasaswamedh Ghat – a highlight and must do for everyone who visits Varanasi.

We also explored the Ghats, the winding streets and colourful bazaars of the old city, visited the prestigious Benares University, saw local handicrafts being made including the famous, exquisite hand woven silk sarees.

cremation ghats varanasi

There were also historic forts to visit as well as nearby Sarnath, the place where the Buddha gave his first sermon after achieving enlightenment and Allahabad, where the Kumbh Mela, the biggest religious gathering, is held every 12 years.

After a packed 3 days exploring, on the 4th day the writers who explored Agra and Lucknow all came to Varanasi for the Uttar Pradesh Travel Writers’ Conclave where the tourism minister and other important dignitaries all meet to discuss how to improve the tourism experience in this incredible state.

My experience of the Uttar Pradesh Travel Writers’ Conclave 2016

At the Uttar Pradesh Travel Writes' Conclave 2016 in Varanasi

Anna Phipps from Global Gallivanting attending the Uttar Pradesh Travel Writes’ Conclave 2016 in Varanasi

I was really impressed not just with the amazing destinations visited but also with the organisation of all the tours and activities and the way that Uttar Pradesh Tourism is proactively working to improve the tourist experience in the state, to provide employment for those who live here in the tourism industry and to improve infrastructure – one of the most notable things was the plan to connect the 3 cities of the heritage arc with the capital Delhi better by building modern highways and airports to make it easier to explore Uttar Pradesh.

The Swachh Bharat ( clean India) campaign must be working as Varanasi was also a lot cleaner than when I visited in Feb 2013 and I was pleased to hear how they are focused on eco tourism, wildlife conservation and preserving the states rich cultural and architectural heritage whilst still endeavoring to provide modern facilities for tourists.  Meeting all the other writers, bloggers, journalists and photographers was also a great experience.

Uttar Pradesh Travel Writers'Conclave 2016 in Varanasi

I hope I’ll be invited back next year because after seeing all the updates from the other writers I’m keen to explore more that UP has to offer – the architecture in Lucknow looks amazing and there is so much more to explore in Agra beyond the Taj Mahal.

In fact, there is so much more to see in UP so I’m really glad that Uttar Pradesh Tourism are taking this initiative and making steps to improve infrastructure which will make it much easier to explore the rest of what this incredible state has to offer!

Ganga aarti Varanasi

Ganga aarti Varanasi

 

Check out all my updates on social media or search for the hashtag #UPTWC16 to see all the action and keep a look out because I’ll be writing more about my experiences in amazing Uttar Pradesh soon.

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