A Winter's tale: First trip of the year to Himachal
Himachal has many meanings. And true to its meaning, I believe, the snow clad mountains is where the God's live.
Me and my wife made this 10 day trip from Jan 27th to Feb 5th 2017 starting from Delhi Airport.
Delhi to Shimla drive
Shimla to Manali
- We suggest you to start from Chandigarh. Reason being, it has a well-connected Airport, ISBT bus terminus and railway station.
- Average journey time between cities is 7 hrs. Plan for 2 days stay each at Manali, Shimla and Amritsar.
- People starting from Delhi airport can catch a bus from airport itself (Indo Canadian bus...it was hell costly I admit...1800 Rs per head till Chandigarh) or from ISBT Kashmiri Gate (Book a HIMSUTA Volvo from here . It will cost around 1100 Rs per head).
- If you have not visited Amritsar, include that too in your plan. Otherwise, take an extra day at Dalhousie of Dharamshala to regain energy to travel back.
- Budget should be 22000 per head starting from Chandigarh.
- All hotels in all Himachal Cities provide breakfast and dinner (Only Veg) inclusive of prices. So don't worry about meal expenses.
Waiting at Pune airport. Flight got rescheduled. We left finally at 10 PM.
|Waiting at Pune airport for our boarding call|
After reaching Delhi, we quickly caught the indo-canadian bus for Chandigarh in the hope of catching another bus for Shimla. The bus, I admit, was amazing but instant booking cost us a lot. Please book it online and get better prices.
Next day we reached Chandigarh, contacted some Tour planners, and waited for our car to arrive while we raided on a nearby food joint and had awesome Parathas with huge cubes of butter and dahi.
We wanted to eat just one each but ended up eating 5. Oops.
Our car arrived soon. A Mahindra Verito. Not bad. Driver was polite enough. We started for Shimla. Himachal here we come.
First Glimpse of the Mountains
The name Shimla is derived from the deity Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of Kali. Shimla is the capital of Himachal Pradesh and also the largest city in the state. It's at an altitude of 2206 meters above mean sea level. You can find pine, deodar, oak and rhododendron trees all around the city.
Shimla City houses at Sun set while we took the alley road to the Mall
Christ Church at night
Shimla City Panorama from our hotel
At Khufri, taking a horse rise. Our young horse master.
Walking is not at all suggested. Get the boots, as the wet mud is knee deep
On Road to Manali.
The mountain peaks had more snow now. The jungles denser.
|Snow range on route Manali.|
Manali had received heavy snow in the past week . The roads were full of snow stacked around all dirty. It does create a mess I have to admit.
|The Tall Cedar tree heads were invisible to us.|
There is a small frozen lake in the middle of the woods. The whole scene felt like a setup of Game of Thrones behind the wall .
Visit to Guru Vashisht Temple
At the parking point, where road to Vashisht Temple begins
The hot water spring sounds tempting but, 10 or more people bathing in a water tank was not so attractive.
|The Left wooden structure is the main temple|
In the day time, we visited the famous shopping mall or whatever it was. Its called "Club House". Everything is exorbitantly costly here. So warning. Don't buy anything here. I will say, it's worth a visit.
Drifter's Inn & Cafe
Meat balls with spaghetti
Chicken burger with fries
Irish coffee and some brandy.
Every dish was tasty. We thanked our stars again. This was a lucky catch as every other place was closed and I feared the 1.5 km walk might go useless.
This was a chance to get near the Beas river in all its glory. We saw few people rafting around in the shallow water. The local park is well maintained. A welcome break from the long journey. Also try a famous local dish available around its gates.
The Tibetan Monastery
My first ever monastery. I have never visited one before. We discovered this in the middle of the market around Mall road in Manali.
The Manali Mall roadObviously at the end of the day, you will be looking out to shop and eat something. After all, Mall roads are the most happening places in every hill station. You can shop all kind of things here from Jackets to souvenirs. I found everyone wearing Jackets of brand "North Face" . Obvious duplicates. But at 1000 Rs, they are a steal.
DharamshalaThe first thing I wanted to see here , was the stadium. It looks awesome. What a back drop. I can't imagine how the players get to this place. It obviously must be awesome to play here. One thing to note is, no tourist stays at Dharamshala City. They stay at McLeodganj. I suggest you do the same. There's a good shopping street there too , so ladies, please don't worry. Do try the local momos. Most residents are tibetans here , and the veg momo we tasted was I think, the real deal.
We walked to a nearby temple and then to a water fall called Bhagsu's water fall. Then we visited Dalai Lama's residence. I was fascinated by this place. It's residents. People praying. Practicing Yoga. I'm loving it.
|River beas among mountains. The journey to Dalhousie is spectacular all the way.|
DalhousieOur last spot. This is famous Chamba hills. Surrounded by the Dhauladhar Himalayan range. Absolutely spectacular. We took a stop just to stare all around us. Its hard to capture this in one frame. The hotels here are mostly British made bungalows converted. A taste of history perhaps.
What we learned
Himachal trip will always be a long trip. So planning is important. And we want to suggest you from our experience, a few things.
- Plan for 2 days minimum stay.
- At weekdays, you will find less crowd here.
- PLEASE choose a hotel near the mall, because you will frequent the mall a lot (I know that).
- There are many good restaurants and shopping options around this area you don't want to miss.
- Hotels here charge 300 Rs for room heaters . But I think they under powered to heat up a small room. So skip it.
- Visit this in the evening. The lights look amazing. Night view of Shimla is priceless.
- Take a walk on the famous street.
- Try local made momos. They are quite tasty. Mostly they sell Veg momos only.
- There is a lift system to take you to the mall. There's usually a long queue and a ticket system to avail this facility. We took it the first time but never took it again. I would suggest you walk between the houses .
- Find your way to the top. Its fun and you get so many views from different angles. On the way, you will find so many interesting shops, food options. We tried the local Veg Momos here. They were so tasty. There is also a cake shop that sells English style cakes. They were amazing. We went there twice
- Please carry a wooden stick as monkeys pose a problem here. Don't carry any food with you.
- The 109 ft tall statue of Hanuman Ji is visible from a long distance. You might want to check that out from your hotel.
- Carry any Prasad in a bag. Don't carry it in your hands.
1) The only way to reach the main spot is by horse ride. DO NOT try to walk to this place. The road is an absolute mess.
2) Rent boots. Do not use your own shoes.
3) Ask the horse controller to be with all the way. Ask him to take you to the final gate. Do not let him drop you before that.
4) Pay 500 Rs per head max to horse vendor and don't forget to note down his mobile number because you need to call him when you want to return.
Summary : There are many other spots to visit in Shimla but I think that will take much more time. For a 2 day visit. This is as much as you can do. If you have more time, do have a look at this link for more info on other spots.
- 2 days minimum stay.
- Solang Valley and Rohtang pass are two major spots people want to see here. But conditions are unpredictable in winter here. And because of that, the roads get closed (We faced this). Please ask your package provider for details of conditions here.
- People planning for Manikaran, please note that its a 50 km journey up and down. So you need a full day to visit this spot. May be next time, Still there's a lot to do here.
Places to visit and tips related:
Its a sweet walk to the temple. Do now miss the small forest entry which is on the right side of the temple. Most people miss it.
Kullu is mostly for adventure activities. Paragliding , Rafting etc. At this time of the year, the river depth was not enough for a good rafting experience. We saw most boating crews just ...well....Boating around. So analyse the conditions before you choose to do so.
This spot is famous for the famous hot water baths. You will need some preparation to do this, And its pretty crowded. The water is not HOT , but I'll say WARM at most. If you are fine with taking bath with a lot of people around in a big tank, please do it.
This is a park near the river Beas. I'll suggest you to take a snack break here. Enjoy the river flowing close to you.
Summary: Manali too has a lot to do. Lots of travelling to spots around. So if you plan to visit most of them , plan at least 4 days. For 2 day visit, you can visit local spots and choose some of the distant locations .
- 1 day minimum.
- Dharamshala has nothing to see but McLeodGanj has a lot . So stay near this place.
- Take a walk to the Bhagsunath temple and Bhagsu Fall.
- Visit the shopping road nearby. Try again the local momos. They are Tibetan styled.
- Visit official headquarters of all Monastry. Dalai Lama's residence. This place is awesome.
- There's a micro pond called Dal Lake. It's an OK place. You might choose to skip this if you don't have any time.
I usually dislike shopping for souvenirs but, when you are with your family, I think its better to ;) .
Major spots for Shopping are
- Road to Shimla Mall
- Manali Mall road & Club House
- McLeodGanj Road
- Mandi Market (You will cross city en route Manali for sure)
What should you shop for
- Good yet cheap jackets, duplicates of other brands. Get these from Manali.
- Authentic Branded jackets. The collections for Jackets at these cities are much much better than our cosmo cities.
- Other winter gears, like fur caps, Kullu shawls and Jackets, Khadi shirts.
- The String of flags with Mantras . You can't miss this.
- Rhododendron soaps.
- Apple Cedar. This is something you won't find so cheap anywhere .
Places to eat
Shimla: Cafe Shimla Times. The ambiance was awesome. There was a band playing. Liked how people crowded this place and enjoyed dancing & singing along.
Manali: Drifter Inn. It's ideal for snack style lunch. You will find all good hotels on the road to Manu Temple.
McLeodGanj and Dalhousie: It's better to stick to your hotel's kitchen food as there are only average options which are more of hotel , not restaurants.