By Air, Train, & Road
Kasauli (Summer Destination) Kasauli being more close to Delhi than other hill stations like Shimla, Manali, Chail etc is a preferred tourist attraction in summers. There is usually a rush which goes beyond summers due to its proximity to Chandigarh.
Where to stay?
Sanawar nature Camp on the way and 7.9KM before Kasauli offers a reasonable stay in the huts and activities such as Burma Bridge, archery, rappelling etc. The area surrounded by trees and mist can be seen during the rainy season.
http://www.sanawarnaturecamp.com/ Hotel Kasauli Regency is an economical place just 6KM from the famous Monkey point. It has an open roof top with restaurant and bar. It is a good hang out place for couples. Stags are not allowed.
What to see?
Church – A few meters away from the bus stand is this small church.
Monkey Point – 4KM from the bus stand, Monkey Point is a Hanuman temple right on top of a mountain which can be reached after a steep climb. It is believed that while getting the Sanjeevani from the Himalayas Hanuman’s foot had touched the ground. Binoculars provide a good view of nearby places. On a clear day Chandigarh’s Sukhna lake can also be seen from the top.
Timings – 7AM to 7PM
Mall road – There are many shops on the mall road which show Sanjay Dutt’s early days at the hill station. The Mall road is small and just alright, nothing great. However two good things to try out are:
- Pakoda stall – This guy makes some good pakodas and you can try them if your stomach doesn’t get upset easily.
- You can buy good quality traditional Himachali caps, shawls, coats etc at reasonable prices at the government owned store.
Walking paradise – Not too many people know this the upper area of the Mall road leads to a beautiful area maintained by the Military. It is a beautiful place for walking during both mornings and evenings amongst the chirping of birds and lovely trees. Many retired Army personnel have made this place their abode. One walk here will make you forget any of the city parks you have seen.
Shimla (Summer Destination)
Many of us don’t know that Shimla has an airport (Jabarhatti). It sounds pleasant; however the operations to the airport are very very limited and sometimes non-operational. Also the airport is 22KM from the main town of Shimla. If you wish to fly to Shimla, it is important to get the transfers from the hotel, guest house or home stay. There is no direct train from Delhi, however you can board the Kalka Shatabdi in the morning or evening and then embark on the onward journey on the Himalayan Queen moving through the picturesque mountains. A piece of advice – The Himalayan Queen is a slow moving train and consumes 5.1hours to connect between Kalka and Shimla. It is an enjoyable ride for those with plenty of time at hand. The best and the most popular way is to travel by road. The Himachal Roadways and the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation Volvo bus service can take you to your destination, on board an overnight journey reaching Shimla in the morning.
Do not fall for private operators as the service is not good and they charge more. http://www.hptdc.nic.in/bus.htm – These buses are also available on www.makemytrip.com This is a very useful link to get a lot of good information on destinations in Himachal Pradesh. If you are travelling in your own car, nothing like it as you get to halt at the spots of your choice, relax, and flex muscles whenever you want.
Where to stay?
The easiest way to book accommodation is to go on a travel website for an online booking. How to make the right choice?
ShimlaHotels – Combomere, Bridge View, Landmark are some properties on the Mall road. Properties around 1KM from the mall road is cheaper than the ones at the mall road.
Dharamshala – A stay here is as reasonable as Rs. 50. They open early at around 5AM when everyone else is sleeping. The bathrooms are shared. I stayed here long ago when I was a student. It is not recommended for tourists.
Home stay – The concept of bread and breakfast has not evolved much in India but Aapo Aap home stay is a nice place, a little away from the main town. I have been here a few years back with my gang on an all boys trip. It is equally good for Indian families and other western travellers as well. They have a big terrace with a good view of the mountains, spacious rooms, European style bedding, meditation hall, kitchen, drawing room etc with wifi connectivity. The owners are friendly and good company during the lunch and dinner. I can’t forget the taste of the home made cakes that they served a few years back. Also they can arrange for transfers from the airport, bus station and train station. http://www.aapoaapshimla.com/
Cottages – A cottage stay provides a sense of adventure. These are usually away from the main town. Good for family outings, they provide options such as trekking and camp activities. One such place in the Kaithlighat village on the way to Shimla is the Oakwood Hamlet Resort. http://www.oakwoodhamlet.com/
Camps – Porter’s Hill is a camp in Summer Hill. It is good for adventure activities and group travellers. The prices are slightly on the higher side however can be negotiated travelling in a group. http://www.camppottershill.co.in/
Taxi – All hotels can provide a taxi at a reasonable price to move around Shimla and also an excursion to Kufri. It is recommended that you avail the service even if you have your own car as there is a space crunch in the entire Shimla especially the Mall road area.
Lift – There is a lift near the parking area to head straight to the Mall road after parking your car.
What to see?
Mall Road – The Shimla Mall road is the biggest amongst all the hill stations in India. It is interesting to know that the church area is on top of a water tank that supplies to the town.Watch out for the famous Scandal Point (Maharaja Patiala eloped with the viceroy’s daughter during the British times at this very point which got named Scandal Point. The Maharaja was banished from Shimla and established a retreat for himself in Chail.)
Gaiety theatre is where Sunny Deol starrer Gadar was filmed (remember the song Main nikla gaddi lekar) Lakkar Bazar – This is a market on the extension of the mall road selling wooden handicrafts.
(Jakhu) Hanuman temple – More interesting than the temple is the way up to the hill. It is a steep climb, full of notorious monkeys who will frisk you like custom officials. They can snatch your spectacles, purse etc and return it in return of some eatables. It may sound funny but the monkeys and the locals selling Prasad seem to have an understanding and both benefit from these acts of the monkeys. They even rent a danda to scare the monkeys for Rs. 10
Kufri – Kufri, at a distance of 13.5 KM from Shimla is at short distance. At a greater height it gets to see the snow before Shimla in the winter season. All hotels can provide a taxi at a reasonable price to move around Shimla and also an excursion to Kufri. You can also drive on your own. Here you can ride a pony up the hill, see the zoo; enjoy go karting and other fun stuff at the (Hip Hip Hurray amusement park).
Chail (Summer Destination)
The beautiful Chail is best visible after the monsoon showers in the month of September as the scenic beauty is at its peak and the weather is cool and amazing. The beautiful Chail showcases royalty, wildlife, quietness to beat the summer.
What to see?
Chail Palace – The palace of Ranchodas in the movie 3 Idiots is the palace of Maharaja Patiala who made Chail is abode after being banished from Shimla. The Chail Palace is maintained and operated by Himachal Tourism. You can stay in the King or Queen’s suite for Rs. 12000/night. I managed to get the exclusive pictures of the Maharaja suite for you all. The bathroom has also been customized with a Jacuzzi now.
Khadiyun wild life sanctuary in Chail is little known protected jungle where you can spot deers and other animals in the early morning hours. There is no charge to visit the sanctuary and tourists are unaware about the wonderful place. A local guide can help you explore the place. Some other attractions are Sidh baba temple & Chail Cricket ground.
Kali ka Tibba – A marble temple in the splendid blossom area gives a clear view of the snow covered mountains of Kinnaur. Even if you don’t like temples, the Blossom area is still worth visiting. Some of the best plums, peaches, and apricots can be found is Chail starting from the month of June.
Manali (Summer Destination)
Manali is a paradise for travellers. The Bhuntar airport in Kullu has very limited services and is non-operational sometimes. The only way to reach Manali is by road. The journey is amazing in your own car. You can also catch a Volvo. There are several bus operators however you must read the reviews before booking as many sub standard and service deficient buses are also being sold on the travel portals like Make my trip, Yatra, etc. Read the reviews on www.redbus.in before confirming the reservation.
What to see?
Hadimba temple, Mall road, Solang Valley, Sulphur Spring in Manikaran, Old Manali, Rohtang Pass are some good places to visit.
Where to stay?
Hippy stay – The guest houses in Vasisht are available for as less as Rs.50 – Rs100 Sojourn cottages – Sojourn cottages on top of a hill is good place for families and groups.http://www.sojourn72.com/ Tiger Eye – At the end of the Mall road and walking a few steps on a narrow path in the village is Tiger Eye guest house.
http://www.tigereyeadventure.com/ very good rooms, spacious toilets, wifi connectivity and other amenities are available for Rs.300 in the lean season. Royal Regency – An economical hotel for honeymoon couples. It offers very good packages including flower decoration, candle light dinner, local sightseeing, cake etc.http://www.theroyalregency.com/
What to do?
You can parasail, trek, ski, and do rafting in Kullu and Manali. Note – Do not fall for untrained individuals without the required certification offering para sailing services at cheap prices.