Travel & Tourism blog
Friends, spring is on its way out and summer is around the corner in India. Schools and colleges have notified summer holidays. Those with dependent children, usually grab this opportunity for moving away from the mundane daily rigor of everyday life.
As a natural choice, people in India usually opt for cooler destinations for holidaying in summer. This provides respite, albeit temporarily, from the gruelling heat in the plains. Most of these destinations are up in the enchanting hills of India and in the lap of the majestic Himalayas.
Himalayan belt is preferred because, up there, one can enjoy the view of snow-clad mountain peaks even during hot summer months. The sun casts a magic spell on the dazzling snow clad peaks, particularly during the sun rise and sunset imparting a celestial golden hue. The tourists enjoy these views while relaxing in the midst of lush green meadows surrounded by pine lined hill sides, sparkling springs and meandering rivulets.
Besides, these tourist spots also offer a host of adventure sports like trekking, paragliding , rock climbing , river rafting etc. All these make hill stations and adjoining country sides, a big draw for summer vacationers.
Plan a Summer Holiday
Folks, it’s vital to plan a holiday in order to derive the most out of a travel programme; planning in respect of destination, duration of stay, sites to be visited or stay put in one location, accommodation, and activities to be undertaken or just relax and enjoy the freedom from boredom and stress.
First and foremost is to clearly identify the primary purpose of the trip. If it is aimed at just relaxing and rejuvenating in the lap of pristine nature, choosing a destination is easier. Nothing much to worry about other than consulting a few reputable Tour and Travel agencies with good track record. Tell them your purpose of visit, your requirements about various amenities. But before that it is advisable to make an internet search about the track record of the agency and read the comments of their clients.
However, more often than not people club other activities like site seeing, pilgrimage, visiting wild life sanctuaries and taking part in adventure sports. For this category a tour programming is essential. In this regard guidance of Tourism Agencies operating in a particular region is of utmost importance. They can suggest best travel plan with halts at different places of interest and recommended duration of stay at these intermediate stops. These tour operators can arrange accommodation of your choice and budget at these halts and provide trained guides wherever necessary. Some Travel Agents offer package tours. These packages are predetermined and do not leave any choice for the tourists in respect of places to visit, accommodation, and mode of travelling or activities to be taken up. However, such arrangements are hassle-free in respect of travel arrangements.
Finally, there is another category of tourists who are solely interested Adventure Sports like Trekking, Paragliding, River Surfing, Rock Climbing, Zorbing and Ice skating etc. These are usually groups of energetic young people who are physically fit and look for fun involving challenging physical feats. For these tourists choosing the right agencies offering Adventure Sports is vital. The right choice of agency ensures tourists of the guidance of trained and certified guides with sufficient experience in a particular activity at a particular region or spot. Need for plying safe in this regard can’t be overemphasised.
Such travel programmes are usually for the young and agile, though exceptions are not ruled out. In any case such programmes belong to a special category and demands a special approach. We shall take this up separately.
We shall sum up this discussion by recounting various aspects involved in planning a holiday trip. These are:
- Purpose of visit and specific interests,
- Time available for the trip,
- Age group and agility of team members,
- Medical conditions of team members,
- Judicious selection of a Travel and Tourism agency for guidance and support.
Now, where to?
Since this episode is all about holidaying in summer, we shall consider a suitable destination up in the hills which will soothe your nerves by offering a cool ambient temperature and serene landscapes. A place that offers multiple choice options in respect enjoying the holidays to suit all categories of tourists.
We have chosen Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh, a northern state of India sharing its border with Kashmir, Punjab, Uttarakhand and China.
In nineteenth century, the then British rulers of India developed Shimla as a hill station to serve as their summer capital. They had meticulously created the infrastructure of this town as a comfortable place to relax at the foot of Himalayas with all amenities of modern life. Its picture perfect setting in the lap of Himalayas has since earned the place a unique status as a summer destination for tourists.
Besides, there are three different reasons for choosing Shimla. Firstly, Shimla offers all the amenities tourists look for in a hill station.
Secondly, Shimla attracts tourists with varied interests, viz. Site seeing, Pilgrimage, visiting Heritage Spots, Wild Life Sanctuaries and participating in Adventure Sports or just relaxing in the lap of pristine nature.
Thirdly, Shimla is the gateway to Himachal Pradesh, We shall show you that, you can explore the splendour of entire Himachal Pradesh, in one trip, starting at Shimla and finishing at Manali with halts in between.
Main attractions of Shimla are , a Mall with a large number of shops and restaurants, a temple with deities of Shyamla Devi and Mangal Chandi ( known as Kali Bari), St Michael’s Cathedral Catholic Church (a nineteenth century Anglican church) , the Shimla Museum.
Woollen shawls and garments galore are on display at the Mall, so are curios. Those interested in wooden handicrafts may visit Lakkar Bazar for shopping. Mind you, the traders are waiting for tourist season to make a booty. So you should be prepared to bargain.
The people here believe that the name of Shimla has been coined after the name of the local deity Shyamla.In fact, very recently the Himachal Pradesh Government has proposed to change the name of this hill station from Shimla to Shyamla or Shamla.
The Shimla Museum is a big draw for those interested in the history of the place which remains open for public visit from 10 am to 5 pm.
Apart from these the tourists can make short trips to Jakhu hills (2km away) or to Observatory hills (4 Km away) or to the top of Summer Hills (5 km away).
You need to spare a whole day to cover the various items of interest at summer hills viz. A University and Chadwick Spring, Annandale Race Course and a couple of temples with deities of Tara Devi and Sankat mochan .
One can reach out to Chail, a quiet, picturesque village just 49 km away from Manali. Because of its proximity, it is possible to return to Shimla on the same day. However, it is advisable to spend a full day at Chail and relish its mesmerising landscape and serene ambience. Interestingly, there is a cricket ground on top of the hill. On another hill there is a Sikh Gurudwara known as Sidh Baba ka Mandir. That’s not all; the erstwhile hunting ground of the then Maharajas of Patiala has now been converted into a Wildlife Sanctuary. Those interested in wildlife will enjoy watching bears, deer, leopards and many other wild animals in the open. That’s not all, THE visitors will come across varieties of beautiful birds of Himalayan terrain, likes of which are not seen in the plains.
One has to travel around 185 from Chail by road to reach Sarahan via Rampur and Giori.In winter Sarahan remains covered under snow. During the remaining part of the year it is lush green all around. Like in all hill towns, stray colourful cottages are viewed at different levels perched on the lush green hill side. Most of the houses have an attached orchard of apples and apricots. The sky line is adorned with shining silvery mountain peaks. The overall effect is that of a dreamland.
Other attractions of Saharan are Bheeimakali Temple, one of the fifty one highly revered places of worship in India of the Hindu Community. According to Hindu mythology the right ear of Devi Pārbati landed at this location when Lord Krishna disintegrated the dead body of Pārbati with “Sudarshan Chakra” into fifty-one components and scattered those all over India.
Then there is breeding centre for Tragopan birds on the top of the hill which is a must visit spot when at Sarahan.Tragopan birds are commonly known as “horned pheasant”. The name owes its origin to the fact that male birds sport a pair of brightly coloured, fleshy horns on their head. These horns can are called upon display during courtship.
There is a well maintained garden in the temple complex which blends well with ambience of a place of worship. The intricate carvings in the wooden structure of the temple is a treat for the eyes. The wooden architecture is typical of Himachal Pradesh. Buddhist influence on the style of art work is visible.
Tourists can drive about 95 km to reach Sangla in Kinnear District via Geori,Wangtu and Karchham. The lush green valley in the company of barren hills and rapidly flowing Baspa River shimmering under the clear blue sky imparts Sangla valley a heavenly ambience.
While the valley gets wrapped in layers of snow in winter. During the summer the temperature remains pleasantly cool. The snow clad peaks adorning the sky line keep on changing their hue from dawn till dusk. It is recommended that the tourists travel a km to visit Kamru castle built by the Bushahar kings. They will come across Kamru monastery on the way. There is also a temple of Kamakshya Devi. The view of Sangma from this height is simply superb.
The Baspa river is also known for being the breeding place and habitat of two varieties of Trout fish viz.Rainbow trout and Brown trout . Tourists can buy fresh trout from nearby villages.
Chhitkul is a village close to Tibet border. Twenty two km away from Sangla, perhaps the last Indian village towards the Tibetan border in Himachal Pradesh. Baspa River flows close by Chhitkul. This village remain buried under thick snow in winter. During the rest of the year temperature is pretty cold.
Tibetan border (under Chinese command) is only 30 km. away. Border Security Force is very active and alert in this region and for security reason may intercept the tourists for checking. Tourists should cooperate with authorities unhesitatingly.
To reach Kalpa one has to travel 52 km via Karchham and Rekongpio. The entire stretch of the winding hillside road is ideal for viewing Himalayan grandeur. The terrain is totally covered with snow during winter. Rest of the time the stretch is laden with orchards of Apricot, Apple and Pears. Besides, like most of the tourist spots in this region, one can enjoy the snow clad hill tops changing colour with the varying brightness of the sun rays during the day, at sunrise and sunset in particular.
Time permitting one can reach out to Pangi known for Apple farming and may take a trip from there to visit Roghi village offering a grand view of ice clad mountain peaks. On way to Roghi one can visit Eco Point and Suicide Point as well.
In order to be able to do justice to this lovely travel plan, one We should be prepared to devote a couple of days to Kalpa.
For brevity I shall only suggest the names of other tourist spots on way to Manali but refrain from providing any detail. In successive order these are Nako, Tabo, kaja and finally Manali. We shall take up these spots in details in a subsequent episode.
Now let us now share with you some information that will make a trip to Shimla and inside Himachal Pradesh comfortable and hassle free
How to reach Shimla
For those who prefer to travel by air, we recommend to fly to Chandigarh Airport, the fully functional airport closest to Shimla.
We prefer Chandigarh to the Jubbarhati Airport at Shimla because not many Airlines operate regular flights to this Airport connecting rest of India.
The Distance between Chandigarh and Shimla is 113 km and usually takes three and a half hours via NH5 and a little longer (3 hrs. and 45 minutes.) by SH 16.One way Deluxe taxies are available for hire. Those interested may view videos of this journey on You Tube.
We however, recommend tourists to reach Kalka by train and then take up the journey by the Kalka-Shimla narrow gauge train to reach Shimla. In fact this captivating train journey on this route could be a life time experience for any tourist. This route has 20 stations and covers 96.6 km and passes through 102 functional channels and crosses 87 bridges enroute. The toy train covers this distance 5 hrs.
This route was constructed by the then British in 1903 to provide access to their summer capital of Shimla. A journey on this toy train as it is popularly known is a thrilling experience as the track winds up along the narrow track through the Himalayan terrain draped in pine forests. UNESCO has for good reasons assigned this track a World Heritage status on 2nd July 2008. This Rail Route terminating at Shimla at an altitude of 2075 m above the Mean Sea Level is a marvellous engineering feat, particularly because it has been achieved without spoiling the splendour and beauty of the hills.
The history of construction of this track is also very exciting. Challenges were enormous; boring of as many as 107 tunnels (which constitute 8% of the total track length) and also 83 bridges on such a hilly terrain with tall mountains and deep valleys were no mean task.
There is also a tragic story linked with the construction of tunnel no 33. One Colonel Barog was in charge of the project. He planned to carry out the digging starting from both ends. Unfortunately, for him the alignment went wrong and the two ends of the tunnel failed to meet at the middle.
It was a disaster. The project had to be abandoned. Authorities decided to impose a token fine of Re 1 one on Mr Barog for wasting Govt. fund. Already distraught British Engineer could tolerate this humiliation and committed suicide in utter desperation. It is said that he shot himself in the head while on his morning walk at a location where the”Barog Pine Wood Hotel” stands today.
Later, another tunnel was bored at a different location about a kilometre away from this location. The Chief Engineer H.S. Harington (or Harlington) was in charge this time. It is learnt that he was assisted in this task of boring several tunnels in this track by one Indian, Jakhu by name, from a village called Jhaja near Chail, who had an extraordinary flair for engineering.
Car hire for travelling in Himachal Pradesh
When in Manali the tourists need to travel a lot by road. On many routes buses ply but for comfort and convenience travelling by car is a preferred choice by many. For the benefit of those we would like to share the usual rates for car hire.
Usual cost of car hire, per day for different categories of vehicles are as follows:
Smaller cars Rs. 2500 to Rs. 3000;
Sumo and similar cars Rs 3000 to Rs 3500 ;
Xylo and Innova Rs 3600 to Rs 3800 ;
Tavera and Tempo Traveller: Rs 4500 to Rs 4800;
This is to be noted that rates vary depending on the number of days for which booked and the distance to be covered. Besides, Rates go up during peak season. It is also cost effective to book cars for the entire stretch in one go, starting from Shimla and back to Kalka or Chandigarh where the tour ends.
Contact information about car rental agencies in Shimla:
Taxi service In Himachal
+91 78310 50555
+91 98165 92995
+91 94180 28435
N.B. The aforesaid telephone numbers are valid on the date of writing this episode. Pray to be excused if some of these numbers are not serviceable at a later date.
Hotels in Shimla
There are so many hotels in Shimla proper and the outskirts. These offer a variety of special features. Some are unique in terms of Mountain View, enchanting landscape, general ambience, décor, amenities and hospitality. There are hotels and accommodations to suit all pockets; budget hotels to luxury hotels. It is pointless to provide a long list of hotels in Shimla. All names are available on the internet. Just search for “Hotels in Shimla” and choose the one that suits you most. I shall only name a few with high customer rating.
Meena Bagh Shimla
Speciality of this hotel is that it presents the appearance, décor and ambience of an authentic ”Rajasthan Haveli”. Some guests were also impressed by the hospitality and zealous helpful attitude of the management.
A little offset (1.1 km) from the din and bustle of the town, Apple House is liked by guests for its quiet ambience, rooms with mountain view, exceptional hospitality and obliging staff Contact( 0177 ) 2812890
Radisson Hotel Shimla
One of the prestigious hotels in Shimla. May be a little expensive for some but as per the opinion of the guests who stayed there that they got value for their money. The Hotel offers excellent amenities and opportunities for the holidayers to enjoy the stay.
A luxury boutique hotel located in a lush green landscape of Shimla. This hotel has a great heritage. It was a prestigious hotel during British rule of India. A little costly though the hotel offers excellent amenities not to budget hotels.
Wild flower Hall Shimla
A luxury hotel constructed on the site of summer residence of Lord Kitchener .The original building was gutted in a devastating fire in 1993. Oberoi group took over the property and constructed a magnificent building at the site among the sylvan surrounds. The property is spread over a sprawling twenty acres of which the building occupies only about 5% area. The hotel offers a number of outdoor activities like, trekking, mountain biking, nature walks and horse riding. The hotel offers the guests ample privacy and tranquillity.