Sometime in July 2017, two of my friends Shreya, Bhoomika and I finally executed our plan to visit the beautiful Himachal. Himachal is beauty, calmness, and adventure in all its glory. Here is an itinerary that can hopefully help some of you plan your first visit there.
Day 1: Mumbai to Shimla
We start from Mumbai to Delhi. We took a flight to Delhi which was a short one. After a quick visit to the Red Fort and Chandni Chowk, we rushed to catch our train to Kalka. In that tiny little halt at Delhi (my first visit to Delhi), what stood out was that we were stared at by every guy around us. That creepy stare that disturbs you. It was sad to realize that Delhi’s poor reputation for women’s safety is true. Nevertheless, we were excited to see the classic train that was going to take us from Kalka to Shimla.
Day 2: Shimla Sightseeing
We reached Shimla by the historic Shivalik train. Old but classic beauty which gave us an experience no less than a lullaby while moving through the mist. We entered the beautiful Summit hotel, who went out of the way to serve us and make us comfortable. We rested well and I saw the sun coming out over the mountains through my window. I couldn’t resist a morning run around the hotel which was quite near the landmark church. After a silly monkey attack during the run, I decided to head back.
Later in the day, we visited the elegant Advanced studies institute, Sankat mochan temple, shopped through the Mall road where we were ditched by our taxi driver. Apparently, in Shimla, taxi guys don’t drive past 4 pm. So we walked the rest of the way to the Scandal point and finally the Ridge near the church where we got a temporary tattoo done. Yeah, a tattoo near the church. Unlikely but fun. A drizzle forced us back to the hotel room.
Day 3: Adventure in Shimla
We headed to the Kufri adventure park. We had an option to either go ride a donkey/ass up the Kufri hill. Many say that this ride is an adventure in itself since the route is very treacherous. But we chose the adventure park instead. We got to try a few rides and then the harness activities that are set in the garden between the trees. We barely made it to the next destination, Annabel army museum. I say barely because the Museum was closed on that day and we had to be happy with some pictures in the garden outside.
On our way back, we went to the Shimla Ridge again and got some photos in the local costume taken. After a bit of accessories shopping, we headed to scandal point where we paid a visit to a small Shiv temple. I would highly recommend trying local cuisine at Himachal rasoi near the scandal point if you want to get a local taste of Himachal cuisine.
Day 4: Shimla to Manali
We started with the Sundar Nagar lake and Mandi dam on way to Manali. But the highlight of this journey was by far the Paragliding experience near Kullu nature park. The three of us joined a bunch of pilots who took us up the mountain around 7000km above sea level. We had butterflies in the stomach while riding with them in the 4 wheel drive jeep. Two of my friends opted to go before me because none of them wanted to be last. Being last means you let your fears grow, especially when you watch the other jump off the cliff. I was being brave and supporting my friends in taking the leap but fear was engulfing me slowly too. When it was my turn, I told the pilot to be quick with the jump. I didn’t want to think before jumping off. Four steps to run on the mountain and we were off. My legs were off the ground and I was seated along with the pilot gliding above the scenic Kullu valley. It was an experience of a lifetime. The pilot entertained/scared me with some stunts in the air but I landed with the biggest smile on my face.
After this, we stopped at the Kullu shawl factory to shop for a few colorful local shawls. You could actually see the local women weaving shawls there in front of your eyes. The weaving machine was a traditional one which fascinated us a lot.
Day 5: Manali Sightseeing
We paid a visit to the Hadimba temple in Manali where my friend Shreya tried some local costume nearby. There was a small adventure park called Club House nearby where we tried some paint shooting and fake bull ride apart from shopping for some pashminas. It’s common to see boys smoking weed any time of the day in this region possibly due to the ease of access.
In the afternoon we saw the Vashisht temple where we stepped into the natural hot water spring. A Ram Sita temple nearby was marvelous in terms of its architecture.
In the evening we stopped by Van vihar park and monastery where we randomly entered a Tibetan wedding with amazing local music. We left before anybody could question us, of course. I had a mini adventure the same evening when my friend forgot her charger at the Corner house food on Manali Mall road. I run at every given opportunity. So I ran. I ran through the market before it gets too dark, or before somebody steals that power bank. Lucky for us, the power bank was just where we left it.
Day 6: Manali
The movie “Jab We Met” features the snow-clad Rohtang pass in one of its songs. So, we were dreaming about it all through the journey. The day came when we finally got to see it. Our cab driver got us a permit on additional payment. We saw the Rani Nala waterfall and snow point over there. The journey through Rohtang pass was a lot better than the destination. We met quite a few Tamil tourists taking selfies there. It was fun to have some hot noodles on top of the Snow point. I tried a short run there but quickly realized how exhausting it can be in lack of oxygen atop 14000 feet mountain.
We made a quick stop at Solang valley but none of us was interested in the ropeway over there. Thereafter we went to the Picnic stop park where a ropeway across the Beas river attracted us. I continued my run at this park. We were lucky to see a local cultural and magic show here. We took a bus to the mall road and ate at the lovely Vibes restaurant. The local bus was the only option since our driver fell sick. He caught up with us later on the way back to our hotel in the night.
Day 7: Manali to Dharamshala
I jogged in the morning near the Beas river which was brown with debris at the time, from some flood in a nearby town. After a long monotonous drive towards Dharamshala, we missed the entry to the zoo on the way. But we reached the great Shakti peeth Chamunda Devi temple which was crowded but exotic. We ended the day atop McLeodganj in Dharamshala where our hotel was placed. There were a lot of Tibetan food outlets there which were super yummy. Unfortunately, we were too exhausted to enjoy it properly. Especially because our driver was being very uncooperative that day. We had to write a complaint mail to the travel agency against him. He kept arriving late every morning to the hotel and requested to end the trip early every day apart from the hassles for pretending to have a fever when he just wanted to meet a friend for a drink. How unprofessional is that!
Day 8: Dharamshala
The serene Monastery of Dalai Lama was all we needed towards the end of this trip. We also made short stops at the Bhagsu temple and waterfall, a church, a zoo(which we had missed earlier), the famous cricket stadium of Dharamshala and the Shahid memorial. A childlike joy came out of trying the local chaats(burger, corn bhel) near the stadium. Later that night, we had to shift hotel in Dharamshala because we found our room too cramped for the three of us to share.
Day 9: Dharamshala some more
My morning jog in Dharamshala was really adventurous because Mcleodganj has a very steep slope all along. We ditched our driver that day and sent him home. Though we had decided to move to Jammu this day, we fell in love with Dharamshala and stayed back instead. It was fun to walk around and visit a mini monastery as well as a mini dal lake before getting into a complete shopping spree with umbrellas in hand. The rain eventually forced us to stop and we entered the Dalai monastery again. We had the best meal of the trip at the little Cafe Tibet that night.
Day 10: Dharamshala to Mumbai
There was a little problem with the hotel water supply in the morning, which is apparently a common issue in Dharamshala. We arranged for a cab to Jammu where our flight was due towards Mumbai. We stopped to see the Baag e bahu and the Bahu fort(laden with monkeys) before reaching the Jammu airport. This airport put us through 5 security checks. We were aware that Jammu is always on terror alert so we went reached the airport early and went through the process patiently. Our flight halted at Amritsar before reaching Delhi. Here, we got a surprise visit to the cockpit because we managed to make friends with the pilot during the halt. We had a minor transition from Delhi before concluding the journey at Mumbai.
We were certainly exhausted by the end of 10 days of this trip, but our hearts were full of the beauty and serenity of Himachal. And of course, memories worth a lifetime!