After several failed plans to visit Himachal over the years, I finally got the opportunity in June 2017. Even though I had visited this state 12 years ago, during my undergrad days, I knew I would come back. There is something extraordinarily calming and soothing about this place that helps clear the mind and experience pure bliss.
My journey started by taking an hour long flight from Delhi to Amritsar. The close proximity of Amritsar to Dalhousie, my first destination in Himachal, made it the ideal starting point. Since I had planned just a day stay in Amritsar, I decided to Visit the the Golden Temple and the Wagah Border retreat parade. The Golden temple is located at the city centre and is open at all hours.
For the Wagah Border retreat parade, it is advisable to reach by 2-3pm after which the general ticket (Price: Rs.10) is usually sold out. The only other way to enter is with a signed permission slip from a senior official. It usually takes an hour to reach the Wagah border from the city. Even though the parade starts at 5:30pm, the wait is totally worth it. There is a lot of excitement and patriotism on display from both sides of the border.
After a memorable day in Amritsar, I took the early morning bus to Pathankot. The journey time is about 3 hours. From here I hired a cab to cover the 80kms journey to Dalhousie. The drive is enjoyable with a few hairpin bends along the way.
Dalhousie is a beautiful hill station located at a height of 2000m. It is a good getaway destination for a few days to beat the heat. Here I chose to stay near Gandhi chowk . After settling into the hotel, I walked down the 2kms to Panchpula which has a small waterfall. There are also various cafes and souvenir shops along the way.
The next day I decided to visit Khajjiar which is 22kms from the town centre. There are both taxis and bus available to cover the journey. Khajjiar is a small beautiful valley up in the mountains and is known as the Swiss of the Himachal. The title bestowed upon it is completely justified by its beauty. With a small lake at the centre surrounded by evergreen cedar trees, it is the perfect picnic spot. There are also several fun activities available here like Paragliding, Horse riding, zorbing. A visit to this place should be on the bucket list.
Mcleodganj, which is 10 kms from Dharamshala, was my next destination in the itinerary. To get here, I took the bus from the Dalhousie bus terminal to Dharamshala (Travel time= 5hours). After that I boarded the second bus to McLeodganj (Travel time = 45 minutes) I had planned to spend four nights in 8 auspicious Him view hotel, owned and managed by a very friendly Tibetan family. This hotel is very close to the main town square is and is highly recommended.
On my first day in McLeodganj, I decided to complete the Triund Trek. I was joined by another backpacker from the hotel in this trek. Just beware of the travel /tours agents hard-selling guides for this trek, costing upto Rs.1500, which is not required. The route is pretty well marked and can be done independently. Though the total length of the trek is 9kms from Mcleodganj, it is possible to hire a cab to cover the first 2kms (upto Galu Devi Temple). The entire trek is of moderate difficulty, albeit the final 2kms, which is a pretty steep uphill climb. It is best to avoid this trek during the rainy season. Also it is better to get an early start in the morning to avoid the sun. The two of us were able to trek the whole 9kms in 3:15 hours, which wasn’t too bad for two regular white-collar workers.
Upon reaching the summit, the mesmerising view of the Dhauladhar range and the moon peak makes the whole journey very memorable. A few hot paranthas with a warm cup of tea and a view of the mountains will surely help in beating the fatigue from the trek. If not, there are tents available for hire for Rs.400-500 a night. For me this trek was one of the most memorable part of my trip and is highly recommended.
The next day I decided to sightsee around McLeodganj and visited the Dal Lake, Dalai Lama temple and St John’s church. All three are within walking distance from the town square and can be covered on the same day. However the Dal Lake is not very appealing and can be avoided. Apart from these Mcleodganj also has good street shopping and cafes. A few must try places include MoonPeak Espresso, Nick’s Italian Kitchen, Namgyal Cafe and a vegetarian Japanese restaurant called Lung Ta. Yes vegans, u read correctly, it is a Vegetarian Japanese restaurant- probably the only one in the globe.
On my third day, I decided to visit Dharamkot, Bhagsuanth temple and the waterfall. Dharamkot is the quieter part of McLeodganj and is less crowded. It is 2kms from the main square and is a good stay option for people in search of peace. Morgan’s Place is one of the good cafes/hotel here. From Dharamkot to Bhagsunath temple is a short twenty minutes walk. Further down the same path is the Bhagsunath Waterfalls. This view of the valley from here is pretty sweet. Hidden in the jungle, on top of the waterfall, is the famous Shiva Cafe. The location of the cafe is really kool and a visit is highly recommended.
For my final day of the trip, I decided to trek down to Dharamshala. One of the main attractions here is the cricket stadium with an incredible view of the Dauladhar Mountains at the background. Even though the stadium is small, it is the highest in the world. There is also a shopping street here to pickup knick-knick and antiques as souvenir for the trip. In the evening, I bid adieu to this beautiful place and boarded my bus for Delhi with a promise to be back again someday.
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