Ditch Manali-Leh for This Epic Himalayan Road Trip Covering Three States in Five Days


(C) Vikramdeep Sidhu

Photo of Ditch Manali-Leh for This Epic Himalayan Road Trip Covering Three States in Five Days by Adete Dahiya

In the age of technology and wireless communication, road trips may very well be the last genuine way of exploring the world. And they get even better, if you're not taking the usual path.

Now, every mountain lover in the country has either heard of or already explored the more popular circuits in the Himalayas, such as the Manali to Leh route. But there's so much more to north India than is seen in films, documentaries and travelogues. This curated road trip is for those looking to explore the best of the Himalayas.

The route

This road trip starts off from Delhi. The first day is an eight to nine hour drive to the beautiful city of Shimla. Next morning drive down to Sarahan, while making a pit stop at Narkanda. On the third morning, you reach Kharapathar, stopping mid-way at Rohru. On the fourth day, you drive down to Chakrata, spend a day there, and on the fifth day you enter Dehradun.

Total distance: 867 km

This is the suggested route:

Delhi — Shimla – Sarahan – Kharapathar – Chakrata – Dehradun

Photo of Ditch Manali-Leh for This Epic Himalayan Road Trip Covering Three States in Five Days 1/1 by Adete Dahiya


Tani Jubbar Lake, Narkanda. (C) Wikimedia

Photo of Narkanda, Himachal Pradesh, India by Adete Dahiya
Day 1

Delhi to Shimla

Rashtrapati Niwas, Shimla. (C) Wikimedia

Photo of Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India by Adete Dahiya

(C) Wikimedia

Photo of Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India by Adete Dahiya
Day 3

En route to Kharapathar, make sure you stop at Rohru for a bit. This small town, located on the banks of Pabbar River, is known for its apple orchards. And definitely try a trout preparation at the Good Times' Restaurant and Cafe. Trout fishing is a popular activity here, so you're bound to get the fish fresh.

Time on the road: 5.5 hours

Distance: 144km

Top experiences: Hike to Giri Ganga; visit the Jubbal Palace; go for a picnic in an apple orchard; go fishing for trout; visit the Giri Ganga and Hateshwari Temples.

Where to stay: The Giriganga Resort

Day 2

Shimla to Sarahan (via Narkanda)

Bhimakali Temple, Sarahan. (C) Wikimedia

Photo of Sarahan, Himachal Pradesh, India by Adete Dahiya
Day 3

Sarahan to Kharapathar (via Rohru)

Jubbal in the snow. (C) Bharat Justa

Photo of Kharapathar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Adete Dahiya
Day 4

Kharapathar to Chakrata

(C) Nipun Sohanlal

Photo of Chakrata, Uttarakhand, India by Adete Dahiya
Day 5

Chakrata to Dehradun

Forest Research Institute, Dehradun. (C) Wikimedia

Photo of Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India by Adete Dahiya

(C) Paul Hamilton

Photo of Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India by Adete Dahiya

The longest leg of the journey takes you to Shimla, often referred to as the queen of the Himalayas. On the drive from Delhi to here, you will come across some of the best roadside eateries in North India, with like Mannat Dhaba, Haveli and Pal Dhaba being amongst them. Shimla is one of India's most popular hill stations – buzzing with a constant flow of tourists and full of relics from its time as the summer capital of British India. The route from Delhi to Shimla is well maintained, making the journey smooth and exciting. Once you cross Chandigarh and enter the hills, you will be greeted with beautiful views of the Himalayas that keep you company till you reach your destination.

Time on the road: 7.5 hours

Distance: 342km

Top experiences: Shop at Lakkar Bazaar; try your hand ice skating at India's only open-air ice skating ring; visit the Viceregal Lodge and the state museum; take a tour of Kutheral Fort; witness the sunrise at Chadwick Falls.

Where to stay: Woods Shimla and Wildflower Hall. For more options click here.

The former summer capital of the Bushahr kingdom, Sarahan is the base for various Himalayan treks and is the gateway to Kinnaur. It is a place of pilgrimage, a haven for nature lovers, and basecamp for adventure enthusiasts. It is also home to the famous Bimakali Temple, which is regarded as one of the 51 shaktipeeths. Built in an Indo-Tibetan style, the temple is an architectural marvel that attracts hundreds of tourists from across the country. The road to Sarahan is a gorgeous treat, winding past pine and oak trees as dozens of streams rush past. It really is picture-perfect.

On the way from Shimla to Sarahan, make a pitstop at Narkanda, a small town that acts as a popular skiing destination in winter. The Hatu Peak here is where all the action takes place. You can also have a picnic at the Tani Jubbar Lake.

Time on the road: 5 hours

Distance: 163km

Top experiences: Visit the Bhimakali Temple; take a tour of the Daranghati Wildlife Sanctuary; watch the sun rise over the snow-capped mountains.

Where to stay: The Bushahr Heights and The Srikhand. For more options, click here.

Kharapathar is the ideal leisure destination. With a view of the Himalayas, lush forests and apple orchards to keep you company, it is a place that makes you feel like time has come to a stand still. It is home to the Giri Ganga Temple and has excellent walking and hiking trails for adventure enthusiasts as well.

The secluded town of Chakrata is one of the most popular weekend getaways for backpackers with mountain climbing and hiking being the most popular activities. Nestled between Mussoorie on one side and Kinnaur on the other, this place offers a little something for everyone – whether it is adventure enthusiasts, nature lovers, or city folk looking for some peace and quiet. Spend a day here to explore all the lovely waterfalls and temples this place is famous for.

Time on the road: 4.5 hours

Distance: 130km

Top experiences: Spend some time marvelling at the beauty of the hills; go for a picnic at Tiger Falls; visit the Lakhmandal temple; trek to Chilmiri Neck, the highest peak in Chakrata

Where to stay: Hotel Burans and Escape Tribal Camps. For more options, click here.

The drive from Chakrata to Dehradun is the shortest leg of the journey, lasting somewhere around three hours. With all that it has to offer, you could spend a couple of days in the capital of Uttarakhand before making your way to Delhi. Over the years it has developed rapidly and also become a popular tourist destination. It offers a number of options for every kind of traveller.

Time on the road: 3 hours

Distance: 87.4km

Top experiences: Try your hand at paragliding; visit Robber's Cave; trek to Chhaskhet; take a dip in the healing waters of the Sahastradhara; go for a safari at Rajaji National Park; shop at the Tibetan market.

Where to stay: Gorayya Homestay and Four Points by Sheraton Dehradun. For more options, click here.

Best time to take this trip

While a number of travellers might want to take this journey during the winter months (December-January), you will want to do your research beforehand to check in case some routes have been closed because of the snow. The best time to go is from March to May or from October to December. The weather will be pleasant at the beginning of the year and you will only need to carry light woollens.

What has been your favourite road trip experience? You can write about it here and help inspire others.

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