The capital city of India is a glorious concoction of the old and the new. Temples that are centuries old, archaic Muslim quarters, and modern residencies, all exist alongside each other. Home to over a crore people, Delhi is a treasure trove of historic gems, gardens, museums and a thriving food culture. Travel to the metropolis for the vibrant bazaars of Chandni Chowk that give way to Lutyens’ New Delhi, which is the historic heart of the city. For an insight into the legacy of the Mughal era, go to the 16th century Humayun’s Tomb, the towering sandstone mosque of Jama Masjid, and experience the sound and light show at Red Fort. Tourists can spend mornings at the extravagant Akshardham Temple and evenings at the Hazrat Nizam-ud-din Dargah (shrine) that boasts of sufi music and delicious kebabs. Another popular attraction of Delhi are its pulsating markets that sell everything from baubles to handicrafts, sell everything you can possibly think of. Those who have travelled to Delhi for its particular brand of food, will have a lot on their plates. From hole-in-the-wall eateries and local student cafes in North Delhi to lavish restaurants and bars in South Delhi, there is no dish or cuisine you won’t find here. A huge incentive for travellers is the variety of public transport, wherein the Delhi Metro is the cheapest and easiest way to get around the city.
Home to the grandiose Taj Mahal, Agra’s city echoes of its bygone Mughal era days. Located in Uttar Pradesh, tourists from across the world flock to Agra all year round. Boasting of three UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Agra Fort in the city,the white marble architectural wonder of the Taj Mahal and the nearby Fatehpur Sikri. Agra is also dotted with numerous tombs and buildings that have been left behind by the Mughal empire. Agra’s tourism can also be credited to its sweeping gardens of Soami Bagh, Ram Bagh and the most beautiful of them all, Mehtab Bagh. Agra city is also swarmed by a multitude of temples that add to Agra’s vibrant character. The Balkeshwar and Kailash temple on Yamuna’s banks worship Lord Shiva, while the Mankameshwar Temple is loved by the locals for it mellifluous aarti. And while you are in Agra, you should definitely incorporate Sikandra in your itinerary. Akbar’s tomb, or Sikandra lies north to the city, and takes about thirty minutes from Agra. Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb, fondly referred to as the Baby Taj is another must visit.
Once known as Shyamala, synonymous with Goddess Kali, Shimla has been a summer retreat long before India even gained independence. This famous hill station similarly has a lot of places and things to see untouched by time. For instance, take a vintage joy ride from Kalka station to Shimla in a charming toy train that will take you through towering Deodars, hills and villages. Shimla truly comes alive during winters when a blanket of snow covers it all over making every nook and corner gleam and glisten. One such place is the ice skating rink (natural ice) near Lakkar Bazaar that opens from November to December. More winter sports include skiing, which can be enjoyed 21 km from Shimla in Kufri. Adventure activities such as rafting at Tattapani or a trek to Shali Tibba and Pabbar Valley are also worthwhile experiences. If you are fond of haunted stories and interested in having your own spooky adventure, you'll love Shimla. A lot of people including the renowned Rudyard Kippling (in 'My Own True Ghost Story) have written various eerie stories set around Shimla. A place known most for giving many people the jeepers-creepers is the Charleville Mansion. Another time travelling portal is the antique bookstore, Marina Brothers, located on Mall Road, which is truly a reader and collector's paradise. There are many luxury and budget hotels here, meaning you'll never fall short of options. Popular places to eat include Wake & Bake, Ashiana, Cecil and Minchy's that serve commendable Indian and multi-cuisine dishes and delicious gourmet food.
Chandigarh is India's first planned city, quite distinct from the rest of the country and considerably better organized. It is the capital of both Haryana and Punjab, but the city itself is not part of either state, being a union territory, i.e. administered directly by the central government. It was one of the early planned cities in post-independence India and is internationally known for its architecture and urban design. Chandigarh has various visitor attractions including theme gardens within the city. Some notable sites are Sukhna Lake, Rock Garden, Rose Garden, Parrot Bird Sanctuary Chandigarh, and Leisure Valley. Chandigarh as a perfect city with regards to its cultural growth, modernisation and architecture. Rose Garden is home to over 1,500 varieties of rose and the Garden of Fragrance is perfect for those mind-refreshing walks. Chandigarh has a bustling food scene, home to every cuisine you can think of right from Mediterranean (Kelong, Virgin Courtyard) to Thai (Tao- Bar & Lounge). Some popular places for Punjabi dishes are Punjab Grill and Sher-e-Punjab. Chandigarh is also close to many hill stations such as Solan, Kasauli, Shoghi and Naldehra.
Dehradun is easily one of the most popular hill stations in India. Though easily accessible by all modes of transportation, taking the road would be the best way to experience this heaven. The drive will take you through dense forests on the hilly road and if you're lucky, you might even see a wild elephant or leopard pass you by. The fresh and dewy hill air will infiltrate your lungs and put you in a great mood right away. In terms of things to see, there is Robber's Cave, a river cave formation and Sahashtradhara, which is also a stunning sight of nature consisting of sulphur springs. But more than its sights, Dehradun is the perfect place for a family getaway. After all it has everything that you could need for a relaxing holiday. The town has many vintage bookshops (Natraj Publishers, The English Book Depot), college campuses with hilly backdrops, architectural marvels (such as the Forest Research Institute), alleys filled with quaint restaurants, adventure sports gear shops and forest resorts and hotels to fit every budget. Vishranti, a resort tucked away discreetly in the Sal forests of the Doon valley, deserves a special mention for its beauty and luxury. The city is a haven for foodies as Dehradun offers a lot of variety and affordability in its cuisine. Restaurants and cafes such as Doon Darbar, renowned for devour-worthy Mughlai dishes and The Buffet for its mouthwatering burgers, cutlets and coffee, are popular options.
The land from where once an ancient trade route to China would be embarked on, Manali is an abode for modern creativity now as much as it for withdrawal and adventure in the majestic mountains. From offering hostels, hotels, co-working spaces to the cave where once Arjun, the Pandava king had supposedly meditated (Arjun Gufa), Manali is no less than a global village. The mighty Himalayas have inspired many foreign settlements here, giving rise to popular European and Israeli cafes, restaurants and hostels, providing one a consortium of around the world cultures. This town is a true haven for adventure junkies who can indulge in river rafting, paragliding, camping, rock climbing, rappelling, zorbing at Solang Valley and Aleo. Manali has an array of breathtaking treks and sights for its nature lovers, for instance the Patalsu Peak, the Deo Tibba basecamp, Jogini Falls and the Rahala Falls. For all the solo riders out there, cruise your way through the snowy alley of Rohtang Pass while those who wish to travel back in time, can indulge in the exquisite display of culture and heritage at the Museum of Himachal Culture and Folk Art. Restaurants and cafes such as the Khyber Pass, Johnson's Cafe, La Plage, Drifters' Inn, The Hangout attract foodies for their culinary justice to everything from Thai to European cuisines and even some live music. If all this is too over the top for you, then reconnect with simplicity at Naggar Village, which is home to waterfalls, a beautiful castle, an art gallery and locals which have many stories to share and a cultural heritage to take pride in.
27th Dec- Chandigarh to KarnalTook a direct flight from Bangalore to Chandigarh. Landed in afternoon and stay was planned in Karnal, a small peaceful town in Haryana, some 3 hours away by road, from Chandigarh. Our preference was completely out of choice since I have my home there. Dhaba food is what I crave for all year long. So first pit stop was for dhaba lunch. Along with usual north indian delicacies, 'sarson ka saag' was a perfect add on to the meal. Perks of travelling in winters. Reached home. Gulped few cups of tea and after a good dose of hearty laughter, it was time for some real hogging. We had dinner at the most amazing Zhilmil Dhaba amidst fog. Hot parathas, biriyani, dal and chicken with melting butter, it was nothing less than a pure bliss.28th Dec- Chandigarh to Dharamshala (via Ropar)