Hello Everyone! I will try to list down as much info as possible (to the best of my knowledge). I am writing this with a hope that lot of information here would help you plan day, budget, eateries etc. So, here we start with quick overview of how I Splitted my days (details later) :
Day 1 - Palampur
Day 2 - Dharmshala
Day 3 - Mcleodganj
Now that we have sorted the days, lets get into details.
We started from Delhi via flight. Started at 10:55 am and reached at 1 pm (though we should have reached by 12:40 pm). It was a 2*2 type of aircraft and hence either you get an aisle or a window seat - which is great. However, the seats were probably smaller than other domestic airlines. We travelled by Air India. It was best decision to go via flight since the views were amazing as we were about to land. We could see snow capped mountains from a height way above them and slowly landing amidst lush green area with a clear view of snow capped Dhauladhar ranges.
It was a magnificent view.
Distance of Airport from Places :
Gaggal Airport is a small airport but it is great to see one of its kind in a Hill Station. It is about 12 kms away from Mcleodganj, about 24 kms from Dharmshala and about 35 kms from Palampur.
Hotel Selection :
We booked Wood Castle Oyo 6962 as our hotel for two days. The reason for selecting this hotel was the location, rooftop terrace and room size. The Hotel is located at just 5 mins of walk from the Mcleodganj Main Square and has big rooms. The hotels in Mcleodganj are dirt cheap (atleast as compared to other hill stations) - primary reason is that there are way too many hotels in that area. I would recommend to stay in Mcleodganj and not Dharmshala or Palampur. They are just too far off from the points you would like to visit. Other viable places where you can look for hotel is BhagsuNag or Naddi. Bhagsunag has great view and a natural water swimming pool (open for all - early morning would help avoiding crowd). Naddi is little isolated and is good for ones looking to stay away from hustle bustle and offers great view of snow capped mountains and sunset.
Getting back to itinerary :
Cab cost from Airport to Hotel - 1200 Rs
Cab cost from Airport to Palampur sightseeing and dropping back to hotel - 2000 Rs.
We opted for the latter one - Helps covering one destination (and farthest one) on day 1 and saves a bit on money
Places to Visit in Palampur :
1) Baijnath - It is a small temple with a very interesting story behind it. After getting blessing from Lord Shiva Ravan expressed desire to take Shivling to Lanka. While lord Shiva allowed him to do that but also told that if he keeps the shivling at any place and he will not be able to lift it again. Ravan on the way felt that it is small.and light shivling and he sees no harm in keeping ind lifting again. He kept the Shivling over here and could never lift it again to take to Lanka. More information can be found on net or can be explained by taxi driver.
Photography is not allowed in the temple. The backside of the temple offers a great view of mountains.
Time Spent in Temple - About 20-30 mins
Small eateries with local food available outside the temple.
2) After about 3 kms, you can get down at Kheerganga river where you have stairs and can actually get close to water. It had nice flow and crystal clear water
Time Spent - About 15 mins
Eateries - One stall of Lemon Soda
3) Chamunda Devi Ji - Next we move towards Chamunda Devi Ji. It took about 45 mins to reach there. Enroute you will find lot of tea gardens where you can get down and go inside as well. Kangra tea is famous amongst local people there. Chamunda Devi is must visit place. It offers beautiful temple with serene environment and has a river flowing alongside where we were blessed with amazing breeze (it was difficult to hold mobile to click pic). I could spend 2 hours just sitting there.
Time Spent - About 45 mins
Eateries Available - Nothing too major here
4) Portico Sarovar - One of the best hotels in Palampur. It has a terrace cafe and revolving restaurant. Revolving restaurant opens only in night and hence we could only use terrace cafe for our lunch. Terrace offers a magnificent view and breeze (because of the height it is located at). However, it was about 4 pm and we could only get some chinese food in lunch. We ordered Manchurian, Fried Rice, Soup, Pasta in res sauce, Coffee. Everything was great in taste and quantity. Cost for two - 1000 to 1200.
4) Tea Garden - While we could see tea garden all over the place but the best one we found was about 15 kms before Mcleodganj. It had nice passage where even car could go and some local eateries available.
5) We reached hotel around 7 pm. Check in was smooth and was greeted nicely. We had dinner on terrace of the hotel. The food taste was not that great and not that we wanted to repeat it there (More details on day 2)
The room had all basic amenities - Hot water , TV, AC, Fan. Also it had valley facing balcony which was a plus point.
P.S. : Do not forget to see the travel package image below for the cost and approx timings.