Shimla_Manali – My first ever solo trip

Tripoto
26th Sep 2017

Being a solo traveller I always look for fixed departure packages. It is safe and free of tension as the tour operators take care of everything . As usual in 2017, during Durgapuja, I booked a package trip to visit Rural parts of Himachal Pradesh with a travel agent through online search.

Pick up and drop point was Shimla and Manali respectively. As I am from Kolkata, so Kolkata to Shimla and return ticket from Manali to Kolkata was booked on my own. Advance payment was made. I was very excited to visit this part of Himachal.

Almost 15 days before when I called up my travel agent to know about the pick up point in Shimal I got to know that there is no place for solo traveller as this is festive season. Advance would be refunded in full. What a disappointment!! They did not even bother to inform me earlier.

Any way, there was only two options left for me one cancel all the train and bus tickets that I had booked on own or go for solo trip to visit Shimal Manali. Durgapuja is the one of the biggest festival for Bengalies and during this festive season it was impossible to book any package trip with any local travel agency adjusting my dates of journey within this short period.

I thought Shimla Manali is a very popular tourist destination and well connected by overland too. I had been there before also. If I go solo, I can make choice in terms of everything i.e. accommodation, meals, sighseeing. At the same time I was feeling nervous considering that what will happen if any health issues develope,travelling alone will be safe or not.

Inspite of all that negative thinking, I decided to go for a solo trip. Luckily I was able to book hotels in Shimala and Manali in reasonable price too.

Itinerary

Day 1 : Howrah/Sealdah to Delhi by Rajdhani Express

I Left for Delhi by Sealdah (SDAH) - New Delhi (NDLS) Rajdhani Express on 26th September,2017.

[ Train No. 12313 , leave from Sealdah railway Station at 4.50 p.m., fare 2,280/- (AC 3 Tier )].

Day 2 : New Delhi to Kalka by Delhi –Kalka Shatabdi Express

Reached New Delhi Railway station around 3 p.m. as the train was late by 5 hours due to some technical work in the railway track.

Scheduled time of arrival of Rajdhani Express at New Delhi railway station is 10.30 a.m. My connecting train was at 5.15 p.m.There was a gap of more than 6 hours. Hence I had booked online 'Executive Lounge' at New Delhi Railway station in advance. I dropped there, left my luggages, freshen up, had launch and relax for some time.

Boarded New Delhi –Kalka Shatabdi Express in the afternoon.

[ Train No. 12005 leave from of New Delhi railway station at 5.15 p.m., Fare Rs. 550/- (Chair Car)]

Executive Lounge (Image credit : IRCTC)

Photo of New Delhi, Delhi, India by Vaswati

Executive Lounge : It is fully air conditioned facility where railway passengers can stay while waiting for their trains.It is located at concourse of Platform No. 16, New Station Buiding,Ajmeri Gate Side. It can be booked in advance through following websites :

i) www.irctc.co.in ii) www.irctctourism.com &

iii) www.irctc.com

Entry Fee for initital 2 hrs. Rs. 150/- per person inclusive of all taxes.( Cost may be increased now). It offers vegetarian and non-vegetarian buffets cost Rs. 300/- max.

Reached Kalka by 10.45 p.m. Checked – in a hotel near Kalka Railway station( Hotel Lotus), (Walking distance). There is a good restaurant just next to hotel. I had my dinner there and retired to bed.

Day 3: Kalka to Shimla by toy Train Shivalik Deluxe Express

[ Train No. 52451 scheduled time of departure is 5.30 a.m., fare Rs. 420/- ]

Woke up early in the morning and reached the Kalka station by 5 a.m. to caught the Kalka Shimla toy train “Shivalik Deluxe Express” . I was so excited that for the first time I would be travelling by Toy train.

And then heard the announcement that the train was late by 2 hours. I slowly entered the station. Shivalik express was standing in the Platform No.1 . I sat on a bench just in front of my compartment and keep my luggage beside the bench. Two more families who were accompanying me yesterday in Shatabdi express also there. Oldies were sitting on the bench and younger ones were pacing up and down the platform. Slowly woke up the platforms. Small vendors started opening their shops. I finished my breakfast with cakes, eggs and buiscuits from one of those shops. I took some photos also. Another announcement came that the train would depart on 8 a.m. and finally train departed by 8.30 a.m. Later I came to know that Shivalik express is connecting train of Howrah Kalka mail( Scheduled arrival time 4.30a.m.).On that Day Howrah –Kalka Mail reached by 8.15 a.m. that’s why the Shivalik express delayed.

Toy train journey :

The Kalka Shimla Railway has been granted World Heritage Status by UNESCO. It's narrow gauge track.

Shibalik Delux Express

Photo of Kalka, Haryana, India by Vaswati

The train moves through many small towns and hamlets initially and then through pine forests. The scenic beauty was thrilling and wonderful throughout the route.

On the way

Photo of Shimla_Manali – My first ever solo trip by Vaswati

The journey was enjoyable. On the entire way, the train crossed 103 dark tunnels, 800 bridges, neumerous small stations , incredible steady curves and arched viaduct . It stopped only at picturesque Barog stations for 15 minutes for providing breakfast(Veg and non – veg).Each compartment has small toilet facility. Facing to the enginee of the train, the view is better on right hand side.

Reflection

Photo of Shimla_Manali – My first ever solo trip by Vaswati

After almost 6 hours the train finally reached Shimla Railway Station by 2 p.m.

Shimla has a very small railway station at an altitude of 6,808 ft. There are enough waiting areas, souvenir shops and easy access to the main road. I booked a cab that drop me at Hotel .

Where to stay in Shimla :

There are so many hotels in Shimla. Best are near Mall road area. You can stay at Kalibari also. For that previous booking is required.

My hotel was just behind the Church, Checked – in , I  treated myself with a plate of egg chowmin and took a mid day nap.

Shimla Mall :

In the afternoon, came at the famous Shimla Mall. The sky was overcast with cloud. Soon started drizzling and then it turned to heavy downpore. People got staranded. I also took shelter under a shade besides the Mall. Although rains were not cold but light woolens were required in morning and evening. After a spell of shower scenario of mall area had changed dramatically. The famous Christ church at Shimla Mall covered with fog. Tall hanuman statue high above the Jhaku Hill suddenly disappeared behind the cloud.

Shimla Malll after a spell of shower

Photo of Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India by Vaswati

Surprisingly after some time, the weather became much clear. There was a Cycle Race event to be held on that day by Hero MTB Himalaya, Shimla. More than fifty cycle riders assembled in the Mall for the race.

Photo of Shimla_Manali – My first ever solo trip by Vaswati

Soon the competition started.

Photo of Shimla_Manali – My first ever solo trip by Vaswati
Photo of Shimla_Manali – My first ever solo trip by Vaswati

The day was hectic. After watching the event for some time, I went back to the hotel, had early dinner and slipped into bed.

Day 4 : Shimla sight seeing

In the morning, pristine blue sky came up with floating white clouds. Day was sunny. There were no sign of previus evening's rain clouds.

The queen of hills – the Shimla has the following tourists attractions

1.The Mall Road

2.The Ridge area

3.Shimla Kali Bari

4.Kufri

5.Jhakoo Temple

6.Indian Institute of Advanced Studies

7.Annandale

8.Shimla State Museum

9.Naldehra

10.Arki Fort.

As I had been in Shimla earlier so I skipped sight seeing this time.I went to Shimla Kali Bari across the Mall area. Many Riders assembled in the mall area, might  be race continued for that day also.

Photo of Shimla_Manali – My first ever solo trip by Vaswati
Photo of Shimla Kali Bari, Mall Road, Kali Bari, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India by Vaswati

Shimla Kali bari houses a captivating idol of Goddess Kali beautifully adorned with jewellery and colourful flowers.It is located near Shimla Mall. I Offered Puja to the Kali temple, took some photos, From Kali temple courtyeard one can see the magnificent views of Himalayas.

Photo of Shimla_Manali – My first ever solo trip by Vaswati

Kali temple also have canteen that offer food in very low price. Had my breakfast there and took coupons for lunch and dinner too.

 I stepped out to the bustling  market area of Shimla, lower bazar, upper bazar, Ridge area, took some beautiful photos of the mall and market area, doing some shopping and came back to hotel,

Photo of Mall Road, The Mall, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India by Vaswati

on the way had my launch at Kali Bari. Food was delicious and quantity was good.

Himachalpradesh Tourism Office, Mall Road, Shimla

Paid a visit to the Himachal Pradesh Tourism office, situated in the Mall Road, Shimla. I have already booked a HPTDC bus for Manali, Bus was to leave from Victory Tunnel on next day. I was there for booking a cab service. They suggested me to take a porter from my hotel ( Porter is easily available in Shimla for carrying luggages) that would take my luggages and I could simply walk with him through the mall area.

One of the most famous attractions of Shimla is Jakhoo Temple located atop the Jakhu Hill, the highest point of Shimla. The hill is situated 2.5 km from the Ridge at an altitude of 2455 M. Previously, the tourists has to walk down or ride pony to reach Jakhoo temple but now, there is a ropeway in operation that took the tourist to the Temple only by 6 minutes from the Ridge area. Two –way journey is cost Rs. 500/- only. Each ropeway coach takes only 6 travellers.

Photo of Jakhoo Temple, Jakhoo Road, Bemloi, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India by Vaswati

I took this Gondola ride (Jakhu Ropeway) to visit Jakhu temple as I had  missed it last time. Ropeway gives a breath taking view of Himalayan Hills and Shimal city.

Photo of Shimla_Manali – My first ever solo trip by Vaswati

The temple is dedicated to the Hindu Monkey God- Hanuman Ji 108 feet tall idol of Hanuman located atop the Hill is a big attractions for tourists.At the entrance there is a troop of monkeys that gurding the premises all the way to the temple. Main temple is small.

Photo of Shimla_Manali – My first ever solo trip by Vaswati
Photo of Shimla_Manali – My first ever solo trip by Vaswati

Caution : Beware of the monkeys here as they were always trying to snatch away the free hanging objects from people.

Photo of Shimla_Manali – My first ever solo trip by Vaswati

Day 5: Shimla to Manali by Hptdc Volvo Bus

Shimla Manali highway is the one of the most picturesque road. Shimla to Manali travelling distance is 270 km. The entire route is very scenic and beautiful with majestic mountains in one side and lush green deep valley on the other side of the road.

Photo of Shimla_Manali – My first ever solo trip by Vaswati

After some distance, the road starts running besides river Beas and then it continues for rest of the journey till Manali.

HPTDC bus leaves from Victory Channel at 8 a.m.[ You can book it in advance from www.hptdc.com ]. It gives two breaks around 10.30 a.m. for breakfast and 1.30 p.m. for lunch. Bus reached at Manali bus stand by 5.30p.m.

There are so many hotels near mall area. I had taken an auto from bus stand that dropped me at my hotel.

Day 6 : Manali in & around.

Photo of Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India by Vaswati

HPTDC Counter – In the Mall area, there is HPTDC booking counter . I went there to book my sight seeings. i) Rotang trip and ii) Solang Valley for next two consecutive days. Then went out for Old Manali.

Photo of Old Manali, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India by Vaswati

Old Manali is a beautiful picturesque quiet place. A bridge over Manalsu river is the gate way of Old Manali.

Day 7 : Manali sight seeing

Got ready with heavy woollens and jacket for Rotang trip. Tourism bus was to depart at 7 am, After having breakfast from one of the shops on mall Road boarded the bus.

Photo of Rohtang Pass, Himachal Pradesh by Vaswati

Rotang Pass is the high mountain Pass at an altitude of 13,054 ft. Distance from Manali is approx. 52 km and it took almost 5 hours. Roads are tricky and we faced traffic Jam a number of times. Permit is required to visit Roatang Pass. It was one of the best road journey .

Photo of Shimla_Manali – My first ever solo trip by Vaswati

Narrow windy roads, high mountains, beautiful valleys, clear sky with floating white clouds mesmerized the journey. We reached around 12 p.m. As soon as I got off the bus cold wind slapped on my face. I wore sweater, padded jacket, balaclave even woollen hand gloves to beat the cold.

Photo of Shimla_Manali – My first ever solo trip by Vaswati

 It was a sunny day. Previously, when I had been in Rotang,it was snowing.  View was breath taking. After couple of hours,  we boarded the bus again for return journey.

Photo of Shimla_Manali – My first ever solo trip by Vaswati

Day 8 : Solang Valley and Naggar Castle.

Bus departed by 8 a.m. for Solang Valley. It is one of the most gorgeous and adventurous places to visit in Manali.

It is famous for Paragliding and other sports activities. For Paragliding, it has two jump stations- one on a low and  the other on a higher level. Gondola or Solang Ropeway ride take you to the mountain top – the higher level jumping station for paragliding . It costs Rs. 3000/- including the costs of gondola ride(Rs. 600/- for both ways). Paragliding from lower level cost Rs. 1000/-.

Photo of Solang Valley, Burwa, Himachal Pradesh, India by Vaswati
Photo of Naggar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Vaswati

It is a heritage site now handed over to HPTDC to run as a hotel. It is situated on the left bank of river Beas.From the restaurant of this castle the view of snow capped peaks and open valley mesmerized you.

Photo of Shimla_Manali – My first ever solo trip by Vaswati

We had our lunch here. The preparations were mouth watering.

Photo of Shimla_Manali – My first ever solo trip by Vaswati

We reached Manali bus stand by 5 p.m.

Day 9 : Hadimba Temple and Manu Temple

Photo of Hadimba Devi Temple, Old Manali, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India by Vaswati

Hadimba temple is a unique shrine dedicated to Hadimba devi, wife of Bhima. It is situated in the woods. It is a four story structure. It is one of the most popular temples in Manali.

Photo of Manu Temple, Old Manali, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India by Vaswati

This magnificent temple is dedicated to the sage Manu, who is said to be the creator of the world. The Manu Temple is located in old Manali, at a distance of three kilometers from the main market.

Went to explore Tibetan Buddhist Monastery near Manali Bus stand. It is one of the oldest and famous place in Manali .

Photo of Himalayan Nyinmapa Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, Siyal, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India by Vaswati

There is a few Tibetan gift shops near the Monastery. Monastery premises is surrounded by small shops of different kinds.

There is a gurudwara within a 500 m distance from Mall area.

Photo of Gurudwara, Manali House, Sector 1, Ambala, Haryana, India by Vaswati

Day 10 : Day of departure.

Volvo bus of Himachal Road Transport Corporation would be departed at 8 p.m. Tickets has already been booked online. Bus departed at sharp 8 p.m. and reached at Kashmeri gate bus terminaus at 9 a.m.

Boarded Delhi - Howrah Rajdhani Express in the afternoon and next day morning reached Howrah.

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