Tripping in Himachal and Punjab :D

23rd Jan 2018

Picture Courtesy : Google

Photo of <i>Picture Courtesy : Google</i> by Pooja Shah

Month of Travel : January

No. of days : 6-7

Places covered : Dharamshala, McLeod Ganj, Dalhousie, Amritsar

How to Travel to McLeod Ganj : Arrive at Chandigarh sector 43 and take HRTC (Himachal Road Tourism Corporation) bus to Dharamshala (approx. 7-8 hours). There are few other HRTC bus options available for travel to Delhi, Dharamshala, Manali, Shimla, Dehradun etc. from sector 43 - Chandigarh

Take a local bus from Dharamshala to McLeod Ganj (approx. 30 mins)

Hello Folks! Planning a trip in North India? If Himachal and Punjab are on your list, explore scenic and mesmerizing mountainous beauty, cold and chilled climate, Snow, Tibetan markets and delicious food awaits you!

Let’s start by looking at the journey from Mumbai to Chandigarh followed by the adventurous road trip to McLeod Ganj and Dharamshala and finally head to Amritsar after visiting Dalhousie before we return home

Random plans works out the best. I am all the more convinced of that statement after experiencing it firsthand on this trip. We never made plans for the next day more than an evening in advance and that worked out the best truly making the trip memorable.

Day 1

Day 1 - Arrive at McLeod Ganj

We landed at Chandigarh (from Mumbai) in morning around 7 am and quickly moved to sector 43 to board the 9.40 am HRTC bus to Dharamshala. Enroute Dharamshala, the bus took a halt at Vision Dhaba (a typical dhaba setup) that served really good Punjabi food. We arrived at Dharamshala bus stand around 4-4.30 pm and took a local bus from bus stand to McLeod Ganj which runs every half hour.

Escape the busy metro cities and find yourself amidst the mountainous views and lush greenery of McLeod Ganj. McLeod Ganj is a beautiful town and a hill station (half hour distance) near upper Dharamshala popular among trekkers for the Triund trek. This town is culturally influenced by Tibetans owing to their major settlement here and has been attracting a lot of Indians as well as Foreigners.

McLeod Ganj

Photo of McLeod Ganj by Pooja Shah

We checked in to Hotel Akash first but the hotel did not seem very safe for girls so we immediately checked in to the hotel next to that which was Hotel Vaikunth. This hotel seemed very much safe and one of the best known in town but the hotel is a little steep from the main market (Advisable is to take some hotel located in main square like Asian Plaza or Surya Pride)

Since it was raining in McLeod Ganj that day the roads were a little deserted by 6 pm in evening and its not very safe to roam late nights in the city so we decided to stay in the hotel and had Chinese food for dinner in the hotel

Day 2

Day 2 - Explore the city and cafes :D

As much as Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj are known for its mountainous views, the food in these parts is quasi gourmet!

Next day, we hopped in to Anonymous Cafe which is situated in main square market. This cafe is recently opened on 8th December 2017 by a few Delhiites. They wanted to start their own business and they found McLeod Ganj was the best place to bring up roof top cafe concept to this place. This place serves good breakfast and good mix of food for Indians and foreigners.

Anonymous Cafe

Photo of Anonymous Cafe by Pooja Shah

Anonymous Cafe

Photo of Anonymous Cafe by Pooja Shah

Anonymous Cafe

Photo of Anonymous Cafe by Pooja Shah

It’s a great place to meet fellow travellers and engage in hearty chats with Tibetans and their local life.

If you are looking to buy some Tibetan handicrafts and other local goods then do some shopping on the streets where you can grab some Tibetan souvenirs and garments

Local Market in McLeod Ganj

Photo of Local Market in McLeod Ganj by Pooja Shah

We spoke to few school girls who helped us walk towards Dalai Lama temple. Moving on from there we dragged ourselves to Nick's Italian Kitchen (Pure Vegetarian) which is one of the well known places in town that served good variety of pizzas

Garden Pizza

Photo of Garden Pizza by Pooja Shah

On your way you will come across a lot of foreigners strolling on the streets and in restaurants who come for solo trips

While you are walking on the Tibetan streets you will catch sight of the very known Buddhist Monastery

Buddhist Monastery

Photo of Buddhist Monastery by Pooja Shah

Right outside the monastery there are some stalls serving the most delicious very famous Tibetan food - Momos (Momo is a type of South Asian dumpling; native to Tibet, Nepal, and the Sikkim, Assam and Darjeeling) Do no miss out on the Tibetan style momos :D

Momos :D

Photo of Momos :D by Pooja Shah

Enlightened ourselves with some desserts at Tibet quality bakery where we had nanoma bar filled with coconut, chocolate cookies and vegan chocolate cake with chocolate sauce.

Other places to visit in McLeod Ganj

Bhagsu Water falls - Another interesting but not as exhausting, was the two-kilometre trek to Bhagsu Falls.

Truind Trek - The 9 kms trek from McLeod Ganj to Triund provides a panoramic view of Kangra Valley.

Dal Lake and St. John in the Wilderness Church

Walked towards McLeod Ganj bus stand from main square market and booked ourselves on a private cab to reach Dharamshala (local jeeps and buses available every 15 minutes).

Dharamshala, located in Kangra district in Himachal is known to be the holy residence of Dalai Lama. Dharamshala is also a centre point from where other places in Himachal or other parts of Northern India can be travelled to and from

Since we reached Dharamshala in evening, in very less time we went to the very famous HPCA stadium (stadium closes by 5.30) in Dharamshala

HPCA Stadium

Photo of HPCA Stadium by Pooja Shah

HPCA Stadium

Photo of HPCA Stadium by Pooja Shah

We spent the evening in CCD at a mall on the Main Street exploring our available options to travel the next day. After filtering down to a few option we decided to explore the beauty in Dalhousie

Checked in to Hotel Kunal which is in the main market of the city. Hotel Kunal is government run hotel and we booked ourselves a deluxe room (approx. INR 1300) The hotel was very safe and provided a comfortable stay

Early morning next day since there were there were only 2 buses to Dalhousie from Dharamshala, we hopped on to the 7 am ordinary bus from Dharamshala bus stand (which was just 10 ministers walk from Hotel Kunal)

Day 3

Day 3 - Arrive and explore Dalhousie

Dalhousie is one of the very known tourist destinations for its mesmerising natural and scenic beauty. This place has attracted a lot of tourists because of its cool and comfortable weather in all seasons. Those who want to enjoy snowfall must visit this place in winter when the temperature falls upto 0 degrees

Arrived Dalhousie around 12.15 am and checked in to the Grand View Hotel where the hotel staff was very welcoming of tourists. The view from hotel was to kill for in this climate. Grand view hotel is located just next to the bus stand and in the main city

Grand View Hotel

Photo of Grand View Hotel by Pooja Shah

View from the Hotel

Photo of View from the Hotel by Pooja Shah

Enroute Dalhousie we saw a few army men preparing for the celebrations of Republic Day. The roads were narrow and a little rocky and since the place is located on a height, there are lot of ghats on the way

We had lunch at Popular Store opposite bus stand which served the best Himalayan sandwich in town and ofcourse momos :D

Himalayan Sandwich

Photo of Himalayan Sandwich by Pooja Shah


Photo of Steamed by Pooja Shah

There were a lot of cab services to travel in city which covered all the main points of interest

Snowpoint in Dalhousie

Photo of Snowpoint in Dalhousie by Pooja Shah

We took a halt at snow point to witness snow where we saw a lot of tourists hanging around at that place, clicked some pictures and left for Punchpula. Punchpula is a very small village a few kms away from Dalhousie


Photo of Punchpula by Pooja Shah


Photo of Punchpula by Pooja Shah

Everyone from adventure lovers to trekkers to photographers, love visiting this stunning destination which is surrounded by beauty. There are some waterfalls, water-streams, tea stalls etc... We took a tour of the beautiful town and left from Punchpulla

While having maggi at the very famous popular restaurant in Dalhousie we discovered on talking to a few tourists that Gandhi market is good for shopping. The local cabs charge around INR 150 to reach the market which was 2 kms from bus stand

Anytime, Anywhere .. Maggi

Photo of Anytime, Anywhere .. Maggi by Pooja Shah

The market was very pretty and enlightening

Gandhi Chowk

Photo of Gandhi Chowk by Pooja Shah

The first thing we saw once we entered the market was a stall which severed fresh hot Gulab Jamuns. Filled our souls with HAPPINESS:D. Can you deny having them having a look at the photo below:p. Even while you take a tour in the market you will come across a lot of food stalls and a few cafes like Cafe Dalhousie and Cafe Monglas occupied by tourists. From traditional clothing, to souvenir shopping, to handicrafts, to exploring food Gandhi Chowk is a go to place in Dalhousie

Gulab Jamuns

Photo of Gulab Jamuns by Pooja Shah

Gulab Jamuns

Photo of Gulab Jamuns by Pooja Shah

Once we did all the hogging and shopping stuff we headed back to our hotel that had karaoke night that evening and spent rest of the evening listening to the soothing music.

Our plan next day was to move towards Khajjiar which is known to be mini Switzerland of India. However, on enquiring with the localiites we discovered that the route towards Khajjiar was blocked because of heavy snowfall in the city and it was not advisable to visit Khajjayar

Day 4

Day 4 - Reach Amritsar

Hence, next day morning we checked out of the hotel and decided to head towards Amritsar.

There are few buses which directly go to Amritsar one was in morning around 6.30-7.00 am and another one at 9.40 am. We could not reach for the direct bus on time and hence the other option available to us was to travel to Pathankot from Dalhousie to Amritsar (If Pathankot buses are unavailable take a bus from Dalhousie to Banikhet to Pathankot to Amritsar or private cabs)

We booked a cab from Dalhousie to Pathankot and from there we took a bus to Amritsar


Once you step on the land of Punjab, particularly Amritsar you will get a feeling that you have entered a flashback zone in Modern India (stepped into 1947 Punjab)

Amritsar is a holy city in the state of Punjab because of its beautiful and unique Gurudwara - Golden temple. It is the spiritual and cultural centre for Sikh religion. As much as Amritsar is well known for Golden Temple, you will be amazed by the variety of food dishes in each lane specially near Golden Temple

Punjab Ki Galliyon me..

Photo of Punjab Ki Galliyon me.. by Pooja Shah

After checking some hotel options in Amritsar, we checked in to Surya Beacon (Ferns brand) hotel which was approx. INR 3000 per night (Other good other options near golden temple like Hotel City Heart, Hotel Abode). Food from Punjab is the most well known cuisine across the world. And Amritsar is brimming with "dhabas".

We hopped on to Brother's Dhaba apparently that is a very famous dhaba in golden temple. We had the mini special thali that served Lacha parathas dipped in butter, Paneer ki sabzi, Daal Makhani and Raita and Sweet Lassi. Good enough for our evening

Brothers da Dhaba

Photo of Brothers da Dhaba by Pooja Shah

Even though we were stuffed, a Jalebi stall on our way tempted us to have at least a plate :D

Jalebi :D

Photo of Jalebi :D by Pooja Shah

We booked ourselves on Amritsar City tour bus ride for next day which would cover the very famous points of interest. (If you are planning to take a tour around points of interest in Amritsar I would recommend the hop on and hop off bus is the best. It is a government undertaking and they take you across the great tourist sites in Amritsar)

Day 5

Day 5 - Explore Amritsar

Next day morning we had breakfast at the very famous Kulwant Ke kulche. It was a very small shop but the rush outside was humongous

Kulwant Ke Kulche

Photo of Kulwant Ke Kulche by Pooja Shah

We took the city tour bus and the first halt was at Durgiana Temple. A very beautiful Hindu temple in the middle of water having a similar architecture to Golden Temple

Durgiana Temple

Photo of Durgiana Temple by Pooja Shah

Next halt was at Gobindgarh fort. This fort is a historic fort in the Center of the city of Amritsar. There were some amazing cultural punjabi performance which we witnessed inside the fort

Gobindgarh Fort

Photo of Gobindgarh Fort by Pooja Shah

Cultural Punjabi Performance

Photo of Cultural Punjabi Performance by Pooja Shah

We took a tour at the museum, some of Punjab history and headed towards 7D show in the fort. The 7D show was in relation to Ranjit Singh history (son of Gobindsingh) and another complimentary show of the adventures rides

We took a halt at Haveli for lunch where the food service was really slow. I would not recommend going to that place if you are in a hurry that day. However, the setup, interiors, and the hotel was in a typical Punjabi style and would be an amazing place to go


Photo of Haveli by Pooja Shah

Gulab Jamun at Haveli

Photo of Gulab Jamun at Haveli by Pooja Shah

On the way we also witnessed few other cultural and historic monuments at Amritsar

We had a bunch of people from Chandigarh in our bus and they danced their toes on all the Punjabi songs played in the bus. We joined the gang in the dance and later had some conversations with them around Mumbai and life in Chandigarh. The evening was super cool having a chat with people from around the country

We got off from the bus around 6-6.30 and bid aideu to our new friends from Chandigarh

We had dinner at Bade Bhai ka Brothers Dhaba which is very well known for Makke di Roti and Sarso da saag

Makke di Roti and Sarso da Saag

Photo of Makke di Roti and Sarso da Saag by Pooja Shah
Day 6

Day 6 - Visit Wagah Border and Shopping

Next day morning we headed towards Wagah border with the same city tour bus with few different set of people

Lunch was at another very famous Kesar da Dhaba (Difficult to locate, but the rickshaw valas will drop you at the right location). Parathas were dipped in Makkhan and Palak Paneer and Dal Makhani in ghee

Kesar da Dhaba

Photo of Kesar da Dhaba by Pooja Shah

Wagah border is approx 30 kms from Amritsar. We reached Wagah border within an hour and there is a 1 km walk from the bus stand. On your way you will see a direction board which will say Lahore is 23 kms from there. (Please don’t dare an attempt to reach there:p)

Photo of Wagah, Wahga, Hardo Rattan, Punjab, India by Pooja Shah

The ceremony at Wagah border begins at 4.30 but it is advisable to reach the stadium by 3.15-3.30 since all the seats get filled and you may not be able to witness the ceremony very closely (There are some VIP passes available for which you must pre-book 1-2 days prior)

We reached the stadium by 3.15 and occupied the front seats. The host in the stadium was very jolly and he encouraged the crowd to be very lively and vocal

His enthusiasm filled the crowd with pride and the audience shouted their throats out to shower their love and respect for Bharatamata

There were Bollywood songs played on the land of India where the crowd again showered their enthusiasm by dancing in the stadium. That was some real fun!

As expected since the military people are very disciplined the ceremony began at exact 4.30 along with the Pakistani ceremony and believe me this will be the most amazing experience of your life that you will witness and it's not a hype! Where our military and Pakistani come in front of each other face to face by opening the border gates and shake hands with each other’s army. They lower their respective flags and ceremony ends at sharp 5.00 before the sunset

Wagah Border

Photo of Wagah Border by Pooja Shah

After the ceremony we had small chats with the Military Sena. When they are not on duty, military Sena are really friendly people and we enjoyed having the small chats with them. I really thank the military Sena for taking care of the civilians across the country!

We headed back to Amritsar and reached the city around 6.30 pm and it had already become dark by then considering it was winters and it was foggy that day.. so much that we couldn’t see the roads beyond 10-20 steps

We had dinner at Bharawan da Dhaba which was right next to Bade Bhai ka Brothers Dhaba. Too stuffed for the evening again!!

Bharawan da Dhaba

Photo of Bharawan da Dhaba by Pooja Shah

Bharawan da Dhaba

Photo of Bharawan da Dhaba by Pooja Shah

We went around shopping on the streets and we bought the very famous Amritsari sweets Patisa, Pinni and Barfi from Goenka sweets (on the left hand side in a street near golden temple) which is one of the well known sweet shops out there

Late evening, we walked towards the real beauty of Amritsar - The very famous Golden Temple. The Golden Temple is the most revered gurudwara for the Sikhs. Harmandir Sahib is its official name. But due to its the gold plated building, devotees lovingly refer to it as the Golden Temple. Since it is usually crowded in daytime we decided to go around 8-8.30 and to our surprise the crowd was as much as normally it would have been. Cover your head, remove your shoes and wander around the most amazing place in Punjab

Golden Temple

Photo of Golden Temple by Pooja Shah

Golden Temple in evening

Photo of Golden Temple in evening by Pooja Shah

Golden Temple

Photo of Golden Temple by Pooja Shah

Other places to go in Amritsar

Jallianwala Bagh - This is just a 5 minute walk from Golden Temple. On the walls of this architecture, bullet holes can still be seen of the massive firing that happened in 1919 by British Indian army soldiers

Partition Museum - The museum is open from 10 am to 6 pm Tuesday to Sunday. It is located very much near (about 10 minutes walk) to Golden Temple. The focus of the museum is on the history of Punjab at the time of partition

Next day early morning with a sad but adventurous experience we left for Mumbai leaving back so many memories be it with regards to people or food or place! Every single moment had become a memorable and adventurous experience for us then! From Mumbai to Himachal to Amritsar the journey which was unplanned turned out to be the best ever memorable trip. I want to thank all the people we came across who made our journey even more memorable and exciting for us to visit again!