Jammu is one of the fastest developing cities in northern India. Its Vaishno Devi Temple, which is one of the holiest places for Hindus, sees millions of devotees every year. The city also has many more Hindu temples that are believed to be of significant religious importance, such as Peer Kho Cave and Panchbhaktar temple to worship Lord Shiva. If you are fond of shopping, Jammu has a number of markets offering shoppers a variety of options. Bahu Fort is another must-visit for its magnificent architecture and overwhelming views of the mountains in the distance. The Bagh-e-Bahu Garden is beautiful at spring time, and even more so because the dazzling river Tawi surrounds it. The garden will take you back to the Mughal era with its lush green surroundings and historic aura. Don't forget to enjoy a meal of kalhadi kulcha at any of the popular dhabas in Jammu!
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148 Kms from Jammu
Best time to visit - March,April,May,June,September,October
According to traditional etymology, Dharamshala translates to 'spiritual dwelling'. The calm expanse of the Dhauladhar Ranges enveloping this city grants it a rich history of spirituality and attracts thousands of travellers from around the globe, looking for that very bliss. Homestead of the Dalai Lama and innumerable other Tibetans, Dharamshala boasts of beautiful monasteries all around, such as those within the Tsuglagkhang Complex, which also houses the Tibetan Leader's official residence. Other attractions include the Kalachakra Temple, which houses some hypnotisingly beautiful murals, the Tibet Museum and the Namgyal Gompa, where monks can be seen engaged in animated debates in the afternoon. Apart from the spirituality, this charming little city also hosts International Film festivals, local fairs, Shoton Spring Festival and the vibrant Tibetan Opera- 'Lhamo. The city is usually dormant with regard to adventurous activities, but for those thrill seekers and nature lovers around, an adrenaline rush always awaits them. Some resorts provide opportunities for paragliding, flying fox, rock climbing, zip lining, rappelling and even night camping. Treks through the magical hills and forests are always invaluable, the most cherished one being, the trek to the snowy peaks of Triund. Dharamshala's vast Tibetan population gives way to charming little kitchen cafes serving the most lip smacking Tibetan dishes, that too at very affordable prices (below Rs 500 for two). Dishes such as thenthuk, thukpa, chocolate and meat medallions are a huge hit with most travellers that have visited and sought refuge in this city's mystical spread.
148 Kms from Jammu
Best time to visit - February,March,April,May,June,October,November
Barely 4 km away from Dharamshala by foot, the hill station of McLeod Ganj is home to many majestic monasteries, delicious smelling kitchen cafes, video rental shops, western food cafes, trekking companies and wall to wall stores selling Tibetan souvenirs and many more goodies. Also known as Little Lhasa and the abode of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual influence and its mystical green hills mark McLeod Ganj as a significant tourist destination and a major traveller hang-out in the Kangra Valley. A 5-minute walk south of this town will take one to the Tsuglagkhang Complex, which comprises the official residence of the 14th Dalai Lama, vibrant monasteries with beautiful murals and even a bookshop cafe that goes by the name of Namgyal Gompa. Tourist activity after monsoon picks up, after October, with February March being pleasant months to visit the hill station to witness the Losar Festival or the Tibetan New Year being celebrated. This compact sized town is best explored and enjoyed by walking or trekking. Intriguing short walks around Mcleod Ganj include one that goes 2km east to Bhagsu which leads one to a waterfall and a temple. The most well-known trek, 8 km starting from the town, is to Triund, a snow-flanked and serene camping spot from which one can also travel 5 km ahead to reach a charming little forest rest house. With many many hipster eateries, the food here is some of the best you'll find at any mountain destination.
150 Kms from Jammu
Best time to visit - March,April,May,June
Barely 18 kms from Dharamshala, Kangra is the perfect weekend getaway for tourists and explorers alike. This small bustling city hides away quite a few marvels within its Dhauladhar Ranges. Those looking to nestle amidst its simplistic beauty must make it a priority to visit Pragpur village, which is India's only heritage village, a place with an allure that can only be compared with those colourful little European hamlets one has only seen on TV or in children's books. Another not so well known gem in this city is the Masroor Monolith Rock temple, which is an 8th century archeological wonder made of a group of 15 temples carved out of rock, with a pond in the foreground. A location that remains a favourite with tourists is the Kangra Fort, with ramparts over a 4 km stretch protecting it, atop a hill at the conflux of Patal Ganga and Banganga river. A 200 metre walk up the road from the Kangra Fort is all that is needed for those wanting to delve more into the city's history, where they shall reach the Maharaja Sansar Chand Museum, which provides an insight into the luxurious lifestyle once led by the Katochs, the erstwhile Kangra Royal family. Adventure seekers will love the various treks that go through the Dhauladhar Ranges usually ending near the Chamba valley, providing picturesque views. The city houses some of the most charming little cafes that to every book worm's delight have a shelf full of books and cook everything from Himachali, Italian and Tibetan cuisines on the menu. Some renowned cafes and restaurants are Moonpeak, Peace Cafe, Nechung Cafe, Snow Lion Cafe, Jimmy's Italian Cafe and Indique, wherein one can also enjoy live music nights.
172 Kms from Jammu
Best time to visit - March,April,May,June,July,September,October,November
A picturesque and quiet little town, Palampur is a panorama of stunning tea gardens, brooks, creeks, rice paddies and colonial era buildings all set against the backdrop of the breathtaking snow-peaked Dhauladhar ranges. It is perfect for those who seek a getaway from noisy cities and most importantly crowds. A not so popular tourist destination, Palampur is a town early to rise and early to sleep, whilst being a haven for to those who seek solitude, especially in the lap of nature. Places such as the Neogal Park is highly recommended for refreshing and soothing walks amidst the forest overlooking a river, which even consists of a small man-made lake for boating activities. For all tea lovers out there, visit the tea gardens and the Palampur Cooperative Tea Factory to understand the entire process behind tea manufacturing, which will be happily explained to you through a free tour by the people working there, wherein you can also purchase fresh Kangra tea leaves and many different types of tea. For handcraft enthusiasts, especially pottery, Andretta Artist's Village is the perfect place for one to not only purchase those clay crafted beauties but also to learn how to make them from scratch. Palampur is open to both Indian and Western cuisines, with a number of commendable and affordable restaurants to eat at. To try something more authentic or 'Pahari' for that matter, Sai Gardens is highly recommended for its versatility and prowess especially in the Himachali cuisine. Adventure seekers can enjoy paragliding and other activities in Bir, a place about an hour away from Palampur, guaranteed to give you a memorable time.
226 Kms from Jammu
Best time to visit - February,March,April,October
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.
252 Kms from Jammu
Best time to visit - March,April,May,June,July,August,September,October
A kingdom that has risen above disasters like the 2010 cloudburst and is still able to magnetise a plethora of tourists and travellers every month to it, even when the mercury dips below sub-zero levels. This former capital of the Himalayan Kingdom of Ladakh is chiefly dominated by the ruined Royal Palace of Leh and the eternally serene Pangong Tso, Tibetan for 'high grassland lake', which is spread for 134 km from India to China. If you're someone who loves travelling unconventionally and is interested in the lifestyle that thrives in this high altitude desert, you can stay with locals who have turned their homes into 'homestays' and are open to interacting with non-natives. For a more spiritual and mystical experience, one can also spend the night at monasteries such as Thiksey, Lamauru or the Hemis Monastery, where you will get a chance to interact with Lamas (Buddhist teachers) and learn all about their lives and what they preach. For more visual and audio insights and treats, one can attend the 6 day Ladakh festival, a multihued explosion of Ladakhi culture and tradition, celebrated annually in the month of September in Leh's villages. Leh can always keep you entertained, for instance, with trekking (frozen river trek to Chadar, Padam to Darcha trek), mountain biking, skiing, camel safari, paragliding and even having your car pulled uphill by the magnetic force at the Magnetic Hill. Foodies will get no better thrill than eating at the highest cafeteria in the world, Rinchen Cafeteria. Other popular cafes such as Gesmo, Nirvana Garden, Cafe Jeevan and Norlakh are a must to go to for their lip smacking Italian, Himalayan and local dishes.
287 Kms from Jammu
Best time to visit - August,September,October,November
A perfect combination of ancient and urban, this city has been deemed the most futuristic in the country, while also having been occupied by the Harappan civilisation almost 8,000 years ago. In fact, BBC has named Chandigarh as a perfect city with regard to its cultural growth, modernisation and architecture. Nek Chand Rock Garden is a unique and fascinating site, built solely by a man (after whom the garden is named), who used remnants from various demolition sites (particularly the debris while Chandigarh itself was being built) and a whole lot of scrap to build 2000 sculptures, statues, all integrated on walled paths, wherein one can also see man-made interlinked waterfalls. A short walk away from there is the artificial Sukhna lake, a landmark for families to relax and walk around while enjoying street food and keeping kids busy with quaint toys bought from vendors all around. Pertaining to Le Corbusier's (chief architect of the city) vision of Chandigarh being a garden city, Rose Garden is home to over 1,500 varieties of rose and the Garden of Fragrance is perfect for those mind-refreshing walks. Popular places to visit for an insight into Chandigarh and the entire country's history through various artworks are the Government Museum & Art Gallery and the Chandigarh Architecture Museum. Being one of the top four metro cities of the country, 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.
294 Kms from Jammu
Best time to visit - April,May,June,October
Chail has slowly gained popularity as a weekend getaway in Himachal. Away from the chaos of Shimla, this lovely town is home to the highest cricket ground in the world (a great sight even if you are not a cricket fan). The popular Chail Palace built by the Maharaja of Patiala is the perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon. Do carry a picnic basket since food here is slightly expensive. Unlike Shimla, Chail is a quiet town without a mall road or fancy restaurants. What you will certainly get here is a variety of homestays to choose from and delicious dhaba food. For adventure enthusiasts, there are tons of trekking routes; some of the more popular ones are Kandaghat – Chail, Chail – Rajgarh and Chur Chandni and Chail – Shimla via Junga. Do ask the locals before planning your trekking routes since they know the area the best.