Of snow-capped mountains and smokey lore, Himachal Pradesh is so much more than hill stations with colonial hangovers. There're legends to be followed through Shimla's mall road and Old Manali's cobbled streets, ancient lore to be listened to and nirvana to be attained. Here is a short one-week version to explore the same.
Delhi to Manali
It's definitely a long drive but it's worth all your while. Believe us, you'll come across plenty of sites wherein you'd stop your car to look at the scenery and click a few photos. The Beas River seems to be in a hurry rushing downhill as you make your way up to Manali. A slice of heaven in the midst of some seriously spreading urbanization around the area, Manali offers that perfect mix of cultural serenity in a rapidly growing town.
A short drive from your hotel will take you to the ancient Hadimba Temple. This ancient wooden structure, built over a huge rock that was worshiped as a deity, is dedicated to Hadimbi Devi from the Mahabharath. Past narrow lanes of Old Manali's bazaars, you get to the small village of Vashisht with its natural hot springs. Visit the revered Manu Temple on your way here as our guide tells you more about the significance of various temples around the region. The serene little village of Vashisht is home to a few hotels with quaint terraces as well as fascinating old stone temples directly opposite each other. Enjoy a warm dip at the hot springs here before you head on to Jogini waterfalls. Sci-fi-esque scenery marks the area around Jogini waterfalls with grey rock massifs and dense green surroundings. Enjoy some time here by the high Jogini Falls before you head back.
Rohtang Pass Drive
Manali has been a major draw for tourists for a fairly long time now, and one of its star attractions is the drive to Rohtang pass. The ban of diesel vehicles and activities and eateries at the pass by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) did create some confusion, but clarity ensued, and this has been well received by nature lovers. We pick you up from your hotel for the 51-kilometre drive from Manali to Rohtang Pass. One of Manali's most scenic rides, the road at first runs parallel to the turquoise Beas river till you leave it behind for an uphill drive towards the pass. Forested mountain slopes and flat-topped grasslands make you want to stop at every turn to capture these frames on your camera. Distant waterfalls and a sudden wind before you make it to the top sort of wakes you up to the fact that the pass is near. A quick glance back on the loops set against the incoming mist is a mystical treat. With panoramic views of the mountains all around you, the road that leads further down disappears out of sight. At 3978 metres above msl, you feel on top of the world! Zip up those jackets as the wind here is chilly and tends to blow rather hard. After a little rambling around the top and the trails nearby, we drive you back to your hotel. You've been there, done that!
Manali to Shimla
Start early for this because you wouldn't want to miss the views on this lovely drive. Shimla offers much more than charming colonial buildings against a backdrop of the magnificent snow-capped Himalayas. Originally part of the Kingdom of Nepal (before it was declared the British Summer Capital of India), pleasant summers and snow-covered winters make Shimla a favourite weekend getaway with tourists all the year around.
Drive to Chail and Kufri
An hour's drive out of Shimla (approximately 16 km) through lush pine forests takes you to the skiing town of Kufri. Lush green hills mark summer in Kufri - a stark contrast to the fantastic snow slopes that make tobogganing 'the' thing to do at the end of the year. If you're visiting in January, try your hand at the 'National Snow Statue Competition' here in Kufri. A short walk around takes you past colonial-esque statues at Chini Bungalow to the Himalayan nature park. Tall pine and deodar forests signal the entry to Chail at about 2250 metres above msl. Renowned for the worlds' highest cricket pitch and polo grounds (at 2444 m above msl), Chail is also home to the majestic summer palace of the Maharaja of Patiala built in 1891 (when exiled from Shimla by the British). Our local expert will take you back in time as you walk through some fascinating Indo-English architecture set on sprawling lawns with wide patios and corridors that echo with voices of an era gone by.
Shimla to Delhi
Prepare for the journey back home, refreshed and rejuvenated after your stay in the mountains.