Once we experienced the mountain ranges in Assam and Meghalaya, we became hooked to the Himalayas. They keep calling us back over and over again and we have no choice but to keep going back : )
For our next adventure, we decided to venture into Himachal Pradesh and select a circuit along the Beas River. Once again, it was a family trip where there were kids, adults and seniors! We travelled in mid-April when the snow melt has begun and clear water playfully gushes through the area.
Here was our itinerary:
Day 1: Flew into Chandigarh. We then drove to Kasauli which is about 2 hours away. After lunch, we spent the evening sightseeing in Kasauli. Spent the night in Kasauli.
Day 2: Enjoyed a nice morning walk in Kasauli and after brunch, headed to Dharampur to catch a train to Khandaghat. The trains run along the Kalka-Shimla line and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. The train is very slow so we chose to be on the train only for a few hours rather than the entire length. We got off at Khandaghat and drove to Chail and spent the night at Chail.
Special Note: The cars we rented stayed with us throughout the trip. When we travelled on the “toy train” we did not carry any luggage with us… all of it was left in the car. We only had our valuables with us. The train aisles are too narrow to carry large suitcases.
On the way to Chail from Khandaghat, we stopped over at a place by a water stream where the cafe tables are set up in the middle of the stream (Sadhupul). Stepping into the clear water was an insane experience for the kids and adults alike! Plan this as a brief stop since the reviews are mixed for this spot… we did have an awesome time.
Day 3: After exploring Chail, we headed towards Manali via Kufri. The journey is long and the roads bumpy … be prepared for beautiful views and long waits in traffic (especially in Shimla). Having competent drivers is a must. We reached Manali at midnight – 12 hours later. Start early if possible.
Day 4: Manali – wake up to SPECTACULAR views. Spent the day exploring the baths in Vashisht temple, driving down to Kullu to explore the city and enjoyed amazing white water rafting in the Beas river. In the evening we headed to Hidimba Devi Temple.
Tip: Always have spare clothes handy… you just don’t know when you will need them. The clothing store at the end of our river rafting trip had the most robust business in the area!!
Day 5: After breakfast we headed out to Snow point and drove up as close to Rothang pass as possible. The pass was not open during April when we went. Later in the afternoon, checked out Solang Valley and downtown Manali.
Day 6: Headed back towards Chandigarh with an open mind via Naggar where we visited the Naggar Castle. Along the way, decided to do a stop over at Rewalsar. After settling in, we enjoyed a nice walk around the lake and visited all of the different temples and monasteries around the lake.
Here, I learnt an important lesson. As we drove from Manali, we did not really have a plan for the night halt (even though we were a group of eleven). As we approached the Rewalsar area (may be two hours out, near Mandi), I googled to see if there were interesting places nearby and Rewalsar popped up. Beautiful temples surrounded by an amazing lake. So, I decided we should head there. What did not occur to me was that the lake is located on top of a hill and you have to travel on winding roads to reach it (most of the road from Kullu to Mandi was “flat”, hence the assumption). But, it was well worth it. The lesson I learnt is that altitude variations within the Himalayas really do throw off driving time estimates.
Day 7: Spent the morning exploring the area. We managed to visit two buddhist monasteries and a gurudwara. When we were at Tso-Pema Orgyen Heru-kai Nyingmapa Gompa, we realised we were actually above the clouds which was an amazing feeling. After breakfast we headed to Chandigarh via Una where you see a wonderful transition from mountains to plains. Spent the night in Chandigarh.
Day 8: Headed home and declared the trip a success!
This was a very special trip for us. It was the first time where we, as part of an extended family trip, were not using someone’s house as a launching base…. we all just caught up at the airport. Because my family had a packed summer planned, we went to Himachal in mid-April.
The weather was perfect and looking back, the rivers and streams were most pretty at this time (in other posts I describe the Himalayas in June, September and November). There is an amazing innocence in the region during spring time… It is just starting to come back to life after the winter. The kids also got an opportunity to play in Himalayan snow and they had a blast. My only regret was that I missed the opportunity to stand at and enjoy Rohtang pass although we went very close to it. Postponing the trip to late-May or early June could have given us a better chance to visit Rohtang pass but the accessible snow would have melted.
Manali is a very special place. Hiking was not part of our agenda but I would definitely explore options. Solang Valley has some nice adventure sports options but it is also crowded. Adventure sports, unfortunately did not fit into our needs this time around. Naggar has some beautiful views but I think I would head to Manali for hiking and Kullu for rafting. Naggar would be great to just chill and relax. Chail has some beautiful, fairly easy, short trails that you can explore, but, on the flipside, there are also a LOT of monkeys that will try to grab whatever you are holding onto.
Finally, being curious, I wanted our family to explore as much as possible. Perhaps sometimes it is okay to just chill… which I will definitely do the next time…. may be….