Usually we won't plan our trips in advance. If time is in favor we will plan some thing in the late evenings and start within hours. But as I joined for higher studies last year, could not do even that kind of a trip for the last one year.
Working and studying at the same time was always a pain and I was exhausted after completing the first year. So decided to plan a big one during my first year summer vacation.
Got some valuable suggestions from the fellow TAI
. Finally decided to go with the Shimla-Kulu-Manali option. The planning:
I shared the plan with my travel buddies. After some yes and no moments, 4 of us decided to go with the plan. As we are new to the northern part of the country decided to take help from a travel agent. Chapter 1 - Selecting a travel agent:
Had two options, either go for a travel agent based on our city or select a travel agent based on the northern cities, preferably Delhi/Himachal. As the travel agent based on the northern cities will be much more familiar with the locations, we decided to go with the latter one. Searched a few online forums and found some agents having good track record. Also found a third party travel agent provider - Personalized Holiday Packages | Customized Tour Packages from mutiple local and trusted travel agents - TravelTriangle
Once I listed my requirements in TravelTriangle, got quotes from different agents. TravelTriangle also offers the option to compare these quotes, communicate with the agents and after selecting one you can make payments through travel triangle. They will release the amount to the agent only when we are provided with the coupons(confirmation of hotel booking/taki booking etc) of the booking. After a few rounds of negotiation we selected Plano Travels, who offered hotels+taxi, including driver bata, toll fees etc for 46000 (4 peoples). Chapter 2 - Book Air tickets:
First we thought of asking the agent to book the air tickets too. As the dates were close and they were slightly over priced in booking air tickets we decided to book the tickets ourselves.
Another concern was whether to fly to Chandigarh or Delhi. Finally decided to take a road trip from Delhi as it was cheap, take this opportunity to explore Delhi, travel through more than one state (excited, first time in North India) and finally less time(yes the connection flight will take more time than travelling by road).
I decided to fly from Kochi while the other guys from Trivandrum. As we were planning to take our first stay in Shimla we had to reach Delhi as early as possible. So all of us took early morning flights. Chapter 3 - List the required items:
We were going to experience snow for the first time. So thought of listening to the peoples who were been to the Himalayas as well as the travelogues for preparing this list. Finally we came up with a slightly big list. Adding this below, may be useful for others too. Attachment 169836 Chapter 4 - Travel Shopping:
In Kerala we will be having moderate climate throughout the year so we had to purchase most of the winter gears. Still we had a at least one jacket for each person. I had read in some blogs that woolen clothes are cheap in Kullu so decided to buy most of the winter gears from there. Thus travel shopping included buying medicines, suncream lotion, lip balm etc. And of course a big traveler trolley bag. Chapter 5 - List the items to be purchased throughout the trip:
Our last few trips were to hill stations in the south which were famous for home made chocolates and tea. Was wondering that Shimla - kulu - Manali was famous for.
But could not spent much time on this as I had to attend exams before starting the trip. Chapter 6 - Packing:
I am used to search in google for almost everything! So was wondering whether there are any tips available for utilizing the luggage space intelligently. And I found one interesting method - “bags will hold more if the clothes are rolled rather than folded.” Those who are interested can view this technique here https://youtu.be/yrwtexpqLW8 Action:
Was a little nervous because of the recent earth quakes in the Himalayas. Still heart was not allowing to call off the trip.
The big day started on 28th of April. I had to reach airport, which was 25km away from my residence, before 6AM. As the metro workers does most of their heavy works in the night blocking the traffic, I decided to start a little early. I preferred to get to the the airport a little early to the last minute racing. Finally that proved worth in the first 10 minutes itself. Was surprised to see the super star of Malayalam film industry - Mohan lal there.
Couldn't take my camera at that point. So clicked a quick snap with my mobile
Took an early breakfast in the airport itself and waited for my gates to open. Indigo was punctual in their service and I landed Delhi by 1015. Managed to collect my luggage and find our innova taxi in another 30 mins. Other guys had just arrived in another terminal. Picked them and we headed Chandigarh.
Found this enroute.
May be a local circus wala going to his home after exhibition.
Our driver, Krishna was an energetic person from Uttarakhand. He had already asked about our food habits. We preferred to have food from clean hotels as we don't want to spoil our trip with health issues. He agreed to take us to good hotels. For lunch he took us to the Haveli in the highway and asked us to have some parathas and lassi from the hotel. Also Krishna gave us a brief history about the Haveli hotel chains - started by some truck driver in Jalandhar. Still having a truck inside that actual hotel in Jalandhar. We went to the Haweli in Murthal
Had aloo paratha, chilli paratha lassi and some curry. Service and food was good. Sweet lassy in that mud glass was excellent.
Back to the road and headed to our first destination enroute - Pinjore garden.
Saw this camel in Haryana Attachment 169839
We reached Pinjore garden by 6PM. The garden was green and clean. Roamed around there for 45 mins. A few clicks from the garden. Attachment 169840
We had more distance to cover for the day. So back to the road and headed to Shimla. Had dinner from a dhaba enroute. Was okay kind of food. (We may be trying to compare this with the food from Murthal Haveli. Krishna said no other place in entire North India serves such tasty parathas.) Nights were getting a little cold, we slowly started climbing the hills for Shimla. The statue of Hanumanji in the Jaku temple was visible from a long distance. We reached our hotel by around 11:45 PM. All of us were tired and was busy to call it a day. Grabbed our keys and went for a sound sleep.
Day 2 started around 7 in the morning. First we went to an adventure park - Hip Hip Hurray in Kufri. The park offers both adventure and amusement rides along with some shopping options. We decided to take the adventure package only. Just asked the manager whether we will get some discounts as we are a group of 4 (pooche bina miltha hei kya??). To my surprise the manager agreed to give an additional water ball ride for a discounted price. Happily accepted the offer and bought the tickets. Also he said we can take part in the DJ which was organized for some school children as part of their picnic. (which we didn't use). Had our breakfast from the park and took part in some adventure sports - flying fox, Burma river crossing, Army rope climbing, valley crossing and water ball.
some views from the park
Also we got a chance to pose with these sweet little kids.. Attachment 169838
We then went for horse riding in Kufri. May be because we went there in the summer season, that was a dusty ride to the top. Was a little scared as we were doing horse riding for the first time. There were a lot of horses so that they may involve in small stunts even with a passenger on their back! Also they always liked to taste the bushes on the edge of the hills.. As we were all bachelors our guide thought we will enjoy all these things and gave little care. But when ladies and kids were riding. these guides gave proper care and always stayed with the horses.
a group getting ready for their trip Attachment 169842
assassins creed in kufri :P Attachment 169841
the man who co ordinates all the horse rides. Doesn't he looks familiar??
in the top station Attachment 169843
(Be prepared with a towel to cover your nose and a hat for protection from sun, if you are visiting there in summer. )
Spend some time in the top station. By mistake paid for the mountain bike. It was not of any worth. Climbing down on a horse was much more adventureous. Some how we reached the base camp safely. And went for lunch. Had some parathas and butter chicken and proceeded to our next spot the Naldehra Golf course. Guide said during winter, tent stay is offered to public in the surrounding forest. We were not allowed inside the golf course. But we can roam around the course in a horse. Yet another horse ride!
When compared to the Kufri horse ride, this was calm and quiet. But the horse had to climb through more adventurous routes, narrow paths and steep ups and downs. Once you reach the top you can see an awesome views. The guide said we can see China border and Sutlej river from the top, is it? We saw some river but not sure about the border.
the shooting point. many songs had been filmed there..
mini golf course. train here before coming to the actual course
views from the top
We went for an evening walk in the mall road after a busy day in Kufri and Naldehra. There were a few restaurants and small statues in the mall as well as a wide variety of shops. Bargain bargain and bargain before picking up something. But there was hardly a souvenir item to be collected from this market. The Hotel where we stayed was hardly 100 m away from the tourist lift. People can pay 10 rupees and the lift will take you to the top station. The same facility is available for climbing down. (While roaming in the mall road keep in mind that the tourism lift will be closed by 10PM.) We had our dinner from a restaurant in mall road and had another peaceful night in Shimla.
Does sun rise very early in hill stations? We woke up at 530 in the morning and was surprised to see the sun at that time. 0530 in Shimla was like 0730 in my city. Had a quick shower and got ready for Kullu by 0630.
on the way pics.
In Kullu there are a lot of providers offering river rafting in the ice cold river Baes. We went to a provider opposite to Vimla Shawls. He claims to be a government certified provider who offers a security boat along with the raft. This security boat will row in front of the passenger raft and in case of emergencies the life guards in the security boat will come into action. First he demanded 6500 for a group of 4. We did our usual bargaining and finally the agent agreed to do this for 3500 (7kms). Let me tell you, this was the most interesting moment in our journey so far. Water in the river was cold. It was around 6 in the evening and the water level was also rising because of the rain in the mountains. Who ever going to Kullu has to experience this ride in the ice cold water. This is a must try item, recommended.
After the ride we did some shopping from the Vimla Shawls. It is a factory outlet having a decent collection. Bought some gloves, monkey caps and shawls. We reached our hotel Silver Moon by 1000. It was raining by the time. Even if the kitchen was closed the General Manager Vikram Thakur was happy to offer us dinner. He was such a nice and friendly guy who keep on working for the comfort of the guests. Hotel was also neat and clean though parking was a little congested.
The next morning we were asked to get ready by 6 in the morning. Otherwise we may have to walk a long distance before touching the snow. The first sight of snow from the hotel was too exciting that we all got ready by 6 itself. As Rohtang was closed, because of the heavy rain on last day, we went to Gulabba. Had rented out snow suits along with skiing gears and an instructor from Kullu itself. Costed around 3000 for a group of 4 peoples. The instructor was really helpful in climbing through the right spots and he helped us to try our first steps in the skiing board. That was fun.
the first sight of snow in the morning from our hotel room
In the return trip we went to the Hadimba temple. Temple in the middle of the forest. A different one from what I used to see in the South India. A few shop keepers around the temple offers a particular package to buy woolen clothes (pay an advance and take some woolen sheets now. The rest will be delivered at home). According to the Kullu police FB page, these are not genuine products and travelers are advised to be aware of these people.
(was this the same temple show in film Roja?)
After a heavy lunch in the Mall road we roamed around the Van Vihar National park and took a nap in the garden. There is a small lake in the middle where you can paddle boat. Recommended place for family and love birds. All of us were tired and could not even click a single pic. In the evening we roamed around the mall road and enjoyed some North Indian snacks and tea.
A tunnel in the Manali - Chandigarh highway
Reached Delhi by around 1130. But before that we had our dinner from the Murthal Haweli :) . Back to Kochi on the next morning after a wonderful vacation.