Around this time last year, we were in seventh heaven. We were just back from a trip to Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. If you are wondering why I said heaven on earth, it is because Himachal Pradesh is called “Dev Bhoomi” and it was a wonderful spiritual experience.
But let me start at the beginning!
If you have a child in 12th grade or know one, you’ll definitely know that until they get into college, it is months of entrance tests and stress. There seems no chance of a break, leave alone a vacation.
However, thanks to chance remark from my husband’s friend about the fabulous getaways around Chandigarh, where he was due to visit, we decided to join him on the trip. Since the weekend followed, we planned for a 5-day trip starting April 26 and returning on May 1, 2015
In a frenzy, I explored flight schedules at short notice. We booked our tickets with Indigo Airlines and then got down to finalizing an itinerary.
There was no dearth of choices of where to go, what with Shimla, Nainital and Kulu Manali vying for our attention – but we chose Dharamsala, because hey, I secretly dreamed of meeting The Dalai Lama.
Next was hotel booking.
We had great reviews from friends about Hotel Dhauladhar, for its location, service and of course, food and decided to go with that. And indeed it was a good experience, as they were not only reasonably priced with clean well-furnished rooms and in-house restaurant, but also provided parking facilities and accommodation for our driver.
We also booked a cab from Chandigarh for the duration of our stay as we were advised that it was far more economical to do that than find local transport where we were going.
And as I was eager to see if we could meet The Dalai Lama, I emailed their office, my heart full of hope. Yes, I got a response – and got an appointment for April 29!
So after going crazy about trying to include as much as we possibly could into our trip, we made a loose itinerary with Dharamsala as our base. We had temples, scenic drives, monasteries, art institutes and even a zoo on our list.
Since we expected some summer showers, we didn’t make a concrete plan other than the meeting with The Dalai Lama.
Here’s what we finally did!
We arrived in Chandigarh on April 26 and stayed the night at the IISER guest house. Who knew that in three months, my son would be coming back here to study! We met friends in the evening and went out to dinner.
On April 27
At 9 am Sury set off to finish his work in the morning while Vidur and I entertained ourselves.
We had lunch with our friends and got ready to leave. Our cab was waiting to take us places!
To heaven on earth
We were off at 2 pm for Dharamsala which is around 250 km from Mohali and a 6 hour drive. We were hoping to arrive at our hotel in the night. We were so excited to see the Bhakra Nangal damn, something we’ve only read about in our text books in school! We also passed some famous Guru Dwaras. Around 4 pm, we stopped for chai at a roadside tea stall. I was fascinated by the abundance of smooth round stones all over the place, and yes, picked up a few to bring back home.
When we passed Una, there was a remarkable change in the weather from warm to especially cool! We knew we were in Himachal Pradesh!
We were headed for the Chintapoorni temple, a Shakti Peeta located on a hill, which is en route to Dharamsala. In fact, all the temples we ended up visiting during the trip were Shakti Peetas. The roads were great and it helped that we had a good driver. It was a lovely drive.
We reached the temple around 5 and finished our visit quickly. We were off again at 6.30 pm, and reached our hotel around 9 pm where we were ushered into our room, our home for the next five days. After a delicious dinner, we spent some time outside on the lawn, enjoying the view before going to bed.
On April 28
We started early. Our plan was to visit the War Memorial, Kunal Pathri Mata temple, Tapovan, Norbulingka Tibetan Art Institute and Monastery, Chamunda Temple, Gopalpur Zoo and Baijnath temple. Ambitious, I know, but we managed to see all these places before returning to our hotel at 7 pm. Everywhere we went, we were greeted by the snow-capped mountains in the distance, standing tall and solid, as if reassuring us of a great trip.
On April 29
We looked forward with excitement to our visit to the Dalai Lama Temple complex at Macleodganj and left at 7 am so we could reach there at 8 am as scheduled. Oh, what a gorgeous day it was! I’ve written about my visit with The Dalai Lama in an earlier post.
Later, with our hearts full of happiness, we set off to see the picturesque Bhagsunath waterfall. We returned to Macleodganj for lunch, after which we proceeded to the Dhauladhar mountain range. On the way, we visited the ancient St.John’s Church and serene Dal Lake. We wrapped up with the beautiful Dharamsala Stadium before returning to our hotel in the evening.
On April 30
The day started with a bout of rain. That didn’t deter us and we bravely set out to see the precious exhibits at the nearby Kangra Museum. By the time we finished, the skies had cleared and we cheerfully settled down for the long drive to the Baglamukhi temple. From here, we drove to the Jwalamukhi temple. We had lunch at one of the dhabas in the temple complex.
After all the walking and climbing, we should have returned to our hotel – but we were eager to see the Brajeshwari temple, in spite of the impending rain. Being stubborn won out, and we did visit the temple. And of course we got over-ambitious and wanted to visit the Kangra fort nearby, but once we got there, learned that they would close the gates in half an hour – and decided to skip it. Good thing, too, as the skies just opened up after that and we were glad to be sitting safe and dry in our car.
We reached the hotel at 9 pm.
On May 1
We were a little sad to check out of our hotel and promised ourselves that we’d make another trip to catch up on all the sights we had missed this time. We had our flight back to Bangalore from Chandigarh at 4.30 pm and started back on the 6 hour drive directly to the airport. We reached at around 2 pm, well in time and bid our driver goodbye.
After we grabbed a bite to eat at the airport, it was time to go through the security check and board our flight.
We returned home, smiling, happy, with great memories of a wonderful, if hectic trip.
I clicked hundreds of photos – and here are some pictures from our trip:
This was one of my most favorite trips! I plan to write about each of the places we visited during this trip, so stay tuned!
Do you have a favorite trip? Where did you go?