A road trip to Kandaghat
Words: Satarupa Paul Photos: Vishal Sabharwal
Road trip to Kandaghat
For years now, the popular hill station of Shimla has occupied pride of place in the list of getaways for thousands of families from the vast plains of north India. But with colossal numbers of tourists thronging to it from every corner of the country, and with their numbers increasing every year, many travellers are now opting to stay away from the maddening crowds of Shimla, yet close enough to visit it when its British-era charm calls. Quaint little hamlets in the hills nearby are thus emerging as rewarding alternatives for a weekend trip. Kandaghat, situated at a distance of 30 kms before Shimla on National Highway 22, is one among them.
Kandaghat at a glance:
Set picturesquely amidst the rolling hills of the Lesser Himalayas, Kandaghat is rapidly gaining popularity for its convenient location, and for the option it offers of a comfortable stay at the Club Mahindra. Many families are also increasingly warming up to the idea of self-driven road trips into the hills, and if you are planning one such with your family, don’t let the distance or the hilly bends hold you back.
In case you are travelling from Delhi, then start your day early, at around 5 am, to avoid the morning traffic until you hit NH 1. Once on it, you can enjoy a smooth drive while watching the sun creep up on the horizon on your right. Stop for a hearty breakfast of delectable stuffed parathas or chole bhature at Haveli in Murthal. This small town along the highway is famous for its dhabas that serve delicious vegetarian fares, and Haveli is no exception. It comes with the plus points of nice décor and clean toilets, so relieve your bladders here before hitting the road again.
Drive through some of the best highways in the country, and the recently opened Himalayan Expressway that offers majestic views of the mountains and bypasses the congested towns of Kalka, Pinjore and Parwanoo, thus saving over an hour of your drive. You can make a stop at the cute B&B Inn on NH 22 just before Dharampur for their refreshing cold coffees and another clean loo break. From there, it’s about an hour’s drive to Kandaghat town and another ten minutes uphill to the grand Club Mahindra Kandaghat.
Clockwise: The front facade of Club Mahindra Kandaghat; well appointed comfort at one of our apartments; experience impeccable service at the multi cuisine restaurant and food that makes it all worth it.
Here’s a short list of some of the activities available in and around the resort.
Clockwise: Adventure activities at Kandaghat; trekking; variety of flora and fauna during horticulture walks
If sight-seeing is what your heart desires then there are a few places, besides Shimla, that you can visit on a short weekend trip to Kandaghat:
Kandaghat Town & Natural Springs
The area that is today called Kandaghat had once formed the hunting ground for the Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh, while he held his summer capital at Chail. Today, a tiny town with a few shops and an unremarkable overhead rail bridge forms the centrepiece of Kandaghat. A former residence of the Maharaja here has now been converted into a government run polytechnic for women. You can walk around the town and ask the locals for the directions to the natural springs. Don’t be mistaken by the terminology however, as these are hardly noticeable natural water bodies anymore. A shed like that of a bus-stop marks the place where mountain water gushes out non-stop from pipes bored in the hillside into a small well or baoli. Legend has it that the Maharaja used to get his water supplied from these springs to his palace in Chail, but today they serve no such royal purpose.
Situated at a distance of about 30 kms from Kandaghat through a narrow road bordered by gigantic deodars and chir pines, lies the erstwhile summer capital of the Maharaja of Patiala — Chail. The story goes that the Maharaja, on being exiled from Shimla by British Lord Kitchener for allegedly abducting a young girl, vowed to replicate the charm of Shimla in Chail. He thus built an elegant two-storey palace in 1891, which was later converted into a heritage hotel by the government in 1972, now called the Chail Palace Hotel. You can spend some peaceful time here sitting in the pristine green lawn, or take a guided tour of the various rooms in the palace. You can also have your lunch at the restaurant here that serves good Indian and Chinese food.
Another must-visit in Chail is the Kali ka Tibba, a temple dedicated to Goddess Kali set atop a hill. Situated at an altitude of about 2100 metres and accessible by a single lane motorable road, the location gives you an outstanding 360 degree view of all the mountains around.
On your way back to Kandaghat, make a stop-over at the famous Chail cricket ground, believed to be the highest cricket ground in the world situated at a height of 2,444 metres. Built by the Maharaja in 1893, it is now used by Chail Military School as their playground, doubling up as a polo ground during vacations.
Clockwise: the Chail palace; Kali ka Tibba Temple
Mohan Shakti National Heritage Park
This latest attraction that has come up near Kandaghat is at a distance of about 17 kms from the resort towards Solan. A mammoth undertaking of the Mohan Meakin group, popular for their breweries, the heritage park currently boasts a big temple complex that sports several life-size sculptures of different gods, goddesses and Rishis. The park has been ten years in the making and had an initial investment of Rs 100 crores. The final project aims to include besides the temple, a luxury resort and apartment complex, a hospital, a market place, and a landscaped park spread over a 40 acre area.
The Mohan Shakti National Heritage Park
|Kandaghat, with its sleepy little town, vast hills, and few options to stay or see, may still be in its nascent stage of becoming a tourist hub. But then again, wasn’t that the whole purpose of its existence in the first place — to take you away from the tourist trail and bring you back refreshed to your city after a good family holiday here!|
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