May 06, 2020
A veritable treasure trove of sights, sounds and experiences, Himachal Pradesh is one of the most exciting States in India. This article discusses how to have the best holiday in this State.
Himachal Pradesh is one of the few States in India to have two summer seasons. In reality, the second summer is spring, but it is a little too warm to call it that! Thus, the best time to visit Himachal Pradesh is during these seasons.
Himachal Pradesh’s first summer stretches from the months of March to June. The second summer is seen between the months of September to early November. Post November is the winter season in these parts. We say these are the best times to visit Himachal Pradesh because the weather settles down into bright but pleasing sunshine and there are no gusty winds like there are during the monsoon season and deep winter of December and January.
In reality, Himachal Pradesh is good to visit at any time of the year, but only provided that you are willing to deal with sudden reversals of climate. These changes in weather can scupper your sightseeing plans to a large extent, and you might have to come up with a Plan B or stay indoors! Having a good Himachal Pradesh resort helps at such times – a good resort like the Club Mahindra properties in the State have many avenues for indoor entertainment for both adults and children alike.
Another reason why the summer season is the best time to visit Himachal Pradesh, is that you can go shopping, eat at the best restaurants in Himachal Pradesh and explore to your heart’s content. Many establishment, trekking trails and some tourist spots are shut during the monsoon and winter season, so you should visit during the summer. The popular festivals of International Himalayan Festival and Lohri are celebrated with great gusto.
The winter season is a harsh one in Himachal Pradesh. There is snowfall in the months of December and January, blanketing everything in white and making the roads unsafe to walk or drive on. however, this is the best time to visit Himachal Pradesh if you want to experience snowfall or play in the snow with your loved ones. There are many snow-related adventure sports happening here during this season, and these are gaining in popularity over the years. However, be sure to team up with a reputed operator to hire equipment and take short training before you venture out for the sports.
The monsoon season is quite short lived here, in terms of intensity of the rainfall. However, there are sporadic bursts of rainfall right up to the end of August. You might enjoy the monsoon season here since it brings a fresh lease of life to the flora and fauna in the valley. For this reason, this could be the best time to visit Himachal Pradesh. However, be warned that landslides and road cave ins are common problems during the monsoon season, so driving on the narrow roads in places like Shimla can be quite hazardous.
Himachal Pradesh is well connected to the rest of India by all known modes of transport. Here’s how you can reach using the three most common modes:
* By Air: Himachal Pradesh has three domestic airports and no international airports. There are direct flights to these airports only from the metro cities in India. Even then, most flights are diverted via Chandigarh. The best way to reach by flight is to book a flight to Chandigarh, and then travel to Himachal Pradesh by road using a private taxi or resort-appointed car. Do note that flights to Himachal Pradesh may be diverted or cancelled due to unseasonal weather patterns during the monsoon and winter seasons.
* By Road: The State of Himachal Pradesh enjoys good road connectivity with neighbouring States. Most people love to drive to Himachal Pradesh, since the roads are quite scenic which makes the drive quite pleasurable. If you don’t want to drive you can take a luxury bus or a State Transport bus from New Delhi, Haryana, Chandigarh, and Punjab. The bus frequency is quite good and you can alight at Dharamshala, Shimla or Manali, depending on your final destination.
* By Railway: There are two narrow gauge railway lines in Himachal Pradesh. One connects Kangra to Pathankot, while the other connects Shimla with Kalka. You can look up updated Himachal Pradesh tourism guides to know which train takes you to either of these lines from your hometown.
Himachal Pradesh outdoes itself in terms of food. Most of us are unaware of just how rich the authentic Himachali cuisine really is. You might thus far have gorged on typical eats like chhole bhature, roasted chicken in rice, etc. But have you tasted authentic Himachal Pradesh recipes like Sidu? It is a traditional wheat flour bread made in most homes, roasted over a tawa or open flame. The bread is toasted to crispness, then eaten with clarified butter and mutton gravy for a rich and satisfying meal.
Meanwhile, do try Dham, which is a spread of many dishes in one. It comprises both vegetarian and non-vegetarian preparations, flat bread, pickle, a beverage and dessert. Dham is usually prepared for festive occasions or served during celebrations like weddings and birthdays. In the villages, Dham is prepared by cooks who start the prep and cooking in the dawn to make the meal ready for lunch.
You must also try Madra, which is a dish made of chickpeas or kidney beans. It is flavoured with locally ground spices and has a thick gravy to match. It is best eaten with a flat bread like naan or kulcha.
You can find these and other authentic local food at some of the best restaurants in Himachal Pradesh.
Himachal Pradesh has a lot of shopping potential. You can find a variety of items to shop here and take back home, either as souvenirs for your home, or as gifts for your friends and family. Here’s what you buy from the various markets and bazaars in Himachal Pradesh:
Woodwork and wooden items
Handmade handkerchiefs from Chamba
Metal junk jewellery
Tibetan prayer beads
Colourful caps in thread or wool
Juttis from Kinnaur
Toys and wood polished utensils
Be sure to haggle hard at the markets. The shopkeepers and vendors expect you to haggle, so don’t just pay up the price they quote. There are some fixed price shops and malls where you cannot dispute the price tags. But be sure to negotiate everywhere else. Also, avoid the shops and emporiums that your hired cab driver suggests or takes you to. You might get a slightly higher price there because the shopkeeper must pay a commission on the product to the driver – you end up paying more instead of less for the same product that you can buy cheaper elsewhere.
Also, take a round of the entire bazaar before buying anything to compare prices and product quality. Avoid the temptation of going to the first shop or stall you see. The Himachal Pradesh bazaars are pleasing haunts, and it is better to make a long trip of the bazaars instead of rushing in and out. Some of the markets have good cafes and restaurants too, so you can actually shop for an entire day and have refreshments alongside.
Though Himachal Pradesh is largely safe for all, Himachal Pradesh tourism has recently been slightly marred by cases of mugging, bag snatching, etc. However, there is no need to panic. Just observe a few simple precautions:
Do not stay out too late at night, and keep to the busy streets. Avoid unlit streets or isolated corners where there are no street lights.
Most roads in Himachal Pradesh are in satisfactory condition, but some are in bad shape. Avoid driving when it rains, and keep to the sides as much as you can.
Dress decently when visiting places of worship. The local residents take great pride in their deities and places of worship, and disrespecting their norms and rules will invite their wrath. Do not take photographs or videos unless permitted, do not scale boundary walls, and definitely do not mock local traditions. Littering is also severely frowned upon.
The water quality has deteriorated in recent years. Ask for colas or packaged juice with your meals, and mineral water bottles only.
If you are alone and hiring a cab for daylong or night travel, make sure somebody you trust has all the cab driver information and booking details. Some villages do not have mobile phone connectivity, so budget this in when you travel over long distances.
Be careful when taking money from cash points. Some of the ATMs do not have security guards, and your money and cards are vulnerable to theft.
The best places to visit in Himachal Pradesh is a vast State, and there are many places of interest and many things to do in Himachal Pradesh. Here’s a list of the places you must visit:
Mall Road, Shimla
Chail Cricket Ground and Palace
Manki Point, Kasauli
Tibetan Market, Manali
Tibet Tsuglagkhang Complex
Kunal Pathari Temple
Manikaran Hot Springs
Pir Panjal Slopes
Kaali Baari Temple
Shimla Ice Skating Rink
This is not an exhaustive list, and there are many more places to visit. But this list will get you started on making an itinerary and beginning your sightseeing tours.
Staying at the right Himachal Pradesh resort is key to enjoying your holiday in this beautiful State much more. Do not book homestays or cramped dormitories to save on money – in the long run, these will only stress you out, and you are on holiday to feel destressed! Instead, take a Club Mahindra membership and stay at the premium Club Mahindra Himachal Pradesh resorts: the Mashobra Resort and Kandaghat Resort.
These two resorts routinely feature in the top State resorts in every travel publication list every year. Let’s start with the Club Mahindra Mashobra resort: It is located 140 km from Chandigarh and 115 km away from Kalka. A lot of buses and some outstation trains can drop you near this resort. It enjoys a spectacular location in the hills, and there are places of worship close by that you can visit. Then there are many things to do around the resort, such as taking a jungle safari, rock climbing, going skiing during the winter, etc. The resort is a heritage property and is a veritable oasis for all visitors. You and your loved can relax and unwind at the pool, or explore the property, or gorge on delicious meals at the restaurant in the resort.
Meanwhile, the Club Mahindra Kandaghat Resort is located about 25 km from Shimla and about 96 km from Chandigarh, and has excellent road and rail connectivity. This premium property is lavishly spread over 14 acres of land, and it is a modern resort with every material comfort that you can think of. Explore the vast expanses of lawns, or build up an appetite for your meals by taking a swim, or just head out to the restaurant to eat a delicious meal.
Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India Ltd. (MHRIL), a part of Leisure and Hospitality sector of the Mahindra Group, offers quality family holidays primarily through vacation ownership memberships and brings to the industry values such as reliability, trust and customer satisfaction. Started in 1996, the company's flagship brand ‘Club Mahindra’, today has over 250,000 members , who can holiday at 100+ resorts in India and abroad.