Tripping in Himachal and Punjab
Month of Travel : January
No. of days : 6-7
Places covered : Dharamshala, McLeod Ganj, Dalhousie, Amritsar
How to Travel to McLeod Ganj : Arrive at Chandigarh sector 43 and take HRTC (Himachal Road Tourism Corporation) bus to Dharamshala (approx. 7-8 hours). There are few other HRTC bus options available for travel to Delhi, Dharamshala, Manali, Shimla, Dehradun etc. from sector 43 – Chandigarh
Take a local bus from Dharamshala to McLeod Ganj (approx. 30 mins)
Hello Folks! Planning a trip in North India? If Himachal and Punjab are on your list, explore scenic and mesmerizing mountainous beauty, cold and chilled climate, Snow, Tibetan markets and delicious food awaits you!
Let’s start by looking at the journey from Mumbai to Chandigarh followed by the adventurous road trip to McLeod Ganj and Dharamshala and finally head to Amritsar after visiting Dalhousie before we return home
Random plans works out the best. I am all the more convinced of that statement after experiencing it firsthand on this trip. We never made plans for the next day more than an evening in advance and that worked out the best truly making the trip memorable.
Day 1 – Arrive at McLeod Ganj
We landed at Chandigarh (from Mumbai) in morning around 7 am and quickly moved to sector 43 to board the 9.40 am HRTC bus to Dharamshala. Enroute Dharamshala, the bus took a halt at Vision Dhaba (a typical dhaba setup) that served really good Punjabi food. We arrived at Dharamshala bus stand around 4-4.30 pm and took a local bus from bus stand to McLeod Ganj which runs every half hour.
Escape the busy metro cities and find yourself amidst the mountainous views and lush greenery of McLeod Ganj. McLeod Ganj is a beautiful town and a hill station (half hour distance) near upper Dharamshala popular among trekkers for the Triund trek. This town is culturally influenced by Tibetans owing to their major settlement here and has been attracting a lot of Indians as well as Foreigners.
We checked in to Hotel Akash first but the hotel did not seem very safe for girls so we immediately checked in to the hotel next to that which was Hotel Vaikunth. This hotel seemed very much safe and one of the best known in town but the hotel is a little steep from the main market (Advisable is to book some hotel in main square like Asian Plaza or Surya Pride)
Since it was raining in McLeod Ganj that day the roads were a little deserted by 6 pm in evening and it is not advisable to roam late nights in the city so we decided to stay in the hotel and had Chinese food for dinner in the hotel
Day 2 – Explore the city and cafes 😀
As much as Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj are known for its mountainous views, the food in these parts is quasi gourmet!
Next day, we hopped in to Anonymous Cafe which is situated in main square market. This cafe is recently opened on 8th December 2017 by a few Delhiites. They wanted to start their own business and they found McLeod Ganj was the best place to bring up roof top cafe concept to this place. This place serves good breakfast and good mix of food for Indians and foreigners.
It’s a great place to meet fellow travellers and engage in hearty chats with Tibetans and their local life.
If you are looking to buy some Tibetan handicrafts and other local goods then do some shopping on the streets where you can grab some Tibetan souvenirs and garments
We spoke to few school girls who helped us walk towards Dalai Lama temple. Moving on from there we dragged ourselves to Nick’s Italian Kitchen (Pure Vegetarian) which is one of the well known places in town that served good variety of pizzas
On your way you will come across a lot of foreigners strolling on the streets and in restaurants who come for solo trips
While you are walking on the Tibetan streets you will catch sight of the very known Buddhist Monastery
Right outside the monastery there are some stalls serving the most delicious very famous Tibetan food – Momos (Momo is a type of South Asian dumpling; native to Tibet, Nepal, and the Sikkim, Assam and Darjeeling) Do no miss out on the Tibetan style momos
Enlightened ourselves with some desserts at Tibet quality bakery where we had nanoma bar filled with coconut, chocolate cookies and vegan chocolate cake with chocolate sauce.
Other places to visit in McLeod Ganj
Bhagsu Water falls – Another interesting but not as exhausting, was the two-kilometre trek to Bhagsu Falls.
Truind Trek – The 9 kms trek from McLeod Ganj to Triund provides a panoramic view of Kangra Valley.
Dal Lake and St. John in the Wilderness Church
Walked towards McLeod Ganj bus stand from main square market and booked ourselves on a private cab to reach Dharamshala (local jeeps and buses available every 15 minutes).
Dharamshala, located in Kangra district in Himachal is known to be the holy residence of Dalai Lama. Dharamshala is also a centre point from where other places in Himachal or other parts of Northern India can be travelled to and from
Since we reached Dharamshala in evening, in very less time we went to the very famous HPCA stadium (stadium closes by 5.30) in Dharamshala
We spent the evening in CCD at a mall on the Main Street exploring our available options to travel the next day. After filtering down to a few option we decided to explore the beauty in Dalhousie
Checked in to Hotel Kunal which is in the main market of the city. Hotel Kunal is government run hotel and we booked ourselves a deluxe room (approx. INR 1300) The hotel was very safe and provided a comfortable stay
Early morning next day since there were there were only 2 buses to Dalhousie from Dharamshala, we hopped on to the 7 am ordinary bus from Dharamshala bus stand (which was just 10 ministers walk from Hotel Kunal)
Day 3 – Arrive and explore Dalhousie
Dalhousie is one of the very known tourist destinations for its mesmerising natural and scenic beauty. This place has attracted a lot of tourists because of its cool and comfortable weather in all seasons. Those who want to enjoy snowfall must visit this place in winter when the temperature falls upto 0 degrees
Arrived Dalhousie around 12.15 am and checked in to the Grand View Hotel where the hotel staff was very welcoming of tourists. The view from hotel was to kill for in this climate. Grand view hotel is located just next to the bus stand and in the main city
Enroute Dalhousie we saw a few army men preparing for the celebrations of Republic Day. The roads were narrow and a little rocky and since the place is located on a height, there are lot of ghats on the way
We had lunch at Popular Store opposite bus stand which served the best Himalayan sandwich in town and ofcourse momos
There were a lot of cab services to travel in city which covered all the main points of interest
We took a halt at snow point to witness snow where we saw a lot of tourists hanging around at that place, clicked some pictures and left for Punchpulla. Punchpulla is a very small village a few kms away from Dalhousie.
Everyone from adventure lovers to trekkers to photographers, love visiting this stunning destination which is surrounded by beauty. There are some waterfalls, water-streams, tea stalls etc… We took a tour of the beautiful town and left from Punchpulla
While having maggi at the very famous popular restaurant in Dalhousie we discovered on talking to a few tourists that Gandhi market is good for shopping. The local cabs charge around INR 150 to reach the market which was 2 kms from bus stand.
The market was very pretty and enlightening
The first thing we saw once we entered the market was a stall which severed fresh hot Gulab Jamuns. Filled our souls with HAPPINESS:D. Can you deny having them having a look at the photo below:p. Even while you take a tour in the market you will come across a lot of food stalls and a few cafes like Cafe Dalhousie and Cafe Monglas occupied by tourists. From traditional clothing, to souvenir shopping, to handicrafts, to exploring food Gandhi Chowk is a go to place in Dalhousie.
Once we did all the hogging and shopping stuff we headed back to our hotel that had karaoke night that evening and spent rest of the evening listening to the soothing music.
Our plan next day was to move towards Khajjiar which is known to be mini Switzerland of India. However, on enquiring with the localiites we discovered that the route towards Khajjiar was blocked because of heavy snowfall in the city and it was not advisable to visit Khajjayar
Day 4 – Reach Amritsar
Hence, next day morning we checked out of the hotel and decided to head towards Amritsar.
There are few buses which directly go to Amritsar one was in morning around 6.30-7.00 am and another one at 9.40 am. We could not reach for the direct bus on time and hence the other option available to us was to travel to Pathankot from Dalhousie to Amritsar (If Pathankot buses are unavailable take a bus from Dalhousie to Banikhet to Pathankot to Amritsar or private cabs)
We booked a cab from Dalhousie to Pathankot and from there we took a bus to Amritsar
PAJABA NU SAVAGATA – WELCOME TO PUNJAB folks!!
Once you step on the land of Punjab, particularly Amritsar you will get a feeling that you have entered a flashback zone in Modern India (stepped into 1947 Punjab)
Amritsar is a holy city in the state of Punjab because of its beautiful and unique Gurudwara – Golden temple. It is the spiritual and cultural centre for Sikh religion. As much as Amritsar is well known for Golden Temple, you will be amazed by the variety of food dishes in each lane specially near Golden Temple.
After checking some hotel options in Amritsar, we checked in to Surya Beacon (Ferns brand) hotel which was approx. INR 3000 per night (Other good other options near golden temple like Hotel City Heart, Hotel Abode). Food from Punjab is the most well known cuisine across the world. And Amritsar is brimming with “dhabas”. We hopped on to Brother’s Dhaba apparently that is a very famous dhaba in golden temple. We had the mini special thali that served Lacha parathas dipped in butter, Paneer ki sabzi, Daal Makhani and Raita and Sweet Lassi. Good enough for our evening appetite.
Even though we were stuffed, a Jalebi stall on our way tempted us to have at least a plate.
We booked ourselves on Amritsar City tour bus ride for next day which would cover the very famous points of interest. (If you are planning to take a tour around points of interest in Amritsar I would recommend the hop on and hop off bus is the best. It is a government undertaking and they take you across the great tourist sites in Amritsar)
Day 5 – Explore Amritsar
Next day morning we had breakfast at the very famous Kulwant Ke kulche. It was a very small shop but the rush outside was humongous
We took the city tour bus and the first halt was at Durgiana Temple. A very beautiful Hindu temple in the middle of water having a similar architecture to Golden Temple
Next halt was at Gobindgarh fort. This fort is a historic fort in the Center of the city of Amritsar. There were some amazing cultural punjabi performance which we witnessed inside the fort
We took a tour at the museum, some of Punjab history and headed towards 7D show in the fort. The 7D show was in relation to Ranjit Singh history (son of Gobindsingh) and another complimentary show of the adventures rides
We took a halt at Haveli for lunch where the food service was really slow. I would not recommend going to that place if you are in a hurry that day. However, the setup, interiors, and the hotel was in a typical Punjabi style and would be an amazing place to go
On the way we also witnessed few other cultural and historic monuments at Amritsar
We had a bunch of people from Chandigarh in our bus and they danced their toes on all the Punjabi songs played in the bus. We joined the gang in the dance and later had some conversations with them around Mumbai and life in Chandigarh. The evening was super cool having a chat with people from around the country
We got off from the bus around 6-6.30 and bid aideu to our new friends from Chandigarh
We had dinner at Bade Bhai ka Brothers Dhaba which is very well known for Makke di Roti and Sarso da saag
Day 6 – Visit Wagah Border and Shopping
Next day morning we headed towards Wagah border with the same city tour bus with few different set of people
Lunch was at another very famous Kesar da Dhaba (Difficult to locate, but the rickshaw valas will drop you at the right location). Parathas were dipped in Makkhan and Palak Paneer and Dal Makhani in ghee
Wagah border is approx 30 kms from Amritsar. We reached Wagah border within an hour and there is a 1 km walk from the bus stand. On your way you will see a direction board which will say Lahore is 23 kms from there. (Please don’t dare an attempt to reach there:p)
The ceremony at Wagah border begins at 4.30 but it is advisable to reach the stadium by 3.15-3.30 since all the seats get filled and you may not be able to witness the ceremony very closely (There are some VIP passes available for which you must pre-book 1-2 days prior)
We reached the stadium by 3.15 and occupied the front seats. The host in the stadium was very jolly and he encouraged the crowd to be very lively and vocal
His enthusiasm filled the crowd with pride and the audience shouted their throats out to shower their love and respect for Bharatamata
There were Bollywood songs played on the land of India where the crowd again showered their enthusiasm by dancing in the stadium. That was some real fun!
As expected since the military people are very disciplined the ceremony began at exact 4.30 along with the Pakistani ceremony and believe me this will be the most amazing experience of your life that you will witness and it’s not a hype! Where our military and Pakistani come in front of each other face to face by opening the border gates and shake hands with each other’s army. They lower their respective flags and ceremony ends at sharp 5.00 before the sunset
After the ceremony we had small chats with the Military Sena. When they are not on duty, military Sena are really friendly people and we enjoyed having the small chats with them. I really thank the military Sena for taking care of the civilians across the country!
We headed back to Amritsar and reached the city around 6.30 pm and it had already become dark by then considering it was winters and it was foggy that day.. so much that we couldn’t see the roads beyond 10-20 steps
We had dinner at Bharawan da Dhaba which was right next to Bade Bhai ka Brothers Dhaba. Too stuffed for the evening again!!
We went around shopping on the streets and we bought the very famous Amritsari sweets Patisa, Pinni and Barfi from Goenka sweets (on the left hand side in a street near golden temple) which is one of the well known sweet shops out there
Late evening, we walked towards the real beauty of Amritsar – The very famous Golden Temple. The Golden Temple is the most revered gurudwara for the Sikhs. Harmandir Sahib is its official name. But due to its the gold plated building, devotees lovingly refer to it as the Golden Temple. Since it is usually crowded in daytime we decided to go around 8-8.30 and to our surprise the crowd was as much as normally it would have been. Cover your head, remove your shoes and wander around the most amazing place in Punjab
Other places to go in Amritsar
Jallianwala Bagh – This is just a 5 minute walk from Golden Temple. On the walls of this architecture, bullet holes can still be seen of the massive firing that happened in 1919 by British Indian army soldiers
Partition Museum – The museum is open from 10 am to 6 pm Tuesday to Sunday. It is located very much near (about 10 minutes walk) to Golden Temple. The focus of the museum is on the history of Punjab at the time of partition
Next day early morning with a sad but adventurous experience we left for Mumbai leaving back so many memories be it with regards to people or food or place! Every single moment had become a memorable and adventurous experience for us then! From Mumbai to Himachal to Amritsar the journey which was unplanned turned out to be the best ever memorable trip. I want to thank all the people we came across who made our journey even more memorable and exciting for us to visit again!
Blog by Pooja Shah – Hashtagontrip