The British Colonisers had a tough time dealing with India’s hot summers. They constantly looked out for summer getaways in cooler locations, and created a concept unique to India: Hill Stations. These were ideal sleepy little villages, located atop hills which had moderate temperatures in summers. Over a period of time, these hill stations became very popular with local Indian tourists trying to beat the heat as well.
Mahabaleshwar is one such hill station in the state of Maharashtra. Located on the Western Ghats range (called the Sahyadri Mountains in Maharashtra), Mahabaleshwar was once a tiny hamlet, now a full fledged town with traffic jams. It is so popular that we avoid it on tourist days and seasons (school holidays, weekends, long weekends etc). We also avoid its bazaars, which, without over-tourism, are frankly quite charming.
I had always dismissed Mount Abu as a crowded, touristy destination and it it was never on our travel radar. Until one day, a research led us deep into this ‘hill station’ and we were pleasantly surprised. Mount Abu is a ‘hill station’ on the Aravalli range of mountains. The Aravallis are amongst the oldest … Read more
Up in the Kangra hills lies this little town of Dharamshala, also known as Little Lhasa because of the large Tibetan population. The Tibetan Government -In – Exile is based out of Dharamshala-McLeodganj. (McLeodganj is a suburb of Dharamshala.) McLedoganj lies in the Kangra District which was annexed by the British from the Sikh empire … Read more
Our original idea was to visit Anandpur Sahib, with no further plans made. Not having found any place to stay there, we accepted the invite to a friend’s farm in Una, Himachal Pradesh and spent a good 4-5 days there, commuting to Anandpur Sahib everyday. The friends are beginning a new chapter in life at … Read more
I never thought, for some reason, that I would like Chikmagalur, having been to Madikeri earlier. And I was more than happy to be proven wrong. Located in the foothills of the Mullayanagiri Hills, Chikmagalur has a mild climate suitable for coffee plantations. Nestled amongst the hills and valleys of the fabulous Western Ghats, Chikmagalur … Read more
Perhaps one of the world’s best known Parks, Yosemite National Parkis part of the beautiful Sierra Nevada Range in California. A visit to this natural preserve is highly recommended. And like any other travel, where you accomodation is crucial. So here is our little guide on where to stay while visiting Yosemite National Park.
The best place to stay, if you want to experience the Park from up-close, morning till next morning, is of course inside the park. Inside Yosemite are 13 campgrounds, some are reservable in advance, some available on a first come first served basis.
For a premium luxury stay, try The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, built in a building from the 1920s. Then there is the Yosemite Valley Lodge (near Yosemite Falls), The Big Tree Lodge sporting authentic Victorian architecture with charming verandahs and lush environs, White Wolf Lodge which is a rustic central lodge along with canvas tents set in a wildlfower field but 30 miles from Yosemite Valley, the canvas tent cabins at Half Dome Village,Housekeeping Camp (three sided concrete walls, canvas roof and privacy curtain), Glacier Point Ski Huts,Tuolumne Meadows tent cabins, High Sierra Camps, and 13 other sites with campgrounds and RV parking. These can all be accessed via the National Park Service website. Be sure to check weather reports before travelling and book well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Early next morning, the rays of sun unveiled the mountain peaks with scanty snow, as we started our journey to Sangla Valley. We retreated downhill from Sarahan back to NH 22 and stopped at the first dhaba we saw for hot breakfast, next to the Satluj riverbed. The early morning sun was on the opposite side of the river, leaving us shivering in the shadowy part with morning chills. We were now at around 2300 metres, and could see sharp drops below, as we drove on the roads built by thinly slicing the rocky mountains. From a distance the roads looked like thin ribbons, and unbelievable that we were actually driving past them without a boulder or a rock falling on our head. We stopped for a brief ‘soaking the sun break’ and interestingly spotted Kashmir Rock Agama (Laudakia tuberculata), basking in the sun too, and heavily camouflaged.
Without much breaks, we reached Sangla Valley just a little after noon time. The valley was dotted with autumn yellows and dried up greens, heralding the winters. We arrived at Apple Orchard Camps, and were overjoyed to see Green apple trees all round us. We were greeted with a glass of fresh apple juice and light vegetarian lunch. We then decided to take a walk by the river bed. As the tiny trail that we followed touched the banks of Baspa river, we saw piles of smashed stones, and floating dust as a dam was under construction, another disturbing site of human interference. We decided to walk away and into the forests. As we neared wilderness, we were arrested by the beauty of the white river bed and pristine Baspa flowing in turquoise blue.
The thrill of journeys begin when it is all dark outside and you hit the road at the brink of dawn, waiting for the celestial body to rise like a crimson ball in the sky. And so we left Chandigarh before sunrise, en route to Sangla Valley, which according to many travel bloggers was achievable … Read more
A close couple came with the idea of travelling somewhere with 9 days of leave that were possible on a particular week at the end of October, 2016. We tossed out a couple of ideas, and froze on Spiti Valley. It would be just perfect, very cold, but not snowed shut. They would be able to … Read more
After a hectic recce in Kullu, our shoot got postponed. Therefor, we had the option of going to Delhi and wait out for further information or explore somewhere in Himachal. Just then, a team member suggested Bir-Billing and we jumped on it.
Bir – Billing are two different but closely linked places. Bir is a tiny village town, which has scenic meadows, farms, forests and is also a Buddhist settlement. As such, it has many monasteries and a stupa as well. Bir is a quiet, sleepy little village, yet not big on the tourism map, which is what makes it all the more attractive. Once in Bir, we stayed at the Namlang Himal Resort, a beautiful tucked away resort amidst trees and meadows, made of tiny independent cottages, each named after a town/village of Himachal. The rooms are basic, there is no room service, which we didn’t mind at all, and the food served at their dining area is excellent. The only thing that made me sad about Namlang Himal was a poor imprisoned Alexandrine Parakeet. Upon asking I was told she had a damaged wing and was unable to fly. I tried to connect with some local wildlife groups to rehabilitate the parakeet, but haven’t heard more on the issue. If you do visit Namlang Himal, do check on the parakeet.
There isn’t much to do in Bir apart from long walks through the village and meadows, and visits to the monasteries. This makes Bir an excellent place to unwind. There are plenty of treks around as well.
Billing is the paragliding hotspot of the world!
Billing is a meadow in the forests, a 7km hike (or drive) away at an altitude of 2400 metres above sea level. It’s weather and wind makes it one of the best destinations in the world for paragliding. September to October are supposed to be the best times for flying, though when we visited in end May, lots of people were still flying.
The para-gliders land at the meadow of the village Chaugan, at a place conveniently named ‘Landing’. It’s a pretty little meadow with a lone tea-shop (tapri) under a tree, which sells chai, cigarettes, instant noodles etc to visitors. Every evening at Landing is like a little festival with gliders landing, local people out for a walk, and an excellent sunset in the cool Himachal breeze. Chaugan is the village which has the most number of tourist accomodations, bicycle rental and sale shops, and plenty of eateries. The food here is yet unspoilt and still tastes of home made fare.
This year in October (2015), Billing is set to host a World Championship of Paragliding. The tiny village town is gearing up with plenty of construction and new shops are opening almost every day.
On our way to Kochi from Goa, part of the Mumbai – Coonoor road trip, we decided to stay overnight at Kannur, which had fairly warm weather for December. We were attracted towards the hills and cooler weather of Coonoor, so early next morning, we drove towards Kotugiri.
This is the route we took, about 7 hours with constant breaks, and we loved it! We recommend it to anyone looking for a great drive, awesome food, and wonderful roads with almost no traffic. We also spotted a Nilgiri Langur (Trachypithecus johnii) and an Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica) on the way.
Over the years Manali has become too commercial with over-development, and honestly, parts of Manali seem as polluted, dusty and congested as certain parts of Mumbai. While on a trip to Kulu Manali, we desperately looked for a quaint escape. We found Katrain. A small village of apple orchards. And we found our stay in … Read more