INDIA TRAVEL - MY TRAVEL DIARY TO A HEAVEN ON EARTH CALLED NARKANDA

It was long overdue. I had been postponing it for one reason or the other for some time. I had started feeling that I was getting trapped in my comfort zone and I needed to get out of it urgently. I keep traveling but this time the gap had been longer than usual. So I packed my bag and off I went to Narkanda in Himachal Pradesh. It was an unplanned trip in the sense that I had no local pre bookings, no itinerary, only a basic information about the place and I was traveling solo. Usual fear of the unknown was there. But once I reached Narkanda, everything fell into place so smoothly that it left me wondering if I had not been making heavy weather of it.

I did two things before starting. One, I booked a seat on HRTC AC bus from Delhi to Rampur upto Narkanda and two, talked to one of the hotel owners there, who was very nice and confirmed a room for me without any pre condition (maybe because season had not started yet).


Scenic Beauty of Narkanda, Shimla
SCENIC BEAUTY AT NARKANDA

Narkanda is a beautiful, picturesque but tiny town in Himachal Pradesh. It is located around 70 km(44 mi) from state capital Shimla. Situated at an altitude of 2750 m(app. 9000 ft), it is in the midst of Shivalik range. It is a very peaceful and calm town with no madness of big cities. The beautiful natural surroundings, the apple orchards all around and the valleys with thick green forests consisting mainly of Oak, Deodar and Maple trees and colorful view from the top leaves you spellbound.

 So I left on the appointed day and time. I was supposed to reach Narkanda at 8.30 next morning as per the schedule provided on the ticket. I checked with the hotel owner and he told me something like there was no direct bus from Delhi to Narkanda and I had to travel to Rampur and then the same bus would take me to Narkanda. That left me confused. Nobody in the bus was able to clear my confusion.

I had expected HRTC bus to be comfortable since it was an AC Deluxe bus. And my previous experience with HRTC buses was pretty good. However, to my surprise, I found a 36 seater bus at ISBT, Delhi. It was a small bus and I was cramped for leg space. I was told that this was the only AC bus plying between Delhi and Rampur.

We reached Shimla at 4 in the morning where some locals boarded the bus. And then the steep climb started. As dawn broke, I began to enjoy the view outside. Huge mountains on one side and deep valleys, covered with thick forests of green trees on other. I started to look for milestones on the road and saw one, saying Rampur 90 km(56 mi). It was 5.30 in the morning. I reckoned at current speed and with such steep climb, it would take at least 4 hours more to reach Rampur and then onward journey to Narkanda would take 2 hours more. I started feeling uncomfortable knowing I had to travel 6 more hours in this cramped bus. However, shortly I noticed another milestone saying Narkanda 17 km(10.5 mi). I asked the man sitting next to me, who seemed to be a local and had boarded the bus at Shimla. He told me that Narkanda was indeed before Rampur.


Narkanda photo from my room
VIEW OF NARKANDA FROM MY ROOM

Me in hotel in Narkanda
TIME TO GET CLICKED IN NARKANDA

Human mind is a strange phenomenon. The feeling of discomfort was replaced by anxiety. It meant I would reach Narkanda by 6 am. So would hotel be open? Would there be any staff to interact with me? And then I had a hearty laugh at myself. I told myself, "why can't you relax and let things take their own course?". That made me lot calmer.

Also read: INDIA TRAVEL - 7 MISTAKES WHICH I LEARNT TO AVOID WHEN TRAVELING

So exactly at 6.10 am, I touched down at Narkanda main market or the city center, whatever it may be called, since it is a very small town. There was peace all around. I soaked in the fresh cool breeze of the hills and forgot all my tiredness on account of 11 hours travel in the bus. It was cold and I was wearing only a tee and track pants(after all I was coming from Delhi). Luckily, the hotel I had booked was just across the road, right in front of me. But as expected, it's door was closed and there was no doorbell in sight. I deliberated for about 10 minutes about my next course of action and then decided to give a call to the hotel owner. To my delight, he picked up the call on the 3rd or 4th ring and I explained the situation to him. He, very courteously told me that he would immediately arrange to open one room for me, where I could relax for the time being and could change the room later if I wished to. And within no time, an employee of the hotel appeared from inside and guided me to a room, which was small but nicely done and with a beautiful view of the valley outside.



Good morning in Narkanda, Shimla
WELCOMING THE DAWN FROM MY ROOM

After relaxing for a while, getting ready and having my breakfast it was time to move out and start my exploration. My first destination was Hatu peak. I asked the hotel staff for a taxi and they connected me to the taxi operator. He asked for an exorbitant amount, which I politely declined. Since Narkanda is a small town, there is no other local transport available to move around and you have to depend on taxis to visit nearby places.

Also read: INDIA TRAVEL - HUES OF HIMACHAL PRADESH - MASHOBRA

I decided to be adventurous and hitch a ride to Hatu peak and stationed myself a little away from the market, on the side of an empty stretch of road. Luckily for me, within 5 minutes a car pulled up in front of me and people in there asked me about the way to Hatu peak. And when I told them that I was also going in that direction, they immediately offered me a ride. There were three gentlemen in the car, all very jovial in nature and we were soon talking like old friends. Co incidentally, these people were also from Delhi, so that made the matters easier.





Soon, we started our climb to Hatu peak. And gosh, it was scary. Very steep climb coupled with pot holed road and sharp invisible turns made all of us very nervous but it was thrilling at the same time. Our hearts pounding, we could not help praying. Though Hatu peak is only 7 km(4.5 mi) from the city center, it looked like light years away, before we finally reached there. But it was all worth it in the end(I will explain later).


On the way to Hatu peak Narkanda
ON THE WAY TO HATU PEAK

On the way I saw many camping sites in dense forest. These camps are arranged by local operators and other agencies and the cost starts from as low as INR 1000 per night, which includes bed, breakfast and dinner.
You can checkout the site TOGEDR.COM, to book such camps, trekking or other outdoor activities.
Camping site in Narkanda
OUTSIDE A CAMP NEAR HATU PEAK

Check camp in Narkanda
CHECKING OUT THE CAMPING SITE

When we finally reached Hatu peak, the only word that came out was WOW.

Hatu peak in Narkanda, is said to be the highest point in whole of the Shimla district. At 3400m(11152 ft), you feel on top of the world standing atop it. The road ends here and you can't drive further. You get 360 degrees view of the surroundings from here. I could see the valleys, hills, the city, the colorful houses below and the apple orchards all around from here. It is an adventure spot also. I could see school kids practicing rock climbing here under the guidance of trained instructors. The weather was cold. But the stunning view all around made me hold my breath in awe. It is one place, where you can spend hours and hours, admiring the beautiful creations of nature. The view all around is so amazing that it becomes difficult to decide which way to look.


Beauty of Hatu peak, Narkanda
SCENIC BEAUTY AT HATU PEAK

Rock climbing at Hatu peak
CHILDREN TRAINING FOR ROCK CLIMBING AT HATU PEAK



Awesome scene at Hatu Peak
BREATHTAKING SCENE AT HATU PEAK

Situated at Hatu peak itself is Hatu Temple. An artistic marvel. This is said to be a 5000 years old temple built by Pandvas. It was renovated recently. The beauty of the temple is that it is made entirely of wood and has intricate carvings on whole of the structure. There is a gallery around the temple and people do prikrama(taking rounds) of the temple paying their respect to Hatu Mata. It is a very calm and serene spot and an ideal place for meditation. There are a couple of rooms situated in the temple premises, which are available for guests to stay. But the flip side is that you have to arrange for your own cooking. The temple people provide the ration but arranging cooking fuel(wood in this case) and utensils and cooking the food is your responsibility.


Hatu Temple Narkanda
HATU TEMPLE

View of Hatu Temple
CLOSER VIEW OF HATU TEMPLE

Another view of Hatu temple
SIDE VIEW OF HATU TEMPLE

Intricate carvings on Hatu temple structure
INTRICATE CARVINGS 

We spent quite some time on Hatu peak and then were off to our next destination, Tanu Jabbar lake. It is about 5 km from the city center. But first we had to come down about 4 km. When you come from Narkanda city center to Hatu peak, you get to a fork shaped point on the road, after driving for about 3 km. On the right side of the fork is the road that goes up towards Hatu peak and on the left is the road that goes straight to Tanu Jabbar lake. It is a man made lake with calm water and very serene surroundings. Enveloped by thick green Maple and Deodar trees, this is quite a picturesque beauty spot. There are houses of locals and apple orchards around the lake. And then there is a small temple of Nag Devta(snake God) in the vicinity. It is a very quiet place.


Enjoying at Tanu Jabbar Lake, Narkanda
AT TANU JABBAR LAKE

Nag Devta temple at Tanu Jabbar Lake
NAG DEVTA TEMPLE

Tanu Jabbar Lake, Narkanda
TANU JABBAR LAKE

One very important advice - No eatables or drinking water are available at Hatu peak or Tanu Jabbar lake. Make sure you have ample stock of these necessities when you visit these places.

From there, my new friends dropped me back to a place where I could get a bus to get back to my hotel. My heartfelt gratitude to those friends.

Next day I decided to visit some apple orchards. I observed that all the apple trees are covered by a net to protect them from birds and humans. Since it was not an apple season, apples hadn't blossomed fully. I could only see only very small budding apples hanging from the trees under the nets. But I was lucky to spot trees full of red cherries and could not hold myself from plucking a couple of them (with permission from the owner of course), and taste them. They were really sweet. Imagine eating fresh cherries straight from the tree. I was thrilled beyond words.


Cherries on the tree in Narkanda, Shimla
CHERRIES ON THE TREE

Apples on a tree in Narkanda
APPLES BLOOMING ON A TREE

Apple Orchards of Shimla
AN APPLE ORCHARD IN NARKANDA

Further, I had been told that Narkanda has it's own skiing center. So exploring that was on my agenda. And when somebody told me that it was only half a km from my hotel, it became all the more imperative for me go there. So off I went. After trekking for 500 m on a muddy stretch (some vehicles were also plying on that stretch), I reached a spot, which reminded me of scenes from movies. A very beautiful lush green area, surrounded by tall green trees. And hidden among these trees was a long and wide slope, covered with green grass. The slope, starting from up the hill, went right down to the valley below. Though there was no snow, I could imagine how people would be enjoying skiing there. It was an awesome sight (just see the video below). Then there was a cricket pitch just besides the skiing slope and some people were preparing to start a match.






Skiing Center, Narkanda
STUNNING VIEW OF SKIING CENTER

Greenery of Skiing Center, Narkanda
LUSH GREEN AROUND SKIING CENTER

Cricket pitch at Narkanda
CRICKET PITCH NEAR SKIING CENTER


On the way back, I noticed a small school below, where children were playing their usual games and the view from there was as awesome as it could be.

Narkanda has a very small market. There are a handful of small eateries serving you mainly north Indian and Chinese delicacies. There are a couple of restaurants. And then there are a few shops selling daily essentials like groceries, vegetables and fruits. There are a couple of confectionery shops also and I relished pakodas at one of them. They were simply delicious. Don't expect ice cream parlors or big branded restaurants here. But the food at my hotel was awesome. I tried different dishes and found each of them superbly prepared.


Narkanda Market
PANORAMIC VIEW AROUND THE MARKET
On the third day it was time to say good bye. My hotel would not accept payment by card as the swipe machine was non functional. So I had to pay by cash. That left me with very little cash and I looked around for ATM. I found that there were only three ATMs around. One was of a local bank, second one of SBI and third one was of UCO bank. Local bank ATM didn't have cash. I was told that SBI ATM remains closed on Sundays(don't know who concluded that people don't need cash on Sundays) and UCO bank ATM was out of order. Hard luck.Thankfully, I had enough cash to travel to Shimla and eat food. And wisely(on hindsight) I had booked a ticket on another HRTC AC bus from Shimla to Delhi. So no worries on that account. But I learnt the important lesson. Not to leave anything to chance.

There are only four hotels situated in and around the city center or market in Narkanda. Rest are a little off the way. You must bargain with hotel owners to get a good deal. Or you may checkout FabHotels for a genuinely good deal in best budget hotel.



Amazing Scenery at Narkanda, Shimla
AMAZING SCENERY

People in Narkanda are very simple and friendly. The locals are very polite and helpful. Approximate population of Narkanda is 3000 only.

Narkanda has a very good road connection with other parts of Himachal Pradesh. It is two hours drive from Shimla. I could see buses plying whole day, from early morning till late evening(upto 8.30 pm), to and from Narkanda. And there is no dearth of buses to and from Shimla. So in case you don't want to hire a taxi, hop on to any of these buses.

So I bid adieu to Narkanda and headed towards Shimla to catch my bus back to Delhi. I would have loved to extend my stay but had some other commitments back home. But it was truly a memorable, adventurous and heart warming experience.

As you may have noticed, Narkanda does not have many places to visit. But the sheer beauty of the place, the breathtaking locales, picturesque surroundings, the pollution free fresh air and calm and serene atmosphere are enough to hold you. Whether you are looking for a peaceful stint in the lap of nature or itching for some adventure or if you want to rejuvenate your mind and soul, Narkanda near Shimla is the ideal place. I will surely recommend it to everyone to go at least once.


10 comments:

  1. Narkanda is looking beautiful and scenic in your post and pictures....nice to know the little adventures you encountered in this trip....I had been to the Himachal before, to it's usual tourist spots, the big names....but no one told me about Narkanda.....will surely keep it in mind if I get a chance to visit in the future..thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks Anindya! Glad you liked the post. Indeed, Narkanda is a beautiful serene place. There's another majestic spot 15 km from Shimla called Mashobra. Do read my post about that too.

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  2. Wow This looks like an amazing experience! I love that the children are in the outdoors training to hike. What awesome views.
    -busytykes
    www.busytykes.com

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    1. Thanks! Glad you liked the post. Yes, it was a lovely sight.:)

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  3. You have a great time at this place. I just stunned by seeing this place through your pictures and also you elaborate each and every moment very well.

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    1. Thanks Rupy! Glad you liked the post. Narkanda is a very picturesque place, so you can't help but click a lot of pictures. Do read my post on Mashobra also, another very picturesque place near Shimla.

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  4. Really like reading travel blogs. This one is an interesting read, with some good travel stories.

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  5. I've always wanted to go to India... thanks so much for this detailed account of your wonderful trip!

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    1. Thanks! Glad you liked the post. No doubt, India has lot of stunning places. I invite you to subscribe to my blog and keep getting updates about my posts on most beautiful places of India.

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