Chandigarh is the prestigious capital city of Punjab, Haryana, and the union territory of Chandigarh. Apart from being known as one of the most well-planned cities of the country, Chandigarh is also surrounded by beautiful places full of natural as well as architectural beauty. So this weekend, pick any one of these getaways and go on a long drive to explore the beauty that lies just outside your city. We share top weekend getaways from Chandigarh that are only a few hours away.
A lesser explored hill station in Uttarakhand, Auli is one of the best ski destinations in India. Surrounded by snow-clad peaks, Auli promises something to all types of travelers. It has temples, adventure sports and beautiful vistas that perfectly suited for couples as well as solo travelers. Since the temperatures drop, Auli is accessible only for a few months of the year. Nonetheless, you can visit this hill station and have a memorable trip over the weekend.
Best time to go: November to March
Driving distance: 254 km (6 hours 54 minutes)
Where to stay: Auli has many accommodation options but they can be completely booked during peak season so it is best to book in advance. GMVN (135 243173) offers affordable and clean rooms. Clifftop Club Resort (+91 9411107939) is a prime property in Auli while The Auli Resort (+91 9412325480) offers standard rooms and a comfortable stay.
Things to do: Auli is known as a premium ski destination and has the longest cable car in Asia which stretches for four kilometres. On this cable car ride you get a bird’s eye view of the scenic beauty of Auli. From forests to snow-clad peaks to forests and streams, Auli is simply breathtaking. The trek from Auli to Joshimath is one of the most popular ones and you can go for it when here. Paragliding is another activity that you can try in Auli. Rudraprayag and Nandaprayag are also close to Auli and draw several pilgrims every year.
Tips to keep in mind: You can book skiing packages from GMVN who conduct courses for tourists who come to Auli for more days or even for a short duration. Trek the Himalayas (+91 1352442627) is another operator that offers packages. It is best to choose a long weekend for a trip to Auli.
Established in 1936 and named after the legendary British hunter-turned-conservationist of the same name, Jim Corbett National Park is India’s first national park. It is in Uttarakhand in Ramnagar and boasts of a rich wildlife living in its reserve. A day safari here is a must to spot some animals.
Best time to go: October to June
Driving distance: 354 km (6 hours 30 minutes)
Where to stay: There are many hotels and lodges in and around the national park and most offer combo packages of a safari and stay. It is best to opt for these in order to avoid any disappointment after arriving there and not finding a spot. The Riverview Retreat (095550 88000), Infinity Resort (05947 251279) are mid-range hotels. If you want luxury hotels, opt for Leela Corbett Vilas (05947 284332).
Things to do: Safaris are held during the day between 6 am to 10 am and 2 pm to 5 pm. When here, do go for one to spot your favourite animals including elephants, peacocks, deer and leopards. Jim Corbett National Park is famous for the Bengal Tiger and you should go for a safari to spot them. The Ramganga Resovior attracts many migratory birds also. The rich flora and fauna here make for a memorable trip. You can contact the officials at +91-5947-253977 for making any bookings.
Tips to keep in mind: Usually it is easier to spot animals during the summer when they come out more often. However, the temperature is pretty high during this time. The national park remains shut during the monsoon.
India’s capital, Delhi is pretty close to Chandigarh and offers some of the best historical monuments of the country. From India Gate to Rashtrapati Bhawan, Delhi has so much to offer that you possibly cannot see everything in two days. However, you can definitely do a lot over the weekend too. Whether you are a shopaholic, a foodie, history lover or party animal, Delhi has something for all.
Best time to go: October to March
Driving distance: 251 km (4 hours 10 minutes)
Where to stay: From budget hotels to some of the plushest ones in the city, Delhi has an interesting mix of accommodation suited for all kinds of travelers. The Lalit (011 44447777) is a five-star property that is comparatively easier on the pocket than its competitors. Lemon Tree Premier (011 44232323) is in the airport and Hotel Indraprastha (098101 87451) offers decent rooms on a budget price.
Things to do: There is so much to do in Delhi that is impossible to list down everything in this much space. However, if you have two days, here are a few things that should definitely be in your itinerary. Go to Red Fort and then eat at the Paranthewali gali. Head to Jama Masjid and then visit India Gate. In the evening you can head to Connaught Place where you will find many restaurants and pubs. A visit to the Akshardham Temple also makes for a memorable experience. You can also go to Lodhi Garden, Humayun’s Tomb and if you want to shop, visit Sarojini Nagar and Hauz Khas Village where you will find clubs and pubs too.
Tips to keep in mind: Delhi is notorious for traffic jams and you will need to access your navigation if you are not familiar with the routes. Make sure you calculate the time needed to get from one place to the other.
Amritsar is primarily visited by tourists for its food, the Golden Temple and monuments that take us back in time to the days of our freedom struggle from the British Raj. The city is a couple of hundred kilometres away from Chandigarh and can be easily covered over the weekend. When in Amritsar, don’t miss these usual suspects.
Best time to go: November to March
Driving distance: 229 km (3 hours 57 minutes)
Where to stay: Amritsar has many budget hotels in the city. You can also book a stay in Ramada (0183 5025555), Hyatt (0183 5251234) or Radisson Blu (0183 6611111).
Things to do: Perhaps the first thing to do in Amritsar is to visit the Golden Temple, the most sacred shrine of the Sikh community. Wear clothes that cover your arms and legs and you will be required to cover your head too. When here, do try the food served at its langar, the largest community kitchen in the world. Amritsar is also home to the Jallianwala Bagh where the British opened fire and brutally murdered several hundred people including women and children. You can see the bullet marks even today. If you are a foodie, you should visit dhabas in Amritsar for some authentic Punjabi cuisine. For a patriotic feel, do witness the Wagah Border Ceremony that takes place every evening where a parade is held and the flag of the two nations are lowered. The patriotic atmosphere is enough to send you in a tizzy.
Tips to keep in mind: It is best to explore Amritsar in a rented vehicle or your own car.
Dalhousie, a favourite summer retreat is one of the most popular vacation destinations in India. The tariffs of hotel rooms go sky-high during peak season and are completely booked too. Summer vacations are usually the best time to visit Dalhousie but you can go a little later to avoid the crowd. Dalhousie is known for its scenic beauty and pleasant weather. Here’s what it has to offer.
Best time to go: April to November
Driving distance: 315 km (6 hours 19 minutes)
Where to stay: Alps Resort (0189 9240781), Snow Valley Resorts (0189 9242700) and Grand View Hotel (086288 10659) are mid-range options that will be best for couples and families.
Things to do: Apart from soaking in the natural beauty of Dalhousie, you can indulge in activities like paragliding and horse riding at Kalatop. The Tibetan market at the lower Bakrota Hills is perfect to buy souvenirs for your loved ones. Gandhi Chowk is another place where you can go for shopping. Another place to visit is the beautiful St Patrick’s Church. A romantic boat ride at the Chamera Lake and clicking some photos against the beautiful backdrop is something couples can do. If you are in the mood to trek it out, go to Ganji Pahari where you will get a bird’s eye view of Dalhousie. When here, do sample snacks sold at Garam Sadak which is dotted with shops and stalls serving delicious food at an affordable price.
Tips to keep in mind: If you do not have your own vehicle, you can rent one in Dalhousie with a driver and go sightseeing. It will cost you about Rs 2,000-3,000 per day.
A pilgrimage centre, an adventure lover’s paradise and home to some of the best yoga centres in the country, Rishikesh is the perfect weekend getaway for all types of travelers. Experience living in an ashram, listen to the sound of the Ganga flowing through the city and discover your spiritual side in Rishikesh. Here’s what this place has to offer.
Best time to go: March to November
Driving distance: 210 km (5 hours 6 minutes)
Where to stay: Rishikesh offers accommodations like tents, lodges, ashrams and hotels. You can choose the type you like as each has its own experience to offer. If you prefer hotels, you can opt for Ganga Kinare (090155 44000) which is a boutique hotel overlooking the river or Amaris Hotel (1800 180 4162) which is a prime property.
Things to do: For water sports enthusiasts, Rishikesh is the perfect place to go white water rafting. Even if you are a beginner, you can make a splash and enjoy the water. Ganga Valley Adventure (+ 91 9897996881) offers stay and rafting packages among other things. If you are a music lover, a visit to the Beatles Ashram is a must when in Rishikesh. Also pay a visit to other places like the Sivananda Ashram and Swarg Niwas Temple. Laxman Jhula is another significant tourist spot in Rishikesh. If you want to witness the mesmerizing Ganga aarti in the evening, visit the Triveni Ghat.
Tips to keep in mind: You will mostly find vegetarian fare in Rishikesh. Only a handful of places serve non-veg food. Since the majority of people who come here are pilgrims or yoga enthusiasts, they refrain from eating meat.
Cradled in the breathtakingly beautiful Kangra valley and set against the Dhauladhar mountain range, Dharamsala is one of the most beautiful hill stations of Himachal Pradesh. Not only does it serve as the winter capital of the state, Dharamsala is also home to the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Dharamsala can be broadly divided into two distinct areas. These areas are separated by a 10-minute bus/car ride. Lower Dharamsala houses government offices, schools, commercial areas etc while Upper Dharamsala serves as the seat of the Dalai Lama. Dharamsala is not just home to the exiled Tibetan community but also stands at the very heart of the religio-tourism centred around Tibetan Buddhism.
Best time to go: March to October
Driving distance: 247 km (5 hours 14 minutes)
Where to stay: The HPTDC hotel Kashmir House (01892-222977) offers clean rooms and is well-maintained. Hotel Dhauladhar (01892-226722) is yet another HPTDC property and is located in the same building as the railway reservation center. If you are on a budget, consider Kaveri Lodge (01892-221132) which doesn’t just offer clean rooms but also a friendly vibe and some great views.
Things to do: Dharamsala is your classic small town hill station. While it does offer some cheap shopping options, you are bound to feel restricted by the limited options. Even so, Dharamsala is a great place to simply spend endless hours walking and exploring the quirks and beauty of small town India. You can easily walk the length of the town in under half hour. If you, like us, have hopes of meeting the Dalai Lama, know that it is extremely difficult to pull off and really does require a stroke of luck to meet the man. Unless you have a prior appointment, don’t keep your hopes up! Dharamsala also offers some yoga courses. Universal Yogal Center (+91 9882222323) is one such place as is Om Yoga Center (+91 9805693514)
Tips to keep in mind: Dharamsala offers several trekking trails. The easiest one is to Bhagsu Waterfall, which is just three km from the town square and an easy walk down Bhagsu Rd. You could also consider trekking up to Dal Lake which is about 4 kmaway or along Indrahar Pass that passes through the Dhauladhar Range in the Kangra valley. And finally you can climb the hill beyond Dharamkot to Triund for a slightly more challenging trek. Ensure you are well-equipped, wearing the right gear and carrying enough food. Do carry an extra jacket because the weather can change very quickly here.
A small hill station in Himachal Pradesh, Kasauli is very close to Chandigarh and offers a respite from the city life. It is at an altitude of 1927m above sea level and the snow-clad peaks and green forest cover draw tourists to it every weekend. Its architecture is reminiscent of India’s British past. Apart from its natural beauty, Kasauli is also famed for its magnificient churches. Here’s what you can do on a weekend trip to Kasauli.
Best time to go: April to November
Driving distance: 58 km (1 hour 45 minutes)
Where to stay: Kasauli Exotica (088947 25931) is one luxury hotel in this hill station. Birds View Resort (01792 272 120) and Kasauli Castle Resort (01792 273 805) are a few other options to stay when you are here.
Things to do: If you love Gothic architecture, then pay a visit to Christ Church and Baptist Church that show you a glimpse of British colonial era too. Kasauli is also home to several endangered species of flora and fauna and summer is the best time to spot them. To get a glimpse of apple orchards, visit Parwanoo which is only 27 km away from Kasauli. In the evening, go the Mall Road for a stroll which is dotted with shops and restaurants. There is also the Kasauli Brewery which is the oldest distillery in Asia for scotch whiskey. The highest point in Kasauli is called the Monkey Point and is dedicated to Hanuman. There is also a temple for him. You can get a glimpse of the city below from here along with views of the Sutlej River and peaks of Dhauladar.
Tips to keep in mind: Kasauli has limited accommodation and eating out options but has its own charm. It is best to take your own vehicle to this quaint hill station.
Surrounded by high peaks and located at an altitude of 1467m above sea level, Solan is a small hill station that offers majestic views and a pleasant climate. If you are looking to escape to a place that offers solitude and peace, Solan should be on your list. It doesn’t have much to do unlike other popular hill stations but you can surely find some quiet time away from the city in Solan. And if you love to trek, the peaks surrounding it offer many trekking trails. Here are some things to do in Solan.
Best time to go: February to October
Driving distance: 66.7 km (2 hours)
Where to stay: There are limited accommodation options in Solan. Tarika’s Jungal Retreat (01792 248 684) and Hotel Paragon Palace (01792 226 666) are two of the options.
Things to do: The hill station is home to places of worship like the Shoolini Mata Temple dedicated to the goddess of the same name which is also where Solan gets its name from. There is also the Jatoli Shiv Mandir and Yungdrung Tibetan Monastery. When here, also visit the Kuthar Fort which is over 800 years old and was built by the Gurkha Kings. One of the oldest breweries that was set up in 1855 still exists in Solan. It is called the Mohan Meakin’s Brewery.
Tips to keep in mind: Vegetarian food is more easily available in Solan than meat dishes. When here, do try a local delicacy called Pachole. If you plan to stay the night, it is best to book something in advance especially if you visit during peak season.
Spread across three hillocks, Chail is a quaint hill station in Himachal Pradesh. It boasts of a pleasant climate throughout the year and makes for a lovely getaway from Chandigarh. Chail offers majestic views of both Kasauli and Shimla without the excess crowd at these places. The hill station became the summer capital of Patiala after Maharaja of Patiala Bhupinder Singh transformed it to be at par with Shimla.
Best time to go: April to June, September to October
Driving distance: 106 km (3 hours 11 minutes)
Where to stay: For a truly royal experience, stay at the Chail Palace (01792 248 141) that was the home of the Maharaja of Patiala and has been converted into a heritage hotel. Hotel Ekant (094181 48378) offers decent rooms.
Things to do: If you are a nature lover or a wildlife enthusiast, do visit Chail Wildlife Sanctuary where you can spot a wide variety of animals like the Himalayan deer, wild boar, langur, goral, etc. Kali ka Tibba is a shrine that is visited by locals as well as tourists. It is a Kali Mata temple and the view from here is simply stunning. A trek through the dense forest cover of Chail will show you various types of trees found here and if you like, you could try angling at Giri River which is close to Chail. Chail Palace is also worth visiting.
Tips to keep in mind: There aren’t too many eating options in Chail so it is best to eat at the hotel you are staying at. Or you could also opt for food at local dhabas.