Banjara Orchard Retreat, Thanedar, Simla – Review

Our first stop on the ‘Chalo Kaza’ run was at a place called Thanedar, ahead of Simla. We had planned two stops before Kaza and we wanted first one to be as further away as possible since one manages to cover the most on day 1, it is much easier to start very early from home than any hotel on subsequent days.

Thanedar is called the ‘Apple Country’ of India and all for the right reason. Once there, what you see all around is thick green canopy of apple trees. It was a peaceful journey of the family of three, enthused and looking forward to the great Himalayan holiday. Here’s the quick reckoner on the place-to-stay at Thanedar.

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Location and Accessibility
Thanedaar is fairly far from Delhi, which rules out a two-day return road trip. For those looking at a night out in the hills, Shimla would work better, but in case you have had enough of Shimla already and are willing to drive that extra mile(s) then you wont regret. You would need at least 2 nights to get you enough time to unwind. One can also take a train till Kalka and then take a taxi for the rest of journey, close to 5 hours.

The place is about 80 KMs away from Simla on NH22, the same road which goes all the way till Tibet. You leave the road at Kotgarh-cut and then drive inside for about 30 minutes.

From Delhi, it would take you almost an entire day to reach here. We reached at about 5 PM, just in time for a round of pakodas over tea, the sun-set was fabulous.

Infrastructure
A very neat set of rooms with enough space to accommodate that extra bed, compact utility restrooms, family-suites (which I couldn’t check) and a couple of log cabins. A lot of hill properties are now on the side of being cosy-little-heavens and lack those luxury-tag items like a pool or a big nice lawn etc. Banjara Orchard Retreat is of former kind and is more suited for a family time place than for a large group outing.

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There is a small lawn where they do bon-fire in the evening. The dining hall is very well lit, spic-n-span and in its full capacity can host about 6 tables. Kitchen is at a lower level and very smartly connected by stairs. A few hammocks, a dart-board and lots of small plants thrown-in and you are done with the property.

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Tele-Connectivity
This deserves a special mention. You can find all the telecom service providers there, from the more popular GSM folks like Airtel to lesser familiar Tata Indicom, thus keeping your mailbox up-to-date.

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This is all there because of the massive apple business which happens out of this very district. Close to 200,000 families in Himachal Pradesh are engaged in the cultivation of the fruit and the fruit economy of the state is around Rs.2,000 crore, flourishing mainly in Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba districts.

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Food
Smart china crockery and not the expensive ones, clean humble setup of tables in the dining room, polite and functional staff and very homely-yummy food.

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All freshly made, though not a lot to choose from, but very well prepared. While the spread may benefit from an additional cuisine, especially for meat-lovers like me, one should understand that the place is not really in a big town. The nearest big place is more than 2 hours away and it takes a while to get supplies.

What to do
Just laze around in Sun on a hammock, not much you can do with in the hotel but the literature in rooms mentions few things viz. Tani – Jubbar Lake, Hatu Peak, St.Mary’s Church and a temple close-by. Since for us it was more like a halt, we didn’t indulge in any of them. I heard that Hatu peak is the winner among this. Its about 15 Kms away and after the climb, you are at 11,000 ft giving you a good view of Himalayas. If you remain with me, probably I would take you to Kibber (Once we reach Kaza) which is five times higher than Hattu. Kibber is what people refer as the highest village of the world.

Tariff
The rack rates are Rs 4400 a night in the season for a double, inclusive of all meals. We got it for as much , no discounts. Based on what I have seen so far, the tariff is on higher side. I would have appreciated the upside for a value-added service like tea-on-call, free wi-fi internet or even a guided ride to Hatu.

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What else, well a couple of words about Prakash Thakur, who runs the whole show. Having the host around has a tremendous effect on overall operations and Prakash appeared a true hands-on person. I could see a lot of experience hidden under those mature eyes and I can imagine that a conversation or two with him would be very rewarding for a fellow traveler.

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To sum it all up, if you have kids, than the property may not have enough spectrum for bandwidth hungry generation but if you are a small group of mostly adults and are looking for a peaceful time amid hills with spectacular views, serene settings , homely delicious food and option to curl-up with your favorite book for hours then head for it.

17 Comments

  • Patrick Jones says:

    The rose is red, the hammock is inviting.

  • Deepak Behl says:

    nice pics….

    you could hv stayed at another decent accomodation in nearby narkanda ..
    on ur way to kaza

    hotel “Hatu” Run by Hptdc at almost half the tariff ..

  • Deepak Behl says:

    nandan
    but double that amount ..you get all ..you ask for …

    heated indoor pool, wi-fi connectivity, spa…mini golf course ..etc..etc
    wildflower hall …an oberoi Group property… ahead of shimla 2 kms

    before kufri

    whatsay…

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Patrick – Indeed, more so in this crazy hot weather in Delhi.

    Deepak – The search started with finding a place in Sangla and Kaza and only reliable/reputed name was Banjara. Thanedar was more of a after-thought, a place to spend the night. For a long time, we could not zero-in on where to break. We knew thats its fairly expensive but we took the bait, you know after lot of planning, you sort of give up on smaller stuff. Frankly we were so overwhelmed by other things, we didn’t do enough research and missed Hotel Hatu entirely.

    While writing this piece, When Smita told me that it was Rs 4400, it came as a shock, less for their asking, more for us paying :-)

    Wildflower should happen some day, they do not allow kids though, may be someone can expense my trip.

  • nayan says:

    nandan….it seems you love HIMACHAL ! and so do I…my dream is to open a small eco friendly resort in himachal…and spend rest of life…God bless me..

  • Ram says:

    Your trip to Banjara Orchrd Retreat reminded me of our family holidays at Subathu. Dil Dhoonta hai, phir wohi phursat ke raat din.

    Thanks for introducing us to the apple country.

    • Rakesh says:

      Holidays at Subathu? That’s where I am going to pick up my son from (Pinegrove School) for his 4 day break and was searching for holiday options. Please suggest a place to stay at Subathu and I will be happy not to drive too far.

      • Nandan says:

        Dear Rakesh – We were lucky to have someone in the family who had a vacation-house and who very graciously allowed us to stay there. From our visits there, I do not remember seeing any hotel. I would check with Ram as well.

        By the way, Chail and Kasauli would not be to far either.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Nayan – Insha Allah. I am trying to same near Naukuchiyatal for a while but no progress beyond getting a small land :)

    Ram – Glad if thats what it reminds you. Been a long time, Subhathu was visited. May be this winter.

  • nayan says:

    great !! atleast you are one step ahead. I am going to find out a good location near mashobra next month…lets c..

  • nandanjha says:

    Well, I made that step almost three years back and been stuck there. The developer said that we would build some of the common facilities (embankment, entrance, parking etc) and ensure that we get power/water at the gate. Its a set of 40 odd plots of one naali each (one naali is about 2150 sq feet, 230 odd sq yard) and though I haven’t visited that place for a year, I heard that there is not much movement.

    All the best. Do it fast, that might motivate folks like me to move and not sit for ever.

    • nayan says:

      right you are. Hows the place you have bought !! must be exciting !! What are your plans..wanna make something special..? just getting lil curious..

      • nandanjha says:

        I am sorry for missing this Nayan. Probably I thought of doing a more leisure-d response and then missed it entirely. Sorry.

        As of now, its a big piece of land where a lot of folks have bought plots. No development as such so far in terms of road/power etc. I do not deserve to talk about any plan since I have not done anything :) so far, probably your curiosity might make the lazy move and do something.

  • dhanesh says:

    Hi nandan,

    I am planning 6 days journey around shimla, will u be able to suggest places like banjara, where children too can enjoy and have adventure sports activity around the area ,

    also let me know whether banjara and kasauli can be taken in same route?

    Dhanesh , Mumbai.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Hi Dhanesh – Banjara is in Thanedar, which is a little away from Shimla. If you are looking for Shimla and close-by places then I would suggest Shoghi, Kasauli, Chail, (which are before Shimla, on the way up from Delhi) and Fagu (after Shimla). They are great family-vacation places along with Shimla. You can find relevant resorts as well more about them by reading as below.

    http://www.ghumakkar.com/category/statesofindia/himachal-pradesh/chail/
    http://www.ghumakkar.com/category/statesofindia/himachal-pradesh/kasauli/

    Kasauli, Chail have great places to unwind. I am not aware of any ‘Adventure Sports’ like Paragliding, Rafting, hiking etc. Beas Valley (Manali area) is a better place for those things.

    If you are keen on Thanedar (and this Banjara resort) then it is better to skip Chail/Kasauli and spend time only at Shimla (3 days) and Narkanda (2 days)

    If you tell me more about your start date, starting place, group composition, interests then I can suggest better.

    Wishes – Nandan

  • ROY says:

    Hi Nandan
    I am planning a trip to Shimla and around with family around end of June / early July. I am also planning to Visit Thanedar Banjara Resort. I am planning to drive my diesel sedan to Thanedar from Gurgaon. Can you advise on the road condition ? I have had bad experiences in Mussoorie where the Hotel was at Hilltop and was difficult to pull that big (but not amply powerful) sedan to the hilltop.
    We have 5 days at hand – Can we cover Shimla and Thanedar both in a relaxed way? Any comments on the road beyond Shimla towards Thanedar?

    Thanks.
    Roy

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Hi Roy – A Sedan should be able to go till Banjara. I do not remember a bad incline. Roads in general are very good in HP. Delhi-Ambala can be a bit painful because of highway-widening work going on. Post Ambala, you would love ‘Himalayan Expressway’ which now bypasses Kalka and would connect the old highway at Parwanoo. Beyond that it is all well.

    5 days is a decent time to cover Shimla , Thanedar and all the close-by places.

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