How many time have you traveled from Chandigarh to Himachal and never paid attention to what lies on the way? Although this is the most popular route that connects the northern plains to the Himalayas, we are often so focused on the vacation itinerary and the destination that we forget that this stretch makes for the most scenic route for a road trip in North India. Or, where else would you get to experience such a diverse landscape in one drive? As you transition from the lush plains of Punjab, through the bustling towns of southern Himachal Pradesh, and finally to the upper reaches of the Himalayas, you will experience a gradual but prominent shift in the culture, landscape, and as well as the weather. And, along the way, you will pass through some of the iconic places that each of these regions have tucked up its sleeves.
The only way you can successfully do this is when you drive through the NH 154 and then NH 3 that connects Chandigarh to Manali, via Bilaspur, Sundernagar, Mandi, Kullu, and Naggar. You can also take the alternative route via NH 503/503A that goes through Rupnagar, Anandpur Sahib, Una, Hamirpur, and then merges with NH 3 in Mandi. No matter which route you take, turn it into an ultimate road trip experience and stop by these scenic places en route. Make sure to get a top-rated taxi in Manali for sightseeing.
Ropar Wetlands, Ropar: 52 KM from Chandigarh
To experience a more natural environment, head to the Ropar Wetlands, also called the Ropar Lake. The man-made freshwater riverine with wetlands is the greenest and purest patch of the district with rich biodiversity. If you are traveling during the winters or early spring, you might be able to sight migratory birds, and post-monsoon, you can spot tortoises.
Gobind Sagar Lake, Bilaspur: 185 KM from Chandigarh
A major trading and travel hub, Bilaspur also flaunts a tranquil zone apart from its bustling town center. Head to the Gobind Sagar Lake. From the highway, you would need to take a slight detour to reach the lake area. During the monsoon, the lake fills up and the rains wash the surrounding clean, making it the perfect getaway during the rains. However, in spring, this green zone invites over 40,000 migratory birds making it a delightful destination to spend almost an entire day. But more than anything, simply the views of the sparkling lake against the hills can be awe-inspiring. If you are driving via NH 503, you can take a right from Nangal and visit the Bhakra Dam and its catchment area.
Prasher Lake, off Mandi: 242 KM from Chandigarh
A few miles from Mandi, in the village of Baggi, you will find this crystal blue lake, sitting atop 9000 feet, overlooking the Dhauladhar Ranges. To reach there you have to take the exit towards Solang (not Solang Valley). You can also do a trek that lasts for 10 KM up till the lake area. Fed by glacial and rainwater, the lake is best explored between March and October. Don’t miss the 13th-century temple, sitting on the lakeshore, and the 180-degree views of the Dhauladhar, Pir Pinjal, and Kinnaur mountain ranges. The azure water, the verdant surroundings, and endless views of the snowy peaks comprise the perfect recipe for rejuvenation.
Great Himalayan National Park, Tirthan Valley: 246 KM from Chandigarh
This the best place to discover the wildlife of Himachal Pradesh. While crossing Mandi, you can take a slight detour towards Tirthan Valley, and reach one of the four zones of the park. A pleasant habitat of alpine flora and fauna, the forests of GHNP will allure you enough to stay for the entire day, or even camp overnight. In spring or early winter, you can see red pheasants (tragopans), monals, musk deer, ibex, and blue sheep. Even a simple walk through the trails of pine, chestnut, spruces to junipers, can be uplifting.
Chandrakhani Pass, Naggar: 280 Km from Chandigarh
Sitting along the banks of the Beas River, the Chandrakhani Pass is the highlight of Kullu district. You can take the road from Naggar town towards Rumsu Village to explore this mountain pass. In spring and summer, the valleys exude a golden-green glow with fresh foliage and gurgling streams. During the winter, the mountains are wrapped in a snowy blanket. No matter in which season you travel, the Chandrakhani Pass is a sheer delight to the eyes and the soul. On your way, you can also make a quick stop at the historic Naggar Castle.
…Sometimes, the best surprises of nature are hidden within the most obvious things, making them elusive to us. And a road trip is the best way to unravel such treasures. If you are wondering where to spend the upcoming long weekend, then think no more. Book a reliable and affordable Chandigarh to Manali cab, and blaze the trails through the mountains, and rediscover the road which you have perhaps traveled a hundred times.