Weekend Trip to Narkanda

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.”
Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

Ah! It is always good to be back :-)

It has been a long hiatus – years I guess – since I have shared by travel experience on Ghumakkar. But its better late than never. So without further ado, let me get to the topic that I want to share with my fellow Ghumakkars.

It was a not so cold December Friday when I along with 3 companions arrived at Delhi ISBT to catch our bus to Narkanda. It is a direct bus from Delhi to Narkanda. We had booked our ticket online and I’d definitely recommend booking your bus ticket online from HPTDC website. It is convenient to book ticket online and saves you a lot of last minute hassle; especially on cold winter night.

Our bus was scheduled to depart at 9:00 PM. It was on time and we got to it easily. Only boarding the Metro from Rajiv Chowk was quite an adventure. The mass of humanity was something you encounter during Prayag Kumbh Mela. I remembered my trip from Prayag to Allahabad Station. Taking the metro was something similar or I’d say more trying than that. We were only 18 people riding on a jeep on that day. It was like millions at Rajiv Chowk.

Thrice the gate had to be reopened and on the third occasion I somehow managed to get in. If only I hadn’t; I’d have missed the bus to Narkanda. So with luck we finally arrived at ISBT and boarded our bus to Narkanda. So our journey begin!

As I woke up in the wee hours of Saturday morning, we had already crossed Shimla. We were told that we’ll reach Narkanda soon at around 11:00 AM. We were supposed to get down at the intersection from where the road to Hatu Peak is; around 3-4 kms away from Narkanda. The trail to Hatu Peak from here is around 7 kms.

This is after a long time, that I am back on Ghumakkar; but believe me I have always been a Ghumakkar

Hatu Temple

Hatu Temple

There’s a dhaba just at the intersection that leads to Hatu Temple where we satiated our hunger. The paranthas were delicious and so was the tea to go with it. After having mouthful, we were soon footloose in the Himalayas enroute Hatu Peak. We had decided on taking the goat trail instead of taking the road that is motorable for two wheelers and four wheelers as well.

The trail to Hatu Peak could be taken from the left side of the road. The total road distance is around 7 kilometers from the intersection. I am sure about the exact distance of the trail to Hatu Temple. The trail crosses the motorable road several times so it is not that you’ll ever get lost. The most wonderful thing about taking the trail is the views.

United we Stand

United we Stand

Apple orchards, coniferous forest and breathtaking views greets you every now and then. There are several Himalayan peaks that you could behold along the easy ascent to Hatu Peak. There are a few lush pastures that will come along the way. They are simply heavenly and I’d highly recommend that you take your time and enjoy yourself and the magnificent views and picturesque setting.

It is for views like this that I love to go footloose in Himalayas. Then and there you experience a bliss that could not be experienced anywhere else. The scenery is spellbinding, the setting is pastoral and you are in a veritable paradise.

Nap Time

Nap Time

I layed down there on the green grass surrounded by mighty Himalayas and sheet of snow. It seemed like an eternity has passed and it was just ain’t enough. But we had to move along. As the trail connected with the road we arrived at a shepherd hut on the road. The entire place was covered in thick blanket of snow. There was a frozen pond and slopes from where we could slip and slide on the snow.

What a View

What a View

The fun was only just beginning. This shepherd’s hut was the only place on the entire trail where you could have something to eat and drink. The guy in the shop said he comes in the morning and leaves at the sunset. There are snacks; the heavenly maggi and hot tea to be had there only that magi costs 60 bucks per plate but that is to be expected on the mountains.

From the joint, it is an hour walk to the Hatu Peak. Arriving at Hatu Temple is such an amazing experience. The sight, the scenery and the setting is captivating. The temple itself is magnificently carved. The temple was rebuilt on this ancient sight and the modern structure replicated the traditional architecture of Himachali temples. I found Hatu to be more beautiful than even Prashar Temple near Mandi and Hidimba Temple in Manali.

And the setting is even more scintillating. There are various Himalayan Peak that you could observe from the peak. Then the apple orchards, deodar and oak forest dots the entire landscape making it a joy to just sit and behold the mesmerizing landscape.

It is said that Pandava brothers made a halt here and prepared their meal during their period of exile. Not surprisingly, there’s a hotel named Agyaatvaas in Narkanda. There’s a place where it is believed that Pandava sacrificed a goat to prepare their meal. It is of quite religious importance for the locals and an annual festivals marks the occasion followed by festivities.

After spending sometime at the peak, it was our time to make the downhill walk to Narkanda. It was imperative as we had not pre-booked hotel in Narkanda. It was the Republic Day weekend and all the hotels we tried to book online were already sold out.

It was a concern too as I knew that it is going to cost us dearly. Hotels always cost more when you go and book it on the spot. It is more true for touristy places like Narkanda which are close to Delhi and not an offbeat destination anymore. It was already dark when we arrived at the intersection from where the trail to Hatu Peak started.

There were no sign of civilization and no street lights to guide our way. 2 of my companions were completely exhausted and were worried too. It was their first venture into Himalayas. I along with one of my companion took the lead and hurried along to find at least some sign of civilization. The problem in the mountains is even if a settlement is stonethrow away, you get no sign as it is behind the curve.

Beginning of Hatu Peak Trek

Beginning of Hatu Peak Trek

Catching Breath on our way to Hatu Peak

Catching Breath on our way to Hatu Peak

After what appeared like walking for hours we were finally greeted by the signs of civilization. We could see lights and a town. Yes! We had arrived in Narkanda. Just so that you should know there is a liquor shop that greets you before the town :-)

We decided to take the first hotel that we saw. It was costly and there were no negotiation. It was expected as it was Republic Day weekend. The room for which we paid 2200 could have come for as low as 500 had it been not a weekend. I had better rooms in Manali and Ladakh for lesser than I had to shell out for this one.

However, the room was cozy with enough space to accommodate 6, hot running water and television too. It was night already, we ordered for dinner and later retired to bed. It was a day well spent and worth every penny and more.

Next day, we had plan for a stopover in Kufri and then in Shimla. From there, we took the Kalka Shimla Mountain Railway till Kalka and from there to Delhi on Kalka Mail. The journey was adventurous but definitely not recommended if you are traveling with family or have a female companion.

Simply Spectacular

Simply Spectacular

Used to as am I of traveling on Mumbai Local, it was easy for me to get a seat and I was even manage to get hold of seats for 3 of my companions. I was carrying a sleeping back so sleeping came to me easy when I got on the Kalka Mail to Delhi.

Orchards and Mountains

Orchards and Mountains

…You see travelling is good :-)

Looking back, the trip was quite affordable. It cost us 286 from Delhi to Narkanda when we booked our ticket online. From Narkanda to Kufri, it was INR 70 per person. Kufri to Shimla was INR 25 per person. From Shimla. ‘toy train’ was INR 50 per person and from Kalka to Delhi it costs INR 105 per person.

The Road Less Taken to Hatu Peak

The Road Less Taken to Hatu Peak

In all it was comfortable and it was affordable. The entire trip took us 2 days from Delhi and back. Frankly; I was surprised that we made it in just 2 days. Per person cost for the entire trip including everything (food, fag, booze, stay and tickets) came to approx. INR 1800 per person. Not bad I’d say :-)

14 Comments

  • Pamela says:

    Hey Nikhil,

    Nice to read your post. Trust me even I was planning to visit somewhere nearby delhi for the weekend. Exactly then I read your post and it works :P .. I loved the place and hope so I n my sis will explore the place in March.. Just one information I need to know couple of info please help me on these..
    1. Any hotel at NARKANDA safe for girls??
    2. How we commute Kufri and then shimla from there?
    3. From shimla any direct bus or train to delhi?
    4. Approx budget for 2 -3 people for 2-4 night ..

    Hope will hear from you soon :)

    Wishes..
    Pamela

    • Sahil Sethi says:

      Hi Pamela,

      Narkanda is approx. 70 Kms ahead of Shimla.
      Shimla to Kufri is around 20 kms and Kufri to Narkanda is 50 Kms.

      From Delhi, there is no direct train till Shimla. Trains are till Kalka, from Kalka you can either take toy train till Shimla or Bus.
      From Delhi, there are regular buses till Shimla and vice versa.

      From Shimla also, there are direct buses to Narkanda or Board any bus From Shimla going to Rampur or Reckong Peo and get down at Narkanda.
      Else you can also take shared taxis and visit Kufri enroute.

      Good and safe hotel in Narkanda is The HPTDC Hatu which is of Himachal Tourism.

      Regards,
      Sahil

    • Hey Pam,
      Sorry for being late in replying.
      Thanks. And be prepared for a lot of snow in March
      Sahil is spot on in most of the answers.

      If you book HPTDC or any decent hotel in advance and if you 2-3 are gals who can share. 2-3 night won’t cost you more than 2-3 k for 2-3 nights in Narkanda (Excluding food). The key is to book well in advance as Narkanda is no more an offbeat destination. paranthas cost 20 per piece or magi 40 per plate from the trail that goes to Hatu. I’d recommend eating your dinner outside for tastier cheaper food. Bus from Narkanda to Kufri Rs 69 per person and direct to Shimla 100 per person. From Shimla to New Delhi will again come to approx 450-500 per person. I took the train so don’t have exact figure with me.

      Also if you have fixed date, you can book sami deluxe bus from Delhi to Narkanda online (you don’t need AC Volvo) @ 486 Per person and do the same for your return journey to Shimla to New Delhi. Buses could be booked online from HPTDC website.

      I’d recommend that you book direct bus from Shimla to Narkanda so that you reach Narkanda early and if you aren’t carrying much of a luggage, hike to Hatu Peak first and then return to Narkanda to check in. In case you need to freshen up. CHeck into hotel and hen either walk or hire a cab till the parking point to hike to Hatu Temple and peak.

      Let me know if you need more info.

      Cheers!
      Nikhil

  • Arun Singh says:

    Very good post. All the pics are really very well clicked.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Arun

  • R D Palsule says:

    Nikhil

    A Nice write up. More photos ?
    I have been to Hatu Mata mandir in April 13. An engrossing place. We took vehicle (All Sr Citizens ! ) But Walked from Shepard’s Hut .Even in End April there was snow on way and at Top !

  • R D Palsule says:

    Pamela

    Besides HPTDC The Hatu,There are other options also. High Priced Hotel Tethy’s.
    Budget Hotel Mahamaya on Main Road. Forest Dept Huts. You can club Narkanda with Thanedar, an Hours drive, it is Apple country. Kufri is commercial in my openion.

    RDP

    • Sad as it R.D,
      Kufri was snow laden when I wen’t there 2 years ago at the same time.

      However this year, it was like any other barren hill devoid of snow and full of disaapointed travellers. Even a few ppl I know who were there in Kufri found no traces of snow. So from the last 2 exprience in 3 years in Feb/March, I’ll not recommend Kufri. I guess erratic weather El Nino effect.pattern is to blame. This year say it is due to El Nino effect whatever

  • SANTANU says:

    Hi Nikhil,
    Thanks for the report full of life with attractive photos. Giving cost details is also an important aspect many writer usually forget to mention. Looking forward towards getting more in future.
    Santanu

  • Snig Bhaumik says:

    Hi Nikhil

    Excellent photos along with fluid narration, filled with useful information.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Best
    Snig.

  • Shadab Noor says:

    excellent narration and beautiful pictures especially the last one… loved it…

  • Sejal says:

    Loved your article. Very detailed and would be very helpful for planning my trip to Narkanda. Just a minor query though. Why is the journey not recommended with female companions? Is there any particular reason?

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Good to see your story Nikhil. I guess, certain association last much longer. I had an opportunity to visit Narkanda in 2009, on the way to Kaza. We were not brave enough to trek to Hatu, since we were there for a night and it was a long drive next day (all excuses) to Kaza.

    As expected, scintillating pictures. Trust Bombay is taking good care of you, was there 10 days back, still amazed on how the city moves all the time.

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