Noooo… Why do you want to go to Kasauli? It is too crowded, they said. It was July and yours truly needed a quick getaway after a roadtrip to Ladakh. I was in Delhi and was fiddling with various destinations for a relaxed weekend trip. Kasauli was identified as the destination to spend a few days with no particular aim. Sticking to the true spirit of unplanned travel, no research was done on the potential stay options. Bags were packed in whatever time was at hand and we found ourselves on a bus from Delhi to Dharampur, in Himachal Pradesh.
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At around 3:30 am, we were woken up from our deep slumber by the conductor announcing that we have reached our destination for the day (well, it was pitch dark and foggy). We were the only passengers getting down at Dharampur at the point where the road diverts for Kasauli. Sleepy eyed, we walked across the main highway, enjoying the slight chill in the air with the fog around.
The first bus to Kasauli wasn’t supposed to depart before 7 am. The clock showed it was still only 430 am, we realized that the best option was to wait at the intersection and hitchhike in the first vehicle headed towards Kasauli. Luck was in our favour and we hitchhiked in a truck to get dropped 2kms before Kasauli. Soaking in the pleasant mountain air and walking the rest of the distance, we reached Kasauli. Morning walks in the hills always make me happy. Even though this wasn’t an ideal one with my heavy backpack with me!
The day started with a steamy glass of chai and a leisurely walk around the green boulevards of the cantonment area with the intent of finding a budget homestay away from the hustle and bustle of main Kasauli. We came across beautifully designed colonial houses kicking within us the urge to request the owners to take us as paying guests.
After a sustained period of wandering, we found a cottage (the place has no name) overlooking the valley. We dumped our bags, feasted on aloo parathas and wore our explorer’s shoes. Given that it was a supposed to be a relaxed break, our only plan was to roam around the beautiful cantonment area of Kasauli and soak in the mountain air.
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We had limited expectations from Kasauli, given its popularity as a touristy destination; but the monsoon played its lucky charm. The rain clouds danced tantalisingly while we walked around the cobblestone streets. We were happy to appreciate the quaint cottages and old fashioned bungalows which seemed to have existed since eternity and looked very picturesque with colourful flowers and timeless charm.
About Kasauli :
Kasauli is located at an altitude of 1800 meters and provides a splendid opportunity to spend time in the foothills of the Himalayas. It is about 330 kms from Delhi, 75 kms from Shimla and only 60 odd kms from Chandigarh. Dharampur (the drop point for buses plying from Delhi/ Chandigarh) is approx. 16 kms away from Kasauli.
Kasauli was established as a cantonment town by the British in 1842. It is one of the best preserved relics of the British Raj and is a favourite of army personnel and has housed some famous personalities, including the noted Indian writer, Khushwant Singh. A mixed forest of pine, oak, deodhar and other mountain trees encircles the town. Its colonial ambience is reinforced by a long stretch of cobblestone street, quaint shops, gabled houses with charming façades and scores of neat little gardens and orchards. Kasauli is a perfect weekend gateway for those residing in Delhi and Chandigarh, this picturesque hill-station oozes old world charm in every nook and corner.
Places of interest in Kasauli :
Kasauli is best explored on foot. We loved going on long endless walks on the upper mall and lower mall road to soak in the unhindered aroma of pine-scented air, the misty ambience and the spectacular views. There are defined trails which can be followed for experiencing the beauty and quietude of the mountains. The best ones are located off the Upper Mall Road and originate near the BSNL quarters located within the Indian Army premises. There are trails from lower mall road that will take you towards Garkhal, which witnesses amazing sunsets and has a number of tastefully done homestay and hotel options. Vehicle movement on upper and lower mall roads is restricted, making the walks around these lanes memorable.
Some of the places worth visiting in Kasauli are :
Christ Church : Set amidst trees, this church (also called Anglican Church) is said to be constructed by Kasauli’s founder family. Try visiting this marvel of the colonial times in the morning to avoid the touristy rush. It is located very close to the bus stand and is very hard to miss! I was lucky to attend a sunday mass at Christ Church.
Another church in close vicinity is the Baptist Church – a brick and wood building constructed in 1923. Although Baptist Church is a small structure, it is definitely worth a quick look.
Gilbert trail : Gilbert trail is located at a short walk from the sunset point on the upper mall. This lovely trail, hidden in the cantonment area is mostly covered in mist and offers a surreal feeling of being lost in time. Morning is the best time to take a leisurely walk across this picturesque trail.
Manki Point (popularly pronounced as monkey point) is the highest point in Kasauli and is located at around 4 kms from the Kasauli bus stand. At its top is a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman that lies within the premises of the Air Force Base and therefore one is not allowed to take carry bags, cellphones and camera inside. There are lockers for keeping the same just before the entrance.
Visit Manki Point for expansive views of the valley – one can clearly see the plains of Chandigarh, Panchkula, Mohali, Kalka, from this 270 degree view point. There is a small cafeteria at the sunset point where one can enjoy snacks and tea/coffee.
Experiences in Kasauli :
Eat a leisurely Breakfast / Lunch at the Ross Common Restaurant : The open air of HPTDC Ros Common is a perfect setting for a leisurely breakfast. Ross Common is located in a comparatively quieter area, away from the touristy rush of the mall road and is among the last few stay options near the main square in Kasauli. The trail ahead of the hotel will take you to private cottages and bungalows and is perfect for long leisurely walks. The PWD rest house is located at the far end of the trail.
Kasauli Club : Located at upper mall road, Kasauli Club is one of the most prestigious social clubs in India. With an average waiting time of 15 years, its membership is highly sought after. The club dates back to the British era when Kasauli acted as a summer retreat.
Kasauli distillery and brewery, popularly known as Mohan Meakin brewery : Located in Solan, the brewery was set up by Edward Dyer, father of Colonel Dyer of Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The brewing and distilling equipments are said to have been imported from England and Scotland and were transported by ships sailing across the Ganges, before being transported through ox drawn carts via the route to Shimla.
Bun Samosa in Kasauli : One should also roam around Kasauli’s main market to eat tasty bun-samosas at the chai shops on the cobbled streets. A walk down the market area will take you to a street which boasts of a Gurudwara (Gurudwara Shri Guru Nanak Ji), temple and mosque, all in a radius of 200 meters. This is located on the other side of the Kasauli ridge on the Kasauli–Mashobra Road near the Air Force Radar Station.
Other places of interest in close vicinity of Kasauli are Sanawar (houses the famous Lawrence school); Dagshai (one of the oldest cantonment towns in Himachal Pradesh.