Short Weekend Trip to Naggar and Manali

Yogesh Sarkar

Administrator
The summer tourist season is all set to begin. A time when I like to avoid traveling, due to large crowds, expensive accommodation and poor availability of transport, coupled with bad service all around.

So I thought about traveling to Sangla and Chitkul in the last week of April. I even asked for the opinion of Salil and Rajiv, to narrow down on the best place to stay for photography. However, in the end, I could not convince my heart to travel to Chitkul. Since I prefer my heart and God leading the way, I dropped the plan to go to Chitkul and instead decided to travel to Naggar.

I had been dreaming about staying at Naggar Castle, ever since I saw photographs of it a few years ago on BCMT. The dream was about to be realized, though, in order to realize it, I went a little overboard and booked the more expensive Cozy Deluxe Room costing Rs. 2900 + GST, since it offered valley view.

I called RD on Thursday afternoon and asked her if she wanted to travel to Naggar on Friday evening and we would come back by Monday morning so that she would not have to take any offs. She replied positively and within an hour ticket for the Volvos and accommodation at HPTDC Naggar Castle was booked.

I had no plans after reaching Naggar, though, for the sake of RD, I had to make a rough one for sightseeing. All I was interested in was the cold mountain breeze and chilling at a quiet place in the hills. Maybe even get a good night’s sleep, since I have been unable to get it in Delhi.

The dream came true, though, only partially.

Travelogue to follow soon, here is a teaser to get things started. Photographed from the Naggar Castle Restaurant.

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Scroll down for the travelogue.
 
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Yogesh Sarkar

Administrator
26th and 27th April 2019, Delhi to Naggar

Even though our Volvo was supposed to depart from ISBT Kashmere Gate at 10:30 pm, I thought it would be a good idea to reach there ahead of time and have my dinner at McDonalds. This is the place RD and I had met, before our first trip together, to Prashar Lake.

Booking Uber has its own woes and after waiting for the first cab to arrive for over 15 minutes, I had to cancel and rebook.

I boarded the cab around 8:30 pm, Mr. Sharma from Purvanchal, Azamgarh to be precise, was the driver and I had a good one-way conversation with him i.e. he kept speaking without bothering to listen and I left with little other choice, listened to his sermons. Though to be fair, most of what he talked about was interesting. However, when a conversation is a one-way street, it tends to leave you feeling exhausted.

I managed to reach McDonalds around 9:15 pm, while RD was still stuck due to work. After a while, RD turned up and after having dinner, we went to the ISBT and had to wait for around 15 minutes, until our 10:30 pm bus arrived and we boarded.

I enquired with the conductor regarding travelling to Naggar and he suggested that we get down at Patlikuhal and take a taxi from there to Naggar.

Even though the bus left on time, the progress was slow. In fact, it took us around one and a half hours to reach Murthal, where the bus stopped for dinner at Garam Dharam Dhaba.

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This was the first time I had visited Garam Dharam and even though I was not feeling hungry, I decided to check it out. I was pleasantly surprised by the décor of the place. It looked like a fun pitstop on the highway or rather a place for short family drive from Delhi. Much better than Amrik Sukhdev or similar dhabas.

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All we had at the Garam Dharam was Kulhad Tea and even though it seemed a little expensive at Rs. 30, the quantity as well as taste was good.

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After a 45-minute break, we restarted our journey to the hills. However, the progress was slow, even on stretches with comparatively less traffic. The driver refused to drive above what seemed like 70 kph and with a major traffic jam before Chandigarh; we ended up losing quite a bit of time.

It was around 6 am that the bus crossed Kiratpur Sahib and stopped near a toilet, so that men could relieve themselves. No such option for the ladies, who had to hold it in, until the breakfast break at 9 am, a few kilometers before Sundernagar at a dhaba with bad stinking toilets and waiters with even worse attitude.

I have lost faith in the dhabas en route to Manali, all of them seem to serve pathetic food and have staff that seems to think they are doing customers a favor by serving them the food! Things were no different at the Mayur Dhaba the HRTC Volvo stopped at.

Parathas that we ordered were bland at best.

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Omelet bread took over half an hour to arrive, even though those who had ordered after us were served before us and the staff argued amongst itself and at times with us. After finally finishing off what we had paid for we got on the bus, thoroughly disgusted.

I feel HRTC should either keep the stoppages only at their own hotels or at chains like Bikanervala/Haldiram etc. rather than at such pathetic places.

Thankfully, the scenery along the route was better. Even though road condition has not improved since last year and there were several long stretches of roadwork taking place between Mandi and Manali.

The bus was supposed to reach Manali at one pm. However, it managed to reach Patlikuhal, 16 km before Manali, at around two pm. We promptly got down and found a taxi driver, Hemraj, to take us to Naggar Castle for Rs. 250.

We stopped en route to pick up a cold drink and chips, not knowing what we would find near the castle.

Then the little Alto 800 took us through the winding beautiful road to Naggar, getting steeper-steeper as we got closer to the castle. The ride though was a short one, since the Castle was barely 6 km from Patlikuhal.

From the outside, the Castle looked small and unimpressive. However, the moment we walked in, it was apparent to us, that the Castle was larger than our initial impression and beautiful.

The room was large as well, though could do with TLC and a bit of redecorating. I have written my full review of The Castle Hotel on my blog, I suggest you check it out, if you are thinking of staying here.

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After having a cup of tea, we freshened up and went to the restaurant for lunch. I was starving when I reached the restaurant. However, this view made my hunger disappear.

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Eventually we ordered Kangra Kadi, Himachali Pulao (made with fresh fruits and walnuts), rotis and green salad.

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Kangra Kadi turned out to be delicious of the lot and was hands down the best Kadi I have had in a long time. In fact, it tasted better than the Kadi we get en route to Vaishno Devi! Himachali Pulao was amazing as well, though a little sweet at times.

Overall, the food turned out to be great and the view, even better.

Once we were done with our lunch, we decided to go out and explore the town a little.

As it turns out, we went out of the Castle, only to walk into the small yet pretty, Naggar Delight Café.

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We ordered a Flan and it was delicious, though little sweet for my taste.

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We wanted to try out more cakes on offer. However, we were so full that we could not do that and instead planned to revisit the café again.

It was almost 4:15 pm when we came out of the café. Nicholas Roerich Art Gallery was a kilometer away and as per the locals, they stop selling entry tickets at 5 pm.

I thought it would be a good idea to visit the gallery tomorrow, before leaving for Manali, while RD wanted to visit it today. She won the argument and we decided to find a one-way taxi to the gallery, so as not to arrive there at the closing time!

Finding a taxi turned out to be difficult, since the only taxis around were those from Manali, on a sightseeing day trip to Naggar. Eventually one of the taxi drivers agreed to drop us until the gallery, while his clients explored the Castle. Sadly, we had to pay him Rs. 100 for it, which seemed expensive for a one-kilometer drive.

However, the drive from the Castle to Gallery was uphill, so we would have ended up taking a lot of time to reach the gallery and would have gotten tired as well. Therefore, we thanked the driver, managed to enter the gallery at 4:30 pm, and bought two tickets for Rs. 50 each.

The entire compound of the Nicholas Roerich Art Gallery was a work of art, with myriad of trees and plants along the way, providing a perfect setting for any artist to work.

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The house where Nicholas Roerich stayed has now been converted into a gallery and the house was beautiful as well.

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No photography was allowed within the gallery, so we contended with feasting our eyes on the beauty of his work. Sadly though, majority of the mountains he had painted, were not named below the painting. Hence, even though he mapped out his routes and tried to identify the mountains and name them, the visitors to his gallery are left clueless about his work.

I had read Nicholas Roerich’s Heart of Asia last year and even though I found it to be a mixed bag and I was left clueless after reading it and same thing happened when I visited his gallery.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed our time there and even more, when got a sneak peek into his home on the first floor. It was somewhat of a dream come true or rather, sketch of a dream being brought alive in front of my eyes.

I have always dreamt of a home like this in the hills and one day, I shall have it. Until then, it felt good to pretend, I was home, even if for a moment.

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After exploring the gallery, we walked back towards The Castle. En route, the sun was beginning to set behind the mountains. Thanks to a rather large hill, I knew I was not going to witness a typical sunset in the hills. However, this would do, this would do just fine!

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We stopped en route at a shop selling organic goods and RD bought a few things. By the time we reached our balcony, the sun had almost set behind the mountain.

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Tired from the walk, I decided to a short nap, before going out for dinner.

Initially I thought about eating at The Castle Restaurant. However, RD insisted on going out and we ended up at the German Bakery. The menu was not extensive (for that we would have to go to their restaurant upstairs), but it looked tempting enough and everything we ordered, turned out to be delicious, especially the plum juice, burger and the rose green tea.

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After dinner, I thought about taking a few photographs. However, the sky was hazy and there was plenty of light pollution as well. Therefore, I ended up ditching the plan and tried to get some much-needed sleep.

However, I ended up failing in that as well and could only fall asleep by midnight.

Tomorrow was going to be a hectic day and we were still not sure about the places we would be exploring before our bus back to Delhi.

For now though, everything seemed perfect.

Like a dream…

Click here to read the next part ->
 
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Yogesh Sarkar

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