Whenever you talk of Himachal Tourism it is Shimla that gets the maximum publicity. I agree Shimla is a beautiful tourist town and has a charm of its own. However, if you are a mad traveller like us and want to explore beyond the hyped tourist places then Chail is your go to tourist destination. Avoid congestion of Shimla and enjoy breathtaking beauty in Chail, just a small detour on your way to Shimla.
This is how we discovered this gem of a place, Chail.
I had a mid-week Thursday off for Dusherra and as you know Durga Puja is a big Bengali festival. Both of us were feeling homesick, so we decided to take our mind off and travel.
Chail is a quiet, sleepy town on the Chandigarh– Shimla way. We started from Chandigarh somewhere around 4 pm and reached there by 8pm ( would have reached a little earlier if we didn’t stop at every possible place to explore!)
Here’s a map of Chail ( for more details just Google!!!)
Initially till Kalka, it’s quite a stressful driving. However now with the new highway you can avoid the congestion of Kalka, reach fast and enjoy scenic beauty. Just one disadvantage you will miss buying beautiful terrracota products.
Terracota Shopping in Kalka
Near Kalka, on the highway road itself you’ll see these small shops selling terracotta items, do get down there. Though parking your car is quite a task but the reward is great. Beautiful and cheap (compared to city rates) items – pots, kitchen and bath items, decoration items and so much more. I brought few beautiful pots to keep on shelves, a decoration piece, dinner ware, soap case…well I am sure you’re not interested in what I brought…Make sure to check it out.
Food at Giani da Dhaba, Dharampur
Then moving on, akka Giani da dhaba, at Dharmpur. Ask anyone in Chandigarh and they’ll vouch for this place to eat. It’s clean, spacious and a simple eating joint that serves authentic punjabi food. Tea is too good, a true delight to tired travelers. Food is simple yet soooooooooo tasty. I guess it’s just the simplicity of the food that makes it outstanding. Quick service is one thing about them that get 10/10 from me.
When we took the turn from the highway road towards Chail, the real beauty began. Winding, curvaceous roads – mountain on one side and flowing stream at the other end. I saw an interesting concept there – shops had put chairs in the water-bed – so you can enjoy hot tea and pakoda while your feet is dipped in running water – I guess the world’s best natural pedicure :))
Heritage Hotel with Antique Piano
Our next halt was the army guest house we were putting up. I had not expected something like this – actually way beyond expectation. It was a heritage palace converted to a guesthouse…wow…incredible. Can you believe there was a piano room and the piano was from 19th century. I was imaging, all English lords and their beautiful companions dancing to the tune of this piano. I was simply honored and mesmerized to be here. I never wanted to leave the room.
Next morning , I was woken by the chirping of birds and invitation to enjoy hot cup of tea from the balcony. enjoying nature at its beautiful best.
World’s Highest Cricket Ground is in Chail
Post a sumptuous breakfast, we walked up to the highest cricket ground. Rashtriya Military School boys were practicing on the ground with a coach whistling around, reminded me of my PT periods.
Sharma da Dhaba – A Not To Miss Place
We visited a few famous temples, more for the scenic purpose than religious. And by the time we finished local sight-seeing, I was famished. This is strange about hills, I don’t know about others but I feel very hungry. Thankfully, a local gentleman told us about a place that we must not miss – sharma da dhaba.
Trust me, totally unassuming but one of the best home-made food you would have ever tasted…I can bet on that. The best part was hot food, crisp chapatis (Indian bread), 5 varieties of vegetable and malpua as sweet dish – all this served with love and warmth. The owner is a couple – lady cooks and the gentleman, Mr. sharma serves, the place spoke of love.
The Chail Palace
A beautiful property, earlier home to the King of Chail now it is a heritage hotel. Take a walk and explore the place. They have simple cottages at the extreme end of the property with a swing and a bench and a breathtaking view. The cottages is deep into the forest. They encourage complete relaxation and quiet introspection. For couples, just take a walk around hand in hand. For family with kids they have a beautiful park with many varieties of swings to keep the kids busy.
Time to Go
Well, now was the time to head back. But the last surprise of the tour was waiting for us. we spotted a white langoor and a long-tailed bird. Though langoor was co-operative and gave us time n pose while we clicked. But the birdie was sensitive.
That was Chail as I experienced. I loved every bit of it. Though this place is not high on the customized tourist package place. But this place is for people who are looking for a soulful experience.