I was looking for a quiet holiday destination, not very busy, a place where I would have nothing to do and just spend some me-time. The destination that came to mind was Kasauli.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the busy hill stations like Shimla, Kasauli is just a 2-hour drive from Chandigarh. The good news for those who get motion sickness like me is that it is not on such an altitude. The drive is pleasant, and the roads are good. There were hardly any tourists in the month of September. The weather was cool with occasional showers. It wasn’t cold. A light jacket was needed at best. Fans were not needed.
The uphill lanes of Kasauli reminded me of San Francisco. The walk is pretty steep in most places and one must be in good health to truly enjoy the destination. The Army cantonment forms a major chunk of the town. The upper mall road is all army restricted. Vehicles are not allowed but pedestrians are. It is the route to the most scenic Gilbert trail, a narrow winding path against the rocky cliffs. There is a dedicated entrance off the road to the Gilbert trail. The walk on the road through the cantonment is also enjoyable. There are pictures of Paramvir Chakra recipients on both sides reminding you of the brave soldiers of our country.
The trail seems to be carved in between the greenery. On one side you can see lush green vegetation again the rocky slope upwards and on the other side is the deep valley. We went around the sunset time to get beautiful views. There is a dedicated look out point which will be crowded as most people walk up to that point, however the trail is much longer beyond the lookout point. Its not risky and not very steep. Even people who are not very athletic can enjoy the walk at Gilbert’s trail.
The lower mall road is the shopping area of Kasauli. Unlike other hill stations where the Mall road is busy with a lot of shops, Kasauli is much sparse. The biggest shop is the Jakki Mills woolens shop which is 150 years old. I bought some smart looking woolens from there. There is a grocery shop there where you can get any stuff you need that you forgot to bring. It also stores local wines. There are several small joints selling chowmein, momos and parathas.
The most popular ones are in the heritage market in the lower mall road. The heritage market would hardly have 15-20 shops. Menus are frugal, with only a few options and there would only be 2-3 tables for seating. I had read about Café Mantra, but it was perpetually closed during my stay. Mom’s Kitchen next to it didn’t look inviting. Had breakfast in Café Rudra. More than the grilled sandwich I had there, the messages written by visitors on paper napkins pasted across the walls of the café added a lot of character to it.
The Narinder Sweet Shop seemed to be very popular, but they only sold Samosas and Gulab jamuns. A small shop next to Narinder Sweets which belongs to a lady who was in the Police force earlier was a savior. It was probably the only place we found food options after 9:30 p.m. They also had more options for breakfast than the popular cafes and were surely more hospitable.
The streets of Kasauli are dead after 9:00 p.m. so don’t expect to get any street food while loitering late night. Do keep cash with you as cards don’t work in most of the small shops and food joints. The heritage market is primarily a cash market. There are ATMs available in Kasauli but they also close after 9 p.m. I also didn’t see much of public transport there. Would see an ocassional auto but most people were traveling in their own vehicles so prefer to hire a car or drive your own.
The Christ Church which is also at the junction of upper and lower mall road follows pretty adhoc timings. While it is one of the places to visit, it was closed most of the time so we couldn’t visit inside.
The other popular place to visit is called Manki point. The name comes from a Hanuman Mandir within the Air Force Base. Its quite a trek to the temple. Since it’s within the Airforce base premises, you can’t carry phones, cameras, smart watches etc. Everything must be left behind in the car or at a collection point just at the entrance for a cost of INR 100. After all this when we started walking towards the temple, it began to rain which was the last straw for me to give up on the idea of walking up to the temple. There is a small AFWA shop with some good stuff at very cheap prices if you decide to give up like me 😊.
The Ros Commons restaurant on the way to Manki point is popular due to its open-air premises from where one can enjoy a good view of the hills. The restaurant has ample parking space as well. The food is average but if you came back after a long walk it would taste delightful due to the raked-up appetite. I didn’t as it is expect to get great food in the hills. The parathas and maggi were the saving grace most of the time. I don’t know why maggi is so popular in in the hills but it somehow does taste better when eaten sitting on the rattling chairs in one of these small joints.
If you feel like doing a quick day trip to Solan, the Menri Monastery which is a Bon Monastery is worth a visit. Away from the busy town, its so quiet that one feel’s great to see the occasional monk walking by to get directions. There is a small café and grocery shop just before the monastery. The cafe only sells veg chowmein and momos and the grocery shop doesn’t follow any specific timings . I bought a bottle of water there and few minutes later when I went back it was shut. The monastery is closed during lunch time, otherwise one can go in and spend time inside. The whole area is surrounded by gardens and is very peaceful. You may be accompanied by the pups living in the vicinity of the monastery playfully jumping around the garden. There are washrooms available.
For those who are looking for a short quiet stay amidst good weather, just to declutter the mind from our busy schedules, Kasauli is the right place to be.