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Old 29th November 2016, 11:41   #1
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Default Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems

Long family driving trips and holidays have become quite complex these days. Thanks to growing children and varying priorities almost making it difficult to zero in on a perfect time for such holidays. I always wanted an offbeat time, probably when no one travels, so as to have a peaceful drive and soak in the environs calmly. We had been doing that in the past, and enjoyed quite a lot of drives as you could read from my earlier travelogues. But now kids are in higher classes, which meant choice of dates for a family trip is almost certain. It will have to be the school holidays season.



I am scared of the school holiday season. Every place will be choked. Jostling for space in the resorts and traffic jams are the last of the things we look forward in a driving holiday. And obviously all the well-known destinations always paints a grim scenario in those terms.



I always enjoyed Bangalore during those season, since Bangalore will see lesser crowds and we get to enjoy some laid back drives and eating out. I was contemplating a peaceful time in Bangalore when Sr. PPG put forth a wish for a holiday. It was a day in January.



Sr. PPG: Summer Vacation is coming up. I want to go for a family trip.
Me: I also want to, but definitely not Summer holidays. All places will be crowded and prohibitively expensive.
Sr. PPG: Next year is important for me, I may not be able to make it off season as we always do. See the last two years also we never could. This is it, if it does not happen now, it will be another year gone without a trip.
Me: True, but school holidays, crowds, costs?
Sr. PPG: Let us give it a shot. Any ways you will always have some plans to avoid crowds and make it interesting. At least let us get out
Me: Hmm... I am also itching for a drive.
Sr. PPG: OK, let us then go out somewhere
Me: Ok, any choice?
Sr. PPG: You always had your trips to Himalayas. Why not Himalayas, somewhere?
Me: Hmm...You mean Leh, Ladakh?
Sr. PPG: could be, but you told me driving holidays there would not work out during summer holidays last time
Me: Yes, Passes might not open as early in April/May
Sr. PPG: How about some parts in the foothills?
Me: like?
Sr. PPG: My friends talk about Shimla and Manali, and they had gala time
Me: OMG, Shimla? Manali? I am already saying no. I will not be able to stand the crowds. It'd be better we stay back in Bangalore
Sr. PPG: What's your problem with crowds? Let us also be a part of it at least once. You can plan it better I know that
Me: Hmmm... I am not liking it...
Sr. PPG: Let us them discuss today over dinner with Jr. PPG and Mom
Me: Hmm... So you are serious about this?
Sr. PPG: I want a break, last two years we did not do much, if this doesn't happen then next year also it wonít. I really need a break.
Me: OK. Then let us discuss during dinner.



I was lost in my thoughts. This is not happening, the one thing that I avoided all these years is never to take a driving holiday during the peak season. But now it is turning out that you would also end up as that one family which adds to that crowd. But there is no other option for you. Should I really do it? Should I break my mindset and just start believing that we can be happy even in the crowds?



Dinner time Sr. PPG presents her point very well thought out.



Sr. PPG: I was discussing with daddu about a driving trip this summer.
Wifey: He is not going to drive anywhere during that time.
Sr. PPG: He also said the same to me, but he wanted to know how you guys are also feeling
Wifey: I want a break, itís been a while
Jr. PPG: Me too, last two years we never did anything
Wifey: So whatís the option?
Me: Sr. PPG says Shimla Manali
Wifey: WHAT !! You are driving to North. Forget it, I canít take that many leaves
Me: The plan will be two weeks, Saturday to Sunday
Wifey: It takes one week for up and down, it makes no sense.
Me: Are guys for the holidays and against the drive?
Wifey: I am for both, but two weeks is short, but I canít take more leaves.
Me: Shimla Manali is ok?
Wifey: I have never been there, all my friends say great things, only you say the place is to be avoided
Me: Hmm...You donít know how sticky it can get on a hill with crowds
Wifey: You and your crowd mania. Let us go, and sort out your fear of crowds. I know you would make some plans to escape all that. You have been doing that wonderfully in all our trips.
Me: Hmm... So as I feared this is happening. So Shimla Manali, 15 days is what you are suggesting.
ALL: YES YES!!
Me: Very well. I will make a draft plan in the coming days and we can discuss.


And off I went to do some planning of the location and logistics. I had 3 months before the tentative start of the drive in May. April was already booked for my secret drive of 25+days to the North East, and June my trip to Europe on work.


This travelogue is dedicated to all parents who have to plan holidays as per schedule of their growing children, and for those who wish to have a driving holiday in India while having access to creature comforts for the family
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Old 29th November 2016, 19:57   #2
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Default re: Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems

First things first. We are not going to drive all the way from Bangalore. Wifey already hinted she did not have that many leaves, and further it did not make any sense than a satiation of my ego to have driven door to door.

Time to think different
.

Our options were to fly in to Delhi or Chandigarh and then book a self-drive car. Delhi meant I can pick up some components for Civic on the way back. So I was in favor of Delhi. Also I could meet a few friends I made in my travels, and catch up. So Delhi, it was.

Checked the ticket costs for the days in mind. In January ticket rates were hovering around 10K per person for a round trip to Delhi for almost all the days in May. So that was something which made choice of any dates in May easier. However Sr. PPG confirmed her classes will begin by 18th May, and the choice became even clearer, 2 weeks Saturday to Sunday, meant 30.04.2016 till 15.05.2016.

Immediately booked the tickets to Delhi. Return tickets costed Rs 41500 for all of us. Probably could have been 40% cheaper had we thought about this drive plan much in advance. But nevertheless we had to get the tickets, no choices now.


23.01.2016 Ė Air tickets done.


Having finalized on air tickets, then came the dilemma of booking a self-drive car. The dilemma was in terms of what car to book and for how many kilometers. What car to book was easy, discuss over dinner the possibilities and finalize. But how many kilometers to be decided meant we have a draft driving plan.

What car was decided pretty fast, we needed a high ground clearance car. We had two choices a Scorpio or a Ford Eco Sport. All were in favor of Eco Sport. My wife wanted to consider it for her next upgrade and was thinking a fortnight with it on the hills for a good evaluation to make a decision. Kids thought Eco Sport was cooler than Scorpio. For me I wanted compactness to maneuver the crowded streets and easier to park in lesser space, and Eco Sport was perfect. Moreover rental costs were marginally lower for Eco Sport.

For finalizing on the kilometers, I started working on the draft driving plan. A quick routing with locations in mind showed more than 3000Kms but less than 4000Kms, closer to 3750 as an approximation. I kind of checked an ECO sport from Zoom Cars for these days for the booking from 09:00 on 30.04.2016 till 17:00 on 15.05.2016. Approximately 3750Kms meant I cannot book at the minimum rates mentioned, so checked the next slab, which was for 3680Kms. Pricing was Rs 44700 plus deposit of Rs 5000. Had some coupon codes which gave Rs 2000 off as discount. Since the plan was definite, paid the money and booked the car.


30.01.2016 Ė Self Drive car booked.


Now with major parts decided, I needed to work out on a day wise plan to book the resorts and rooms. I am a Club Mahindra Member, So Shimla, Manali is all covered. Lucky enough for us the bookings for May were opening the very next day. So I had to quickly plan the trip direction. I made a plan to start with Shimla, then move to Manali, then to Dharamshala and then to Dalhousie. All touristy spots. Concern was I did not want to drive from Shimla to Manali in one day, and we did not have a Club Mahindra resort in Dalhousie. So, the basic idea was to book 4 nights from 30.04.2016 in Club Mahindra Shimla, 4 nights in Manali, three nights in Dharamshala, 2 Nights in Dalhousie and the last day in Delhi. One day that was unaccounted could be in Amritsar, if it had to be.

On February 1st when the reservations opened for Club Mahindra, I reserved the rooms based on the draft plan.


01.02.2016 Ė Club Mahindra Resorts booked for Shimla, Manali and Dharamshala.


So major parts taken care, flight tickets, self-drive car and resorts at Shimla, Manali and Dharamshala. With this I started refining the plan. I took some three weeks to make some notes and make a plan of action in Shimla and Manali. It was very clear that Shimla to Manali in a day can be avoided with a break at Mandi. On searching through online portals Hotel Shingar, Mandi came up as a good option. In MakeMyTrip I could get a 4 bedded family room with breakfast for Rs 1237 (Rates displayed as 3000 before discount). I have been there in Dec 2015 while on a drive, so did not think twice and booked the same. After booking released one day from the 4 days booked at Club Mahindra Manali

It was staring to look good. Reach Delhi on the morning of 30.04.2016. Get the car and drive to Shimla, and stay for the night at Shimla. Then explore nearby areas for 3 full days. On 04.05.2016 Drive to Mandi. On 05.05.2016 drive from Mandi to Manali and explore Manali for three days. Then on 08.05.2016 drive to Dharamshala and explore there for three days, and then drive to Dalhousie on 11.05.2016.

Thus, the dates became obvious for the stay at Dalhousie. We had two choices, stay at Dalhousie or even better at Khajjiar. On checking HPTDC Khajjiar offered good rates for 4 bedded family room. Immediately booked a Devdar Suite at HPTDC Hotel Devdar at Khajjiar for two nights from 11.05.2016 at Rs 2900 per night

Now for the plan for 13.05.2016 was to start the return to Delhi, via Amritsar. So quickly booked a hotel in Amritsar. GoIbibo had a good offer on Hotel Hongkong Inn, Amritsar. We wanted a 4-bedded family room, but instead they had 2 double bedded rooms with an internal connecting door. Published rates were Rs4600 for both the rooms, and after GoIbiboís discount offer we got the same for Rs3000.

After break at Amritsar, the next day 14.05.2016 we wanted to be back in Delhi, so that there is no risk to catch our flights back to Bangalore on 15.05.2016 and also I could use the full day to shop components for my Civic, catchup with some friends and eat out etc.

I wanted to stay near Delhi Airport and GoIbibo had an offer on Hotel Airport City. A 4-bedded family room was published at Rs 4900, and after discounts at Rs 3000. Immediately booked the same.


All room bookings done.


25.02.2016 Ė All room bookings done. Mandi, Dalhousie, Amritsar, Delhi booked


Thus, by end of February 2016, we are all set.


Air Tickets - Done (Rs 41500)
Self Drive Car - Done (Rs 48000)
Room Bookings - Done (Rs 13000 + Club Mahindra Rooms)

Day 01 : 30/04/2016 : Saturday : Club Mahindra Shimla
Day 02 : 01/05/2016 : Sunday : Club Mahindra Shimla
Day 03 : 02/05/2016 : Monday : Club Mahindra Shimla
Day 04 : 03/05/2016 : Tuesday : Club Mahindra Shimla
Day 05 : 04/05/2016 : Wednesday : Hotel Shingar Mandi (Rs 1237)
Day 06 : 05/05/2016 : Thursday : Club Mahindra Manali
Day 07 : 06/05/2016 : Friday : Club Mahindra Manali
Day 08 : 07/05/2016 : Saturday : Club Mahindra Manali
Day 09 : 08/05/2016 : Sunday : Club Mahindra DharamShala
Day 10 : 09/05/2016 : Monday : Club Mahindra DharamShala
Day 11 : 10/05/2016 : Tuesday : Club Mahindra DharamShala
Day 12 : 11/05/2016 : Wednesday : HPTDC Hotel Devdar Khajjiar (Rs 2900)
Day 13 : 12/05/2016 : Thursday : HPTDC Hotel Devdar Khajjiar (Rs 2900)
Day 14 : 13/05/2016 : Friday : Hotel Hongkong Inn Amritsar (Rs 3000)
Day 15 : 14/05/2016 : Saturday : Hotel Airport City Delhi (Rs 3000)
Day 16 : 15/05/2016 : Sunday : Home Sweet Home Bangalore




But what is the drive plan?





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Old 29th November 2016, 20:13   #3
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Default re: Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems

It was March 2016. I had only march to finalize and put in place the drive plan, since April I had to be on my drive to North East.

Almost another two weeks down, I could publish a plan for the drive.

The Plan
Day 01 : 30/04/2016 : Saturday : Bangalore -> Delhi -Kasauli - Mashobra (450 KMs)
Day 02 : 01/05/2016 : Sunday : Mashobra - Chail - Junga - Mashobra (120 Kms)
Day 03 : 02/05/2016 : Monday : Mashobra - Simla - Mashobra (50 Kms)
Day 04 : 03/05/2016 : Tuesday : Mashobra - Narkhanda - Theog - Hatkoti - Mashobra (310 Kms)
Day 05 : 04/05/2016 : Wednesday : Mashobra - Shaily Peak - Naldehra - Tatapani - Rewalsar - Mandi (300 Kms)
Day 06 : 05/05/2016 : Thursday : Mandi - Parashar Lake - Kullu - Manali (180 Kms)
Day 07 : 06/05/2016 : Friday : Manali - Manikaran - Tosh - Malana - Jagatsukh - Manali (250 kms)
Day 08 : 07/05/2016 : Saturday : Manali - Rohtang Pass - Solang - Vasisht - Hadimba Temple - Manali (150 Kms)
Day 09 : 08/05/2016 : Sunday : Manali - Mandi - Bir - Billing - Baijnath - Palampur - DharamShala (260 Kms)
Day 10 : 09/05/2016 : Monday : Dharamshala (50 Kms)
Day 11 : 10/05/2016 : Tuesday : Dharamshala (50 Kms)
Day 12 : 11/05/2016 : Wednesday : Dharamshala - Kangra - Jwalamukhi - Masrur - Khajjiar (230 Kms)
Day 13 : 12/05/2016 : Thursday : Khajjiar - Dalhousie - Kalatop - Khajjiar (125 Kms)
Day 14 : 13/05/2016 : Friday : Khajjiar - Wagah - Amritsar (300 Kms)
Day 15 : 14/05/2016 : Saturday : Amritsar - Delhi (600 Kms)
Day 16 : 15/05/2016 : Sunday : Delhi (75 Kms) -> Bangalore


Approximately 3500 Kms

We used to discuss about this during our dinner for the next couple of days and the plan was more or less agreed.
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Old 29th November 2016, 20:39   #4
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Default re: Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems

Actual Drive Plan

Day 01 : 30/04/2016 : Saturday : Bangalore -> Delhi -Ambala - Panchkula - Kalka - Kaasuli -Simla - Mashobra (402 KMs)
Day 02 : 01/05/2016 : Sunday : Mashobra - Kufri - Chail -Kali Tibba - Sadhupul - Junga - Mashobra (118 Kms)
Day 03 : 02/05/2016 : Monday : Mashobra - Jakhu Temple - Simla Mall Road - Mashobra (55 Kms)
Day 04 : 03/05/2016 : Tuesday : Mashobra - Theog - Narkhanda - Hatu Peak - Kotgarh - Dalan - Theog - Mashobra (181 Kms)
Day 05 : 04/05/2016 : Wednesday : Mashobra - Naldehra - Chaba - Tatapani - Baragta - Kumaru - Pandar - Ner Chowk - Rewalsar - Mandi (186 Kms)
Day 06 : 05/05/2016 : Thursday : Mandi - Parashar Lake - Kullu - Bhekli Temple - Naggar - Manali 178 Kms)
Day 07 : 06/05/2016 : Friday : Manali - Solang - Rohtang - Vasisht - Hadimba Temple - Manu Temple - JagatSukh - Manali (92 Kms)
Day 08 : 07/05/2016 : Saturday : Manali - Manikaran - Tosh - Malana - Mall Road - Manali (237 Kms)
Day 09 : 08/05/2016 : Sunday : Manali - Aut - Pandoh - Mandi - Bir - Billing - Baijnath - Palampur - DharamShala (264 Kms)
Day 10 : 09/05/2016 : Monday : Dharamshala - Tapovan - Saurabh Van Vihar Palampore - TashiJong Monastery - Taragarh Palace - Jwalamukhi - Masrur - DharamShala (223 Kms)
Day 11 : 10/05/2016 : Tuesday : Dharamshala - McLeod Ganj - Bhagsu Nag Temple - Dal Lake - SunSet point - Cricket Ground - Kangra Fort - DharamShala (100 Kms)
Day 12 : 11/05/2016 : Wednesday : Dharamshala - Nurbulingka - Indru Naag - Khajjiar (153 Kms)
Day 13 : 12/05/2016 : Thursday : Khajjiar - Kalatop - Dainikund - Panchpula - Dalhousie - Khajjiar (72 Kms)
Day 14 : 13/05/2016 : Friday : Khajjiar - Chamba - Chamera Dam - Taleru - Wagah - Amritsar (650 Kms)
Day 15 : 14/05/2016 : Saturday : Amritsar - Nangal - Bhakra - Naina Devi - Anadpur Sahib - Chandigarh - Delhi (632 Kms)
Day 16 : 15/05/2016 : Sunday : Delhi (79 Kms) -> Bangalore

Total 3622 Kms


Day wise route map on Google

Day 01
Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems-day01.jpg

Day 02
Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems-day02.jpg

Day 03
Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems-day03.jpg

Day 04
Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems-day04.jpg

Day 05
Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems-day05.jpg

Day 06
Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems-day06.jpg

Day 07
Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems-day07.jpg

Day 08
Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems-day08.jpg

Day 09
Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems-day09.jpg

Day 10
Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems-day10.jpg

Day 11
Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems-day11.jpg

Day 12
Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems-day12.jpg

Day 13
Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems-day13.jpg

Day 14
Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems-day14.jpg

Day 15
Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems-day15.jpg

Day 16
Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems-day16.jpg
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Old 29th November 2016, 21:43   #5
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Default re: Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems

Some Teasers.

Most pictures are clicked from my mobile this time, since I was too lazy to pick up my trusted D90. Hope you like them.

Gateway to Himachal Pradesh
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Toy Train Track and Shimla Road
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, Poor yaks
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View of Chail
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Chail Palace
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Maharani and Choti Ranis
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Kali Tibba
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Junga
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Mall Road Shimla

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Checking out the Dramatics Club

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Old 29th November 2016, 22:07   #6
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Deserted Bungalow
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Essence of Shimla, Railway track, hills and Jakhu temple far away
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Kalka Shimla Toy Train
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Evening at Mall Road

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Happy faces at Shimla Mall Road
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Hatu Peak
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Oranges?
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Naldehra Golf Course
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Miles to go
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River for Company
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Old 29th November 2016, 22:38   #7
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In search of Shiv Gufa
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Natural Fish Spa

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Satluj
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Beautiful House
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Wish I lived here
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Rewalsar Lake

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Soaking in the environment
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Prashar lake
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The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man
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Raja Rupi
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Old 29th November 2016, 22:56   #8
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Who is this beauty?
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Kullu from up above

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Beas and girls
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Himachali temple
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At Naggar Castle
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Naggar
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Roerich's Gallery

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Snow peaks
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Snow peaks so near
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Time for some fun in snow
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Old 29th November 2016, 23:09   #9
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Solang Rope way
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Vasisht Temple
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Hadimba Temple
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Manu Temple
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Jagatsukh Temple
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Strolling in the resort
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Enjoying the resort garden
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Snow peaks
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View from Tosh village
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Symmetry at Malana village
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Old 29th November 2016, 23:28   #10
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Default re: Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems

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Himachali architecture

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The hour long trek to Malana Village
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Twisty curvy roads

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A trickle of a waterfall by the road
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Tunnels
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Fields
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Beas

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Mall Road, Manali
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By the side of Pandoh Dam

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Victoria Bridge
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continued...
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Old 29th November 2016, 23:40   #11
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Default re: Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems

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Checked out paragliding
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Landing point
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Friendship drive
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Baijnath temple
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In the woods
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Gyuto Karmapa Temple
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Taragarh Palace

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Its now a hotel
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Jwalamukhi Temple
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Masrur Rock Cut temple

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continued...
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Old 29th November 2016, 23:50   #12
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Default re: Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems

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Church of St. John in the Wilderness

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Tibet Museum
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Naam Art Gallery
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Kangra Fort
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Norbulingka institute

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Doggie from Norbulingka
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View of Dharamshala
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Dharamshala Cricket Stadium
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St. Johns church

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Subash Chowk
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Old 30th November 2016, 00:07   #13
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Default re: Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems

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Khajjiar
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Girls at Khajjiar, Switzerland of Himachal Pradesh
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Did it just snow at Khajjiar?
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Board says Switzerland 6194Kms
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View of Khajjiar and Peer Panjal Range of Himalayas

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Way to Kala Top
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Dainikund
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Pohlani Mata Temple
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Chamera Dam Reservoir
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Blue Blue waters
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Chamera Dam
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Snow peaks at a distance

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Old 30th November 2016, 00:18   #14
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Default re: Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems

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At Wagah!
Completely avoidable wasteful expense of time
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PPGs at Golden Temple
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Peaceful by the banks of Sutlej
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Bhakra reservoir

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Guru Gobind Sagar
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Rope way to Naina Devi temple
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Chandigarh Rock Garden

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Rock garden
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Stroll through Hauz Khas

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continued...
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Old 30th November 2016, 00:34   #15
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Default re: Himachal Pradesh: Summer Holidays on the hills, exploring touristy spots & some hidden gems

Some More Teasers, this time FOOOOOOD!!

At World Peace Cafe, Vasisht
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We had our share of Trouts
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Tibetan Food at Norling , Bir

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At Coffee Talk, McLeod Ganj
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At Coffee Talk
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Spanish Omelette at Coffee talk
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Pizza from The Hill Side Mall, DharamShala

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Burger from Smoke house Deli, Hauz Khas
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Steak from Smoke house Deli, Hauz Khas
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Goli Soda!!
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We were often welcomed back in our rooms with such creative works.
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I will shortly start the day by day account. Tilkl then enjoy the teasers and shoot some queries and comments.
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