Chail and Kasauli the gems of Himachal perfect for a weekend getaway from Delhi
Delhi is blessed to have lots of weekend it the hills (Kasauli, Mussourie, Chail, Shimla) or Jungle safari at Sariska, Ranthambhore,Corbett  or river rafting at Rishikesh besides the evergreen Jaipur and Agra.

 Early this year in January, few of us decided to drive down to our favourite weekend destination - Kasauli. Despite the cold, the lure of fresh oxygen was enough to get us going. 

By 2 pm we were on the Karnal road, away from the Delhi traffic. The roads were largely clear of traffic on this stretch and we drove past few of the coconut sellers on the main road (how they end up getting permission to sell on the main road is another thing though - ideally they should be on the service lane with no stops allowed on the main road, but thats for another day). Since we had left after our lunch, we were keen to make it to Kasauli by 9 pm, couple of coffee breaks notwithstanding.

Just after the first toll, we stopped by for coffee at CCD at 51 Milestone. The hot Americano did the trick for me while it was the strong filter coffee at Sagar Ratna next door for the rest. Once we were back at the parking spot, the guard who was conspicuous by his absence till then, suddenly surfaced to open the doors for us!

The short break and the caffeine had the necessary impact - songs on the music system followed by antakshari kept us all engaged. As the sunset approached, the air was getting nippier. Our next pit stop was closer to Zirakpur. After the toll at Dera bassi, there is a food court of sorts onto your left with some famous names such as Haldirams, Nik Bakers, Keventers to name a few. The washrooms here are very clean and it has all kinds of food types....just a km ahead you also have Mc Donald, Burger King and KFC so for all those who want to go for that, don't stop here.

After a short break, we were soon on the roads and very quickly onto the Himalayan Expressway going towards Shimla. The air was crisp and cold and it was getting dark though there were a fair number of vehicles headed towards the hills, despite being the month of January.
We called up our hotel for dinner while still on the road and made online payment- That done, we were now more relieved that dinner would be ready by the time we reached. 

It seemed that the work was still going on the hills (road widening so that it would be ready by summer months, i guess).
Once at the hotel, we sat around a small bonfire and enjoyed the fresh air and the sight of so many stars above. Some light music and some barbecue snacks and we were soon ready to call it a day - more so after our drive.

The following morning, we woke up to some beautiful views of the sunrise from our rooms. A walk in the mountains really does rejuvenate the body and the mind. After a sumptuous breakfast of Aloo and Gobhi Parathas and some eggs, we decided to drive upto Chail for a day, especially since the day was clear and the roads less crowded for a Saturday.

Chail, is approximately 65 km from Kasauli (its approximately the same distance to Shimla too from Kasauli) and takes approximately 2 hours to reach. We took the route via Barog, Solan, Kandaghat and were at our destination before lunch. Chail is a haven for those interested in trekking and hiking.

While there are various versions as to how Chail came up as a hill station, one of the them is that the Maharaja of Patiala was banned from entering Shimla. Smarting under the insult, he created a summer capital that was higher than the average height of Shimla, yet within the sight of Shimla. Surrounded by deodhar trees, it is indeed a majestic place. The Maharajas Palace itself is now a resort and looks very impressive.
Being an avid cricket fan, he made a cricket ground in Chail - the highest in the world.

Besides the Chail Palace and the Chail cricket ground, one could go to the Sidh Baba ka Mandir. Legend has it that a saint appeared in the Maharaja's dream and told him about a place as his place of meditation. The temple is extremely popular amongst the locals and the travellers.

We decided to go for a short trek to Kali ka tiba.  It is a short trek of around 6 km and it sits atop a hill. The surroundings are very beautiful and the view from the top is really good especially that of Choor Chandni.

The view from the hotel was that of the mountains and the silence of the place really added to the beauty. Like the previous night, we had another round of barbecue snacks by the bonfire. 

Himachal, while it has some really beautiful places, however we all agreed  that both Kasauli and Chail were indeed gems - maybe because they were not as crowded or maybe because they were less complicated - fewer cars, unspoilt, serene and not as commercialised as yet. We really hope that it stays that way.
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