Quick Guide Palampur, Himachal Pradesh

From century old rolling tea plantations and paddy fields to old temples and churches, Palampur, is the best weekend getaway from Delhi for those looking to reconnect with nature
Quick Guide Palampur, Himachal Pradesh

Fast facts

State Himachal Pradesh
Distance 516 km NW of Delhi
When to go All year round. The weather is best in summer, but this is the height of the tourist season
Tourist Offices HPTDC , Hotel Tea-Bud, Near Mission Compound, Palampur Tel 01894-231298
HPTDC, Chandralok Building, 36, Janpath New Delhi
Tel 011-23325320/ 4764 STD code 01894
web hptdc.nic.in

Getting there
Air Nearest airport Gaggal, Kangra (38 km/50 mins).
Rail Nearest railhead Pathankot Cantt (103 km/31/2 hrs) 
Road route from Delhi - NH1 to Ambala via Panipat and Karnal NH22 to Zirakpur via Dera Bassi NH21 to Kiratpur via Chandigarh, Kurali, Rupnagar and Ghanauli SH to Amb via Anandpur Sahib, Nangal and Una NH70 to Kaloha state road to Ranital via Pragpur, Nehran Pukhar and Dera Gopipur NH88 to Mataur via Kangra NH20 to Palampur via Nagrota Bagwan As the road climbs from Gaggal to Palampur, the distant, snow-dusted Dhauladhars send up a cool welcome. The Dhauladhars hold a lot of promise. This offshoot of the Himalaya rises suddenly and dramatically above the Kangra Valley, offering a perfect arena for that vertiginous sport &ndash hang-gliding. Its peaks, traversed daily by shepherds herding huge flocks, are relatively some of the easiest to climb. Just beyond lie the mighty passes and peaks of Bara Bhangal and the Pir Panjal. Over these come Siberian ducks and bar-headed geese from Tibet, escaping the harsh Central Asian winter to the warmth of the Kangra Valley.

After the destruction caused by the 1905 earthquake that scarred its lands and people, and the latter-day migration of people from the plains to the hills, the signs of Palampur&rsquos ancient, tribal roots are fading. What&rsquos more visible is Palampur&rsquos recent history &ndash the advent of the British and tea in the mid-19th century. Some of its rolling tea estates have been producing fine Kangra teas for over a hundred years.

Palampur&rsquos magic lies today in the mountains, in the charming Raj-era narrow gauge railway track, tea plantations, hill-paddy fields, pockets of thick wooded slopes that are home to the monal, leopard and fox, Gaddi villages and old temples and settlements. And the opportunities to reconnect with nature&rsquos glories are aplenty here in the lap of the Dhauladhars. The valleys of Palampur are crisscrossed with tiny streams that drain the Dhauladhars, feed the mighty Beas, and give the town its name. Easy trails lead down to these trout-filled streams and all over the bird-filled hills.

Things to see and do
Within Palampur, you can visit a tea cooperative and a church, browse through the market, or get an Ayurvedic cure. And do not leave without a picnic by the banks of one of its streams, such as the Awa or Bandla.

Palampur Cooperative Tea Factory
Situated on the highway just before one enters the market from the Kangra side, the factory, set up in 1952, produces 4,000 tonnes of tea every day between April and November. Here, the tea collected from plantations is dried, sorted into fine and coarse tea leaves, humidified, withered, rolled, fermented and dried. Finally it is sorted and graded before being shipped off, most of it to Kolkata&rsquos tea auction houses. Purchase the perfect souvenir at the sales counter.  Entry to the factory is free, but you will need to take the manager&rsquos permission.

Church of St John in the Wilderness
Rebuilt after the 1905 earthquake, this single-nave whitewashed church is currently being managed by the Church of North India, Amritsar Diocese. Its original structure is said to have been a twin of the more famous one in Forsythganj, just below McLeodganj. A plaque inside the church announces that its foundation was laid by the same Sir Thomas Douglas Forsyth KCSI, CB, after whom Forsythganj is named.

Situated directly opposite Palampur Agricultural University, Kayakalp is the Himalayan Research Institute for Yoga and Naturopathy. Run by the Vivekananda Medical Research Trust, it offers daylong and week-long (or longer) therapies that include basic naturopathy treatments. Stay options vary from INR 800-2,250 per bed per day. For more about the centre, visit kayakalppalampur.com.

Holta Tea Estate
All that remains of the original Holta Estate is the Chandpur Estate run by the Sarin family, who also run Country Cottage within the estate as a homestay. The estate is located in the Holta Cantonment and is accessed by a public road. Hence it is possible to drive or walk through this estate even if you are not staying here, and visit the Jhatni Mata Temple that sits on the edge of the mountain ridge surrounding Holta.

Tashijong Monastery
Famous for the Dzongsar Institute of Higher Learning, Tashijong belongs to Tibetan Buddhism&rsquos Kagyu sect and together with Sherabling near Baijnath and Palyul Cheotherling at Bir, is among the oldest in the region. All three were built in the mid-1970s by Tibetan refugees.

Where to stay and eat
In the city, Hotel Yamini (Tel 01894-230632 Tariff INR 1,200-4,500 yaminihotel.com) is among the better options, a neat hotel with 23 rooms, a restaurant and gym. Hotel Surbhi (Tel 232727 Tariff INR 880-2,200 www.surbhigroup.in), near Hotel Yamini, has a restaurant. Highland Regency (Tel 231222 Tariff INR 800-1,410) is a budget option near the new bus stand.

Commanding a 15-acre wooded estate and surrounded by tea gardens, the former military bastion of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab was converted by the Nawab of Bahawalpur in 1931 into an elaborate residence. Today, Taragarh Palace Hotel (Tel 242034 Tariff INR 5,000-7,000 www.taragarh.com) is the area&rsquos star attraction. Tiger skins, Kangra miniatures and Tibetan thangkas are displayed on the walls.

Chandpur Estate&rsquos Country Cottage (Tel 230173, 230647 Tariff INR 2,900-3,800 www.countrycottageindia.com), has six independent cottages set amid the oldest tea estate in Palampur. Silver Oaks Mountain Resort (Cell 09418008220 Tariff INR 1,500-3,500) is beautifully located in a tea estate at Bandla. HPTDC&rsquos Hotel Tea-Bud (Tel 231298 Tariff INR 1,600-2,600 www.hptdc.nic.in hptdc.gov.in) is located near the tea gardens on the road to the Bandla chasm. It has a restaurant and a travel desk. Vacations Holiday Resort (Tel 232099 Tariff INR 550-1,500), also in the Bandla area, has rooms, a dorm and a restaurant. Green Acre Cottage (Cell 09814299139 Tariff INR 700-2,000 gacpalampur.com) offers rooms and cottages at Chimbalhar on the Dharamshala Road, and has a restaurant.

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