The go-to summer destination for anyone living within or around 200 kms of Delhi, saw its worst tourist season yet, with water shortage forcing Shimla to shut its doors to visitors for 2 weeks. Heavy construction, hour-long jams in the hills and frustrated, speeding drivers add to the situation in Shimla. Sadly though, it isn’t just the main city that’s heavily populated, but an ongoing traffic from Solan till Shimla that makes it difficult to get anywhere else as well- including Naldehra and Mashobra.
Luckily though, Naldehra is the lesser populated part of Shimla and the better option between the two if you’re looking to get some fresh mountain air instead of the pollution that Shimla is about to throw at you. This can be said for the summer months, where Shimla feels like any other city- only more crowded, surprisingly hotter and in throws of absolute chaos. Watch our vlog from our weekend getaway at Naldehra:
Ah, the glorious tourist season! It could take anywhere between 9-11 hours from Delhi to Naldehra during the peak tourism months (including the jams) and anywhere between 7-8 hours during non-peak season. This is purely because Shimla and Solan fall on the same route and receive tourists by the bus load, and it doesn’t help that every available space has been auctioned off to people looking for new holiday homes and potential hotels- or even vast parking spaces for these buses.
We rented an Airbnb in Shimla, called The Willow Willow, an apartment at the edge of a mountain that looked over a massive valley. The Willow Willow is an airy apartment with 2 bedrooms, a kitchen and a seating area, and a cozy balcony made for morning coffee and sighing at the view. The main bedroom opens into the balcony- and into the valley. They have a cook and cleaning staff on call, and they make simple but delicious home-cooked meals- additionally chargeable.
There are other stay options available, including The Chalets, Woodstock, and the cottages at the Naldehra Golf Course (among others) but we found that picking an Airbnb was more economical, a lot more comfortable and gave us space some lounging space- since we were traveling with friends. The Chalets is one of the best stay options in the area, although an expensive one. They have a revolving restaurant with a 360 degree view of the hills, and though we visited during the summer, it was easy to see that it would look magical in the winter with snow-covered fir trees on all sides and white mountain peaks for miles. The food was below average and so was the service, that didn’t quite justify the prices they were charging.
Do and Eat:
The Chalets has a revolving restaurant with a 360 degree view of the hills, and though we visited during the summer, it was easy to see that it would look magical in the winter with snow-covered fir trees on all sides and white mountain peaks for miles. The food was below average and so was the service, that didn’t quite justify the prices they were charging.
There’s little to do in Naldehra but to take in the fresh mountain breeze, wander along the golf course or simply fit in a round of golf with some buddies.
There’s a short 1 km trail along the golf course that leads to a clearing among the trees with stalls serving tea, maggi, eggs and other on-the-spot snacks. Most horse owners would have you believe that the trail is an hour long, steep and exhausting, in an attempt to lure you into hiring a pony.
First, this isn’t true. It’s a 10 minute steep walk to the cafes, and if you visit early evening there are many secluded spots around the area that have the potential to turn into beautiful picnic spots. From where we sat, we watched the sun set behind the trees and over the hills, an orange hue in the sky as we lay in the dry grass in a happy daze that one can only find in the mountains.
Second, and more importantly, please consider the conditions in which these animals are kept and the pain this labour costs them. For a few moments of convenience, we are encouraging an industry that is harming these animals through the harnesses attached to their bodies, the pulling and tugging they undergo everyday, and the weight of carrying human beings along the same steep paths we expect to be carried along.
You could also consider driving to Mashobra or to other nearby hill stations that are a few kilometres away from Shimla. The Oberoi Cecil is located in Mashobra and you could consider dropping by for coffee. Wildflower Hall is a little away from Shimla as well, but they no longer allow non-residents to drop by for coffee or to use the restaurant. It’s best to call first and check before driving to either of these places, since the rules keep changing based on the time of year.
Naldehra doesn’t have any hillstation cafes or bakeries, besides the restaurant at The Chalets and another one at Woodstock, aside from the odd maggi joint and dhaba. This is why its crucial to pick a stay option that can offer economically priced meals- at least dinner. In that respect, our Airbnb came through. We lazed around, lounging at picnic spots, hiking along thin trails and drove around the hills in the evening. But that’s exactly what we were looking for- a quiet break with fresh air, some sunshine and a lot of silence.