Kandaghat is a small highway town, about 30 kilometres ahead of Shimla when travelling from Delhi or Chandigarh. I had crossed it many times on my way and back from the capital of Himachal Pradesh. But not until I won the Dream Trails contest with Club Mahindra did I get a chance to explore and stay here.
While Kandaghat in itself has very few things to do, it is the adjacent towns like Chail which add to the list.
What to do
Hike up to Skanda Mata Temple
From Club Mahindra Kandaghat, I could spot the white concrete Skanda Mata Temple. My first morning here began at sunrise. I tied my hiking shoes and warmed up before a moderate trek to the temple. This temple is believed to be quite old but was constructed to its current form in 2004.
The first 10 minutes of the hike was on the concrete highway and then we took a steep trail cutting through the hill. In the first half, the trail was made of stoney gravels and then it magically transformed to dry earth with a very little grass on the sides. On the other hand, the view remained static. Between the grey shaded highway and the sunny azure sky, I seemed to ascend through a few hills towards the sky. The temple, however, was nowhere in sight.
After a steep 50 minutes walk, Narendra, my guide, pointed to a white speck against the sky. That was the temple, which was only 10 minutes away. To me, it definitely did not look that close! Trying to maintain my stamina, I scaled upwards. And in the 20 minutes I reached the red walls of the temple.
Here we spent a short time and then began our descend. Narendra showed me tricks to walk safely through the rocky trail. In the next 20 minutes, we covered a distance of 3.5 kilometres back to the main highway.
Visit Kali Ka Tibba
About 35 kilometres away from Kandaghat, driving towards Chail is the famous temple—Kali ka Tibba. This temple has been made on top of a hill (tibba, in local language, means hilltop) .
As we (I had company) drove along the white facade of the temple, I realised how high was this temple. The temple premises also had shrines of Ganesh, Shiva and Hanuman. Neither of the temples were spectacular, though the panoramic view from the hilltop was outstanding. I walked on the marble floor around the temple premises, hoping to locate any familiar structure (my hotel), but in vain. On a clear day, one can see as far as Chandigarh from there.
Experience Royalty of the Chail Palace
From Kali ka Tibba we went to the neighbouring Chail Palace. Dating back to 1891, this palace was the royal resort of Maharaja of Patiala. It was a mix of modern architecture from the outside with heritage interiors. The chandeliers and carpets added the palatial feel. We spent some time in the massive lawn, soaking up the winter sun.
If you are a member (and staying at Club Mahindra Kandaghat) you won’t have to look too far to keep yourself busy. I tried their awesome zipline. Completely safe, I loved going through the pine trees while screaming my lungs out and attracting unnecessary attention of the villagers.
You can also try archery and other target sports. I tried shooting with air pellets and it was fun. I got 20 pellets and knocked down quite a few designs on my target board.
They other activities in the hotel premises include indoor games like table tennis, chess; nature trails in and around the property, and adventure sports like rock climbing and Burma bridge. In other words, you are unlikely to get bored!
Where to eat
As we made our way back to Kandaghat from Chail, Sadhupul was our mid-way lunch stop. The scenes here were quite different. I opened my Club Mahindra packed lunch and noticed many cars with blaring music parked on the slim river. A number of small restaurants and tents dotted the river. After lunch, I leisurely walked along the river and then made my way back to Kandaghat.
There are a number of small eateries in Sadhupul. Though their service is questionable and tremendously slow, the food looked appetising. I heard customers order maggi, chicken noodles and similar dishes. Don’t expect anything too fancy or elaborate.
Where to stay
I stayed at the very big and spacious Club Mahindra Kandaghat. There rooms are huge and the plentiful open space is charming. My room opened up to the eastern side and as a result I could see the sun rise. Club Mahindra is especially good for family holidays because it has activities and spaces for people across age group. The food here caters to all tastes and palates too.
If you’re not a member of Club Mahindra, there are a number of other highway hotels you can pick from. I haven’t stayed at but Hotel Falcon Crest looked suitable.
Where to shop
While I love local markets and small grocery stores, I didn’t get a chance to shop for local ingredients and pulses on this trip. There are a number of such shops in Solan, only 18 kilometres or half hour drive away from Kandaghat.
If you would like to shop for Indian crafts and jewellery, Chail Palace has a counter of Tribes India. I have bought generously from their stores across the country. Choose between east India’s Dhokra, Ladakhi beads or Himachali jackets and shawls, you are likely to find something authentically regional here. Prices are nominal.
The closest airport is Chandigarh airport. It takes about 3 hours or 100 kilometres drive upwards.
Alternatively, you could do the long bus journey from Delhi to Shimla and get off at Solan. Request for a pick up from there.
Good to know
-I expected Kandaghat to be noisy and dusty. It was neither.
-If you’re looking for snow, you could visit Chail or Barog. The latter is about 30 kilometres ahead of Kandaghat.
-I noticed a camper/hiker pitch a tent and burn some wood to keep her/himself warm. Please don’t burn wood or light up a bonfire in the mountains.
Have you been to Kandaghat yet?
Note: This was a contest win and my stay was hosted by Club Mahindra.