India on the Road

From Ambala to Dalhousie

Rohaba Fort, Ludhiana
Rohaba Fort, Ludhiana
19 APR 2016
by

Route: Ambala – Khanna – Ludhiana – Jalandhar – Mukerian – Pathankot – Nurpur – Banikhet – Dalhousie
Distance: 370 Kms
Driving Time: 8 Hours

Ambala

Ambala is basically a Cantonment city founded by the British in the year 1843. It is ideally situated at an elevation, which is all of 274 meters high. Ambala is also a district headquarter and bustling commercial hub in the state of Haryana. Apart from industries, the city is renowned for its natural lakes and some of the largest lakes in Haryana can be found in this city. The city is replete with ancient and medival places of religious congregations. A visit to the city’s shrines that are well spread out can be a very rewarding experience. The three most revered Gurudwaras vis-à-vis the Badshahi Bag Gurudwara, the Sis Ganj Gurudwara, and the Manji Sahib Gurudwara are “must visit” sites for any traveler to Ambala. These Gurudwaras were in the distant past associated with several Sikh Gurus like Guru Govind Singh, Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Hargovind. Ambala is well connected by both road and rail links to the rest of India.

What to See:
Bhawani Amba Temple, Kali Mata Temple, The Badshahi Bag Gurdwara, Manji Sahib Gurdwara, Sangat Sahib Gurdwara, Sis Ganj Gurdwara, Muslim shrines of Lakhi Shah and Taqwal Shah, St.Paul’s Church, Old British Cemetery, Patel Park in Ambala Cantt, City Park.

Where to Stay:
Haryana Tourism run King Fisher is very popular with the discerning visitors to Ambala. Other hotels like Batra Palace, Four Seasons and Cicil too offer decent accommodation options.

Where to Eat:
The quintessential Punjabi Dhabas are everywhere offering the very best of the earthy Punjabi and Tandoori food. However, for sumptuous meals, King Fisher, Batra Palace, Four Seasons and Cicil are much preferred by visitors.

What to Buy:
Leather bags, shoe and purses.

Khanna

From Ambala, drive on NH – 1 via Rajpura to Khanna, which is located at a distance of 72 Kms. Khanna is a quaint municipal town located in the district of Ludhiana in the state of Punjab. There is a legend associated with the naming of the town. “The word “Khanna” in Punjabi means “One Quarter” or 1/4th . The town was so named because its small size. Presently the town of Khanna is one of Asia’s biggest Grain Market and is also renowned for its Steel Industries. If historical records are anything to go by, Mughal Emperor Sher Shah Suri had built numerous “Sarais” or inns at regular intervals along the famed Delhi-Lahore road. Legend has it that one of the Sarais was constructed in Khanna, which is popularly referred to as the “Purani Sarai”.

What to See:
Grain Market, the Gurudwaras and shrines.

Where to Eat:
Like any other rural towns of Punjab, Khanna too has numerous Dhabas and it is never difficult to locate one where one can relish anything ranging from Sarson Ka Saag and Makkai Ki Roti to the fiery Rogan Jos.

What to Buy:
Traditional Punjabi handloom products.

Ludhiana

As you drive onward from Khanna along the NH-1, the city of Ludhiana, which is located at a distance of 41 Kms. appears on the horizon. The city of Ludhiana was founded by two Princes belonging to the Lodhi dynasty in the year 1480. It is ideally located on the south bank of river Sutlej. There are many Gurudwaras in Ludhiana and some of them have meticulously preserved many of the memoirs of Sri Guru Govind Singh. However, Ludhiana is most renowned for its industrial products and items like Resham Silk, woolen garments as well as cotton garments have earned recognition not only in India but in overseas markets as well. In Ludhiana, you will come across the University of Ludhiana that has played a pioneering role in ushering and sustaining the “Green Revolution” in Punjab and Haryana. Another industrial landmark of Ludhiana is the world famous – “Hero Cycle” factory and manufacturing unit.

What to See:
Rakh Bagh Park, Nehru Rose Garden, Tiger Safari, Traffic Park, Hardy’s World, Leisure Valley, Fountain Chowk, Nehru Planetarium, City Kotwali, Guru Nanak Bhawan, Jassal Art Gallery, Museum of Rural Life, Uppal Museum, Lodhi Fort, the Gurudwaras and Muslim shrines.

Where to Eat:
People of Ludhiana are very fond of food and the city’s Tandoori cuisine is renowned throughout the world. Yuvraj Restaurant, The Yellow Chilli, Nutri Max Foods, Mahek Pure Vegetarian, Chick-Fi Fast Food Restaurant, Bansi Vaishnu Dhaba, Gazeebo Restaurant and Bits & Pieces are very popular.

Where to Stay:
Hotel Nagpal Regency, Hotel Maharaja Regency, Hotel Friends Regency, Hotel Grand Marian, Hotel Nanda, Hotel Aditya, Hotel City Heart Sarovar Portico, Hotel Ivory Retreat, Hotel Hallmark.

What to Buy:
Hosiery items, Shawls and blankets.

Jalandhar

From Ludhiana, a brisk drive of 59 Kms. on NH-1 via Phillaur and Phagwara takes you to Jallandhar. Jalandhar is an old city of Punjab and in the distant past it used to be the capital of a Hindu king. The city survived being sacked by Muhammed of Ghazni nearly a thousand years ago and the city has a huge “Sarai” built in the year 1857. The city is also the headquarters of the Punjab Armed Police. Jalandhar was the capital of Punjab till the year 1953 with an elevation of 751 feet. The city has carved a niche for itself when it comes to sports goods, leather goods as well as automobile parts. Jalandhar also has a thriving surgical tool industry and it isn’t surprising to know that the city is replete with numerous hospitals, big and small. Cricketing icon – Harbhajan Singh hails from Jalandhar and the city has given its share of Bhangra musicians of the stature of Apache Indian, Jasbir, Hans Raj and others of their ilk who have popularized the Bhangra Music at the world stage.

What to See:
Devi Talab Mandir, Tulsi Mandir, Gurudwara Chhevin Patshahi, Shaheed-E-Azam Sardar Bhagat Singh Museum, Adampur, Alwarpur, Banga, Nawanshahar.

Where to Stay:
The Maya Hotel (Tel: 0181-2244494), The Regent Park (2203597), Hotel Dolphin (2621177), Hotel Sekhon Grand (2222599), Leo Inn (2244890), Radisson Hotel (4671234), Hotel President (2242802).

Where to Eat:
Bakers Inn, Barista Espresso Bar, Baskin 31 Robbins, Chinook Centre, Eat Well House, Fox Trot Restaurant, Head Quarters Family Restaurant and Hut – The Food Joint are some of Jalandshar’s most popular eateries.

What to Buy:
Leather goods, sports goods and handicrafts. Some of the most popular shops for buying souvenirs are Oriental Craft, Taj Handicrafts, Loveleen Handicrafts, Jaina Crafts and Pacca Bagh.

Mukerian

From Jalandhar, take the NH-1A via Tanda and Dasua to Mukerian, which is located at a distance of 68 Kms. Mukerian is a small town with a municipality in the Hosiarpur district of Punjab. Legend has it that Mukerian was founded by Choudhury Dara Khan of Awan. This beautiful town was rebuilt in the year 1768 by Sardar Jai Singh, who was bestowed with the ownership ofthis town. According to local folklore, Maharaja Ranjit Singh is believed to have gained access of the neighboring Atalgarh Fort way back in 1819, which is now in an utterly dilapidated condition. There is a Gurudwara inside the Fort. Interestingly, there is a “Baradari” sandwiched in between the Railway line and the Gurudwara. It is believed that Maharani Mehtab Kaur gave birth to maharaja Ranjit Singh’s son – Sher Singh, who later went on to become the Maharaja.

What to See:
The Beas Dam, Atalgarh Fort.

Where to Eat:
Traditional Himachali restuarants that serve hot Tandoori and Punjabi fare.

Where to Stay:
Mountain Lodges that are at best sketchy.

Pathankot

From Mukherian continue on NH – 1A via Mirthal and Damtal all way to Pathankot, which is located at a distance of 41 Kms. Pathankot is a Military town and the Indian Army has its base here. It is located to the extreme north of Punjab, 107 Kms. from Amritsar. This strategically located Punjab city is important to the discerning travelers, purely due to its “crossroads” function….it’s the gateway to Jammu in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, which in turn is the jumping off point for the bus trip up to Srinagar. Pathankot is also the hub for journey by road to the hill stations of Himachal Pradesh, particularly Dalhousie and Dharamsala. The picturesque Shahpur Kandi Fort is one of Pathankot’s enduring tourist landmarks.

What to See:
Malikpur Picnic Spot, Damtal Temple, Shahpur Kandi Fort.

Where to Stay:
Tourist Hotel, Green Hotel, Hotel Venice, PTDC’s Gulmohar Tourist Bungalow, Forest Rest House.

Where to Eat:
Like anywhere else in Punjab, roadside Dhabas abound in Pathankot and the people of Pathankot and its surroundings being predominantly wheat-eating people, rice is cooked only on special occasions. Chapattis, Tandoori Rotis and Nuns are readily available and one can have them with Rajma or Kadhi. Try out the “Matarwale Chawal” and “Rao Ki Kheer” which is cooked on dim fire for hours together with the juice of sugar cane.

What to Buy:
Traditional Punjabi dress materials and handicraft items.

Nurpur

From Pathankot, take NH-20 to Nurpur, which is a drive of mere 26 Kms. Nurpur town in Himachal Pradesh is named after Begum Nurjahan, the beloved Queen of Jehangir. There is an impregnable thousand-year-old fortress, which happens to be one of Nurpur’s most enduring landmarks. Also worth visiting is the Baijraj temple, which was built by one Raja Basu on top of a hill. Here in this temple the idol of Lord Krishna is made of the finest variety of black marble. Legend has it that Queen Mirabai of Chittore used to religiously worship this deity.

What to See:
Baijraj Temple, Nurpur Fort, The Nagni Mata Temple, Kathgarh Shiv Temple.

Where to Stay:

Mid budget hotels and lodges are available. They are sketchy but provide comfortable accommodation with clean linens, hygienic food and great window views.

Where to Eat:
Traditional Himachali eating joints that serve Tandoori dishes along with the local Himachali cuisine. They are moderately priced.

What to Buy:
Ethnic jewelry.

Banikhet

From Nurpur to the penultimate destination of Banikhet involves a scenic drive of 55 Kms. on SH – 33 via Chakki and Tunnuhatti. Banikhet is located in close proximity to Dalhousie, which is just 7 Kms. away. This rugged Himachali town is renowned for the Chamera Hydro Electric Project, which is operated by NHPC. The town is situated at an elevation of 5,500 feet above sea level in the midst of the impressive Dhauladhar mountain range. The average daytime temperature is 25°C and at night the temperature drops to about 15°C during summers.

What to See:
Chamera Hydro Electric Project, the 150 year old Nag Temple.

Where to Stay:
PWD Rest House.

Where to Eat:
Local Dhabas and Chai Shops.

Dalhousie

On the last leg of your journey, an 8 Kms drive brings you the picturesque hill station of Dalhousie. This breathtaking hill station in the mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh was a British discovery. The five undulating hills comprising of – Kathlong, Potreyn, Tehra, Bakrota and Balun belonging to the Dhuladhar and Shivalik mountain range is what makes up Dalhousie. The climate, as they say, is as good as Scotland. Lord Dalhousie, while he was the Governor of Punjab in1848-56, built the magnificent Governor’s House here at Dalhousie. During the British Raj, they bought land from the King of Chamba and then converted the zone into a health resort as well as a barrack for soldiers. After the Chinese invasion of Tibet, thousands of Tibetans settled here and made Dalhousie their second home. It is here at Dalhousie’s hilltop (Bakrota Hill) where the graceful Snow Don bungalow is located, is where Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore penned his first poem. Another notable Indian, freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose too was an honored guest of Dr.Dharamvira for a while in order to restore his failing health.

What to See:
St.John’s Church, St.Andrew’s Church, St.Francis’ Church, St.Patrick’s Church, Tibetan Handicrafts Centre, Walking trails of Upper Bakrota Loop, Snow Don Residence and Chamera Dam.

Where to Stay:
Alps Holiday Resort (Tel: 01899-240775), Mehar Hotel (242179, 240079), Silverton Estate (240674), Himachal Tourism’s Hotel Manimahesh (242793), Himdhara Hotel (242386), Hotel Mount View (242120), Modi Inn Rockside Hotel (2422243), Princes Hotel (240057), Surya Resort (242158).

Where to Eat:
For sumptuous meals, it is always advisable to have them at one’s own hotel. For the Tandoori fare, restaurants at Gandhi Chowk and the Bus Stand are by far the best. For Biriyani and Parathas, Sharma’s Dhaba on Gandhi Chowk is unrivalled.

What to Buy:
Tibetan handicraft items and Thangka paintings.