India on the Road

From Chandigarh to Bhuntar

19 MAY 2016,
The Open Hand Monument with the Shivaliks in Chandigarh
The Open Hand Monument with the Shivaliks in Chandigarh

Route: Chandigarh – Kharar – Rupnagar – Swarghat – Bilaspur – Mandi – Aut – Bhuntar
Distance: 255 Kms
Driving Time: 5.5 Hours
Notes:
North India is a spectacular network of roads, which in a way has facilitated the development of Tourism in this part of India. Kudos to the National Highways Authority of India, the nodal body in charge of developing world class road network in India, the journey from Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab to the quaint mountain town of Bhuntar in Himachal Pradesh is a journey worth embarking upon, given the sheer beauty of the wayside surroundings. As you proceed from one of India’s best planned cities to the high altitude of Bhuntar, the spectacular North Indian countryside unravels its mystery. From the earthy environs of Punjab to the fascinating lure of the Himalayas, the entire 255 Kms. stretch is replete with wonderful scenic vistas and as the topogreaphy changes gradually from the flat plains of Punjab to the impressive Himalayan panorama, the Chandigarh to Bhuntar road journey is indeed unique in many ways. The journey from Chandigarh to Bhuntar passes through places like Kharar – Rupnagar – Swarghat – Bilaspur – Mandi – Aut and ultimately Bhuntar.

Chandigarh

As India’s best planned city, Chandigarh needs no introduction. The city, designed to perfection by the master architect Le Corbusier has been for decades a much sought after city for both Indian and foreign tourists. With India growing phenomenally in the global marketplace, Chandigarh epitomises the face of modern India. Apart from being a Union Territoy, it is also the capital of the twin states of Punjab and Haryana. Apart from its tree-lined avenues and well-planned urban landscapes, this incredible city is home to some of the most stunning architectural conceptions. According to Le Corbusier – “Chandigarh puts you in touch with the infinite cosmos”. The city has exclusive zones earmarked for residential enclaves, a green belt, an innovative network of roads, areas of special architectural interest, industrial zone as well as the Sukna Lake. If the City Center with its glitzy malls and departmental stores attracts the attention of the discerning international shoppers, a walk through the city’s green belt is serenity personified with absolutely no noise pollution as vehicular traffic is strictly forbidden. In terms of urban landscape, one only has to embark on a leisurely stroll at the picturesque Leisure Valley and the numerous verdant parks where every effort has been made to preserve India’s natural vegetative pattern by way of planting trees, shrubs and climbers in a way that is visually most pleasing and blend harmoniously with the city’s surroundings.

What to See:
Leisure Valley, Rajendra Park, Bougainvillea Garden, Fitness Trail, Rose Garden, Shanti Kunj, Children’s Traffic Park, Hibiscus Garden, Garden of Fragrance, Smriti Upavan, Botanical Garden, terraced Garden, Topiary Park and Forest around Sukna Lake.

Where to Stay: Chandigarh STD: 0172

Up market Hotels

Hotel Mountview (2740544, 2743126, 2743268), Hotel Shivalik View (2700001, 2703521), Hotel Park View (2700050, 2728118), Hotel Taj (6613000).

Private Hotels

Hotel Amar (2703608), Hotel Alankar (2708801), Aroma (2700047-48), Hotel Chandigarh (2704708), Hotel Classic (2606092), Divyadeep (2705191), G.K.International (2647510), Heritage (2605909), Hotel Himani (2661070), Hotel

Where to Eat:
Khyber, Mezban, Ghazal, Mehfill, Al Kareem, Memorable Moments, Yellow Chilli, Bazem, Sher-e-Punjab, Gopal Sweets and ABS Hotel.

Shopping:
Chandigarh’s principal shopping district is at the City Center Sector 17. It is a huge shopping complex with four principal piazzas congregating at a “central chowk” or square. The beautiful fountains add a touch of sublime charm to the entire shopping experience. From designer labels like Pepe, Peter England, Duke, Nike, and Reebok etc… to the ethnic government emporiums, the City Center has it all. The “Chowk” comes alive in the afternoons as the office crowd converges into the “Chowk” for their afternoon siesta. And in the evening as the lights come on, the City Center is festooned as it were with millions of neon lit shops doing brisk business on the backdrop of the cascading waterfalls at the “Dove of Peace” sculpture.
Notes: Drive from Chandigarh to Kharar and exit from the city on NH 21 through Kurali Road. The wayside amenities in Kharar like Petrol Pumps, wayside restaurants and Dhabas are decent. Do not experiment with food and stick to the traditional Punjabi cuisine.

Kharar

Kharar is actually a Municipal town in the district of Mohali and is ideally located within driving distnace from both Chandigarh (12 Kms) and Mohali (4 Kms). Kharar, is fast evolving as one of Punjab’s most developed towns due largely to its locational advantage of being in close proximity to Chandigarh. The government of Punjab is showcasing Kharar as the next big thing in the state’s burgeoning real estate horizion. There are a lot of exclusive colonies, prominent among them are Model Town, Shivalik Enclave, Sunny Enclave.

Rupnagar

From Kharar as you continue your drive on NH 21, you reach the quaint town of Rupnagar, which is approximately 20 Kms. from Kharar. There is quite a bit of history attached to Rupnagar and it is believed that this town was built by the Maharaja of Rokeshwar who ruled this part of Punjab in the 11th century. Archaeologists have unearthed ruins that clearly indicates that the Harrapan civilization was prevalent here dating back to the 3rd millennium B.C. Rupnagar is perhaps the only existing excavation site in the whole of Punjab.

What to See:
Kiratpur Sahib, Gurdwara Patalpuri Sahib, Takia of Saint Buddan Shah, Anandpur Sahib, Gurudwara Parivar Vichhora Sahib, Gurudwara Bhatta Sahib, Gurdwara Sadabarat.

Where to Eat:
Roadside Dhabas are the best options as they serve fresh and earthy Punjabi fare.

Swarghat

From Rupnagar, take a right turn on the Kiratpur Sahib road and a brisk 48 Kms. drive will bring you to Swarghat. It is a fabulous stopover point on the famed Chandigarh – Manali Highway and in the days of yore used to serve as the summer retreat of the Maharaja of Bilaspur. Even today, Swarghat has retained much of its charm and is much preferred as a picnic spot. If you happen to cross Swarghat at dusk, the ethereal sight of millions of lights glimmering in the plains of Punjab makes for a truly kaleidoscopic vignette.

What to See:
Nalagarh Fort, Bhimakali Temple, Naina Devi Temple, Bhakra, and Laxmi Narayan Temple.

Where to Eat:
Roadside eating joints can be found in plenty. However, for quality meals, Hotel Hill Top (01978-284112) is much preferred by the discerning travelers.

Bilaspur

Bilaspur is ideally located in the beautiful Satluj Valley. Satluj is also the principal river of Bilaspur district that meanders its way through the heart of Bilaspur District. If historical records are anything to go by, the old Bilaspur town was founded by Rishi Ved Vyas, considered to be a spiritual giant and an ascetic monk. Bilaspur is renowned for the Gobind Sagar Lake, and a bewildering array of water sport activities are available here, courtesy - the Directorate of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Manali.

What to See:
Vyas Goofa, Kandror Bridge, Markanda, Bachhretu and other forts.

Where to Eat:
Hotel Lake View (Tel: 01978-222838) is one of Bilaspur’s most popular stopover points for travelers on their way to hill stations like Shimla, Manali and Dharamsala. Other hotels that offer quality food are - Kwality Hotel (22291, 22352), Neelam Hotel (22472, 23047), Sagar View Hotel (22620, 23095), Akash Ganga Hotel (22672), Saket Hotel (24047).

Mandi

From Bilaspur as you continue on NH 21, after driving 69 Kms. you reach the picturesque mountain town of Mandi. The historic town of Mandi is a historic town and is nicely perched at a height, which is all of 800 meters. The river Beas flows through much of Mandi town and this quaint mountain town of Himachal Pradesh has served as a center of trade and commerce. According to local folklore, the renowned sage Mandava is believed to have resided here and carried out severe spiritual austerities. For the connoisseurs of temple architecture, Mandi with its 81 temples offers a veritable architectural feast, so much so that the place is popularly referred to as the “Kashi of the Hills”. Besides traditional Himachali architecture, there are numerous grand palaces that reverberate with the colonial feel.

What to See:
Bhootnath Temple, Shyamakali Temple, Triloknath Temple, Ardhanarisvara Temple, Rani Amrit Kaur Park, District Library, Vijay Keshari Bridge.

Shopping:
Traditional Himachali handicrafts, silver jewelry and stone carvings.

Where to Eat:
The Raj Mahal Palace Hotel (Tel: 01905-222401, 322401) located bang in the middle of the town offers delectable menus. In the past, this fabulous hotel used to serve as the royal residence of the Maharaja of Mandi. Other hotels that offer decent meals are – Munish Resorts, Visco Resorts, Hotel Mandav, Standard Hotel, Hotel Evening Plaza.
Notes: From Mandi, as you proceed on NH 21, you will come across Aut, which is located at a distance of 41 Kms. from Mandi via Pandoh. From Aut, your ultimate destination Bhuntar is a mere 19 Kms. drive on the NH 21.

Bhuntar

Bhuntar is a rugged mountain town of Himachal Pradesh and is situated in the district of Kullu. Visitors to Manali and Manikaran have to pass via Bhuntar. Bhuntar also has an airport with regular flights to Delhi. For the pilot, Bhuntar airport is a challenge. There just one single runway and that too built on a steep valley with snow-covered peaks that towers above almost touching the sky. Bhuntar happens to be the gateway to the famed Kullu Valley and is also a thriving commercial hub. Bhuntar’s natural grandeur is awesome and a walk to the bazzar can be a very rewarding experience.

Where to Stay:
Some of Bhuntar’s prominent hotels are – Amit Hotel, Krishna Palace Hotel, Mashoo Resort, Sangum Hotel, Sun Beam Hotel, Hotel Sea Rock, and Himalayan Tourist etc…

Where to Eat:

Most of the prominent hotels of Bhuntar like Amit Hotel, Krishna Palace Hotel, Mashoo Resort, Sangum Hotel, Sun Beam Hotel, Hotel Sea Rock, and Himalayan Tourist etc… have their own in-house restaurants that offer the very best of the local Himachali fare as well as North Indian and Tandoori cuisines. Apart from standard hotels, the town of Bhuntar has innumerable roadside eating joints that offer traditional Himachali meals that are worth savoring.

Shopping:
Himachali Shawls, tribal handicrafts, woodworks (Pahari), sculptures of Hindu deities.