Around 300kms from Delhi, Kasauli is right on the foothills of the great Himalayas, and one of the closest hill stations I have been to, from Delhi. A drive on NH1, and then NH 22, that will take you past the towns of Panipat, Chandigarh, Ambala, Dharampur, towards Shimla, where you turn into the small cantonment town of Kasauli, even before Shimla is reached.
At a height of 5,990ft, the small township is mostly home to a handful of population and a huge army crowd, a whole lot of the retired personnel having bought houses there, as was evident from the name plates on the properties lining up the roads.
Because of its closeness to Chandigarh (65kms) and Delhi, the town sees a lot of weekend crowds, so avoiding the longer weekends for a stay may be a good option. We didn’t, and suffered the endless loud conversations in Punjabi and Hindi from the nearby tables at all the restaurants we visited in the town. the roads, which are small and narrow inside the town, were congested, and there were mile long lines of cars parked on kerbside at every corner. No, it’s certainly not my idea of visiting a hill station.
Kasauli is also located at a stone’s throw distance of two good residential schools; the Lawrence School, Sanawar; and Army Public School, Dagshai. So the town is also best avoided close to the end of school terms and opening days of new terms, when the area is most frequented by parents of the school children.
But then again, the place we stayed was exceptional in location, and that kind of made it all worth the effort. We stayed a government holiday home, situated in a secluded place, and ate a lot of our meals at the local Kasauli Club. Kasauli Club has one the old British Colonial architecture, with huge dining room, bar and lounge. Food is alright at that price, and it’s always pleasant to sit with friends in the bar with a drink, and talk your heart away on a well deserved break, while the children watch TV in the other room, enjoying their break too.
It was raining when we were in Kasauli, and after the Delhi heat, rains in Himalayas just felt awesome. Monsoon is one of my favourite times, and after staying in the dry heartland of North India, in Delhi, I have learnt to appreciate it so much more. Beautiful rain-soaked hills and greenery, with a slight chill in the breeze, is the time I enjoyed best from the windows of our room in Kasauli.
As for good eateries in Kasauli, try the Gyani Dhaba on NH-22, in Dharampur, for chai-samosa and awesome Aloo Parathas. Although the service is shoddy, and they charge you extra for all accompaniments of the parathas, like butter, curd etc, it was still worth the trouble, and I have almost forgotten how I had to rush to hold on to a table during the morning breakfast hours.
As for what to buy, try the different varieties of pickles you get on the way to Kalka, just where the new expressway begins, when you are coming down. The chicken and mutton pickles are awesome, says my non-vegetarian husband, and I can vouch for the yummy garlic pickle I bought.
There are loads of stopovers on the highway for refreshing up, places offering both clean washrooms and good food. There are also some factory outlets of various rice brands, including Kohinoor, Dawaat, Hafed etc, where you can even buy some packs of fine grained rice at factory prices.
Yes, in all, a great weekend we had, away from the Delhi blues.