Shimla is  Delhi’s crowded cousin. Once the summer capital of the British, it is now choc-a-block with cars and noise. For those who still dream of a clean, green holiday in the hills, the nearby villages promise a happy vacation.

Words & photographs: Ambica Gulati

Marigold Sarovar Portico, Mashobra, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, IndiaI experienced one at this modern yet quaint hotel. Sloping roofs and colourful flowers line its driveway. Nothing ostentatious, just giving the impression that I entered a very homely cottage and I wasn’t disappointed.

Fresh air, flowery garden, relaxing colours and warm smiles, this place leaves behind the city woes. Bliss reigns here as the hotel is located in a quiet village named Sidhora which is just a 15km drive from Shimla.

The hills are alive for those who love birds, clouds and forest. The 47-room hotel is self-sufficient. There are special cottages for larger groups or families, family rooms, Marigold Sarovar Portico which remind you of the holidays you had with your extended family.

There is a children’s activity room with dedicated staff and that gives families enough time to chill. There is a badminton court, basketball space and an outdoor eating area. If you are here on business, there is a banquet and meeting space for 150 people.

Chef Vipan serves some delectable dishes and VIPs can get their own menu designed. I dug into the traditional dham of the region, some Middle Eastern fare and even Kashmir’s wazwan. There’s both buffet and a la carte. I would recommend the soups; they are just what you need in the hills.

A swimming pool, spa and bar are operational. The view from both is amazing. There is a gym too if you wish for indoor exercise.

I would recommend avoid rushing around, as the hills have traffic jams too. Prefer to leave the hot spot early and enjoy the bliss. Also, carry some bags to put your litter in.

Prayers in Hatu Mata Temple, Hatu Peak, Mashobra, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, IndiaIf you are seeking solitude and peace drive to Hatu Peak, the highest peak in that area at 3400m. As per the Mahabharat, the Pandavas stayed here during their agyaat vas and there is a temple of Hatu Mata here. A festival makes it a hot spot in the months of May and June. On the way, you can also get a peek at the Shilaroo Hockey Stadium at the edge of the mountain which is among the modern stadiums of India with a synthetic turf and a spectacular view.

There is horse riding in Kufri and Naldehra, and of course, the Ridge in Shimla with many eateries, shops and horse riding. One can also take the cable car to Jaku temple. In winters, you can ski in Narkanda.

The hills are replete with apple and cherry orchards, so you can check out the fruit, depending on the season. A trip to the Regional Horticultural Research and Training Station {entry fee INR 20} is quite an enlightening one.

Toy train, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, IndiaWhile there is an airport, just 40km from Shimla, I would recommend taking the toy train from Kalka to Shimla. This is a slow joy ride, best enjoyed with friends and family. The quaint stations along the way, the slow pace of the train on the tracks and the numerous vendors offering snacks are perhaps the most fun experience of being in the hills. As it is, a UNESCO Heritage Site.

The article first appeared here

https://lbb.in/delhi/exploring-the-hills-with-marigold-21671c/

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