Have you ever crossed the pine-scented hilltops amid fluffy, cotton-like clouds floating on one side in the valley as the fresh, fragrant breeze gently leads you to a mystical town? As surreal as it reads, but the lush hills of Kasauli are one of the dreamiest hill towns in the Solan district of Himachal Pradesh. The quite cantonment area is a popular hill station among Indian as well as foreign tourists and is located at 6300 ft. above sea level.
The town was established by the British as a colonial hill station in the early 1800s, and it is home to some exotic flora and fauna that is native to this region. Dotted with beautiful wood homes and cottages painted in bright hues of blue, red, green and pink - it’s a delightful little town with charming scenery around. The town is roughly divided into upper and lower mall area and can be easily covered by foot if you are fond of walking up and downhill. The main town and the heritage market and a few places of tourist interest in the hill station are on the top part, whereas the resorts, hotels, and homestays are mostly scattered in the down town.
Best time to visit
While the temperature in winters goes down to zero degree celsius, even lesser sometimes, leading to snowfall for a few days that covers the city in a cold white layer enveloping the region. While some of you might enjoy this time of the year with cheeks turning rosy, others prefer to visit it during spring when the blooms cover the entire region. Since winters are extremely cold, during summers the weather is mostly pleasant and trees blossom across the hills. Most of the tourists prefer visiting at this time, and those who have their holiday homes here flock from nearby cities to spend summer time away from the city heat.
While the place has plenty of stay options for tourists like boutique and budget hotels, I enjoyed staying at a cozy homestay called the 7 Pines to enjoy a classic colonial-inspired ambiance and a perfect weekend getaway in the hills. The quaint vintage furniture, teacup roses printed upholstery, classic wooden flooring and a snug fireplace in the corner takes you back in time and calls for an ultimate English retreat. The boutique hotels in the Kasauli hills are often popular among tourists, who look for comfortable rooms attached with an old-style verandah that overlook the distant hills of Shimla and pristine pine forests. Since most places have limited rooms it is advisable to make a reservation in advance.
What to shop
Fun fact: Kasauli is also home to one of the largest breweries in the world, and if you are a scotch drinker or a whisky enthusiast, you might want to visit one of the oldest breweries of Asia set up here in the foothills of the mountains. One of the key attractions here is the local heritage market, where you can find warm shawls, scarves, wooden décor items and a wide range of fruit wines, jams, and preserves made by the locals. If you are visiting the city, don’t forget to pick some of these delish souvenirs for your family and friends.
During my visit, I tried the local delicacies at the street cafés and the 7 Pines homestay that were prepared using local fresh ingredients. If you are a foodie, you must try the yummy Pahari food like rajma, black chickpeas dal, cabbage, fish fry and mutton gravy made with local spices. If you like healthy food, then try out the fresh salads prepared with vegetables, hand-picked from the kitchen garden or sample the piping-hot steamed momos and thick veg/chicken soups that are famous among tourists.
What to see and do
The best way to enjoy the hill station is to cover it by foot as the serpentine roads surrounded by the elegant trees of pine, Himalayan oak and chestnut make for an excellent trek. For those who are interested in exploring the unique plants or have an eye for wildlife, surrounding forests are perfect to explore with nature's walk. Still untouched by modernity, the green hills are pristine and quite popular for filming movies. From mountain treks, picnics in the forest, temple hopping, photography, bird watching to just healing and meditating in peace – people come here to detox with nature and get creative inspiration for writing, painting and rejuvenating.
From certain elevated points of the city like the Sunset point and the Manki point, one can see the beautiful town and snow-covered peaks gleaming in sunlight in the backdrop. The famous Hanuman Mandir (Manki Point) is situated in the Air Force Station near the lower mall region, and devotees visit here with the faith and belief that all wishes are granted by praying here. According to the mythological story in Ramayana, when Lord Hanuman was returning from the Himalayas with the sanjivani booti, he rested a foot on the hill and thus the hilltop is in the shape of a foot. An important thing to remember is to avoid carrying any cameras, cell phones or any other electronic device to this place as it is high on security and infested with monkeys that frisk you from top to toe.
From the temple, you can head to the Baptist Church which was built in brick and wood in the year 1923 and has a keen semblance to the ancient colonial architecture of the Raj era. Adjacent to it is the Christ Church of Kasauli, which is an old and famous landmark of the town with a peculiar teal coloured slanted rooftop. It has the typical European Spanish and Italian imported stained glass windows depicting Christ, Mary, Saint Barnabas, and Saint Francis.
— Photographs by Nivi Shrivastava
How to reach Kasauli
The hilltown is very well connected to the nearby cities and one can reach there by road, trains and even by air. Interesting, a lot of tourists take the bus or trains to nearby stations of Shimla, Chandigarh, Kalka and Ambala Cantt (Haryana) and drive up to enjoy the beauty of the hills. For those who prefer air commute, the nearest airport is Chandigarh which is almost 70 km away from Kasauli. Just outside the stations and airport, one can find taxis that can bring you directly to this picture-perfect town in just two hours.