Narkanda is small town little ahead of Shimla India – at the heart of Apple Country. It is a favorite tourist spot in Himachal Pradesh. For people who want to get beyond Shimla but not get into tough terrains of Spiti Valley. In fact, Narkanda is pretty much a part of Shimla Tourism as it falls in Shimla district. It can be easily done as a day trip from Shimla India, though I would recommend you stay there for at least couple of days. Here is my small guide for things to do in and around Narkanda.
Hatu Peak, Narkanda.
Hatu peak is situated at a height of 3352 meters. The narrow winding roads leading to it take you through the dense forests of tall deodar trees. The steep valleys can charm you and at the same time scare you. From Narkanda to Hatu is a very steep ride and you will feel it at every turn that you take on your way up. Once you reach the top, just hope for a clear day so that you can see the Shrikhand Mahadev range of Himalayas.
I was there on a cloudy day, and we almost parked in the middle of the clouds with visibility below 2-3 meters. This peak and its view are so popular that Himachal Tourism has named its HPTDC hotel in Narkanda as Hatu. Even if you miss the view, the drive itself is worth exploring. If you like Adventure Trip, hike up the Hatu Peak. Check the Narkanda weather while heading for a tourist spot.
Hatu Mata Mandir, Narkanda.
Right on the peak like most peaks and high points in India, stands the Hatu Mata Mandir. The Mandir is built in a typical Himachal style with alternative bands of stone and wood. Legend is that this temple was built at a place where Draupadi fell and died when Pandavas were on their last journey towards the heaven.
All around the temple you can see exquisitely carved wooden panels telling you stories of epics Ramayana and Mahabharata like a scene depicting Bharat Milap from Ramayana.
Other panels have auspicious symbols associated with Hinduism carved on them like the Swastika. The temple as it stands today is relatively new but then in hills, they need to be rebuilt every few years, as I discovered in the journey through its various temples like Bhimakali in Sarahan or Kalika Devi in Kalpa.
Tani Jhubbar Lake.
Tani Jhubbar – the sing-song name excited me even when everyone said this is not the best lake Himachal Pradesh has to offer. On our way back from Hatu Peak, we took a small detour to reach Tani Jhubbar Lake – a small artificial lake standing at the edge of Nag Devta Temple. Temple is just a small room with a simple idol and a slanted stone roof on top. Tani Jhubbar Lake has tall deodar trees all around its oval shape. It is a pleasure to take a leisurely walk around the lake and see the reflection of trees piercing through the non-existent depths of the lake. Tani Jhubbar is a popular picnic spot for the local Himachalis and a perfect place to enjoy Narkanda weather. We could see families coming up with their picnic baskets.
St Mary’s Church at Kotgarh.
St Mary’s Church at Kotgarh is one of the oldest churches in North India. It was built way back in 1872 by London’s Church Missionary Society. Kotgarh is not too far from either Narkanda or Thanedhar, on the old Hindustan-Tibet road. What makes it enchanting today is the simplest possible exteriors in pale yellow color that still have the contours of a church with a hint of gothic architecture and a bell tower proudly hanging on top. The simple wooden benches and the stained glass panel at altar and windows in the interiors complete the aura.
Now what I saw for the first time at St Mary’s Church at Kotgarh was a bible in Hindi. A hand drawn map of the region was also very interesting. Incidentally, I was there on Sunday morning when the mass was on and I met a family that had come from Chandigarh for the naming ceremony of their child. Empty benches did point out the fact that the Christian population in this area is very low. There is a school next to the church that is as old as the church.
The word Thanedhar that I thought to be Thanedar as in the policeman actually comes from Thandi Dhar or the cold wind that blows here. This is the hotbed of apple plantation. Pass through just about any place or any street here you would see Apple. There are buildings like Paramjyoti Vedic Aryan Temple with Sanskrit verses written all over its walls.
It reminds you of Satyanand Stokes who brought the apple revolution to this region and changed its destiny for a long time to come. There is a guest house dedicated to him with a bust of Stokes overlooking the River Sutlej. The sunset view from this place is worth staying back for. Even the valley view from Banjara Orchard Retreat, Thanedhar where we stayed was something that would stay with me forever – the deep valleys all laden with the weight of almost-ripe apples.
Read my detailed story on Himachal Apple – Apple Out to Prosperity, Story of Himachal Apple
Identify local fruits and flowers.
This region of Shimla district around Narkanda, Thanedhar, Kotgarh is full of vegetation. If you happen to go around July when the trees are full of Apples, you would be tempted to pluck them and eat. If your eyes can look beyond apple, you would see many fruits like various types of apricots, peaches, almonds and berries. You will also find dry fruits, not yet dried and still green on their respective trees. I think the fruits of Himachal Pradesh deserve a full-fledged post sometime soon.
You would also see many flowers like this bright and vibrant Fuchsia flower that looks like an ear drop to me.
Recommend you to read following Travel Blog on Himachal Tourism attractions, this Travel Blogger has visited.