There are two major reason why so many people travel towards Shimla each year. First one is that it is easily accessible with good road connectivity and availability of basic amenities. Second however and an even bigger reason is that there is plenty to explore here. And I am not talking about just the main Shimla town. No I am referring to the small villages around it like Kufri, Mashobra, Fagu and Narkanda; some of which are actually even more scenic that Shimla itself. The town that I will be discussing in this article; and providing details on how you can plan a a trip here is Narkanda.
Narkanda is located at a distance of about 65 kilometers from Shimla; a journey that can be easily done in 2 hours at most on some very smooth roads. It is at an altitude of 2708 meters and becomes a well known skiing resort every winter. Apple farming and farming in general is the main source of income for the people here; but tourism too plays a major part in their livelihoods. This place is very scenically located; and is perfect for anyone who wants to plan a trip to at an offbeat destination without going too remote.
The first question that comes to mind is why visit Narkanda? To be honest, there is really nothing here. Just a group of houses and a few hotels located on a hill top and that is pretty much it. There is no long list of places to explore but that is the reason why people come here and why you should too.
I think everyone will agree when I say that places like Shimla and Manali don’t even feel like a tourist destination anymore. Both these towns of have gotten so populated and crowded off-late that a trip here feels like you went from one city to another. There is buildings, cars and buses all around, a view that you were getting in plenty at your home town; and not exactly what you came looking for in the hills.
This is the exactly the reason why many people now do not prefer to stay in Shimla at all. They will just drive right through it and stay at the small villages on the outskirts.
Even if you were staying in Shimla itself, a day’s drive to Narkanda is highly recommended. Narkanda is at a slightly higher altitude than Shimla and the entire drive is on a breathtaking landscape. The road gains altitude gradually while running almost near the crest; offering a bird’s eye view of the valleys around. In the months of monsoon and after, greenery remains in abundance all around. In winter, this place receives heavy snowfall and gets buried under a thick sheet of snow; providing excellent conditions for skiing.
How to Reach Narkanda
Due to its location up in the hills, the only way to get to Narkanda is by road. You can either drive all the way from your home; or arrive at any of the nearest airports or railway stations; and get to Narkanda from there by road.
Narkanda Closest Airport
Narkanda does not have an airport of its own. The nearest airport is the Shimla airport located in Jubbarhatti. This however is a small airport and flights are limited. The nearest major airport is at Chandigarh which is connected with several flights from all over the country. Distance between Chandigarh airport and Narkanda is about 175 kilometers.
Narkanda Nearest Railway Station
The nearest railway station is at Kalka, about 125 kilometers away from Narkanda. The famous Kalka – Shimla toy train plies on this route daily and the fare is also not that high. This in fact is a great way to plan a trip to Narkanda. You can reach Kalka; board the toy train from there, arrive at Shimla; and then board a bus from Shimla to Narkanda.
After Kalka, the next and major railway station is at Chandigarh; which is very well connected by trains from all over the country.
How to reach Narkanda by Road
Assuming that you started your journey from Delhi; you will first drive on Delhi – Chandigarh highway all the way till Ambala. After Ambala and just before Chandigarh, you will then turn on the Himalayan Expressway and then continue towards Shimla. There has been some road widening work happening on this stretch in last couple of years so you may run into a bit of traffic.
As you get closer to Shimla, chances are that you will get stuck in the traffic and a long line of cars here. Be patient, cross the crowded town and continue towards Narkanda. The entire journey from Delhi to Narkanda will take about 9 – 10 hours depending upon your speed and breaks. From Shimla, it takes about 2 hours to get to Narkanda.
Also Read: Delhi to Narkanda – A Memorable Journey
How to reach Narkanda by Bus
Narkanda is a very well connected town and there is a regular bus service. The road towards Spiti valley and Kinnaur valley passes through here; which means that any bus going towards major towns like Kaza, Rampur, Reckong Peo will have to travel through Narkanda. From Shimla, you will easily be able to find a bus or a shared taxi going towards your destination.
You would have heard or read that there are direct buses from Delhi and Chandigarh for Narkanda. I would however advise relying on that. No, I am not saying that there are not direct buses because there could be one. But Narkanda being just a small village, the frequency of this bus would be very less. A better way for the journey always will be that you first board a bus for Shimla. This will also give you the choice of an AC Bus which will probably not be available for Narkanda direct. Once you get to Shimla, you can then look for a different bus or shared taxi for the last 2 hours of your journey.
Weather of Narkanda
Narkanda has a sub-tropical climate which means that winters here are very cold but summers are warm. The day temperature fluctuates between between 19 ˚C to 28 ˚C but can drop down to around 10 ˚C at nights. During winter the temperature remains between -5 ˚C to 10 ˚C.
During the months of April to June, it mostly remains pleasant and dry during day. I have witnessed a snowfall in Narkanda in early April so yes, the weather may even change suddenly. Monsoon arrives here in July and it rains heavily in this region. The average precipitation during the monsoons is 1,575 mm.
By October, it starts to get cold again and after December, it can snow anytime in Narkanda; which remains to be the situation until March next year. During the months of December to February, the town receives a considerable amount of snowfall, accounting to the low temperatures.
Best time to Visit Narkanda
When would be the best time to visit Narkanda then? It will actually depend entirely on what exactly are you looking for. If snow is what you seek then the months of January and February will be the best. During this time, the entire region from Shimla to Narkanda gets buried under a thick sheet of snow. Valleys turn white and this small village turns into a popular ski resort. Do keep in mind though that during this time, the weather will be extremely cold and you must be prepared to handle it.
If however you want to see lush green hills then the months of July and August would be the best. But with monsoon on, there is also a risk of rain and resulting landslides.
In my opinion, the months of January, February and September can be considered as the best time to visit Narkanda. January and February for someone who seeks snow; and September otherwise. By September, monsoon would be long gone by there still would be plenty of greenery left all around. Skiing is one of the main attractions of Narkanda which happens in the months of January and February. April, May, June and October are an equally good time but I have found the hills to be a bit dull and barren in these months.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Chitkul?
Clothes to Pack for Narkanda Trip
This will majorly depend on which month you are traveling in but a heavy windproof jacket is must at all times. If you were traveling from January till March, then you must bring heavy woolens. Temperatures at this time can dip to zero and it can get extremely cold at nights. You should pack some thermals, woolens, gloves, caps, warm socks and a good jacket for this time. Your jacket should also include a hoodie that can protect your neck, head, ears and face. A muffler too can come in very handy.
For summer season, your regular cottons and a few woolens will do the job. Days remain pleasantly warm in Narkanda during summer and you will actually be walking around just wearing a T-Shirt. Do remember though that the weather here can turn unexpectedly without any warning. One moment it will all be warm and sunny and the next moment it will get windy and cold. So a good warm jacket will come in handy all times.
If you were traveling during monsoon, then pack clothes that can dry fast, polyester for example. Keep a pair of rubber sandals handy for walking or riding around in the rain; like Crocs for example. You definitely do not want to get your shoes wet because that will take ages to dry and will be a great hassle. If you were traveling by then keeping an Umbrella with rest of your luggage can prove to be a good idea.
What to see in Narkanda
Narkanda is a small peaceful village and its natural beauty is its primary attraction. You will be spending some time in the lap of mother nature; away from the busy and rushed city lives that we live. Apart from its serenity and tranquility however, there are a few places that I will recommend visiting while you are in Narkanda.
Hatu Peak is the highest summit of Narkanda region. It is located at a distance of about 10 kilometers from Narkanda, and at a height of 3400 meters. A motorable road from Narkanda goes all the way to the top. This place is a treat for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts alike. From the top, it offers stunning panoramic view of the valley around and the snow-capped Shrikhand Mahadev peaks. Sunrise and sunset views from Hatu are a feast for the eyes.
If you wish to, you can either drive to Hatu peak or trek all the way. The trek starts from Narkanda itself and is a day long activity. I will recommend that you take a local guide to help navigate your way through the forest. Another way could be that you walked on the motorable road itself.
Also Read: Narkand to Hatu Peak – A Scenic Drive
It is a beautiful temple located at top of Hatu Peak. According to local belief the famous Hatu Mata temple is the temple of Maa Kaali. People come in great number on the first Sunday of Jyeshtha to pay ritual here. There is an ancient stove like formation of rocks nearby the temple. Locals believe that it was used by the Pandavas brothers to cook their food during their Agyaat Vaas.
Tani Jubbar Lake
It is a small man made oval shaped lake located about 15 minutes of drive away from Narkanda. There is a pathway built around the lake and it is a pleasant walk. Even the drive from Narkanda to the lake is quite scenic. The lake is said to be home to several exotic birds. The best part however is that it is a great camping spot if you have your own gear. There is a small clearing near the lake where you can pitch your tent for the night.
If you are into trekking then about an hour from Hatu Peak are the beautiful meadows of Jor Bagh. The trail will take you through the dense forest and finally ending at a mist covered green clearing; which actually will look like a shot straight out of a movie or wallpaper.
This is a beautiful temple, dedicated to Goddess Kali, and is located at Kacheri, about 7 kilometers from Narkanda.
Snow Covered Narkanda
If you were visiting Narkanda during winter then I believe your biggest attraction will be the snow covered town which is bound to leave you mesmerized. If you have never witnessed a live snowfall then visit Narkanda in January, spend a few days here and you will definitely see one.
Also read: Snowfall in Narkanda – A Pleasant Surprise
Sutlej View Point
Drive a few kilometers downhill from Narkanda towards Rampur and you will be treated with a stunning view of Sutlej River flowing in the valley below. You can actually continue driving down till you reach the banks of the river; but the point from where you get the first view of the river is about half an hour drive from Narkanda.
Things to do in Narkanda
The first thing that you will enjoy doing in Narkanda is savor on the vistas it offers. Relax, take a walk around the village and enjoy the peace around. If you were visiting here in winter season, then the best choice would be to indulge yourself in skiing. You can get the all the arrangements done including the guide and equipment for it at Narkanda itself. For rest of the times, it will entirely depend on for how many days you are visiting the place. If you were short on time then visit all the places I listed above which can easily be covered in 2 days.
If you were into trekking however, then the best activity would be to trek from Narkanda to Hatu peak; and even further till Jor Bagh. For a day long trip, you can also drive all the way till Jalori Pass which is about 90 kilometers from Narkanda. The drive to the pass will take you down right to the banks of Sutlej river and then climb up on a narrow broken road to the top of Jaloi Jot.
Where to stay in Narkanda
There are a lot of hotels in Narkanda and you will have no problem finding a place to stay. In peak tourist season however, you may want to book your stay in advance. A lot of people visit here during January and February for skiing and hotels tend to get all booked. For your stay here, keep a budget of around Rs. 1500 per day. There is also an HPTDC hotel here which can be a great choice for accommodation. Except for winter season, my recommendation would be that you arrive here; look around, find a hotel per your liking; and negotiate an on the spot deal.
ATM / Banks in Narkanda
There are branches of Uco Bank, SBI, and HP State Co-operative bank in Narkanda and they all have their own ATMs as well. I have crossed Narkanda several times during my trips and have always found the ATMs functional and cash available.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Sarahan
Mechanics / Petrol Pump in Narkanda
There is a petrol pump at Narkanda where you can buy fuel from. Mechanics too are available in plenty. In fact, there are authorized service stations of some car and motorcycle companies here. If however it was a major breakdown, then you may have to bring your car back to Shimla.
Medical Facilities in Narkanda
Medical facility for small ailments and a dispensary is available at Narkanda. For anything serious however, you will have to go to Shimla.
Mobile Network in Narkanda
All cellular companies have coverage in Narkanda. No matter which network you are on, your phone will be working fine here. Reception will be strong and voice clarity satisfactory. Data connectivity too will be good.
How to Travel / Itinerary
Mostly Narkanda gets included in itineraries for people either visiting Spiti valley or Kinnaur. You will however find a lot of tourists here visiting only Narkanda. How many places you want to cover will entirely depend on the number of days you have in hand but I will suggest a few itineraries as example. For the sake of this article, I will assume that you are starting from Delhi. If you were coming from a different city, then only the journey for 1st and last day will be different. Rest of the details will still apply.
- Delhi to Narkanda – Day 1
- Narkanda – Day 2
- Narkanda to Delhi – Day 3
This is a simple 3 day trip where you arrive at Narkanda on Day 1, stay and explore places here on Day 2, and return home on Day 3. If you however had more time in hand, then you can also plan your trip like this.
- Delhi to Narkanda – Day 1
- Narkanda – Day 2
- Narkanda to Chail – Day 3
- Chail to Delhi – Day 4
- Delhi to Narkanda – Day 1
- Narkanda – Day 2
- Narkanda to Sarahan – Day 3
- Sarahan to Shimla / Chail – Day 4
- Shimla / Chail to Delhi – Day 5
Shimla Narkanda Itinerary
If you want to focus only on visiting Shimla and Narkanda then the itinerary can be as below.
- Delhi to Shimla – Day 1
- Shimla – Day 2
- Shimla to Narkanda – Day 3
- Narkanda – Day 4
- Narkanda to Chail – Day 5
- Chail to Delhi – Day 6
Narkanda Road Conditions
One of the best thing I like about visiting Narkanda is smooth roads. No matter where you are coming from, the roads are smooth tar all the way till Narkanda.
Shimla Narkanda Road Condition – This is a total of about 65 kilometers journey, doable in 2 hours, and the roads are smooth all the way.
Narkanda to Sangla Road Condition – If you were planning to explore a bit further towards Sangla, then the road until Karccham will be good. After Karcham to Sangla is a mix of bad and average.
Narkanda to Kalpa Road Condition – The roads after Narkanda change each year. To be on a safer side though, you can assume that until Rampur it mostly always remains good. After Rampur, as you enter Kinnaur, roads turn into average with bad sections in between.
Narkanda is located at a height of 9,060 ft. feet above sea level
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Prashar Lake
Shopping in Narkanda
Narkanda is just a small village and you can walk across it in 15 minutes at most. There really isn’t much of shopping choices here and if you wanted to buy something, talking a walk through the markets in Shimla will be a better choice. A few items however that you can buy in Narkanda are Himachali shawls, Pattoo blankets, Himachali caps, Pullans (woolen footwear, extremely handy at keeping your feet warm), Himachali robes, woven carpets and blankets.
Where and what to eat
There are numerous local dhabas here that serve some Himachali dishes like Thupka and all other north Indian dishes as well. You can chose to either eat at any of these dhabas or at the hotel that you were staying at.
Narkanda in Winter
If you were planning a winter trip to Narkanda, then ensure that you are bringing some really warm clothes. Temperatures here can dip and remain below 0 degrees Celsius for several days altogether. Before leaving home, please take a look at the weather forecast. Sometimes it can snow here so much that even roads can get blocked due to which you get stuck here. Narkanda in winter is all about enjoying snow and skiing. Arrive here, stay for a few days, enjoy snow and the cool weather, indulge in snow sports and have a great time.
I hope the information above on visiting Narkanda was of help. If you have any other questions; or need any further details; please feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.