While most monsoon travelers I know, would love to explore the tropical hills or beaches and dance in the rain, I have to admit, there is a whole different charm of this wet and wild season in the mountains.
And I wouldn’t be saying this if, last monsoon, I didn’t take the chance of embarking on a road trip from Delhi to Shimla.
The first thing I did before setting out on my adventure, was to book a dependable Delhi to Shimla cab with an experienced driver. Why such a specific requirement, you may ask. Although visually delightful, the road that leads to the mountains are steep and can be quite tricky during the rains. Also, in case there are some road closures, you need to have a driver who knows the alternative routes and ensures safety.
Driving in the rains
I started early in the morning from the city, so I could cover half the distance before the evening. The idea was to explore the route more than the destination, because this part of the country is less traveled during the monsoon, and yet, it is dramatic. Passing through the cities and towns along the highway felt different in the rains than it usually does in winter. While both seasons are misty, this felt more rejuvenating.
It was quite a long drive of nearly 8 hours (including city traffic, roadblocks in some places), which I had to break at Chandigarh. However, I made quite a few pit stops and at interesting places en route, which made the drive more memorable.
Here are a few places on NH 44 & NH 5 between Delhi and Shimla that you must visit, in the monsoon.
Up until Ambala, it’s pretty much flat lands with rain-soaked highways. On the way, I stopped at Sonipat for my much-needed morning tea from a local dhaba. How could you not enjoy a cup of tea and piping hot parathas and watch the rains from a roadside diner! This is an experience one can get only during the monsoon.
Then as I neared the Morni Hills, the greenery became more prominent.
Haryana’s only hills station, Morni Hills is actually at its best in the monsoon. The clouds hovering over the hills and the surroundings turned into a velvety shade of green, makes for stunning views. I found it prettier than its foggy winter look. The mountains assumed a completely different look when the sky breaks loose. Although the weather is usually pleasant all year round, the rains took the temperatures down a few degrees and it gets quite cooler. I took a long walk through the muddy roads to Morni Lake. There was a thin veil of mist (from the rains) on the lake, and the nature trails adjoining the lakes were barely visible. If you are keen on bird watching, then you can plan to reach the lake area early morning. When I was there, I could mostly see jungle fowls and some random wild pheasants.
When you are heading to Shimla, a stopover in Kalka is almost mandatory. You can see the narrow-gauge railway snaking through the dewy pine trees and rolling hills. The already charming town finds its charm quotient a few notches above during the monsoon. It’s as if the rains lift the muted filter of the dry season, and everything, from the gardens to the trails and even its vintage structures appear much clearer and prominent. You can take a walk along the Gilbert Trail as I did, but be careful of the slippery slopes in some places. You can also hike up to the Manki Point and cherish the breathtaking views of the cloud-covered mountains.
The dainty little hill town at the foothill of the Shivalik Mountains is one of my favorite pit stops en route to Shimla. The otherwise dry and cold region, Parwanoo was moist and verdant in the rains, with wildflowers growing all around. Also, if you want to see the apple and peach trees bearing fruits, then August to September is a perfect time, during the harvest season. The Timber Trail, which is usually a great place to get lost and explore the forests, had also become denser with fresh undergrowth and mosses. But I couldn’t hike for long since most parts of the trail were muddy and had puddles. Also, if you want a more scenic view of the rain clouds, take a cable car ride, if the sky is a little clearer and it doesn’t rain.
Come monsoon, I find two kinds of people, each enjoying the rains in stark opposite ways. One, are those who love to be holed up in the coziness of their homes, watching and hearing the rains, while they savor their favorite cup of tea and binge on TV. And the second one comprises people like me, who get itchy feet as soon as the rains soak the earth. If you are the latter kind and love to explore the outdoors like me, then get yourself an affordable and convenient Delhi to Shimla tour package and turn the long drive into an exciting and adventure-filled road trip. Don’t forget to pack those galoshes and the windbreaker!