By Neha Kirpal
On a recent visit to the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, I got a chance to explore what is possibly the state’s most hidden gem—the heritage village of Garli. I found that it’s the kind of place every girl would love!
This little village with a population of just about 2,000 people was declared a heritage village in 2002. Despite being tiny and remote, it has quite a few surprises in store. As we walked the clean lanes of this little village, we came across a multitude of local grocery stores, chemists, schools, hospitals, tailors, shoe shops, tea stalls, photo studios, dentists, jewellery stores and all other facilities you would find in a city.
Here’s my travel guide to Garli no matter what your interests are:
For nature lovers: Perched at a height of about 2,000 feet above sea level, Garli overlooks the snow peaked Dhauladhar mountain range. With lots of quaint little walking trails, you will enjoy every bit of the time you spend outdoors. One of the most unique experiences we had was to have tea during the sunset on the clean white sand banks of the river Beas that flows here.
For architecture junkies: Garli is a cute little quiet town filled with old havelis, Italian-style mansions and rural mud-plastered slate homes. The only hotel one can stay at here is the Chateau Garli (lead image and above). A 100-year-old heritage home built by Lala Mela Ram Sud in 1921, it opened only two years ago after restoration that took about four years to complete. With 19 rooms and three suites, it is built primarily out of limestone, brick and wood.
Its décor is quaint, complete with coloured glass windows, and antiques like lanterns, chandeliers, dressers and family photos in old frames strewn all over the property. There is also a well in the hotel premises containing water for the entire village. In the evenings, it is a pleasure to sit by the brightly lit up poolside aangan where a flautist plays melodious tunes in the background.
For the history buff: The well-known Kaleshwar temple is located at Garli, and is certainly worth a visit. The temple has a big Baisakhi mela every year, and is considered holier than even Haridwar. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys going to pilgrim places and historical monuments, then you’re in for a treat.
There is also the magnificent Masroor rock temple about 50 kilometers away and Chintpurni temple about 30 kilometers away. History buffs will also love to visit the Kangra fort and museum, about 45 kilometers away.
For the foodie: While walking, you are sure to stop by some of the local bakeries selling delectable biscuits, freshly baked bread and buns. Don’t forget to sample some of the delicious Kangra dham, comprising sumptuous dishes like madra (vegetable), mahani (dal) and roti fresh from their tandoor. There is also a café around called Rang, where you can try out other cuisines.
A must-try, however, is the famous traditional malai kulfi made by Satpal Sharma, whose family has been in the trade since 1893. The reasonably priced eco-friendly dessert is served on a banyan tree leaf.
For the shopaholic: The Naurang Yatri Niwas, which also doubles up as an inn for travellers, has an amazing shop selling some of the most exquisite patchwork handicrafts like stoles, cushion covers and bedsheets made by the local rural women. It is a sheer delight to sift through their colourful collection of handcrafted clothes, and they make lovely gifts to take back home for friends and family.
Garli is conveniently located about 30 kilometers away from Amb, the closest railway station. It is also a comfortable couple of hours’ drive away from several major cities like Chandigarh, Ambala and Amritsar.
Neha Kirpal is the Delhi-based author of ‘Wanderlust for the Soul,’ an e-book collection of short stories in different parts of the world.