Staycation @Mashobra, Near Shimla
Mashobra - the name did not ring a bell with me. My husband popped up this name one evening to select a destination for our staycation and I was left clueless. Where is this place, wondered I and immediately set about to google it.
Well, Mashobra is a sleepy little town tucked away in a quiet corner of Shimla. I was glad to know that it is located just 12 kms from Shimla and is yet almost untouched by the maddening crowds of Shimla. We wanted such a place for our staycation - close to the comforts of a city and also far from its chaos and crowds. We were looking for a good homestay in the lap of nature with all the modern amenities and conveniences (read internet) at hand. Mashobra was the ideal spot with good internet connectivity and good accessibility from Shimla.
The town is nestled at a height of 7041 feet and is almost always covered in a veneer of mist and fog. It felt like we were residing in the clouds :) On a clear day, it offers panoramic views of the valleys and peaks around it. One can easily spot the popular Jakhu temple with the 108 feet Hanumanji towering tall above the hill and also the Shaali tibba, the tallest peak in that region at 9423 feet.
We stayed at an Airbnb property (Jannat View, a 3-bhk penthouse) which offered beautiful vistas from all 3 sides. On our last day at Mashobra, we discovered the swanky Koti Resorts a little ahead of Mashobra - a newly built property with a good restaurant and a fabulous view - and we were left wondering if we should have booked us here :D
|Sunset @ Mashobra|
|Near Craignano park, Mashobra|
Things to do in and around Mashobra
There are so many things one can indulge into while at Mashobra - nature walks, trekking, bird watching, picnicking, river rafting, exploring heritage sites and many more adventurous activities. We tried to cover as many as we could given the covid restrictions but have listed down everything for the benefit of my readers.
Our days usually started with long languorous walks in the morning mists that took us through the tall whistling forests of this region. Lushly covered with pines, deodars, cedars, Mashobra was magical, especially in the mornings. Walking down the Circular Road in Mashobra, we explored the Craignano park area and the Durga Mata temple many times and also took the road downhill to a village only to trek up a steep incline of 400 feet to get back to our homestay.
|Our Morning Walks|
Craignano Park is a nature's delight with pines, deodars, cedars and scores of flowers adding to its surreal beauty. It was originally built as a summer resort for the Italian countess of Craignano, then converted into a dak bungalow, which was eventually demolished to make way for an eco-friendly park.
Just 2 kms from the Mashobra city centre, it is a beautiful picnic spot with small lakes, a children's play area, fountains, manicured lawns and a beautiful treehouse. One can easily spend an hour or two at this enchanted park.
Entry fee - Rs 50 per head
Timings - 10 am to 5:30/6 pm
|The treehouse @Craignano park|
Shimla Reserve Forest Sanctuary
Spread over an area of 951 hectares, the Reserve forest is a sanctuary for the spectacular wildlife, flora and fauna of the region and is also the largest watershed of Asia. Home to pine, cedar, oak and deodar trees, it is also a bird watcher's paradise. The entry to this sanctuary too is under 4 kms from the Mashobra City Center.
The walking path was flat and stretched over 7 kms one way. It was a spectacular walk with views of scenic mountain ranges on one side and the dense forest stretched on the other. We could not spot any animals as such but the walk in the woods was a spectacular treat to our eyes and a delight to our senses.
Entry fee: Rs 25 per head
Timings: 9 am to 5/6 pm
|The gorgeous views|
|The walk in the woods|
Presidential Retreat, Charabra
One of the two Presidential retreats is at Chharabra, on the peak of Mashobra. It was originally constructed in the 1850s for the then Viceroy of India and now hosts the President of India every summer. We could not visit this retreat as it was closed for tourists due to Covid. However, from what I read, it is a beautiful colonial wooden structure with 14 rooms and a total area of 10,628 sq feet. Its picturesque surroundings and the architecture with dhajji wall pattern attracts a large number of tourists.
A Day Trek to Shaali Tibba
Shaali tibba is hard to miss from across the Mashobra ridge. The highest peak in the region, it stands tall at 9423 feet and is home to the much revered Bhima Kali goddess temple. The trail is said to be an ancient one and cuts across the valleys covered with blue pines and cedars of the region. The place is hauntingly beautiful and one cannot but gaze at the magnificence of nature all along the trek.
It is a popular one-day trek with locals and tourists alike with the route offering scenic 360-degree panoramic views of Mashobra, Shimla, Kufri, Fagu and Narkanda surrounding it. The trek takes around 2.5 to 3 hours to reach the top and then approximately the same time to descend. There are no food and water facilities once you are past the base village of Khatnol. So, proceed with the trek only with proper supplies of food and water and after a heavy breakfast. The last stretch of the hike (the last 45 minutes) is steep and was a good test of my stamina and will power ;)
|The trek route|
|This little ladybug got all our attention|
The temple at the top is under renovation by the government and the priest, Mr. Sharma, stays put at the top for 4 months at a stretch, to take care of the temple. The summit has a government guesthouse as well which can accommodate a group of 10-20 people overnight. One needs to enquire at Khatnol before planning to stay overnight.
|Finally, we reach the summit!|
The famed Jakhu temple of Hanumanji at Shimla is just under 10 kms from Mashobra. It is a place of much religious signficance for the Hindus as it is believed that it is the very place where Hanumanji rested while on his way to look for sanjeevani herbs to revive Lakshman. Trekkers can trek up all the way to the temple or one can even ride all the way to the top there by a car or a rope trolley. It is just above the Mall Road of Shimla.
A short trip to the temple dodging the boisterous monkeys in the vicinity, combined with a trip to the Ridge and Mall Road will be a good day outing at Shimla. With no dearth of food and shopping options on Mall Road, one can easily make this trip a day outing.
|The Ridge, Shimla|
|Mall Road, Shimla|
For traditional local shopping in Shimla, one should not miss visiting the Lakkar bazaar and the Tibetan market in the vicinity of Mall Road. As I gather, Lakkar bazaar was founded by a group of Sikh carpenters who came from Hoshiarpur and settled in the green valleys of Shimla. With ample wood supply, they chisel out wooden decorative items and souvenirs which are popular with the tourists of the region. The bazaar also sells a variety of shawls and woolens.
|Lakkar Bazaar with the famous eatery, Sitaram & Sons in the background|
|Christ Church, the iconic landmark of Shimla|
|The Ridge @night|
Eating options on Mall Road:
After all the shopping and haggling, if you feel hungry, then do not miss going to Sitaram & Sons for a sumptuous fill of aloo tikki and chola bhatura. The place opens at 10 am in the mornings and is quite a popular option for street food. Shimla Times, The Brew Estate are the other tried and tested joints to settle in for a good meal and drink.
Nine kms from Mashobra, Naldehra is another little gem of a town in the Himalayas known for its 9-hole sprawling golf course and a temple dedicated to Nag devta. The place is still serenely beautiful. No guesses as to why Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India, got an impressive golf-course built there. Today, tourists flock the area and take a horse ride to the top of the ridge covering the scenic 5 to 6 km round trail. The trail is not an ideal walking path as it is quite mucky with horse poop so a horse ride is what is recommended :)
Naldehra used to be a popular spot for film shooting as well in the days of yore when shooting at international locations was not in vogue. The Pyaar Jukhta Nahi (some Mithun da movie) tree with a red heart inscribed on it is a testament to the romanticism evoked by those hills.
Time taken for the horse trail: Little under 2 hours
Horse ride charges - Around Rs 450-500 per person.
A Half Day Trip to Tattapani
The Sutlej river flows in all its glory in the valley of Tattapani. Located at a distance of around 40 kms from Mashobra, it is a popular spot for white water rafting, boating, and soaking in the sulphur-rich hot water springs the river bed has to offer. This water is believed to have medicinal properties and is touted to be a cure for many skin ailments.
A boutique hotel by the name Hot Spring is a good option if one is not comfortable bathing in the open. They provide common as well as private baths to those who wish to take a dip in the mineral-rich waters.
During the season, it is popular for white water rafting.
Tip:Usually the trip to Tattapani is combined with that to Naldehra to make it a day-long trip.
Where to Eat in Mashobra
Mashobra does not boast of many eating options but it offers plenty of roadside dhabas serving wholesome meals along with the popular Maggi. Just to list a few eating options in Mashobra:
1) Club Mahindra, Mashobra ($$)
2) The Restaurant at the Oberoi Wildflower Hall ($$$)
3) Restaurant at the Koti Resort near Mashobra ($)
4) The restaurant at the Mashobra Green Campgrounds ($)
All of these are not listed on Swiggy/Zomato so step out to enjoy your meal with a gorgeous view!