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home > recommended index > recommended himachal > chindi

Recommended places - Chindi (HP)

This page is the full entry for the town of Chindi in the state of Himachal Pradesh, offering a description and some practical information on local accommodation, transport and grub for backpackers and budget travellers.

To see an index of all places we cover within the state go to the Himachal Pradesh state listing. The recommended index has a full list of the other Indian states and places reviewed on this site.

Click here for a description of the rationale behind the recommended section (pops up in a new window).

recommended recommended graphic
 state: Himachal Pradesh location: 100 km north of Shimla
 info date: Sep 2001 size: village
 season: Apr - Oct transport: bus, motorcycle
 hotels: two (2001) good for: everyone, motor bike tours best

pine trees around Chindi, HPI stumbled across Chindi a few years ago trying to go from Manali to Tabo in Spiti, when I made the incredibly naive and dumb mistake of thinking that an apparent shortcut on a map could really be as easy as it looked. This was definitely one of the more serendipitous mistakes I've made in map reading, and revealed a region that still attracts few visitors, yet with landscapes that really are the jewels of Himachal Pradesh.

Chindi - like Karsog and most of this area - is quite isolated and really ideal for those touring by Enfield Bullet. While it makes a nice enough destination in itself, the real point is getting there via the amazing twisting roads that pass through this beautiful and serene landscape of terraced valleys and pine forested slopes. There are plenty of good stopping points with jaw dropping views, ideal for taking the all important 'natural beauty' break. There is very little traffic on the road from Sundernagar and the area is very wind still, and with the engine switched off, the incredible silence in some places is sufficient to hear the proverbial pin drop at a hundred paces. At one stop, the nearest village we could see was at least three KM away, yet we could hear the crystal clear and haunting tones of a wooden flute, broken only by the occasional moo of a cow. There are few places we've seen with this utter sense of peace.

Be warned though; no map we have seen gives any clue as to how twisting the road really is, and it's tempting to think that it's an easy eighty-ish KM from Sundernagar. In fact the drive is fairly hard work, as in places the steep climbs and hairpin bends make it quite slow going - although if you love to ride bikes on twisting roads, that's what makes it so much fun and it's certainly an ideal road for some serious footpeg-scraping. In places the tarmac surface has some oddly conceived cambers, and the single lane road has some deep 'ruts' (trenches is more apt than ruts) from the passage of over laden buses and trucks. Allow more time than you expect for the ride, especially if you are two-up with luggage. It's also worth making sure you have a full tank, as petrol stations were a bit thin on the ground when we last visited.

There's not much of Chindi itself; a small village with a beautiful old Kali temple, a few shops, and a couple of particularly authentic old chai shops built out of a mismatched collection of old planks, bits of chicken wire and some serious ingenuity. Places of this kind are rapidly biting the dust in rural India with the rocketing price of timber and the onset of concrete as the modern building material of choice. They have atmosphere in spades, with simple wooden benches and wonky tables worn down and polished to a gloss by three or four generations of villagers trading gossip over a top notch chai and a beedi.

But Chindi's real claim to fame in India at large lies at the top of the hill above the village; the Chindi rest house. Rest houses kept by the Forestry or Public Works department are not uncommon in rural areas, although few match Chindi for sheer style, elegance and location. The house itself looks something like a miniature Georgian country manor house, with a large, well kept garden and a serene view, looking out as it does over miles of gently rolling hills.

The Rest Houses are principally built for workers on official government business, although its usually possible for a foreign tourist to stay at the discretion of the manager if there is room. Not Chindi however, which seems to be principally a holiday resort for those higher up the food chain in the Indian civil service, and is definitely off limits to us 'gora' - at least in our experience. We've tried twice and been told no with a distinct sniff and a slightly upturned nose, in what appeared to be a bit of inverted Raj snobbery - perhaps appropriate as the building looks to be pre-independence (see note). Or perhaps they'd had a few Israeli tour groups on Bullets.

There is a much newer (2001) HPTDC place just down the road from the Chindi Rest house, which is nice but expensive. It's worth hanging around Chindi - and/or nearby Karsog - for a few days just to have a few walks and drink in the serene atmosphere of the hills. The surrounding region has endless possibilities, with Shimla a short ride to the south and numerous scenic spots dotted around the triangle between Mandi, Rampur and Shimla. Its also a good stop off if you're heading on toward Kinnaur or Spiti, and an alternative route to going through the Banjar valley and over the Jalori pass.

NOTE: There was a consolation prize, however, in that we were invited to take tea with the splendid Colonel P.P. Singh (Retd) and his wife, who saw us getting the heave-ho and must have taken pity. Col Singh it seems is something of a legend in India. He writes extensively for an army in-house magazine, and travels extensively around the country to get material for his stories, accompanied by his wife, who has a truly wicked sense of humour. These two extremely open minded pensioners have more energy, enthusiasm and sparkle than most people half their age, and are surely the definition of 'making the most of your retirement'.

 guest house
/ hotel:
If you've got a good contact in the Indian establishment, maybe you'll get in at the Chindi rest house, although I wouldn't hold my breath. Otherwise the only choice is Himachal Tourism's Hotel Mamleshwar (at least in 2001) which is pricey, but to be fair they are extremely nice, spacious rooms and the hotel has a garden with an incredible number and variety of flowers. We visited in the off season (Sep) and had to do some serious bargaining to get them down to 600Rs per night. In high season (May-June) I would imagine the problem is getting a room at all, as these places are invariably popular with Indian families on their annual break. Other hotels may have opened since 2001. If nothing is available in Chindi, Karsog is only 15 Km away.
/ dhaba:
The chai shops sell the usual simple snacks, but I don't recall anywhere in the village selling more substantial food. As with most HPTDC places, the Hotel Mamleshwar's large restaurant sells a range of good and generally inexpensive Indian dishes, with the egg curry being especially good as I recall.

local interest:

Fabulous landscape of rolling hills and pine forest, pukka chai shops, endless peace and quiet in which the words "baba" and "why like this?" are unlikely to feature. It's worth a look at the Chindi rest house, and they may even let you stay for chai.
season: April to June is best weather wise, but it may well be hard to get a room as it's peak season. September is also pleasant although getting chilly in the evening.

by far the best plan would be by your own mode of transport. If you have your own motorcycle and come from Mandi, hang a left at the top of the hill about a Km before the town of Sundernagar on the NH21 (there's a few shops and a petrol station), then head towards Rohangalu and later towards Bakrote, a couple of Km from Chindi and 10Km from Karsog.You could also initially turn left at Ner Chowk, although I have no idea what that road is like. If you're having trouble when asking directions, another target would be Luhri / Rampur. The last few Km to Chindi always seems to be a bit of a fiddle as the road splits.

If you want to stick to public transport, go by bus from Shimla (app. 3 hrs) or bus from Mandi / Sundernagar.

related: On this site: Himachal Pradesh slide showHimachal map

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