Tiny Chail does not rival the colonial grandeur of Shimla, but it does give you a feel of how the summer capital of the Raj must have looked like before its salubrious environs were chopped down to make way for smug imperial edifices. The town was built after Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of the princely state of Patiala was banned from Shimla for life by the British. Chail became accessible to tourists after the Patiala royals handed over the 75-acre estate to the Indian government in 1972.

Gireesh GV
Road through a cedar forest in Chail
Road through a cedar forest in Chail

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Chail does not have a mall road, just a huddle of shops. Spread over three hills – Pandhawa, Rajgarh and Siddh Tibba – Chail is ideal for picnics and short treks.

Tip Beware of monkeys

Pilgrim’s Progress

Faith has three faces in Chail. The most important is the Gurudwara Sahib, built in 1907.

Located on Pandhawa hill, the small yellow gurudwara’s austere structure is reminiscent of the churches in Goa.

Siddh Baba ka Mandir is situated on the hill sandwiched by Rajgarh and Pandhaw hills. The third temple is the Kali ka Tibba, located on top of the hill named after the Rajmata’s cottage, Blossom.

The Choor Chandni peak and the Shivalik Range are visible from here. It’s an easy 6-km trek from the bazaar via the Gaura Road.

Into the Wild

Stretching along the Giriganga River is the small Chail Wildlife Sanctuary, a haven for the wild langur, leopard, bear, hog, deer, goat and wild pheasant (including the endangered kaij pheasant). Keen anglers visiting the Giriganga River need to be prepared for small catch.

Gireesh G.v
The top of the Palace Hotel visible from Siddh Baba ka Mandir
The top of the Palace Hotel visible from Siddh Baba ka Mandir

Walk the Walk

Chail is all about walking in pairs and brandishing sticks if you wish to avoid being attacked by marauding monkeys. Treks to Shimla and Kandaghat take you along beautiful village shortcuts, whereas the trek to Choor Chandni requires a two-day march to the base camp at Hamirpurghat. WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

HPTDC’s The Palace (Tel: 01792-248140/ 43, Cell: 09418000733; Tariff: ₹2,000–18,500) is a good choice. Himneel Hotel (Telefax: 248140/ 43; Tariff: ₹2,700), in The Palace Annexe, is also run by HPTDC. Jungle Livinn (Cell: 09816048798; Tariff: ₹5,500–11,000, with meals) and Tarika’s Jungal Retreat (Tel: 248684; Tariff: ₹10,900–50,000, with meals) are good resorts on Chail’s outskirts. Hotel Deventure (Cell: 09816222555, 09416392122; Tariff: ₹1,500–6000) is located 1km away from Chail and has great views of the Shivalik Range. Most of the hotels offer Indianised versions of Continental and Chinese dishes, besides the regular Mughlai and Himachali fare.

THE INFORMATION

When to go Chail is a year-round destination. Brave the cold in January to see the beauty of snowed-under Chail

Tourist Office

HPTDC, Chandralok Building, 36, Janpath, New Delhi, Tel: 011-23325320/ 33, W hptdc.nic.in, STD code 01792

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest airport: Chandigarh (110km/ 3.5hrs). Taxi ₹3,300

Rail Kalka (84km/ 3hrs) Taxi should cost you about ₹2,450–2,850

Road Chail is a 337km/ 8hr drive from Delhi. Take the NH1 to Ambala, then the NH22 to Panchkula. Panchkula to Kandaghat is smooth climb through deforested hills, dotted with dhabas and motor repair shops. Take the Solan bypass and turn right from Kandaghat. Chail is 27km from Kandaghat