Chail (Ch-a-yal) is a hill station in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, India. It is 44 kilometers (27 miles) from the city of Shimla and 45 kilometers (28 mi) from the Solan district. I happened to travel to this place on a whim and on the recommendation of a colleague. As my other frequent travelling experiences, I ended up here on the eve of Christmas (2017) with a few friends.
The hill station is situated at an altitude of 2,250 m above the sea level and is entirely surrounded by the mountains, forests of pine and gigantic deodars. The weather is generally pleasant, cold in winter and it snows by the year-end. If you are into too much of details- then the average annual rainfall is about 150 mm.
How to travel to Chail?
It is easy to reach Chail by road. If you happen to be travelling from the National Capital of Delhi then you might reach there via Shimla, then via Kufri, the distance is 45 km and via Kandaghat it is 49 km. Regular buses for Chail leave from Shimla, Kandaghat, Chandigarh and Delhi. The closest airports are at Chandigarh (120 km) and Shimla (63 km).
However, we took a train from Delhi to Kalka (86 km away from Chail). It is easily accessible from the New Delhi railway station. You can hire a cab or a taxi upon reaching Kalka Railway Station for Rs. 2,500/-. The same is without bargain as per the Taxi union’s guidelines, unless you know the way around.
Words of caution– avoid travelling by cab or a taxi during late hours. The mountain roads are a bit tricky and prone to accidents. We nearly took off from the edge of a mountain on our late night trip. It’s better to spend the night at Kalka and then take a bus in the morning.
Where to stay?
There are various hotels and resorts in the vicinity of 2-4 sq. km. at the hill station. If you are looking for isolation, then Chail palace is a perfect place for you. It is situated at the top of a mountain with its own private forest and forest lodge.
If you happen to be on a budget trip (as we were), then there are plenty of budget hotels available on the call. I’ll recommend that you opt for a hill facing hotel. The sunrise and sunsets are simply breathtaking. I stayed at hotel Ekant (2 km from Chail). It had comfortable rooms and enough assistance to organise a bonfire at – 2 degree Celsius (midnight).
Cultural: Chail turned out to be a small town with a population of barely 200 people. It was raw in its appearance, bereft of commercialisation and the most friendly of places I have been to. Surrounded by the forests, it offered plenty of trails and treks for travel enthusiasts to explore.
History: As its relatively young history goes, in the year 1891, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala incurred the rage of the British Lord Kitchener. It led to the restriction of his entry in the Indian summer capital, Shimla. This incensed the Maharaja and he vowed to build a new rich summer retreat for himself. So he rebuilt the place (Chail) as per his requirements. Post-accession to India (Union), the Maharaja donated a majority of his buildings here.
The Chail Palace
The Chail Palace was built in 1891 and spreads over an area of 75 acres. It is well known for its architecture and was built as the summer retreat by the Maharaja of Patiala during the British Raj. The major structure was damaged in a fire in the year 1992, but thereon it has been restored. The view from the top is beautiful.
The entrance fee for the tourists is INR (Rs.) 100/- depending upon the season of the visit. It is rich in flora and fauna. However, an advice to the potential tourists- avoid feeding the monkeys.
The Chail Sanctuary
Chail sanctuary was notified in the year 1976 near the town in district Shimla and it covers an area of about 10,854.36 hectares. It mainly has ghoral, kakkar, sambhar, red jungle fowl, khalij and cheer pheasants. Machan like sighting posts have been built at Khuruin for tourists and other benevolent alike. According to villagers some bigger cat species also venture into the forest territories at times.
The National Military School
The Rashtriya Military School is one of the five National Military Schools of the country Where approximately 300 cadets from all parts of the country are groomed to be the future leaders. The walk from the town to the school at the top is 6 km with a bit of trekking. If you happen to take a detour and a roundabout at the mountain then it might take you 9 km to reach the school.
The road uphill is well maintained and well marked for the tourists and localities alike.
The Chail Cricket Ground
Built in the year 1893, it is the highest cricket ground in the world located at an altitude of 2,444 metres above the sea level. Surrounded by thick forests of deodar, it is used as a playground by Chail Military School.
Although tourists are not allowed to venture into the cricket field, it is open for the participants during the sports matches, but under strict security compliances and conditions.
Kali ka Tibba (Kali Devi Temple)- One of the finest sunsets in India
Kali ka Tibba is situated at the top of a hill and is approximately 9- 10 km from Chail. It is also known as Kali Devi Temple. It attracts a lot of pilgrims and tourists from all across the world. From the top where the temple is situated the view of Choor Chandni and Shivalik Range is simply breathtaking.
Despite being a targeted tourist destination, the entire area has remained guarded against the demise of commercialisation. The serenity and the calmness swooning over the entire area makes it a memorable experience. Surrounded by the snow-capped Shivalik hills and the sun setting behind the mountains in all its glory would give swiss alps a run for the money.
The trip overall was enthralling and adventurous. The small town and the surroundings have the natural views and the cultural influx on the offer. If you happen to visit this place, I’ll recommend that you spend at least one day in exploring the town on foot. The jungle trails and the streets of the places nearby are blissful. The people are kind, helpful and considerate.
Nowhere during the entire duration of three days (celebrating Christmas within the jungles) did we feel any unwanted attention or a concern for our safety. That included walking down the hill at midnight under the light of a full moon through the forest trails.
If you are fond of mountains and prefer serenity. I suggest Chail over the commercial hustle bustle of Shimla, Mussoorie, Dehradun or Nainital. It is a marvel in itself.
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