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Simultaneous capital of two Indian states, Punjab and Haryana, Chandigarh was described by the BBC in 2016 as something akin to a "perfect" city. That's because it was largely designed for India's new post-independence government by the legendary Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier in modernist style, achieving a blend of the modern and the traditional that has grown up around the central government/cultural area. Plus there are historic spots and interesting nearby excursions.
Landscapes are big here - the city has rose gardens, topiary gardens, Japanese gardens, butterfly gardens, even a 'Garden of Silence.' One of the most popular is the Rock Garden (below), showcasing sculptures, murals and installations amidst greenery.
The city has a lot of other attractions and landmarks to offer, including from monuments, galleries and museums. Visit the Open Hand Monument (top), or admire Le COrbusiers Capitol Complex architecture. Explore the Government Art Gallery & Museum, or spend the evening sitting by the Musical Fountain or take a selfie in front of our Indian replica of the Eiffel Tower.
And being the planned city it is, there is no dearth of state-of-the-art malls. But the real vibe of place is in its street shopping- like the rehri markets in Sectors 22 and 19.
Another appealing aspect of Chandigarh lies in its proximity to scenic hill stations within a few hours’ drive. There are easy car rentals available from Chandigarh to neighboring hill stations like Kalka and Shimla. Alternatively, you can also book the widely used Chandigarh to Shimla cabs and use similar Shimla to Chandigarh Cabs, on the way back. Economical, convenient and fast, this 116Km drive takes about four hours by NH 5. You can explore other destinations using the popular taxi service in Chandigarh.
Nestled in the Panchkula district of Chandigarh, Kalka is the northern plains’ gateway to the mountains. If you are on a Chandigarh to Shimla one way cab, you could easily make a pit stop at Kalka and explore this quaint town. Its biggest highlight is the historic narrow-gauge Kalka-Shimla Railway, offering scenic views of the surrounding hills and vales. Also hit the Pinjore Gardens and experience Mughal influenced architecture with terraced gardens and fountains.
This Himachal hill station is a picturesque town popular with Indian domestic tourists. It has a robust religious and colonial history (as the summer capital of British India), including 20-some sacred sites, including the famous Kali Bari Temple, Tara Devi Temple, even a Buddhist temple, The legacy of the British Raj is reflected in its museums, galleries and memorials (such as the British viceroy's residence, above, now occupied by a research institute). Take a tour of the military heritage at Annandale or find out about this timeless town’s past at the Shimla Heritage Museum and Himachal State Museum.
Indian visitors flock to shop at the Mall Road, but for a more authentic local experience, check out the Tibetan market, the Lower Bazaar, the Lakkar Bazaar, the Cottage and the Himachal Emporium
When it comes to dining, though Shimla has plenty of fine dining and lavish restaurants, the town’s true essence is in its cafés, bakeries and small local eateries. Café Sol, Café Shimla Times and local Tibetan-Chinese restaurants are worth a visit.