Narkanda, a small hill-town, is one of the unexplored hill stations of Himachal Pradesh. Situated on the HT (Hindustan-Tibet) Road, Narkanda is 64 km northeast of Shimla. It is very close to the largest apple-producing region of Himachal Pradesh. Hence, lorries full of apples is a common sight on the road to Narkanda. You can go to Narkanda either to enjoy a quiet retreat in the hills or to indulge in activities like trekking. Yes, Narkanda is a skiing destination from January to the end of March. Being a hill station at a height of 2750 m (9,022 ft), one thing that Narkanda promises is the spectacular views of the mountains.
Attractions and Activities in Narkanda:
Trek to Hatu Peak
If you are a trekker, you can enjoy the trek to Hatu Peak. And if you are not into trekking, you can drive up to the peak, it is an adventure in itself given the narrow-and-winding road. If you choose to hike up, you will be traversing on a 8 km long path that meanders through the forested hills. Make sure you carry enough food and water with you as there are rare chance you’ll get anything on the way or at the top. The view from the peak is fabulous. You can see the hills and valleys all around. On the peak there is also a temple dedicated to a goddess called ‘Hatu Mata’. You can camp at the top if you wish. The height of Hatu Peak is 3400 m (11152 ft) above the sea level.
Note: At the end of the article there is a video of the drive to Hatu Peak.
If you’re not up for a long hike to Hatu Peak, you can enjoy the walks around the town. The forested slopes of Narkanda are draped with spruce, fir, and high-altitude oaks. Walking on these slopes you can discover the beauty of the place and also catch glimpses of the distant mountains.
Come January and the slopes of Narkanda are carpeted with snow. There are slopes for both beginners and experienced skiiers. The skiing facilities are managed by the Directorate of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Manali. For instructors and equipment, you can contact HPTDC’s Hotel Hatu. Before you set out on your skiing expedition to Narkanda, it is advisable to call ahead and check the situation. Because sometimes the snow fails to cover the entire length of the slopes for skiing.
Places to Visit in Narkanda
Thanedar, 16 km from Narkanda, is at the centre of the largest apple-producing region of Himachal Pradesh. It was in 1916 when Samuel Evans Stokes, a.k.a. Satyanand, planted the saplings of apple trees here. He was an American who had come to India on a spiritual quest and stayed back to help the locals. In about a decade, production of apples turned into an industry here. And even today it is a thriving business. Efforts are being made to cultivate cherries to enhance the profits. Here you can ramble through the orchards and visit the ‘Paramjyot Mandir’ established by Satyanand. His residence stands on a hill but visitors aren’t given access to it.
Kotgarh, 15 km from Narkanda, is a hamlet near Thanedar. A short drive from Thanedar leads to Kotgarh. Alternatively, you can also walk down the hill from Thanedar; it should take about 30-40 min to reach Kotgarh. Apart from gazing at the traditional-style houses, here you can visit an old church known as St Mary’s Church. It is perched on a hillside and dates back to 1872.
As you have read above in the ‘Trek to Hatu Peak’, this peak is 3400 m (11152 ft) high and offers splendid views of the surrounding hills, valleys, and distant peaks. Up there stands an old temple dedicated to a goddess.
When to Visit Narkanda?
It depends on what experience you are looking for. If you want to see the snow-covered slopes or are interested in skiing, visit from January to March. If you want to hike up to Hatu Peak and camp overnight, winter won’t be ideal. During the months of July, August, and September there are higher chances of rainfall.
How to Reach Narkanda?
Road: Narkanda is 64 km northeast of Shimla on Hindustan-Tibet Road. It lies on the way to Rampur Bushahr. From Delhi, Narkanda is 410 km in the north.
Rail: The nearest narrow-gauge station is at Shimla from where you can board the fabled ‘Toy Train’ to Kalka. The nearest broad-gauge station is at Kalka, 148 km southwest, in the plains of Haryana.
Air: While the nearest airport is at Jubbarhatti near Shimla, it is seldom operational for passenger flights. Chandigarh, 185 km southwest, has good connections with major cities of India.
This video displays the adventurous drive to Hatu Peak from Narkanda: