Solan is a sprawling industrial town in the foothills of Himachal Pradesh. I first visited this place as a 9-year-old, when my grandfather was being lauded by his regiment for being the senior-most surviving officer. The convenient location, warm people and proximity to Dada Chellaramji’s Ashram, made my grandparents invest in land here. Over the years, my family constructed a cute cottage in Village Bassal, which has now become our regular holiday haunt.
Here is my pick of what to do when you are in this part of the world. Please do give me any additions or suggestions in the comments below!
- ENJOY THE MOUNTAINS
Solan is a city surrounded by mountains, and has a charm of its own. Its proximity to Delhi makes it easier to reach than most other destinations in Himachal Pradesh.
- HAVE A FABULOUS PICNIC AT DHARO-KI-DHAR
Solan is like any other tier-2 city of India, but the outskirts have some hidden gems. Dharo-ki-Dhar is a remote hillside point about an hour’s drive from Solan. Carry a picnic basket and enjoy some spectacular views as well as a glimpse of an ancient Gorkha fortress.
- TRY YOUR HAND AT AWESOME ADVENTURE SPORTS
The Heaven’s Retreat Resort located at Dharo-ki-Dhar offers fabulous adventure sport packages. I personally have not stayed here but the accommodation seemed comfortable and the activities seemed inviting.
- TAKE LONG AND LEISURELY WALKS
The advantage of any hill-side holiday is living in the lap of nature. Solan, and village Bassal in particular, offer gorgeous and serene hill walks. Get your dose of exercise while breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the lovely atmosphere.
- ENJOY A HOT CUPPA IN A STYLISH CAFÉ
Recently, many cafes and bakeries have opened to cater to a younger crowd. Café XoXo and the recently launched Café Lodge are prime examples. Enjoy a hot cuppa in the cute Coffee Lodge!
- WATCH THE LATEST MOVIES
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I review the latest movies on my IGTV show “The Weekly Verdict by The Lady Lawyer”. I was pleasantly surprised when the latest Hollywood blockbuster in 3D, released at the Sunder Ayaan cinema. The screen is darker than it should be but the seats are comfortable and clean.
- TAKE IN THE LOCAL CULTURE DURING THE MAA SHOOLINI MELA
Every June, the local deity Maa Shoolini Devi takes over the town’s consciousness for three days. Work is suspended and an atmosphere of revelry prevails. Take a walk through the Chotta and Bada Bazaars to really experience the glory of this festival.
- INVEST IN SOME BEAUTIFULLY CRAFTED JEWELLERY
Every town has a jeweller, but Verma Jewellers in Solan is special for me. I bought my wedding set from here ten years ago, and it has stood the test of time. Akshay Verma, the owner, sources his unique designs from across India and offers competitive prices on gold and silver pieces. You can check out their work on Instagram at vermajewellers solan.
If, however, you prefer minimalist semi-precious contemporary offerings, I recommend the beautiful collection by Milly Ghumman, a local jewellery designer. You can check out her work on Instagram at Myo Designs.
L-R: Myo Designs (picture courtesy http://www.myodesigns.com), Verma Jewellers
- DISCOVER THE MANY FACETS OF THE HINDU RELIGION AT MOHAN SHAKTI HERITAGE PARK
This unique heritage park is the only one in the country that boasts multiple Hindu gods and goddesses in the same space. One can treat it as a temple, or simply visit it to take in the rich heritage of Hinduism.
- EAT DELICIOUS SAMOSAS AT RATANJEE’S
There are many eating joints in Solan known for their traditional Indian fare, but Ratanjee’s samosas really hit the spot! He has a little stall in the Bada Bazaar, and you shouldn’t miss it.
L-R: Ratanjee’s Samosas, Cream Puffs Bohra Eggless Bakery, Fresh Fruit at HPMC Outlets
- TAKE A TOUR OF INDIA’S OLDEST BREWERY- MOHAN MEAKIN
Going all the way back to the 19th century, this brewery is most famous for its local beer. A branch of the Mohan Meakin brewery makes the popular Old Monk Rum. Though the brewery is open to public for a limited time in the year, it is definitely worth a visit!
Picture courtesy: http://www.tribuneindia.com
- ENJOY A LUXURIOUS STAY
The options for luxurious stays were scarce in this area, until a couple of years ago. Deventure Hotels opened their doors in nearby Kandaghat, and recently the Fortune Select brand run by ITC Hotels has opened the lovely Forest Hills Resort in Barog. Both these options, offer luxury in the lap of nature, at reasonable price points.
L-R: The gorgeous view from Deventure Kandaghat, the infinity pool at Fortune Select Forest Hills
- DRIVE TO NEARBY HILL-STATIONS SHIMLA, KASAULI, CHAIL, BAROG AND DAGSHAI IN JUST AN HOUR
The biggest attraction of Solan is its location. It’s just an hour’s drive from many hill stations of Himachal Pradesh. If you want to explore the entire state, it is best to stay in Solan, and take day trips to Shimla, Kasauli, Chail, Barog, Dagshai and many others.
Shimla Ridge in the rains
- TREK UP A MOUNTAIN
If you enjoy trekking or want to try it for the first time, the easily scalable peaks of Solan will not disappoint. Mount Karol and Kali Tibba are good destinations to trek to, as per my local blogger friend Manju Thakur Mann.
- EXPLORE YOUR RELIGIOUS SIDE BY VISITING AN ASHRAM
My grandmother was particularly attracted to the simple philosophy of Dada Chellaramji Ashram. I personally don’t subscribe to it, but it is a peaceful and interesting place to include in your Solan itinerary.
The Saproon area has a Gurdwara which also merits a visit.
The fresh fruit from our garden in Solan
This is my pick of things to do, see and eat in Solan, Himachal Pradesh, but it is not a definitive guide. If you have any suggestions, do let me know!
Whatever you do while in Solan, avoid visiting the so-called “Zoological Survey of India Taxidermy Museum”. My husband succinctly described our experience while reviewing it on Google, so quoting him here:
“The place is terrible, and the staff is horrendous. We arrived at 2.30 and all the staff was ‘at lunch’. At 3.05 when no one had returned from lunch we called one of the numbers on the phone to complain- a Dr. Avtar Kaur Sidhu rudely asked us which government department we were from. She said the zoo museum was NOT open to the public and this was NOT a public place. She finally returned from lunch at 3.15 and refused to let us in. A waste of public funds if it isn’t open to the public. Finally, we returned home after not being allowed in on a Thursday afternoon.”
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