Northern India Itinerary with kids

When you consider a travel itinerary with kids, it’s not often you see India thrown into the mix.  So when we decided that we would spend 3 months in India it was with the intention of taking things a lot slower.  

The last time I travelled here I found the lifestyle in India to be chaotic and at times quite draining (the indian people can be a little persistent!).  So travelling here with kids was going to be challenging! Not in a bad way, but we just needed to be mindful to take a break more regularly than we are used to!

We arrived in India in October 2018 and began our travels to the Indian Mountains before it got to cold.  In fact, if anything I was surprised at how cold it was – especially in Shimla.

We spent around 5 days in Shimla, 4 days in McLeod Ganj, 1 Night stopover in Pathankot and 3 nights in Amritsar.  However, you don’t need long in either Shimla or Mcleod Ganj but it was nice for us to have a slower pace. 2 or 3 days is more than enough.

Here’s our route and how we got around…

Travelling to Shimla

We spent weeks trying to book our Indian train travel through the IRCTC app.  It’s not without it’s issues. Firstly, you need to have an indian phone number and the process of accepting an International credit card provided yet another hurdle.  

However, after weeks of perseverance we finally got there! I’ll create another blog post shortly on how to travel independently and get around India on trains etc..

But back to the story!  Unfortunately, this meant that we were very late booking trains and as such the trains we wanted were not available (like the famous and picturesque toy train from Kalka to Shimla)  In fact indian trains were busier than I had envisaged and as such we had to re-adjust our plans.

Chatting to locals

Luckily this stage of our Indian adventure was more reliant upon rather dubious and nail biting bus journeys!  Hence my reason to not visit more places in the mountains. There’s no Super VIP Deluxe buses here!!

Arriving in Shimla

After a long and windy 2 ½ hour taxi journey costing 8,000 rupees (around £80) we arrived in Shimla.  As no vehicles are allowed in the main town centre you need to find your own way up to the hotel.

Unfortunately this meant a very steep and tough climb with our backpacks on! We really didn’t think that one through very well!  Boy, it was hard work. However, when we did reach The Mall (main street) I was taken aback by how “terribly British” it was!

It had a different feel to other areas of India I had visited and so was quite looking forward to exploring.  But actually we found that there wasn’t a huge amount to do in Shimla (especially for kids).

The main activities were to just walk and explore the area.  

A I mentioned it’s very hilly, so wherever you go you tend to have to walk up or down. However, the town centre isn’t too bad and is reasonably flat. The plus side is that there are loads of eateries and cafes for you to rest your legs in.

It was certainly a great place to catch up with yourself and it’s a lot more relaxed than Delhi or Agra.  Our added bonus was meeting up with some friends from home, where we enjoyed dinner (and even a couple of beers) out a couple of times!  A chance to share stories and just have some adult talk!!

Check out our blog about our stay in Shimla & buying a travel kettle!

McLeod Ganj

After Shimla we boarded our, white-knuckle ride, bus journey to Dharamshala which is the gateway to McLeod Ganj (Home to the Dalai Lama).  

Even though we preferred not to travel at night as Indian drivers have rules of their own, we didn’t have much choice. The journey time was going to take around 7 hours and there were only a handful of smaller ‘tourist buses’.  I really didn’t like the idea of taking a local bus for that length of time with the kids (my princess head was also on again!).

It was late at night when we arrived so we didn’t really see much of where we were.  However, we did have the difficulty of not being able to get into our hotel when we arrived! A mis-communication between the hotel and us meant that the manager had gone to sleep, presuming we weren’t arriving!!  However, after a lot of doorbell ringing someone finally stirred and we were able to check in! oops!

When we woke up we were rewarded when we found ourselves with a stunning view and beautiful rooftop area.  To top it off it felt much warmer too! I knew I was going to like it here! It was another beautiful hillside town, albeit smaller than Shimla.  Personally, I prefer the smaller towns with a more friendlier and relaxed feel.

As we explored the town centre we found so many options for dinner, we were spoilt for choice.

There was a little more to do in McLeod Ganj and being the home of the Dalai Lama there was a museum and more sights/temples to see.  

We also took a stroll into the next town and onto a local waterfall during our exploration. If you were feeling a little more adventurous there were options of hiking in the mountains (and camping) or paragaliding.  But I was happy to just explore the area.

Read here about our journey to and stay in McLeod Ganj with kids.

Amristar

After McLeod Ganj we took another local bus and headed down the mountains, for a brief overnight stop in Pathankot.  

You could feel the warmth soaking into your bones as you descended further towards the indian plains! Much as I enjoyed having some cooler weather, it was actually a little too cold in Shimla. We didn’t have the right gear for those desperately cold mornings and nights!  Still, we just had 1 night in Pathankot (in a rather dodgy hotel) ready for an early morning start to Amritsar.

The train only took a few hours and soon we arrived back into the dusty streets of Amritsar.  A stark contrast to the mountainous regions with it’s much cleaner air.

Amritsar is a large city near to the border with Pakistan.  The town centre was just that, a large paved area with lots of shops, restaurants and touts.  There were so many tourists and the centre was always a hub of activity.

We spent 3 days here which was plenty of time to explore and see the main sights of the stunningly beautiful (and free) Golden Temple and the exuberant Wagah Border closing.  I really enjoyed the activities around Amritsar!

A blog post about our visit to Amritsar with kids will follow shortly.

Conclusion

Northern Indian was completely different to the India I have seen before. The mountains were much calmer and less hectic. The fresh air also provided a refreshing change.

As it is a mountainous region the travel can be nail biting, so make sure you only travel with reliable and reputable companies if on local transport.

We really enjoyed visiting this area. Throughout the whole Himachal Pradesh & Punjab region, it felt very warm and welcoming.

I’ll provide more detailed posts shortly!

 

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