Narkanda (Himachal Pradesh): If you've flipped through English romantic poet Wordsworth's "The Mountain Echo", you will realise that the peaceful valley of Narkanda, a picturesque town in Himachal Pradesh, perfectly echoes his mesmerising poetry.
I remembered Wordsworth the moment I witnessed the topaz blue sky, the misty morning and the winter chill - a perfect combination for a small vacation I was craving for. Not a hot spot among the tourists' circle, the first glance made me fall in love with the place.
Commonly known as "The Gateway to Apple Country", Narkanda is located about 65 km from Shimla, towards Rampur on National Highway 22 - also called The Hindustan Tibet Road.
Away from the maddening crowd, the valley welcomes you with the view of a snow-clad Himalayan mountain range on one side along with tall pines, spruce and scattered maple and aspen trees on the other side.
The narrow curvy road has its own charm. The valley soothes with the silence of its surroundings. The whispering of cold breeze and the rattling sound of leaves are a constant companion and creating a sweet and rapturous mood.
The Hatu peak is a major attraction in Narkanda. As I began my journey towards the peak, amid the pine and maple trees, the serenity of the valley drifted me into a different world.
The road, scattered with red maple leaves, paved my path while heading towards the peak - with glimpses of the mighty Himalayan peaks blinking out of the pine trees.
As I reached the top, the breathtaking view of the mountain range enchanted me with its beauty and it seemed as if Mother Nature had cast her magic spell over me.
The place is also famous for its apple orchards. Thanedar, which is about 14 km from Narkanda, is known as the hub of apple cultivation. From Narkanda it's a 20-minute drive to Thanedar.
The Stokes Farm is one such popular apple orchard. Started in 1916 by Samuel 'Satyanand' Stokes - an American who came to India to work at a leprosy home - the farm provides livelihood for several locals, especially women.
Apple wines and jams are also manufactured in Thanedar.
And what better way to sip the wine with sun setting behind hills enveloping the sky in a reddish hue!
Located 8,600 feet above the sea level, the valley is ideal for a short escape from the busy city life.
"Yes it was the mountain echo,
Solitary, clear, profound
Answering to the shouting cuckoo,
Giving to her sound for sound.".
After the Narkanda visit, the Wordsworth poem came alive for me. I am sure these beautiful lines will make your Narkanda experience an unforgettable, poetic experience.
How to reach: Narkanda is well connected from Shimla.
Cabs would charge around Rs.2,500. If travelling by your own car, the route from New Delhi is via Chandigarh on National Highway 22.
Estimated time taken to travel from Delhi to Narkanda is 10 hrs. From Shimla, it takes around two hours to reach the town.
For local sightseeing, cabs would charge Rs.1,200.
Where to stay: Being less crowded and a not so popular tourist spot, there are limited choices for hotels in Narkanda. There are some resorts which charge between Rs.2,000 to Rs.4,000 per night. If your budget is limited, then settling between two hotels in the town area won't cost more than Rs.1,000 for a double-bed room.
There is also The Hatu being run by the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation.
Best time to visit: March-June, September-November. Avoid the monsoon. The winters is harsh except if one is comfortable with the extreme temperature.
Where to eat: There are countable restaurants and road-side dhabas. However, all hotels have their own restaurants; so there's plenty of choice.
Average meal for two: Rs 500 without alcohol.
(Somrita Ghosh can be contacted at email@example.com)