Venue: Panchkula, Haryana
Date: 14-15th August 2016
Just before winter last year there was a lot of work and we were dying. Having no time for a proper vacation or even for any fancy planning, we virtually started driving on GT Karnal Highway on a Saturday morning. We had some vague notion of a place Morni and followed Google Maps and our gut feeling towards this destination.
Morni is a hill station in Panchkula, one among the very few in Haryana. It lies beyond Chandigarh just at the foot of the elevation to Kasauli, Shoghi, Kufri, Shimla and other hill stations of Himachal. The drive is a little difficult given the steep narrow road towards the end. However, it is quite doable by a seasoned driver.
Just before reaching Chandigarh from Delhi, the highway turned right towards the hills. Before the elevation for Shimla and other hill stations, we took a further right as suggested by Google Maps. This led to a somewhat steep road with significantly less traffic. We drove along the mountains and in no time, the humdrum of city life gave way to idyllic peace. There were little hamlets in this area and we found some small provision shops at the corner of the road. We had seen boards for Royal Hut Resort on our way up and a shopkeeper instructed us to this place. Given the expanse of road with little or no habitation and fluctuating GPRS thereafter, we would have otherwise been very lost.
We checked in at Royal Huts Resort and were charmed by the warm welcome by the staff. As we would experience during the rest of our stay, this place defines hospitality and we have written separately about this. It took us about 5 hours from Delhi to reach Morni Hills. We had stopped in between for some brunch.
Pines crowned the hilltops in Morni and trees like oak, neem and jacaranda covered the slopes. There was hardly any traffic on the road. It was as peaceful as it could possibly get. We spent the next one and half days sky gazing and taking long walks along the hills. The hotel staff advised that we should be back by early evening given the wild animals who prowl on the roads at night. Some adventure we thought!
Things to do in Morni
There are some site-seeing options around the area:
Tikkar Taal – A short drive downhill again on a narrow road led to this lake Tikkar Taal. It is like a water basin surrounded by mountains and the view of the lake is very calming. Although it is like a picnic spot, given the expanse of the area, there is enough scope for solitude.The Haryana Tourism Department maintains this place and has a small restaurant here that serves basic snacks. There are a lot of activities for kids and that makes it a perfect summer vacation ideas from Delhi.
Pandava Temple / Thakur Dwar Temple– On the way back from Tikkar Taal towards Royal Hut Resort, we spotted a small temple in pink that looked somewhat different from a regular shrine. The strong curiosity it evoked made us park, with difficulty, some distance ahead. When we walked back, we were surprised that what we spotted was an ancient temple. There was a Krishna deity inside and we learnt that this 10th century temple was attributed to the Pandavas. To prop up the intricately carved stone structure, modern concrete structures have been erected around the original dome and the sanctum sanctorum. The pink paint on the cement structure was a lovely contrast to the light brown hue of the original temple. Legend has it, the Tikkar Taal Lake is the famous lake from Yaksha Prashna in Mahabharat and the temple is thus called Pandava Temple.
While some pieces of sculpture was housed at Chandigarh Museum, chunks of exquisite old carvings were lying all around and we were overjoyed that we had chanced upon an ancient temple purely by intuition.
Morni Rani Fort – The next morning we trekked up to a small fort atop a hill. The quaint 17th century fort was surrounded by well maintained gardens and there was a colourful temple outside. This was a peaceful place and well worth the climb. The fort was being revamped as a fancy hotel. Perhaps this strategy is the way forward for maintaining such myriad hidden gems in India.
We started on our way back to Delhi post lunch and were home by evening (5 – 6 hours). One word of caution – mobile networks don’t work well here and only our Vodafone network had some connectivity. One is that detached from city life at Morni. Can’t overstate that this trip was a huge surprise. We had all pleasures of a vacation – mountains – nature – history – solitude – all over a weekend!
Morni Hills are a hidden gem – still not spoilt by tourism overkill and we are thankful that we landed up here. Morni Hills spells magic for people looking for a break from urban humdrum just for a weekend.