Chandigarh: the calmer way to see India
The capital of two states and a union territory, you’d think Chandigarh would be a city buzzing with action. Though there’s no lack of vibe, the city handles its business with a gracefulness native to its streets, making it an ideal destination for tourists looking for a calmer India without missing out on any of the fun.
Chandigarh has roundabouts adorned with stunning fountains and beautiful greenery.
In the northern region of the country, its location is ideal for travel to other areas in India and to international destinations. The best time for travel is between November and March, especially for those looking to avoid the hot weather. Set near the Himalayas, the city is a symmetrical maze of sectors with strip malls on one side and bungalows and houses on the other. If experiencing the hospitality of a big city with small-city charm is your style, you’ll find your match in Chandigarh.
Indian Coffee House
College students in the ’70s stopped by the Indian Coffee House for a cup of authentic South Indian filter coffee and students and locals continue to do so today. Servers wear a crisp white uniform with a traditional turban and the menu remains un-touched. With no air conditioning and cheap prices, the immensely popular restaurant hasn’t changed a bit, and Chandigarh likes it that way. Try the masala dosa, a crepe-like pastry with a spice-infused patty inside, and a steaming coffee. The restaurant has two locations in Sector 17 and while both offer the same menu and ambience, look for the one close to Neelam theatre.
Rocks, roses, wandering
Have you ever seen more than 1,600 types of roses in one gar-den?
The largest in Asia, the Rose Garden is the essence of what Chandigarh is about – calm, serene and beautiful. Take a stroll in the gardens as you breathe in Chandigarh and try to find a black rose, a mission worth accomplishing.
Head over to the Rock Garden in Sector 1, a collection of sculptures and art made from urban waste.
Set in a beautiful garden, the Rock Garden features waterfalls and beautiful ceramic sculptures spread over a lovely garden. It’s a secret worth discovering.
An artificial lake in the foothills of the Himalayas, Sukhna Lake is where Chandigarh wakes up.
Join joggers early in the morning as they take in fresh air and discuss the news of the day.
At the end of your walk, enjoy fresh vegetable or fruit juices from street vendors catering to the regular morning walkers or stop at the lake’s restaurant for a hearty Indian breakfast.
In the evening, the lake is a lively destination with rides for children, street vendors, boat tours and bike rentals.
Sector 17 is the biggest shop-ping area in Chandigarh and a common hangout, with trendy shops for shoes, designer clothes, pashminas and cashmeres. Take a break from the heat and eat at Sindhi Sweets, a landmark in the city’s food culture. With a few locations, this pure vegetarian restaurant, serving local specialties and sandwiches, has gone from a small eatery to becoming irreplaceable. People flock to Sindhi for its tangy street food and fresh sweets, but you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.
Time to dine
Chandigarh’s food scene is vibrant. Mehfil or Ghazal in Sector 17 or Copper Chimney in Sector 8 are hot spots for traditional North Indian cuisine. Try Mainland China in Sector 8 if you’re looking for a change and experience Indian hospitality. Gol Gappe (also called Pani Puri) is one of the more popular street foods and it doesn’t get more traditional than Sector 23. Cab drivers will know which stall you’re referring to. Be sure to try chaats, a savoury fried street food, while you’re at it.
Cruise the roads
Go to the Open Hand Monument in Sector 1, a giant hand that moves with the direction of the wind that is the city’s official emblem. Hire a cab, the easiest way to get around, or rent a car for longer trips. And prepare to be chauffeured around as rental vehicles in India always come with a driver, at no extra cost.