Where: Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, India
Elevation: 4,829 ft.
Visited: November 2014
How to reach : Nearest railway station is Pathankot (Punjab border). Nearest airport is Ghaggal, Himachal Pradesh. A number of private and HRTC buses have a good road network.
Best time of the year: March to June as a summer retreat. November to February as winter resort and activities.
Accomodation: Number of home stays, Government Tourism guest houses, Tea Bud, Bundla Estate stay, budget hotels and for a classic residence – Norwood Green.
Things to see /do: Visit tea gardens of HP Tourism and Bundla Estate, scenic Botanic garden, temples of Chamunda Devi and Baijnath, Andretta town, Rhododendron flower forests on nearby routes. Check out winter sport activities in nearby areas.
‘If you wish to escape into the lap of Mother Nature, stroll through tea gardens, view the Dhauladhar snow capped peaks and savour Kangra cuisine: Palampur beckons you.’
Prompted by this advertisment, we enjoyed a relaxed holiday here. As usual, visited the markets. Sharing my journal notes with you.
1. Bundla Tea Estate / Himachal Tourism Board Tea Estates
Palampur is known as the ‘Tea capital of North India’.
Misty mornings, dew drops hanging on fresh green leaves, undergrowth of thick woody stems and a canopy of lush green tea bushes. Mesmerizing, relaxing, surreal. No wonder Palampur is known as ‘Tea capital of North India’. A quiet getaway from the city noises and pollution.
The Bundla tea estate is managed by three generations of the Butail family. They own vast plantations. Living on their estate in a beautiful English built villa, the family owns extensive tea gardens. However, their humble and and friendly nature is widely known in Palampur. Check out their home stay at Bundla estate.
Nearby are the HP Tourism Board tea gardens – equally sprawling, picturesque and perfect for a refreshing morning walk. Feel the cold mountain air touching your face in winter, or during April and May stop by to capture photos of plantation workers with traditional baskets on their back, busy plucking fresh leaves.
Fresh tea bud and flower
Gifted with clear fresh water streams crisscrossing everywhere and a high altitude, the British found a perfect spot to grow tea bushes and enjoy the hill station atmosphere. Planted here by Dr. Jameson, a botanist in the region, this Orthodox Chinese variety of tea makes a unique gold brew. And so it gets its name: Kangra Gold Tea ( from Kangra valley). This is a green tea and is noted for its bountiful health benefits.
For more information check this :
Grading of Kangra Tea leaves
A golden brew – Kangra Tea
Kangra Tea packets
2. Tea Co-operative Society
Visitors are welcome for a viewing at the co-operative society, on the outskirts of the town. Architecturally, the building stand out. A brick and stone building in buff colour and red border, a slanting roof to withstand winter snowfall, it is a good place to begin understanding all about Tea.
Inside there are large and small rooms for sorting, drying and withering of fresh tea leaves. Wooden crates and gunny sacks can be seen around, used for packing. Machinery is relatively new. Tea owners bring their crop here for sale.The process of collection, sorting, withering, grading and packaging of the tea leaves takes place after June. Finally, tea is ready sent to and auctioned in Calcutta – the largest auction site!
Palampur Tea Co-operative Society
3. Buttico Emporium and Kullu shawls
If you have forgotten to bring your winter wear ( like I did, on purpose) snuggle up in the traditional Kullu shawls. These are hand-woven. Typical Kullu shawls have geometric patterns on both ends of the shawl, using bright colours like red, yellow, majenta, green and orange. These are made by dyeing the yarn. Himachali men have their own fashion statement – the Kullu Topi or cap. It is round on the sides and flat on the top. Designs with bright colours adorn the cap border.
Kulu caps and shawls
Made of Angora, Pashmina or light wool Kullu shawls are world reputed and much desired. Stop and shop!
4. Farm stay, farming and vegetable markets
Most of the rural locals own small land and live in mud /cement houses. Life is simple – fresh air, water and home-grown vegetables. Education is considered top priority. Exercise is cleaning home, tilling the land or walking to the nearest town or community centres for markets and events.
On one such bus journey, we alighted at a town to interact with the women folk tending their home gardens. Stories of tilling soil, a failed harvest, taking loans to buy new seeds, winter weather woes and so on….But, finally, with experience and little community help they won the battle.
Tilling the land in rural Palampur
A lesson learned – experimenting and patience gives a good harvest.
5. Andretta town: Pottery Magic
Searching for glazed pottery? Unique shapes? Blissful, remote holiday? Head outwards to Andretta town. See the famous Pottery and craft centre.
Norah Richards, a British lady first lived here with her husband and built an English style cottage. Later painter /sculptor Shobah Singh moved here from Lahore. His family, till date, continue to make variety of pottery ( sold at retail outlets and Fab India stores) and teach and manage the centre, thus providing employment to the region and promoting the artistic talents.
Why not sign up for a 3 month intensive pottery workshop?
Glazed Pottery -Andretta, Palampur Courtesy: Internet Photo
But there’s more than just the market for Tea, shawls and pottery.
Head to the main bus stand. Buy your souvenir Kangra Gold Tea packs from the corner shops. Visit the adjacent crowded street market. From a sewing needle to bundles of colourful wool, winter clothes, kitchen utensils and ladies fashion garment, plus tucked into their midst are Punjabi style Dhabbas ( street food places). Sit on wooden stools or plastic chairs, feel the aromas of fresh cooked food and see the over sized aluminium vessels filled with potato curry or mixed vegetable curry. Enjoy stove hot ghee dripping cauliflower parathas or Kangra Kadhi -Chawal . Or drink tea like the locals do.
Local brew tea
Palampur has it all – picturesque scenery, quiet pace of life, fresh food and water (and Tea packets!), art and craft and friendly locals.
Aren’t you ready to book your train journey? Don’t forget to bring back a packet of Kangra Gold Tea and plenty of stories to share.
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