Chail or Shimla: which one is better to plan a holiday? Let’s find out!
During my recent 1-month monsoon ride across Himachal Pradesh, I happened to visit the two towns back to back. It was my second visit to both places. Where I loved Shimla for being quiet for a change, I adored Chail for an even more peaceful experience.
During the months of monsoon, both felt (almost) equally enjoyable. But, for a different reason!
My First Visit To Chail And Shimla
The first time I visited Shimla, was during the peak tourist months of May and June. I had just returned from the UK (after completing my studies and living there for 3 years) and wanted to see what the Britishers have left behind in India.
It was a solo backpacking trip – the kind that starts with exploring a place in the morning and ends with listening to the symphony of crickets in the night. But my experience was unlike any of it. Shimla was a chocker with tourists. It was loud, confusing and overpriced. I found more people in Shimla than I find in New Delhi on a weekend, with younger people going haywire after a few drinks and older ones wincing about it.
The Shimla I was hoping for was somewhere missing.
And frustrated, I left Shimla and headed to Chail.
Though in the months of May and June, Chail was pretty crowded too, it didn’t feel as maddening as Shimla did. I could find a peaceful corner in Chail and have some ‘me time’. The only problem was, Chail didn’t have much to offer.
From Chail Palace to Chail Mall Road, everything was so small – especially now that I was comparing them with similar places in Shimla.
Now, let’s get to the original topic at hand and start discussing which one is better…
Chail vs Shimla: Which One Is Better?
Shimla Is For Bucket Listers
From architecture to walking trails to shopping, Shimla has something for everyone. In fact, there is so much to see and do in Shimla that you need at least a week to explore it all. Shimla is the state capital of Himachal Pradesh and was the summer capital of the British Raj in India – naturally, there can’t be a better place, at least in Himachal Pradesh, when it comes to the number of tourist highlights.
Having said that, if you are the kind of person who enjoys seeing and doing too much on their holiday, Shimla is a better choice. The only problem is the waves upon waves of tourists that make it too hard to enjoy the place.
Your holiday experience in Shimla will come along with dealing with a massive crowd, that, in every sense and measure, affect your overall experience. When in Shimla, forget the idea of peacefulness. And that’s where Chail comes into the picture.
Chail Is For Nature Lovers
Though don’t get into fantasies, and be known that Chail also gets pretty crowded for most of the time of the year. But if you’re comparing the two it won’t be wrong to say that Chail is for nature lovers.
Beyond an unexciting mall road and the boring King’s Palace (save your 100 Rupees and don’t go inside the Chail Palace), Chail has quite a few nature trails to enjoy. If nothing, there is no dearth of finding a peaceful corner in Chail (even in season time) and enjoying the serenity of the mountains.
So, when we compare the two places, Chail offers much better chances of finding peace and tranquillity than Shimla. It is moreover surrounded by a dense deodar forest, that, in fact, completes your Himachal Pradesh wilderness experience (of losing yourself in a tall deodar forest).
Monsoon Is The Best Time To Visit
This time, as I visited Chail and Shimla, one after the other, I found that both can be best explored in the months of the monsoon – when the crowd is the least.
Unlike my last visit, this time, as I ended up in Shimla in the monsoon, I didn’t find myself too lost. The Mall Road in Shimla was breathable, and so were other highlights like State Library and Christ Church. Most people, as I roamed around and found, were also locals.
Read In Detail: Why Monsoon Is The Best Time To Visit Shimla
Similarly, Chail looked even more breathable. During my 2 day stay in Chail, I hardly found any tourists around. The entire vibrancy of the wilderness, with an added green and fresh smell of the jungle, was just a plus.
Chail or Shimla: The Conclusion
Because for most of us, the idea of visiting mountains is finding peace and tranquillity (while ticking off some popular highlights at the same time) I will suggest staying in Chail and doing a day trip to Shimla.
From prices to the exclusivity of the place, Chail offers a much better experience when it comes to staying. What’s better is parking and getting to Chail is not as daunting experience as dealing with Shimla’s traffic and later finding parking there, actually is.
Additionally, if you follow the main highway that connects Chandigarh to Shimla, the drive isn’t very picturesque. But Chail to Shimla drive is meant for a memorable drive.
So yea, both Chail and Shimla offer different experiences. Stay in Chail to save some money and do a day trip to Shimla.
Shimla To Chail
Shimla to Chail distance is between 45 and 50 km, depending upon which route you take. There are three routes connecting the two destinations. It is possible to travel between the two destinations in a couple of hours. Many people stay in one town and do a day trip to the other.
For more people, Shimla is the preferred destination to stay. They travel from Shimla to Chail, explore, and return. However, I suggest you do it the other way as Chail is comparatively quieter.
But whichever you do — Shimla to Chail, or the other way round — this is how to travel between the two destinations:
In A Bus or Taxi
It is possible to hire a private taxi or a shared taxi as well from the Shimla bus stand. A private taxi can take up to 3000 Rupees (depending upon which taxi you hire and the availability of taxis during that season). Shared taxis can take up to 300 Rupees. If you’re taking a bus, be known that buses take NH5 Kandaghat-Chail-Kufri which is the longest (55km) and takes about 2 hours.
If you’ve your own vehicle, it is possible to travel from Shimla to Chail in about an hour and a half. The suggested route is MDR13 Kandaghat-Chail-Kufri which connects Sadhupul and Panthaghati. This is the second shorted and most scenic. You can see the following Youtube video where I took the same route for my Chail to Shimla journey.
Chail to Shimla Youtube Video
Here’s the video of my Chail to Shimla ride from my youtube channel:
What is your opinion? Which one is your favourite among the two destinations?