Roughly 17 kms off Hwy 22, Sarahan sits perched atop the Himalayan mountain range at 7100 ft. This quiet, small town is built into the hillside with spectacular views all around. Like the British hill stations around Himachal Pradesh, Sarahan boasts a pleasant year round climate sheltered from the intense summer heat in the nearby valleys. Although I did see many foreign and Indian tourists while in town, the overwhelming feeling felt was appreciation in the lack of commercialization. Few hotels and restaurants inhabit the area around the town’s main draw, the Bhimakali Temple. Other than a row of vendors selling their wares to visiting pedestrians walking past, there isn’t the massive overgrowth, and cheapness, customary to religious sites in India.
How To Reach
One road leads, and eventually dead-ends, in Sarahan. Twists and turns await the short drive by steep cliffs on one side and on the other, deep ravines, dense emerald pine forests, terraced farms and apple orchards. Total trip time from Shimla is roughly 6 hours.
Auto: Car & driver services were the most popular form of transportation bringing tourists into town. Road conditions are favorable year round however as with most mountain access roads in Himachal, landslides are common during the monsoon season.
Bus: Daily service to Sarahan via Solan offered by HRTC only, no private buses. Fare Rs 200 (As of 2010).
Train: Kalka terminal. From here, hire a taxi or rely on local bus service.
Plane: Chandigarh Airport, travel remaining distance by road.
Wake up to the cool morning, dew covered greenery in Sarahan just in time to watch the sunrise over the Srikhand Mountain Range. Views of the valley below give a sense of the height. From across town you can clearly see the twin peaks of Gushu-Pishu and Srikhand Mahadev. The former summer residence of the Rampur Bushahr kings, what was once the King’s Palace is now the main attraction.
Lying in the heart of Sarahan, the 2000 year old Bhimakali (or Bhima Kaali) Temple bares an unusual architectural look for being Hindu. It’s pagoda style design is fitting for this area of India, but it takes a few minutes to digest the stark difference between this temple, and the more traditionally designed buildings found throughout the country. The timber bonded structure is built of layers of rubble masonry and beams of cedar wood.
My early morning visit wasn’t so early in the eyes of various vendors who had already set up shop on the pavement leading to the temple entrance. Free entry awaits all who choose to visit. Meander around the main courtyard to snap pics and remove your shoes. Signs are posted asking not to encourage beggars, however a few tried their hand with me. I took so much time picture taking here that by the time my driver had re-emerged from his daily prayers inside, my opportunity had passed. We were on a heavy time line that day and needed to move on out to keep on schedule. A quick walk through the immaculately maintained grounds offered excellent shots of the temple as we made our exit.
Just 0.5 kms from town near the Nalati Stadium is a pheasantry. A short nature trail from the temple can get you here. Seven species are are housed at this location including the monal and the near-extinct Western Himalayan tragopan.
The HPTDC operates a hotel with staggering views of the surrounding mountains. Be sure to ask for the hostel rates which are not clearly advertised. Management here is very friendly and helpful.
Numerous local eateries line the main market here. Hopefully you like momo’s as the food is strongly Tibetan influenced.
Magnificent landscape, a lake and reservoir, and meadows of alpine await visitors just 50 kms from Sarahan. Trekking routes for those who like variety begin in this area. Remember, if moving on toward the restricted part of HP, you’ll need an Inner Line Permit available at DC offices in Shimla and Recong Peo.