Chandigarh is India’s first planned city, quite distinct from the rest of the country and considerably better organized. The most striking thing about the city is the expanse of resplendent blue sky with the mountains in the backdrop.
When you approach the city, you see the jagged skyline of the Shivalik Hills looming large over the city and the faint image of an old temple dedicated to Goddess Chandi (15 km from Chandigarh) from which the city got its name.
Chandigarh is the capital of both Haryana and Punjab, but the city itself is not part of either state, being a union territory, i.e. administered directly by the Indian central government.
Things To Do In Chandigarh
Chandigarh may appear oddly familiar to Western visitors and idiosyncratic to the rest of India. Because of this, Chandigarh is a good place to visit if you need a break from the chaos of the rest of India.
Chandigarh is also a very secure city. With the lowest crime rates in the country, you can feel safe at any hour.
Enjoy the planned city, with tree-lined roads, large beautiful roundabouts, several gardens and on top – a great set of people. Chandigarh and Mysore are considered the cleanest two cities of India.
Chandigarh Capitol Complex
Most of the capitol complex is fenced off due to tight security, the open hand is accessible and from there you can see the main buildings, albeit in the distance. If you want a closer look at the Capitol, you need permission from the Tourist Bureau, in the ‘Deluxe Administration building’ in Sector 9, or (which is much more convenient) to the new tourist office just nearby the high court. Please note the capitol and bureau are only open on M-F.
The tourist bureau is not well signed, you’ll need to ask. It’s in the single-story building out the back. Bring your passport and prepare for the beginning of the most amazing experience in Indian bureaucracy. The tourist bureau gives you three letters giving you permission to visit the three main buildings of the Capitol complex, The Secretariat, the High Court, and the Assembly, but it may take hours for you to obtain the letters.
It is one of 17 worldwide works by the architect Le Corbusier to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Also known as the Government Architecture Museum, the Chandigarh museum provides an interesting aspect of how Chandigarh was founded.
It begins with the principles on which Chandigarh was built, selection of the Architects, the design for the people etc. The correspondence between the Punjabi officials overseeing the construction of the city and the Federal Government in Delhi is fascinating and well worth taking a few minutes to read. Close by is the Government Museum and Art Gallery as well as the Museum of Science and Natural History Museum.
Elante Mall at Chandigarh is among the largest malls in North India, which covers 20 acres of area. It is a mixed-use development project which includes entertainment, hotels, and business. In total, it has a retail space of over 1 million square feet.
The mall boasts of a great food court, a wonderful courtyard full of cafes, sports bars and has various clothing brands. In the entertainment section Elante Mall has PVR cinemas for entertaining large numbers of crowds.
Capitol High Court
The Capital High Court is shared between Punjab and Haryana. The building is amazing and extremely photogenic. You can’t take any photos indoors. However, if you want to take photos you need to surrender your camera, and head in to fill out some more forms in the protocol office, and then take the forms back to security to get your camera back.
The Japanese Garden
The Japanese Garden is a park located in Sector 31 in the union territory of Chandigarh. Built-in 2014 in 13 acres of Land, by Indian Government, it was inaugurated by Shivraj Patil on 7th November 2014. It consists of water bodies, pagoda towers, waterfalls, and golden bamboos. This is the first ever garden in Chandigarh with Japanese touch cost around ₹6 crore.
The Legislative Assembly
The Palace of Assembly is the Assembly for both Punjab and Haryana. It’s easy to run out of time, so make sure you have a whole clear weekday to appreciate all the capitol buildings.
Museum and Art Gallery
The museum and the combined art gallery is an interesting place to go to. Artifacts range from Harappan period relics to paintings and coins from different areas and time periods. The Art Gallery has good collections of ancient and modern Indian art. Fossils of the local dinosaurs found in the region are on show in the adjacent natural history museum. The buildings that the Museums and Art Gallery are housed in are attractive.
Also called Yadavindra Gardens, these are 20 km (12 mi) from Chandigarh and 15 km (9 mi) from Panchkula, on the Chandigarh-Shimla road. Taxis and buses ply regularly between Pinjore and Chandigarh. Pinjore lies on the foothills of the lower Shivalik ranges. The fascinating gardens in the Mughal style are one of the most popular picnic spots in the region. A mini zoo, plant nursery, Japanese garden, historic palaces, and picnic lawns await visitors.
One day 36 years ago, Nek Chand, a humble transport official, began to clear a little patch of jungle to make himself a small garden area. He set stones around the little clearing and before long had sculpted a few figures recycled from materials he found at hand.
Gradually Nek Chand’s creation developed and grew; before long it covered several acres and comprised of hundreds of sculptures set in a series of interlinking courtyards. After his normal working day, Nek Chand worked at night, in total secrecy for fear of being discovered.
When they did discover the garden, local government officials were thrown into turmoil. The creation was completely illegal – a development in a forbidden area.
However, rather than demolishing the garden, they decided to give Nek Chand a salary so that he could concentrate full-time on his work, plus a workforce of fifty laborers.
The city houses the largest rose garden in Asia. It also hosts an annual rose festival which is quite popular among the local population.
You have to jump through some hoops to visit the Secretariat. First you need to find ‘Reception’, which is just a small building out the back, and show them your letter to get a visitor permit, then you need to see Security, who will let you in, then you need to see the main security officer inside, who will send you up to the Registrar, who will then send you back to the main security office.
Thankfully you are escorted through most of this confusing, overly complex procedure, usually by a junior soldier with a large machine gun. The whole process takes about 30 min. to an hour. Once it’s all clear you can go up to the roof, check out the geranium gardens and take in an expansive view of all of Chandigarh. Then they’ll let you have a look out the front, which is more interesting.
Sukhna Lake is an artificial reservoir. A popular place to hang out, one can expect to find residents of the city jogging or strolling along the banks. There is a walking path, a cafeteria, shops, and a mini-amusement park and paddleboats. Shikaras are also available.
The lake, incidentally, has Asia’s longest water channel for rowing and yachting. Visiting Sukhna Lake in the evening or early morning is a particularly pleasant experience.
Many bikers clubs organize motorbiking and adventure activities. Visit Kalagram on Manimajra-Chandigarh road.
It has the exhibition of various handicrafts and decorations from various parts of the country. It also houses the innovative and famous “Condom Bar”, whose theme is centered on condoms.
The city has a rich theatre culture with regular performances by societies and groups from all over India.
Tagore Theatre in Sector 18 plays host to most of the performances.
One can view these street plays in Plaza Carnival situated in sector 17 Main Market, which can be viewed by everyone.
- FunCity – about 20 Km (12 mi) from Chandigarh on the Panchkula – Barwalla Nadha Sahib Gurudwara Highway
- Thunderzone – a 30 min drive from Chandigarh, located in Landran, Mohali
Cactus Gardens, Panchkula
Panchkula is just 15 min away from Chandigarh and contains the beautiful Cactus Gardens, the largest succulent gardens in Asia.
Set aside some time to visit the nearby hill stations of Kasauli, Solan, or Shimla.
The city with the holiest temple of Sikhs is 238 km away and also offers a glimpse into Indian struggle for Independence.
Kasauli is a 90 min drive from Chandigarh is a hill station not very far from the city. If one is lucky, in clear weather it offers a staggering view of Chandigarh from the Himalayan Foothills. Note that foreign visitors will need to present a valid passport to gain entrance since Kasauli is an Army cantonment.
The town of Morni lies at a height of around 1100m (3500 feet) in the Shivalik hills. Just 45 km from Chandigarh, the town is a popular day trip & weekend destination. There are 3 routes from Chandigarh to Morni. The shortest and most popular turn off from the Shimla highway just past the toll barrier at Chandimandir.
An organic farm located 45 km from Chandigarh, surrounded by the lower Shivaliks & forestland on all sides. Accommodation is provided (only on weekends) in a mud & thatch cottage, Swiss tents & safari tents, starting at ₹2,000 for 2 people. Traditional Punjabi food is freshly prepared from organically grown farm vegetables, with sarson ka saag & makki ki roti, and Indian-styled scrambled eggs being the farm specialties. Residents of Rail Majra, a nearby Rajput village, are employed by the farm. The village has a group of Punjabi Sufi music performers who often perform at the farm. Bonfires are lit under the stars on winter nights. Advanced bookings are required.
The Tikkar lakes are at a distance of around 7 km from Morni town. A popular destination, they are also home to the region’s first adventure park. The park, which lies on the bank of the smaller of the 2 Tikkar lakes, was set up by Haryana Tourism in 2004, with the intention of promoting adventure tourism in the lower Himalayan region. At present, it offers a range of activities from low ropes, commando nets, Burma bridge, rappelling & rock-climbing. It also has a tree house, fountains and a cafeteria.
Himachal Hill Stations
Hill stations, such as Shimla, Dharamsala, Kullu, and Manali, are worth visiting as well. For example, a trip by road to Kullu takes about 12 h by bus or 6–7 hours by taxi.
Best Time To Visit
Chandigarh has a humid subtropical climate with extremely hot summers and mild winters. The rainy season is in the middle of the year, although the rest of the months are not completely dry.
So, except the peak summer months (May and June), you can visit anytime.
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December 17, 2018 9:35 pm