Mashobra has been on my mind since I got to know that it is one of the only two presidential retreats in India. Its vicinity to Delhi and not being a regular tourist destination further encouraged me to visit the place. Mashobra is a suburb of Shimla and is yet untouched by regular tourist inflow that Shimla experiences.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Traveling with Small Kids to Mashobra – Complete Travel Guide
It was one of our initial trips with our two-year-old son. Traveling with babies or toddlers for the first few times give stress goals to parents. Many things are to be kept in mind for a hassle-free travel with little ones and choosing the right destination is the most important factor. Mashobra is one such place which you can choose to visit with family, friends, spouse, kids, babies or even alone and you will have a good time.
I was skeptical of visiting Shimla again because over the last few visits I have seen it transform into a crazy little hill city. Blaring horns, tons of cars emitting poisonous vapors, traffic jams and mad tourist rush turn it into a nightmare over long weekends.
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And unfortunately, we chose to visit Mashobra on a long weekend. As we were crossing Shimla, the Mall and its vicinity we got stuck in a jam for almost an hour because of influx of tourists from Delhi and Punjab.
However, as we got out of the main town and hit the Mashobra road, the panorama changed completely. Though not too far from Shimla, Mashobra is devoid of any hustle-bustle and tourist rush.
Beautiful views, pristine trails to linger around, laid-back life of mountains, apple orchards, gurgling streams, green forest-covered mountains, comfortable cottages, homestays and much to explore – that is Mashobra. Even if your objective is to visit Shimla, stay at Mashobra for a serene and refreshing neighbourhood.
Mashobra is a presidential retreat. That means, once a year, The President of India holidays here at Chharabra. It is a little village on outskirts of Mashobra where the famous Wildflower Hall hotel is located. This very fact intrigued my curiosity to explore the place which holds such high reputation amongst India’s first citizens.
Mashobra is a little over 12 km away from Shimla, that is, almost half an hour’s drive on a good day in the hill town. With an average elevation of 7,041 feet, Mashobra has a decent mountainous terrain which is ideal for an offbeat family getaway.
Best Time to visit Mashobra
We visited Mashobra in April, although it remains pleasant throughout the year. During April – June (summers) temperature hovers around 10-30 degrees Celsius. The famous Mahasu festival happens in Mashobra in May, so if you would like to attend that visit during summer time. Flora at Mashobra is at full bloom during March-April with pretty flowers covering the hill town.
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Monsoon months (July-September) at Mashobra are misty, cloudy yet lush green. But showers are usually unexpected and can adversely affect any plans of sightseeing or intercity travel. It is best to avoid monsoon months to visit the place, unless the hard-core romantic in you says otherwise!
The place sees snowfall all across January, late December and sometimes in February as well. Mashobra looks splendid in winters and the neighbouring Kufri opens up for skiing as well. Temperature starts plummeting around September and the area stays pleasantly cold till early April. You might not be able to do trekking and other adventure activities during this time except skiing, but for snow lovers it is the best time to visit Mashobra.
How to Reach Mashobra
We drove down to Mashobra from Delhi, covering a distance of 355 kms in over 8 hours. Roads to Shimla and Mashobra from Delhi are in good condition.
As you cross over Shimla and take the road to Mashobra the landscape transforms to thick shades of green, empty roads and snow clad mountains in a distance. Forests of Mashobra are a part of Shimla Water Catchment Wildlife Sanctuary, so you are likely to witness some thick vegetation and maybe locate some wildlife, if you are lucky.
On the route to Mashobra
As we were travelling with a toddler, we had to make frequent stops in between for refreshments and rest. If you leave early in the morning (between 5 to 6am) from Delhi, you would reach Kurukshetra around 8am where you can stop over for breakfast as there are a host of good motels on the highway. We ate at Motel Golden Saras, which had clean (even luxurious for a highway) premises, hygienic food, nice restrooms and a pleasant outdoor seating area.
In case you need to make another pit-stop then Chandigarh is a good option.
What To Do in Mashobra
Mashobra is a place which casts its spell on you to indulge in nature walks, treks and bird watching. Its lush green surroundings, apple orchards and the reserve sanctuary convinces any traveller to explore its interiors on foot. One of the best things that we did in Mashobra was to sit around the bonfire at night and walk through the coniferous trails during the day.
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Reserve Forest Sanctuary
The nature lover in me was delighted to see this sanctuary which is an oak, pine and cedar forest seeped with wilderness, It houses one of the Asia’s largest watersheds and variety of flora and fauna. A pleasant weather in April provided just the right atmosphere for a walk into this green paradise.
The reserve has a few campsites and nature resorts which organise treks and nature walks to the sanctuary. Or you can stroll through it by yourself, the terrain is not very rough. If lucky, then you can spot some wildlife such as a jackal, baboon, Himalayan eagle, pheasant or even a leopard.
Himalayan maple, which is very different from the famous Canadian maple tree can be seen in plenty here, along with the Himalayan Chestnut. See if chance upon to bring home some chestnuts, they are a much healthier variety of nuts with low calories and no gluten. You can steam, grill or roast the nuts and use it in delicious recipes.
Fagu is a little hamlet, almost 10kms away from Mashobra, situated on the acclaimed Hindustan-Tibet road. You can easily drive down to Fagu from Mashobra or Shimla. In addition to Kufri, Fagu is another high altitude village in Shimla region which is known for its cool environment and snowfall throughout winters. Fagu remains pleasantly cold even during summer months.
Go there to experience the delightful apple orchards and potato fields which are spread all across Fagu. The place has a serene landscape, it is not much populated and is a good location to spend some leisure time alone. The best thing to do at Fagu is enjoy its tranquil surrounding by walking across the place, soak in the views and relax.
If you choose to spend a night at Fagu then HPTDC has a newly renovated property here, The Apple Blossom. The property is perfectly located to give amazing view of both Sunrise and Sunset.
This is a pretty little village in Shimla district and a stone’s throw away (2.5 kms) from main Mashobra. Highlight of this place is that it is home to The President’s Retreat Building. During the annual stay of India’s president, it turns into a fully functional President’s office. This historic wooden building was constructed in 1895 by the British. Despite being old, the building’s special architecture and a unique wall construction (Dhajji) makes it earthquake resilient.
Chharabra’s another attraction is the renowned ‘Wildflower Hall Hotel’ which is again a British construction.
This well-known snow destination of Shimla district is located near Mashobra. We did not spend much time here because in April it was devoid of snow and full of picnickers (or rather, selfie takers!). However, Kufri has good slopes for skiing and is a hub of winter sports when it snows. If you want to enjoy the place in full bloom then plan around December-January.
While driving down from Mashobra, you will first encounter Kufri, then Chharabra and along the same road falls Fagu. This is a stretch on the mighty Hindustan – Tibet road and further ahead is a charming village ‘Theog’. Theog is another offbeat place to explore near Shimla, with minimal population and very few hotels. The entire stretch is scenic with good roads to drive on and pristine views all along.
Being with a toddler we stuck to easy and relaxing activities mentioned above. However, there is more to explore if you are interested. The hot water springs at Tattapani make for a decent family outing. Here adventure seekers can find quad biking and white water rafting to indulge into. If Italian architecture interests you, then you can visit the Craignano, an Italian villa and a picnic spot.
For trekking enthusiasts, there is a beautiful trail in the vicinity of Mashobra – to Shali Tibba. It is a moderate one-day trek running through pine and cedar forests, which offers 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains. Shali peak is over 2800 meters above sea level.
The trek starts at Khatnol, a village which is 33 kms away from Mashobra. It is a 7 kms trek (3-4 hrs) from Khatnol. You may stay at the Forest Rest House in Khatnol or come back to Mashobra. Shali peak is famous amongst locals for the Shali mata temple, which sees huge rush of devotees during navratri. So avoid this time for the trek.
Where To Stay in Mashobra
While traveling with a small child, it is good to have a full-fledged kitchen for yourself and hence we decided on staying at a homestay. A number of apartment buildings have cropped up in and around Mashobra, a lot of those have been developed into homestays and holiday rentals.
Our apartment was located near Mashobra bazar at an elevated point. It was close to the sanctuary, commanding amazing green views on one side and on another side you could see snow-capped peaks in a distance.
The house, named Cloudberry, was extremely comfortable with all amenities and a help used to visit once a day for cleaning. We got our groceries from the well-stocked bazar in the neighbourhood and sometimes even ordered for food from one of the hotels nearby. I will provide a detailed review of the place in upcoming articles.
If you are looking to stay at a hotel, then you would get options from every category. Club Mahindra has a property in Mashobra which is beautifully located and like their other properties offers amazing stay, especially for families.
For those interested in camping, there is a nature resort right in the middle of Reserve Sanctuary area, The Mashobra Greens. The property gives a campsite like feel, with basic but robust amenities for a comfortable forest stay. They also organise excursions to the sanctuary and some other adventure activities for their guests.
If luxury is your choice then look for none other than The Wildflower Hall by Oberoi hotels. I guess not much is required to be said about the property, as it is considered as one of the best hotels to stay at in India!
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Where To Eat in Mashobra
Most of the eateries are located in the neighboring Shimla, Kufri or Naldehra. There aren’t too many restaurants or hotels in main Mashobra.
We usually cooked our own meals or walked down to Club Mahindra Mashobra for a scrumptious meal. Their in-house multi-cuisine restaurant serves delicious yet comforting food. The chef here was so hospitable that he not just cooked customised meals for our son, but even got most of his meals delivered at our homestay, especially cooked as per my guidelines!
The Wildflower Hall hotel also has an in-house restaurant which serves Indian, European and Oriental cuisines. We did not get a chance to visit the place but it is famous for being the top-notch restaurant in Mashobra.
Some Special Tips
Carry a flashlight while exploring the neighborhood in Mashobra during evenings as there are either no street lights or they don’t work at most of the stretches.
Near the Kufri highway you might find some people offering yak rides, please avoid that and spare those animals. Weather of this hill station is not conducive to yaks, especially during summers. Those yaks looked sick, unable to even walk properly in that heat of April. I urge you to not encourage this business and let these animals thrive in their own natural habitats.
Mashobra is ideally a place for a lazy, relaxing getaway where you can spend your time reading books while enjoying the view. However, there is much more to it. To more active travellers it offers some easy to moderate level treks, adventure sports like quad-biking and rafting at Tattapani. For those interested in sightseeing and family activities, there are plenty of options too. You can comfortably enjoy and explore the place in 3-4 days or take it slow and unwind at your own pace!