Palampur tea field

Palampur – Indian tea hills off the beaten path

Everyone has heard of Darjeeling tea and Assam tea, but how about Kangra tea? Palampur is a small city in the Kangra Valley of India’s Himachal Pradesh, known for its tea plantations. The Kangra Valley Express, a narrow-gauge train, is running through Palampur. That was one of the reasons we wanted to have a stop there.

Palampur is known for Kangra tea
Palampur is known for Kangra tea

Impressions of Palampur

We took a bus from Dharamshala to Palampur and arrived after 2,5 hours.

Bus from Mcleod Ganj to Lower Dharamshala’s bus station
Bus from Mcleod Ganj to Lower Dharamshala’s bus station
On our way to Palampur
On our way to Palampur
Palampur bus station
Palampur bus station

The center was busy. Our hostel was located a few kilometers uphill in an area called Bundla, where it was very calm. Even though we really like Mcleod Ganj, it’s rather touristy there. This was the complete opposite and we enjoyed being in an ordinary, non-touristy mountain village in beautiful surroundings.

The busy market street of Palampur
The busy market street of Palampur
Peace of nature in Bundla
Peace of nature in Bundla

Semi-unsuccessful visit to the tea factory

What Palampur is famous for is the tea, so of course we wanted to visit a tea factory there. It took us over an hour to walk to the Palampur Co-operative Tea Factory, which is producing both, black and green Kangra teas.

Palampur Co-operative Tea Factory
Palampur Co-operative Tea Factory
”Once tested, never forgotten” Is it so, we don’t know, as we never got to test it
”Once tested, never forgotten” Is it so, we don’t know, as we never got to test it

There it turned out that it was not tea season. Therefore, there was not much happening inside the factory and no guide who could give us a proper tour. After we asked nicely, a friendly worker agreed to show us briefly around. But the machines were not on and the huge tea fermentation hall was completely empty.

Kangra tea ready to be shipped away
Kangra tea ready to be shipped away

Also, we were not taken to the tea plantations behind the factory. Anyway, we were not too disappointed. We have visited tea factories already before and will still in other places on this trip. At least we could admire the vast tea plantations growing along the streets as we walked between the city and our guest house.

Bull enjoying the delicate taste of Kangra tea
Bull enjoying the delicate taste of Kangra tea

A nice walk in the countryside

On the hills of Palampur
On the hills of Palampur

We were staying at Himalayan Heritage Hostel that was situated up on the hills, outside of town. From our hostel’s balcony we could see the pine-clad hills and the snowy mountains behind them.

The Himalayan Heritage Hostel had a beautiful balcony
The Himalayan Heritage Hostel had a beautiful balcony
View from the balcony
View from the balcony

These hills were tempting us to walk on them and so we decided to visit the Shree Jakhani Mata Temple. It was a nice 1,5 hour walk through the countryside and small settlements. We could see the families working on their fields and groups of kids coming from school, waving to us and yelling hello.

We saw many many cows
We saw many many cows
This goat had a cool skull face
This goat had a cool skull face

The temple itself was nice, but like on our whole journey, also the highlight of this walk was not the destination but the way itself.

Shree Jakhani Mata Temple
Shree Jakhani Mata Temple
Shiva has a great style
Shiva has a great style
View from the temple
View from the temple
A forest path along the way
A forest path along the way
On our way back to Bundla
On our way back to Bundla

Food and the people of Bundla

We stayed in the hostel with a young Belgian couple (who were the only foreigners we saw during our stay in Palampur). On our second and last evening we went together to eat at Cliffy’s Cafe. It is an atmospheric place that serves modern South Indian food. We were a bit surprised to find such a stylish place there at the outskirts of Palampur.

Cliffy’s Cafe
Cliffy’s Cafe

Otherwise we ate only at Rana Dhaba, the closest place to our hostel. It was a basic, one man operated eatery. After Mcleod Ganj’s endless offer on anything a tourist would want to eat, it was nice for a change to have some basic Indian food and to be among locals. After our meals the owner Rana offered Seri bidis (tobacco rolled in a leaf) and cigarettes one after another. He also taught us some new Hindi words, as we couldn’t communicate too much in English. 

Rana making a potato paratha for us. First you fill it...
Rana making a potato paratha for us. First you fill it…
...then you roll it
…then you roll it
The master himself frying the paratha
The master himself frying the paratha
Ta-dah!
Ta-dah!

Our favorite thing in Palampur wasn’t the tea, after all, but getting to meet the local people and to see a part of their everyday life.

The journey goes on

Our next destination was going to be Jaipur. We knew that the journey was about to be long, but it turned out much longer and more complicated than expected. Our plan was to travel the first part on the narrow-gauge train, also dubbed as the toy train, and we were really looking forward to it…

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4 thoughts on “Palampur – Indian tea hills off the beaten path”

  1. Awesome. I am new to the city and wanted to explore the Bundla neighborhood. Thanks for giving a clear description of your short experience there.

    1. Thanks for your comment! We really liked the nature and how peaceful it was in Bundla. Hopefully you’ll like it too! If you find some other interesting stuff to do in Palampur/Bundla that we didn’t, would be great if you can leave us another comment and tell about it! 🙂

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Johanna & Seri

We are Johanna and Seri and this is our travel diary. At the moment we are on our way overland from Finland to India and beyond. Read more about us here.

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