Travel to Chamba and Chandigarh, India

Chandigarh

Chandigarh

When Swiss architect Le Corbusier was commissioned in 1950 to design Chandigarh from the ground up, he envisioned a people-oriented city of wide boulevards, lakes, gardens and grandiose buildings made in his favorite material: reinforced concrete. Seventy years later, the parks, monuments and public squares are still here, though somewhat aged. It is a very comfortable city – cosmopolitan, unproblematic and very different from the rest of India.

Geometric City

When the state of Punjab was divided into two parts, its new capital, Chandigarh, was conceived as a symbol of India’s freedom. Its architect dreamed of creating “a city of sun, space and greenery.” He succeeded, and today Chandigarh is one of India’s most well-planned cities. It didn’t grow randomly like most other settlements in the country. The roads here are wide and spacious. The residential blocks are laid out in neat geometries and the entire space is divided into 47 sectors, each with full, self-sufficient infrastructure. Today, the city is home to over 900,000 people living in harmonious conditions that are considered the best in the country. Chandigarh is considered the cleanest city in India along with Mysore.

Geometric City

Chandigarh on the map of India

The most striking thing here is the expanse of sparkling blue sky with the mountains in the background. As you approach the city you see the jagged horizon of the Shivalik Hills rising above it and the silhouette of the old temple dedicated to the goddess Chandi, from which the city gets its name. Chandigarh is located near the foothills of the Sivalik range of the Himalayas in northwest India. It covers an area of about 114 square kilometers. The city lies on the northern plains, capturing parts of the Bhabar and Terai regions. Chandigarh is located 44 km northeast of Ambala, 229 km southeast of Amritsar and 250 km north of Delhi.

Chandigarh on a Map of India

When is the best time to go?

Chandigarh has a humid subtropical climate characterized by a seasonal rhythm: very hot summers, mild winters, unexpected rainfall and wide temperature variations (from -1 °C to +46 °C). Western winds usually bring rain mostly from mid-December to late April, it can be very heavy and even turning into hail. The best time to visit is spring (February-March) or autumn (October-November) during these periods it is warm (up to +20 °C) and dry. In summer (April-June) is very hot, up to +42 °C, then comes a wet monsoon and stays until September. Much of Chandigarh is covered with dense banyan and eucalyptus plantations. The city is surrounded by forests that are home to deer, sambars, parrots, woodpeckers, and peacocks. The center of attraction is Sukhna Rain Lake with its beautiful gardens.

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When it's best to go

What to see in Chandigarh?

Each sector of the city is self-contained and walkable, and there is something to see, go to, and be amazed at in each. Among the sights of Chandigarh, the most noteworthy are:

  1. The Capitoline complex, including the Capitol, the Secretariat, and the Supreme Court, are examples of Le Corbusier’s constructive architecture. Most tourists view it from behind the fence, but to get inside you need to get permission from the tourist bureau, and don’t be surprised when a soldier with a machine gun accompanies you during your visit. On the grounds is the famous Open Palm sculpture.
  2. The Chandigarh Museum (State Architectural Museum) is an amazing history of the city’s creation.
  3. Japanese Garden . The park covers 5 hectares and consists of water features, pagoda towers, waterfalls and golden bamboo trees.
  4. State Museum and Art Gallery . Artifacts here range from relics from the Harappan period to paintings and coins from different areas and time periods. The art gallery has good collections of ancient and modern Indian art.
  5. Natural History Museum with dinosaur fossils found in the region.
  6. Yadavindra Gardens (Pinjora) is located 20 km from Chandigarh. This charming Mughal-style park is one of the most popular picnic spots in the region. It features a mini zoo, plant nursery, Japanese Garden, historic palaces and picnic lawns.
  7. The Chandigarh Rock Garden is hardly the most popular attraction in the city. The Alpinarium began as a private initiative of one of the residents, which was later supported by the authorities. Today it is a large space filled with human and animal figures, waterfalls and tunnels, stairs and benches.
  8. The Zakir Hussein Rose Garden is the largest rose garden in Asia. It also hosts an annual rose festival, which is quite popular with the local population.
  9. Sukhna Lake . A popular place for leisure activities – walking, jogging, catamaran rides. It offers a walking path, cafes, stores, a mini amusement park and water bikes. The lake has the longest water channel in Asia for paddling and yachting.
  10. The Garden of Silence is a meditative space by the lake with a snow-white Buddha statue.
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Chandigarh Hotels

Most hotels in the city are in Sector 22. Prices for accommodations in downtown Chandigarh are notoriously overpriced, a night in a very modest room with no windows can cost from $15.

There are budget housing options in the large market area of Sector 45. This area is much more “Indian,” with its narrow, winding streets and strong sense of community. A night here can cost about $6 to $8. Guests prefer to stay in hotels:

The city’s best restaurants are located in Sector 17. There are also plenty of establishments in the Sector 35 market, from traditional Indian pastry shops (Gopal’s) and fast-food eateries to decent restaurants. You can enjoy anything from local Punjabi flavors to continental cuisine:

Chandigarh Shops.

This city has the highest per capita income in India, and therefore there is no shortage of shopping malls, nor is there any availability of global brands. Keep in mind, however, that shopping here can be more expensive than in Delhi. The best stores in Chandigarh are:

  • Elante Mall;
  • Sector 22;
  • Sector 35;
  • Manimajra.

If you can’t get enough of true Indian haggling, try Azad Hind Market in Sector 22, but note that it is closed on Mondays. Souvenir products in the form of coffee mugs, shirts, magnets, etc., are available at Sukhna Lake.

Chandigarh Shops

City transport

Chandigarh and its satellite towns of Panchkula and Mohali have excellent bus services. There are two bus terminals in Sectors 17 and 43. Transportation runs from 6 am to 10 pm. It is very economical, with a one-point fare of $0.2 regardless of distance. On the back of each ticket is printed a map of the city with all the bus routes, 45 in all. At the Chandigarh Tourist Center, you can buy a ticket for a double-decker sightseeing bus that will take you to all the major attractions in the city.

City Transport

How to get there?

There is an airport 8 km from the city where planes arrive from all the major cities of India. Chandigarh can also be reached by train, to Chandigarh Junction station. It connects the city to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Jaipur, Lucknow, and Khovrach.

Chandigarh is a city in India that was built from the ground up by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret

Most travelers, when planning a trip to India, line up popular itineraries. The golden triangle: New Delhi – Jaipur – Agra. Or the south of the country: Mumbai and beach holidays in Goa. But there is not the most popular tourist destination for those who want to make sure that India is different, not always noisy and chaotic. The greenest, cleanest, most educated, happiest city is bathed in titles, ranks high in all sorts of ratings and continues to tear down stereotypes about the country.

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Maria Troitskaya is an architect and author of the telegram channel “What’s it like in Paris?” shares her experience from her trip to Chandigarh.

“Indian Switzerland,” “city of people and animals,” “city of beauty” – as only Chandigarh is not called. The city is located on the border of the two states of Punjab and Haryana and has the status of the capital in each state. But it is not an administrative part of any of these states. It is a union territory governed directly by the Government of India from New Delhi.

Chandigarh was built from scratch in five years (1951-1956) by two famous architects, cousins Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. Sixty years later, the city remains one of the most comfortable and cleanest in India, despite the fact that it is home to more than a million people. The architects developed the “seven ways” method. Seven types of roads: highways, avenues, sidewalks, bicycle lanes – separated and not intersecting depending on their function. Corbusier compared this to the lymphatic and respiratory systems and the circulation. After all, in the human body, they function harmoniously despite being disconnected. Thanks to this method, the paths of people and transport do not intersect. The city is in constant motion, and it is like clockwork: there is no congestion or traffic jams.

Chandigarh has been called a garden city, and this metaphor is not an exaggeration. The trees in the city are taller than the houses. The architects envisaged the complete fusion of the development with the nature, dissolving in it. They made Chandigarh “comfortable for people and for animals,” as Corbusier wrote. Monkeys leap around the campus, and cows, revered by Hindus, become full participants in the traffic and move safely in dedicated lanes without interfering with cars. A sense of nature is ever-present in the concrete jungle.

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In 2017, I was writing a study in a Paris master’s program on the work of Le Corbusier. In the spring of that year, my professor organized a three-week trip for a group of students to Chandigarh. We were to study the city and organize an exhibition “A Comparison of the Urban Structure of Paris and Chandigarh” at the local French center. It was a great opportunity for me to see the French architect’s Indian project live, to take the necessary measurements and sketches.

What is interesting about Chandigarh

Chandigarh was built as a symbol of Indian independence and progress. He was supposed to be the prototype and example of a modern developed city. In 1949 the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru asked two American architects, Albert Mayer and Maciej Nowitzky, to design a strict rectangular grid plan for the city. That’s why the plan is so reminiscent of New York or Los Angeles, if you look at the map.

A year later, Novitsky was once again returning home from Chandigarh. The plane crashed over Egypt and all the passengers died in a plane crash. After Novitsky’s death, his co-author Mayer’s relations with Nehru began to deteriorate, and a few months later he abandoned the project altogether.

The Indian authorities began urgently to look for a new team of architects. In the 1950s Le Corbusier was at the height of his fame, and he was invited to continue the project. The architect decided not to change the already devised plan, but proposed to move the city to a more picturesque place: a fragrant and flower-drenched area between two seasonal streams – Sukna Cho and Patiali Ki Rao. In Corbusier’s career, Chandigarh became the most ambitious architectural ensemble. But most of the buildings and residences were designed by his cousin Pierre Jeanneret and Indian architects.

Interestingly, the Russian specialists associate Chandigarh exclusively with Corbusier, while the locals more venerate his brother.

Chandigarh consists of 47 sectors. Each sector, measuring 800 × 1,200 meters, is a small independent town with its own infrastructure, school, and market. There is a large park in the center and parking lots on the outskirts. It is impossible to get into the center of the sector by car. Thus, 60 years ago, the architects designed a comfortable and safe environment, the need for which is so often spoken about nowadays by urbanists. Throughout the city a green line runs the Leijer valley, an oasis with water bodies and gardens. Around Chandigarh Corbusier envisaged a natural zone 16 kilometers wide, where it was forbidden to build on it. That was his way of keeping the city from expanding. Of course, this rule was not respected by the authorities after his death.

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The architects combined modern technology with Indian building methods. For example, they used the traditional openwork lattices on the facades to protect them from the sun. Despite the use of concrete, the city does not look gray and faceless. Corbusier worked a lot with color and decorative elements, blending the author’s objects seamlessly into the exotic environment.

Thanks to large-scale construction in the 1950s with the participation of famous specialists in the city created a strong school of architecture, which is among the top ten in the country. A generation of talented architects has already grown up in Chandigarh. In 2018, Balkrishna Doshi became India’s first recipient of the Pritzker Prize, the world’s most prestigious architecture award. In his youth he worked with Corbusier in Paris, and in the 1950s he participated in the construction of Chandigarh and Ahmedabad. Incidentally, Doshi is still in charge of restoration and oversees conservation work in Chandigarh.

The field of education in Chandigarh is well developed, with over 86% of the population being literate, higher than the national average. Chandigarh has a high standard of living: the city is consistently ranked second in India on the Human Development Index.

How to get there and when to go

Chandigarh is easy to fit into your itinerary if you’re traveling through the northern part of India. The easiest way to get there is from New Delhi: trains run every day and it takes three to seven hours to get there. A round trip ticket costs 9-18 euros. There are buses 2B, 2D, 2F from the station to the city center, which will take you to central sector 17. A one-day pass will cost you 60 rupees (54 rubles).

For a full immersion in Indian life take a couple of rides on a tuk-tuk. Tourists always pay two or three times more, but it’s customary to haggle with the drivers. A standard tuk-tuk ride around the city should cost 40-100 rupees (36-90 rubles).

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