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Chandigarh Will Impress
If Chandigarh seems out of place in bustling, frenetic India, that’s because it is. Designed in 1950 by the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, Chandigarh is the first planned city in the country, divided into neatly contained sectors that each have a focus – how about hitting the shops and restaurants in Sector 17 for a night out, or taking your pick from one of the cosmopolitan hotels in Sector 22? Named after a temple dedicated to the goddess Chandi, the city is as modern as it is unique. It’s brimming with architectural eye candy, fascinating museums, and more green space and flower gardens than a lot of cities of similar size. Add to the list low crime rates and the beautiful Shivalik Hills that loom in the distance, and you have a must-see destination in Northern India.
It’s a Good Day for Architecture Enthusiasts
Without a doubt, one of the can’t-miss attractions in Chandigarh is the Nek Chand Rock Garden. Made entirely out of concrete and found objects, this little oasis in the city is as imaginative as it gets. In fact, you might feel like you’ve stumbled upon a lost kingdom when you arrive, made even more magical by the sculpture greeting party consisting of human figures of all shapes and sizes. Plan on spending several hours exploring the many enchanting areas, which include courtyards, bridges, waterfalls, and plenty of opportunities to marvel at what can be created with everyday objects like soft drink cups and broken bangles.
Another sculptural gem that Chandigarh can lay claim to is the much photographed Open Hand Monument. Don’t be surprised if you have a feeling of positivity wash over you as you take it in, because it was designed as a sign of optimism, with the open hand symbolising willingness to give and receive. The hand is conveniently located in the Capital Complex, and while you can visit the monument unattended, you need to pre-register to receive an accompanied tour of the government compound complex. To bring your architecturally interesting day full circle, why not consider staying at one of the oldest hotels in Chandigarh? The Aroma Hotel was built in 1953, and is still going strong, with delightful mid-century modern details and an impressive list of former guests, including a past Prime Minister of India.
Learn Something New
If you’d like to delve further into the history of some of the unique buildings you see around the city, a good place to visit is the Chandigarh Architecture Museum. The museum provides a worthwhile look at the urban planning process and what it took to make Chandigarh the city that it is today. Photographs, newspaper reports and architectural drawings tell the intriguing story of Chandigarh’s early beginnings, and it’s a good place to get your bearings before seeing other sights. As a bonus, visitors can also combine a stop here with the Government Museum and Art Gallery, as well as the Natural History Museum. At the Government Museum and Art Gallery, you’ll find a vast collection of paintings and carvings, including works by local children, and the Natural History Museum has something for young and old, with highlights like model dinosaurs, a focus on the evolution of mankind, and a special embroidery exhibit depicting nature in art. Hotels within walking distance of these main tourist attractions are plentiful, and after a long day of sightseeing, the shorter the distance to your hotel, the more your legs will thank you.
Stop and Smell the Roses
If you’re in need of some fresh air, or have been noticing a lack of nature on your Indian adventure, Chandigarh has you covered. Sukhna Lake might be a popular spot with locals and tourists alike, but it’s still possible to connect with nature here, and maybe even get in a little solitude. Renting a pedal boat for a spin on the artificial lake might be a good way to unwind, or there’s always the ornamental gardens to act as a nice reminder that even big cities can slow down the pace sometimes. The Zakir Hussain Rose Garden is another such place that provides a perfect respite from the grind of the city. If you’re a fan of gardening and horticulture, it’s not hard to see why you would want to run instead of walk to breathe in the over 1,600 species of roses that call the garden home. Thirty acres and 15,000 rose bushes is as good as it gets when it comes to public gardens, and this is one that you won’t want to miss. Or if you’re more of a night owl, an evening visit to the Terraced Flower Garden not only provides a pleasant spot to enjoy a cool breeze, it also has a lighted musical fountain alongside seasonal flower shows such as the colourful annual Chrysanthemum Show.