Charming Chail Palace

Chail (pronounced as Chaa-il) was the last destination of my Himachal trip. Our group stayed at the Chail Palace, the former residence of Bhupinder Singh, the former Maharaja of Patiala, and now part of the HPTDC group of hotels. The Chail Palace has an interesting history. It was built in 1891 after Maharaja Bhupinder Singh got expelled from Shimla. The brief story goes something like this:

Apparently the Maharaja was having a good thing going with a top ranking British official’s daughter/wife. (the accounts differ whether it was the daughter or the wife). As a result of this indiscretion, the Maharaja was expelled from Shimla. Furious, the Maharaja decided to ‘cock a snook’ at the British and build a grand palace at a location that would be visible from and higher in altitude than Shimla.

That location was Chail, a tiny village in the Shivalik Hills and across the valley from Shimla. How this particular location was picked is another interesting story and that was narrated to us by Jagat, a waiter at the hotel.

Chail, Chail Palace, Himachal Pradesh, TravelChail was once part of the Keonthal state and then under the rule of the Gorkhas before it became a royal resort and summer seat for the Maharaja of Patiala. Chail Palace is spread over 72 acres and built on Rajgarh Hill, one of the 3 hills, which are adjacent to one another, of Chail town. The other two hills are Pandava Hill and Siddh Tibba.

The Palace’s location was not the original choice, Siddh Tibba was. Palace construction began at Siddh Tibba, but did not go as planned and was marred with accidents and delays. One night, Siddh Baba, a holy man and after whom the hill is named, appeared in the Maharaja’s dream and told him that (a) Siddh Tibba belonged to him (the Baba, that is) and the Maharaja had no right to build a palace there, (b) the Maharaja could never build a palace until he first built a temple for Siddh Baba, and (c) the Palace should be built on Rajgarh Hill, but only after the temple was built. The Maharaja complied and that’s how both the Siddh Baba ka Mandir and the Chail Palace were built.

There is a tiny shrine dedicated to Siddh Baba on the grounds of the Chail Palace today and the staff of the hotel revere him and never begin or end a work day without seeking his blessings.

Chail, Chail Palace, Himachal Pradesh, TravelI loved my stay at the Chail Palace. Our group didn’t stay in the main Palace, but at another Block, which used to be the servant quarters of the erstwhile Maharaja.

I’m glad we stayed there as our rooms opened out into a common verandah and had a large open space outside. All rooms had little sitting rooms  with writing desks, a fireplace and overlooked the lawns. It really was a room with a view.

Chail, Chail Palace, Himachal Pradesh, Travel

Though we did quite a bit of sight-seeing with Chail as our base, I was happiest when I was in the hotel. With 72 acres of grounds to explore and a library to delve into (more about that later), I was quite content to walk around the grounds or just sit somewhere and read. The weather was quite erratic as well, raining one minute, sunny the next — sometimes with a rainbow or two thrown in.

 Pity the Marriot can't host her

 Pity the Marriot can't host her

Chail, Chail Palace, Himachal Pradesh, Travel

I particularly loved my early morning and late evening walks in the Chail Palace, where the mist and the golden sunlight filtering through the green woods revealed a magical world. Birdsong, sleepy monkeys and insects were my only company at those times.

 Pity the Marriot can't host her Chail, Chail Palace, Himachal Pradesh, TravelChail, Chail Palace, Himachal Pradesh, Travel

Chail, Chail Palace, Himachal Pradesh, TravelMy favourite part of the stay at the Chail Palace was its tiny library. Located off the main reception in a wooden cabinet, the higgledy-piggledy collection of books was an absolute treasure trove of discoveries. After my morning or evening walk, I would head to the Chail Palace and request for the Library to be opened and delve straight it in.

The book collection was an eclectic mix of the usual best sellers and books that I’d never heard off. The small collection threw up surprises like Hindi translations of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a collection of three Greek tragedies, biographies on Picasso and Ingrid Bergman. Then there was an entire series of books on basic science by Issac Asimov, the great science fiction writer. There were books on music, social movements, folk art, architecture, Reader’s Digest collections… I was in heaven.

Chail, Chail Palace, Himachal Pradesh, TravelIn other words, I was a very happy at Chail. Very happy to just walk around and sit and read the many interesting books in the Library. I didn’t realise till I reached Chail how much I needed that break. It was at Chail that I truly relaxed and got into vacation mode at the fag-end of my vacation. Of course, this meant that by the time I returned to Mumbai and joined work, I was still in vacation mode. 😛

I would like to go back to Chail Palace for another holiday — a walking and reading kind of holiday. Walking in the grounds of the Palace and reading books from the Library. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? 🙂

19 thoughts on “Charming Chail Palace

  1. beautifullllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll I can remember that path right now as if it is in front of my eyes … now i will need to write a article on the memories that have come to my mind…



    1. I’m all for it, Anu. But I must remind you that the list of places we are supposed to travel together to has become dangerously long and needs serious revision and prioritisation 🙂


  2. If those woods are part of Chail Palace, then it must have been heaven for walking and exploring. And the books and the cute library sound interesting too. I think I will be content only with reading your account of it. Can’t dream of a vacation in the hills.


    1. Those woods are very much part of the Chail Palace Grounds, which is why I didn’t feel like going anywhere and was content remaining within. I have never seen such an interesting and eclectic collection in in library – it was small, manageable, and just about perfect.


  3. Just returned from Shimla.M in love with Himachal.Pity they dont let you buy land there. You r bang on about the beauty f chail palace. there is romance in every breath there. The maharaja rooms r really old world. Last year i loved the food but this time stayed only a night n it looked like d old cook was on a holiday . All their famous dishes – roast chicken , chaa maas, sepu vadi , etc was sub std n not what my taste buds remembered. what was really nice was it started raining n we sat by d window in d lobby n had lovely pot tea. It felt like good old days of lonavla. down d road f d palace is a dakk ghar run by central govt for all babus . Its a beautiful 160 yr old cottage with a small garden in front n a sheer drop at d back.So you have a tiny window in d bathroom ( ancient fitings) which opens up to a valley view. top of tall majestic trees n bottom which looks like a settinng for a james bond chase sequence. what you would have loved there is d most amazing veg home cooked food -Rasewala vattana aloo n rajma chawal which i have never been able to recreate or enjoy any where else. I m in love with Himachal , such generous n kind hearted n helpful people. N d sheerbeauty of the place. God has been very partial to Himachal.
    Enjoy reading your posts sudh.


    1. Welcome here. Shalini. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to see you here. 🙂

      I did pass by the Dak Ghar that you have mentioned, but did not go in. I’ll save it for next time. And so sorry to hear about your experience with the food at Chail Palace. If I had known you were there, I would have suggested that you visit Vaishno Dhaba, about 2 km from the Palace where I had the best food during my trip. My mouth is watering even as I write this.

      So happy that you liked the posts, Shalu. Do keep visiting, reading and commenting. Bahut acchha lagta hai 😀


      1. Gurl i read all ur posts. I dont comment but as u know himachal got under my skin. Next time you visit lets chat so can share all d wonderful local joints n shopping areas … m now in Rishikesh. will tell u more abt it later.Big hug luv.


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