Chandigarh is India's first planned city, dreamed up in the 1950s by Swiss architect Le Corbusier as a liveable place for the people. Decide for yourself whether this dream was realised as you wander between flower-filled parks, wide boulevards and bizarre structures built entirely of reinforced concrete. Outside the city loom the Shivalik Hills, where quaint hill stations and forest walks await the adventurous traveller.
You can choose a Chandigarh hostel in the hills outside the city or stay within the urban centre. Check out sleek modern rooms and stylishly decorated communal areas where you can share drinks with new friends. Some Chandigarh hostels have their own restaurants, so look out for options offering free breakfast. After a bit of downtime? Most hostels in Chandigarh have private rooms with air con and free Wi-Fi.
The city is made up of self-contained neighbourhoods known as sectors. Sector 17 is the central area, with restaurants and shops spreading from the Plaza. In Sector 1 is Capitol Complex, the epicentre of Le Corbusier’s master plan and home to the High Court. From here it's a 30-minute walk to Sukhna Lake, where locals gather to sunbathe and sail every weekend. For a little local history head to Barog, a largely unexplored hill station town that's 45 minutes away by car. It's best known for its brightly painted train station where the royal family used to stop for lunch.
The main activity in Chandigarh is to tour around the Brutalist-style concrete structures, particularly the Tower of Shadows and High Court. Nek Chand Rock Garden in Sector 1 began as one man's hobby and is now a complex of over 2000 sculptures that you can wander through on foot. You could spend an afternoon in the peaceful grounds of Mansa Devi Mandir, an intricately ornate Hindu temple, or pack a picnic and take the 40-minute drive to Timber Trail. A cable car will take you into the foothills of Parwanoo, where you can hike, cycle or just enjoy majestic mountain views.
To get to Chandigarh, you can fly from Delhi or Mumbai to Chandigarh Airport. From there you can catch a local bus into the city. Travelling onward in India? Head to Chandigarh Train Station in Sector 17 to hop on trains to New Delhi (3.5-hours), Kalka (35 minutes) and Amritsar (4.5 hours). To get around the city itself, use the local bus system, jump in a rickshaw or hire a bike.