My first choice upon arriving in Chamba, a dingy, densely packed city in the Northern part of India, was the HPTDC hotel. Due to the beginning of wedding season, the hotel had already been booked solid for the weekend. With no other back-up locations in mind, we chose to hit the pavement for a look see. Fortunately, we stumbled onto a local who provided us with a recommendation for Hotel Aroma Palace which proved fruitful.
Located behind the Main Mall of Chamba, Himachal Pradesh, Aroma Palace keeps watch over the city below. Perched on a hillside, the large towering building is situated to give excellent views of the action below. Accessing the hotel is slightly tricky; drive through a sharp S-curve inclined driveway that appears to lead only to Government offices just off the Mall. Then, drive past the offices, up a hill via a narrow road, and Hotel Aroma greets you around the first corner. A small parking lot is tucked into the main level, big enough for 3 tightly packed vehicles. TIP: Be the last to park here to ensure your exit or park first to avoid moving multiple times if your stay is over several days.
The brightly lit lobby, enclosed by windows on 3 sides, is just steps off the street. Walk inside to find the owner, sitting in what became known to us as his usual spot on a white cloth covered sofa, greeting potential guests. This slightly older gentleman, firm but fair in his approach, speaks with a bit of a rasp to his voice. The usual slew of Indian boys on staff rushed into the lobby to show us room options. A variety of rooms ranging from Rs 1000 and up were opened for us. It wasn’t until we went back to the lobby to make our decision that we came across a rate card advertising rooms starting at Rs 500. Back upstairs through the odd, but characteristic mix of mismatched floors, we were shown these rooms. Small but efficient, the rooms served their purpose well for one person. Neat and clean en suite bathrooms with hot water showers and Western toilets added to the value.
My room looked out over the large grassy field Chamba is known for. Just a few steps off my room was a nearly private terrace with chairs and and even better view of the city below. Ancient computers with internet can be found in the dining room located adjacent the lobby. Skip these, and head into the market where I found a cyber cafe with newer and much faster connections at a fair price.
Decent restaurants are a bit of a challenge to find in Chamba with the hotel being an exception. The kitchen is open from early morning to late night serving a large variety of Indian and some Chinese options. Skip the dining room on the main level and take your meal at the roof top seating area. My friend and I were the only patrons on the night we ate at the hotel. High up overlooking the city, our meal was just the right portion, taste and price. In the mornings, skip the chai and find in the market for just a few rupees cheaper.
During our stay, one of the boys on staff became the go-to contact. A shy, late teens, good looking guy, eager to practice his English with me, he would appear at just the right times when something was needed. He seemed happy for the interaction and almost sad when we checked out after 2 days in Chamba. I forgot to ask if the building was originally a hotel or converted over time. Other than the main staircase, rooms are accessed a back way by climbing up narrow, half flights of stairs only to walk back down in a different direction. Hotel Aroma Palace has a funny charm about it that I was happy to have stumbled onto. For the price, staff and location in the heart of the city, you can’t go wrong with this pick.
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Directions: Off the Main Mall, behind the Government Offices