The trip was a wonderful one and the memories will linger esp. of the majestic views of the mountains.
The place is an untouched, un-commercialized, less-frequented hill spot - as compared to most of the north Indian hill stations, and has kept its beauty intact for the tourists to see. We also did not find absolutely any vehicular pollution (perhaps more due to it being the lean season).
Destination is recommended for Nature-lovers and trekkers.
The town is close to the Punjab border (30 kms.) and you see a lot of Punjabi travelers anytime during the week. For the people, the lingo is Punjabi or Himachali.
Dalhousie Public school’s name seems to be all over the place - the numerous road signs they have built, and many sites reading “refurbishments/renovation” across the town.
GPO / Gandhi Chowk seem to be the hub of activities, and is the most crowded place in the town.
We reached Pathankot at about 8 AM where our taxiwallah was already there to pick us. The drive to Dalhousie started with a gust of cool wind, indicating the pleasant weather to expect forward.
We reached Dalhousie in about 2.5 hours, stopping only once for tea. Banikhet, the gateway to Dalhousie, is where you start feeling you are there. The lush greenery, the air, the trees and the views of the mountains lend an aura to the place.
Dalhousie city map
Once we reached our hotel, freshened up, had lunch and some rest and were ready to venture out we were greeted by a drizzle. So, had to be holed up in the room anxiously wanting to go out and enjoy the views and the place. But rain gods did not give in before 2 hours, after which we went out with an umbrella on the Mall road and clicked a few pictures. We came back early as it was getting rainy again.
We started on the Lakkadmandi route to Khajjiar. Lakkadmandi is 10 kms fromDalhousie, and a gate for Kalatop sanctuary appears as soon as one has covered 10 kms.
One can venture into the sanctuary, which is forest-like with a narrow approach road of 3 kms till the end, or one can continue on one’s route to Khajjiar (further 12 kms).
If one prefers to go inside Kalatop, either one can pay 120 bucks and take one’s car along, or one can have the adventurous walk.
Don’t expect to see any animals en route though.
Instead if one continues to Khajjiar, as we did, within 30 minutes one is there. There are stairs at a point which lead to the huge “ground”. It is here where one gets a breathtakingly beautiful view of the ground. The ground is more like a meadow, and seems straight out of Switzerland (a pole with Switzerland’s flag indicated that it is 6194 kms from there!). It is laced with pine trees on its circumference and a big (now dirty) pond in the middle. There is also a complex housing the temple of “khajji Nag” �" from whom the place derives its name, and some eateries. One can easily walk around the circumference which is about 2 kms. We ran into a number of people offering us either a horse-ride or a picture with a rabbit etc. But the place is really picturesque and we didn’t feel like leaving for 1-2 hours. We should have brought a mat for spreading on the ground and resting on it as one would do in a picnic spot, and enjoy the sun. Accommodation is available at the tourist bungalow, Hotel Deodar and at Youth Hostel and the PWD Rest House.
There is a “Jagdamba” temple 1 km from the ground where a giant statue of Lord Shiva has been recently built.
Finally, on our way back, we stopped and ventured into Kalatop, and to our delight found a misty atmosphere making it all very pleasant. We didn’t go to
“Dayankund” which is also close by.
We had been on road for only slightly over 2 hours in all till we reached backDalhousie.
We could have also continued to Chamba from Khajjiar (yes) but we had kept the chamba trip for the next day, and also didn’t want to get tired. But as we had some time before our daily evening tea, we went to Punjpulla (3 kms from GPO). We found a miniature version of Mussourie’s Kempty falls, although only after we had climbed a few meters.
Firstly, there are 2 routes from Dalhousie to Chamba �" one via Khajjiar (46 kms) and the other via Rock Garden and Chamera lake dam (52 kms). We took the second one. The best part of the trip was the scenic view all along as we had the river Raavi giving a greenish glint, trees engulfed in mist and snow clad mountains glistening in the sun. Rock Garden is about 10 kms from Dalhousieand has a very normal yet real look to it. Further down there is a bifurcation of road �" a lower one takes you to Chamera dam site (8 kms) and the upper one continues to Chamba. Unfortunately for us, our taxiwallah said going to dam site was not part of the package and demanded extra for going there which we refused. He instead stopped at a point where from we had a good view of the lake and the dam. What a view!! Looked like a leaf out of a picture book.
We also stopped at a place to go and touch the gushing waters of river Raavi, and take few pictures amongst the pebbles lying there with the river in the background.
Reaching Chamba, the weather was a little warmer, and some vehicular traffic showed for the first time.
Our taxiwallah informed that we had to visit only 2 attractions there (that they were the only good ones or just that our package included only 2- we didn’t bother to argue).
We first went inside the “Bhure Singh” museum; here we could take our camera inside for taking pictures for (obviously) some charges. The museum has artifacts from 17th century �" stones, carvings etc.
We then started, on feet, for the “Laxmi Narayan” temple from the chwk, and had to climb up some 150 meters. The temple is unique as it has 6 mini-temples inside it, each dedicated to a different deity. There is another famous temple by the name “Chamunda temple” but we were told it was far off.
We came back in 2.5 hours time from Chamba to Dalhousie (one-side). We ended our day by visiting 2 churches �" St. John’s church on Gandhi Chowk and St. Francis church on Subhash Chowk.
The weather was pleasant for most of our stay, except the first day when we were greeted by rain, and the resulting lull and lack of activity. On other days it was bright sunny during the day, though we would be at times looking at mist as we travelled among the mountains.
The “views” are great from a lot of places, and the greenish or icy mountain peaks tower above the numerous tall pine trees to give you a heavenly look. We found mist too at lot of places. Also, the view from top of the Chamera Lake is “breath taking”.
ROADS IN/OUT DALHOUSIE
A little surprise, the roads in Dalhousie are well built, and that makes all journeys take less time and be hassle free.
Even roads out of Dalhousie, viz. to Khajiaar, Chamba, are both well built. No bumpy rides here.
Only the road inside the Kalatop sanctuary is a narrow, “kuctcha” one with space for only 1 vehicle, and this is why they don’t allow more than 10 vehicles inside at a time.
COMMUTING IN DALHOUSIE
First of all, let me mention the main roads in Dalhousie. Taking Subhash Chowk and Gandhi Chowk as 2 end points, there are 2 roads: The mall road and the Bus stand road.
The mall road is plain, covered on one side by rocks, and a “railing” on the other. It’s 2 km in length and can be easily covered on feet �" but walking alone is not recommended after sunset as it is deserted and not so well lit. There are huts at regular interval where one can rest and take pictures of the scenisc hills. The other road, which has the Bus stand in the middle is an up-and-down road, and is tiring to walk through.
As somebody else had mentioned in his travelogue: “do not expect great food in Dalhousie”, so we did. As a result came back happy.
There is only one (very small) market adjacent to Gandhi Chowk, and is similar to the ones at other hill stations.
Since we went in the “lean season” we could get a hotel room at a slightly (only) lower rate. We had pre-booked our stay with the hotel, though they didn’t confirm the room number until we arrived (this is completely usual).
We had to shell out a lot of money on Taxi �" including pick up and drop for Pathankot, and day tours to Khajjiar and Chamba. One has to keep aside substantial money for the taxi part.
Our hotel was on the court road, 200 meters from Subhash Chowk on a lane. The street was completely walkable with a number of small shops and a few restaurants (Sher-e-Punjab) on it.
The hotel owner is a courteous and amiable guy, and so was his staff �" although some of them seemed not-so-well-trained. He was also kind enough to extend our stay by a few hours as we had our train in the evening.
The room was spacious, clean, with wooden floor and modern fittings. No mosquito menace or problem of hot water.
TIP: BEST LOCATIONS FOR A HOTEL
The neighboring areas of either of the 2 chowks i.e. the 2 end points of the mall road are good locations from ALL aspects. A hotel on the mall road is also good as it offers you great “views” (except when your room is facing the road); the only drawback of this location is that the road is deserted after dusk.
We had both a digital camera and a handy cam. They were utterly useful and busy most of the time.
PLACES WE DIDN’T EXPLORE
For the lack of time or of interest: Dayankund, Satdhara, Subhash Bowli, upper Bakrota road