Based upon my personal visit in February 2012. Rajesh Deshpande © 2012.
Destination Type – Hill Station. Trip Type – Leisure or Adventure.
Nestled amidst the snow-capped peaks of the magnificent Dhauladar mountain ranges in the western Himalayas, Dalhousie is a hill station in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh, India. It was established by the British in 1854 as a summer retreat for its troops and officers and is named after the then British Viceroy Lord Dalhousie. Dalhousie spans five hills (Bhangora, Kathalog, Petreyn, Tehra and Bakrota) of the outer Dhauladar range and is located at a height of 6500 feet above sea level. A quaint hill station reminiscent of the British raj, Dalhousie is a popular holiday destination due to its enchanting weather, pine trees, winding roads, beautiful churches, victorian mansions, cheerful people and magnificent views of snow-capped mountains during the onset of summers, indeed a rendezvous with nature.
A delusion of scintillating Gold is created on the peaks of the Pir Panjal Mountains when sun rays fall on them early morning, the stunning views are a treat for the eyes. Rabindranath Tagore had camped at Dalhousie in 1873 and Subhash Chandra Bose in 1937. Dalhousie has a cantonment of the Indian Army and an Indian Air Force station. It also has public schools. Dalhousie can be best visited on foot. The Mall – the stretch between Gandhi chowk to the east and Subhash chowk to the west has lot of eateries and souvenir shops selling handicrafts and woollens. Thandi Sadak and Garam Sadak running parallel to the Mall are pedestrian ways for leisurely walks offering good views of the hills.
How to reach?
By Rail – Pathankot (80 Kms) is the nearest railhead. From Pathankot station, Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Buses, Private buses and Taxis are available to reach Dalhousie.
By Road – One has to reach Pathankot in the North of Punjab which is a gateway for Dalhousie. Pathankot is well connected to various cities in Punjab, Delhi and neighbouring states.
By Air – Gaggal in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh is the nearest airport (135 Kms).
Where to Stay?
The Grand View Hotel is undoubtedly the best hotel to camp for a relaxing and comfortable stay. It holds true to its name for the stunning views of the Himalayas from its rooms. Grand View Hotel had hosted many Bollywood celebrities. Other well-known hotels are Snow Valley, Alps Holiday Resort, Shangri-La, Mount View and Dalhousie Heights. There are many budget hotels in and around Dalhousie near Subhash chowk, Gandhi chowk and the Bus Stand. Prices vary depending upon season. Rooms in the swankier hotels range between Rs. 3000/- to Rs. 6000/- per night whereas the mid-range ones range between Rs. 2000/- to Rs. 3500/- per night. The budget ones are from Rs. 1200/- to Rs. 2500/- per night. Many hotels offer package deals. Check with the hotel about provisions for in-room heater and hot running water prior to booking.
What to do?
Dalhousie is a destination for all – honeymooners, travellers, families, and backpackers … just anyone who likes chilly weather, fog, snow and nature’s play of lights. The best thing to do at Dalhousie is to do nothing, sleep and laze till late mornings, have a brunch and take a leisurely walk on the narrow streets of Dalhousie. Visit Subhash chowk or Gandhi chowk, experience the thrill of sipping hot coffee, tea or hot chocolate in chilling cold at a café in the chowk, it’s simply amazing. The adventurous and physically fit can take a 3 Kms walk on the upper Bakrota circuit around Ahla and back.
Temperature in Dalhousie can dip below zero during the onset of tourist season (March), check with the hotel for provision of in-room heater and hot running water prior to booking. Heavy woollens are recommended while at Dalhousie. Like any other hill station, Dalhousie is an abode of monkeys. Do not offer food to monkeys else be prepared to face a riot from an army of 20 – 25 monkeys. Local travel in and around Dalhousie is expensive, the cabbies charge a whopping Rs. 250/- for a 3 Kms uphill drive due to the steep climb requiring the vehicle to be driven in first gear throughout and the only available fuel being petrol or diesel (no CNG). The locals are cheerful and speak Hindi, Punjabi and Himachali languages. There’s a notable presence of Tibetans in Dalhousie concentrated in the area near the bus stand, the Tibetan market is located in this settlement. Dalhousie has a functional ATM and branch of HDFC Bank on the Mall.
Things to see
There are many popular spots around Dalhousie which command a visit. A tourist vehicle can be hired from the booth of the Taxi association at the Taxi cum Bus stand at the entrance of Dalhousie. The association offers fixed itinerary tours for around Rs. 2,500/- covering many of the destinations below. Also check with Prince Tours and Travels opposite to the Taxi booth for customized tours.
Snow point – Just 3 Kms. ahead from Gandhi chowk on the road to Khajjiar is Snow Point, where one can enjoy the snow – throw snowballs OR dress in traditional Himachali costume available with the many photographers to pose for a photo session. Negotiate a deal with the photographer in advance else be ready for a rip off for more than a thousand bucks.
Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary – 10 Kms from Gandhi chowk is Lakkarmandi and a further 3 Kms walk uphill through the dense pine forest is Kalatop that boasts of a magnificent view of the Pir Panjal range. From Lakkarmandi, one can trek to Khajjiar further 12 Kms. Kalatop also has a forest rest house, where one can stay overnight (prior permission to be sought from Chamba DFO).
Khajjiar – is a meadow 23 Kms away from Dalhousie on the Dalhousie Chamba route via Lakkarmandi. Khajjiar is named after the 17th century temple of Khajjinag. Khajjiar is an open meadow covered in ice during winters. The vast expanse of the meadow with a tiny lake in the centre makes Khajjiar a popular picnic spot, a great place for walks in the woods and for horse rides. Khajjiar is also known as the Switzerland of India due to its resemblance with Swiss terrains and the recognition as such accorded to it by the Swiss government. It’s also a good idea to spend a night at Khajjiar – camp at HPTDC’s Hotel Deodar.
Satdhara – literally means seven streams is 1 Kms downhill from Gandhi chowk where water from seven different streams converges to form a rivulet known to have medicinal properties.
Panchpula Waterfalls – 1 Km downhill from Satdhara are two impressive waterfalls at close proximity to each other, popular for picnics. There are few eateries and shops selling handicrafts, the one of Jammu Kashmir Handicrafts is worth a visit for Kaleens, Pashmina Shawls, Blankets and Kurtis. The spot also has a statue of Sardar Ajit Singh, a renowned freedom fighter who passed away on Independence Day.
Chamera Dam – built on the Bhadrakali Lake formed by blocking the downstream of the Raavi River also has a Hydro-Electric Power station. It is 8 Kms from Banikhet which is 6 Kms downhill Dalhousie. There’s a boating point at village Taleru on the banks of the lake which is open till sunset.
Chamba – is a town and district headquarters, it is known to be founded by King Sahil Varman in 920 CE. Chamba is nestled between the Himalayan Pir Panjal and Dhauladhar mountain ranges and fed by the Raavi River. Chamba’s main attraction is the Chaugan or the central promenade. Few places to visit while at Chamba are, the Lakshmi Narayan Temple complex situated on a hill terrace along with the Chamunda temple, both near the Chamba market. A visit to the nearby Bhuri Singh museum is worth only if time permits. Chamba is a crossover destination for the intrepid traveller on the way to Dalhousie, Manimahesh or onward destinations in Jammu and Kashmir.
Chamba has some basic hotels to camp overnight – Hotel Aroma palace near the bus stand and the pricey Hotel City Heart could be good choice. Chamba is also known for its rumaals and chukh – a unique chilli pickle which is a speciality of the region.
Shopping at Dalhousie
While at Dalhousie, one can shop for handicrafts from the many shops in and around Gandhi chowk and in the Tibetan Market near the bus stand. Shop for woollens like Sweaters, Gloves, Monkey Caps, Kullu Shawls and Jackets. For wooden artefacts, visit the Himachal Gift Emporium in Gandhi chowk.
Rajesh Deshpande © 2012