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Dalhousie Khajjiar Chamba Trek
02 Nights 03 Days, Himachal Pradesh, India
Lt Col Mapier of Magdala first conceived of Dalhousie as a sanitarium in 1851. Since the sanitarium was founded during the tenure of Lord Dalhousie as Governor General of India, it bears his name. Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore stayed at Snowdon, located on Upper Bakrota Road in the town, and Subhash Chandra Bose spent seven months here beginning May 1937. Pandit Nehru, who visited Dalhousie in 1954, wrote, “One of the finest hill stations in India is Dalhousie from the point of beauty, climate and agreeable surroundings.” It is known for the long level walks around its five hills (Bakrota, Balun, Kathlag, Patryn and Tehra). Among these, the circular walk on the Thandi Sarak and Garam Sarak, connecting Gandhi Chowk and Subhash Chowk, is the most popular.
My first trip from Dalhousie to Chamba was in 1995 and it yielded an unforgettable image. We started late from Dalhousie in a car and, only a few kilometres out of town, we came across a full grown leopard sprawled in the middle of the road. Disturbed by the light and sound he raised himself from the road and, with a disdainful flick of his tail, ambled off into the forest. I did not comprehend what Kala Top meant till I reached there. The deodar trees are so thick and tall that all one sees on looking up are the dark treetops shutting out the sky. It’s a hillop dedicated to Lord Shiva and boasts of a grand view of the Pir Panjal Range.
Khajjiar is a picturesque green alp set in the midst of handsome deodar trees. Its fame is justly earned but it is also true that the crowds can detract from its serene charm at the height of the tourist season. In the sixties and seventies, many Bollywood producers would head to Khajiar for location shoots for their films.
The 17th-century golden-domed temple of Khajji Nag is dedicated to the serpent of Khajjiar. Legend has it that a renowned sage lived at this beautitul spot. One day, a powerful serpent saw this enchanting glade and decided to make his home here. The sage resisted but lost the ensuing battle. On his defeat the sage is believed to have told the serpent “kha aur ji” (eat and live), giving rise to the name Khajjiar. A small temple dedicated to Hadimba is located nearby.
This trek can be completed even in a day. But don’t be tempted into doing that. This is a trek that should be done by those seeking a leisurely walk and not the thrill of crossing a high pass or visiting a remote region. One should allow at least three days to enjoy the natural beauty of the region. The route passes through one of the finest deodar forests in India. The walk is either along the motor road or very close to it, so it can be terminated at any stage by switching to the buses/taxis plying on the road.
Dalhousie (95 km / 3 hrs from Pathankot)
Pathankot Railway Station
Start from Dalhousie (2,039m) after an early breakfast and follow the vehicle road going east to Khajjiar (22 km/1,920m). The road meanders upwards to Alha (7 km), a pretty spot with terraced potato fields. Alha has a small rest house on a hilltop and the road approaching it serves as a ski slope for beginners in winters.
From Alha, the road winds up east to the Lakkar Mandi Wood Depot (3 km). The main road drops down further east to Khajjiar and a dirt road to the left heads off for the Forest Rest House tucked inside the Kala Top Wildlife Sanctuary (31/2 km). The metalled road to the right goes to Dain Kund (4 km from Lakkar Mandi), a high point offering a panoramic view of the Pir Panjal Range.
Entry fee for sanctuary Rs 160, to be obtained from the Forest Checkpost, Lakkar Mandi Forest Rest House Permit Contact Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife), Chamba; Tel: 01899-222639/ 239
Trekkers can stay either at the Forest Rest House or opt to camp around Lakkar Mandi.
The Kala Top Sanctuary (2,440m) area is the habitat of a variety of fauna including the leopard, black bear, goral, barking deer, serow langur, giant flying squirrel, an monal, koklash pheasant, khaleej pheasant, yellow-throated marten and the chakor. This is open forest area which means the animals move in and out of it depending on the season. The rest house in the sanctuary is ideally located amidst a thick grove of conifers. If not short of time one can profitably stay another day to explore the surroundings and enjoy the view from Dain Kund.
There are two options from the Kala Top Rest House to Khajjiar.
Follow the charming bridle path managed by the Forest Department from the rest house to Khajjar. This gradual descent of 11 km takes about 3 hrs, heading south-east through a thick and lovely forest of deodar, oak and rhododendron. Carry a picnic lunch and choose from the many charming spots for a lunch break.
Retrace the route to Alha, and follow the vehicle road that curls down south-east to Khajjiar. The last couple of kilometres are a sharp plunge down the forested slopes to the lush green meadow of Khajjiar with its little lake in the middle (shrinking with a growing silt load and vegetative growth in recent years). Once famous as a royal retreat for golfers and polo players, it was named the Switzerland of Himachal Pradesh by the Swiss envoy in 1992, becoming the 160th tourist spot in the world to be christened mini-Switzerland !
Accommodation at Khajjiar includes a standard hotel of the state tourism corporation, a government rest house and a few private hotels.
Follow the road going north-east to Chamba for about 2 kml Mayari Gala from where a broad bridle path goes down left (north-east). Mayari Gala is at a sharp right turn near a tea-shop. This steep bridle path passes through mixed forest of deodar and blue pine and a number of small hamlets. Chamba town, located on a plateau on the right bank of the Ravi, is visible from a considerable distance. The bridle path joins the motor road (Sach Road) near Sultanpur, which is 5 km from Chamba.
GETTING THERE AND OUT
FROM PATHANKOT to Dalhousie, it’s 95 km/ 3 hrs by taxi (Rs 1,200) and 4 hrs by bus (Rs 80) Frequent buses to Dalhousie. At Banikhet, the main highway leads to Chamba while a link branches off to Dalhousie (7 km)
RETURN Take a bus from Chamba, the district headquarters, to Pathankot or Dharamsala. Pathankot, the railhead, is 115 km/ 31/2 hrs by taxi (Rs 2,200) and 41/2hrs by bus (Rs 130)
Yes, it is absolutely essential to take a guide for this trek whether you are trekking solo or in a group.
The best season for Dalhousie trek is from Oct to June.
It is ideally recommended for 7+ age kids.
Yes, in fact all the Himalayan trails are quite safe for women & solo travelers. People of the region are very warm, caring & hospitable in nature.
Camping tent accommodation (2-3 per tent).
Guides & porters in the region will never demand any tip money from you. They just need their daily wages paid by the trek operator. However, it is always encouraging if one can give a little tip to them if they provide good services.
Indian currency is accepted