Khajjiar- Mini Switzerland of India

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I always wanted to visit Khajjiar, a hill station in the district of Chamba, very popular with tourists in India and abroad.

How to get to Khajjiar- There is local bus service from Dalhousie to Khajjiar, but they are limited in number. So you have to plan your trip really well and within the local commute availability, especially if you are staying over at Khajjiar. Else you can opt for taxis services or if you have a car you can spend time at your own ease.

Best Time to Visit– Anytime of the year depending on your preference. Summer is everyone’s favourite and the most busiest time of the year. Accommodation can also get a bit expensive. We visited in winter, so could see some part of the area covered in snow. I bet it will look wonderful in snow as well. Something to be aware of if there is a forecast of heavy snowfall, the roads access to Khajjiar will be closed.

Where to Stay – We did not stay in Khajjiar as our base in Banikhet’s youth hostel, under the budget. But Khajjiar offers hotels, cottages, rest houses run by HP tourism, but there are some private hotels too.

It has another name to add to its popularity- Mini Switzerland of India, name given by Mr. Willy T Blazer, VC of Khajjiar in India . He also put a sign board of a yellow Swiss hiking footpath showing Khajjiar’s distance from the Swiss capital Berne-6194 km. Khajjiar is among the 160 locations in the world that bear topographical resemblance with Switzerland.It does live upto its name.

It is a combination of lakes, pastures and forest. You can either choose to sit near to a lake, or go for a long walk in the dense woodland of Pine forests. It is a treat to eyes this vast lush greenland.

Local: The main income of Khajjiar comes from tourist visiting this land. So you will find a lot of locals selling Saffron(Kesar), they claim it is the best in Himachal but you gotta check yourself. You can also get your photographs clicked in traditional himachal clothes, horse riding etc.

 

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Khajjiar

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Budget Travel: Dalhousie

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“When one is travelling, one must expect to spend a certain amount of money foolishly.” – Robertson Davies

One of my motto while travelling is to travel on budget. A certain amount of money should always be kept in buffer for emergencies and some unexpected things that comes along the way. In my last series of posts on Dalhousie, I did mention that we planned an economical back packing trip around beautiful hills of Himachal Pradesh. Here is the planning for my 5 days trip to Dalhousie with accommodation, restaurants, transport sight seeing. We visited Dalhousie during winters, but if you are planning in summer, I must tell you something : PLAN IN ADVANCE, summer is popular, lots of people want to go there, and everyone is planning same things, you would not want to miss anything from your list 🙂

How to get to Dalhousie – There are a lot of way to get to Dalhousie via car/self drive, bus, train or flight. We opted for train as it is the most cost-effective and convenient way to reach Dalhousie. Pathankot’s Chakki Bank railhead is the nearest railway station from Dalhousie. Once you reach Chakki Bank, you can take a local bus ride to Dalhousie. It is a frequent service. Note: Bus Service starts at 5am in the morning. So if you are arriving by early morning train, you can choose to sit in waiting room at station or take a taxi. For a 4 seater car taxi it might cost you INR 700 and for a 6 seater taxi it will cost you around INR 1400, depending on the car and the no. of people.

Accommodation – Dalhousie is very popular summer retreat hill station, so undoubtedly during peak season hotels & cottages prices are very high. Things are not that cheap during winter as well. So we decided to stay in a youth hostel at Banikhet, 10-12 kms from Dalhousie.A lovely hostel with nice big rooms, comfortable bed, clean toilets, and a lovely view of the hills around. They are also listed in YHAI (Youth Hostel Association of India), do not have website of their own so providing the details below:

YOUTH HOSTEL BANIKHET
C/O Hotel Sahara Inn, Dalhouse Hills,Banikhet – 176303 Himachal Pradesh.
Contact Person: Mr.Subash Sharma Phone:1899-254527; 9418010527 Email: saharainn.hotel@yahoo.com

The owners are very very helpful and good people, always ready to help. A Double bedroom will cost INR 1050 per night for 2-3 people, they have options for dormitory, standard bedroom as well.

Food/Restaurants: I love Indian food, and there are many options in Dalhousie and Banikhet. Since Dalhousie is a popular destination, once again the prices in the restaurants are high too. Some restaurants claim to be the best and oldest in town, but in actual food does not taste good. We were victim of such restro on our first day in Dalhousie. Hence we decided to give a try to a small vegetarian restaurant called ‘Vaishnav Dhaba- Pure Veg’ near to our hostel in Banikhet and that was our food joint for breakfast, dinner for next 5 days. Absolutely delicious and mouth watering food. Every meal per person will cost you around 60-70 INR. It is opposite to Banikhet bus station.

Transport for Visiting Places: You absolutely do not need taxi to see places around dalhousie, unless very necessary. You want to save some money, get up a bit early and board on a local bus to various places like Dalhousie, Khajjiar, Kalatop,Lakkar Mandi. A bus ticket will cost between 10-40 INR per journey. It is very cheap as comparable to taxi which will cost you per journey around INR 1500 and above. Since it is a hill station with a low population, you might not find frequent service. You will have to morning buses and return by 6 or 7PM as life takes a halt in evening time on hills.

Places to Visit: I have already written posts on each visit of mine. Please browse through all Dalhousie posts from drop down menu to get more details.

As always do let me know if you are looking for further information. I will be glad to help you in planning.

Kalatop Forest

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Kalatop Forest

Kalatop Forest

If you are in Dalhousie, another must visit place will be a walk in the Kalatop Forest.

Kalatop is a dense forest filled with Deodar and Pine trees. Mysterious as its name, from far off it seems united, it can be followed, described, but closer it begins to separate, to break into light and shadow, can blind you with its beauty and pulls you deep into it. Within there is no form, only prodigious detail that reaches everywhere: exotic sounds, spills of sunlight, foliage, fallen trees, small beasts that flee at the sound of a twig-snap, insects, silence, flowers.

How to get to Kalatop- Take a local bus from Dalhousie and get down at Lakkar Mandi. You will see a board that will direct you to Kalatop Forest. It is 6kms walk in the beautiful forest, and every sec you walk it will be worth it. There is a paved path that will take you right upto the Kalatop Guest house. Alternate option is to enter the forest via car, you can take car upto rest house. Without a doubt, I will always say Walk Walk Walk (if you are reasonably fit).

Best Season– June- September. This is the touristy season too. Nov- Dec is quiet and not so cold. Once snowfall starts, it will be closed to tourists.

This walk is fairly simple and you can hire a guide to learn more about this Forest. We did hire a guide for our walk, he took us through some of the interiors of the forest and it was totally worth it. It is a good idea to spend a night in the cottages at to,p to get the experience of night in a forest.

Once you reach at the top there is a small café serving noodles, tea, eggs, cold drinks.

Cruise through the forest, relax and breathe in some fresh air.

Kalatop Guest House- Made by British

Kalatop Guest House- British Summer Home

The whole Gang :)

The whole Gang 🙂

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Once Again- Happy Me

Once Again- Happy Me

Hike To DianKund(Witches Pond)

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Pir Panjal Range

Pir Panjal Range

Many a times you get attracted to a place because of the name or a story behind it’s existence. Diankund or Witches Pond was one of those places.

Diankund is one of the fascinating peaks of Dalhousie perched at an altitude of 2755 meters above the sea level and is one of the highest peak in this valley. From the top it provides you with some breathtaking views of the whole valley. Trekking up this peak is the only way to get to the top.

Story behind it’s name – It is believed that in old days there were witches living in this place who used to trouble the villagers to no end. It is when Goddess Kali arrived on this hill to help villagers and bring an end to their grief because of the daemons around. From my childhood stories I remember there is no escape from Goddess Kali anger. It is believed that he same thing happened there, the Goddess got furious and she killed all the daemons turning the ground to blood-red. A temple was then built by villagers at the same spot to receive blessings from the Goddess. People from the village come up here to get blessings when they get married, or have a baby or anything auspicious. Such is the strong belief of people, and I respect that.

Best Season – June – Sept is the main tourist time. We went in December it was quiet, no hustle bustle and it was like whole Dalhousie was for us .

To start your hike –  You can take a bus from Dalhousie Bus Stand and get down at Lakkar Mandi. This junction leads to three different routes,you should take road going uphill to start your trek to Dian Kund. It is 6kms hike in total with some majestic views on the way. It is a doable hike for anyone with fine level of fitness.

This hike was gorgeous in the month of December as the peaks were still in covered in snow and there was a calmness around. We sang songs while trekking, we danced (yes we DID 🙂 ) and the whole 3-4 hours of walking was rewarded by breath-taking views around.

Note- Some parts of the peak are restricted for civilians as there is an Indian Army Base at the top.

Once you reach the other side of the DianKund Peak, there is a temple of Goddess Kali. We worshipped too, sat there for a while to soak ourselves into the nature and the peaks around.

Some pictures from our trek.

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My Photographer <3

My Photographer ❤

 

Dalhousie- Retreat to Hill Station

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Dalhousie Hills

Dalhousie Hills

Last December I visited Himachal Pradesh along with my Ash, brothers and cousins. The whole idea of the trip was to walk and hike in some of the most beautiful places of Himachal Pradesh, and get ourselves soaked in the rustic beauty of this place. There is no fun like family fun, it is one of my most memorable trip with loved ones.

It was a week-long backpacking trip and we were on a budget. We knew we were going to hike around whole day long so there is point spending a lot of money in fancy hotels, we used local transport i.e. buses, we ate local food and at the end of each day we played Black Jack (without money) to end the day with a bash 🙂 I will soon write a post on how one can plan a week long budget trip to places I visited.

Our first stop was Dalhousie- a very popular and beautiful hill station in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, India. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks, Dalhousie is built over 5 hills – Kathalagh, Potreyn, Terah, Bakrota and Bhangora. Dalhousie is located on the western edge of the Dhauladhar mountain range of the Himalayas.

A little bit of History – Dalhousie town was named after Lord Dalhousie who was British Governer General in India during British ruling days. It was established as a summer retreat for it’s troops and bureaucrats. A lot of churches, convent schools were opened up. In 1954 Pandit Nehru initiated promotion of tourism in Dalhousie with a call that stated Let us go to the Himalayas. Since then Dalhousie has become a popular tourist spot for people in India or abroad.

How to get to Dalhousie – There are a lot of way to get to Dalhousie via car/self drive, bus, train or flight. We opted for train as it is the most cost-effective and convenient way to reach Dalhousie. Pathankot’s Chakki Bank railhead is the nearest railway station from Dalhousie. Once you reach Chakki Bank, you can take a local bus ride to Dalhousie. It is a frequent service.

Places to Visit – Tourism plays a very important role in the economy of this state. Dalhousie being one of the most popular destination offers you a list of attractions – Dainkund Peak, Khajjiar, Bakrota Hills, Gandhi Chowk, Subash Bazaar, Panchupla waterfall, Kalatop forest, Tibetan Market. We could not visit them all as it was a winter season and there was a forecast of snowfall prediction for next week, we limited ourselves  to fewer places and hiked to Dainkund Peak, Kalatop Forest, Khajjiar and boating in Chamera lake.

On our first day we strolled around in the streets of Dalhousie – Subhash Bazaar, Gandhi Chowk and some inner alleys while exploring the town. Subash Bazaar and Gandhi Chowk both are famous for shopping and a lot of restaurants. If you love Pashima Shawls or handicrafts- this is the place to be. But do not forget since is it is a tourist spot everything is costly.

I fell in love with the peaceful life of people living in the mountains. Life in hills is very much different from living in plain lands. Living in cities we are so much used to of comfort living and easily accessed life but still find ourselves complaining and grumpy many times in a day. But people I saw there were happy, smiling, strong. A man or woman will walk up to Dalhousie each day to earn their living on a fruit stall or vegetable stall, a shop keeper will travel to plain land to stock up his shop weekly, kids will walk upto hill to reach their school, a house wife will walk up and down on a hill to furnish the needs of house hold. They do not have massive shopping malls, loads of cafe bistros, cinema halls, yet they are happy and content.

Sharing few pictures of this beautiful town showing the beauty and street life.

 

Himalayan Ranges

Himalayan Ranges

Sun was Rising

Sun was Rising

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Dalhousie from Top

A street  vendor

A street vendor

A street Vendor selling Paani Poori

A street Vendor selling Paani Poori

In Beautiful Alleys of Dalhousie

In Beautiful Alleys of Dalhousie

Oh Yes!! It was cold :)

Oh Yes!! It was cold 🙂

 

I hope you enjoy reading it. Like always please feel free to get in touch with me in case you want further information. I will soon write another post that will talk about budget stay at Dalhousie.