Dalhousie needs no introduction. It is a popular colonial hill station in Himachal, just like its colonial brother – Shimla. They say, in colonial days, Dalhousie was to Lahore what Shimla was to Delhi. It is a popular weekend getaway from Delhi and more popular in summers, as people from the cities head here to escape the wrath of the sun. We decided to head here in winters to experience the snowy Himalayas in their full splendor.
Facing the Pir Panjal Range of mountains, the hill station is wrapped by the conifer forests that are filled with pine, oak and deodar trees. Last year, I visited Mcleodganj and Bir in the summer months of April, this time we intended to visit Dalhousie, Khajjiar and Chamba in the plummeting temperatures with the hope that we find snow. And did we?! Hell yess! It definitely made for a worthwhile trip as it was my first experience in snow. This was a big deal for me. Seeing snow up so close for first time. I kept hoping and wishing to see it. Having lived mostly in southern India, my fascination knew no bounds.
As we slowly drove up from the plains to the hills, we passed innumerable mustard fields of Punjab and as we further drove up, started to see remnants of snow on the sides of the road. The mere sight of this made me so ecstatic. As we further drove up, we saw it everywhere. I was brimming with joy. This is one of the reasons why I love to travel. That feeling of elation when you see or experience something for the first time can’t be matched. And yeah, snow isn’t a big deal for many but new experiences, big or small, can literally bring so much joy.
I feel 2-3 days is sufficient to spend in Dalhousie post which you can head extend your trip Chamba or Mcleodganj or Bir.
Here is my take on things not to be missed while visiting Dalhousie.
- Kalatop Wildlife Santuary: is approx. 12 kms from Dalhousie. There are 2 ways to get here. The cab will drop you straight upto the Kalatop (provided there is no snow on the road) and the other way is, to get down at Lakkar Mandi, and walk to Kalatop. Lakkar Mandi is the entrance point for Kalatop. From here, it is a 3km walk with a well laid out walking trail. Trust me, the trail is extremely beautiful, covered with thick pine forests and everything in a white landscape. It was so peaceful and quiet, walking in the woods never felt so good. You could also halt at Kalatop Forest rest house, which resides at the top of the sanctuary. Please note: Vehicle entry is closed to the Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary after snowfall in winter.
- Khajjiar: Winters in Khajjiar is quiet with minimal tourists around, as compared to the summer months when it is beaming with tourists from all over. You will find the meadows lush green during summer months, while what we saw during winters was the meadow and the lake had dried up. Ofcourse, when it snows, it is completely covered in white. You can take part in horse-riding activities here. There is also a Khajji Nag temple here. It is located quite close to the Khajjiar Lake, near the few buildings which are rest houses and restaurants. You will find a lot of locals, requesting you to take a photo with their furry rabbits that are so cutely placed in baskets with colorful flowers. This is another popular activity here, to get picture clicked with these cute bunnies.
- Daikund Peak – To reach the top of Daikund peak, there is a bit of hike involved here. You can take a cab from the town or market, and you will be dropped at the airforce base. From here, the trek begins. It takes about 1.5 hrs to climb to the peak. At the end of the peak, there is a temple and is known to keep the spirits away. Please note: We went here in Dec and the trails where covered in snow. Make sure you wear appropriate snow shoes, we saw many people slipping and falling due to inappropriate footwear.
- Panchpula & Sathdhara Waterfalls: These are small yet stunning waterfall and is among the tourist places in Dalhousie. Since it was winter and there wouldn’t’ be much of water, we skipped it. But it is in full force during the summer months.
- Mall road: The Mall Road is hub of all exciting things in the hill town. Shopping and dining makes this popular place in Dalhousie.
- Chamera lake and Dam: The Chamera is an artificial lake, which is surrounded by Chamba valley in all sides, it is part of the Chamera Hydroelectric project that is built over the Ravi River. Boating and fishing are some activities that happen here. We stopped by this place on our drive to Chamba from Dalhousie. Serendipitously encountered this roadside dhaba with stunning views of the Chamera lake. If I can recollect the name right, it was called Pir Panjal Dhaba. Look at that color of Chamera lake. So beautiful!
- Churches in Dalhousie : Talk about hill stations and churches. There isn’t none without them. A few which you could visit and spend a quiet afternoon, if you have ample time in hand.
- St Patrick’s church
- Francis Catholic Church
Lastly, whenever you plan to head here during winters, don’t come with a set or tight itinerary, please be mindful that during winter most of the roads are covered in snow. Have ample space to work out an alternative plan.