Dalhousie: Of scenic drives and nature walks
Reader Chandni Moudgil shares with us her experience of visiting the charming hill station in Himachal Pradesh.
Long walks, spectacular views, fresh air and lots of food -- these for me are the makings of a perfect holiday. And if all of this comes as a package deal for your birthday no one would complain about turning a year older, would they?
The end of Feburary could easily be regarded as the best time to visit Dalhousie. It isn't very cold and the occasional drizzle makes the weather extremely agreeable.
There is very little 'to do' in Dalhousie. Besides going for long walks or having a coffee or momos at MG Road, this tourist spot sees very little action. The best thing to do is to just land there without any plan.
We reached Pathankot railway station, which is the nearest major railhead to Dalhousie. Here we had an option to either visit Dharamsala or head to Dalhousie. We chose the latter.
Image: Dalhousie can be explored on foot in a matter of hours
Photographs: Chandni Moudgil
The little hill town where the old world comes alive
The drive to Dalhousie from Pathankot takes about two hours and is a scenic one. We reached Hotel Mount View -- the oldest and right next to the bus stand. It was everything we had imagined and a little more!
Old woodwork, vintage looking paintings, quaint little corners lit with lamps defined this place. The reception is straight out of an old English movie and the rooms offered foggy views of the Himalayas. No wonder it is rated as high as it was on Tripadvisor!
What is amazing about this little town is how it starts and ends in barely a couple of miles. One can explore the entire place on foot. So by the end of the first day, we had cracked all possible ways to reach MG Road from Shankar Chowk and window-shopped at the old and newly revived Janpath-like Tibetan markets. The obvious next thing to do was explore places around Dalhousie.
Image: The centre of all action in Dalhousie is the Mall Road
Travelling around Dalhousie
There are many places one can visit around Dalhousie as part of a day trip. Tourist cabs are available at the bus stand and at Subhash chowk. Chances are they will quote around Rs 1000 for a day but if you bargain you should land a good deal. We got ours for Rs 700 for the whole day.
After a quick tour of Subhash Bowli (a water fountain hidden between trees, off a cobbled pathway -- where Subhash Chandra bose supposedly used to walk down during his stay here, the water it seems cured him of TB!) Panchpula (a spot with five streams run into forming a waterfall) and a miniature form of Chandigarh-like Rock Garden, we headed to a personalised trip through a hilly drive to what is called as Switzerland of the East -- Khaijjiar.
A picnic spot of sorts with a lot of greenery and a lake in the middle, Khaijjiar is about 25 km from Dalhousie. To be honest, I wasn't very impressed though it seems like everyone who heads to Dalhousie has to visit this place. With an apology of a restaurant as an option to eat and nothing tagged as a 'must-have', we were quite glad that we had a good breakfast. I was however told that the place is breathtaking during the winter when it snows. But if you are visiting in summer, I can safely suggest you give this place a miss entirely.
Another 25-odd km from Khajjiar is the pristine town set in the picturesque valley called Chamba. This is another breathtaking place with sights and sounds straight out of a Travel and Living show. We were also told that this was also the place where the Hindi movie Taal was shot.
Image: Just in case you were wondering where to head to from Dalhousie, this stone holds the answers
Chamba: Royalty meets simplicity
Once home to kings, Chamba is one of the oldest district headquarters in the country and contrary to its claim to fame it is just a quaint, unassuming town going about life at its own slow and easy pace.
Here you can visit Chowgan, a huge ground set in the heart of the city that still continues to be the focal point of its activities. Then there is the Laxmi Narayan temple, which we skipped and headed to the Bhuri Singh Museum. Now this was quite a find and had on display paintings, utensils, royal artifacts and notes exchanged in ancient scripts of the local royal family. It was quite worth the money we paid for the tickets. You could also save yourself some more bucks by not carrying the camera inside!
However besides this Chamba is essentially a small town with a smaller population. It doesn't take a lot of time for you to see everything the city has to offer -- including a chowpatty-style market and a bunch of bakeries, sweetshops and dhabas around Chowgan.
So after three days of long walks, fresh air, lots of food and a loaded camera we came back. Surely there is nothing that can match a holiday like this one.
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Image: The drive to Chamba is scenic and breathtaking