A quaint hill station perched at an altitude of 8000 ft, Dalhousie sprawls across five hills at the foothills of the Dhauladhar range in Himachal Pradesh. This picture-perfect destination was founded during India’s colonial occupation back in 1854, when it served as a summer retreat for the British. Named after the then British Viceroy Lord Dalhousie, the town is a throwback to the colonial era, replete with Scottish churches and Victorian bungalows scattered across its hilly terrain.
Dainkund is a short trek in the Himalayan range near Dalhousie. It starts at Alha village, at some six km from the town centre. Ranked as easy to moderately easy, the trek winds through a dense deodar and pine forest. The trek up leads to some stunning views of the Himalayas to the north. The four and a half kilometre trek ends at the 800 plus year old Pohlani Devi Temple. Legend has it that this hillside was infested by witches and demons who were later slayed by none other than Goddess Kali herself. The hillside is also referred to as the Singing Hill owing to the sound made by wind rustling through the woods here. The sound becomes all the more audible during spring and early monsoon when the forest grows denser. The trek is quite easy apart from a few spots in the ridge and is perfect for kids as well.
Often referred to as the Switzerland of India, Khajjiar is located a little outside of Dalhousie towards Chamba, and ideally warrants an overnight visit. This tranquil saucer-shaped meadow is ensconced within a deodar forest which forms a ring around its periphery. Little forest trails fan out from the meadow which are best seen on a hack ride: you’ll find lots of pony operators offering their services at the meadow. Visitors also make a beeline to the Khajinag temple which features fine wood carvings and a gold dome.
Most shops in Dalhousie are clustered around Gandhi Chowk, and there are good bargains to be had. Street stalls hawk everything from rugs and jackets to quaint Tibetan jewellery. If you’re looking for something with a little more finesse, then stop by at the Tibetan Handicrafts Centre and the Himachal Handicrafts Emporium which stock some beautifully crafted curios among other bric-a-brac.
This Protestant Church in Dalhousie is a throwback to the Victorian era and holds great historical significance as the first religious site to be built here, dating all the way back to 1863. Within, the Church houses a library with a rich compilation of books and rare photographs accounting for the history and culture of Dalhousie.
KALATOP WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
About nine kilometres from Gandhi Chowk, Kalatop’s dense deodar canopy shields a variety of animals and birds, including about 117 rare species. Carry along your binoculars for some birding, and try to spot the chestnut billed rock thrush and Eurasian jay. Deeper in the more intensely wooded areas, sightings can be difficult, but langurs, musk deer and barking deer can be spotted with relative ease. Exploring the sanctuary can take up to six hours; one word of caution, do not venture deep into the sanctuary on foot—bear sightings while not common, have been reported from the area.