Dalhousie is a historical hill town in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Located in the lap of the Pir Panjal mountains, the town was founded in 1854, when the British bought five hills named Kathlog, Potreyn, Bakrota, Tera, and Bhangora from the rulers of Chamba. They then developed them as a sanatorium for their troops recuperating from leprosy, and named the town after the British Governor-General, Lord Dalhousie.
Although overshadowed by the more popular hill stations of McLeodganj, Dharamshala, and Shimla, this town has retained much of its colonial charm, and offers many attractions and breathtaking landscapes for a long weekend outing. Here are the top things to do on your next trip to Dalhousie.
Go on a Trek to Pohlani Mata Temple
Situated atop Dainkund Peak, the highest point in Dalhousie, is the abode of Hindu goddess Pohlani. While the trident at the temple is revered, a trek along the ridge en route to the religious place offers stunning views of the rivers of Punjab, the Chamba valley, and the snow-capped peaks of the lower Himalaya. From the top, trekkers often go further to Jot, a mountain hamlet offering sweeping vistas, or downhill to the meadows of Khajjiar.
Plan a Visit to Mini Switzerland
The picturesque Khajjiar is small hill station in Himachal Pradesh. With a landscape that's topographically similar to Switzerland, it was dubbed the "Mini Switzerland of India" in 1992 by the then Swiss Envoy Willy P. Blazer (since then the name has caught on). Located at a distance of about 14.3 miles from Dalhousie, Khajjiar's saucer-shaped meadow is surrounded by forests of pine, deodar, and cedar, with scenic views of the scintillating peaks of Dhauladhar in the backdrop. While here, do pay a visit to the centuries-old, wooden Khajji Nag temple, dedicated to the lord of serpents.
Over the decades, Dalhousie has transformed into an education hub, and one of the oldest and reputed of the residential schools is the Sacred Heart School. Started by Belgium nuns in 1901, the sprawling 21-acre premises feature a century-old cathedral, well-manicured lawns dotted with colonial cottages, and Victorian-era buildings. It's the perfect place for architecture lovers.
Cross Five Bridges to See a Waterfall
Located about 1.9 miles from Dalhousie, Panchpula Waterfall is a popular destination among locals. (Panchpula, which translates to "five bridges" in Hindi, is named after the five stone bridges one has to cross to reach it). You can partake in a number of adventurous activities in the area, including trekking and camping, or simply pack a picnic and enjoy the cascades and springs. While you're here, consider visiting the memorial to revolutionary revolutionary leader Ajit Singh.
Travel tip: On your way to Panchpula, be sure to stop and take in the views at the trickling Satdhara springs.
Browse the Markets Around the Mall Road
Mall Road, a circuit around the Moti Tibba hill, is where you'll find most of the shops and eating joints in town. Start at Gandhi Chowk; right in the heart of Dalhousie, this plaza boasts numerous street vendors, kiosks, and food stalls selling everything from dosa and momos to sweaters and jackets. Nearby, there's a Tibetan market filled with handicrafts, jewelry, and woolen wear. Shop for knitted Himachali socks and shawls, rhododendron wines, and a Himachali pickle called "chukk." From Gandhi Chowk, a short walk along the Garam Sadak route leads to the Subash Chowk and Sadar Bazar markets.
Go Church Hopping
The town of Dalhousie is dotted with beautiful churches featuring stained glass paintings and centuries-old wooden interiors. St. Francis and Sacred Heart are located near Subash Chowk, though St. John's Church is just around the corner from the Gandhi Chowk. Meanwhile, the old St. Patrick's and St. Andrew's churches are nestled inside the pristine Balun cantonment, a few miles down the hill from Dalhousie.
Hike the Bakrota Hills
Home to beautiful cottages, brooks, and pine forests, the Bakrota Hills is one of the five hills that make up the town of Dalhousie. While its salubrious surroundings are perfect for bird watchers, it also appeals to history lovers owing to its association with some of India's most notable figures. Named after Indian freedom fighter Subash Chandra Bose, Subash Bowli is a perennial spring whose waters are said to have healed him. Likewise, Nobel Laureate and social reformer Rabindranath Tagore, inspired by his long stay in Bakrota, sung the praise of Dalhousie and its pristine beauty in his books.
Walk Through the Forested Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary
Spanning 19 square miles, the forested Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Expect to see Himalayan black bears, martens, pheasants, and serows while trekking along the rugged path leading to the sanctuary. With a tea stall and snack bar inside its premises, the Kalatop Sanctuary, located 8 miles away from Dalhousie, is perfect for a leisurely stroll on a lazy afternoon.
Go on a Picnic by Chamera Lake and Rock Garden
Located around 15.5 miles from Dalhousie, Chamera Lake—the reservoir of Chamera Dam, built across the Ravi River—is a perfect water sports destination and picnic spot. Boat rides and canoeing, a small park with eateries, and a walk over the dam attract children as well as adults.
Travel tip: If you're looking for another good spot for a family picnic, check out the Rock Garden en route to the dam.
Re-Visit a Bygone era at Chamba
Located on the banks of the Ravi River at the crossroads of the Dhauladhar and Zanskar ranges, the town of Chamba is home to ancient palaces and temples dating back to the 6th century. An erstwhile princely province of the Chamba rulers (from whom the five hills of Dalhousie were bought by the British), this heritage town has retained much of its glorious medieval past. While in Chamba, do offer obeisance at the exquisitely constructed Laxmi Narayan temple, which features six towering Shikhara-styled spires and small shrines.