The summers bring along our pleas to escape to cooler altitudes, and with it our frantic searches for the closest weekend getaway spots in the hills. With most of them a significant few hours away, we’re left with a few crowded options, only to end up circling around Shimla, Mussoorie (read here) and Nainital.
We placed our bets on Dalhousie this year, and decided to drive down for two nights. Sure enough, two nights are enough to enjoy the hill station without missing out on anything worth experiencing. True to the nature of any popular hill station, the popular spots though beautiful are a crowded enough to dampen the experience just a bit- but only a bit!
Driving through the thin clouds, low mountains, easy drive, meadows and pleasant weather- why not go? While the rest of the city rushes off to seek refuge in the more popular hill stations, Dalhousie is your quick 9-hour getaway to happiness. Weekend getaways to the hills can be a nightmare if you only have a long weekend to spare. Consider your problem solved. Who doesn’t like drinking in a meadow with a bunch of friends while you hog some fresh mountain Maggi? The roads are smooth and the drive is enjoyable.
Although there isn’t really an “off season,” August and September is the ideal time to visit. You’ll escape the heat, and it wouldn’t freeze your teeth to wander outside the hotel. Given that Khajjiar is an open meadow in the middle of a valley, it’s best to go when there’s some sunshine around the place for you to enjoy.
There are a few good hotels by hill station standards, but they fill up fast. Grand View Hotel is rated the best, but we stayed at the JK Clarks Exotica, and it’s one I recommend irrespective of who you choose to travel with. It’s located close to Gandhi Chowk, which is where you’ll find your quintessential “hill station shopping” items and shops, with the softy sellers, candles and wooden souvenirs, keychains and plastic toys, and chips to go with your rum and coke in the evening. The hotel is a few meters walk or drive from the Gandhi Chowk but you’ll soon discover, at an ideal location. The rooms and bathrooms are clean, the linen is fresh; the service is a little slow but helpful. The food is average but they have quite a few options in their dinner and breakfast buffet.
Things to Do:
Dalhousie is all the more fun because of Khajjiar, a large meadow that serves as a tourist attraction in itself. With hordes of tourists enjoying a bunch of commercial activities (zorbing, paragliding, horse riding) here, the place is packed with people out on picnics. It’s a vast field with a tiny pond in one corner, tea stalls on another, a horse riding mud path surrounding the field, and a few balloon sellers here and there. On all sides, are the mountains, thick trees and just the one house on the entire field.
Don’t go there expecting a lush green field with sunflowers and ducks in a pond. It’s not all merry in this paradise, for of course, it’s a tourist area, and with that comes the unfortunate cow and horse poop, heaps of litter and broken bottles. But even these aren’t enough to ruin the beauty of Khajjiar, for among the trees that surround the meadow, you’re sure to find a quiet corner to sip some chai and watch the hustle from afar, or join in with your picnic basket.
Try to go early morning, because the roads are thin and the paths to Khajjiar gets crowded as the day sets in. Parking could prove to be a nightmare.
It’s a wildlife sanctuary, but don’t conjure up hopes of spotting any exotic birds or animals. Go for the drive! It’s a narrow one-way steep drive to the top of the mountain. As they say, “the view from the top is always breathtaking!” and so is the case with KalaTop. The entire mountain range can be seen from up here. There’s a government owned cafe and museum sort of station created here to stop and enjoy the view or to use the washrooms, but a walk along the area could be just what you need to clear your head and give yourself a dose of the good vibes.
If you have othe time and inclination (and let’s be honest- the fitness levels), you could go for an exhilarating trek from Khajjiar all the way to KalaTop.
There are plenty other things you could opt for closer to home in Dalhousie, with treks, churches and temples to visit and the occasional peak with a good view. To sum it up, Dalhousie doesn’t disappoint. It’s easy to reach, not too crowded and the drives are perfection.