Dalhousie

Dalhousie – A beautiful hill town nestled around five hills in the Dhaulandhar range in the lap of Himachal Pradesh. It resides around a paradise like view of the Himalayan foothills, breathtaking and mesmerizing. As you ascend towards the town, the pine clad valleys and typical flower laden houses of Himachal form a lovely welcoming scene.

Beautiful layout of houses in Dalhousie
We also found some last snow melting in the sun while on our way to the Alps resort, Dalhousie.

We stayed at the lovely Alps Resort. They have a beautifully maintained premise and awesome food! Click here for more pics of the Alps Resort.

There are quite a few places to visit near Dalhousie, namely, the Khajjiar lake, Kalatop forest and resort, Panchpulla waterfall, Satdhara falls, Daikund peak, Subhash Baoli etc.

Kalatop Khajjiar Sanctuary – A beautiful dark forest which is a host to a wide variety of pine trees and many wild animals, The famous Deodar trees (Himalayan cedar) are in abundance and a sight to behold. Some of the trees are as old as 300 years old. Also an intriguing sight is that on some slopes the pine trees have one directional branches due to the sunlight. The name of the forest itself suggests it’s character – the forest is dark in colour. The air here is so pure that it has healing capacity. We can use private vehicle/cab to enter the forest but a guide is mandatory. Entry fee is to be paid at the entrance.

Kalatop Forest

There is a rest house in the forest which can be booked well in advance if one wishes to stay within the forest. It commands an excellent view of nature and the breeze here is so purifying! There is food and washroom available.

Forest Rest House

The forest guide can explain about the varied flora and fauna. We got to know the difference between high altitude trees and the ones found in the low altitudes. Fir, deodar and oak trees along with the dense undergrowth form the foliage of this dark forest. Hence the name, Kalatop (black forest).

Animals like, bear, leopard, jackal, squirrels and deer are common. Common forest birds like the Jays and the flycatchers too populate the area. We didn’t get to sight any animals but we did see a few birds and lots of butterflies.

Interesting fact : Cutting down or selling the deodar (Himalyan Cedar) trees is illegal in India! If a tree in the forest falls down on the road due to natural causes, it can be moved from the way but it can’t be carried out of the forest or sold.

The Kalatop Forest Resort – The Entrance

Know more about the Kalatop Forest Rest house here. To check the Official Site click here. To book the rest house, simply contact through the respective email ids mentioned on the official page.

5. Khajjiar Lake – It is an absolute scenic delight. The Khajjiar is an amalgamation of sprawling bright green grassy meadows outlined with tall dark green Deodar tress and a lake in the center.

Khajjiar Lake

There is a well maintained and huge parking ground. Some restaurants are there too, which serve hot meals and parathas. You can also get yourself clicked in the traditional attire! There are many photographers who offer their services and get the photograph ready in a jiffy while you enjoy the scenery.

This place experiences a lot of foot fall during peak tourist season because of it’s serene beauty and it looks like a mini Switzerland! Know more about the Khajjiar lake, click here.

Panchpula – This is a small waterfall which lies surrounded in a towering forest of deodar and fir. The tranquility of the scene and nature’s abundance is overwhelming. The shadows and peeping sunlight mixed with forest sounds make it a very enchanting place to visit. There is no laid out path to reach near the waterfall. One has to trek for a small distance. It is however a favourite picnic spot for the locals. It is a nature’s enclosure with a very pronounced jungle vibe that lays out plenty for photography. There are a couple of tea and maggi stalls to enjoy a quick snack break in nature’s lap. Parking space is there at the bottom of the trek. Also there is an man made pond with boating activity near the parking place. It is not far from Dalhousie and except winters, every other time is good to visit this place.

Five streams are supposed to merge together to form one. That’s why the name panchpula.
We found a thin stream as we had gone in summer.

Satdhara Falls – Another beautiful waterfall on the way to panchpula from Dalhousie and a good place for nature walk.

Dainkund peak – It is also known as the singing hill and is the highest point of Dalhousie. It commands a magnificent bird’s eye view of the Khajjiar lake and the surrounding area. As the breeze passes through the tall trees, it makes a subtle whistling sound, hence the name, Singing Hill. The cars go upto a certain distance and then there is a trek leading to the peak.

Subhash Baoli : Netaji Subhash Candra Bose had spent some time at this place to regain his health. It is an enchanting spot surrounded by tall trees. The water of this spring has medicinal properties.

Apart from this, there are a few beautiful churches in Dalhousie and also for shopping there is a Tibetan market at the Gandhi Cowk.

More on Dalhousie.

Best time to visit Dalhousie is from March to May when there is very little snow and the temperature is delightful.

The nearest airport is in Pathankot. One can also take a train from there. There are no direct trains or flights from Chandigarh or Delhi. From there one has to travel via road.

All in all it’s a trip out of the books, every moment worth it!

Khajjiar Lake, Himachal Pradesh

The Khajjiar Lake is a sight to behold. It is a sprawling meadow surrounded by the tall deodars with a pond in the center. Very serene and calm. It is a lovely tourist spot in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. At a height of a little less than 2000m above the sea level, this place is a mini Switzerland.

Khajjiar Lake

There is a huge and well maintained car parking and some restaurants to satisfy the hunger pangs after a long relaxed stroll.

Car park and restaurants seen in the backdrop

The kids would love it here rolling in the lawn and playing with rabbits or horse riding. There are some fish in the pond and my daughter loved feeding them. We also watched an eagle dive down to catch one for itself. There are some artificial play areas set up too.

Taking a look around – Soaking in the ethereal beauty of nature
Feeding the fish
Dress up in the traditional gown in a jiffy and get yourself clicked to create lovely memories 🙂

Local photographers are around and they can click your photos in traditional outfit. They get the copies ready while you look around.

Since it lies in between Dalhousie and Chamba town, it is very easy to reach here.

More on Khajjiar.

Hotel Bookings. (HPTDC)

On tripadvisor

Kalatop Forest Resort, Himachal Pradesh

The Kalatop Forest lies in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. It is a sanctuary of dense deodar and fir tress. Based within the forest is the Kalatop Forest Rest House which commands a magnificent view of the surrounding flora and fauna. To go inside the forest, one needs to take a guide along.

We can get a guide at the main entrance of the Kalatop Khajjiar Sanctuary entrance gate. The forest is home to bears, deer, leopard, and other such wild animals.

There are treks as well.

Kalatop Forest Rest House main gate

The rest house layout comprises of the main building, lawn, sunset point and there is a small eating place with the kitchen. You can get lip smacking onion bhajji here! Limited Indian cuisine is available. There is a small village nearby and the locals too help in the rest house maintenance.

The Sunset Point

The rest house has seen it’s share of history but is a well maintained cottage structure. It is basically meant for the government officers’ stay and is not like a regular hotel with luxury amenities. Booking is done through e-emails and phone. However, one must keep in mind that the booking can be cancelled if any government officer visits during those dates.

One needs to book the rooms in advance as they fill up fast. It is a magnificent experience to stay within the forest overlooking the lush valley.

Butterflies found there

During the bloom season, there are hoards of butterflies flying around which presents an ethereal sight.

The best time to visit is during the summer. Also, there is a lot of snow during winter and the road is closed.

Kalatop Forest Rest House

Mcleaodganj

McLeodganj

McLeodganj is a small settlement/village, near Dharamshala in the Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh and boasts of breathtaking view of the Dhaulandhar range. The Ravi rivers presents a mesmerizing sight sauntering in the beautiful valley below. The place hosts a large population of Tibetans and is still an unexplored tourist destination.

People sit in these peaceful corridors and meditate

It is home to the Namgyal Monestary which is the home to the Dalai Lama. And if you are really lucky, you can even see The Dalai Lama during one of his visits.

Monks coming out during their break

The narrow and steep lanes with a row of shops and houses leaves one with an intrigued impression.

There are many places to visit nearby.

  1. Dharamsala – It is the major city in the Kangra Valley. McLeodganj is up ahead in the suburbs. Dharamsala is also famous for the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium.
Stunning view at the HPCA stadium – Dharamsala

2. Bhagsugnag Falls – It is about 11kms from Dharamsala and is a fresh water spring. Bhagsugnag temple is located at the base and is a Shiv temple. The climb to the waterfall is steep but not very long. It is located in a slate quarry surrounded by pine trees.

3. Panchpulla – It is another waterfall nearby and can be easily reached by road. This one is a popular picnic spot and has a few water sports in the pond below. Completely overwhelmed with nature, the place calm and serene surrounded by mountains and trees and there are treks leading to the nearest town of Dalhousie. The water of this stream has medicinal properties. The climb is not as stiff as Bhagsugnag but it has no real steps or pathway to climb up.

It’s best to visit during the monsoons when the water is gushing through the mountain

4. Dal Lake – This is a small scenic lake near the Tota Rani Village and is a mid-altitude lake. The lake has a variety of fish in it. The water appears greenish. There is a Shiv temple in the vicinity. It is surrounded by trees and the mere calm of the ambience takes you in a different world.

Dal Lake, McLeodganj, Himachal Pradesh
Fish in the lake

5. Hanuman ka Tibba – This is the highest peak of the Dhaulandhar range.

Unfortunately at the time we went there, the peak was covered with clouds and mist, so we couldn’t get a clear view.

We stayed at Norbu House in Mcleodganj. It was an amazing experience. It is quite close to the market main road and the Namgyal monestry. Also do try out the Tibetan recipes which are not only easy on the taste-buds but appetizing as well.

The mini Tibetan market is on the McLeodganj main road and has a good collection of artifacts, shawls, and other native craft.

Best time to visit is summer and monsoon. The roads are inaccessible during winter due to snow.

Hoysaleswara Temple, Halebidu

Hoysaleswara Temple

Halebidu is a town located in Karnataka and is the home to the Hoysalsewara Temple or the Halebidu Temple. This 12th century Hindu temple is famous for its rich architecture and has one of the most beautiful monolithic Nandi Statues in the world.

The word Halebidu means – Dilapidated Village. The original name of this Hoysaleswar capital was Dwarsamudra. The temple was under construction when the capital city was invaded and destroyed. The work of the temple was resumed later and it took almost 195 years and 4 generations to get it to this stage. It was abandoned thereafter. This fact is in accordance to the variance in the carving inside the temple.

It is, in fact, a twin temple with Shiv Linga in both the sanctums. They are identical, one for the Queen and one for the King to worship and are joined in the centre. Hence the dual monolithic Nandi statues outside.

King’s Nandi

The intricate decor of the Nandis differ, signifying the difference in King’s and Queen’s idols. The King’s Nandi is one foot taller than the Queen’s and their posture and jewellery designs too, vary.

Queen’s Nandi

The outer walls are carved with 12 different borders/levels. The 1st one starting from below, shows elephants which signifies strength. 2nd one has lions, signifying courage. 3rd has a decorative pattern whereas the 4th depicts the king’s army in the form of the horsemen. 5th band is again a decorative pattern followed by the 6th one showing the major episodes of Ramayana and the Mahabharata. 7th band shows the imaginary animal from heaven and 8th one depicts swans and peacocks. The daily life of people and their work is shown in the 9th level whereas, the 10th one denotes scenes of festivals, rituals and culture of that time. 11th border of the Temple is a depiction of Artha, Dharma, Karma and also shows some images related to courtship. 12th level is that of huge carvings of various God and Goddesses of Hindu dharma.

Outer walls of the Hoysleswara Temple
Shiv-Parvati can be seen on extreme right whereas Lord Brahma is seen towards the left.
The outer walls are all intricately carved and each carving shows the grandeur of the craftsmen’s imagination and skill
Beautiful murals and amazing handcraft

Inside there are different mandapas, whose ceilings are carved with images of various Hindu Gods and Goddesses with respect to the direction in which they are believed to reside. For example, Lord Kuber resides in the North, Yama in the South, Indra in the East and Varun in the west.

Also the outer walls have carvings of Lord Karthikeya and the entire Shiv family together.

The Ganas or the gatekeepers of Lord Shiva carved on the entrance of the King’s side of the temple

In short, it’s a temple whose walls tell tales of the Hindu beliefs and culture with it’s magnificent architecture and is in league with the famous temples of Khajuraho and the Sun Temple of Odisha.

Ram-Ravana war

There is an appending museum which displays various relics from the 12th century. Museum entry ticket is 5/- per head and no charge for children.

Car Parking -Paid parking is available outside the main gate

Shoe stand is available inside below the main temple stairs with a nominal fees of 10/-

Tranquil surroundings of the Hoysaleswara Shiv Temple

Do hire a government recognised tour guide to learn more about the minute details in the architecture for a nominal fee. Avoid visiting the place during summer as the stone structure would be really hot.

Find out more about this place – click here.


Bidar Fort

Bidar, Karnataka

Bidar Fort is located in north Karnataka. It was built by Bahmani Sultan Ahmed Shah in the 15th century and is believed to be among the most formidable forts in India.

Lawn at the entrance of the fort

The speciality of this fort is it’s unusual defence features. It was built by the Turkish soldiers and has many entrances and zig-zag passageways. There is a triple moat surrounding the fort. There are numerous tunnels and underground halls/chambers that made escape easy during emergencies.

One unique feature is the well guarded Mandu Darwaza. Its entrance is through a tunnel!

The fort is a sprawling structure with a 55 Km thick wall that encloses various monuments like the Takth Mahal, Rangeen Mahal, Gagan Mahal, the royal kitchen, Diwan-e-Aam etc.

Bidar Fort

The rooms are mostly sealed off keeping safety in mind. However, a peep inside does reveal some underground stairways.

Fort Main Gate

It is picturesque and the sunsets are lovely. Click away to your delight.

Main courtyard

The place is very well maintained, neat and clean. There is a small museum at the entrance.

A lot of South movies were shot in these magnificent ruins.

Narrow staircase leading to the upper floor

Look we found one of the curious passageways.

Another staircase leading to some underground chamber
Way to Diwan-e-aam
Ruins with mysterious tunnels
A well

Also, the water harvesting system is unique and extensive. It is based on the historic water harnessing technique of Persia. There is an intrinsic layout of underground canals and vertical water shafts and wells.

These moats look lush green during the monsoons.

Protected Monument


Historical importance
One of the entry ways
Near Diwan-e-Aam

Bidar fort is a good weekend get away from Hyderabad. The best times to visit is during winter or late monsoon season, to avoid the harshness of the sun. The entire stroll through the premises takes around 3 hrs.

  • Entry Fee – None
  • Timing – 9am – 5pm
  • Parking – Available
  • Washrooms – Available
  • Guide – Not available
  • A small cafeteria is there for a tea/coffee break
  • Nearest cities – Hyderabad, Gulbarga, Bengaluru

Photo credit – Chinmay Deo

More information on Bidar

On Wiki