How to reach, what to see, where to stay and local specialties, Khajjiar—beautiful Himachal
Location & Description
Khajjiar is under Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh in the Western Himalayas. It is about 23 kms from Chamba in the west and about 22 kms from Dalhousie in the East. Both Chamba and Dalhousie being nearby, day tourists from these two larger towns often frequent the Khajjiar glade returning back in the evening.
We approached Khajjiar from Dalhousie which is the usual route to Khajjiar. For tourists coming from outside Himachal, the main approach point would be Pathankot which is a large railway junction with most of the important trains having halts there.
How to reach
Pathankot to Khajjiar by road
Two ways you can reach Khajjiar from Pathankot, both near about 100 kms drive. The first is to take Pathankot Mandi road through Nurpur, leaving the main road to Mandi before Chowari Khas and after Nurpur. The road to Mandi goes right, you should continue straight. From this backdoor entry so to say, you would reach Khajjiar from the south-east by continuing straight, crossing first Chowari Khas and then Jot pass. This road is less frequented, but you would have the high mountains and snow range longer with you on this route. On our return journey we took this road.
The usual route is to take SH-33 and through Banikhet and Dalhousie you reach Khajjiar from north-west direction. The twenty odd kms from Khajjiar to Dalhousie is beautiful but from Dalhousie to Pathankot you would go down to the plains quicker. On the positive side, the quality of this road is better.
Khajjiar from other important cities in North India by road
New Delhi to Khajjiar
From New Delhi to Khajjiar by road the distance is about 580 kms and you have to pass through Pathankot. New Delhi to Pathankot is mostly national highway route, either NH-1A or NH-71.
Chandigarh to Khajjiar
You may take either NH-1A or SH-25, both cases distance would be about 320 kms. On the first route you go longer and through Pathankot while on the second route you bypass Pathankot on the last stretch.
Jammu to Khajjiar
From Jammu to Pathankot it would be NH-1A, rest you know—total distance would be about 210 kms.
Manali to Khajjiar
Shortest route is by NH-21 through Naggar, Kullu and at Mandi you take Mandi Pathankot road. Rest you know. Distance is upwards 360 kms.
Dharamshala to Khajjiar
Dharamsala is comparatively nearer, about 130 kms from Khajjiar taking Shahpur Chowari road.
Amritsar to Khajjiar
Amritsar and Jammu are nearly at similar distances of about 200 km by road from Khajjiar. To come from Amritsar you need to take first NH-15 and then from Pathankot take NH-1A as before.
To Khajjiar by Rail
The nearest railway station is Pathankot. It is a large railway junction and is connected to most of the major cities in India. You may come straight to Pathankot and get down there. Pathankot is a busy city. You would get cars for hire from Pathankot. State transport buses should also be available from Pathankot. But it is better to have confirmed arrangements beforehand—tourists to Khajjiar may not be many—it is practically a hidden treasure.
To Khajjiar by Air
The nearest airport is Gaggal in Dharamsala. Apparently, as of now there is only one daily flight from Delhi to Dharamsala in the morning and it is a smaller aircraft. From Dharamsala by road you would have to reach Khajjiar taking a hired car.
Dharamsala airport being a small one with few flights, you might decide to come by air to either Jammu or Amritsar, both having more flights. On the flip side you would then have to cover about 100 km more by road.
Great, now as you have reached Khajjiar you might need to stay for the night and of course need to eat something.
Where to stay & where to eat— hotels and restaurants
If you are a day-traveler
If you had come for a day trip from Dalhousie, Chamba or Dharamshala you won’t need a hotel to stay—you would just roam around, touch the tourist attractions and go back. For a quick and modest lunch the only option for you would be the restaurant at our Khajjiar lake ground downtown.
Downtown restaurants at Khajjiar
Otherwise you may have to try your luck in the nearest Hotel Devdar of Himachal Tourism at the entrance corner. Other hotels are at a little distance away from the ground but have their own restaurants.
If you decide to stay—Hotels and Rest houses
There are a number of good hotels spread around the Khajjiar lake ground in addition to the rest houses managed by the Forests department and PWD department. The rest houses are located just outside the ground within the tree-line. We had stayed in one of them. Arrangement is modest and food has to be brought from the downtown restaurants.
The corner rest house still holds some mystery in my mind. If you are curious and bold enough, you might find a way in there for a night and perhaps clear up my doubts. Most of these rest houses were built during the British rule.
Corner cottage at Khajjiar glade
Hotels in Khajjiar
There are a number of hotels now in Khajjiar. It seems the place is gradually becoming more popular. Himachal Tourist Development Corporation runs its own Hotel Devdar just at the corner entrance of the Khajjiar ground. In addition it runs a few cottages also. You may like to refer to them directly for further information.
Himachal Tourist Development Corporation
Hotel: THE DEVDAR
“On a hill, at the edge of a meadow, Hotel Devdar is sheltered by pines and spruce. The hotel offers a panoramic view of the meadow and surrounding forest. Its peaceful ambience is ideal for those who seek solitude.”
Address: The Devdar, Khajjiar, H.P. – 176314; Tel: (01899) -236333, 9418002306
- Hotel MiniSwiss is the premium hotel in Khajjiar. It has its own web presence: http://hotelminiswiss.in/. It is rated as a 3 star hotel and is located in its own secluded area with dense forest at the back. It is one of the older hotels.
- Hotel Royal Residency is also a 3 star hotel located on the Khajjiar – Chamba Road. It is an antiquated stone structure with modern amenities. It is one of the older hotels.
- Hotel Ashiana Regency is a 3 star hotel located away from the lake and crowds.
- Shining Star Resort is a 3 star hotel situated amidst the forest and an apple orchard. It is one of the older hotels.
- Hotel Topaz is a 3 star hotel in Khajjiar. Possibly it is relatively new hotel.
- Hotel Hritik Palace is a budget hotel situated in the forests. This is one of the older hotels in Khajjiar.
- Hotel Oak Valley is a 2 star budget hotel in Khajjiar and possibly a newer one.
- Deodar Manor has modern facilities.
Except Miniswiss none of the other hotels seemed to run their own website, but the links given at the end of this write would give you a fair amount of information. All information are though indicative and you need to check.
Climate, Altitude and best time to visit Khajjiar
The altitude of Khajjiar is around 6500 feet—it is slightly below Dalhousie but sufficiently high to get snowfall during winter but not so high that you feel real cold and chilly.
Officially the best season is April to October. I would like to modify it to March to October. Not many places have that long season. When it rains in Khajjiar, wind blows through the dense trees and temperature falls. I would say rainy season also should be specially beautiful here. And in winter it becomes chilly, temperature hovers around zero and some days it snows. That would also be attractive to many. You would need heavy woolens during winter. Summer is pleasant, though day temperature during peak summer may go as high as 30 degrees C. Nights or shades in summer again would be cool. In summer you would need light woolens. Because of the chance of wind, if you wear a light jacket it should make you more comfortable.
What to see at Khajjiar
We will begin with a statement that added apparent glory to Khajjiar way back in the early nineties.
On 07-07-1992, Mr. Willy T. Blazer, Vice Counselor and Head of Chancery of Switzerland in India, brought Khajjiar on the world tourism map by christening it ‘Mini Switzerland.’ He also put a sign board of a yellow Swiss hiking footpath showing Khajjiar's distance from the Swiss capital Berne-6,194-kms. Khajjiar is among the 160 locations in the world that bear topographical resemblance with Switzerland. The Counselor also took from Khajjiar a stone, which will form part of a stone collage around the Swiss Parliament to remind the visitors of Khajjiar as Mini Switzerland of India.
On the other hand, the people from Himachal and adjoining Jammu and Kashmir fondly call it “Gulmarg of Himachal”, Gulmarg being one of the most picturesque areas of Kashmir vale which itself we call “Heaven on Earth”.
If I apply reason and use my own first-hand experience, I would say, Khajjiar is something totally unexpected, extraordinarily beautiful and has a combination of elements that overwhelm practically any person from any part of the world who can appreciate beauty of nature. That lies behind the tendency to term Khajjiar as one’s own.
Places of tourist interest at Khajjiar
Vast Khajjiar glade with the scared lake at its center is the prime place where you would spend most of your time. The lake is fed by thin streams and seemed to me dying. There has been occasional boating arrangement conducted by the forest department.
The lake has its separate sacred identity and is tied up with nearby Khajji Nag temple. Apart from its sacredness, the lake adds to the charm of the sylvan glade in its own way.
Surrounding Kalatop forest
The tall forest around the glade is very old and dense with majestic trees guarding the glade. Multitudes of birds make their natural home in this forest though you might find them difficult to spot.
The forest is a part of Kalatop forest that is a wildlife sanctuary and in itself a tourist attraction. Kalatop forest has its own specially located forest bungalow that you may get reserved through DFO, Chamba. You might like to do a 30 km soft trek from Dalhousie to Kalatop sanctuary through the woods.
Pancha Pandava tree
Pancha Pandava tree with six shoots over a single trunk is a novelty and local myth has attached it with the five Pandavas of Mahabharata. This kind of trees is a specialty in this area and there are others like it in the adjoining forests.
Khajji Naga temple
Coming out of the glade you need to visit one of the most important places of attraction, that is, the 12th century built Khajji Naga temple. Inside the temple you would find full length figures of Pancha Pandava, Kauravas and inner sanctum made of wood. It is one of the most sacred temples in Himachal Pradesh and the place takes its name from Khajji Naga serpent god. Pilgrims make regular visits to this temple.
Pir Panjal Snow range
From the Khajji Naga temple itself you would get the view of faraway Pir Panjal snow range. It looks fine but a bit raw through the high deodars and pines. It is also said, on a clear day you might get a view of Mount Kailash, a great snow peak of outer Himalayas at an altitude of 22000 feet from sea level.
There used to be a nine-hole golf course in Khajjiar, but it seems it is not very actively used. If I go to Khajjiar next time I would like to explore this golf course and of course the mystery of the corner cottage.
The local people are gentle with smiling faces, helpful and non-interfering in nature. There are villages around Khajjiar glade. The villagers raise sheep and cattle and engage in terrace cultivation where suitable. Many of them are involved in carrying out varieties of activities for the tourists.
What to do at Khajjiar - Activities
The large rolling semitransparent balls provide a unique attraction for the tourists. It must be special fun to some but I didn’t have the strong heart to indulge in this kind of sport though I enjoyed the view of the giant balls resting on the soft grassy vale against the dark green backdrop of the deodar forest.
This is a particularly fascinating activity specially for young couples. The tourists are taken first at a nearby hilltop from where they jump into open space and hanging by the threads from the chute sail towards the grassy vale. The ground being large and the chute maneuverable, the adventurers always land safely. It is not only exciting for the gliders, the glide and landing are a visual treat from the ground.
Zorbing and Paragliding at Khajjiar lake
For the children and aged alike horse riding is fun. The ride is conducted around the vast ground and the accompanying person and well-trained horses ensure safe enjoyable ride.
Horse riding at Khajjiar glade
Usually we forget the best activity and take it for granted. Walking leisurely around the ground through forest paths with children occasionally taking a break and taking a roll on the soft grassy turf should be delectable.
Some of the hotels provide camping facilities in the woods. If you so desire, you may like to stay outdoors.
Under expert supervision rock climbing is done for groups and not individuals. This activity is not usual and is taken up on request.
There are a number of picturesque villages with great view amidst the dense deodar and pine forests not far from the ground. A few of them are Khajjiar village, Ladi village and Rota village. Some of these are located near apple orchards with trees heavy with apples in season.
Trekking is offered under supervision and permission. A few of the trekking routes are from Khajjiar to Chamba and to Lakkar Mandi. These are soft and pleasant treks through the woods and gently rising hills. You may also like a refreshing walk through the woods from Lakkar Mandi to Kalatop forest rest house.
Kalatop wildlife sanctuary
You might like to spend a day in the Kalatop forest rest house roaming around the adjoining woods with a grandstand view of the mountains and the glade below. Reservation is to be had from Divisional Forest Officer, Wildlife, Chamba.
Chamba, Dalhousie, Lakkar Mandi, Jot pass, Bharmour, Kalatop wildlife sanctuary, Chamera lake are all nearby places with tourist attractions. Some of these are popular and some not so, but all are accessible easily by car, have their own attractions and can be combined in a trip to Khajjiar.
Honeymoon, summer holiday visits, family visits, winter sports, or plain relaxation away from the madding crowds.
My recommendation is not to combine too many places with Khajjiar. It has a very special taste, like say fine quality flavored tea. Mixing it with wrong elements might destroy the flavor.
Khajjiar glade is beautiful in a cute way but still has a vast expanse. It is surrounded by majestic old tall deodar forests rising gradually up the rolling hills within which the vast glade is practically hidden like a pearl inside an oyster shell. If you venture out, faraway glorious Pir Panjal snow range would beckon.
To me Khajjiar has its own beautiful, if not a bit of primitive raw soul which is to my liking and it cannot be compared with any other place. If you like—come, stay for at least one night, roam around on foot, drive along the roads on both sides, be one with yourself and nature and finally take back something with you that will always remain valuable to you.
- Himachal Pradesh govt. page on Khajjiar tourism: http://himachaltourism.gov.in/post/khajjiar.aspx
- Himachal Pradesh Tourist Development Corporation: http://www.hptdc.nic.in
- Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khajjiar
- On hill resorts of India: http://www.hillresortsinindia.com/khajjiar.html
- On Khajjiar hotels: www.khajjiarhotels.com
- On Khajjiar: http://www.khajjiarhimachalpradesh.com