Planning a quiet holiday away from the bustle and sounds of civilization? Make a beeline for Khajjiar!
Khajjiar – the quiet retreat
Nature-rich scenic locales of lush greenery with quiet and tranquility, Khajjiar or ‘mini switzerland’ in Himachal Pradesh is at a height of approx. 6400 ft. above sea level and equidistant from Dalhousie and Chamba.
On a small plateau with a stream-fed lake in the middle, the rich green meadows and the dense forests adjoining, one gazes from the foot of the Dauladhar ranges towards the Western Himalayas with its snow capped peaks in the near distance. Of course the lake adds to the charm despite its neglect and one sees a wondrous sight of two ‘floating islands’ within it.
How Khajjiar got its epithet of ‘mini switzerland’
It is said that in 1992, Mr.Wily.T.Blazer, Vice Counselor and Head of Chancery of Switzerland in India was impressed by the likeness of Khajjiar to Switzerland’s locales and it was he who christened it as ‘mini-Switzerland’. In addition he even got a yellow signboard of a swiss hiking footpath with ‘6194’ on it, indicating its approximate distance in kilometers from Berne the capital of Switzerland. In turn a stone from Khajjiar has been placed in a collage near the Swiss Parliament to indicate Khajjiar as one of the mini versions of that place.
How does one spend the holiday in Khajjiar?
Well for one, the air is fresh and invigorating because of the altitude, one can take a walk around the lake or through the greenery of the forests. There is a little bit of horse riding that is available.
For nature lovers and photography enthusiasts, it is a wonderful location for exploring the un-spoilt terrain all around and to get some great shots to show off to friends and relatives. If lucky one could also get to play on the golf course if it is still functioning since it started well but was not properly maintained over time. Children would love this place for the grassy land and slopes that allows them to safely move and roll about without the fear of getting hurt.
Taking in the sights
Nearby is the Kalatop Khajjiar sanctuary, the 31 square kilometre sanctuary that is between Kalatop and Khajjiar. Thick deodar and fir trees with creatures like pheasants, the goat or antelope like serow and the black bear inhabiting the space, coniferous and oak forests surround this area through which the river Ravi runs its course.
A little away from the lake is the ancient 12th century A.D. temple of Khajji Nag, where one can see images of the Pandavas and Kauravas carved beautifully. The inner sanctum is done in woodwork and dedicated to snake worship with even some idols placed there.
Nature’s wonder and fervent devotion of local inhabitants have made the deodhar tree a tourist attraction. The Panch Pandav Tree in Khajjiar is famous for its shoots. The main root of a deodhar tree having six shoots branching out from it has spawned the popular tale of their being the Panch Pandavas and their common consort Draupadi. It stands close to a rest house next to the way leading to the Khajjiar School. A kilometer away from Khajjiar on the way to Dalhousie is a Deodhar, the biggest around having thirteen shoots of standard height and known as the Mother tree.
Then of course you can stay put at Khajjiar and take in Dalhousie (a summer resort) and Chamba, in close proximity, which have their individual sights to see.
Planning the quiet retreat
One reaches Khajjiar in May or June, to enjoy good salubrious climate, at other times it gets quite chill and inappropriate to enjoy or take in the sights. Accessible by road alone, there are limited buses to the place and timings are erratic, so most prefer to make their way to it by rented cars or their own vehicles. Stay is at the Tourism Department’s Hotel, the Rest Houses of the Forest Department and PWD or the few private hotels that cater to the needs of the visitors. Tariffs range from close to a thousand a day to a few thousands based on the luxury provided.
So decided? Plan the journey to Khajjiar
While one decides to get as much information as possible to have a comfortable trip, travel agencies like Yatra and Make My Trip with online information, booking plans, suggestions and routes on how best to get there and back or continue further, would make it more productive and hassle-free.
Otherwise you could head for booking the train tickets to Pathankot, the nearest railhead, which is 150 km from Khajjiar. Or Gaggal in Kangra for air travel, 180 Km from ‘mini switzerland’. Make the rest of the journey by bus or car. If in a group nothing like a drive in your own mode of transport, being at no one’s mercy for keeping to schedule or timings.
It is the sheer magic of the surroundings, the clear air and beautiful sights that dispels all apprehensions on how the trip could turn out to be. Within a few hours the light headed feeling gets so infectious that many have stayed on for more time than they had anticipated they would.