Nothing about Khajjiar was known to us prior to our North Indian adventure, but the one thing outstanding about this place is its striking resemblance to Switzerland (I’m not exaggerating), hence its tagline ‘Mini Switzerland of India’. Located an hour’s drive from Dalhousie (this leg’s pitstop), we decided to pay Khajjiar a visit first. Besides, Khajjiar is a relatively smaller place, compared with Dalhousie, a hill station named after the British Governor-General in India, Lord Dalhousie.
We woke up to a cold, blissful morning at The Citadel Resorts where we spent the night at Palampur. Breakfast was specially prepared for each of us, according to our likings and as much as we could gulp down. Our journey to Khajjiar would take us approximately 5 hours, once again estimating through Google Maps. We drove through Dharamshala (Sanjay’s hometown) to get our vehicle refuelled before continuing on. The road from Dharamshala toward Lahru is probably one of the smoothest stretches in Himachal Pradesh.
The landscape changed drastically from Lahru onwards, with the display of beautiful rock formations. From then on, the narrow road serpentined endlessly through the valley as it steadily ascended the mountains. The arduous drive took us through several villages and above the clouds before long.
As we climbed higher, the mountain flora also metamorphosed into those that befitted the climate. The most outstanding among them was none other than the native Himalayan deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara) aka timber of the gods. The sight of the valleys beneath soon became indistinct as they were gradually shrouded in mist.
We took a break around noon at a hilltop cafe – Tondan Dhaba, where Sanjay had his lunch. We weren’t exactly hungry at this point as we had our stomachs filled to the brim during breakfast. As soon as Sanjay was done, we continued on with our climb toward Khajjiar. At the entrance of the Kalatop-Khajjiar Wildlife Sanctuary, we were charged an entry fee of ₹30 (RM1.90) to proceed further.
The Jagdambe Mata Temple that housed an 85-feet towering bronze statue of Lord Shiva quickly caught our attention. Although still under construction, it was still a sight to behold.
We drove for another 20 minutes before finally arriving at Khajjiar. It lies at an elevation of 6300 feet above sea level in the foothills of the Dhauladhar ranges. The Khajjiar Lake appears to be the centre of this small town, where everything else is built around it. Its scenery was as depicted in the pictures all over the internet – breathtaking. There are many activities for your indulgence such as horse-riding, paragliding and zorbing, if you are up for them. The ground, however, was rather soggy after the rain the night before, making it slightly uncomfortable to walk around. Nevertheless, it would be gratifying enough to just spend some time surveying the area with your eyes and enjoying the cold weather. We had snacks and tea at Puri Guest House & Restaurant before proceeding to Dalhousie.
Our drive toward Dalhousie brought us through Dalhousie Public School, which in my mind was probably the only thing impressive about the town. Dalhousie didn’t give me a good first impression like Shimla or Manali. Garbage could be seen littered everywhere, including the hillslopes and the stench of course was indescribable.
It was a long day for all of us, therefore, we skipped visiting the St John’s Church that was listed in our itinerary. Nobody was up for it anyway. It’s located at the town centre, just opposite Gandhi Chowk (Mall Road Shopping Centre), a popular shopping area in Dalhousie.
The rain started pouring heavily shortly after we checked into JK Clarks Exotica. We booked our rooms from MakeMyTrip for ₹4217 (RM271) per room inclusive of taxes (breakfast and dinner as well), after deducting a ₹1600 (RM102.90) discount (code: MMTGO). Perched on a hillslope 500 metres away from the town centre, it overlooks the valley with hills in the background. Amidst its less favourable environment outside, it was a world of a difference inside the hotel.
That evening was spent playing table tennis and foosball in the games room, followed by a buffet dinner in the hotel. Thankfully, hubby did a thorough research and included dinner with the hotel rooms as I wouldn’t have wanted to go out for dinner elsewhere. I dare say dinner that night was conceivably the best throughout our adventure in Himachal Pradesh. Breakfast the next morning was equally awesome, if not better.
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