The picturesque hill station of Dalhousie is located in the district of Chamba, Himachal Pradesh. The Chamba district has its borders with Kangra in the southwest; Jammu and Kashmir in northwest; Pathankot district in the south; and Ladakh, Bara Banghal and Lahaul in the east and northeast.
Developed by the British, Dalhousie is a heritage town, featuring Victorian and Scottish architecture styles in its churches and bungalows. It was once a summer retreat of the British officials, and today, it is a major tourist destination in India, owing to its scenic beauty and pleasant climate.
The Dhogrias are the indigenous inhabitants of this hill station. They live in the nearby village of Lakarmandhi. The main occupation of these people is making coal in underground kilns by burning wood. Besides this, many work at the Dalhousie Potato Farm at Ahla.
In terms of sightseeing, there is much to see in this quaint town. Some of the must-visit places here are Khajjiar, a serene valley nearby; Panch Pula meaning five bridges; Subhash Baoli – named after Subhash Chandra Bose and Dainkund, the highest peak in Dalhousie. Another place worth visiting in the town is Kalatop-Khajjiar Sanctuary, which is spread over an area of 31 sq km approximately; and is home to wild animals like Himalayan black marten, jackal, bear, deer and leopard.
Besides sightseeing, shopping is a must in the town, especially at the old market of Sadar Bazaar, which was built in the 19th century by the British. Interestingly, this market has a temple, mosque and a gurudwara alongside each other. Another market to visit in this place is the Tibetan Market, where one can shop for carpets and handicrafts. Gandhi Chowk, where one can purchase, purse, dolls, bags and handicrafts is also close by. The chowk is the main junction of Dalhousie as it connects eight roads that lead to Dainkund, Moti Tibba, Subhash Chowk, Upper Bakrota, Panch Pula, Sadar Bazaar and Banikhet.
Adventure souls love coming to Dalhousie as they get an opportunity to indulge in horse riding, paragliding and trekking. There are some fantastic trekking trails in and around the town; the most popular one being the Khajjiar-Chamba trail. The trail follows a scenic route to Kalatop, which lies 13 km away. Most trekkers halt here for the night, before continuing towards Khajjiar, which lies 22 km away, the next morning. Trekkers halt again at night at Khajjiar, and the following day head to Chamba, about 10 km away.
Dalhousie can be visited anytime of the year. However, the ideal time to come here is in summers, from March till June, and then September till November. These are the times, when the weather remains pleasant and favourable for sightseeing. Those, who wish to enjoy snowfall, can come here in January, when crowd is less and it is more peaceful.
The history of Dalhousie can be traced back to 1850, when the Chief Engineer of Punjab, Lieutenant Colonel Napier first set eyes on this scenic place in the Chamba region. He decided to make it a summer retreat, and so began the acquisition of area for this purpose. In 1853, the British took over five hills, namely Bakrota, Potreyn, Kathalagh, Bhangora and Terah from the ruling kings. The following year, Sir Donald McLeod took charge of this project, and it was his idea to name the place ‘Dalhousie’ after the then Viceroy of India, Lord Dalhousie. The area saw gradual development, with electricity being provided here in 1920, after which roads, malls, schools, markets and churches came up.
During the 1959 Tibet-China war, a number of refugees from Tibet came and took asylum in Dalhousie. Though most of them have left this place, their influence is quite visible in some sculptures and rocks found here. In the year 1966, Dalhousie was acknowledged as a city of the district of Chamba, Himachal Pradesh, which was a part of Punjab till then.
Dalhousie has an approximate elevation of 1970 m above sea level. Surrounded by five hills – Kathalagh, Bhangora, Terah, Potreyn and Bakrota – this scenic hill town lies on the western edge of the Dhauladhar Mountain Range of the Himalayas. The origin of Chenab River and Ravi River is from its glaciers. In recent years, many dams and hydroelectric projects have been set up in the town. The town is rich in flora and fauna as well, and this can be seen in the national forests and wildlife sanctuaries located here.
The weather in Dalhousie during summers remains mild, with the maximum temperature remaining below 35 degree Celsius. This is the time when most tourists come here for sightseeing as well outdoor activities. Even in summers, one can find snow on the high hills of Dalhousie. Summers in Dalhousie start from mid-March and continue till the end of May.
The monsoon season in this place starts in mid-June and remains till mid-September. During this season, mild sporadic showers are common, and it makes the weather ever so pleasant. The winter season in Dalhousie is quite cold with minimum temperatures hovering between 10 and 1 degree Celsius. During this season, heavy snowfall is common, and thus, attracting winter sport enthusiasts and honeymooners. The winter season in this town remains from December through February.
How to reach
The hill station of Dalhousie is among the top tourist destinations in India, especially in the summer season. Reaching here is not an issue as it is accessible from different parts of the country. It is well connected to the cities of Chandigarh and Delhi by road.
By Air – The nearest domestic airport to this town is Gaggal Airport in Kangra. This airport lies about 110 km away from Dalhousie. From this airport, one can avail taxi or private/government bus services to travel towards this scenic hill town. Other airport options near this town are Jammu (200 km), Chandigarh (255 km) and Amritsar (208 km).
By Rail – The closest railhead to Dalhousie is in Pathankot, Punjab. This railway station is about 80 km away, and it is connected to all major Indian cities, such as Amritsar, Mumbai and Delhi. Taxis as well buses can be availed to travel to Dalhousie from outside the railway station.
By Road – A number of state buses operate to and from Dalhousie. The town has its own bus stand that connects it with cities, such as Dharamsala, Delhi, Kangra, Palampur, Hamirpur, Shimla, Chamba, Kullu and Mandi. Deluxe as well as luxury buses run from and to the town.
To travel within this hill station, one can hire taxis and Jeeps. Alternatively, one can choose to ride on ponies and local palanquins for short distances. However, the best way to explore the beauty of this place is on foot.