Some said “Think again” while some called us outright CRAZY. We were on a road trip through Himachal Pradesh, with our two month old baby and it was our first road trip with the baby.
Himachal Pradesh is a mountainous state in India and is located in Western Himalayas. This state is naturally blessed with beautiful landscapes and due to the difficult terrain had been shielded away from mass tourism for many decades. Due to the hilly terrains, many roads in the valley are still considered most difficult and dangerous to drives through.
We had planned to divide our Dharamsala to Chamba stretch into three parts – Dalhousie, Khajjiar and Chamba valley. Based on our success at each milestone, we would decide to travel more. Since this was our first road trip with the baby, we were extremely flexible and had set expectations. Our sister’s family had also joined us in another car to make this a fun family trip.
We started from Dharamshala early morning, towards Dalhousie through NH154 with a plan to stop at Nurpur. Dalhousie, a quiet and serene hill station, was established in 1854 by the British as a relaxing summer destination. The town is still frequented by people living in nearby cities and is a famous holiday spot during summer vacations.
After about two hours of drive, through which the baby was happily dozing luckily 😉 we stopped at Nurpur for breakfast. This small town is not very touristy though has a beautiful fort, which is in ruins and is famous for Brij Raj Bihari temple inside the fort. Brij Raj Bihari temple is said to be the only temple where Lord Krishna and Meera are worshipped together. The Nagni maata temple dedicated to the goddess of snakes, is believed to have magic in it’s water that heals snake bites.
The town Nurpur is said to be named after the Mughal empress Nur Jehan, wife of Emperor Jahangir. As per the folk tales, it is believed that Nur Jehan on her visit to this town was so enchanted by the natural beauty of the place, that she declared her desire to settle down in this place. The locals however did not want mughal interference and tried changing her mind by telling her about a local disease that can affect her beauty. The queen decided to travel back. Later the town’s name was changed to Nurpur in honor of the queen who fell in love with the place.
Dalhousie’s colonial charm
We drove for another two hours from Nurpur to Dalhousie. The drive is uphill so if you are travelling with kids, do take short breaks to kill the motion sickness. As we started nearing Dalhousie, we realised the place is extremely quiet and there are hardly any vehicles on the road. The locals generally walk down the hilly roads, thus saving the natural beauty of the mountains. As you drive higher up, you will notice the dense cover of pine and deodar trees around you. You will come across occasional bungalows, some temples or boarding schools but by large Dalhousie is as quaint and away from the hustle bustle as possible. The town is well planned with colonial style bungalows with a backdrop of snow capped peaks of the Himalayas. Many of these heritage bungalows have been converted into resorts and homestays and are perfect for a relaxing stay.
Our hotel was away from the main town with the perfect mountain view. The rooms were grand and with the baby, happily cooing away in the bed, I settled in with a book for the next couple of hours.
In the evening, we headed to mall road. Yes like every hill station, Dalhousie also has a mall road. It’s a small stretch of road with shops, restaurants and hotels. A bit crowded in the evening, you can shop local handicrafts and clothes. There is a Tibetan market which was jewellery, winter clothes and accessories. Soon it started getting cloudy, and we had an early dinner and called it a night.
Kalatop Wildlife Forest
The next day, we started towards Khajjiar. On the way we stopped at Kalatop wildlife forest and enjoyed the view and the calmness. You can either trek through the forest to the guest house or take your vehicle there. The entry fees is INR 250 for a vehicle and since we did not want to walk much in the cold with the baby, we opted for the drive. While we did not see any wild animals, we were told Himalayan bears are sighted in deeper woods. This guest house has become popular after the Bollywood movie “Lootera” was filmed here.
A little ahead, there is a way leading to Daikund peak, which is the highest peak in Dalhousie and offers 360 degree views of the Himalayan valley. At the top is the Pohlani Mata Devi Temple which is almost a 2 hour trek from the start point. As per folktales, the goddess from this position keeps an eye on the whole valley and protects it from witches. Also they say that you should not stay back after dark, as the place is haunted. A very interesting story, but we did not attempt the trek this time. You can also trek from here to Khajjiar.
Khajjiar – Mini Switzerland of India
It took us a little longer to reach Khajjiar as we had a flat tire episode. As the men changed the tires, the baby had all the attention from the cousins and after a quick photo session we continued on our way.
Khajjiar is a beautiful stretch of green grassland with a lake in between, surrounded by deodar trees. While we did find some shades of brown as well, words cannot describe the feeling of being amidst such natural beauty under the sapphire blue sky.
Khajjiar has something for everyone. You can do paragliding or Zorbing or horse-riding. A popular activity with kids is to get pictures clicked with rabbits. We spent a couple of hours in Khajjiar and then checked in our homestay there.
Even during summers, the nights can be quite cold so do make sure you carry some warm clothes specially for kids.
Chamba is a picturesque little town in the Himalayan valley with Ravi river passing through it. It’s known for the Gaddi festival – Minjar Mela (held in August) that has been celebrated every year since 10th century. Chamba valley has many ancient temples with very interesting folktales associated to them. The most famous are the Lakshmi Narayan temple, Chamunda Devi and Sui Mata temple.
The Chougan ground in the centre of town is the heart of this town, surrounded by the market and admin buildings. We explored the town and then drove on for another hour to reach a small village known as Gagla.
We stayed overnight in Gagla and then returned back to Dalhousie in the morning. The river was by our side for most of the drive back what a pleasant companion it made!
In Dalhousie, we visited St John Church which is a British protestant church built in 1863. We then headed to Chamera lake for some boating to entertain the kids. The boating was a refreshing experience.
We did a bit of shopping in Gandhi chowk and had an early dinner. As we finished dinner, suddenly there were clouds everywhere and a light drizzle started. Like most hill stations, this is a common thing in Dalhousie and you should be always prepared. We rushed back to our hotel and called it a night.
In the morning, we headed back to Dharamshala with a bunch of amazing memories from this adventure and dreams of our next one with our new travel buddy.
Are you going on a road trip with your baby? Read our survival guide for road trip with a baby.
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