Not a great many tourists are aware of this understated Himalayan gem as they set about travelling to the much-trodden Shimla-Kullu-Manali route. Tucked away in the northern fringes of the Dhauladhar range, Khajjiar is a world away from the growing squalor and untamed urbanisation of some of the more popular tourist destinations.
If you truly want to get away from it all, head straight for the Dhauladhar circuit. The nearest commercial town to Khajjiar is Pathankot, but that's more than 100 km away. Pathankot is also the nearest railway head if one wants to reach Khajjiar from New Delhi.
When I visited, the meadows were surrounded by a sheath of deodar trees throughout and buzzing with activities. (I was told this ground looks completely different in the winters when it is covered by snow.) It was a bright, sunny noon and ideal for a leisurely stroll around this verdant landscape. One could be at it for hours, sampling snacks from the many roadside stalls or even taking a slow pony ride. We bargained for it and got a deal of Rs 200 for a round trip of the meadows.
Mousumi, my wife, in the meantime, decided to take a stroll in the valley and managed to try her hand at our digital camera as well. And I must admit, she did manage to click few brilliant images.
Unfortunately, the lake at the centre of this landscape looked quite dry and unkempt and could have been managed better by the tourism department. Tourism plays a vital role in Himachal's economy. It is one of the three major mainstays for the state's gross domestic product, the first two being hydro-power and horticulture. It has been contributing approximately 9.75% to the state's GDP.
Incidentally, this year Himachal received Rs 600 crore from the Asian Development Bank for improving the tourism infrastructure in the state. I wonder when this money will reflect in picturesque destinations such as Khajjiar, which could benefit tremendously from some sprucing up.
Nonetheless, we spent a good two to three hours here and enjoyed the sun, breathed in the fresh air and experienced the mist and the clouds. We gave another activity -- zorbing -- a miss though.
We began our day next early with a quick breakfast and headed for the trekking point in Khajjiar. The route was marked clearly and by the time we reached, we could see a bevy of tourists already lined up for the trek. There was much shared excitement as we completed the 4km climb to reach the peak. All the hard work paid off when we were greeted with a view of the nearby hills and forest cover from atop the misty and cloudy peak.
Done with our adventure and achievement, we headed straight to the historical town of Dalhousie, which has an irresistible old-world charm, right from the post office and church to the schools. The ambience was magical. The weather was brilliant to say the least. At times, we felt as if we were walking on the clouds, even as we enjoyed earthly pleasures such as fresh, hot momos.