Nestled among the lower ranges of the Himalayas known by the name of Dhauladhar, facing the majestic PirPanjal ranges, away from the maddening lives of the city and its dwellers, is the majestic Dalhousie hill station in Himachal Pradesh.
Dalhousie boasts of a rich colonial heritage and fascinating stories. This small, sleepy and sluggish town in Himachal Pradesh may not be able to compete with its famous counterparts like Shimla or Manali, yet it has an unexplainable and enchanting charm.
Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh: A hill-station from the British times
This bijou of a hill station forested with Oak and Deodars all around is named after one of the youngest Governor-General of India. And, the very quaint town of ‘Dalhousie’ was our home for a couple of years.
This colonial town of Dalhousie has found a place among the rich and the educated lot of the surrounding states, who flock here during the weekends to meet their progeny and the Generation Next studying in the handful of prestigious educational institutions (boarding schools) of the town, like, Sacred Heart Convent and Dalhousie Public School.
Seeking the charming Dalhousie, beyond the golden hues
Dalhousie was a welcome escape for our family from the scorching heat of a nondescript border town in the heart of the Thar desert(our previous home for 2 years)!
I vividly remember the day in the month of September when after an exciting yet tedious drive of more than three hours from Pathankot, we finally reached our destination, cocooned away amidst greenery. We landed in this picturesque town of Himachal Pradesh just before the snowy and chilly winters, that would set in a couple of months.
The very first shocker was the tapering and serpentine roads of this place as compared to the wide and smooth as butter-roads of Rajasthan (and, of course, the severe bouts of motion sickness that I experienced for the very first time). But the excitement of a hill station-stay for at least a couple of years boosted and overshadowed the rest!
A glimpse of Dalhousie in November
Our first day went away in acclimatizing to the clime and altitude of the place, but not before catching the fluffy clouds drifting away, kissing the pines and deodars. For the next month or two, we had to shuttle to and fro down South.
The month of November followed, and, we had finally managed to settle in our new home which looked like a cottage straight out of a fairy tale. Soon, we were busy setting up our new dwelling. However, the busy chore of unpacking things could not deter us from enjoying the amazing sunrises and sunsets of the mountains.
Oh, I remember how I had crazily captured on my mobile, the ever-changing horizon at dusk for over a month, every day, the whole of November!
This is how Dalhousie looks in November
Long walks and treks became a part of our daily schedule during our stay in Dalhousie. The salubrious surroundings and the breathtaking views of the valley down below, along the trail, and the colonial town of Dalhousie, in itself, made the walks all the more soothing and enjoyable.
You may read about our trek to the Singing Hills of Dainkund from Dalhousie
Dalhousie Sightseeing — Colonial remnants of Dalhousie hill station
The British have left enough impressions in the form of century-old churches, European styled cottages, and, homes with ornate doors and the unmissable colonial architecture scattered across the Dalhousie town.
Many of these colonial cottages have now been converted into home-stays and hotels. One could browse through old photos of Dalhousie that capture the hill-station under the imperial rule, on the restaurant- walls of the ‘Grand View Hotel’, located near the Dalhousie Bus Stand.
These vintage photographs remind tourists that the Britishers had once ruled this beautiful hill station. They plundered it, stripped away its wealth, and built massive structures all the while reasoning that they shall rule forever without an iota of misgiving.
But then, power is intoxicating to the extent that it can ruin the ones who are bestowed with it, and one never knows when the door shuts on the powerful! Isn’t it? The British themselves wouldn’t have thought that they will have to one day bow in front of the Indians. And then, leave the country owing to the resilient yet non-violent Indian freedom movement that is a landmark in world history.
Shopping in Dalhousie
Unlike Shimla or other hill-stations, there are not many options to indulge in shopping. And, I am glad about it! This also is the sole reason why there is a non-commercial look to the town.
Of course, you get basic necessities and yummy Maggi, Momos, and hot-Parathas. You may also like to shop for Himachali woollens in the GPO market, Tibetan Market and Subash Chowk. Remember, that these markets are just a single lane with an array of shops unlike the fanciful and huge ones of Shimla or Mcleodganj!
When in Dalhousie, try to grab a few bottles of the Himachali Chuk and exotic wines! Even better is to taste the rhododendron chutney or attending a dhaam (traditional community lunch).
Apart from the classic style of everyday living, the sleepy town has an amusing quirkiness about itself, like the colourful yet laid-back mobile food joint that is usually found near the GPO market.
Monsoons in Dalhousie
There are many Tibetans who have made Dalhousie their abode, and, thus the Buddhist influence across the town cannot be missed. A dedicated Tibetan School for the children and fluttering prayer flags across the Bakrota Hills convey the secular and accommodating nature of the Himachalis and Indians in general. Bakrota hills look misty and heavenly during the rainy season which is from July end to September. And do not shudder when heavy thunderbolts hit the hills on a rainy day!
By the way, the climate of Dalhousie is quite unpredictable so one can pretty much see people carrying umbrellas almost all the time as a back-up!
Colourful mural paintings adorn the rocks of the Moti-Tibba hill on the stretches of the Gandhi Chowk Market. There are tiny shops arrayed on either side of the Tibetan Market – selling quirky trinkets, vibrant woollens, funky footwear, and other Chinese goods nearby to the Dalhousie Post-Office!
The colours of Himachal
Colonial or Tibetan influence though omnipresent over Dalhousie, the hues of Himachal cannot be definitely missed!
A beautiful landscape complemented by deep valleys and fluffy white clouds floating around, tiny hamlets and their quintessential colourful homes with slated roofs, liberal use of wood in architecture, the intricately woven Himachali woollens, elaborate shawls, the sluggish atmosphere of going through everyday ordeals and more, add to the colours of Himachal and the feel of the mountain life. Let us not forget the ancient temples that are revered by the mountain people that look not so ornate yet are beautiful and have a calming effect on people!
You may want to read my article on our Dainkund trek to the famous Poloni Mata Temple
Dalhousie during the springThese valleys look beautiful just after the winters when the snow starts melting paving way to gurgling streams that gush through narrow crevices of the hills. The best time would be from March to April and then again during the rainy season.
The hospitality and the real feel of a Himachali town are witnessed as we descend the hills and venture into the narrow lanes of Sadar Bazar. One cannot but admire the way the people of Dalhousie have adapted to the space constraint and scarcity of water in the mountains. Indeed, walking and trekking is a fashion in these hills!
There is a saying in the mountains which when translated into English reads-‘the youth and water of the mountains are never used for the benefit of the mountains’, as both run away to the plains for greener pastures. Ironically, this is true.
Dalhousie in Winters
Winters are ruthless, yet, comforting when in front of the fireplace! Watching the snowflakes gently glide towards the ground is a treat to the eyes. Dalhousie looks amazing the next morning after a snowfall, and you are sure to conclude, that, maybe this is the paradise the scriptures talk about! Heavenly bliss!
Although it is exciting to visit the mountains as an urban dweller from the plains, staying in the mountains and making a living, come with their own setbacks about which a traveller might be oblivious. The best way in which one can help the mountain people is to be a responsible tourist and traveller!
You may like to catch a glimpse of the town enveloped in this white blanket during Dalhousie in winters
Best Season to Visit Dalhousie
Well, I have given a glimpse of Dalhousie in all seasons in this article. I personally find it beautiful and salubrious throughout the year. Still, if I have to emphasize on a few special aspects of the months, then, here we go…
- Plan a visit during the months of December-March if looking to experience the snow-fall. But remember, the winters are quite harsh here. (Do check up-to-date weather report for signs of snowfall)
- If you want to witness a town with fluttering butterflies and white daisies swaying in the breeze all around then April-June would be the best season.
- You can experience the floating clouds, verdant green valleys, misty mornings, the sudden appearance of the Rainbows and gurgling streams from July onwards until September.
- October and November are best for long treks and hikes and to catch the first snowfall of the season on the Lower Himalayan range and Dhauladhars.
Hope this photo tour helps you plan a visit to this beautiful town of Dalhousie in Himachal.Happy Landings! 🙂
Information on How to Reach Dalhousie, Where to Stay and What to visit can be read in the other posts of this series on Dalhousie.
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66 thoughts on “Dalhousie – A Colonial Experience In The Primeval Grandeur Of Himachal Pradesh!”
I must say you have put together some amazing captures and worded it very beautifully. Yeah, Dalhousie is beautiful and charming. I have only seen it as a tourist but it was so good to hear an interesting perspective from someone who has lived there for months. I am sure the everyday changing sky and lovely weather is a great reason to live there or just visit it as a tourist.
Glad to know that you have been to the place and liked the write-up.Thanks for reading !
Dalhousie looks enchanting and you are really lucky to have made it your home for some years. The place retains a pristine charm which is definitely what sets it apart from the other hill stations of Himachal. Perhaps it is good that it does not figure prominently on the tourist circuit and thereby lies its charm too.
True… tourism helps the locals but on the other hand literally rips apart the prisitine locales. Thanks for reading 🙂
What a spectacular place to live and experience God’s majesty! Thank you for sharing it with all of us. I want to hear more. What’s the food like?!
It is indeed spectacular. the food is simpe Himachali cuisine but then mountains and noodles+momos too goes together here in India 🙂
What fab photos. I am loving all the scenes of lovely landscape and all that natural beauty x
Thank you so much,melanie.Glad you liked the place and the captures 🙂
WOW! Your descriptive writing and these amazing pictures make the place sounds like it is in a make believe land! I can’t imagine what it must be to see such a place in person. You have been very lucky to live in such a place!
Indeed, Pamela. I still fondly remember the place every single day.I am sure you can understand why..as India is compartively warm country 🙂
Your pictures are absolutely stunning! Himachal Pradesh is truly one of the most beautiful states in India. I visited several places on many different occasions and I keep coming back every time. Thank you for sharing, it brings back a lot of nice memories.
That’s lovely to know. Hope you have a fabulous trip to India again 🙂
This beautiful landscape and nature reminds me somehow a lot to my new home country Switzerland. All these mountains and forests – so amazing. I can imagine Dalhousie in wintertime, that must be a unique experience. Even though I am not really sure if I would visit rather in Summer than Wintertimes.
The Himachal hues look also so cozy and inviting, that must be really a great experience to see such beautiful places with the own eyes.
There is a meadow nearby to this place called ‘Khajjiar’ which has been officially recognised as ‘Mini Switzerland’ by the Swiss Ambassador. Khajjiar was officially baptized by the Swiss Ambassador on July 7, 1992 and as per records, a stone was taken from here and it forms part of the stone sculpture erected in Berne.
So, yeah you are right in finding a similarity between your new home and this place,Hendrik.So, welcome to India 🙂
The place looks heavenly. Would definitely want to go and stay in one of those colonial homestays. They look so pretty. Beautiful descriptions. And those schools are surely worth dying for. Who would not want to study in them!
I completely agree nd that is one reason why I took up the job of a lecturer there,Soumya 😀
Beautiful place and beautifully described. I love your use of words, it’s so poetic. I always wanted to visit the Spiti valley or Parvati valley, but this post adds Dalhousie to my list too
Thank you so much for your kind words,Sinjana. Do visit Dalhousie during the monsoons and winters for sure 🙂
I have seen almost all the places in Himachal but Dalhousie is still on my travel list. The pictures are amazing. God detailed post.
Oh. my. goodness! The view is breathtaking! I want to see butterflies and daisies in April-June. But floating clouds, mist, green valleys look more exciting.
Haha…It is quite confusing to choose the seasons especially when visiting the moutains.Welcome to India 🙂
I have been to Dalhousie and it’s gorgeous.I enjoyed reading your post and looking at the pics .A wonderful way to travel virtually.
Thank you so much,Amrita.Glad you liked it 🙂
I did not know about Dalhousie and after visiting through your words and pictures. I want to have my own adventure there. Your pictures are absolutely amazing!
Thank you so much ,Marjie. It is one of the most underrated hill-stations in India.Welcome to India 🙂
I love the pictures you took, they are beautiful! From your descriptions, I almost feel like I am there. I really like the murals on the rocks. It looks like a wonderful place to explore
It indeed is a wonderful off-beat place to explore.Thank you for your kind words and glad you liked the article and captures 🙂
That Little Mermaid song comes to mind whenever I read your posts. “I want to be where the people are” except I want to be where you are. Another stunning location and such an in-depth review. Thank you for giving me a little piece of somewhere new, today!
Haha..that is such a lovely and spontaneous one,Meg . I am jumping here after reading this appreciation of yours.Thank you so much for reading and encouraging me to write.*Hugs*
What a beautiful landscape! I’ve never visited India, but have read about these wonderful hill stations. Dalhousie is quite a sight, and I can imagine so incredible to photograph too. A stunning scene with clearly plenty to explore.
Indeed, it has got too many hidden treasures to be unravelled. Hope you get to visit India soon ,Lisa 🙂
The Himalayas! Wouldn’t this New York City gal love to visit. Your photos are beckoning me!
Haha…Visit India soon then 😀
I stayed in Delhi for so many years but Himachal somehow never appeared in my travels. Yet to uncover the bliss of the state.
Dalhousie looks so surreal. This and Khajjiar are on high priority on my list. 😀
Dalhousie is very underrated and for good, Anatarik. This has contributed to have the green cover intact.However, its beauty surpasses any of the popular hill-stations.Hope you get to visit this place, soon 🙂
Lovely pictures and narration. Dalhousie is a wonderful place and the colonial architecture, changing skyscapes and the verdant greens is charming.
Wow! Thats quite a comprehensive post Meenakshi- you ahve covered so much about this little Hill station and all through every season!
Thank you Shaalz…Keep your childhood experience which was not so pleasant about Dalhousie at bay and re-visit the town again 🙂
How incidental that I stumble upon this having just returned from Kalatop FRH!
Beautiful narration and lovely captures.
Much thanks, Shubham. Means a lot coming from a wonderful traveller and a blogger like you.
Kalatopppppppp…O wow…There was a fresh snowfall there, isnt it??
A place I’ve always wanted to visit! You have captured some aspects that I have never heard of. The beautiful facades and architecture are something I can readily fall in love with. Interesting history.
Thank you , Kala…I hope you get to visit the town as soon as possible 🙂
Oh this is so beautiful. I love reading about places and their history. I have traveled a lot all over the world but not really in India except where I lived. I hope some day I will get a chance to explore my own country. I know there is so much!! This is gorgeous.
Much thanks, Veena. It indeed is sometimes astonishing when we find such gems in our backyard 🙂
I have heard of Dalhousie, mostly from our time in himachal and from migrant workers in Goa who call it their home too. I had no idea what Dalhousie looked like! Again this is why we need to visit Himachal again, I feel as if I missed half the region! I think next time we will visit in September or end of August as it might be less touristy (?). We saw Himachal in may and June and most places were too crowded. Love the reference of smooth as butter Rajasthan roads, because that’s what I thought when we drove from Goa, over rajasthan to Himachal. The roads in the mountains are more adventurous. 🙂
Thank you , Helene. Yes,Dalhousie like any other hill-station is crowded in May-June. September would be lovely with misty mornings and fluffy clouds.Do plan a visit.Happy to help 🙂
Your photographs brought the beauty of the hill station of Dalhousie finely. The hill stations of the north are the best.
Thank you. But ooty,aruku , kodaikanal and many South-Indian hill-stations are beautiful too despite the lack of the milky-white snow!
Your stunning photographs are always a treat! This detailed travel post and helpful suggestions are the cherry on top. Loved the pics of the colonial bungalows.
Much thanks, Mayuri.Do plan a visit to this place after your visit to Shillong 😀 I shall be happy to assist you with the itinerary 🙂
Been here! Such a lovely place. The photos are great. Would be so nice if you checked out my Travel blog as well
Sure, will do.Thank you 🙂
I still haven’t been there and your post makes me realise I should have done this while I was in Delhi.
I am not surprised, Atul.Not many from Delhi actually visit Dalhousie.As I said in the post, it is not as vast a hill-station as Shimla or Manali and neither it is a shopping paradise.It is a rather quaint town with picturesque views for nature lovers 🙂 But do visit the place when you find the time!
Will be happy to help you 🙂
Loved this virtual tour of Dalhousie. This post has so much to offer. Loved reading about the architecture and the narrow lanes… The words presented a lively picture of a place I would like to visit oneday. Brilliantly written.
Much thanks, Raji…I am more than happy to know that the words did create the required imagery and an urge in you to visit this quaint and beautiful town.
Travel posts give you a glimpse but staying there would help us know so many unknown facts about the place. Look forward to more posts
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A really good post, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Your description about the colonial heritage of Dalhousie is well thought out, and the writing is crisp and amazing. Keep writing! 😀
Thank u 🙂
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Beautifully written blog post. I was transported to Dalhousie for a brief moment. I also learned a lot about the place and its history. Pls keep writing more of such posts. 🙂
Sure….glad u liked the post…thnx