The spectacular Kangra Valley has many attractions to draw the visitors by its magical charm and spellbound beauties, lush green surroundings, revered goddess temples, famous Kangra Tea, one of the UNESCO Heritage Mountain Railways in India, the Little Lhasa in McLeodganj (Read, A Day in the Little Lhasa: McLeodganj) and the famous Triund Trek. It is perfect package to spend a week or two in the lap of Dhauladhar Mountains. Luckily, I got chances to explore the beautiful villages and towns of Kangra Valley on a 20-days trip to Kangra. Most of its beautiful landscapes are covered by small villages or spectacular tea gardens, that I visited one by one.
Gaggal Airport and Around:
Gaggal is a small town in Kangra, situated on Manali-Mandi-Kangra-Pathankot Highway, and 6 kms away from Kangra. It serves as the airport gateway to the Kangra Valley. Gaggal Airport is a small one, with two daily flights from Delhi, but it is one of the most scenic airport, I have ever seen. These flights are prone to the climatic conditions and can be cancelled due to the low visibility in the winters.
The main Gaggal market is very chaotic, but area around the airport is very peaceful and scenic. Gaggal offers a panoramic view of the snow-covered high mountains of Dhauladhar Range.
Note: If you are in Gaggal, don’t forget to visit the Kake Di Hatti, which offered best cold badam milk and lassi in the town. It is just adjacent to the bus stand of Gaggal Crossing.
Sarah is another beautiful village on Dharamshala-Gaggal Road.There are many small roads connecting Kangra to Dharamshala in addition to Kangra-Gaggal-Dharamshala Main Road. Sarah is situated on the road that passes via Kunal Pathri Temple to Gaggal from Dharamshala. I walked down 6 kms on the hilly road from Dharamshala to reach Sarah. I was intended to walk upto Kunal Pathri Temple only, but the beauty around this road forced me to walk further. (Read: The Famous Temples in Kangra Valley)
There is a deep silence while walking on the road. You can feel gentle breeze of the air, experience the green beauty of nature in front of you.This silence is only broken by the bikes or the cars plying on the road. You can see beautiful Tea Gardens spread along the road.
Dhauladhar Range of Himalayas, which is always covered by Snow, is clearly visible from the starting of the road from Dharamshala (Read: Dharamshala: Serenity in The Lap of Dhauladhar Mountains). Many Pine trees surrounded all over the area and seems that you are in a beautiful jungle of pines.I enjoyed the beauty of nature till Sarah.
Note: Dharamshala to Sarah is approx 5-6 kms walk. From Sarah, you can catch a public bus to reach Dharamshala or Gaggal. Bus frequency is very less. Better to try your luck by hitchhiking on a bike or a car.
Palampur and The Tea Gardens:
Palampur is the tea capital of northwest India, famous for the Kangra Tea.The town of Palampur came into being when Dr. Jameson, Superintendent Botanical Gardens, North-West Frontier Province. introduced the tea bush from Almora in 1849. The bush thrived and so did the town which became a focus of the European tea estate owners.The town has derived its name from the local word “pulum’, meaning lots of water. There are numerous streams flowing from the mountains to the plains from Palampur. It is 30 kms away from Dharamshala. The picturesque town of Palampur is a serene and almost untouched hill station. Palampur is bounded by verdant tea gardens, pine and deodar thick forests, and numerous streams and brooks dance through the scenic landscape.
Dhauladhar Range seems very near from Palampur in comparison to Dharamshala and snow-covered mountains are clearly visible. I walked through the road from the town and passed through the beautiful tea gardens.I saw ladies plucking the tea-leaves in the tea gardens with basket on their back. Moving further, I passed through the Palampur Tea Factory. On the road itself, one can see the stock of tea-leaves in the warehouses.
Note: To enjoy these tea gardens, either leave the bus going to Palampur near Palampur Tea Factory or walk back on the road to approx 2-3 kms from the bus stand. Frequent buses are available for Palampur from Dharamshala and Kangra Bus Stand.
There is also an institute by CSIR located 2 km from Palampur on way to Baijnath and is one of the reputed institutes of the country dealing with Himalayan Bio resource Technology and research on Tea Gardens.
Palampur is connected by narrow gauge railway from Pathankot. Approximate distance from Pathankot to Palampur is 112 km.The station name is Maranda, which is about 3 kms from the Palampur Bus Stand. The journey takes about 7 hours covering two tunnels, one of which is only 250 feet and the other 1,000 feet in length.
Heritage Hotel Taragarh Palace and Around:
Taragarh Palace Heritage Hotel is situated on a 15 acre forested estate surrounded by tea gardens in the Kangra valley on the Pathankot-Mandi Road, one of the most scenic and unexplored areas of Himachal Pradesh. It is 6 kms away from Palampur towards Baijnath and located at a height of 1000 metres. Taragarh Palace is at the foot of the Dhauladhar mountains offering a magnificent view of the snow capped peaks.
Built in 1931 by the Nawab of Bahawalpur, this European-style summer residence with immaculate gardens and glass pleasure pavilion later passed into the hands of the royal family of Jammu & Kashmir in 1951. It is now run by the present royal family. The palace was formerly known as Alhilal (Land of the crescent moon) and renamed as Taragarh on the name of Maharani Tara Devi of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.
I visited this hotel by chance. I wanted to see a glimpse of the hotel from inside, so I just approached the guard and he advised me that it was a very costly hotel. I assured that I would have the breakfast at least, so it would not be a free visit. He allowed me to go inside. I went to the dining area and asked for the breakfast. A breakfast buffet cost me flat Rs.450 at the hotel. But the hotel ambience was quite memorable.
Note: No proper bus stand near the hotel. Just ask the driver or conductor to stop near the hotel. After visiting the hotel and nearby tea gardens, just wave hand to any bus towards your destination. They will stop to pick you. Tea Gardens are just adjacent to the hotel.
I was there for three weeks in Kangra. The Kangra valley and its villages provided me ample opportunities to enjoy the beauty of nature. That was an unforgettable experience staying in my memories forever.