Saturday, September 23, 2023

Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary: A Biodiverse Haven in the Himalayas

The natural beauty of Himachal Pradesh, one of the states in India, leaves people speechless and gives them a lifetime of experience and mesmerizing sights to behold. High, snow-capped Himalayan mountains, lakes flowing in melodious tunes, must-visit hill stations, and sanctuaries together make Himachal Pradesh a pristine and tranquil place. This article explores one of the wildlife sanctuaries of the state – Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary.

So, let us explore this enchanting and serene place, its history, activities to do, and other essentials.

Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary – A Haven For Wildlife Enthusiasts

Overview

Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary, also popular as Kalatop Khajjiar Sanctuary, is located in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh and is 6 km away from Dalhousie. Nestled amidst snow-capped Himalayan mountains and lush green trees and bushes, the place offers stunning views all around.

Dense forests of deodar and fir trees and diverse fauna make Kalatop Sanctuary, which covers 30.69 km of area. It lies on the bank of the river Ravi and is close to Chamba Dam, surrounded by coniferous and oak trees. Multiple freshwater streams from the north of the sanctuary flow into the river.

More interestingly, the sanctuary hosts well-laid-out trekking and hiking trails. While doing so, you can witness the captivating beauty of the immaculate Pir Panjal range. Also, you can find an adventure park, making it an ideal place for children and families.

Flora and Fauna

The place is home to diverse species of animals and birds. The pheasant, Himalayan black bear, serow, leopard, langur, jackal, Himalayan black marten, barking goral, wild cat, and deer are a few animal species.

In addition, the sanctuary houses over 117 species of birds, including the Grey Headed Canary Flycatcher, Eurasian Jay, White-winged Black Bird, Chestnut Bellied Rock Thrush, and Black Headed Jay. The musical and melodious chirping of birds adds more beauty to the place.

Interesting Facts

  • The place is among the best ones in India for nightscapes.
  • Animals in the sanctuary wander freely, as there are no cages or enclosures.
  • The place hosts a guest house, featured in the movie ‘Lootera’.

Key Details Before Visiting Kalatop Khajjiar Sanctuary

  • You have to be careful of the bears in the sanctuary.
  • The forest department does not offer any guided tours.
  • The vehicle entry and stay in a protected area requires you to take permission from the District Forest Officer, Chamba.
  • You can hire a taxi from Dalhousie and enjoy the sightseeing.

History

During the rule of the Britishers, Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary was the place for hunting and sporting for the Chamba rulers. In the 1960s, the area under the sanctuary was considered a natural reserve. However, the efforts to protect and restore the natural reserve were undertaken in the 1970s after being declared a sanctuary.

The name ‘Kalatop’ is a Hindi word and refers to a black cap. It is called a black cap because black forests cover the hilltop in the sanctuary.

How to Reach Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary?

At a distance of 6 km from Dalhousie, reaching the sanctuary is not a big deal. You can hire a taxi from Dalhousie and drive onto Chamba/Khajjiar Road or Karelnu Road to visit the place. In addition, public transport is available to reach the place. You can even prefer trekking from Dalhousie to the place while enjoying the pleasing surrounding beauty.

How to reach Dalhousie?

By Air: The nearest airport is Pathankot, 75 km away from Dalhousie. However, it is only connected with the airport of New Delhi. Another nearest airport is Gaggal Airport, located in Kangra district and 140 km away from Dalhousie. This airport has good connectivity with domestic and international cities. You can hire a taxi or cab or take a bus from both airports to reach Dalhousie.

By Train: The nearest railway station is Pathankot’s Chakki Bank railhead, around 71 km from Dalhousie. It has good connectivity with major Indian cities, including Jammu, Jaipur, Bhatinda, Delhi, and Jodhpur. Multiple deluxe and express trains run from different cities to Pathankot railway station. You can reach Dalhousie in 2 to 3 hours by hiring a private or shared cab.

By Road: The road (highway) to Dalhousie is well maintained. You can take your personal vehicle from New Delhi and head to Dalhousie, taking the route – Karnal, Ambala, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, and Pathankot. From Pathankot, a hilly area begins, offering scenic views and a pleasant experience. If you are comfortable driving a long road, you can opt for public buses to Dalhousie.

When to Visit Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary?

Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit the sanctuary is the summer months – March to May. At this time, the place is in its vibrant state. During the monsoon, it becomes uncomfortable to explore the place. Post-monsoon, from September to March, is again a pleasant time for safaris and sightseeing.

Timings: 7 AM to 6 PM throughout the week in all seasons.

Duration: Exploring the entire area may take 2.5 to 3 hours.

Entry Fee: Free to enter the sanctuary; charges INR 250 to enter the forest reserve with permission from the District Forest Officer, Chamba.

Things to Do in Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary

1. Picnic

Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary serves as the best spot for a picnic, as dense forests encircle it. In addition, the carpet of lush green and small streams adds more charm to the place. Sunsets at the place are magical and awe-inspiring. The adventure park inside the place is ideal for children to play, keeping them occupied. Additionally, you can indulge in the stargazing activity if visiting the place in the evening.

2. Birdwatching

As mentioned above, the sanctuary houses over 117 species of birds, making it the best place for birdwatching. With several exotic bird species, you can witness numerous residential and migratory birds, providing a fantastic experience.

3. Safari/Expedition

Undoubtedly, a safari or expedition is a must-do thing in the Kalatop Khajjiar Sanctuary. You can best experience it if you take your vehicle or trek there. However, taking your vehicle charges INR 250. You can explore rare and common animal species on your safari, available from 7 AM to 6 PM.

4. Trekking

If you are adventurous, you can trek from the sanctuary to Khajjiar, the mini-Switzerland of India. The trek takes 4 to 6 hours, allowing you to experience deep walks into the jungle, scenic sights to behold, and wildlife from very close. This trek is among the shortest ones in Himachal Pradesh. The time for this trek is between 10 AM to 5 PM, and charges INR 1000 each person.

5. Paragliding

Another activity for adventure lovers at the place is paragliding. It is usually open in summer, offering picturesque views. If you visit the place post-monsoon, get to know about the availability of paragliding in advance. Experience majestic vistas and the thrill of the activity simultaneously.

Paragliding is available anytime between 10 AM to 4 PM. It charges anywhere between INR 1000 to 1500 for a one-hour session.

Must-Visit Nearby Attractions

1. Khajjiar and Khajjiar Lake

Visit the Mini Switzerland of India, Khajjiar. This is a small hill station near Dalhousie in the Chamba district. The heavenly beauty of this picturesque landscape will leave an everlasting impact on your heart.

Khajjiar is a plateau with a small lake in the middle nestled with weeds, which gives a special attraction to this place. It is located at an elevation of 2,000 meters above sea level on the foothills of the Dhauladhar range. Meadows and forests encircle this town. Lake, pasture, and forests make up the ecosystem of this town.

The place offers various attractions and numerous trekking opportunities.

2. St. John’s Church

Be blessed at St. John’s Church, one of Dalhousie’s ciphers of spirituality and sacredness. It has been standing as an example of holiness since 1863. The fusion of beauty and history makes this place more eminent for photography. And if you are a history buff, visit one of the oldest libraries in the region, which is next to the church.

3. Satdhara Falls

Satdhara Falls, which means seven springs, is situated in Dalhousie. Snow-capped peaks, deodar and pine trees, and the Chamba Valley surround the falls. It brings water from seven springs, cascading magnanimously in unison. It has a therapeutic value or medicinal properties due to the presence of the element mica that cures skin diseases.

If you enjoy trekking, you can trek to Satdhara Falls while enjoying the wilderness, soft breezes, rustling of trees, and falling leaves on the earth. The chirping of birds resembles melodious tunes, adding peace to your soul. The sunset at the place is extremely splendid and a sight to behold.

4. Bakrota Hills

Also known as Upper Bakrota, Bakrota Hills is the area in Dalhousie with the highest elevation. It is encircled by the road called Bakrota Walk, leading to Khajjiar. You will be mesmerized by the panoramic views of serene and enchanting ranges and peaks.

5. Chamera Lake

Also known as Chamba Lake, Chamera Lake is an artificial lake for the Chamba Dam. If you are looking for a delightful picnic spot, the bank of Chamera Lake is a perfect place. Speed boats and rowboats are available to explore the lake.

In addition, you can indulge in water sports, such as river rafting, boating, and kayaking & canoeing, organized by The Himachal Pradesh Department of Tourism. The lake is nestled amidst mountains, making it perfect for photography.

6. Dainkund Peak

Located at an elevation of 2755 meters above sea level, Dainkund Peak is among the highest points in Dalhousie, offering a spectacular view of majestic valleys with tall deodar trees and astonishing mountains. It is also referred to as Singing Hill.

If you want a peaceful and serene place on your vacation, you must not miss visiting Dainkund Peak. You can witness a delightful experience with a splendid view of Khajjiar Lake and mud houses in the lush greenery of the valleys. Pholani Devi temple and Air Force are other places to visit. Besides, camping and trekking are activities you can indulge in.

7. Panchpula

Located 3 km from Dalhousie, Panchpula is a breathtaking and must-visit place. It is the mother stream originating from the north of Dayakund. It flows through various parts of Dalhousie and serves other water bodies. There is a samadhi tributing to a great revolutionary, Sardar Ajit Singh.

You can find several stalls nearby Panhpula selling snacks and tea. The place serves as the base for many treks to Dalhousie and other nearby destinations. Enjoy ziplining, which costs INR 1000 for 1km and INR 300-500 for 300 m.

Top Hotels and Resorts at Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary

Top Hotels and Resorts at Kala Top Wildlife Sanctuary

If you want a stay close to Kalatop Khajjiar Sanctuary, a guest house called Kalatop Forest Rest House is the best option, offering unforgettable, mesmerizing scenic charm. However, you need to book the guest house 10 days in advance.

Alternatively, you can opt for some luxurious stays in Dalhousie. Hotels of your budget are available. Keep yourself charged with the hospitality and adoring service. You will always be warm-hearted. Hotel Fortune Dalhousie, Grand View Hotel, Aamod Hotel, and many more hotels will always make your stay peaceful. Fill your memories with more joyful experiences.

Restaurants at Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary

Resorts are the ones where you will find more than your expectations. Easy access, more comfort, an emotional connection, and personal attention all will formulate charm to your rest here. Aroha Resort, Snow Valley Resort, Indraprastha Resort, and many more are situated in the lap of nature. The scenic view from your window and the sweet voice of nature will always keep you energetic.

In the proximity of the sanctuary, several small dhabas and restaurants make their way to serve tourists delectable local food. If you opt for trekking from Dalhousie to the sanctuary, fresh food from these restaurants and dhabas will delight your taste buds.

Some major restaurants are –

  • Alps Restaurant
  • Punjabi Rasoi
  • Lovely Restaurant
  • Bon Appetite Bakes N Fries

Whatever your choice is, you will get it right on your table, full of spices and hypnotizing aroma. Hotels here are famous for their serving and giving complete attention to what you get. People believe in pouring their heart into the dish you have been served.

Conclusion

This was all about the enchanting and pristine Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary. With the above guide, you explore the place at its best and in its whole glory. Witness magnificent, snow-capped mountains, lush green trees and dense forests, soft breezes, rustling trees, and diverse flora and fauna. It is a perfect getaway that one must not miss when visiting Dalhousie.

If you are trekking, carry essential things like snacks, a first aid kit, etc., and keep yourself more connected. The weather is usually pleasant, but after sunset, it gets freezing, so keep enough warm clothes with you. Even though no mishaps have been noticed, trekking in a group is advisable to enjoy your trip more. Come with friends or family, you will find something for everyone.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is special about Kalatop?

Kalatop is nestled with dense forests of deodar and fir trees. It has a pristine surrounding of snow-covered mountains and lush green valleys with multiple fresh streams flowing in the river Ravi.

2. What animals are found in Kalatop?

The Himalayan black bear, leopard, deer, jackal, serow, langur, Barking Goral, and bear are species of animals found in Kalatop.

3. What is the entry fee to visit Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary?

There is no entry fee to visit the sanctuary. However, if you wish to explore the forest reserve, you need to pay INR 250 and obtain permission from the District Forest Department.

4. How long does the trek from Dalhousie to Kalatop take?

The trek from Dalhousie to Kalatop takes 6 to 7 hours, as the distance is around 6 km. The time for the trek is between 10 AM to 5 PM.

5. What is the meaning of Kalatop?

The meaning of Kalatop is the black cap. It means thick, black forests cover the hilltop in the sanctuary.

Rohit Kumar
Rohit Kumar
Passionate about content quality and attention to detail, Rohit has penned over 15,000 copies for some of the leading online and offline publications in his eight-year career. Currently heading the content team at Dunia Ka Gyan, he believes in team spirit, ingenuity, and reader satisfaction.

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