Location: Chamba District of Himachal Pradesh
Climate: Pleasant in summers and chilly in winters
Places to See: Laxmi Narayan Temple, Manimahesh Lake & more.
Best Time to Visit: March to June
Chamba is a scenic hill station located about 55 kms from Dalhousie. At an altitude of 1,006 meters, it serves as the headquarters of Chamba district in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India. Situated at the confluence of the Ravi River and its tributary Sal River, Chamba is found in the Chamba Valley. The name Chamba is shared by the town, the district and the valley where the town is located. Elongated in shape, the town of Chamba has been built in the foothills of Shah Madar on successive flat terraces. Even though the region is primarily mountainous, Chamba comprises many large parts of flat lands.
Chamba Valley is essentially an isolated valley system, delimited by three mountain ranges. It is located between Dhualadhar and Zanskar Mountain Ranges. While the Dhauladhar Range cuts it off from Kangra Valley, it also has Pir Panjal Range which separates it from Lahaul and Kashmir Valley. It is marked by the River Ravi which runs through its entire length in east-west direction often forming deep canyons. The Chamba district is bounded by Jammu and Kashmir to the north-west and west, Ladakh area of Jammu and Kashmir and Lahaul and Bara Banghal of Himachal Pradesh to the north-east and east, Kangra to the south-east, and Pathankot district of Punjab to the south.
Though Chamba was established by Raja Sahil Verma in 920 AD, the history of the region can be traced back to 2nd century. There are many temples in the area that are considered to be as old as 4th century. Chamba is also famous for its handicrafts crafted out of wood and hand-woven textiles. There are many small emporiums where artisans make handicrafts, footwear and textiles which are sold world-wide. Their prime attraction is the Pahari Paintings. As of today, Chamba has become a getaway for people seeking respite from the chaos of cities. Even if it has emerged as a tourist place, Chamba has still retained its old-world charm.
Climate in Chamba
Chamba generally has alpine weather, where summers are pleasantly warm while winters are chilling. Summers, here, extend from the month of April till June, with temperatures ranging between 38°C and 15°C. Monsoons start from July and exist till September, getting an average rainfall of 785.84mm. Autumn sails in after monsoon and lasts till November. From December till February, the region experiences winter wherein the maximum recorded temperature is 15°C and the minimum goes to 0°C. After winters, Chamba gets a brief stint of spring during March and the summer begins once again.
Tourist Attractions in Chamba
While enjoying its pleasant climate, one can cherish the amazing sights of snow-capped mountains and lush green forests in Chamba. Like most of the ancient cities, Chamba is divided into two parts – Old Town and New Town. Found on the lower slopes of Shah Madar Hill on the east of Chaugan, the Old Town generally has all the heritage monuments comprising palaces and temples. Here, you come across the 10th century Champavati Temple, which is believed to have marked the birth of the town. This temple is built in the Shikhara style with elaborate stone carvings. It is dedicated to Goddess Mahishasuramardini. Laxmi Narayan Temple is a major temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is said to be constructed during 10th– 17th centuries. It is an architectural marvel and designed in such a manner that it is always pleasant inside no matter what is the temperature outside.
Some other ancient structures in the old settlement are Sita Ram Temple, Bansi Gopal Temple, Kharura Mohalla, Hari Rai Temple, Sui Mata Temple (famous for its annual Sui Mata Fair), Chamunda Devi Temple, and the Akhand Chandi Palace (converted into a college). Rang Mahal is another attraction by the bygone era built by Raja Umed Singh, in Surara Mohalla of Chamba. The palace has been converted into an emporium, and handicraft lovers, here, can splurge in paintings, handloom shawls, slippers, etc.
In the mid-19th century, Chamba started developing on the lines of British administration. A cabled suspension bridge was constructed across the Ravi River to connect the two parts (old and new). Some of the notable structures built during the colonial period are the temples in the Jansali Bazar, Gandhi Gate (Curzon Gate), Shiva Temple, the Chaugans, the Church of Scotland, Chamba Library, Bhuri Singh Museum, and the administrative buildings of the British period. The Church of Scotland, also called St. Andrews Church, is a well-preserved protestant church built in 1903. It is a quiet sanctuary for people looking for class antiquity. Bhuri Singh Museum is an amazing place to check out the originally written pages from the Mahabharata and the Upanishads. Besides this, there are many rare artefacts, brass and copper coins, Basholi and Kangra style paintings on display.
The Chaugan is the main hub of all the activities in Chamba, encircled by majestic administrative buildings and the old Akhand Chandi Palace. It is a vast expanse of green land, measuring 800m in length and 80m in width, which is a rare sight in hill-stations. It was developed by the British by merging five small chaugans into a single chaugan for use as an esplanade and sports complex in 1890. While hosting the annual ‘Minjar Mela’ (fair), the entire ground turns into a flea market. Otherwise also, it’s a great place to shop handicrafts, stone and metal artefacts, and the famous Chamba and Kangra paintings.
Excursions from Chamba
Chamera Lake is a tranquil place with beautiful surrounds located about 11 kms from the town. The lake is the result of Chamera Dam, and both of them are truly a sight to behold. Enjoy a boat ride and immerse yourself in the vast expanse of natural beauty. Bharmour is a small picturesque town surrounded by high mountain ranges, and is said to be the ancient capital of Chamba district. Located 64 kms from Chamba, it is famous for its scenic beauty and ancient temples. Chaurasi Temple Complex is the major attraction which comprises 84 shrines, some of which are said to be 1400 years old.
Bharmour also serves as the base for many trekking trails, besides the well-known Manimahesh Yatra. Situated in the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas at an elevation of 4080 meters, Manimahesh Lake is a paradise for trekkers as it requires a 13 kms trek to reach. It remains closed for most of the year due to heavy snowfall. Manimahesh means jewel of Lord Shiva and the beauty of this place is true to its name. The Lake looks absolutely breathtaking with its crystal-clear waters amidst lofty mountains. The pilgrimage is generally conducted in the months of August and September. Seeing the high influx of pilgrims, the Government of Himachal Pradesh has declared it as a state-level pilgrimage.
Kugti Wildlife Sanctuary is the second largest sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh. Located at an altitude ranging from 2,195m to 5,040m, it is about 15 kms from Kugti village, 30 kms from Bharmour and 87 kms from Chamba. It has innumerable water rivulets which are originating from glaciers. Kugti Sanctuary is known to have a diversity of rare flora and fauna. Tundah Wildlife Sanctuary is another sanctuary connected to Kugti by a forest corridor, at a distance of 59 kms from Chamba. Sechu Tuan Nalah Wildlife Sanctuary is a renowned wildlife reserve extending between altitudes of 2550 and 6072 metres. Spread over an area of 102.95 sq kms, it is characterized by animals typical to the higher altitudes of the Himalayan Mountain Ranges.
Salooni is an important town 56 kms from Chamba. Its strategic location makes it a great vantage point to enjoy some of the finest views in this kaleidoscopic topography. It overlooks into the picturesque Bhandal valley. Salooni is also famous for its Apple orchards, vegetables and scariest roads. Bhandal Valley is a scenic valley located about 22 kms from Salooni, at the western boundary of Himachal Pradesh. It serves as the base to the Chamba to Kishtwar trekking trail. Gamgul Wildlife Sanctuary is another sanctuary located in the Bhandal valley in Salooni tehsil of Chamba district.
Accommodation – Hotels/Resorts in Chamba
Chamba has a number of hotels, motels, lodges, guest houses and tent accommodation in hilly terrains & camping sites. Here, you won’t generally find luxurious accommodation but the basic ones which are comfortable enough. As far as restaurants are concerned, most of the hotels have in-house kitchens that offer Indian, Chinese and Continental cuisines. In the city center, you can see many restaurants which serve delectable food. Though there are many street stalls selling noodles, soups and dumplings.
How to Reach Chamba
Pathankot Airport is the nearest airport at a distance of 120 kms from Chamba. However, it has no connecting flights as of now. The other closest airport is at Gaggal, Kangra Aiport (125 kms). It is well-connected to Chandigarh and Delhi, besides few other cities. From here, you can hire cabs or board buses to reach Chamba.
Pathankot Railway Station is the nearest broad gauge railway station at a distance of 120 kms. It is well-connected via regular trains from cities and towns of the adjoining states. You can either broad buses that run at regular intervals, or hire cabs to arrive at Chamba.
Chamba is well connected by road through a wide range of road network. HPTC runs many buses at regular timings from different towns and cities like Shimla, Chandigarh and Delhi to Chamba. Or else, you can rent a taxi to reach Chamba for a more comfortable journey.