Saturday, September 21, 2002

Kalatope: The woods are lovely, dark & deep
Rajendra Rajan

Kalatope, near Dalhousie, is a favourite haunt of nature lovers
Kalatope, near Dalhousie, is a favourite haunt of nature lovers

IT’S afternoon and the sun is playing hide and seek with the clouds. The place is surrounded by dark green deodars, fir and spruce trees. The entire ambience leaves you spellbound. At a height of 8,000 feet above sea level, this locale reminds you of Robert Frost’s poem: "Woods are lovely dark and deep but I have promises to keep. Miles to go before I sleep...."

Situated 13 km from Dalhousie on the Dalhousie-Khajjiar-Chamba road, Kalatope is a favourite haunt of nature lovers. Although the 3-km stretch from the Lakkarmandi forest check post is motorable for light vehicles, hardly any vehicle plies on this kutcha forest road. The reason for this is that to enter the forest in a vehicle, one requires a permit. This restriction has, in fact, kept the virgin beauty of the jungle intact. Foreigners and other tourists love to trek the distance to Kalatope, which is quite refreshing and enjoyable. The vehicle permits can be obtained from the DFO (wildlife) at Chamba.


Solitude and silence are the two main assets of this small resort. There are three small buildings owned by the Forest Department. One of these — the forest rest house — was built by the British in 1925. Its roof, painted in red, looks striking amidst emerald environs.

Man Chand, the soft-spoken chowkidar of the rest house, throws some light on the place: "The jungle is so dense here that even the sun’s rays cannot penetrate into the woods. So, the place gradually acquired the name of Kalatope.

A small glade within the Kalatope complex is one of its main attractions. Then you have a 200-year-old tree called ‘Kannare’, which is known as ‘Goon’ in the local dialect. Its botanical name is aes-culusindica. Its thick trunk is like that of a banyan tree.

The rest house is situated in Kalatope village, which has about 10-12 houses. Mostly Gujjar families live here and are engaged in dairy farming.

According to Alok Nagar, Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife), Chamba, the Kalatope-Khajjiar wildlife sanctuary is spread over 69.47 square kilometres. The spot is well known for glorious deodars. It has also earned the distinction of being one of the best-managed forests of deodars in Himachal Pradesh.

Though complete tranquillity prevails in Kalatope, you can hear the ‘music’ of beetles especially during rainy season. The wildlife sanctuary, rich in fauna, includes ghural, barking deer, grey fox, black bear, flying squirrel, leopard, koklas, khalif and monal pheasants. There is a rich variety of birds as well: magpies, flycatchers, thrushes and lammergeyers.

Its proximity to Dalhousie, makes Kalatope a popular tourist destination. In order to promote tourism, two buildings adjoining the rest house have been thrown open to tourists. Each room is available at a tariff of Rs 500 per day. An eco-tourism society has been formed and entrusted with the task of promoting tourist activities in Kalatope and other adjoining areas. Local guides are also being trained to assist tourists and nature lovers.