Elevation: 1831 M above sea level
Nearest towns: Salooni (22 Km) and Chamba (78 Km)
Yet to make its mark on the usual tourist circuit, Bhandel valley is a refreshing change from the crowded with tourist hill stations of Himachal. Suitably remote – yet not too far from civilization, the valley has great connectivity when it comes to internet services.
From Chamba, you drive 56 Km. towards Salooni village and then another 22 Km. to reach this scenic valley. The meandering drive will take you past thick forests and lush green pastures. You will catch glimpses of the Ravi river and smaller streams along the way.
Situated at the westernmost tip of Himachal, Bhandal Valley is just a short drive away from Kishtwar, in Jammu & Kashmir.
The valley is also an important base for the popular Chamba – Kishtwar trek. A trek route that connects Chamba to the Kishtwar region over the Dagni Dhar.
The route begins along the right bank of the River Ravi, goes past Pukhri, down to the Siyul stream, then rises to Salooni on the Prithvi Jor ridge to finally arrive above the valley. From Bhandal onto Langhera and then Kishtwar. The highest point on the trek is the Padri Gali at 3,049 m.
Weather in the area
Salooni and its surrounding areas were usually snowed under from December to March. But with the warming weather, this period has shortened considerably. However, woollies are needed throughout the year. Lighter jackets or hoodies will do in the summer months and the winters need warmer wear. Especially as heating is not as efficient as it is in the more developed areas of the world.
Places to visit around the valley
1. The Gamgul Siahbehi Wildlife Sanctuary. With 70 square Kms of pristine landscape, this is probably one of the highest sanctuaries in India. This high altitude sanctuary is a treat for wildlife photographers and wildlife enthusiasts. Musk Deer, Barking Deer, Snow Leopards are some of the animals you can expect to encounter here. The Kashmir Stag has also been sighted here, but very rarely.
The area is also very rich in flora and fauna. You can expect to see Giant Deodars and Pine in the lower reaches and vast expansive alpine pastures in the regions above the tree line – and below the perpetual snow line. The alpine pastures provide a matchless wealth of highly prized medicinal plants and are a natural reservoir of aromatic herbs.
Boating in the Chamera lake
This artificial lake was formed when they built the Chamera dam across the River Ravi. The lake follows the natural curves of the surrounding hills and has speed boating and other adventure activities organised for tourists. There are little or almost no fish in these waters and leisure activities are encouraged by the administration here. This is a popular picnic spot for the locals too.
Bhalei Mata Temple
The Himachal hills are dotted with temples. Each of these places of worship has a story that goes with it. This ancient temple is dedicated to Goddess Bhadra (one of the various forms of Durga). Raja Pratap Singh constructed the Bhalei temple in response to dream that he had – where the goddess called out to him and told him she was lying buried in a place called Bhran. She also asked him to build a suitable temple in the area for her. Legend has it that the Raja went to the spot and found the deity.
For other interesting stories about the area, visit us at the Eco Lodge. The perfect place to sit around a bonfire and share yarns and folklore.