Himachal Pradesh is truly a paradise for travellers like me. I am always in search of those beautiful villages where I can spend a few days in solitude while I look for the secluded valleys and forests and enjoy the hospitality of the wonderful people. In short, I am looking for places that are often termed “offbeat” (though I believe offbeat has become quite a generic term now). Himachal has a number of such places, some of them quite close to the major tourist attractions of Shimla and Manali.
Kothkai is one such quaint town located quite close to Shimla, yet away from the maddening tourist crowd. This small town is known for its apple orchards. In fact, Kothkai is famous for the Ratnari Baghi Valley that has been associated to largest production when it comes to apples. Well, I had not known this fact before I visited the place. Apart from this, Kothkai is an immensely beautiful place offering a view of the picturesque valley of the Hatu Peak.
The name Kothkai is derived from two words – ‘kot’ meaning palace and ‘khai’ meaning cliff. Located at an altitude of 1800 metres, Kotkhai literally means the palace of the king is on the cliff! The Kotkhai Palace actually stands on the hilltop amidst a beautiful surrounding.
Kotkhai can be a great weekend destination from Delhi if you want to visit a little off the beaten track. Ditch Shimla and head over to this wonderful place where you will find nature, history and also apples!
Things to do in Kotkhai
Visit the Kotkhai Palace or Fort
The Kotkhai Palace is located in the Kotkhai Valley nestled amidst the scenic landscape. The palace was built by king Rana Sahab and is locally known as Bussa. The palace has Tibetan style architecture and the roof is like that of a pagoda. From the Palace, you can get lovely view of the Giri Ganga River that flows through the foot of the cliff. The best feature of the fort is the absolutely beautiful and elaborate wood-carvings almost everywhere. There is a display of swords, shields and collection of khukris. The impressive structure though not much known is a marvel of Himalchali architecture.
Take a walk inside the Kiala Forest
The Kiala forest is another attraction of this place. The dense forest is the home to a variety of flora and fauna. If you are a nature and wildlife enthusiast, a visit to the Kiala forest is must.
Pay your respect at the Lankra Veer Temple
The Lankra Veer Temple is another highlight of your trip to Kotkhai. The temple is dedicated to the local deity Lankra Veer who is believed to be the protector of the region from the negative powers. The temple is situated in the serene and beautiful location of Kyari village.
Visit the apple orchards of Kotkhai
The entire Kotkhai area is known for its apple orchards. Simply go for a walk in the apple orchards. But first, do take permission from the owners. The apple trees look so beautiful all over the hills. And if you are visiting during the apple season, you will be delighted to see the apples on the trees.
Go for a picnic lunch at Neraghati
Neraghatiis a popular picnic spot at Kotkhai. Decorated with apple orchards and green pastures, the place is a delight to its visitors. The panoramic view of the surrounding hills makes the place more special. Pack a picnic lunch and visit Neraghati. Spend some time there soaking in the beauty of the nature. Both your eyes and heart will be pleased.
How to reach Kotkhai
Kotkhai is almost 60 km from Shimla. The nearest airport is at Shimla. The nearest railway head is also at Shimla, which can be reached by toy train from Kalka. From Shimla, you will get local buses to Kotkhai. The buses that go towards Rohru will take you to Kotkhai.
Where to stay:
There are a few homestays in the villages in the middle of apple orchards. Staying in these places will give you all the solitude and seclusion you want. The hospitality of the people is an added bonus.
Best time to visit
You can visit the place at any time of the year. The best time is post monsoon when the entire region turns red due to the apples.