A fully furnished tourist bungalow built by the Jammu and Kashmir tourism department would be all ours. A caretaker would be sent with us. The catch – no electricity.
We would be the first tourists to visit Chatpal. The idea of being the”guinea pigs” for such an offbeat destination was enough for us to accept the offer.
A fairy tale – was our first impression of Chatpal.
A wooden cottage. A gushing stream next to it. Air so clean and fresh, it felt almost – unnatural!
Thankfully, our caretaker had a stash of coal in the kitchen. And a couple of kangris – the traditional heater of Kashmir.
We slept in at least a foot tall layer of blankets and quilts!
Around sunset the clouds cleared and it was magic.
Like this shepherd we met at a bend around our cottage. He was returning home with his flock, waiting for one mischievous sheep who was still to return from the hills!
They jumped off high rocks. Posed for photos. And reminded us to get the photos the next time we visit, before saying their goodbyes.
When we refused to step out, they teased us saying “Abhi to garmi ka mausam hai” (It’s summertime, time to have fun!). Cold – we suppose, has totally different definitions for someone from the hills than someone from the coast!
It was a great time, having candle-lit dinners, then huddling under the layers of blankets with the kangri at our feet. No transferring of photos, no phone calls, no internet updates! Just us and nature.
Short trek in the woods around Chatpal
When the weather got crispy the next day, we decided to get out for a short trek. Shaukat, who we had met at our cottage earlier, agreed to be our guide.
Chatpal is surrounded by mountains on all sides. The mountain trails connect Chatpal to almost the entire Kashmir valley.
Soon after Thimran, the forest started. The mountains we had been seeing for the last two days seemed to have come real close.
Such hospitality was the biggest gift of our travels in the Himalaya mountains.
On our way back, in Thimran, we met this affable mother and her daughters. They hadn’t seen people with a big camera walk through their village. They were bold enough to strike up a conversation, and even posed for a family photo.
Later we couldn’t help compare the crowded touristy Pahalgam with the virgin land of Chatpal. We felt it would be unfair to label Chatpal as a mini-Pahalgam.
Chatpal can stand on its own as an offbeat, quiet and peaceful destination in Kashmir.
While the northern part of Kashmir has beautiful valleys like the Lolab valley, the southern part has Chatpal.
There are no “tourist points” to sit on a horse and see, in Chatpal. There isn’t a list of not-to-be-missed tourist attraction.
What Chatpal has in abundance is an untouched natural beauty. Where you drink water straight from the streams and breathe the pine-scented air.
Getting lost in nature, or within oneself is the star attraction of Chatpal.
Travel tips for getting to Chatpal
- Chatpal is in the Shangus district, a short trek ahead of Chitergul. The route is mapped as Anantnag-Chitergul road.
- A “local” shared jeep from Achabal will drop you to Chitergul.
- Hire a “special” jeep from here for Chatpal. Achabal to Chatpal takes little over an hour.
If organising the transport and accommodation for your travels in Kashmir doesn’t sound like a fun thing to do, you can choose one of the ready Kashmir Tour Packages. Just ask them to customise it to your requirements.