Steeped in scenic beauty, Churah valley in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh is one of the state’s best kept secrets. Tissa (Bhanjraru), the sub-divisional headquarters, is less than 100km by road from the popular hill station Dalhousie but not many travellers step this way. According to local people, the valley probably takes its name from its strategic location, in the middle of a four point cross road (‘chouraha’), near the state’s border with Jammu and Kashmir. The snow-bound Pir Panjal range looms large over the valley.
But if you are fond of nature, an avid trekker or camper, interested in delving into old cultures, then Churah valley is the place for you. Trekking in these remote high mountains, especially the challenging Sach Pass, which connects Chamba with Pangi valley, you not only come across excellent sceneries but also learn about the life of the nomadic shepherds who cross the passes with their animal trains. Covered with snow for the greater part of the year, the passes are usually open between July and October.
From Bairagarh (about 25km from Tissa), you may continue to Sach Pass (located at around 14,500 feet) before descending into the Chenab valley to meet the Tandi-Kishtwar Road at Killar. Sach Pass is 60km from Bairagarh and 40km from Killar. Even though the administration is trying to improve the road condition, it is still a rough drive, more of an off-roading experience. As the snow melts in summer, rivulets and waterfalls rush across the dirt road. Also, there is lack of accommodation and amenities on the way.
Tissa is the best place to embark on treks to some of the popular glacial lakes in the region. Local inhabitants consider these lakes – Gadasaru, Mahadev, Mahakali, Maral and Mehalwar – as sacred. In summer, they visit these icy lakes for a dip in the holy waters. You may join the annual pilgrimage to the Gadasaru Mahadev Lake, held in August-September, when local people circle the lake after the dip and offer prayers to the small temple dedicated to goddess Kali. You may also visit the Mahakali Lake in the vicinity whose banks offer a spectacular view of the mountains. Lakes here are referred to as ‘dal’.
Falling on the Gadasaru trek route is Devi Kothi with a temple dedicated to the guardian deity Chamunda. The temple is known for its wood carvings and murals. A long flight of stairs leads to the main temple. Even if you are not the religious kind, don’t miss a visit to the temple because it acts as a gallery to the towering snow peaks of Pir Panjal that look amazingly near. To the north of the village lies the Chaini Pass, another difficult but scenic trekking route.
Information: Tissa or Bhanjraru is the base for the journey into the Churah valley. There is limited connectivity and having a car (suitable for local road condition) at your disposal is the best option unless you plan to travel by the state transport buses that connect Chamba or Dalhousie with Tissa and Bhanjraru. Sach Pass is 120km from Chamba by road and 150km from Dalhousie.
Accommodation is also limited and basic at best. RK Hotel (tel: 097367 40103) in Tissa has been receiving good reviews from travellers.
It is best to consult Himachal Pradesh Tourism office for the latest road condition and other details: District Tourism Development Office, Chamba, Near Bachat Bhawan, District Chamba (H.P) Pin-176310.