Himachal Pradesh has a special place in every traveller’s heart. After all, what’s not there to like about the beautiful hill state. From lush meadows and snow-capped Himalayan peaks to age-old temples and colonial churches, the state is truly blessed with natural and cultural heritage.
The state is also endowed with historically significant destinations, and one such place is Arki.
Perhaps the smallest town of Himachal Pradesh, this quaint little hamlet is known for its stunning fort and splendid views. Arki also serves as a convenient halt for travellers driving on the Delhi-Manali and Delhi-Dharamshala route.
The town served as the capital of the former princely state of Baghal or ‘the land of leopards.’ It became a tourist spot after the hillside fort-palace here joined the ranks of Indian heritage hotels. It was Rana Sabha Chand, who made Arki the capital of Baghal in 1650 AD. Nestled in Solan district, the fort is believed to have come into existence sometime during the 17th and 18th centuries, when the region was being ruled by Rana Prithvi Singh.
Located high up on a spur overlooking the town at 4200 ft, Arki Fort offers grand views of the surrounding landscape. On clear days you can see as far as Sabathu, Kasauli and Shimla. It was the stronghold of general Amar Singh Thapa, who ruled much of Himachal and Garhwal in 1815-1816 from this wooded hill teeming with deer, wild hogs, jungle fowl and leopards. What’s left of the leopard population still roams these hills.
The original palace of Arki was located at the foot of the fort. By 1760, it started sinking due to erosion, and was relocated in the old fort.
Arki’s great patron of the arts Raja Kishan Chand was responsible for the lavish interiors of the Diwan-i-Khas in the fort. The vast chamber, 35ft long and 15 ft wide, has fabulous murals and pretty archways. The architecture of the fort is a beautiful mix of North Indian, Rajput and Mughal styles of architecture.
Today, the fort-palace serves as a hotel with a bar and cafe. The terrace of the bar and café has only enchanting views. Loll around in the well-kept gardens of the palace, go for blissful nature walks in the forest, or climb a hill or two, there’s plenty here to keep you occupied.
Arki is also a haven for birders. Some of the many species that you can easily spot here are the Egyptian Vulture, Indian White-backed Vulture, Himalayan Griffon, Red-headed Vulture, Red Junglefowl, Blue Rock Pigeon, Wedge-tailed Green-Pigeon and Plum-headed Parakeet.
From Arki, you can do comfortable day trips to Shimla, Naldhera, Tattapani Hot Springs and Kufri.
Location: Located at 4,176 ft in the Shivalik Hills in North Solan District; 34km SW of Shimla, 73km N of Kalka, 326 km N of Delhi
When to go: March-October is pleasant; winter (November-February) is cold
Where to stay and eat
Hotel Palace Retreat (Phone: 09418229918), the only place to stay offers suites and stunning views.
Air Jubbarhatti is the nearest airport at 36km
Rail Kalka (73km) is the nearest railhead
Road Fom delhi, NH 1 to Ambala; NH22 to Dharampur via Kalka; after Giani’s Dhaba at Dharampur, take Sabathu turn off; state road to Arki via Sabathu, Hatkoti and Kunihar
Buses going to Shimla drop you off at Dharampur, from where palace retreat can arrange a pick-up