Dachigam National Park, located 22 km from Srinagar, is the last home of the rare Hangul or Kashmir stag. A former game preserve of the erstwhile Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, the park has been a protected area since 1910.
Located among Himalayan Mountains, the park is spread over an area of 141 sq km. The park was the outcome of the then Jammu and Kashmir Maharaja’s efforts to create a game preserve and catchment area for Harwan reservoir. The reservoir supplied clean drinking water to the city of Srinagar.
Dachigam literally means “ten villages”. As many as 10 villages were relocated out of the forest as part of the efforts to create the game preserve and catchment area.
The park is situated at altitudes ranging from 5500 ft to 14000 ft. Due to the variation in altitudes the park is demarcated into upper and lower regions. The park’s terrain ranges from gently sloping grasslands to cliffs and sharp rocky outcrops.
The park boasts of over 500 species of herbs, 50 species of trees and about 20 species of shrubs.
Besides Hangul, Dachigam is also famous for its populations of musk deer, leopard, Himalayan Grey Langur, leopard cat, Himalayan Black Bear, yellow-throated marten, etc. It’s a paradise for bird watchers. Himalayan monal, golden oriole, pygmy owlet, koklass pheasant, Kashmir flycatcher, Tytler’s leaf warbler, streaked laughingthrush, Himalayan rubythroat, etc. can be found at Dachigam.
The national park is also known for its scenic locales. Except winter when the entire forest remains blanketed under snow, flowers and greenery carpet grasslands and meadows. The sight of blue poppy blooms covering grassland is a sight to behold.
Wildlife aficionados’ believe one visit to Dachigam is insufficient to enjoy the natural beauty of the forest. Reason being that the park changes its appearance with the onset of each season.
However, the autumn rutting of Hangul should not be missed. Fierce male competition for mating characterizes the rutting season and the forest echoes with the mating calls of the deer.
The area currently under Dachigam National Park was delineated by Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir in 1910 as a game preserve. Ten villages located inside the forest limits, were shifted out.
Besides the desire to have a game preserve to hunt along with his guests, the Maharaja also wanted to develop the forest into a catchment zone for Harwan reservoir which supplied water to Srinagar. Under orders of the Maharaja, several tree species, especially those preferred by wildlife were planted and efforts were made to increase the winter fodder available to wild animals.
After Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India, Dachigam was managed by State Forest Department. Jammu and Kashmir government notified the area as a sanctuary in 1951 and as national park in 1981.
In and Around
Safari at Dachigam National Park
Jeep safari is the best way to explore Dachigam national park. The park boasts of over 500 species of herbs, 50 species of trees and about 20 species of shrubs. Besides Hangul, Dachigam is also famous for its populations of musk deer, leopard, Himalayan Grey Langur, leopard cat, Himalayan Black Bear, yellow-throated marten, etc. It’s a paradise for bird watchers. Himalayan monal, golden oriole, pygmy owlet, koklass pheasant, Kashmir flycatcher, Tytler’s leaf warbler, streaked laughingthrush, Himalayan rubythroat, etc. can be found at Dachigam.
In winter, Upper Dachigam is entirely inaccessible and the temperatures in Lower Dachigam also drop abysmally to -100C. Between late November and early February, the area is entirely snowbound. The best time to visit is May to November. In November, you can see hangul stags with their magnificent antlers fully grown. A visit to Upper Dachigam is best restricted to periods between May to August while March to May is ideal for bird watching. Early mornings and late afternoons are when animals are most active and may be seen feeding or drinking.
How to Reach
Srinagar is the nearest airport, 22 km away. Cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Jammu, Bengaluru, Indore and Leh are connected to Srinagar by air. About 876 km from Srinagar, Delhi is the closest international airport. Most major cities across the world are well connected to Delhi by flight.
Jammu is the nearest railhead about 327 km away. Most of the major cities in the country like Mumbai, Delhi, Kanyakumari, Indore, Pune, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmadabad, Jabalpur and Rishikesh are well connected to Jammu by rail. Additional trains operate on this route during the holiday season.
Srinagar is well connected to Jammu and other towns by public and private buses. Buses are available from Delhi, Chandigarh, Jammu, Leh, Pahalgam, etc. Apart from that taxis to Srinagar are easily available from Jammu which is at a distance of 290 km. Taxis can be hired from Srinagar. Buses also ply to Dachigam from Srinagar. Though low on comfort, buses are cheaper. Jeep services ply regularly from the park to Srinagar.
Stay / Eat
Where to Stay
Accommodation options are limited in Dachigam. Forest department maintains two rest houses in lower Dachigam. Srinagar is just 22 km away and offers a wide variety in terms of accommodation options.
Where to Eat
Eating options are non-existent in the forest or in its vicinity. Carrying a lunch hamper would be a good idea. Srinagar has better eating options.