Nagendra Singh Jamwal
The picturesque hill station of Pancheri situated at an altitude of 5900 feet is the nearest tourist spot from Jammu city which experiences copious snowfall in the winters. Nestled in the middle reaches of Ladha Dhar, the hill destination is home to thickets of Banj Oak and a Deodar forest locally called as Dayari.
So far the salubrious environs could be enjoyed only at the lone Forest Range Hut amidst tall Deodars. The Forest Hut has a history of its own. Constructed during Maharaja’s time the hut has been a favourite haunt of visitors whose signatures and remarks on the visitor’s book dating back to 1935 throw interesting light on the cooling and soothing effects of Pancheri’s refreshing and cool climate on those trying to escape from the scorching summers of the plains.
For decades together the lone hut was all that was available for the night stay. However, things are now taking a promising turn thanks to Prime Minister Development Programme PMDP implemented by Ministry of Tourism MOT, Govt of India. As a result, Pancheri is blossoming into a proper tourist destination with the construction of high end tourist huts by Directorate of Tourism, Jammu.
The mountain huts on the slope of the hill have an enchanting view of the mountains ranging from the North to the East having famous tourist spots of Raja Sankhpal shrine, Nathatop, Sankari Devta shrine and Ladha Dhar on the ridgeline. The bowl shaped valley below with thick forest of Blue pines (Kail), Cedars (Deodars) on the higher reaches and Oak forests and terraced fields down below is simply breathtaking.
The six huts made of pre-fabricated material with treated wooden panels are equipped with modern amenities that offer the most luxurious facilities to the visitors. The tiled pathways, parking and lighting are giving the destination the much needed fillip. The project under PMDP also has a component of a classic restaurant building to serve the visitors and the tourists residing in the huts. The project has given confidence to the people of the region and encouraged them to take keen interest in the tourism sector. Certain individuals and adventure tour operators are carrying out feasibility studies and exploring possibility of adventure tourism in this region. The upcoming huts are going to transform Pancheri into a base camp for trekking expeditions, adventure camps and outdoor activities. Paragliding trials from Nathatop and Ladha Dhar can further boost the adventure quotient of the Pancheri and its adjoining area. Eco camping on the meadows and treks through the nature trails will add diversity to the adventure activities.
For the leisure tourists, the beautiful huts amidst the pine grove with clouds rolling up the valley and covering them with mist would be a bewitching sight. The location also has a mesmerizing view of the snow capped Pir Panjal range. A leisurely walk through the Deodar forest envelops a visitor with serenity. The apple and walnut orchards, the thickets of wild pomegranates, the rhododendrons blooming in the Oak woodlands, the Khaleej pheasants with attractive plumage scurrying for cover would be a lifetime experience. The PMDP project would also enhance demand for local products like white honey, anardana, the seeds of wild Pomegranate, Kaladi – a tangy and rich textured cheese to name a few.
The Sanasar – Nathatop – Patnitop and Sudhmahadev – Mantalai circuit encompassing the rich flora and fauna of the region, the rolling lush green meadows, thick forests and clear streams are already on the world tourism map.
For the religiously inclined, the holy shrine of Sankari Devta, Shiv Parvati caves of Moungri and numerous Bowlis known for rich stone carvings and held sacred by locals offer spiritual rejuvenation. With black topping of Udhampur to Krimachi Mansar road, the tourists have the unique opportunity of visiting the ancient temple and fort complex of Krimachi.
The development of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna PMGSY roads from Pancheri to Janoori, Pancheri to Nomol, Pancheri to Sankhpal, Lander to Kansal-Lolanpat and Lander to Upper Katti are going to complete the tourist circuit of Pancheri, Sanasar, Nathatop and Patnitop.
The tourism project has already given a boost to the development of shops, eateries and restaurants at Kainthgali, the mountain pass ushering visitors from Udhampur Doon to cool climes of Pancheri. The farmers, orchardists and village folk known for their simplicity and sweet nature are expecting a better bargain for their unique agricultural and forest produce. Already the black morels, Guchchi of the temperate forests of the region are worth their weight in gold.
The local folk artists will surely be able to showcase their rich culture and talent to the discerning visitors. It is also expected to encourage the concept of home stays for the tourists wishing to experience the local culture. The tourism project under PMDP is bound to transform the sleepy hill station into a blossoming visitors and the tourists destination on the tourism map of the country.
Nagendra Singh Jamwal