Imagine a beautiful cottage on side of a gushing river stream set in between lush green forest with wonderful views of snow clad mountains, just like in fairy tales and that is Chatpal (Pronounced as छज-बल in Hindi), an unexplored gem in Kashmir.
Chatpal is not a regular touristic spot. Actually, there is no village or town so named as Chatpal. This is a 2 bedroom cottage owned by Jammu & Kashmir Tourism on side of a small waterfall that goes with the name of Chatpal and so people call the place with the same name. But Chatpal is real unexplored beauty in Kashmir, set far off from regular tourist spots and perfectly ideal if you are looking to have a peaceful time amidst nature. During day time, you can walk by the side of river stream, visit Thimran (last village on the road to mountains) and at night, you can sleep hearing the sound of flowing river stream.
We wanted to visit an offbeat place in Kashmir full of natural beauty and also not frequented by tourists. After a lot of online research and wonderful guidance from Jammu & Kashmir Tourism, we zeroed in for Chatpal. Despite us visiting Chatpal in Early November ( off-season time), we found the place quite beautiful.
We walked down the hill walking up to the river stream. Views all around were really fantastic, nothing but mountains and green forest. A small boy was grazing his horses on river side. We sat on the boulders on the side and enjoyed the sound of river in complete solitude. We crossed the river stream through a small bridge made from wooden planks and went up walking to Thimran.
Thimran is the last village on the road to mountains. We walked through the single lane of the village and were well greeted by all people who met us on the way. Almost each one of them invited us to their house for tea. Finally, we found the house of Nazir Koka, our friend whom we had just met on river side. He took us for a walk up on mountains and then we joined his family at his home and sipped special Namkeen Kashmiri Tea along with Sattu. Kashmiri people are wonderful host and we felt it all long our journey through Kashmir.
Jammu & Kashmir Tourism Management took a wonderful care of ours and their generous hospitality multi-folded our joy. Mohammad Farooq , Manager of Chatpal Cottages is also a wonderful cook. Since nothing is available around Chatpal, so he specially brought all supplies from Achabal and Chitirgul for us. He cooked really finger licking lunch. At night, when it got really cold, Yusuf, Mr. Farooq’s assistant ensured that we have as many blankets and quilts as possible to save our self from the cold :). Yusuf was really fun to talk and he told us about his family, lot of local stories and also about Kashmiri culture.
There are good chances that you will not have electricity for a good part of stay but that is a fun too. We had candle night dinner on 3 out of 6 nights that we spent in Kashmir. Yusuf took us out of cottages at night and asked us to feel the silence of night, pitch dark with not a single light visible. He told us that this is what people come here to feel – complete silence.
How to reach Chatpal
Chatpal is located approx. 35 KMs from Anantnag (also known as Islamabad locally). You can hire a taxi from Anantnag to Chatpal or alternately you can take public transport. Shared jeeps are quite common in Kashmir as public transport. Travelling in public transport primarily shared jeeps during 6 days of our Kashmir visit was another wonderful experience.
To reach Chatpal by public transport, you can take a shared jeep from Islamabad to Achabal (Distance ~10 KMs, Fare ~ INR 20). Though distance is small but road condition was poor and thus it took around 40 minutes for us to cover this distance. From Achabal, you can take another shared jeep to Chitirgul (Distance ~15 KMs, Fare ~ INR 30).
At Chitirgul, you will find another shared jeep to Chatpal (Distance ~10 KMs, Fare ~ INR 15). This jeep shall drop you at a point from where you have to walk around 1 KM to reach the Jammu & Kashmir Tourism Cottages. In case, you don’t have a lot of luggage, you can easily walk up to the cottages. We enjoyed walking this small stretch with many small water streams flowing on our side, one of them being Chatpal water fall itself.
How to book Chatpal Cottages (Location)
Chatpal currently has only 2 bed room cottage owned by Jammu & Kashmir Tourism. They are developing more cottages at the same place and in some time, more rooms may be available. As told by Farooq ji, Chatpal is quite popular with local tourists in summers and trekkers who use it as a base before moving to multiple treks starting from this point. Md. Yusuf, who manages these cottages agreed to share his number over here. You may contact him at 09906577055 to enquire for availability and also to book accommodation. During our visit, we paid INR 700 for 1 night stay and an additional INR 800 for meals.