Kotgarh is beautiful valley at an elevation of 7,000 feet overlooking the Satluj River and snow clad sub Himalayan Ranges which consist of the Himachal Pir Panjals and the Baspa Ranges. The place is famous for its Apple and Cherry orchards.
Rudyard Kipling anointed Kotgarh as “The Mistress of the Northern Hills” in his short story, Lispeth. Kotgarh-a rural idyll remains strongly evocative in an era when tranquility and peace is rare. A veritable mélange of pine, fir and spruce forest welcome you with open arms. The fragrance from fields of apple, cherry and myriad stone fruits produced in the valley is not only invigorating, but can be enriching experience for life. Majestic view of cobalt blue sky-a rarity in the age climate change-ameliorated by the tinge of orange is like a painter colauge, to be admired. Humans and environment is still living in harmony at Kotgarh- a rarity in 21th century.
This village is 80 kilometres from Shimla on the old Hindustan Tibet Road. The Road bifurcates from the National Highway 22 at Narkanda toward Kotgarh. This scenic valley offers a marvellous panorama of mountain range, the far ones being snow clad and the near ones being covered with thick deodar trees. In the lower portion of the valley flows the river Sutlej. The area is dotted with huge apple plantations and farmhouses amidst the terraced fields. There are lot of short walks through the forests and apple orchards.
In 1815, Kotgarh became a British territory after the Gurkhas were defeated by the Britishers. The Britishers were impressed by the location, and beauty of the valley. The British encouraged missionary work in the area. You can find the impact of British rule here. Kotgarh is also an ideal holiday location in the Himachal Himalayas.
It was in 1916 that an American missionary from Philadelphia, USA, by the name of Samuel Evan stokes visited this place. He had initially come for spreading the teachings of Christianity, but he was so allured by the people and beauty of the area that he decided to settle here permanently. He married a local girl, by the name of Agnes Benjamin. He converted into a Hindu and renamed himself Satyananda Stokes. The descendants of Satyanand Nand stokes still live in Kotgarh. Satyananda Stokes planted the first commercial apple farm of the area, with plants imported from the famous Stark Apple Nursery growers of Louisiana. As he was a great social worker, he encouraged the local farmers to grow apples in their fields. It’s been 100 years since he propagated the first apple trees here, which still reap rich harvest, and the valley is one of the wealthiest in the Himalayas.
People have always asked me what they can see and do in Kotgarh. Well it’s one place with wonderful mountain vibes that you can just spent the day just around or in your homestay or just wonder around the village roads. The Satlej river flows at the lowest part of the valley and you have the snow clad Pir Panjals and Baspa ranges in the background. The apple, cherry orchards and dense green forests offer you with abundant walks. But have made a list of places that deserve a visit during your stay here.
Gorton Mission church.
Kotgarh in the eighteenth century was a popular vacation spot for the missionaries from the plains. The Church missionary society (CMS) in 1844 opened its first centres at Kotgarh. The church was built in 1872. It is not a very tall structure an apse and a tower bell. The front window has a picture of Christ. Its is a simple and an austere exteriors, which mixes with the wild countryside. It now has an apple orchard in its backyard. Alongside there is also a school known as Gorton. From a mere 13 boys and 2 girls in 1886, It has a strength of around three hundred students now.
Tani Jubbar Eco park.
It’s one holy lake which fields an important local deity. It’s a picturesque location which is surrounded by dense green deodar trees. The place has been extensively used fro movie shootings recently. From the top you can view the snow covered Baspa ranges.
Hatu top and Jaubagh Meadows.
It’s no where near a huge mountain peak, but yes it’s one of the highest near Shimla. It is the home of a local deity, which has it’s houses in a beautiful temple on the top. The top is a meadow ground at an altitude of 10,500 feet. The area is surrounded by forests of Deodar, Oak and yes you may find a few maple peaks. The view from the top is an all round one. You can view the snow clad Pir Panjal, the Baspa ranges and the Uttrakhand Himalayas. The peak of Swarag Rohini is the most prominent from here. Just a fifteen minutes walk from here you will reach the meadow of Jaubagh. There are several trekking routes which you take you to the top of Hatu. There is also a road which goes to the top.
Kotgarh is located 80 Kms from Shimla and 200 Kms from Chandigarh. It is a part of the middle satluj valley.
The winters are cold and can get chilly towards the evenings. In January there are chances of the first snowfall. The springs are pleasent during the day. The summers are warm and dry with a few showers. The Monsoons reach here by the mid of july and remain till the mid of August. Autumn is cool and pleasent.
BSNL, Airtel, Vodafone, Jio, Idea.
Civil dispensary at Thanedhar, Primary health centre at Kotgarh.