Located 22km from Srinagar, Dachigam National Park literally stands for ‘ten villages.’ That is because ten villages were brought together in order to create the park. Divided into two parts – Upper Dachigam and Lower Dachigam, the latter is more accessible to a traveller. Upper Dachigam, on the other hand, is a good day’s trek from the nearest road-head.
Declared a national park in 1981, Dachigam is best known as the home to the endangered hangul, or Kashmir stag. Himalayan black bear are also spotted here during spring and autumn, feeding up on the walnuts and acorns, building fat for its long hibernation in the winter. If you’re planning a trip to the park in summers, among the most commonly spotted wildlife are the long-tailed marmots, mouse hare, leopard, common palm civet, jackal, red fox, yellow-throated marten and the Himalayan weasel. The park is also home to over 145 different bird species including the lammergeier, Himalayan monal, pheasant and the blue magpie. There was a time when wild boars were also found in the park; until the population was completely wiped out in the 1990s.
The national park occupies half of the catchment area of the Dal Lake; it plays a crucial role is supplying clean drinking water to the inhabitants of Srinagar. The flora around the park is specially attractive and have been planted keeping in mind that they can be a source of fodder to the wild denizens of the park. The most common ones found here are the oak trees and the horse chestnut trees. Since the road runs for just 10km inside the park, to truly enjoy the beauty and appreciate its wildlife, exploring the park on foot is highly recommended.
While Dachigam National Park is open throughout the year, the best time to visit is between April and October. That’s when the rutting season is on and Kashmir’s glorious autumn tree colours are in full bloom.