From Lacking Amenities to Tourist Destination: The Inspiring Story of Bhaloli Village, Chamba

Nestled just three kilometers away from the bustling tourist hub of Khajjiar, lies a village with a remarkable tale of resilience and innovation. Bhaloli, also known as the 'Not on Map Mystic Village', is a charming hamlet situated near the popular tourist destination of Khajjiar in the picturesque Chamba district. Part of the Singi gram panchayat, Mystic Village stands as the first tourism-based community village of the Gaddi tribe. The village is home to the Gaddi tribe and features five homestays managed by the Gabdika self-help group.It has defied the odds by transforming from a place lacking basic amenities to a thriving community through the power of homestay tourism.

Five years ago, Shankar, who belongs to the Gaddi tribe, decided to leave his catering business in Punjab and return home for good. Shankar, who always missed the pristine climate of his village, made this major decision in his life despite earning a decent living. However, starting a new venture near the crowded Khajjiar was difficult, and Bhaloli itself remained inaccessible by road.

Despite doubts from many, he decided to settle in Bhaloli. The village not only lacked basic amenities but also sufficient means of livelihood, as the landholdings were small and agricultural produce was inadequate to sustain the residents.

Facing challenges such as limited livelihood opportunities and inadequate amenities, the villagers of Bhaloli, predominantly belonging to the Gaddi tribe, found hope in the form of homestay tourism. With the support of 'Not on Map', a Chamba-based organization promoting responsible tourism, the villagers opened their homes to visitors, offering an authentic experience of Himalayan village life.

NotOnMap: Empowering Villages and Redefining Travel

NotOnMap is a unique initiative that flips the script on traditional tourism. Instead of large corporations profiting from cultural experiences, NotOnMap empowers remote communities by placing them at the center of the travel experience.

Here's how NotOnMap uplifts the local community in Bhaloli:

  • Community-Run Homestays: Forget impersonal hotels. NotOnMap connects visitors with local families who offer homestay experiences. This provides a direct source of income for the Gaddi people and fosters cultural exchange.
  • Preserving Traditions: Tourism can often erode cultural identity. NotOnMap works alongside the Gaddi community to ensure tourism promotes and preserves their traditions. Visitors gain a deeper understanding of the Gaddi way of life, fostering respect and appreciation.
  • Sustainable Practices: NotOnMap prioritizes responsible tourism practices. Revenue generated goes directly back into the community, allowing for investment in infrastructure and environmental initiatives. This ensures a sustainable future for both the village and its visitors.
  • Local Control: Bhaloli, through NotOnMap, has the power to decide how tourism functions within their village. This empowers the community to set their own terms and ensure tourism benefits them directly.

Through this innovative approach, Bhaloli has not only flourished economically but has also preserved its rich cultural heritage. Guests staying in the village's homestays get a chance to immerse themselves in the traditional cuisines, customs, and daily activities of the villagers, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for the local culture.

Recognition and a Model for the Future

Bhaloli's homestay initiative proved to be a resounding success. The resilience and innovative spirit of its residents paid off. Their efforts to create a sustainable tourism model resonated with travelers seeking genuine experiences. This success story was further validated when Bhaloli received a Silver Medal in the Indian Responsible Tourism category by Outlook Traveller.

A Legacy for Generations to Come

Bhaloli's journey from lacking basic amenities to a thriving tourist destination is an inspiration. It exemplifies sustainable tourism development that blends tradition, innovation, and community collaboration. This model not only bolsters the local economy but also safeguards the village's cultural and natural heritage, ensuring the preservation of its cultural and natural heritage for generations to come.

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