Swadesh Darshan-Pong Dam

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Swadesh Darshan 2.0-Pong Dam

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The Swadesh Darshan Scheme was launched in 2015 by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, to develop sustainable and responsible tourism destinations in the country. The Ministry had sanctioned 76 projects under the Scheme to date. With the mantra of ‘vocal for local’, the revamped scheme, namely Swadesh Darshan 2.0 seeks to attain “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” by realizing India’s full potential as a tourism destination. Swadesh Darshan 2.0 is not an incremental change but a generational shift to evolve Swadesh Darshan Scheme as a holistic mission to develop sustainable and responsible tourism destinations covering tourism and allied infrastructure, tourism services, human capital development, destination management and promotion backed by policy and institutional reforms. The current scheme envisages development of sustainable and responsible tourist destinations in the country by adopting the Destination Centric Approach.

Ministry of Tourism, after the Central Sanctioning and Monitoring Committee’s approval vide its letter dated 04.01.2023 provided the In-Principal Approval of Mysuru to be developed under Swadesh Darshan 2.0 Scheme.

The Vision of Pong Dam

The Pong Dam Lake otherwise known as Maharana Pratap Sagar, is one of India’s largest man made reservoir, rich in unique biodiversity. This dam was built in 1975 named in honor of Maharana Pratap, this reservoir or lake is a famous wildlife sanctuary and one of the 25 international wetland sites declared by Ramsar Sammel in India. A reservoir has been constructed on the river Beas in the wet land of Shivalik hills of Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. The vast waterbody of nearly ​​24,529 hectares (60,610 acres), and part of the lakes is 15,662 hectares (38,700 acres). Pong reservoir is the most important fish reservoir in the foothills of the Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh. In this reservoir, majestic fish is found in excess. An international Ramsar site, the wetlands of Pong Dam Lake are consindered a ‘wetlands of international importance’, thanks to the large congregation of the ‘Bar Headed Goose’.

The Pong Dam Lake comprises separate locations that are about an hour away from each other: – Khatiyar where watersports and clifftop views are on offer – Nangal Chowk suitable for casual recreation Nagrota Surian which hosts the Pong Dam Lake Bird Sanctuary and Wildlife Sanctuary – Bathu Ki Ladi Temples that are fully submerged for eight months in a year. Some of the interesting places nearby include Pragpur and Garli Villages, Dada Siba Fort, Kangra Fort and Masroor Rock Cut Temples.

Pong Dam Lake Bird Sanctuary

More than 420 species of birds across 56 bird families have been recorded at the Pong Dam Lake, making it one of the world’s best bird watching spots and a hidden gem. Nagrota Surian hosts the Pong Dam Lake Bird Sanctuary which is home to several species of migratory birds. What makes Pong Dam Lake as a ‘Wetlands of international importance’, is the largest congregation of the ‘Bar headed geese’; it is said that more than 50,000 birds congregate during the migratory season. Some of the other avian species that are seen here including jungle fowls, egrets, storks, herons, kingfishers, gulls, terns and many more. One of the uniquely interesting experience here is the ‘Vulture Cafe’, where cattle carcasses are made available at one spot, for vultures to ‘feast’ (scavenge) upon them. The best time to visit the Bird Sanctuary is between November and February


The Regional Centre for Watersports at Khatiyar provides facilities for water based activity with the help of good quality euipments. Training in swimming, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, rowing and water skiing are conducted here.


The Pong Dam Wildlife Sanctuary is also located near Nagrota Surian.


The vastly expansive Pong Dam Lake is surrounded by village roads and flat areas that enable cycling enthusiasts take to leisurely trails. This is a great way to explore Pong Dam, its rich biodiversity, village life around, and take advantage of scenic sights of the area. On clear days during winter, the snow peaked himalayan mountain ranges are visible, and it takes slow paced activity with adequate breaks to see and enjoy the sight.


The vast expanse of the Pong Dam Lake offers scope for learning, perfecting and enjoying the act of panoramic photography. The clifftop across Khatiyar are filled with many vantage points that photogprahy walks and tours possibility.

When to Go: Summers are the best months for catching spectacular views. Winters are best for bird spotting and photography.

What to Pack: Comfortable dress that suit different seasons and activity like walking, boating, water sports, bird spotting. Sun creams during summers may be a good idea.

Rancer Island

The Rancer Island is a 20-minute boat ride from Khatiyar. The island is home to several species of exotic and rare reptiles and houses birds of many kinds. Rancer Island stands as a well-guarded secret, revealing an exquisite blend of untouched scenic beauty and the promise of adventure.

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Marsoor Rock Cut Temple

The Marsoor rock cut temples are carved out of a monolith, and is the only such temple in all of North India, are covered with amazingly detailed carvings depicting Shiva, Kartikeya, Indra, Surya, as well as many forms of the goddesses. 

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Kangra Fort

The Kangra Fort is one of the oldest Himalayan forts, built by the Katoch dynasty. Maharaja Sansar Chandra Museum at the fort displays ancient stone sculptures, artefacts, idols and carvings that survived the great earthquake of 1905.

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Dada Siba Fort

The Dada Siba fort tells the story of princely states that once flourished here. One of the highlights of the village is the temple dedicated to Radha and Krishna.  The temple’s construction is adorned with intricately carved stone, and its design is a fusion of local Himachali and Rajasthani architectural styles.

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Pragpur Village

Village Pragpur is India’s first ‘heritage village’ notified in 1997 by Govt. of Himachal Pradesh. The village was founded during the late 16th Century by the Jaswan royal family, in memory of the princess Prag Dei. 

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Garli Village

Barely 3 km away from Pragpur, is Garli village. This hamlet too has plenty of heritage buildings. A striking feature of the village is the heady mix of Portuguese, Italian, Islamic and Rajasthani styles of architecture and building patterns.

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By Air

Gaggal airport is the nearest airport from Pong-Dam, located at a distance of only 75.9km from Pong-Dam. This airport is connected to Delhi through frequent flights.

Contact no.: 01892-232374

By Train

The nearest broad gauge railway station is Pathankot Cantt.(Chakki) at a distance of 70km from Pongdam and nearest narrow gauge railway station is Nandpur Bhatauli railway Station, Baryal Himachal Railway Station. Further, you can hire a taxi, or direct buses.

Station Superintendent Pathankot: 01862-22041

By Road

The Pong dam is 466km from New Delhi, 170 kilometers from Chandigarh, 110 kilometers from Amritsar, 55 kilometers from Dharamshala.You can take HRTC volvo buses from Delhi ISBT to kangra and from Kangra you can take local buses to Pong dam or you can also hire taxi from taxi stand Kangra.

Bus Stand Kangra: 01892-260219

We value your experience!

If you’ve recently explored destinations under Swadesh Darshan 2.0, we’d love to hear from you. Your feedback helps us improve and tailor future experiences to better suit your preferences. Share your thoughts and suggestions with us through our feedback form. Your input is invaluable in shaping the future of Indian tourism.

Thank you for being a part of Swadesh Darshan 2.0 journey!


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Glimpse of Pong Dam and nearby Places

Travel Responsibly

Travel Slow, and Longer: Time is of essence and we all love to tick off our bucket list destinations, and get there first. Instead of rushing through places of interest, it will prove inspiring and beneficial to travel in a relaxed manner. Soaking up most of the essence of the destination, its traditions and history will prove to be the best experience of a lifetime. The vast expanse of Pong Dam Lake demands a slower, easier course of travel.

Respect the land and its people: The local population of each destination have called it home for centuries. Each of these places practice unique customs and traditions. Respecting them and being participants in their traditions will not only enhance your experience, but will also encourage them to maintain these practices. This will have enormous rub off implications that will contribute to the sustenance of cultural traditions.

Conserve water and energy: Thought it sounds like a cliche, water is a precious commodity, and using it judiciously and carefully will be the greatest act of care that can be carried out. Staying at hotels or home stays and unlimited usage of electricity may not create a hole in your pocket, but it impacts future availability for local residents. So turn off lights and A/Cs when not in use, take shorter baths, use laundry services only when absolutely necessary.

Avoid single use plastic: At all costs, avoid them. Waterbodies and aqua flora and fauna are the biggest sufferers thanks to plastics clogging the underwater space. Carry your own water bottles, for instance, or if you are forced to buy bottled water, try to re-use them as much as possible. At the very least, dispose them responsibly.

Choose sustainable accommodation options: Travellers can force the tourism industry to adhere to responsible and eco friendly practices. You can ensure the industry prioritises sustainability over pure commerce by choosing only those who practice sustainable principles.