Himachal Pradesh

Himachal Pradesh, a northern Indian state in the Himalayas, is known for its trekking, climbing, skiing and scenic mountain towns and resorts. Host to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Himachal Pradesh has a strong Tibetan presence, reflected in its Buddhist temples, monasteries and cuisine.

Himachal Pradesh is currently the third fastest growing economy in India. An abundance of perennial rivers enables Himachal to sell hydro-electricity to other states. The state is highly dependent on three economic sources: hydroelectric power, tourism and agriculture. The hill stations of Himachal are among the most visited places in country. The government has successfully imposed environmental protection and tourism development that meet European standards. It is the only Indian state which forbids the use of polythene and tobacco products.

Places to See:

Named after Lord Dalhousie, the British Governor General of the 19th century in India, this hill station at 2036 meters, is full of old world charm from a bygone era. It covers an area of 14 sq km and is built on five hills – Kathlog, Patreyn, Tehra, Bakrota and Balun. Dalhousie is surrounded by varied vegetation such as pines, deodars, oaks and flowering rhododendron.

Dalhousie has charming colonial architecture, including beautiful churches. Its location presents panoramic views of the plains and like a long silver line, the river Ravi twists and turns below Dalhousie. The spectacular snow-covered Dhauladhar mountains are also visible from this enchanting town.

Attractions: Beautiful walks and church visits to St. Andrew’s, St. Patrick’s, St. Francis and St.John’s; Subhash Baoli, an enchanting spot surrounded by majestic trees; picturesque Panchpula where a stream feeds a series of pools and the Kalatop wild life sanctuary which is home to the ghoral (a near-threatened bovid species) and the himalayan black bear.

Shopping: Tibetan handicrafts including pullovers and carpets at Dalhousie; slippers, handkerchiefs and shawls at Chamba town.

Accessibility: Dalhousie is 485 km by road from Delhi and 52 km from Chamba. The closest railhead is Pathankot, 80 km away. The airport at Gaggal in Kangra is 135 km away. Taxis and buses are easily available from these places.

Best time to visit: Summer months from March to June is a peak period for tourists.

Cool breeze from the forests accompanied by soothing Buddhist chants make this place a paradise on earth. Originally called Bhagsu, Dharamshala, at an average elevation of 1457 meters (4780 feet,) is a beautiful gem in Himachal Pradesh.

Situated on the upper reaches of the Kangra valley and surrounded by coniferous forests, its village McLeodGanj is the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and also headquarters the Central Tibetan Administration. Dharamshala is the center of the Tibetan exile world in India. Following the 1959 Tibetan uprising, there was an influx of Tibetan refugees who followed the 14th Dalai Lama. His presence and the Tibetan population has made Dharamshala a popular destination for Indian and foreign tourists.

Dharamshala attracts travelers, photographers, pilgrims, art lovers, writers, spiritual practitioners, adventure enthusiasts and students studying Tibet, throughout the year. The beautiful Kangra valley and forest provide the best locations for trekking, camping, rock climbing and other adventure activities. Apart from the scenic beauty, this place is famous for Tibetan art, culture and festivals.

Attractions: Masrus – a single stone carved temple, 30 feet cascade waterfall Bhagsu, Bhagsunag temple, Kangra museum, Naam art gallery, Chamunda and Kunal patri temples are tourist attractions. Scenic picnic spots and trekking trails include Dal lake, Triund, Naddi, Toral pass, Bhimghasutri pass, Bleni pass and the Dhauladhar range for rock climbing.

Shopping: Art, jewelry, accessories, shawls and other woolens, buddhist paintings and statues are beautiful articles to shop for. McLeodGanj is famous for its Tibetan market and food stalls.

Accessibility: Gaggal Airport, 15 km away from the main city. Travel by train or bus is from Pathankot (94 km) via Kangra Valley Station.

Best time to visit: Throughout the year, however the weather is pleasant between March and July.

This small hill station at 1951 meters seems to live in time warp that belongs to the 19th century. The narrow roads of Kasauli slither up and down the hillside and offer magnificent vistas. Directly below is the spread of vast plains of Punjab and Haryana which as darkness falls, unroll a gorgeous carpet of twinkling lights. At 3647 meters, the Choor Chandni peak also called Choordhar powerfully dominates the lower hills and across the undulating ranges, Shimla is visible.

A mixed forest of pine, oak and huge horse-chestnut encircles the town. Its colonial ambience is reinforced by stretches of cobbled road, quaint shops, gabled houses with charming facades and scores of neat little gardens and orchards, making for a great walking destination.

Attractions: Lawrence school situated on the top of a hill, Monkey point Hanuman temple, Shirdi Sai and Baba Balak Nath temples, Christ and the Baptist Church, Central Research Institute established in 1906 that prepares various vaccines and Kuthar for old wall paintings. The small Sanwara Station (16 km) on the Kalka Shimla Railway line offers a good downhill hike from Kasauli.

Shopping: Tibetan handicrafts, woolen garments, wooden, straw & brass souvenirs, hand-woven shawls, sweaters, stoles, scarves, home-made wines, jams and pickles are some of the products that you may buy from these markets.

Accessibility: The closest broad gauge railhead is at Kalka, 37 km away. The closest airport are at Chandigarh and Shimla. Taxis and buses for Kasauli are available from Delhi, Chandigarh, Kalka and Shimla.

Climate: April-November is best. In winter, the temperature gets quite low and heavy woolens are required. In summer, the climate is mild and light woolens/cottons are recommended.

This remote village is situated on the banks of the Parvati river in Himachal Pradesh. Kasol is a paradise for backpackers, trekkers and nature enthusiasts due to its scenic beauty, untouched environment and great climate through the year.

The village is also known as the mini Israel of Himachal Pradesh as it attracts many Israeli tourists. You will find internet cafes, body piercing parlors, hip bars and numerous western-style restaurants here. It is also an important base for treks to Sar Pass, Yanker Pass and Pin Parbati Pass.

Kasol is a perfect getaway for a down-to-earth vacationer, giving a miss to urban comforts & busy schedules. Feel connected with nature, experience off-beat thrills in everything you do and breathe in the solitude this quaint paradise offers. From an action-packed mountain trek to doing just nothing, Kasol has plenty in store for everyone.

Attractions: Angling, nature treks, rafting, mountain treks, hot water springs, culture and cuisine.

Accessibility: Well connected by road from Kullu, Manali & Chandigarh. The closest airport is Bhuntar airport near Kullu Manali. Cabs can be booked for your trip.

Best time to visit: Through the year. Summer months of March to May is the best season.

Kullu, at 1220 meters was once known as Kulanthapitha, the end of the habitable world. Faced with the forbidding heights of the Greater Himalayas and located by the banks of the shining river Beas is the fabled silver valley. Kullu got its first motorable access only after India’s independence. The long centuries of seclusion have allowed the area to retain a considerable part of its traditional charm.

The silver valley has nature’s treasures like splendid forests, orchards, valleys and clear mountain streams coupled with gentle, hospitable people. Kullu coupled with Manali, is a highly sought-after honeymooner’s paradise thanks to its romantic landscapes and cool weather.

Attractions: The Kullu Dusshera festival celebrations when the valley is at its colorful best; local eateries, Lord Ram’s temple, Bijli Mahadev temple, the famous Vaishno Devi shrine, Kaisdhar – a high meadow fringed by deodhar trees, local cuisine, nature and town walks. Long trekking trails are also accessible across the mountains and passes.

Shopping: Shawls, local tweeds, rugs, foot wear, baskets, natural oil of almond and olive, special kullu caps.

Accessibility: The airport at Bhunter, 10 km from Kullu, where taxis and buses are available. Connected by road from Delhi and Shimla.

Best time to visit: May to October is best. In winter, the temperature can drop to below freezing point when heavy woolens are required. Summer temperature is mild and light woolens / cottons are recommended.

At 17,000 feet above sea level, Lahoul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh are undoubtedly the most beautiful places in the world. The hilly tracts of Lahoul and Spiti (pronounced Piti) are situated to the south of Ladakh and share an international boundary with Tibet.

The naturally scenic valleys, mountains, glaciers, rivers, forests, pastures, gompas (monasteries) and ancient buildings of the former ruling dynasty are the principal tourist attractions. The rugged awe-inspiring snow clad mountains are a standing invitation to the hikers, mountaineers and adventurers.

The customs and beliefs of the simple, unsophisticated people are the unique features of this border highland. Every village has a prayer flag fluttering over the Buddhist shrine, the centers of cultural life for centuries around which, social life revolves.

Temperatures range from minus 30 degrees in winter to over 30 degrees in summer, the dusty and dry weather conditions making life tough for its people. Frequent power cut and poor infrastructure are other issues that impact the locals. For nearly 6 months in winter, Spiti turns into a cold desert due to heavy snowfall and is cut off from the rest of the world. Fifteen years ago Spiti was not on any tourist itinerary however now, tourists from all over are discovering its pristine beauty.

Attractions: Buddhist monasteries, secluded villages, home stays, wildlife including snow leopard and ibex found in the Pin valley, fossil parks, extremely rugged terrain, expansive valleys, high mountain passes, long winding rivers, glaciers and old temples. Trekking, river rafting and attending the local festivals is a delight in Lahoul and Spiti.

Shopping: Carpets, woolen shawls and clothes, bedroom slippers made of grass, ceramic utensils, stone gems and local jewelry, old Tibetan paintings, sea buckthorn berries and juice (a wild berry rich in vitamins, minerals and fatty acids, is a magic recipe for good health.)

Accessibility: Nearest airport to Lahoul is the Bhunter Airport in Kullu. Using the road from Manali (115 km,) you could reach Keylong in Lahoul through the Rohtang Pass by bus or jeep. The nearest airport, road and railway station to Spiti is at Shimla (412 km.) The road to Lahoul remains closed from mid-November to mid-May every year due to closure of the Rohtang Pass. Due to closure of Kunzam Pass, the road from Lahoul to Spiti is closed from November to June, however the road to Spiti valley from Kinnaur is almost an all-weather road.

Best time to visit: Comfortable during summer from May to mid Oct. There is little or no rain in monsoon. The climate remains dry & invigorating. The days are hot and nights, extremely cold. Heavy/Light woolens are recommended. During winter in November to April, it snows heavily and the temperature goes below minus degrees with average annual snowfall of about 7 feet.

Manali is just about an hour’s drive from Kullu hence most tourists view Kullu Manali as one destination. Legend has it that Varvasvata, the seventh incarnation of Manu found a tiny fish in his bathing water. The fish told him to look after it with devotion and one day it would do him a great service. He cared for the fish till the day it grew so huge that he released it into the sea. Before departing, the fish warned him of an impending deluge when the entire world would be submerged and asked him to build a sea worthy ark.

When the flood came, Varvasvata and seven sages were towed on the ark to safety by Matsya, the fish, regarded as first reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. As the water subsided, the ark came to the rest on a hillside and the place was named Manali (2050 meters) after Manu. After the flood waters dried up arose this place of breathtaking natural beauty appropriately believed to be the beginning of life. High mountains surrounded by snow, deep boulder strewn gorges, thick forests full of cool breeze, trekking trails and birds, fields of wild flowers, small picturesque hamlets and fruit laden orchards make Manali a prime holiday destination.

Attractions: Temples like the Hadimba temple, Manu temple, ancient temples of Lord Shiva and Gayathri Devi, temple Vashisth for hot springs, monasteries, Solang valley for skiing and picnics, local eateries, Rahalla falls, trekking trails, nature walks and the Rohtang pass at 3978 meters which is a crucial link on the old trade route.

Shopping: Shawls, local tweeds, rugs, foot wear, baskets, natural oil of almond and olive, special caps.

Accessibility: The airport at Bhunter is 50 km from Manali where taxis and buses are available. The closest narrow gauge railhead is at Joginder Nagar, 165 km away. The closest broad gauge rail heads are Chandigarh and Ambala. From Delhi, there are regular luxury and volvo buses to Manali.

Best time to visit: May to October is best. In winter, the temperature can drop to below freezing point when heavy woolens are required. Summer temperature is mild and light woolens / cottons are recommended.

Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh, was the summer capital of the British in India and continues to showcase remnants of english history. Its well-developed facilities, easy accessibility and numerous attractions makes it one of India’s most popular hill resorts. Situated on the lower ranges of the Himalayan Mountains, it is surrounded by pine, deodar, oak and rhododendron forests. Shimla has high snow-covered ranges in the north and valleys below that are home to pristine streams and charming fields. In the town, you can see splendid colonial edifices and quaint cottages. Shimla offers a variety of shopping, sport and entertainment activities.

Attractions: The Ridge, a large open space in the heart of town that presents excellent views of the mountain ranges, Lakkar bazaar for woodcrafts and souvenirs, State museum, St Michael’s cathedral, the neo-gothic structure of Christ church and the Tudor library are worth visiting. Jakhoo hill at 2455 meters is the town’s highest peak and a famous point for Shimla’s scenic views. The Glen is a popular picnic spot through a thickly wooded ravine with a stream. Kufri and Fagu are high altitude destinations for picturesque views and ski slopes. Visit Chail palace that has been converted to a luxury hotel and Tattapani for hot sulphur springs, believed to have medicinal value. Trekking, town trails and nature walks, visits to temples dedicated to the Hindu deities are enjoyable things to do while on holiday in Shimla.

Shopping: Handicrafts, wood and metalwork, shawls, pullovers, local tweeds, caps, tibetan carpets, pickles, jams and squashes.

Accessibility: The airport is at Jubbar-Hatti, 23 km away. Shimla is connected to Kalka by an enchanting narrow gauge railway line. During tourist season, the state government operates deluxe buses from Delhi and Manali. Cabs could also be booked for your travel.

Best time to visit: April – August, December – January. In winter, the temperature can drop below freezing point when heavy woolen wear would be required. Summer temperature is mild and light woolens/cotton garments are recommended.

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