Welcome to Himachal Pradesh
Himachal Pradesh is a northern Indian state in the Himalayas. It’s home to scenic mountain towns and resorts such as Dalhousie. Host to the Dalai Lama, Himachal Pradesh has a strong Tibetan presence. This is reflected in its Buddhist temples and monasteries, as well as its vibrant Tibetan New Year celebrations. The region is also well known for its trekking, climbing and skiing areas.
With spectacular snowy peaks and plunging river valleys, Himachal is India’s outdoor adventure playground. From trekking and climbing to rafting, paragliding and skiing, if it can be done in the mountains, it can be done here. A convoluted topography of interlocking mountain chains also makes Himachal a spectacular place simply to explore, by bus, car, motorbike or jeep safari. Every pass crossing into a new valley brings you into a different world, with its own customs, gods and even language. Villages perched on staggering slopes enchant with fairy-tale architecture and their people’s easygoing warmth. Hill stations appeal with holiday atmosphere and colonial echoes, while backpacker magnets lure with their blissed-out vibe and mountain beauty. Such is the variety of the Himachali jigsaw that in McLeod Ganj, the Dalai Lama’s home-away-from-home, and in Lahaul and Spiti, with their centuries-old Buddhist cultures, you might even think you’ve stumbled into Tibet.
Top 10 Tourist Destinations In Himachal Pradesh
Shimla used to be the summer capital of the British Raj when they ruled India. Now it’s the state capital of Himachal Pradesh. The town sprawls along a mountain ridge, enveloped in oak, pine and rhododendron forests. It’s quite famous for its colonial style buildings and historic railway. Some would stay it’s overdeveloped and crowded these days. However, it still has charm. The old Christ Church, with its beautiful stained glass windows, is one of Shimla’s most prominent landmarks. Another is the Viceregal Lodge on Observatory Hill. These can be seen on an historic walking tour of Shimla. There are plenty of adventure sports and short hikes on offer in the vicinity as well.
Manali, with its soothing backdrop of the Himalayas, offers a blend of tranquility and adventure that makes it one of northern India’s most popular destinations. You can do as little or as much as you want there. Located in the Kullu Valley, it’s a magical place bordered by heady pine forest and the raging Beas River, which give it a special energy.
3. Dharamsala and MacLeod Ganj
Nestled a short distance from each other in the Kangra Valley, the towns of Dharamsala and MacLeod Ganj are home to the exiled Tibetan Government. The Dalai Lama resides in Dharamsala, and many Tibetans have followed him there. You can expect to find a strong Tibetan influence in the area, with culture being the main attraction.
People flock to Dharamsala and MacLeod Ganj to undertake Buddhist meditation and philosophy courses, Tibetan cooking classes, Tibetan language courses, and to receive alternative therapies. Volunteer work is another popular pastime. Those interested in sightseeing will find some fascinating museums, temples, gompas, and monasteries. Tsuglagkhang Complex, the official residence of the Dalai Lama, is a highlight.
If you’re interested in pottery or art, don’t miss quaint Andretta village, a 20 minute drive from Palampur in the Kangra District. It can be visited on a day trip from Dharamsala. Otherwise, stay at the delightful Mirage Heritage Homestay.
The village is said to have been established in the 1920s by Irish playwright Norah Richards, who lived there during the Partition and is credited with the rise of Punjabi theater. Later, noted potter Gurucharan Singh (who started Delhi Blue Pottery), and painter Sobha Singh (who was known for his Sikh religious paintings), settled there. The Sobha Singh Art Gallery, housed in the building where he lived, showcases his paintings and personal belongings. The mud-plastered cottage belonging to Norah Richards can also be visited.
Andretta Pottery and Craft Society, a pottery production center, offers three month pottery classes for serious students. Alternatively, you can try your hand at the pottery wheel and get a casual lesson. The Society apparently sells its rangoli-patterned earthenware to FabIndia in Delhi.
Rudyard Kipling described Spiti as a world within a world. This remote, high altitude area of Himachal Pradesh is tucked away against the border of Ladakh and Tibet. It’s only been open to foreign tourists since 1991, and still remains relatively unexplored. Part of this is due to Spiti being barren alpine desert that’s covered in heavy snow for a high proportion of the year.
Getting to Spiti involves a long drive, most popularly from Manali. The constantly evolving scenery is unforgettable and well worth the journey though.
7. Great Himalayan National Park
The Great Himalayan National Park, in the Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. The park has four valleys and covers about 900 square kilometers. Its remote, rugged and untamed terrain makes it sought after by trekkers but only the fittest and most adventurous reach deep inside the core area. There are a number of trekking routes, ranging from three to eight days, with treks between the spectacular Tirthan and Sainj valleys being popular. In addition, less strenuous day walks exist in the park’s Ecozone buffer area, frequented by day trippers. It’s possible to go on tours to interact with the villagers and learn about their activities.
8. Kasol and the Parvati Valley
As the season wanes in Goa, the psychedelic trance scene shifts more than 8,000 feet above sea level into the forest around Kasol, in the Kullu District’s Parvati Valley. Festivals take place at Chalal, near Kasol, from late May until October. To get there, walk 30 minutes from Kasol, crossing the cable suspension bridge over the Parvati River and then following the picturesque riverside path to the village. The season runs from late May until October. Two of the biggest events are Parvati Peaking and Magica Festival.
Dalhousie is refreshingly less crowded than Shimla and Manali, and the surrounding Chamba Valley is a lesser-explored area of Himachal Pradesh. If you’re after spectacular views, then Dalhousie is the place to find them. Spread over five hills at foot of the Dhauladhar mountain range, the town gets its name from founder Lord Dalhousie and bares the distinct stamp of the British Raj. Its hotels are particularly reminiscent of that era.
10. Himalayan Golden Triangle (Thanedhar, Sangla and Sojha)
This off-beat circuit, actively promoted by Banjara Camps, attracts outdoor enthusiasts who want to enjoy nature away from touristy areas. It starts in the heart of Himachal Pradesh’s apple country, in Thanedhar (around two hours from Shimla). The Sangla Valley is located 9,000 feet above sea level in Kinnaur District, close to the Tibetan border, and offers trout fishing and trekking (including glacier trekking in March and April). You can also visit Chitkul village, the last village on the old Indo-Tibetan trade route. Sojha links the Kullu and Shimla districts, and provides more opportunities to venture into the wild mountainous countryside.
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