Himachal Pradesh: Abode of Gods

At last they entered a world within a world – a valley of leagues where the high hills were fashioned of the mere rubble and refuse from off the knees of the mountains… surely the Gods live here

Rudyard Kipling in his novel “Kim”

Reasons to visit

1. Natural beauty and rustic charm

Himachal Pradesh’s landscape is characterized by mountainous region and a river system that comprises of Sutlej, Beas, Chandra and Bhaga and many others. There are dense forests, known for their grandeur and majesty, like a green pearl. Several well known hill stations such as Shimla, Manali, Dalhousie and Dharamshala.

Then there are cold and mountainous desert regions like the Spiti Valley with its destinations such as Kaza, Tabo and Kibber (offers camping facilities during summers) and Langza (known for its rich fossil reserves). Additionally one can see the Tirthan Valley and Parvati Valley. Lesser known destinations like Shoja are appearing on travel maps. Chitkul and Sangla on the banks of the Baspa river in Baspa Valley, are known for natural scenery and snow views. Himachal has sufficient infrastructure but it has retained its rustic charm.

2. Snowfall and winter / summer breaks

Depending on if a cold winter attracts you or if you want an escape from high temperatures in summer, Himachal Pradesh provides both the options. Many areas in Himachal Pradesh experience snowfall during winters – ex. Dalhousie, Dharamshala, Manali, Shimla and Spiti Valley. During summer months the low to moderate temperatures in Himachal provide a relief from scorching heat in the plains.

Dalhousie in winter

3. Cultural influences

Himachal has a mix of cultural influences with Dharamshala / Mcleod Ganj being one of the centers of Tibetan Buddhism. One can see those cultural influences in Manali as well. Several Buddhist monasteries that can be visited in the Spiti valley – well known monasteries are (1) Key monastery, (2) Dhankar monastery and (3) Tabo monastery. In Manikaran, near Kullu one can visit the Manikaran Sahib gurudwara. A number of festivals are also held in the state and one of those is the Kullu Dussehra.

4. Adventure and winter sports

One can visit Himachal for adventure and winter sports such as paragliding, rafting and skiing. Some of the best locations for paragliding are (1) Kullu near Manali (2) Bir Billing – with visitors from all over the India and the world. The altitude of the launch site is ~ 2400 m (3) Khajjiar near Dalhousie.

Guided rafting is conducted on (1) the Beas river near Kullu, (2) Ravi river near Chamba and (3) on the Spiti river in the Lahaul and Spiti district.

The best locations for skiing in Himachal Pradesh are (1) Kufri (2) Narkanda about 65 km from Shimla (3) Rohtang La (4) and the slopes of Solang Nala near Manali.

5. Motorcycle riding

Himachal Pradesh is holy grail for the motorcycle riding enthusiasts. Major riding routes in Himachal are (1) the world famous Manali – Leh Highway starting from Manali (~ 2000 m) – Taglang La (5300+ m) and reaching Leh (~ 3500 m). It covers 5 high altitude passes above 4000 m (2) Pangi Valley is a remote and tribal region in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh, an adrenaline pumping experience while riding on one of the most dangerous roads (3) Spiti Valley – for the adventure motorcyclist with ~70% unpaved roads and water crossings. Visits to some of the oldest monasteries adds the cultural flavor to the experience. The landscape changes from green to barren to green again. One can also visit the highest villages that remain inhabited throughout the year.

6. Art and architecture

One can visit the International Roerich Memorial Trust (IRMT) Kullu to see the beautiful paintings of Nicholas Roerich and Svetoslav Roerich. The Viceregal Lodge in Shimla is an example of Jacobethan style of architecture. The Naggar Castle built in the 15th century used earth-quake proof techniques – which helped it survive the 1905 earthquake.

7. Trekking and camping

Himachal Pradesh is a playground for trekkers. The treks range from easy to moderate to difficult levels. For those starting to trek easy options are Triund trek near Dharamshala, Prashar Lake trek, Kareri Lake trek and Hampta Pass trek. Treks in the difficult category are Pin Parvati Pass trek, Parang La trek, and Kugti Pass trek. Around Kasol, Tosh and Kheerganga are destinations for short treks.

Some of the well known camping sites are (1) Kasol – near Manali. Several camping sites by the side of the Parvati river (2) Triund near Dharamshala/ Mcleod Ganj (3) Tabo in Spiti (4) Sangla Valley and Kalpa in Kinnaur and (5) Mashobra and Narkanda near Shimla.

8. Himachali Food

Similar to its natural beauty, Himachali cuisine is aromatic and flavorful. The influence of Punjabi and Tibetan style is clearly seen. Options to eat range from street side stalls, authentic cafes and restaurants. Most of the hotels also have their restaurants. Aloo Parathas and Rajma – Rice is universally available. Momos are available at street food joints and restaurants. Other traditionally Himachali dishes that can be tried are (1) Dham: which is a combination of dal, rajma, rice and curd. (2) Babru: A Himachali variation of the north Indian Kachori (3) Chana Madra – a dish cooked in oil and spices, consists mainly of chickpeas or vegetables.

Locally brewed wines such as apple, apricot and plum can be tried for different experience to the traditional options.

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