Strike up a random conversation with your friends the next time you guys meet and ask them to name as many destinations in Himachal Pradesh as they can. And then tip your hat to them if they can give you anything apart from Shimla and Manali. It’s really unfortunate that when it comes to hill stations in India, most people only know these two names along with Uttarakhand’s Nainital. Everyone would go crazy if they were to find out how many stunning mountain destinations are there in India for them to plan their holidays. We are of the opinion that for one article, Himachal Pradesh should be enough to overwhelm you!
The literal meaning of Himachal is ‘the land of snow’ and whenever you set out to explore the hill state, you’ll find numerous mountain ranges covered in snow. Himachal Pradesh is located in the lower Himalayan ranges and has got everything an explorer can imagine - dense forests, beautiful waterfalls, lush greenery, verdant valleys, sprawling meadows, rich culture, history, lip-smacking food, and much more. It’s a paradise for all the adrenaline junkies in particular with an array of adventures like camping, trekking, paragliding, skiing, river rafting, etc. After you’re done enjoying the popular destinations of the state, head to some of the amazing offbeat places like Spiti, Bir-Billing, Kinnaur, Chail, Khajjiar, and Malana.
Continue reading as we take you through the Himachal Pradesh travel guide for your next vacation!
One of the most flourishing and important regions during the Indus Valley Civilization period, Himachal Pradesh was home to a number of tribes including Dasa, Hali, Khasa, Kanaura, Koli, Dhaugri, Dagi, and Kirat. This was followed by the rule of a chain of kings and empires like the Gupta Empire, King Harshavardhana, Sikandar Lodi, Rajput Kings, Timur, and the Delhi Sultanate. Even the Mauryas were in charge before the Mughals entered the region as they were won over by the scenic landscapes. They ruled a plethora of different hill stations in Himachal Pradesh except Shimla and Sirmour which were captured by the Kingdom of Nepal, also known as the Gorkha Kingdom.
The Gorkhas started expanding their territory but their rule was short-lived as it was the British Empire this time that fell in love with the cool mountains. The British overthrew the Gorkha Kingdom and took control of the region. In 1864, they declared Shimla as the summer capital of India. After India got its independence, 28 princely states were combined to form the province of Himachal Pradesh in 1948. It became a Part C state on January 26, 1950, when the constitution came into effect and in 1956, Himachal became a Union Territory. The new state was established in 1971 after the Parliament passed the State of Himachal Pradesh Act.
The people in Himachal Pradesh are full of energy and are always excited to celebrate together as much as possible. Apart from Holi, Diwali, Eid, Dussehra, and Christmas which the entire country celebrates, Himachal has a lot of its own festivals throughout the year. Some of the festivals which you should make note of are the Kullu Dussehra, the Buddhist festival of Losar, Lavi, Minjar, and Halda.
The government also organizes multiple state-level fairs like the Naina Devi Fair, Nalwari Fair, Chintpurni Fair, Renuka Fair, etc. Hindi is the most widely spoken and understood language in the state while locals also speak Punjabi and Pahari. When it comes to cuisine, Himachal offers a wide variety of food items some of which also have a strong Tibetan influence. Overall, Himachal seems to be a mixing pot of cultures yet showcasing its unique identity.
Also read: Top 7 Things To Do In Himachal
If budget is not an issue for you, reaching Himachal Pradesh by air will be the best option as the state is well connected to major cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chandigarh. The two major airports on the borders of the state are in Chandigarh and in Pathankot. Apart from them, there are three smaller airports in Himachal - Kullu Manali Airport in Bhuntar, Shimla Airport in Jubbarhatti, and Gaggal Airport in Kangra.
An important point to note is that during the peak winter season, there is always the possibility of last-minute cancellations due to the harsh weather conditions.
Owing to the difficult mountain terrain, Himachal Pradesh has limited options to reach by train. On the Himachal-Punjab border, Pathankot is the most crucial railway station. The Kangra Valley Railway connects Pathankot to Joginder Nagar. On the other hand, Kalka is another major railway station on the border with Haryana. The Kalka-Shimla Toy Train has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is something you should experience at least once. There are many more trains that run on the above-mentioned routes and all of these train journeys in Himachal are going to offer unimaginable views of the rural Himalayan ranges.
Better than reaching Himachal Pradesh by air or train is if you travel by road. The beautiful scenic drives are something that everyone loves. Whether you’re hiring a cab, traveling in a bus, or driving yourself, Himachal is well-connected to Delhi, Chandigarh, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh by a total of 8 national highways and 19 state highways. In addition, you can use the interstate bus services as well.
You’ll enjoy exploring Himachal Pradesh the most from October right till June. That gives you a window of 9 months to plan your travel! July, August, and September are the monsoon months and there’s a chance of landslide in quite a few areas of the state. It really depends on what are your interests and what are you looking for. Summer months are considered best for water sports, trekking, paragliding, and camping. Winters are when most of the state receives snowfall, making it ideal for those who want to try skiing and ice skating. The higher areas in the state experience a cold and alpine climate while the areas closer to the sea level experience a humid subtropical climate.
The summer season starts in mid-April and goes on till June with the average high temperature ranging from 27°C to 35°C depending on the different topography. The state is most visited during the winter season which starts in November and ends in March. A lot of places receive snowfall and that’s the main reason for most tourists to visit. Do keep in mind that the winter temperatures can go as low as -8°C in some parts of the state. The monsoon season stays from July till September but there’s not much to do during this period.
Also read: 5 Places To Go Glamping In Himachal Pradesh
Regardless of whether you have reached Himachal Pradesh by road, train, or air, once you’re in the state, getting from one place to another is not a big deal at all. So, you can plan your itinerary in any way you like.
Trust Himachal Road Transport Corporation for your intrastate travel. This is the best and the most cost-effective way of getting around in Himachal Pradesh. You can and must try the local buses as they also provide you with some amazing views that are a little different from the ones you see on the main highways. With the services of a state-run inner-city bus, you can reach almost all the remote corners of the state.
If you opt for renting a car, it will make things ten times easier for you. Imagine, you’ll not have to depend on anyone else or wait for a bus to go anywhere. You can just sit in your car with family or friends and drive away whenever and wherever. Just remember to carry your driving license at all times. If you don’t drive or don’t want to drive, there’s always the option of hiring a cab or you can move around in shared taxis to save a little extra.
Only and only if you have enough experience of riding motorcycles, you can consider renting one. It goes without saying that riding and driving in the mountains require you to be extra careful. The bike rental prices in Himachal start at just INR 350 for a day.
“Himachal Pradesh is all about Shimla and Manali.”
NO! It’s not even funny. Although this article should break this stereotype in the most brutal manner possible, you can look it up on the Internet and spend as much time as you want. Himachal Pradesh is over 55,000 square kilometers. Of course, Shimla and Manali are beautiful places, but just Google the images for Spiti, Bir-Billing, Kinnaur, Chail, and Khajjiar and you’ll be compelled to prolong your trip. Keep reading to know of some of the best places to check out in the state.
2,082 meters above sea level, Dharamshala is located in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh and is home to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and his followers who came to India in 1959 and settled down. Dharamshala is majorly divided into two parts - Lower Dharamshala and Upper Dharamshala. McLeodganj falls in the upper part and it’s here that you get to experience the Tibetan Buddhist culture that a lot of people talk about. If you want to understand the culture of Dharamshala better, you must visit the Namgyal Monastery and the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts.
There are many other attractions as well like the Naddi Point and Bhagsunag Falls. But the one that stands out the most is the cricket stadium managed by Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA). There’s nothing much to do in the stadium but just sit and absorb the hypnotizing view of a huge lush green ground with snow-covered mountains in the background. You can spend the whole day and still not get tired!
Spiti means ‘the middle land’ and the valley has got this name because it separates India from Tibet. Spiti Valley is a hidden gem of not just Himachal Pradesh but also India. It’s located at an altitude of 3,810 meters above sea level and its natural beauty is unparalleled. As harsh as it might sound, the reason behind this is that it’s untouched by people till now. Spiti is surrounded by Kullu, Lahaul, Kinnaur, and Ladakh. Any place where there are no crowds automatically appeals to you and Spiti has gorgeous views of snow-clad mountains and cold desert to make it the perfect place for you to relax.
The valley boasts the beautiful Spiti River which is extremely popular among nature lovers and adventurers, particularly those who love water sports like river rafting. There are plenty more activities for everyone like mountain biking, hiking, trekking, and wildlife spotting. You’ll find a lot of Buddhist monasteries in the village, the most famous one being the Key Monastery. A number of scenic places also await you in Spiti some of which are Kaza, Tabo, Dhankar, Kibber, and Hikkim. Here’s a cool fact - the world’s highest post office is situated in Spiti’s Hikkim village!
Not for nothing is Bir called the Paragliding Capital of India. Were you aware that the hill station has the honor of hosting the first-ever paragliding World Cup in 2015? Seriously, what’s the obsession with cricket? Speaking of cricket, don’t miss the awesome stadium in Dharamshala. Okay, we got distracted. Sorry.
A paradise for adventure sports, the small town of Bir is located in the Kangra district of the state. Just like Rishikesh pops in your head as soon as you hear the words 'river rafting', Bir-Billing is the one destination that comes to mind the moment someone says paragliding. Billing is the take-off site and 18 km away is Bir, the landing site. Although paragliding is the biggest highlight of this tourist destination, there’s a lot more for the visitors to check out. Due to the presence of the Tibetan community, you’ll get to see and enjoy the influence of the Tibetan culture across the hill station.
Of course, people go to Bir-Billing for adventurous activities like paragliding, hang gliding, trekking, and mountain biking. But after enjoying the thrills, they visit the beautiful Tibetan monasteries that are set against stunning backgrounds. The peaceful atmosphere and clean air are perfect for meditation. Bir is divided into two parts; Upper Bir is full of greenery while the lower part is called the Tibetan Colony of Bir. The weather remains pleasant throughout the year, so you can visit the town just to escape the heat of the plains. However, going to Bir and not trying paragliding is like Thanksgiving with no turkey or the 4th of July with no apple pie. You get the point, right?
Also, the hill station is famous for and full of amazing cafes and restaurants serving some lip-smacking food. Your best bet to reach Bir-Billing is via Delhi which is at a distance of 550 km.
Is Transportation Available In Himachal Pradesh?
Yes, there’s a huge number of interstate and intrastate transportation options available in Himachal Pradesh. Not just Indians, but people from all over the world visit this hill state every year. You can choose to reach the state by air, train, or road. Even when you’ve entered Himachal, there are various options to move around like cabs, local buses, motorcycles, etc.
What Language Is Mainly Spoken In Himachal Pradesh?
The maximum number of people in Himachal Pradesh speak and understand Hindi. However, some locals also speak Punjabi and Pahari.
What Are The Best Dishes Of Himachal Pradesh?
Himachal Pradesh is a diverse state with people from different backgrounds and as a result, you get a lot of options to eat. The Tibetan influence on the food deserves a special mention. Some of the traditional food items in the state are Siddu, Madra, Dhaam, Aktori, Tudkiya Bhath, and Kullu Trout Fish.
What Are The Best Tourist Attractions In Himachal Pradesh?
Apart from Shimla and Manali, there are so many different tourist attractions in Himachal that you’ll need to postpone your return! Some of the most stunning places to visit are Jibhi, Kasol, Spiti, Dalhousie, Bir, Tirthan Valley, Palampur, Dharamshala, Kinnaur, and Tosh.
What is famous about Himachal Pradesh?
Himachal Pradesh is popular for its numerous hill stations and scenic Himalayan landscapes. One can indulge in a number of adventure sports like rock climbing, mountain biking, paragliding, ice-skating, trekking, rafting, and heli-skiing here.
Which time is best to visit Himachal Pradesh?
The summer months (February to June) are the best time to visit Himachal as the climate is the most pleasant and the flowers are in bloom during this time. If you wish to indulge in winter sports or simply enjoy the snowfall, then you should visit Himachal during the winters.
How many days are enough for Himachal Pradesh?
Approximately a week is good enough to explore the major destinations in Himachal like Shimla, Manali, and Dharmashala. Depending on your itinerary and the various things you wish to try, the number of days may increase or decrease accordingly.
What should I wear in Himachal Pradesh?
A point to keep in mind while packing for Himachal is that always pack enough woolens and warmers. Himachal Pradesh tends to be a little chilly high up in the mountains. So carry a number of jackets, sweaters, scarves, and woolen socks in addition to thick tee shirts and pants.