Himachal Pradesh Information
Himachal or the ‘Land of Snow’ is a veritable paradise endowed with great natural beauty and spiritual calm. The verdant valleys surrounded by lofty snow capped peaks, roaring rivers rushing through gorges or flowing placidly in the valleys, dense forests of deodar and oak, flowering meadows, glaciers and high altitude lakes literally brings an ethereal other worldly beauty at your step. No doubt, this ‘Himalayan Jewel’ is a tourist’s dream and delight. After independence, 30 princely States of the area were united and Himachal Pradesh was formed on 15th April, 1948. With the re-organisation of Punjab on 1st November, 1966, certain areas belonging to it were also included in Himachal Pradesh. Finally, on 25thJanuary, 1971, Himachal Pradesh attained full fledged statehood.
The simple, peace-loving people of Himachal Pradesh are renowned for their honesty, tolerance and hospitality. They are mostly hindu by faith and each village has its own traditional deity. The state is dotted with thousands of temples and is also called as the ‘Dev Bhoomi’ or the abode of gods. Himachal is also a land of colourful fairs and festivals which are unique in style and attractive in display. The most important fairs are Minjar of Chamba, Shivratri of Mandi, Dussehra of Kullu, Lavi of Rampur and Renuka of Sirmaur. The beautiful state also provides great opportunity to adventure and fun seekers and is considered an ideal place for activities like trekking, mountaineering, fishing river rafting, skiing, para-gliding, ice-skating and golf.
A visit to this enchanting land is the most relaxing and satisfying experience.
Proclaimed by ancient Indian texts as Devbhumi—“Land of the Gods”—and believed to be the earthly home of the mighty Lord Shiva, this beautiful, farflung region has an almost palpable presence of divinity. Bordered by Tibet to the east, Jammu and Kashmir to the north, and the Punjab to the west, the landlocked state is one of great topographic diversity, from vast bleak tracts of rustcolored high-altitude Trans-Himalayan desert to dense green deodar forests, apple orchards, cultivated terraces and, everywhere you look, sublime snowcapped mountains. This is also where you’ll find the largest concentration of Buddhists, their atmospheric gompas (monasteries) a total contrast to the pageantry of Hindu temples. Shimla, the state capital, is easily accessed from Delhi by train, preferably via the Punjabi town of Amritsar, where the shimmering Golden Temple of the Sikhs takes the honors as India’s best cultural attraction. Shimla shouldn’t hold you longer than it takes to get ready to tackle one of the greatest road adventures in Asia—negotiating the ledges, landslides, and hairpin bends of the Hindustan-Tibet Road through the remote valleys of Kinnaur, Lahaul, and Spiti. Hidden from the world for most of the year by a cloak of thick, impenetrable snow, these easternmost districts emerge from their wintry slumber to reveal white-capped Himalayan mountains, lush green meadow-valleys dappled with flowers, and Tibetan Buddhist gompas, of which Tabo, a World Heritage Site, is one of the most spiritual destinations in India. Due to limited accessibility (the region only opened to visitors in recent years and requires a special permit) and the impassability of the roads, the region remains the least visited and most exhilarating part of Himachal Pradesh. You should set aside at least 3 to 4 days to explore the area after arriving in Manali, a town somewhat enlivened (some say ruined) by its designated role as Himachal Pradesh’s “hippie hot spot” and local honeymoon destination. You can either set off on a trek from this popular adventure center, or head west (via Mandi) to the tea-carpeted hills of the westernmost Kangra Valley and the hill station of Dharamsala—seat of the Tibetan government- in-exile and home to the Dalai Lama. Another option is to head north to the lunar landscapes of Ladakh. Although Jammu and Kashmir, India’s northernmost state, is a no-go area for most rational travelers, Ladakh, the western J&K province on the border of Tibet, is the fortunate exception. It sits astride the Ladakh and Zanskar mountains, surrounded by two of the world’s highest ranges—the Greater Himalayas and the mighty Karakoram— and nothing will prepare you for the breathtaking, stark beauty of the landscape. Jagged peaks, rocky uplands, and vast barren plateaus are the dominant features of this harsh, dry land swept by dust devils and dotted with Buddhist gompas, large whitewashed chortens (commemorative cairns), and chest-high mani walls made from stacks of engraved stones. Aptly nicknamed “Little Tibet,” this is India at her remote best. Only visited for the few months of summer when the roads are passable, the world here has been frozen in time; the small Buddhist population continues to live as they have for centuries, totally untouched by outside influences. Spend at least 4 days here (adjusting to the high altitude takes time), then fly out to Delhi and rejoin the 21st century.
Himachal Pradesh Tourism Information
Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh are exceptional destinations for adventurous travelers. The area has a phenomenal array of trekking routes, and numerous tour operators offer anything from gentle strolls to walks lasting several days—including trips to serious rock faces for seasoned climbers. Besides the scenery, a visit here is an ideal opportunity to meet people totally untouched by the modern world—outside of a handful of towns, much of the population in this region is rural and dependent on agriculture. It is also home to some of the world’s last nomadic people. Manali is a popular starting point for treks into the lush Kullu and Parvati valleys, while Dharamsala is a good base from which to explore the Dhauladhar mountain range. In Ladakh, expeditions out of Leh visit the many fascinating Buddhist monasteries, and the Indus and Zanskar rivers are excellent for white-water rafting.
The Valley of the Gods: Central Himachal
Central Himachal’s fertile valleys—centered around the towns of Mandi, Kullu, and Manali—are watered by the Beas River, and are famous for a variety of fruits, excellent treks, and what is considered—by the stoned hippies of Manali, at least—the finest marijuana in the world. The drive from Shimla to Manali—starting point for the spectacular road journey to Leh and a number of adventure activities—is around 280km (174 miles) and can be done in a day. The route is scenic, especially in July and August, when the heavy monsoon rains cause the river to swell and waterfalls to cascade spectacularly. Time allowing, it’s a good idea to spend the night en route in the scruffy town of Mandi, where you can use the atmospheric Raj Mahal palace hotel as a base for a visit to the nearby hill hamlet of Rewalsar . The fascinating confluence of Buddhist, Sikh, and Hindu spirituality, centered around a small black lake teeming with fish (supposedly holy), beautifully reflects the soaring mountain ranges above. Sacred to all three religions, the lake’s banks sport lively Buddhist gompas, an important Sikh gurudwara (place of worship), and a Hindu temple. Farther north (about 70km/43 miles), in the heart of the Valley of the Gods, is the unattractive town of Kullu, famous for its sheer volume of Hindu temples and the Dussehra Festival (usually in Oct), which attracts substantial crowds and hundreds of valley gods to take part in the annual festivities: 7 days of jubilant processions, music, dancing, and markets. Unless you stop specifically to catch any festival action or want to visit the “first and biggest angora farm in Asia,” there’s no real reason to linger in Kullu. Bhuntar, not too far south of Kullu, is the turnoff point for drives to Jari, Kasol, and the therapeutic hot springs of Manikaran, which is the main jumping-off point for a variety of treks to less-visited villages. Khirganga, farther east, is the site of even more thermal water springs, while isolated Malana, to the north, is an anthropologist’s dream and home of the world’s top-rated ganja, the famous Malana Gold, according to a recent competition held in Amsterdam. Adventures to any of these remote areas should not be undertaken without the help of a recognized guide—not only is getting lost a strong possibility, but there have been reports of what are believed to be drug-related crimes, including the assault and “disappearance’” of travelers.
GETTING THERE & AROUND
It’s possible to avoid Shimla entirely by flying directly to Bhuntar Airport 10km (61⁄4 miles) south of Kullu. In Manali, taxis and auto-rickshaws charge ridiculously inflated rates that fluctuate seasonally and according to the whim of the near-militant local taxi union. Hire a car for the duration of your stay; if you’ve used a car and driver to get to Manali, you might consider planning ahead to retain the service for any further travel, bearing in mind that a sturdy vehicle with off-road capabilities and a driver who knows the terrain will be essential if you plan on getting to Ladakh or the regions east of the Beas River.
Shimla is a beautiful hill station. It is referred to as the “Queen of the hills”. It is draped in forests of pine, rhododendron, and oak and it is surrounded by snow capped peaks. Within the town are a host of splendid colonial edifices quaint cottages and charming walks. Among the attractions are the stately vice regal lodge, charming iron lamp posts and Anglo Saxon names. The mall packed with shops and eateries is the centre of attraction of the town and scandal point offers a view of distant snow clad peaks. The snowfall during the winter attracts many tourists. << More Information about Shimla >>
Kullu and Manali Tourism
Magnificent Manali, one of the most popular hill resorts of the country is set picturesquely on the confluence of Manalsu and Beas rivers, surrounded by snow clad peaks and thick forest and fruit laden orchards. << More Information about Kullu and Manali >>
The ‘Scotland of India’ is one of the 80 hill resorts established by the British. It is set elegantly set on the spur of the Dhauladhar range and the snow line easily accessible as compared to other hill resorts. Mcleod Ganj and Gorsyth Ganj, the suburbs of Upper Dharmshala still retain the British flavour, while the Lower Dharmshala is a busy commercial centre. It is also known for beign the headquarters of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and referred as the “Little Lhasa in India”. << More Information about Dharmshala >>
Lahaul and Spiti
The lahaul and spiti district adjoining Ladakh is an entirely different world snow bound and isolated from the outside world for over 9 months in a year. The inhospitable terrain full of glaciers and high altitude lakes is endowed with aweininspiring beauty. Buddhism was introduced here in 7th century and the people of the region have preserved their unique culture and heritage. << More Information about Lahaul and Spit >>