Cliffs and soaring peaks, snow-flecks and glaciers, streams and rivers, groves and forests, green valleys and rugged terrains; Himachal Pradesh is a treasure chest of nature’s bounties. Major part of this state is spread across the hills and mountains creating numerous hill stations. The hill stations in the lower and the middle Himalayas are thronged by the holiday-makers while the Trans-Himalayan regions attract the explorers and adventure enthusiasts. Many parts of Himachal Pradesh host sports like skiing and hang-gliding. There is no dearth of trekking opportunities in this state. Himachal is also home to many ancient Buddhist and Hindu temples along with the colonial era churches. Hence, travel destinations of Himachal Pradesh attract visitors with diverse interests.
Shimla is the largest hill station in Himachal Pradesh, in fact in India. It is situated at a height of 6,810 ft in the Shivalik Hills in southern Himachal Pradesh. Ever since it was declared the summer capital of India by the British in 1864, the otherwise a small village, Shimla, started developing. Eventually it became the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh in the independent India. This also lead to the increase in the tourist footfalls. Today, despite the discovery of many more mountain retreats, Shimla’s popularity hasn’t waned. The development activities are bound to reduce the forest cover and Shimla is no exception. But it is still possible to connect with nature by walking away from the town centre, towards Jakhoo Hill or Annandale. The Mall road and the Ridge are the most happening parts of the town. Read More
Location: Shimla is 360 km north of Delhi.
Manali town is cut through by the Manalsu stream, which merges into the Beas River, south of the town. Surrounded by the soaring snow-tipped peaks, Manali is the most popular travel destination in Kullu Valley. Its location by the stream, its thickly forested hills and orchards have been attracting travelers since decades. Many domestic tourists are coaxed by its proximity to the snow-ladden Rohtang Pass. Manali also serves as a base to venture into the trans-Himalayan regions of Ladakh and Spiti Valley. Several trekking paths in the vicinity and the paragliding and skiing opportunities in the nearby Solang valley have started attracting adventure junkies to Manali. Read More
Location: Manali is 40 km north of Kullu town and 310 km north of Chandigarh.
Dharamshala, situated in the Kangra valley in northwest Himachal, extends from the valley floor to the lower spurs of Dhauladhars. The lower town is surrounded by lush green fields, which are intersected by snow-fed streams and are guarded by the towering Dhauladhars. This setting has led to the development of a number of resorts. The area of the town uphill is called McLeodGanj; it is a world apart from the lower town. The bustling McLeodGanj is where trekkers and backpackers from across the globe rub shoulders with the Tibetan Monks. It serves as a base to go higher in the Dhauladhars. McLeodGanj is home to the Dalai Lama and the Tsuglagkhang Temple, making it a pilgrimage for Buddhists across the world. The pine-covered slopes of McLeodGanj, overlooking the Kangra valley, are dotted with a few nature retreats. Read More
Location: Dharamshala is 87 km east of Pathankot and 117 km southeast of Dalhousie
Dalhousie, situated near the northwest border of Himachal Pradesh, can be reached from Pathankot in Punjab. This small town sprawls on five hills on the western edge of the Dhauladhars. While the town itself is a clutch of hotels and guesthouses with a smattering of colonial-era buildings, its surroundings are pretty and pristine. The town is surrounded by the hills that are covered with thick forests of oak and pine. While salubrious climate of Dalhousie is ideal for a relaxing holiday, this town offers ample opportunities for walks and short treks. Dalhousie has received its name from a British official of the same name who developed this town as a sanatorium in 1853. Read More
Location: Dalhousie is 82 km northeast of Pathankot in Punjab and 575 km north of Delhi.
Kasauli is situated at a height of 6,322 ft in the Shivalik Hills. Like many other hill retreats of north India, Kasauli was also developed by the British. The major part of this town is under cantonment area which has kept its forest cover intact. As with the other hill stations, Kasauli also has churches, temples, lookout points and a mall road. But it is the presence of many beautiful forest trails that sets it apart. Also, Kasauli is very easy to reach as it is close to the plains of Haryana. Read More
Location: Kasauli is 71 km southwest of Shimla and just 26 km from Kalka.
Chail, situated at a height of 7,054 ft in the Shivalik Hills, was the summer retreat of the kings of Patiala. Today it has developed as an alternative to Shimla. The best thing to do in Chail is to walk through the deodar forests of its wildlife sanctuary. You can also hike up to the temples of Sidh Baba ka Mandir and Kali ka Tibba. The cricket pitch in Chail is said to be the highest pitch in the world. The palace of the Patiala royals has been turned into a hotel. Read More
Location: Chail is 45 km south of Shimla.
Palampur town is situated in the middle of the tea-producing region of Kangra Valley. A short drive from the town is Neugal Khad where you can have a close encounter with the Dhauladhars and marvel at the wide chasm feeded with the snow-fed stream. Palampur attracts only a few travellers, who come looking for an experiential stay. Read More
Location: Palampur is 35 km southeast of Dharamshala and 200 km west of Manali.
The small picturesque village of Kufri was once a popular excursion out of Shimla. Its Mahasu Peak and the Himalayan Nature Park are the major attractions for the tourists. But now it is becoming a destination in itself for those seeking an action-packed holiday. All sorts of activities from pony rides and rock climbing to skiing (in winter) are on offer. Avoid it if you are looking for a quiet holiday. Fagu, a wooded hamlet, 6 km further from Kufri is an ideal place to enjoy pristine nature peacefully. Read More
Location: Kufri is 17 km east of Shimla.
Mashobra is a hamlet situated at a height of 2146 m (7,041 ft), 14 km north of Shimla. It was utilized by the families of British officers who wanted to stay in the proximity of Shimla while isolating themselves from all the hustle and bustle. Today also it is utilized the same way, but by the travellers. All you can do in Mashobra is enjoy quiet walks and check one after the other colonial era bungalows. You can also visit the nearby Seog Forest Reserve. A 7 km walk inside, shaded by the cedars will take you to a water reservoir. The entry permits can be obtained from the Municipal Commissioner’s office in Shimla. Read More
Location: Mashobra is 13 km northeast of Shimla.
Naldehra, with its sloping meadows at 6,706 ft height, is home to the world’s highest golf course. This 18-hole golf course was built at the suggestion of Lord Curzon in 1905. Naldehra is surrounded by the thick forests of deodar and offers quite a few picturesque treks. Read More
Location: Naldehra is 25 km north of Shimla.
Narkanda, for long, had just been a pit stop on the Hindustan-Tibet road for the travellers to Kinnaur and Spiti. But now it is gradually shaping up as a travel destination. Situated at a height of 9022 ft, Narkanda is surrounded by the dense forests and offers a closer view of the Himalayan peaks. Here the deodar and pine trees give way to the high altitude oak and fir trees. If you are up for a longer trek, the 7 km hike to Hatu Peak is amazing. Read More
Location: Narkanda is 60 km northeast of Shimla.
Bharmour is a very small town settled on a steep mountainside and overlooked by snowy peaks. The major attraction here is the well-preserved ‘Chaurasi Temple Complex’ which was built in the 7th and 8th centuries. Of the 84 shrines in the temple complex, the major shrines are dedicated to Narsimha, Ganesha and Larkana Devi. Bharmour serves as a base for several treks including the Manimahesh trek which is popular amongst Hindu pilgrims.
Location: Bharmour is 100 km east of Dalhousie and 60 km east of Chamba
13. Kullu Town
Kullu valley occupies the heart of the Himachal Pradesh. It extends from the Larji Gorge in the south to the foot of the Rohtang Pass in the north. Watered by the Beas River, Kullu valley is flanked by the scenic Kangra valley in the west and the exciting Parvati Valley in the east. Situated on the right bank of Beas River, Kullu town is the headquarter of Kullu District. While this town has a few retreats by the river, it mostly attracts the pilgrims with its collection of several temples and shrines. While the core area of the town is dull and crowded, many temples here are situated in the peaceful areas on the hills. These temples also offer opportunities for short walks and hikes.
Location: Kullu town is 210 km north of Shimla and 40 km south of Manali.
1. Tirthan Valley
Tirthan valley sits in a small peaceful corner in the south-eastern part of Kullu district. Situated on the left bank of the Tirthan river, this valley is, in fact a collection of a few villages. All of these villages are situated in the fringes of the Great Himalayan National Park and hence serve as a base to explore it. Even if you aren’t there for trekking in the park, the villages of this valley offer wonderful opportunities to commune with nature. You can sit by the river, walk along the forest trails, or just enjoy the melody of bird-songs. If you are in this region, you can opt for an adventurous drive to Jalori Pass. It is just 30 km from Goshaini Village, but given the narrow and unpaved roads, you need an experienced hand at the wheels.
Location: South-eastern part of Kullu District.
2. The Great Himalayan National park
The Great Himalayan National park is spread over 1171 sq km in the Kullu district. Said to be the youngest national park in India, this sanctuary encompasses verdant forests, glaciers and sky-jutting peaks. The altitude varies from 1500 m to 6000 m. The park is home to some rare fauna like the Himalayan black bear, Himalayan tahr, musk deer and the elusive snow leopard. The origin of Tirthan river is also located within the park. The only way to explore this park is by trekking. There are 3-day to 5-day treks and the permits can be availed from the Interpretation Centre in Sairopa Village. Goshaini is the nearest village to the park entrance, about 8 km. The other villages in the vicinity are Shoja, Nagini, Jibbi and Gaidhar.
Location: The park entrance is about 8 km from the village of Goshaini.
Naggar, situated along the left bank of the Beas River, was the seat of power of Kullu Royals till they moved to the town of Kullu. Naggar is a beautiful village and is very peaceful offering a respite from the noisy ambience of the nearby Manali. The village is clustered around a 16th-century castle. This castle, with its alternate layers of wooden beams and evenly hewn stones, displays the traditional architecture of Himachal Pradesh. Though it is now converted into a hotel, non-residents can go inside for a small fee. There are picturesque views of the valley from the balconies of the hotel. The Russian artist Nicholas Roerich had stayed for 18 years in Naggar and had died here. His home has been turned into an art gallery which houses an exhibition of paintings and photographs.
Location: Naggar, 20 km north of Kullu town, is situated in between Kullu and Manali.
Kasol is situated in the pristine and less-explored Parvati Valley. This pleasant village, surrounded by forests and soaring mountains, is bisected by the Parvati river. Till some time back, Kasol was only visited by the Israelis looking for ‘charas’ (cannabis), but now it is slowly gaining popularity amongst trekkers, backpackers and nature lovers. Due to its hippie culture, Kasol isn’t a good choice for families especially with children. The best thing to do in Kasol is to walk along the banks of the river and take in the fresh air along with the natural beauty. Kasol also serves as base for treks to Manikaran, Malana and Kheer Ganga.
Important tip: It isn’t advisable to opt for solo treks in Parvati Valley, especially if you are unacquainted with region. Several trekkers have mysteriously disappeared while on their treks in this valley. The best way is to take help of a trekking agency in Kulli or Manali.
Location: Kasol is 37 km east of Kullu.
The queer hill village of Malana can be reached by a trek from Kasol or Naggar. It is situated on a plateau by the side of the Malana river, in a side valley of the Parvati Valley. Not only that this village is geographically isolated from the rest of Kullu, but its populace also live in a social isolation. They aren’t interested in communicating with the outside world. They, in fact, consider outsiders to be impure. Even if a wall is touched by a non-villager, they purify it with lamb’s blood and the visitor has to pay the fine. They have their own way of governing the village; they don’t consider themselves under the Indian administration.
Location: Malana is about 55 km northeast of Kullu and 24 km northwest of Kasol. The last stretch of the path to Malana can only be covered on foot, it should take about 30 minutes.
Manikaran, just 4.5 km from Kasol, is the main settlement in the Parvati Valley. It is famous for its hot sulphur springs and is also a pilgrim centre of Hindus and Sikhs. The massive gurudwara of Sikhs is situated right above the springs. Rama temple is located near the Gurudwara and Shiva temple is situated by the river. Most of the people who put up here are pilgrims; travellers would find it more interesting to stay at Kasol.
Location: Manikaran is 4.5 km northeast of Kasol.
Shoghi is a wooded hamlet, situated at a height of 5870 ft, a short distance south of Shimla. There is practically nothing to do in Shoghi except relaxing amidst the pristine nature. If you feel like doing something, you can walk up to the temples in the surrounding areas. The approach road often gets damaged during rains, so it’s good to check before driving across.
Location: Shoghi is 15 km southwest of Shimla.
Sarahan, the gateway to the Kinnaur region, sits astride above the left bank of River Satluj. Situated at a height of 7103 feet, Sarahan was once the summer retreat of the royals of Rampur Bushahr. Its exotic Bhimakali temple complex has majestic Srikhand Range in the backdrop. Historical events suggest that the temple was present here in the 7th century but no part of the temple is more than 800 years old. The temple is dedicated to Bhimakali, a form of Goddess Kali. The temple, made of timber, has two multi-tiered towers with sloping slate-tiled roofs topped with shining spires. This is one of the most splendid temples in the northwest Himalayas.
Location: Sarahan is 160 km northeast of Shimla.
9. Kinnaur Region
It is hard to reach Kinnaur, the region in the remote north-eastern corner of Himachal Pradesh. But the intrepid travellers, who are willing to take up the treacherous journey, are rewarded with an unparalleled experience. You can explore the nature and the antique culture in its most pristine form in this less-travelled region. Forested hillsides, glaciers, apple orchards and sky-jutting peaks: these are the gifts of nature that impart splendour to this rugged region.
Location: Rekong Peo, the district headquarter of Kinnaur, is 244 km northeast of Shimla.
10. Rekong Peo
Rekong Peo, busy and congested town on the right bank of the Sutlej river, is the district headquarter of Kinnaur. Here you can arrange for your inner line permits (if you are a foreigner) and stock up on your provisions. There is nothing to see and do in this town except taking views of the Jorkanden Peak.
Location: Rekong Peo is 244 km northeast of Shimla.
Kalpa is the perfect place to spend some time before moving further in the region. It is 9 km uphill from Rekong Peo, you can drive up or if you are ready for an exhaustive climb, you can trek up. If you love walking don’t miss to walk to the upland pastures through the pine and deodar forests from Kalpa. There is an ancient monastery and a Shiva temple in the town. Kalpa is the old district headquarter and lies on the ancient trade route to Tibet and China.
Location: Kalpa is 4 km east of Rekong Peo.
12. Sangla Valley
Sangla valley (also called Baspa valley) is the most beautiful part of Kinnaur. It is about 20 km from Rekong Peo and the drive is truly amazing. On the uphill climb, the turquoise waters of Baspa offer their beautiful sightings off and on. Bounded to the north by the Kinner Kailash Massif and to the south by the peaks of Garhwal mountains, this valley is a collection of a few hamlets. You can easily explore these beautiful hamlets on foot.
Location: Sangla is about 42 km south of Rekong Peo.
Chitkul, the last village before Tibet, is 25 km ahead of Sangla village. Walking around in this village will earn you some good views and don’t forget to admire the homes built in traditional Kinnauri style. Foreigners aren’t allowed to go beyond this village but Indians can venture up to the Indo-Tibet border to get a view of the Rani Khanda peak.
Location: Chitkul is about 23 km east of Sangla.
14. Lahaul and Spiti Region
Lahaul and Spiti, two sub-districts combined into one, are the trans Himalayan regions in western Himachal Pradesh. They are amongst the most inaccessible regions of India, open only for three months in a year. While Spiti is a high altitude cold Himalayan desert, Lahaul is comparatively fertile and is the origin of Chandra and Bhaga rivers.
Spiti’s rugged and barren landscape, enclosed within tall mountain ranges, is sprinkled with tiny mud-and-timber hamlets and barley fields. These villages, dotted by the ancient Buddhist monasteries, have preserved their old Tibetan culture. This region possesses one of the most fragile ecosystems in India, so it is suggestible to not leave behind any non-biodegradable waste. Trans-Himalayan journey to Spiti is splendid, picturesque, breathtaking and hair-raising. It is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Kaza is the subdivisional headquarter of Spiti. While there is nothing to see here, Kaza serves as a base for several treks. The ancient monasteries in the towns of Ki, Dhankar, and Tabo are worth exploring.
Location: Kaza, the subdivisional headquarter of Spiti region, is 200 km east of Manali.
Lahaul is seperated from the Kullu Valley by Rohtang Pass. The Chandra and Bhaga rivers originate in the high mountains of Upper Lahaul and unite after flowing into Lower Lahaul. The major religions of Lahaul are Buddhism and Hinduism. The major source of income is agricultural produce. The farmers here use the ancient way of utilizing the glacial melt for irrigation. At Keylong, the district headquarter, you can visit the Drugpa Kardang Monastery and Shashur Monastery. You can also do a circumambulation around Rangcha Mountain, which overlooks Chandra and Bhaga Rivers. Also worth visiting are the villages of Tandi and Triloknath. Tandi, situated near the confluence of Chandra and Bhaga rivers, has the oldest monastery of Lahaul. Triloknath
Location: Keylong, the district headquarter, is 115 km north of Manali