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Main Feature Image - A Guide to Himachal Pradesh

The name, Himachal Pradesh, literally translates to “The land of Snow” in the Sanskrit language. The aptness of the name is validated by the spectacular snow-clad mountains which provide a beautiful backdrop to the majority of places in the state. Located in the Western Himalayas, most part of the state lies on the foothills of the Dhauladhar Range and being a mountainous state, it is famous for its timeless natural beauty, gorgeous river valleys, the greenery, soothing climate, trekking trails, countless temples, and monasteries.

Perched at 6,816 m, Reo Purgyil is the highest mountain peak in Himachal. The state is also referred to as “Dev Bhoomi” or “Abode of Gods” and houses many religious Hindu sites and temples including Naina Devi Temple, Baijnath Temple, Bijli Mahadev, Jwala Ji Temple, Jakhoo Temple, and Renuka Lake. Some of the oldest Buddhist monasteries are also located in the state like Tabo Monastery, Sherabling Monastery, Kee Gompa, and Brelengi Gompa.

The state is gifted with many scenic hill-stations including Shimla (the capital of Himachal), Manali, McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Dalhousie (winter capital of Himachal), Kullu, and Chamba. It is also famous for its adventure tourism activities including skiing in Manali & Narkanda, snowboarding in Kufri, ice-skating in Shimla, paragliding in Bir-Billing, and trekking in various parts of the region. The Kalka-Shimla Railway, a mountain railway, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Himachal also enjoys a diversity of plants and animals which add to the natural splendor of the state and the state is also hailed for its handicrafts. Leatherwork, shawls, woodwork, carpets, Himachali Caps, Chambal Rumaals, and Kangra Paintings are famous among the tourists and Himachali dance and music also have the capacity to entertain the tourists.

Must visit places in Himachal Pradesh:

  • Shimla, the capital of Himachal, derives its name from Goddess Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of Goddess Kali. The Summer Capital of the British, Shimla culturally amalgamates Indian traditions with colonial legacy. It is one of the most famous hill-stations in North India. The famous Lakkar Bazaar is the place to get various wooden souvenirs and other crafts. The Christ Church on the Ridge is a major attraction. Other activities to engage in include a trek to Jakhoo Temple, shopping at Mall road, visit to Viceregal Lodge, Chadwick Falls, Tara Devi Temple, Annandale, and the Shimla State Museum. The town is also well known for its carpets, shawls, and leather work.
  • Kullu is often paired with another famous hill-station, Manali. Kullu is a major tourist destination and attracts a lot of attention from people all over. Some major attractions include Bijli Mahadev Temple, Raghunath Temple, Dhakpo Shedrupling Monastery, and Rupi Palace. Kullu also offers some adventure activities like white water river rafting in Beas, trekking, and paragliding. The Great Himalayan National Park is another spot where you can enjoy the wilderness of the place.
A view of Beas River and Hot Air Balloon in Manali, Himachal Pradesh
A view of Beas River and Hot Air Balloon in Manali, Himachal Pradesh
  • Manali, situated at 6,260 ft, is often called as the Backpackers Center and Lover’s Paradise. This high altitude resort town is best known for skiing in Solang Valley, trekking to various passes and valleys, paragliding at Pir Panjal ranges, and biking in Rohtang Pass. Deriving its name from Sanatan Hindu Lawgiver, Manu, the town is home to a temple dedicated to Sage Manu along with numerous other Hindu temples, namely, Hidimba Devi Temple and Siyali Mahadev Temple. Bird watching at Manali Bird Sanctuary also excites visitors. Various treks have their base at Manali like the Bhrigu Lake trek, Beas Kund trek, and Hampta pass trek.
  • Dharamshala displays the harmonious facets of the India community living with the Indo-Tibetan community. The city is home to Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile. Tsuglagkhang Complex, Namgyal Monastery, Gyuto Monastery, and Kangra Museum are the major attractions of this picturesque land. Also, visit Mani Lhakhang Stupa and witness the bewitching backdrop of the snow-capped Himalayas at the HPCA cricket stadium.
  • Chamba is a spectacular hamlet located in Himachal Pradesh which is famous for its offbeat treasures. The pristine nature makes it a spectacular escape for nature lovers. Various temples and pilgrimage sites are located here, including, Lakshmi Narayan Temple, Champawati Temple, Manimahesh Lake, and Chamunda Devi Temple.
Khajjiar Ground near Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh
Khajjiar Ground near Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh
  • Dalhousie, also known as the “Mini Switzerland of India”, is another hill-station nestled in the state. Named after British governor Lord Dalhousie, it makes for a perfect scenic vacation spot for family and friends with the surroundings brimming with pines, oaks, and deodars. Major attractions of Dalhousie are Kalatop Wildlife Reserve, Saint Francis Catholic Church, Satdhara waterfalls, Rang Mahal, and Dainkund Peak. Khajjiar is a nearby valley gifted with breathtaking scenery.
  • Kasol, also called the little Israel of India, is a serene hill-station located in Parvati valley. It is a marvelous trekking destination offering the Kheerganga trek which is an amazing trekking experience. You can also enjoy getting your spirits high as the valley is famous for being the Stoner’s Paradise. Manikaran is a nearby pilgrimage spot for Sikh followers as it houses the famous Gurudwara Shri Manikaran Sahib.
  • Spiti Valley, located in the Zanskar, it is also called as the Middle Land of India. The place is famous for its thrilling experience of roads, isolated villages, extreme weather and wildlife. Some of the must visit places to visit in Spiti valley are Kaza (Spiti Valley headquarters), Nako, Tabo village, Dhankar, Chandratal, Komic (world’s highest inhabited village), Kibber, Hikkim (world’s highest post office), Langza, Key Monastery and Pin Valley.

 Read Also: Best Treks in Himachal Pradesh

Must-do things:

Take toy train ride from Kalka to Shimla – This is an experience that you just can’t miss out.!! This, over a century old, mountain railway is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers a splendid view of the hilly terrains dotted with emerald green forests.

Toy train ride from Shimla to Kalka
Toy train ride from Shimla to Kalka

Attend the Shoton Opera Festival in Dharamshala – “Shoton” in Tibetan means yogurt banquet. So, this celebration marks the end of the summer retreat of the monks. You can be a part of the festivities at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts which conducts this 9 days long event. Tibetan art, culture, and folk music are promoted along with exhibitions of paintings of Buddha.

Heli-skating at Hanuman Tibba – This is a must do for all the adventure junkies as it is one of the most thrilling adventure activities that can be experienced in Himachal. Being in the lap of snow-covered mountains and making your way through them with a clear azure sky overhead is an experience of a lifetime.

Go shopping at the Ridge, Shimla – This is the favorite spot amongst visitors to shop charming little wooden souvenirs along with various other kinds of souvenirs. The Ridge also provides with some amazing cafes and local eateries which serve savory local meals.

Night View of The ridge, Shimla
Night View of The ridge, Shimla

River rafting in Manali – It is the most sought-after water activity in Manali where you enjoy the thrills of Beas river. The stunning views and the adrenaline rush offered by this activity are worth experiencing.

Relax while watching the sunset over the Pirpanjal Ranges – When the sun is about to set, all you have to do is just sit and let the hues of the setting sun soothe you and fill you with colorful happiness. Watching the sunset over the Pirpanjal Ranges from Mall road, Dalhousie will definitely add to your happy memories.

About the author

I am a Travel blogger based out of Chandigarh

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