Himachal Pradesh iterally “snow-laden province” is a state in northern part of India. Situated in the Western Himalayas, it is bordered by states of Jammu and Kashmir on the north, Punjab on the west, Haryana on the southwest, Uttarakhand on the southeast, and Tibet on the east. As its southernmost point, it also touches the state of Uttar Pradesh. The state’s name was coined from the Sanskrit—Him means ‘snow’ and achal means ‘land’ or ‘abode’. Himachal is in the western Himalayas. Covering an area of 55,673 square kilometres (21,495 sq mi), it is a mountainous state. Most of the state lies on the foothills of the Dhauladhar Range. At 6,816 m Reo Purgyil is the highest mountain peak in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
The state is spread across valleys. About 90% of the state’s population lives in rural areas. Many perennial rivers flow in the state with numerous hydropower plants producing surplus electricity that is sold to other states. Tourism and agriculture are also important constituents of the state’s economy.
The drainage system of Himachal is composed both of rivers and glaciers. Himalayan rivers criss-cross the entire mountain chain. Himachal Pradesh provides water to both the Indus and Ganges basins. The drainage systems of the region are the Chandra Bhaga or the Chenab, the Ravi, the Beas, the Sutlej, and the Yamuna. These rivers are perennial and are fed by snow and rainfall. They are protected by an extensive cover of natural vegetation.
Himachal Pradesh has around 463 birds, 77 mammalian, 44 reptile and 80 fish species. The Great Himalayan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Pin Valley National Park are the national Parks located in the state. The state also has 30 wildlife sanctuaries and 3 conservation reserves.
Shimla or Simla is the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh in India. It is a very popular holiday-retreat during the summer months and is well-known for its Victorian architecture, which is reflected in certain areas of the Mall and The Ridge. It is also a famous holiday spot for honeymoon. The elevation of Shimla is 2276 m above from the sea level.
There are quite a few theories regarding the origin of the word Shimla. Locals insist that the name originates from Shyamali Devi, a re-incarnation of the fearsome Goddess Kali.
How To Reach
The nearest broad gauge head is at Kalka – a four- to seven-hour journey from Delhi. After that, take the mountain train from Kalka to Shimla, it takes time around four hours. This railway track has recently been granted the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The view is stunning, with the line passing through an amazing 103 tunnels.
It takes only 2 hours from Kalka to Shimla and takes 6 hours from Delhi to Shimla by car. Govt. & Pvt. bus services are also available from both Chandigarh & Delhi to Shimla.
If hiring a private car, ensure that the driver has experience driving in hilly regions and is not deprived of sleep.
What To See
The Mall: The Mall is the main shopping centre of Shimla. This shopping centre has a good number of banks, restaurants, post offices, clubs, bars and tourists offices. There is a famous theatre of Shimla called Gaiety Theatre. The Mall is also the main meeting place for the people of Shimla. Statue of Mahatma Gandhi just outside Christ Church located at the heart of the Mall.
The Ridge, built at the top of the town at 2230m, The Ridge is the center of Shimla’s cultural and social life – an excellent place to view the surrounding mountains.
Christ Church, The Ridge (Near Municipal Library). Open every day, services Su 8:00AM-11:00AM. Constructed in 1846, this is the second oldest church of the North India. The stain-glass windows, representing charity, faith, patience, hope, fortitude and humility, and 19th century organ are particularly impressive. The fresco that surrounds the chapel window was designed by Lockwood Kipling, Rudyard Kipling’s father.
Lower Bazaar, The Mall (Below Central Section). Shops Open Mo-Sa. The Lower Bazaar is home to the city’s less expensive hotels, cheaper restaurants and stores, and a congested wholesale vegetable market. Although less opulent than its upper neighbor, the Lower Bazaar retains an old worldly charm and is an excellent place to try some Shimla specialty dishes, like Uradh Dal with rice or Shepard’s Pie. It also sells clothes and household items.
Viceregal Lodge, The Mall (A top Observatory Hill), Open every day (Only the entrance hall and gardens are open to the public). This lodge is now part of the Institute of Advanced Studies. An imposing British-raj mansion built under the guidance of Lord Dufferin in 1888. Manicured British style gardens surround the mansion on three sides, while the fourth side is a place to relax and watch the sun dip below the Himalayan foothills. The teak-paneled interior is impressive, and well worth a viewing. This lodge is a 1 hour walk from the end of the mall, near the Oberoi hotel.
Tara Devi Temple is named after one of the many forms of Goddess Kali. This well-maintained temple is located at the top of a steep hill about 11 kms from Shimla bus stand. There are stunning views of Shimla town and the Himalayas. This is a perfect location for people who are looking for some rest and peace at a high altitude, around 6070 ft. The temple is very clean with a beautiful flower garden surrounding it.
Chadwick Falls, 7 km away from Shimla, the inviting spot of Chadwick Falls is a premier travel destination. A trip to the Chadwick Falls during the monsoons will be an unforgettable experience. Located in an incredible landscape, the place is home to some old shrines that are sites of immense significance for pilgrims.
Dorje Drag Monastery, Sarasvati Garden Estate, Kusmuti. A monastery in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, also known as Thubten Evam Dorje Drag.
Hip Hip Hurray Amusement Park (9000 ft) & Kufri Fun World (9000ft), Kufri (NH-22, 16 Kms. from Shimla), Nagsons Amusement Park,HIP HIP HURRAY, Kufri, is the only amusement park located at 8500 ft. above sea level offering adventure activities like Burma Bridge Crossing, Flying Fox, Commando Net, Rock Climbing etc and also activities like Boating, Bump’em Cars, Rides, Indoor Golf and a number of virtual reality, redemption & video games. Other attractions include Restaurant, Coffee Shop, Shopping, Telescopic View etc. The food at the restaurant is excellent.
Sankat Mochan, A popular Hanuman temple is located here. We get an excellent view of Shimla from the temple. It can be reached by car or on foot.
Rampur is located an average elevation of 1021 m (4429 feet). Rampur is one of famous place enroute Kalpa-Kinnaur. It is a very beautiful place situated at the bank of the river Satluj. The city is nearby to popular places like Jhakri, Sarahan Busahr, Green valley Dhar Gaura and Shraikoti to name a few. The city is also the home to Asia’s Largest Hydro Power Project – The Nathpa Jhakri Hydro Power Station built by Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd.(formerly known as Nathpa Jhakri Power Corporation) at Jhakri and world’s deepest Surge shaft at a Shah (22 km from Rampur).
Sarahan is a small village in Himachal Pradesh of India. It is the site of the Bhimakali Temple, originally known as Bhimadevi Temple, dedicated to the mother goddess Bhimakali, presiding deity of the rulers of the former Bushahr State. The temple is situated about 170 kilometres from Shimla and is one of 51 Shakti Peethas. The village is known as the “gateway of Kinnaur” it being near the old Indo-Tibetan Road. Seven kilometers below (17 km by road) Sarahan is the river Satluj. Sarahan is identified with the Shonitpur mentioned in Puranas. Sarahan Bushahr has been the summer capital of Bushahr kingdom, with Rampur Bushahr considered the winter capital.
Once in Sarahan, one beholds a range of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks and one of them is the Shrikhand Peak. The rather peculiar thing about this peak is that it is only one whose tip remains uncovered with snow. In the evening, sunrays adorn the peaks and the sight is simply stupendous.
The Bhimakali Temple houses the “Kuldevi” (the presiding deity of the dynesty) of Bushahr Kingdom. The Bhimakali Temple contains both Hindu and Vajrayāna Buddhist statues and decorations which reflect the trade through here between India and Tibetan regions through ancient Indo-Tibetan Road. The traces of old Indo-Tibetan road still passes through Shalabag near Sarahan. It also shows Kushan influence in its architecture and possibly some of the images in it are Kushan (1st to 3rd centuries CE).
There are two adjacent temple buildings. One is old and resurrected, and the other is relatively new. The temple is built in an Indo-Tibetan style of architecture. Alternate rows of grooved and interlocked stones and wood provide strength to the walls. Thick walls with lower roofs found in typical mountainous region buildings provide warmth during winters. Bushahr kings are believed to be dynastic priests of the temple, and used to reside in temple premises before moving to palace 100 meters from the temple.
Sangla Valley or the Baspa Valley starts at Karcham and ends at Chitkul. Sangla is the major town in the valley with a petrol pump, Bank ATMs, Post Office, Restaurants, Bar, mid range hotels and shops. The valley is surrounded by forested slopes and offers views of the high mountains. Its location in the greater Himalayan range gives it a milder climate than the plains. The Baspa River flows in the Sangla Valley which is rich in apple orchards, apricot, Wall-nut, Cedar trees, and glacial streams with trout. The main villages in the valley villages include Chitkul, Rakcham, Batseri, Themgarang, Kamru. Besides the natural beauty of Great Himalaya Kamru Fort, 14th Century Lord Badri Nath Ji Temple , Mata Devi Temple & Bearing Nag Temples are the main attractions of the Valley.
Sangla Valley is a part of Kinnaur and inhibited by Kinnauris. The main livelihood is agriculture while apples are a major cash crop here. The most significant achievement of this region which is worth laudable is that this area boasts of growing the world’s best quality apples. The weather along with the soil are both conducive to its exclusive and superior variety and quality. A part of the population also depends on tourism. The valley remains closed for six months during winter (from December till may) when the snowfall is heavy. The old Indo-Tibet road connects Sangla to The National Highway 05 at Karcham.
Chitkul (Chittkul) is a village in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, located at an elevation of 3450m above from sea level. It is the last inhabited village near the Indo-China border. The Indian road ends here. During winters, the place mostly remains covered with the heavy snow and the inhabitants move to lower regions of Himachal. Potatoes grown at Chittkul are one of the best in the world and are very costly. Chitkul, on the banks of Baspa River, is the first village of the Baspa Valley and the last village on the old Hindustan-Tibet trade route. It is also the last point in India one can travel to without any special permit.
Kalpa is a small town in the Sutlej river valley, above Recong Peo in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, Northern India, in the Indian Himalaya. Kalpa situated an average elevation of 2,960 metres (9,711 feet ). It is located 265 kilometres (165 mi) beyond Shimla on the NH-5 in Kinnaur district. It is located at the base of the Kinnaur Kailash snow-capped ranges. The Shivling peaks rise up to 20,000 feet (6,000 m), that changes its color at different points in the day.. It is above the town of Recong Peo, the district headquarters of Kinnaur, which has a hundred-year-old Buddhist monastery. Inhabited by Kinnauri people and famous for its apple orchards. Apples are a major cash-crop for the region. The local inhabitants follow a syncretism of Hinduism and Buddhism, and many temples in Kalpa are dedicated to both Hindu and Buddhist gods and goddesses.
In Reckong Peo where travelers must stop to get their Inner Line Permits to continue upwards to the Spiti Valley, which is a small ancient part of what used to be Tibet. Spiti Valley is also called Mini Ladakh.
Nako is the largest village at an elevation of 3,625 m (11,893 ft) with the backdrop of Reo Purgyal which has an elevation of 6,816 metres (22,362 ft) and is the highest mountain in Himachal Pradesh. It is 103km away from Reckong Peo. The village is now on a more stable location near the Nako Lake (formed by the slopes of the mountains of Reo Purgyal), compared to the opposite bank across the Nako river where it was located earlier and then shifted because of tectonic upliftment of the site. Nako Monastery in the upper part of the village and the Nako Lake are important landmarks in the village. The monastery dated to the 11th century (1025 AD), oriented towards Tibet, similar in style to the Tabo Monastery consists of four large halls of which the oldest and largest is known as Dukhong. It is also known as ‘Lotsava Jhakang’ meaning “Complex of the Translator” named so in honour of Rinchen Zangpo who translated Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit to the Tibetan language. Apples and Sun dried apricots are the agricultural produce from the village.
Tabo village is situated at an altitude of 10,760 ft (3,280 m). Tabo is a small town in the Lahaul and Spiti district on the banks of the Spiti river in Himachal Pradesh, India. The town lies on the road between Recong Peo and Kaza, the sub-divisional headquarters of Spiti. The town surrounds a Buddhist monastery which, according to legend, is said to be over a thousand years old. The Dalai Lama has expressed his desire to retire to Tabo, since he maintains that the Tabo Monastery is one of the holiest. In 1996, the Dalai Lama conducted the Kalachakra initiation ceremony in Tabo, which coincided with the millennium anniversary celebrations of the Tabo monastery. The ceremony was attended by thousands of Buddhists from across the world. Tabo Monastery’s spiritual head is Tsenshap Serkong Rinpoche. Climate in Tabo is very unpredictable as it ranges from cloudy to sunny and from snow to heavy snowfall. Summers are short from May to August and winters are longer from mid-September to April. Winter temperatures in Tabo can range from −15 °C (5 °F) in the day to −45 °C (−49 °F) overnight. In summers, temperature ranges from 20 °C (68 °F) in daytime to −5 °C (23 °F) at night.
Pin Valley National Park is a National park of India located within the Lahaul and Spiti district, in the state of Himachal Pradesh, in far Northern India. The park is located in the desert habitat of the Spiti Valley, within the Cold Desert Biosphere Reserve, in the Himalayas region. Spreading south of Dhankar Monastery near the Tibetan border, the park marks the border between the formerly separate districts of Lahaul and Spiti. The elevation of the park ranges from about 3,500 metres (11,500 ft) near Ka Dogri to more than 6,000 metres (20,000 ft) at its highest point. Because of the park’s high altitude and extreme temperatures, the vegetation density is sparse, consisting mostly of alpine trees and groves of Himalayan cedar (Cedrus deodara). In summer, rare birds such as the Himalayan snowcock, chukar partridge, snow partridge and Snowfinch flourish in the park. It is famous for Snow Leopard.
Dhankar Gompa is a village and also a Monastery, a Buddhist temple in the district of Lahaul and Spiti in India. It is situated at an elevation of 3,894 metres (12,774 feet) in the Spiti Valley above Dhankar Village, between the towns of Kaza and Tabo. The complex is built on a 1000-foot (300-metre) high spur overlooking the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers – one of the world’s most spectacular settings for a gompa. Dhang or dang means cliff, and kar or khar means fort. Hence Dhangkar means fort on a cliff. Dhankar, like Key Monastery and Tangyud Monastery in Spiti, and Thiksey, Likir and Rangdum monasteries in Ladakh, was built as a fort monastery on the Central Tibetan pattern.
Kaze is the subdivisional headquarters of the remote Spiti Valley in the western Himalayas in the Lahaul and Spiti district of the northern Indianstate of Himachal Pradesh. Spiti is a high altitude or cold desert having close similarities to the neighbouring Tibet and Ladakh regions in terms of terrain, climate and the Buddhist culture. Kaza, situated along the Spiti River at an elevation of 3,650 metres (11,980 ft) above mean sea level, is the largest township and commercial center of the Spiti valley.
Kye Gompa is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery located on top of a hill at an altitude of 4,166 metres (13,668 ft) above sea level, close to the Spiti River, in the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh, Lahaul and Spiti district, India. It is the biggest and one of the oldest monastery of Spiti Valley and a religious training centre for Lamas.
Kibber is a village high in the Spiti Valley in the Himalayas at 4270 metres or 14,200 ft in Himachal Pradesh in northern India. It contains a monastery and the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary. Kibber lies in a narrow valley on the summit of a limestone rock. It is located 20 kilometres from. Agriculture forms the backbone of the local economy and lush green fields are abundant. he Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1992, which spans over an area of 2,220.12 km2 of land. The elevation range of this sanctuary is 3,600-6,700 m above mean sea level.
Kunzum Pass situated at an elevation of 4,590 m or 15,060 ft, is a high mountain pass on the eastern Kunzum Range of the Himalayas some 122 km from Manali. It connects the Kullu Valley and Lahaul Valley with the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh, India. It is on the route to Kaza the subdivisional headquarters of Spiti. There is also a 15 km trek to the Moon Lake of the Chandratal from the Kunzum Pass. It consists of fifteen (15) sharp hairpin turns, testing driving skills of even experienced drivers. The drivers, travelers and passer by seeks blessings of Kunzum mata before undertaking the dangerous journey.
Chandra Taal lake is situated on the Samudra Tapu plateau, which overlooks the Chandra River. The name of the lake originates from its crescent shape. It is situated at an altitude of about 4,300 m (14,100 ft) in the Himalayas. Mountains of scree overlook the lake on one side, and a cirque encloses it on the other. Chandra Taal is a tourist destination for trekkers and campers. The lake is accessible on foot from Batal as well as from Kunzum Pass from late May to early October. There is also a motor road accessible as far as a parking lot 2 kilometres from the lake. The route from Kunzum Pass was accessible only on foot before, but now motorcycles and 4×4 cars do travel this distance where you take a right cut from a T-point, the road to left leads to Bataal. It takes approx 2 hours from Kunzum Pass to Chandra Taal. Chandra Taal is also accessible from Suraj Tal, 30 km away situated near Baralach Pass or Baralacha La in Lahaul district.
Rohtang Pass, at an altitude of 3979m (13,050 ft) above sea level, is another adventure tourist site where it can be cold even on a summer day. It is the highest point on the Manali-Keylong road and provides a wide panoramic view of mountains rising far above clouds, which is truly breath taking. Close by is a small lake called Dassaur Lake. Beas Kund, the source of river Beas, is also nearby. In winter, the road of Rothang Pass is closed. Beas Kund, an igloo shaped temple, on top has a spring which is the origin of River Beas.
Important to note that the road to Rohtang Pass is closed off at Manali bridge, on all Tuesdays 09:00-18:00 for carrying out road widening work and repairs. If you are able to leave early, before 09:00, you can avoid the traffic rush (found on all other days).
Rohtang Pass can also be accessed on foot, if there are stoppages beyond Snow-Point. However, it is a strenuous climb and also needs a good guide to show the short cut routes to the Pass.
Please note that due to heavy traffic and narrow road condition permit may not available.
Rahala waterfalls: About 16km from Manali at the start of the climb to the Rohtang Pass, are the beautiful Rahalla Falls at an altitude of 2,501m.
Rozy Falls: On the way to Rohtang amazing water fall worth seeing. this water fall looks amazing between the high hills.
Kothi, is located at the bottom of Rohatang Pass. It is a beautiful and photographic village where tourists can capture different thrilling views of the deep gorge through which the Beas swiftly runs. This is an amazing place to experience the natural beauty of high altitude mountain.
Nehru Kund: Nehru Kund is located at the distance of around 6 km from Manali. It is one of the natural springs of natural water in India. Nehru Kund is named after the late Prime Minister Jawar Lal Nehru. Nehru used to drink water from this Kund, while his journey to Manali. Nehru Kund is on the Manali-Keylong road, about 6 kms from Manali.
Manali, at the northern end of the Kullu Valley in Himachal Pradesh, is a hill station situated at a height of 2050m (6398 ft) in the Himalayas. Situated on the Beas river (Vyaas in Hindi) and near its source, it is a popular tourist spot for Indians in summer and a magical, snow-covered place in winter. A staging point for a number of treks (Beas Kund, Chandrakhani Pass) and sports such as white-water rafting, Manali is also on the road to Ladakh via The Rohtang Pass which is the main attraction near Manali and Lahaul & Spiti valley.
Vashist Hot Water Springs and Temple, situated around 3km from Manali, across the Beas river is Vashist, a small village with natural sulphur springs. Modern bath houses, with Turkish-style showers, have the hot water piped into them for the convenience of the visitors who come here to benefit from the medicinal properties. Vaishisht, also boasts a pair of old stone temples, opposite each other above the main square. Dedicated to the local patron saint Vashista, the smaller of the two opens on to a partially covered courtyard, and is adorned with elaborate woodcarvings.
Jogini Falls, situated about a 2km trek from Vashisth Temple. Going to the top of the falls would need a guide and quite a bit of trekking, but if you wish you could just keep asking for directions from Vashishth temple and reach the first level of the falls.
Solang Valley, popularly known as Snow Point, is 13 km northwest of Manali and famous for its 300m ski lift. It is a picturesque spot and offers splendid views of glaciers and the snow-capped mountains. Solang valley also offers attractions like paragliding, snorkeling etc.
Hadimba Temple: It is an ancient cave temple dedicated to Hidimbi Devi, who was a character in the Indian epic, Mahābhārata. The temple is surrounded by a beautiful cedar forest (Dhungri Van Vihar) at the foot of the Himālayas. The sanctuary is built over a huge rock jutting out of the ground, which was worshipped as an image of the deity. The structure was built in the year 1553. If you’re walking to the temple you can take a short cut up the hill through the woods instead of walking along the road.
Monasteries: Manali is known for its shiny gompas or Buddhist monasteries. One of the monastery is located at the central of the town and near the Mall. Manali Gompa was built in 1960. It is one of the most important places for Buddhists. Buddhists come to this place from Ladakh, Tibet, Spiti, Lahul and Kinnaur. Manali Gompa is world famous for a large statue of Buddha and for its wall paintings. It is maintained by donations from the local community and by sale of hand-woven carpets in the temple workshop.
Maa Sharvari Temple, is represented as KULDEVI of the kings of Kullu in early times and is worshipped as a manifestation of Durga, and image of the goddess is also enshrined here. The divinity is popularly worshipped throughout the region during the festivals and the Goddess is transported to Kullu to visit the Lord Raghunath Jii during Dussehra festival. This temple is on the top of above the Shaminallah village, which is around 5km from Manali, accross the Beas river on the left bank on the way to Naggar Casttle.
Kalath Hot Water Springs, situated around 6.5 Km downstream from Manali, natural sulfurous water flows from the bowels of earth, public bath areas and private bath areas are available.
Old Manali: At a distance of 3km northwest of Manali is Old Manali, famous for its orchards and old guesthouses. Calm and serene surroundings coupled with the sound of Beas river is a very peaceful experience. There is ruined fort here by the name of Manaligarh. There is also the Manu Maharishi Temple, dedicated to sage Manu.
Gauri Shankar Temple at DASHAL village(700m from Sarsai ) on the main left bank Kullu Manali Highway. It is a 12th century protected monument. Also see lush green apple orchards,play with water stream out there
Naggar: The Castle, Roerich House and Art gallery are places to see. Moonlight dinner on the balcony of Hotel Castle restaurant is worth experiencing, with the lovely sight of twinkling lights below in the Beas valley. Bijli Mahadev temple, about 20km from Naggar, is also worth visiting.
Krishna Temple at Thava: Ask for directions to this temple from Naggar Castle and do a small trek of half an hour through dense pine and deodar forest to reach the beautiful Krishna Temple. With hardly any tourists around, this place is magical.
Jana Water Falls: 15km from Naggar and 35km from Manali, at Zana Village, beautiful Water Fall is worth visiting. The valley provides amazing views. There is one water fall on the road side and two other water falls which are not much explored by tourists and are amazing. Moreover Traditional Himachali food is available here at small hut like shops.
Jagatsukh: Jagatsukh, the former capital of Manali, has a few nice temples done in Shikhara tyle. You can visit them while travelling to Naggar.