Himachal Pradesh

Himachal Pradesh is an ideal place to visit during the hot summer months of May and June and also in September and early October. Especially in the hot summer months when the rest of Indian is boiling hot, Himachal Pradesh is pleasantly cool and in some places even a little cold. Himachal is covered by high mountains and has some beautiful valleys. It has some great places to trek.

There are several places worth visiting in Himachal Pradesh such as: Dharamsala, a Buddhist center where the Dalai Lama lives; Kullu Valley, where Manali is located: the peaceful laid-back Parvati Valley; and Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh and a major hill station. There are also the regions of Spiti, Kinnaur, and Lahaul. They are basically high altitude deserts with mountain, which are highly influenced by Tibetan Buddhism.

To the north and east are the Himalayas, in the south, the Shivalik Range. The Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal Ranges go through the state. There are several areas in Himachal Pradesh to do some interesting trekking. This is the most popular mountain area for foreign tourists.

Even in the summer, the northern parts of Himachal Pradesh can be chilly at night, so some warm clothing is needed. Dharamsala is a bit warmer than the more mountainous sections of the state, and can be quite pleasant in late-March, April, and in November. From late November to early March it can be quite cold, especially at night. The trekking season begins in late June and goes to late October in the north and east and goes to late November in the west. The roads in the areas north of Manali are open only from June through early October.

Permits
Permits are required to visit parts of Kinnaur, Lahaul, and Spiti. Permits can be obtained at the District Magistrates’ Office. It is best to get the permit at Rekong Peo or at Kaza to avoid wasting some of the seven-day permit traveling to these places. A permit is required to travel between Tabo and Rekong Peo. You do not need a permit to travel between Rekong Peo and Shimla.

No permit is needed to travel between Manali and Leh.

Tourist Offices
Himachal Pradesh Tourist Development Corporation (HPTDC) organizes deluxe buses between major tourist places. These buses are expensive, but they are usually the quickest and most comfortable way to travel.

Tattapani
This place is known for its sulphurous Hot Springs. It is a nice small town with some good views, but there is little else here beyond the springs. You can bathe in the hot springs at the Spring View Guest House, and at the Tourist Bungalow.

Rampur
Located here is the Padam Palace (1925). It has nice gardens and wall paintings. Visitors are not permitted into the palace. Rampur is an interesting village to walk around with its Hindu and Buddhist temples. Few people stay here long.

Sutlej, one km west of the center of town, has good food and views. There are several small eating places here.

There are regular buses to Shimla (8 hr) via Narkanda. There are a few daily buses to Kalpa and Rekong Peo. There is a daily bus to Sarahan (2 hr, 8am, 10 am), Kullu (6 am) and to Kaza (1 pm). A roundtrip taxi from Shimla is Rs 800.

Sarahan
This nice village, 175km northwest of Shimla, is in a beautiful location with some nice walks and treks in the area.

The interesting Bhimkali Temple, built in the Indo-Tibetan style, is worth seeing. It has shrines dedicated to Lord Siva, Lord Raghunath and Lord Narasimha and a small museum. To enter you have to wear a cap, which is provided.

There are several daily buses from Rampur to Sarahan. You can also get a bus to Jeori and from there get a local bus (every 1½ hr) the remaining 16km to Sarahan.

Khajiar
This meadow, 22km from Dalhousie going toward Chamba, is a pleasant place. It is about one km by one km with a lake in the middle. You can ride a horse here. There is the 12th century Khajjinag Temple and a golf course.

Brahmaur
Brahmaur, 65km southeast of Chamba, is at 2190m. There is some spectacular scenery on the way here. Brahmaur used to be the Chamba area capital for over 400 years before it was moved to Chamba in 920. There are some interesting, well-preserved 8th and 9th centuries temples here. They are only opened in the morning and evening.

Brahmaur can be used as a starting point for some interesting treks in the area. It is a five or six day trek to Dharamsala. Mountaineering Institute can help arrange treks, guides and porters.

A popular two-day trek begins at Harshar (a 1 hr ride from Brahmaur) to Manimahesh Lake. This lake is holy to devotees of Siva, who circumambulate it. There is a festival here in August or September.

Kangra Valley
This beautiful valley begins at Mandi and goes north past Dharamsala with the Dhauladhar Mountain Range to the north. There are several interesting places in this valley.

Bhagsu and Dusallan
Often travelers staying for a while stay in the small villages just outside of McLeod Ganj. In Bhagsu, 2km from McLeod Ganj, there are some mid-range hotels and travelers stay in houses in the area. There is a temple here dedicated to Lord Siva that was built in the 16th century.

There is a nice waterfall just past the village of Bhagsu, which is good just after and during the rainy season in September and October. Above the waterfall is the Siva Cafe and a small pool for swimming in, which is a nice place to hang out.
It may not be such a good idea for women to walk alone between McLeod Ganj and Bhagsu at night.

There are several places to stay in Dusallan and you can also stay in villagers’ houses.
It is a pleasant 2km walk between McLeod Ganj and Bhagsu.

Dharamkot
This is a small village popular with long-term stayers. There are good views of the Kangra valley. Dharamkot is where the walk to Triund begins. It is a fairly hard 20-minute walk from the bus stand in McLeod Ganj to here. As the walk up to Dharamkot is fairly steep, most people that are carrying their bags will want to take an auto-rickshaw to here from McLeod Ganj.

Himalaya Tea Stall is a popular eating place.

Kangra
Kangra, 18km south of Dharamsala, has some old temples. The most famous is the Vajreswari Temple, dedicated to the Shakti energy of Lord Siva. It is said that Mahmud of Ghazni plundered a fortune of jewels, diamonds, and gold from this temple. It was destroyed several times and the present temple was built in the 1920s.

From the old Kangra Fort there are some great views. The fort is mainly in ruins. You can get to it by auto-rickshaw. There are some temples in the fort.

The closest airport is 7km away in Gaggal, from where there are flights to Delhi via Kullu. There are buses every half-hour to Dharamsala (1 hr). The bus stand is 1½ km from the temple. There is a railway station here that is on the line between Pathankot and Jogindernagar. Sometimes there are no rickshaws at the railway station and you may have to walk the 3km into town.

Jwalamukhi
The Jwalamukhi Temple, 30km south of Kangra, has an eternally burning blue gas flame that comes from the rock sanctum. This flame is worshiped as a manifestation of the goddess Jwalamukhi. It is one of the 51 Shakti-pitha temples.

There are regular buses to Dharamsala.

Masrur
Masrur, located 40km southwest of Dharamsala, has 15 carved rock-cut Hindu temples, like the ones in Ellora, dating from the 9th and 10th centuries. There is a cave temple with a stalagmite dedicated to Lord Siva and temples dedicated to Sita and Rama. Many of the sculptures are badly weathered and some have been removed and placed in museums. The location of the cave is beautiful.

Chamunda Devi Temple
At the Chamunda Devi Temple, the goddess is believed to grant the desires of anyone who worships there. Chamunda is a particularly intense form of goddess Durga. There is a cave behind the temple with a natural stone Siva-linga.

Buses going between Dharamsala and Palampur past by here.

Baijnath
Located in xe “Baijnath” Baijnath, 45km southeast of Dharamsala, is the important ancient

Vaidyanath Temple dedicated to Lord Siva. The original temple here is said to have been built by the Pandava brothers and the present temple is believed to date from 804 AD. There are carvings of Kartikeya, Chamunda and Surya on its sides.

Taragarh and Tashijong Gompa
You can rent a mountain bike to see the area. Tashijong Gompa, 2km north of the hotel, has a small Tibetan community.

Palampur
Palampur, 30km southeast of Dharamsala, has some nice walks in the area and good mountain views. You can walk to the interesting Gorge on the Bundla River, where there is a waterfall.

Kullu Valley
Kullu Valley is a pleasant, peaceful place to visit. It has some great scenery and treks and is a good place to hang out. The valley is around 80km long, extending from Mandi in the south to the Rohtang Pass in the north. The Beas River flows through the valley. The valley was originally called Kulanthapitha, which means the “End of the Habitable World.” The Kullu Valley is known as the “Valley of the Gods.” The Parvati Valley begins at Bhuntar and goes northeast, with the Parvati River flowing through it.

It is said that the great sages Vyasadeva, Vasistha, Kapila, Narada, Kanva, Gautama, and Markandeya performed tapasya (austerities) in this valley. It is referred to in the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The Pandavas are supposed to have visited this valley three times. The first time was supposed to be after the house of lac was burned. Arjuna is said to have received the famous Pashupati weapon here. It is also said that the Pandavas came through this valley when they went to the Himalayan Mountains to leave this world.

Some of the best wool shawls in India can be purchased here. Good places to shops are The Mall in Manali and Akhara Bazaar in the town of Kullu.

The best time to visit is the end of April to June and September to mid-October. July and August are also good, but it will be rainy. The rest of the year it will be very cold and snowy, especially December to February.

Travel
Vashisht is about 3½ km by road from Manali. You can get an auto-rickshaw or taxi to here. If you are walking it is quicker not to take the road all the way. About a quarter of a km past the turnoff to Vashisht there is a path on the right that goes to the HPTDC Hot Baths after around 300m. Vashisht is around a 30-minute walk from The Mall.

Beas Kund
Vyasadeva is said to have performed austerities here during the Mahabharata period. It is the source of the Beas River and is near the Rohtang Pass.

Solang Nullah
There are skiing slopes in Solang Nullah, 15km north of Manali. Most of the slopes are for beginners. February and March are the best times, as January can be very cold. It is a beautiful area and is a nice place to walk around in the summer.

Travel
There are daily buses from Manali to Solang Nullah at noon and 1 pm. You can also take a bus to Palchan and then walk around an hour through a beautiful area to Solang Nullah. It is a 12km walk from Manali along the western side of the Beas River.

Arjuna Gupha (Deotibba)tc “Arjuna Gupha (Deotibba)”
This is said to be the place where Arjuna, under the advice of Vyasadeva, performed austerities in a cave, called “Arjuna Gupha,” in order to get the powerful Pashupati Astra weapon from Siva. Here he fought Lord Siva, who was disguised as a Kirata, and satisfied him, thus winning his grace and succeeded in getting the Pashupati Astra. This place is located about 5km south of Manali, just before Jagsukh, in a small place called Prini by the Prini Cafe. It is a hard two-hour climb up to this place from the road, and there is really not much to see when you reach it. I have heard about two other places in India that are claimed to be the site of the same event.

Bhrigu Kund
Bhrigu Muni is said to have performed austerities here. It is a very hard 5 or 6 hours walk to get to this beautiful place.

Jagatsukh
At Jagatsukh, 6km south of Manali, there are two old temples—one small Lord Siva temple and the ancient Sandhya Gayatri and Brahma Temple. The locals say that the Pandavas came to these temples.

Bajaura
Located here, 15km south of Kullu, is the 8th century Basheswar Mahadev Siva Temple, which has some nice sculptures.

Bhuntar
The airport for the Kullu Valley is located in Bhuntar.

Malana
Malana is a small village with around 500 people in it. No visitors are allowed to touch the people or anything they own. If they do, they have to pay a fine. Before you enter the village you should wait for an invitation to enter. The people in Malana speak a language similar to Tibetan. Located here is the Jamlu Temple, who is the only deity in the area who does not pay respect to Raghunathji during the Dussehra festival. It is only open to Hindus.

There are a few basic guesthouses here including Santu Ram’s, whose owner knows the trekking trails in the area well. There is a campground just outside the village. You get here by a day trek from Jari or a two-day trek from Naggar.

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