Nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, Himachal Pradesh holds a unique place in tourist destinations around the world. It is a destination that is large and unique enough to offer attractions for all categories & kinds of traveler… adventure lovers, nature lovers, and pilgrims. A 365-day destination, the state is home to the most wondrous snow-capped mountains and offers multiple destinations to suit all budgets. Quaint villages, meandering streams and rivers, popular hill stations, bucolic countryside with fruit-laden trees, peaceful temples and monasteries, wildlife parks and many more..you have it all.
Himachal Pradesh is home to several famous places and hill stations like Manali, Shimla, Chail, Kasauli, Dharamshala etc. Mcleodganj in Dharamshala is the official seat of the Dalai Lama and a popular hill station as well. Offbeat places like Spiti, Kinnaur Kasol, Bir and Shojha are also must visit offbeat destinations in Himachal Pradesh. In short, some of the best places to visit in India are in Himachal Pradesh.
Himachal Pradesh has the Great Himalayan National Park which is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site under the criteria of “outstanding significance for biodiversity conservation”. It is habitat to wildlife such as the musk deer, leopard, snow leopard, brown bear, besides varied species of flora and fauna.
Those who want to experience this Himalayan gem will have no shortage of finding places to visit in Himachal Pradesh. They will feel safe traveling in a state with virtually no crime and home to some of India’s most hospitable people. Besides the weather of Himachal Pradesh is cool and gives relief from the heat and dust of the plains.
So whether you are looking for a weekend getaway or a relaxed holiday, Himachal is your next stop. Himachal is well connected by road, rail, and air and in this guide, we take pleasure in presenting the best three places to visit in Himachal that will make your holiday to memorable.
Best Places to visit in Himachal Pradesh :
#1 KULLU MANALI
One of the most spectacular hill stations in Himachal, the scenic beauty of Kullu Manali is unparalleled. The snow-clad mountains and forests of pines are a sight for sore eyes. The gurgling sound of the Beast meandering through the towns and villages is akin to a fairy tale-like setting. No wonder then Kullu Manali is a place to again and again. Winters bring twirling snowflakes and with it a different set of tourists that love to revel in the snow. Of course, skiing becomes an important adventure activity then.
Apart from being a popular honeymoon destination, it is also a gateway for a plethora of thrilling activities like skiing, paragliding, trekking and orbiting for the adventure enthusiast. For backpackers and trekkers, trails through tranquil mountains apart from economical but dainty cafes are there.
Best Time to Visit
Kullu -Manali – is a destination that offers different attractions in all seasons. Weather in Kullu Manali varies across seasons considering it is located in the upper reaches of the Himalayas. March to June (Summer Season) is the best time to visit Manali if you are looking at escaping the heat of the plains. The temperature of the season stays around a high of 25°C while the low is about 15°C. July to August (rainy season) is an avoid due to landslides and roadblocks. The temperature of the season stays around a high of 22°C while the low is about 12°C.
October – February (Winter Season) – on the other hand offers the twin towns in white snow despite the sometimes inclement weather. So if snow excites you this is an excellent destination. The temperature of the season stays around a high of 15°C while the low is about -5°C.
How to reach Kullu Manali
Several bus services available from all major cities of North India to reach Kullu/Manali. One can also use a taxi/ personal vehicle to reach Manali. Chandigarh (320 km), Amritsar (400km), Shimla (270km) and Delhi (500km) are directly connected to the town via buses. The Volvo Service to Kullu Manali from Delhi is the most popular and comfortable bus service going.
There is no railhead at Manali and Jogindernagar is the nearest one to Manali. Chandigarh/ Kalka is another option to reach Manali by train. From the railheads, one can get several modes of transportation including taxi and bus at a reasonable cost.
Bhuntar airport is located at a distance of 10 km from Manali a short drive to Kullu. Flights are available from all the major cities to Bhuntar (direct or connecting). This is the shortest but expensive mode to reach Manali. The flights, however, can be erratic or get canceled in the monsoons and winters depending on the weather
Things to do
Kullu Manali offers a wide range of activities and the list is endless. Some of them are given below-
River rafting on the Beas – River Beas has one of the best stretches for rafting in India for all levels. The best time for rafting is June, July, October to end January.
Skiing – More of a winter sport this can also be enjoyed on the upper reaches at Rohtang. January and February is the best time as the mountains are lush with pristine snow.
Adventure sports in Solang Valley –
This is where the action is. Due to its large landing meadow surrounded by hilltops, it is just perfect for paragliding. Besides one can go orbiting, horse riding Soar down the hills and experience the thrill.
Trekking– Manali is a trekkers paradise. There are several trails that make you feel close to nature. Options can be from day trips to week-long. There are several organizers that can help you kick-start your adventure. Popular Circuits are:
• Beas Kund Trek
• Lama Dough Trek
• Vashisht Jogini Waterfall Trek
• Bhrigu Lake Trek
• Baralacha Chandratal Lake Trek:
• Hampta Pass Trek
Trips For the religious-minded: One can go visit the Hadimba Temple in Manali or take a scenic day trip to Manikaran Sahib some distance from Kullu.
ROHTANG – Last but not least- No visit can be complete without a visit to the Rohtang pass. A full day trip, it can throw up several challenges on the way. It offers one of the most scenic journeys through mountains and going up to the snow-clad mountains is the gateway to Lahaul and Spiti valleys of Himachal.
If one is looking for a spiritual experience in the lap of nature, Dharamshala is the place to be. Dharamsala is situated on the snowy slopes of the Himalayas. Spectacular views of the snow-clad Dhauladhar ranges are a feast for the tired city eyes. Forests of oak and conifer and white-clad mountain ranges surround three sides of the town.s in front. The biggest Tibetan temple outside of Tibet is situated here. The Namgyal Monastery, home to the Dalai
Lama is the seat of Buddhism offering studies of Tibetan language, the study of Buddhist texts & t Philosophy, besides many other traditional Buddhist activities.
The serene atmosphere amidst the imposing figurines of Lord Buddha is a treat. Besides, it is home to the highest, most beautiful and picturesque Dharamshala cricket stadium. The town itself is divided into the upper and lower divisions. The lower division is the Dharamsala town itself whereas the upper division is known as Mcleodganj. However Dharamshala- Mcleodganj has now become synonymous. Thus the town is a unique blend of Tibetan, Western and Indian culture that is something to be experienced.
How to Reach Dharamshala
Gaggal Airport is the nearest airport and is approx 15 km from Dharamshala by road. Daily flights are available to Dharamshala from Delhi, from where one needs to take a road trip of about 30-45 minutes to reach Dharamshala.
Dharamsala has well connected with other parts of Northern India. One can travel by bus from nearby cities. Direct buses are available from Delhi which is 520 km away, from Kangra– 35 km, from Pathankot-85 km, from Chandigarh- 275 km & from Jalandhar- 200 km. One can also travel by taxi or a personal vehicle
The nearest railhead is at Pathankot which is 90 km from Dharamshala. Overnight trains from Delhi are available to Pathankot. Most people travel from Pathankot to Dharamsala by bus or taxi.
One can also take a Kangra Valley Railway train to Kangra, a slow pilgrim’s progress of about 6 hours. The destination is still 25 km from McLeodGanj from where one needs to take a bus or a taxi to Dharamsala.
Best Time to Visit
Since it is situated on the foothills of the mountains, the weather in Dharamshala is rather comfortable. Dharamshala is a visit the year-round destination and evolves itself in each season. March to End June (Summer Season) is the best time to visit Dharamshala. The temperature of the season stays around a high of 35°C while the low is about 20°C. The lower ranges and the valleys have flowers in full bloom and the snowy upper reaches are a sight to behold.
The prime period is during the Tibetan new year known as the Losar festival celebrated with much fanfare around February/ March. July to September (rainy season). Dharamshala receives heavy rainfall during monsoons and the temperature drops to a minimum of 18 to a maximum of 22 degrees Celsius. Inclement weather conditions can lead to roadblocks due to landslides. Many activities are suspended due to excessive rain.
October – February (Winter Season) – Winters bring out another aspect of the beauty of Dharamshala though it can get quite cold with a temperature between 4 and 7 degrees Celsius. There is approximately three months of snowfall starting from December to February. It is a paradise for adventure seekers and honeymooners during this period.
Things to do
With a plethora of activities and places to visit in Dharamshala is a tourists delight. The must to do visits and activities are: Visit the Namgyal Monastery- Top of the list, a visit to this monastery located in McLeod Ganj is a must. The presence of the Dalai Lama would make it more memorable, however otherwise to the beauty and spiritual aura of the place itself is just amazing.
Bhagsunag Fall, Located about 11 km from the town, it is one of the main attractions in Dharamshala and is known for its old Shiva temple and a waterfall. The surroundings offer a majestic view of by cliffs and pine trees. The height of this waterfall is approximately 70 feet and it is awesome with the clear mountain water gushing down. There is a quaint small cafe cafeteria next to the fall that serves hot beverages to tourists.
Trekking Triund Hill– Trekking to Triund Hill is an exhilarating experience where one gets to inhale crisp mountain air. The trek is easy but is about 7 km both ways and covered in approx 6 hrs. One gets to experience the local culture and nature as one passes through small villages, the forest of oak, deodar, and rhododendron, and it an experience to remember. Apart from Triund, there are several other treks with different difficulty levels that cater to the adventure enthusiasts like the Kareri Lake, Minkaini, Bhagsu, Indrahar, etc.
Visit the jwala Devi Temple – This is a holy site for the Hindus, this is one of the 52 shakti peethas in India. About 20 kilometers from Dharamshala, it is located amongst scenic surroundings and is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year. There is no idol at this temple, but a flame that originates from the rocks and the source of the flame remains a mystery.
Kangra Fort – for the historical minded the Kangra Fort is the largest and probably the oldest fort in India and stands a mute witness to centuries of years of splendor, attack, battle, and opulence. Built around 4th Century B.C. it finds a mention in the Mahabharata. It provides a breathtaking view of the Manjhi and Banganga rivers from its ramparts.
Foodies Delight: The town is visited by a multitude of visitors across nationalities every year. Thus Dharamsala has diverse food options to offer. One will get to savor Italian, Belgian, Chinese, Korean, Himachali, and, of course, Tibetan. Chupka(Noodle vegetable soup), momos, veg beans, and rice dishes are the favorites with the tourists. Some of the popular must-visit eateries are Shop Number 4, Dharamshala (Tibetan), Tibet Kitchen, Dharamshala (Tibetan), Moonlight Café (Mixed), Illiterati Café (Western), German Bakery (Western), Taste of India (Indian).
The capital of Himachal Pradesh, Shimla is known as The Queen” of all hill stations. It enjoys a pleasant climate and is surrounded by snow-clad mountains, pine and deodar forests, and lakes. Tranquil locations abound in and around Shimla making it an ideal vacation spot. A combination of an aura of British India along with picturesque landscapes makes Shimla all-time favorite. Shimla by winter is stunning and is a favorite for tourists wanting to experience the snow.
Regal buildings with a history like the Viceregal Lodges, Victorian-era iron lamp posts, and a mix of modernity make Shimla one of the top tourist destinations in India. The happening Mall road, the local downtown street for clubs, bars, shops, bakeries, etc makes it an attraction for all kinds of travelers. Popular tourist attractions in Shimla are The Ridge of Shimla, The Mall Road, The skating rink, Christ Church, Sankat Mochan, and Jakhoo temple.
There are several mini destinations a short distance away from Shimla such as Naldehra, Chail, Kufri, etc. which keep the tourists engaged.Not to mention, the historic and most famous toy train that ferries between Kalka and Shimla and transverses through more than 100 tunnels and many beautiful stations.
How to reach Shimla
Shimla is well connected by road with neighboring states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, and Punjab by road and there are regular bus services from major cities. Shimla from Delhi is only Delhi (370 km) and is also directly connected to places like Kalka (80 km), Chandigarh (120 km),), Ludhiana (190 km), etc.
There are several state and private bus services (including the Volvo Service) that connect Shimla with cities and towns around.. Well equipped with modern comforts, the journey is most comfortable. For the budget traveller, you have the State transport buses that ply regularly. For the more adventurous, the scenic but undulating mountain journey can be undertaken in private transport as well with an excellent road all through.
The nearest broad gauge railhead is Kalka which is about 90 km from Shimla. Shimla is well connected with local buses and taxis originating from Kalka. Though Shimla also has a railway station, only narrow gauge trains from Kalka ply on this route. For the discerning tourist Kalka to Shimla is one of the most scenic routes going through tunnels with majestic views all around. However, this journey takes 5-6 hours and requires an advance booking.
Jubbarhatti airport is around 20km away from the Shimla and has one of the smallest airstrips. Since flight services are erratic, Chandigarh or Delhi can be used as connecting hubs to reach here. From Chandigarh, one can book a cab or take a bus to reach Shimla. From Delhi, it takes around approximately 7-8 hours to reach Shimla by road.
Best Time to Visit
Shimla is a place that can be visited at any time of the year due to its proximity and accessibility to major cities. The weather of Shimla is moderate and that lends it to be a popular destination at all times.
March to End June (Spring/ Summer season) – With an average temperature of a minimum of 16°C and a maximum of 30°C keeps the climate pleasant throughout the day, making it quite comfortable for tourists. This is the high season when tourists from neighboring towns and states converge to Shimla to escape the scorching heat of the plains. It is also the perfect time for adventure tourism with activities like paragliding, hiking, camping, trekking, etc.
July to September (rainy season) – Shimla experiences rains between July and September and the temperature is between 14°C and 20°C. The area gets heavy rainfall and as it is susceptible to frequent landslides and roadblocks. It is, therefore, technically offseason except for the budget traveler as prices are at a low.
November – February (Winter Season) – Shimla snowfall is the most popular amongst tourists in this season. The temperature averages between a maximum of 8°C and a minimum of -6°C. Shimla in this weather is ideal for winter sports or trekking/hiking. The Winter Carnival is a major attraction with several sporting activities and cultural events.
Things to Do
A holiday in Shimla can come with a myriad of adventure activities, hectic mini trips, relaxed walks, and sightseeing. As there is a long list of things/ places to do in Shimla, but worry no more as we have got you covered.
Viceregal Lodge visit- The Majestic Viceregal Lodge about 125 years old and is like a mini-museum of artifacts from the British era. It is well preserved and has amazing architecture, worked with lovely inset walnut wood ceilings and Burma teak. The gardens are beautifully maintained and the creepers with flowers hanging around on the wall give it a surreal look.
Jakhu Temple visit – Sitting atop a hill Jakhu Temple is one of Shimla’s iconic places of religious importance. At an elevation of 8000 ft one can either can walk up to the temple or can hire a pony. A Taxi is also available. Dedicated to the Lord Hanuman, it has delicate carvings and illustrations on its walls that are a connoisseurs delight. There is a massive idol of Lord Hanuman about 100 feet high which gives an overwhelming presence of the deity himself.
Toy Train Trip – A trip on the historic UNESCO World Heritage Kalka-Shimla toy train is like traveling back in time. The awe-inspiring route takes about 5 hours to complete and is one of the most sought after events in Shimla. Built by the British, it is one of the most scenic train journeys in India.
Visit Christ Church – This is the second oldest church in northern India and constructed in Neo-gothic style. It is located at the end of the Ridge. The church is illuminated at night and glows with all its beauty and grandeur. The church is like the heart of the famous Mall Road of Shimla. The architecture is just brilliant and the interiors grand with stained glass windows and a pipe organ.
Hot Spring bath & Rafting: Tattapani is home to one of the best rapids for rafting on the river Sutlej. It is about 50 km from Shimla and the surrounding areas also have natural hot water sulfur springs. Hence the name “Tatta”. Rafting here through the beautiful landscapes can take you on another high. After the rafting one can look to dip his feet in the relaxing warm water to rejuvenate.
Adventure activities to sightseeing, Himachal Pradesh has countless destinations for all categories of travelers. From the wildlife enthusiast to the adventurous, to the honeymooners or if only to let your feet up, Himachal has it all. The attractions and activities listed for the most popular destinations of Himachal are like the tip of the iceberg. For the explorer, it would take a month to cover each destination. So, make Himachal as your next destination for your holiday and I promise you will come back with memories for all times to come and wanting more.