It is known as the Devbhumi – "Land of the Gods", Himachal Pradesh is a captivating region of the Indian Himalayas. Himachal Pradesh is often referred to as the "Magical Showcase of Nature's Splendor" ideal for the travelers to travel, enjoy and relax. It is a beautiful hill state in northern India nestled in western Himalayas. The state is surrounded with the Tibetan plateau to the east, Jammu and Kashmir to the north, and the Punjab to the west. The vast tracts of high-altitude Trans-Himalayan desert, the dense green deodar forests, the apple orchards, the cultivated terraces, the snow capped high Himalayan mountain ranges, the snow fed crystal clear lakes and flowing rivers and spurting streams; fruit laden groves and soft terraces of corn and tea are characteristics of Himachal Pradesh. It is the ultimate travel destination of India.
The state of Himachal Pradesh has boundaries with the Jammu and Kashmir in the North, Uttar Pradesh in the Southeast, Haryana in the South and Punjab in the West. Himachal Pradesh, its name means the land covered with snow, extends from the latitudes 30°22'40" North to 33°12'40" North and longitudes 75°45' 55" East to 79°04' 20" East. The mountainous state has altitudes ranging from 350 to 7000 meters (1050 ft. to 21000 ft.) above the sea level.
The climate of Himachal Pradesh, depending on the altitude, varies at different places from semi tropical to semi arctic. Winters that is from October to February, heavy snowfall is recorded and are very severe. April to June is delightful and comfortable at the higher altitudes, but on the lower hills, it is more humid than usual. July to September is the time for rainfall and the entire region becomes green and fresh with streams swelling and springs replenished. Summer that is from April to June is the best time to visit Himachal as the weather is mild and days are long. This time is ideal for mountaineering or enjoying an idyllic nature walk.
Today, Himachal Pradesh is one of the most important travel destinations in India. The high hills of Himalayas attract the travelers from all over the world. Himachal Pradesh has plenty of hill resorts, pilgrimage centers, adventure sports destinations and wildlife that attracts a wide range of tourist traffic.
History of Himachal
From the early period of its history, tribes like the Koilis, Halis, Dagis, Dhaugris, Dasa, Khasas, Kinnars and Kirats inhabited it. Later, Aryans came and they assimilated in the tribes. In the later centuries, the hill chieftains accepted suzerainty of the Mauryan empire, the Kaushans, the Guptas and Kanuaj rulers. During the Mughal period, the Rajas of the hill states made some mutually agreed arrangements which governed their relations. When the British came, they defeated Gorkhas and entered into treaties with some Rajas and annexed the kingdoms of the others. The situation largely remained the same untill 1947. Himachal Pradesh was made a centrally administered territory in 1948 with the integration of 31 hill states and obtained additional regions in 1966. It had the status of a union territory after independence till it was granted statehood in 1971.
The State is bordered by Jammu & Kashmir on North, Punjab on West and South-West, Haryana on South, Uttar Pradesh on South-East and China on the East.
Places to Visit in Himachal Pradesh
Shimla : the capital of Himachal Pradesh and one of India's most famous hill stations. Blessed with some of the most spectacular and beautiful landscapes anywhere, it is a travellers paradise -lofty snow peaks, deep gorges, lush green valleys, fast flowing rivers, enchanting mountain lakes, flower bedecked meadows, beautiful temples and monasteries steeped in time. Its name is derived from Goddess Shyamala, an incarnation of Goddess Kali, the deity of power and wrath. However, unlike its name, Shimla is a perfect heaven for those in search of tranquility. Nature has blessed this capital city with innumerable gifts and man has used them to make Shimla one of India's best destinations.
Shimla's wonderful climate, easy accessibility and numerous attractions have made it one of the most popular hill stations in northern India. The views of the show-clad ranges of the Himalayas, fine walks through oak and flowering rhododendron, enchanting resorts within easy reach, golf Naldehra and skiing at Kufri and Narkanda make Shimala an attractive destination throughout the year.
Places to visit in Simla are Viceregal lodge (India's premier academy for higher research.),Himachal State Museum (collections of Pahariminiatures, stone sculpture, local handicrafts, textiles and embroidery.),Jakhoo Hill(Shiml's highest point), Annandale, Glen( A pretty picnic spot), Summer Hill, Chadwick Falls(67 m waterfall) ,Prospect Hill, Sanjauli, Temples(temple of Bihargaon,temples of Tara Devi and Sankat Mochanb),Daranghati Sanctuary.
Dalhousie : Compared to other hill stations, Dalhousie, 80 winding kilometers from Pathankot, is markedly different and as yet unexplored. Blessed with some of the most spectacular and beautiful landscapes anywhere, it is a travellers paradise -lofty snow peaks, deep gorges, lush green valleys, fast flowing rivers, enchanting mountain lakes, flower bedecked meadows, beautiful temples and monasteries steeped in time. Spread over five hills(Kathlog, Potreys, Tehra, Bakrota and Balun) the town is named after the 19th century British Governer General Lord Dalhousie and has a serenity of its own. Attractive cottages and villas cling to the deodar and pine mantled hills of Dalhousie, while pink and red rhododendrons bloom and trees stand tall in different shades of green.
Dalhousie has marvellous forest trails and picnic spots with splendid vistas over the Chamba Valley. A touch of the "Raj" still lingers in the little unspoilt town.
Dharamshala : Set against the magnificent backdrop of the towering Dhauladhar ranges "the white mountains", which rise up to more than 4,000 meters above the valley floor, Dharamshala, which literally means 'the Holy Refuge', lies perched up on the high slopes in the upper reaches of the Kangra valley. Dharamsala is the main hill station in the Kangra Valley - a fertile, undulating valley, lying between the gentle Shivalik Hills and the foothills of the mighty Dhauladhars - a valley noted for the beauty of its scenery - lush terraces, wooded hills, manicured tea gardens and sparkling streams. Founded in 1855, it is one of the 80 hill resorts developed in the seventeenth century by the British to beat the heat and dust of the sweltering plains. Today, it is famous as the abode of the Dalai Lama and is known throughout the world as the Little Lhasa, because of the large number of Tibetans and their 'Government in Exile', which is headquartered here.
Places to visit in Dharamshala are Macleodganj(charming Tibetan settlement), St.John in the wilderness,Triund(scenic picnic spot at Triund),Kunal Pathri, Dal Lake(A popular picnic spot surrounded by forests of fir), Dharamkot, Bhagsunath, Machhrial and Tatwani(A beautiful waterfall at Machhrial and the hot springs at Tatwani), Kareri, Chamunda Devi Temple The famous temple to Chamunda Devi).
Kullu : The most charming and beautiful Kulu valley spreads out its charm on either side of river Beas. The valley runs north to south of this river and is 80kms. long and about 2kms. at its broadest. It is amongst the lower reaches of the mighty Himalayas. The small town of Kullu is famous for its temples, apple orchards, spiring glens and mossy meadows encircled by the rushing streams and meandering brooks, flung east & west, a fairly wide area is open to the tourists, the trekkers, the mountaineers.The annual Dussehra festival attract hordes of tourists. Kullu is also known for its handicrafts,the valley is also famous for its exquisitely woven colourful hand made shawls and kullu caps. Beyond the town's perimeter loom the magnificent greater Himalayas and the silver valley bisected by the Beas River.
Manali : Just 40 kms away from Kullu to the north, Manali is situated near the end of the valley on the National Highway leading to Leh.One of the most beautiful hill stations of the country, Manali is basically a small town in the Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh. The landscape here is breath taking. One sees well-defined snow capped peaks, the Beas river with its clear water meanders through the town. On the other side are deodar and pine trees, tiny fields and fruit orchards . Termed sometimes as the cradle between the lesser Himalayas, Manali is extremely popular with tourists for its lavish display of unspoilt natural beauty. Rich in its scenic splendor, Manali draws a good number of tourists from within the country and abroad every year.
Places to visit in Manali are Kothi(a quiet but picturesque spot),Solang Valley(a splendid valley between Manali), Rahla Falls, Manali Sanctuary.
Mandi & Palampur : Built along the Beas river is the historic town of Mandi, the gateway to the Kullu valley. Literally meaning market, Mandi was on the salt route to Tibet. Mandi district comprises of two princely states of Mandi and Suket. The district takes its name from the principal town Mandi in keeping with the general pattern of the hill states. Situated on the left bank of the river Beas, Mandi town is almost in the center of Himachal Pradesh in the foothills of the Shivalik ranges. At one time the former state of Mandi had an imposing array of forts, 360 in all. However, time has taken its toll and now only about 10 are left. Mandi is renowned for its 81 old stone temples and their enormous range of fine carving, it is often called the 'Varanasi of the Hills'. The town has remains of old palaces and notable examples of 'colonial' architecture. The temples of Bhutnath, Trilokinath, Panchvaktra and Shyamakali are among the more famous ones.
Prime attraction here are Triloknath Shiva Temple, Bhutnath Temple, Syamakali Temple(also known as the Tarna Devi Temple), Ardhanarishvara Temple.
Chamba : In the higher reaches of the Ravi Valley, just 56 km from Dalhousie, Chamba is perched on a little plateau about 100 m above the river. The small town of Chamba is located in a picturesque valley, amidst the Shivalik ranges and is famous for its medieval temples. Isolated in this valley by the high ranges, Chamba developed its own style of architecture and art. Much of this heritage has been preserved and Chamba is known for the elegance of its temples and for its exquisite miniatures and handicrafts. The architecture of the temples of Chamba reflects the glory of its erstwhile rulers. It is also known for its local festivals.
Places to visit here are Lakshminarayanan Temple( in a group are six ancient temples carved in stone), Bhuri Singh Museum,Chaugan(a large grassy meadow forms),Hari Rai Temple (a 11th century temple), Chamunda Devi Temple(dedicated to the goddess Chamunda Devi).
Kangra : The Kangra valley is one of the most picturesque valleys of lower Himalayas. It provides a tremendous contrast in nature of places to be visited. The small town of Kangra was the capital of the erstwhile rulers of the Chand dynasty. It is set amongst the picturesque settings of the Kangra valley at the foothills of the majestic Dhauladhar range. The area around Kangra is known for its ancient temples and picturesque surroundings, which attract tourists. The remains of the fort of the rulers of Kangra are located on a strategic height, overlooking the 'Ban Ganga' and 'Manjhi' rivers.
Bilaspur : Bilaspur is a place where the echoes of the past mingle with the tomorrow. The new town, on the bank of the Gobindsagar Lake of the Bhakra Dam is 64-km from Kiratpur on the Chandigarh-Manali National Highway No-21. Township is situated just above the old town of Bilaspur at an height of 670 m. above sea level. The new Bilaspur Township can be truely described as the first planned hill town of the country.
Places to visit are Markand, Bahadurpur Fort, Shri Naina Devi Ji,Tiun Fort, Swarghat, Bhakra Dam.
Kinnaur : Located in the dizzying heights of the Himalayas, with passes that remain closed for six months linking them with the rest of the world, Kinnaur, Spiti & Lahaul were till now a forbidden land Kinnaur Lulled by the sweet folk songs of the Kinnauri women, the vale of Kinnaur provides a calm sojourn to all tourists, young and old. While the youthful and the daring try to conquer the hilltops with their trekking expeditions, the more laid-back traveler can savor the delights of the tranquil mountains amidst the bounties of nature. Kinnaur, with its colorful and hospitable population, can be an absolute delight for the ones who admire the highlands. This land of fairytales and fantasies has a breathtaking terrain of lush green valleys, orchards, vineyards, snow-clad peaks and cold desert mountains.
Chail : Chail is a place where time stands still. Nature is at her exuberant best and words like pollution and deforestation have never entered the dictionary of a person living in Chail. It is place worth a visit if one wants to enjoy fresh, crisp dawns and soft, quiet dusks in the lap of nature.The palace of the maharajas, built in the late 19th century and the pretty cottages of the complex - that once accommodated the ADCs and guests of the royal party - are now part of a charming holiday resort. Chail has lobely walks and trails that meander through the dense pine forests - the home of barking deer, wild boar, pheasant and a variety of birds.
Places to visit here is the Chail Sanctuary( a beautiful hill station and a popular resort).
Lahaul and Spiti : Lahaul and Spiti are two remote Himalayan Valleys of H.P. lying on the Indo-Tibet border.This is a mountainous area that is located between Ladakh and Tibet in the north and the Kullu valley in the south. Strange, exciting, primitive, these valleys are unsurpassed in mountain scape, in the rugged beauty of their rocky escapements and the splendor of their snow covered peaks. It has some interesting Buddhist gompas and secluded villages. There are some good treks in this area.To reach here from Manali you have to travel over the Rohtang Pass, which is closed a good part of the year because of heavy snow. You can also get to this area coming from Shimla going through the Spiti Valley.
Lahaul is marked by a central mass of uniformly high mountains and massive glaciers. The two rivers, Chandra and Bhaga which rise on either side of the Baralacha La, flow through the narrow Chandra and Bhaga valleys. Lahaul is a land of fascinating Buddhist art and culture. The monasteries of Lahaul-Spiti are rich repositories of ancient murals, thankas, wood carving and golden images of Padmasambhava.Summer in this valley is cool and pleasant with green grass and alpine flowers.
Transportation in Himachal Pradesh
How to reach Himachal Pradesh by Air : There are three airports in the state of Himachal Pradesh. They are at Bhuntar, Gaggal and Jubbarhatti. The air routes connect the state with Delhi and Chandigarh.The most important airport in the state is in Kullu and is only 23kms away. Jagson Airlines operate between Delhi Kullu.
How to reach Himachal Pradesh by Road : The state has very good road connection to the major cities of the North India. Chandigarh is at a distance of only 117kms whereas, Delhi 343kms, Ambala 151kms and Dehradun 240kms. Most of the important places of Himachal Pradesh are well connected with the roadways. Few of the roads get closed during winters and monsoon seasons due to snowfall and landslides. Regular bus services connect Shimla with Chandigarh, Kullu, Manali, Delhi, Mandi, Pathankot, Amble, Chail and Dehradun. Local taxis are the major local transport here.
How to reach Himachal Pradesh by Rail : In hilly areas, it is difficult to construct railway tracks. Kalka (90kms away) is the most important Railway Station in the state. A narrow-gauge railway track connects Shimla with Kalka. There are a few other railway tracks also passing through important destinations in the state. The Pathankot-Jogindernagar line is the longest railway line connecting Punjab with Himachal Pradesh. The other railway tracks pass through Shimla, Solan and Una. Shimla is connected with Kalka by a narrow gauge railway line, which in turn is connected with the major cities in India.
Tourism in Himachal Pradesh