Set against the imposing peaks of the Western Himalayas, Himachal Pradesh is India’s most admired and accessible hill state, characterised by an appealing diversity. From misty forests to lofty hill stations and bountiful orchards, the landscape of Himachal is as diverse as its religion – Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism co-exist here. While it does not claim the highest peaks in the range, there is plenty to do aside from mountaineering, such as exploring the ancient monasteries and shopping for Tibetan handicrafts.
Our sample tour ideas in Himachal Pradesh
Located in the city of Dharamsala, McLeod Ganj is best known as home to the Dalai Lama, who was granted asylum here in 1959 following the Chinese invasion of Tibet. Today, the town is considered a seminal Buddhist centre of pilgrimage and learning, and plays host to hoards of karma-seeking travellers. A Buddhist temple, decorated with red and gold prayer wheels, provides the village’s focal point. Dharamsala is also a popular starting point for a five-day trek through the Dhauladhar forest to the Indrahar Pass, visiting traditional villages.
Widely considered India’s premier hill station, Shimla, Himachel’s capital, was the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s colonial classic Kim. Every summer from 1864 until 1969, the entire Indian government would flee the stifling heat, seeking refuge in the verdant forest glade of Shimla. The village is perched precariously along a 12km ridge and offers an impressive view of the snow-covered Himalayas. Built in 1903, the Kalka-Shimla railway is a rickety ride through breathtaking mountain scenery.
Rewalsar is the home of three Tibetan monasteries – Nyingma, Drikung Kagyu and Drukpa Kagyu- situated around a sacred lake. Sikh and Hindu temples, and caves used as isolated meditation sites, make this a popular destination for pilgrims and tourists alike.