If you’re trying to explore the very best of old-world Europe without ever leaving the Indian subcontinent, all you have to do is visit Himachal Pradesh, the nature and adventure capital of India. Famous for its stunning river valleys, majestic peaks and breathtaking natural beauty, Himachal Pradesh has begun to attract tourists from all parts of the world with its rafting, skiing, paragliding and trekking adventures as well as its untouched serene beauty and remote locations.
Each area has its own religions, customs, traditions and culture, and visiting those ancient villages and mingling with the easygoing and friendly locals is perhaps the best way of exploring the state’s fairy-tale architecture, colonial remanences and mountain scenery. Bookmundi presents a list of the top 10 things to do in Himachal Pradesh to let you focus on the hottest, most beautiful and best adventures that the state has on offer.
Kullu (above image)
Kullu is by far the most popular destination in the Himachal. Located on the banks of the Beas River, the Valley of the Gods is truly a magical land that lets you encounter breathtaking vistas that are usually reserved for the most popular travel photographers on Instagram. With a history that dates back to the 1st century and breathtaking apple orchards, serene rivers, deodar forests and rolling hills, a trip to Kullu is easily the best way to experience the best of nature, without having to get away from man-made comforts or civilization. While Kullu has a number of attractions such as the Sultanpur Palace, Raghunath Temple and the Bijli Mahadev Temple, the best things to do here often include adrenaline pumping adventures such as trekking the Ladakh Valley, paragliding in Solang, mountaineering in Hanuman Tibba and fishing in the River Beas. And if you’re looking to trek the grand Markha Valley, Bookmundi has a tour just for you.
Manali (Old and New)
No one is ever satisfied with a trip to Kullu. A trip to Manali has to feature in the same itinerary as well. Think of Manali as the more energetic sister. Manali’s beauty lies in the fact that it isn’t just a treat for your eyes, it is also good for your skin and your health. It presents a variety of sporting facilities that let you work on your fitness, and the fresh pollution-free air does wonders for your skin care regimen (provided you don’t skimp out on the C-E-M routine). With adventures such as climbing, paragliding, trekking, canyoning and skiing on offer, Manali has always been the perfect spot for adventure lovers, but the splendid scenes and romantic atmosphere has also made it popular with honeymooners and families. Some of the top things to do in Manali include Beas River adventures, Hidimba Devi Temple, Solang Valley and Rohtang Pass excursions.
The Spiti Valley is one of those hidden gems that most travelers tend to ignore while visiting Himachal Pradesh. Home to a number of Buddhist attractions, whitewashed houses, ancient monasteries and breathtaking gorges, Spiti feels even more remote and rugged than Ladakh, the traveler favorite. The valley is also home to the Spiti-Kinnaur loop, one of the best road trips in Asia.
Such is Shimla’s beauty that even the British didn’t think twice before declaring it as their summer capital. Long considered to be one of the top hill stations of India, Shimla has always attracted a steady stream of travelers and has also become somewhat commercialized. Despite all that modernization and the constant crowds, this magical place still hasn’t lost out on its splendor, colonial influence, breathtaking scenes and inspiring locales. The perfect way to experience the best of Shimla is through the toy train, the crown jewel of British India, a journey that crosses 864 bridges and 102 tunnels and presents 100 years of charm in a single ride.
Dharamsala, popularly referred to as the Scotland of India, boasts of an incredibly enviable location – a valley on one side and snowy mountains on 3 other sides. Every alley in the city offers magnificent views of these mountains and there is always magic in the air. Home to the Dalai Lama, Dharamsala has always attracted visitors from all parts of the world, and its picture-perfect surroundings are now attracting travel enthusiasts as well. The town and its surrounding areas are full of pine, cedar and oak trees and this makes for some of the most exciting walks as well.
Dalhousie, a beautiful hill station spread across 5 hills, looks pretty much the same as Dharamsala, with the only difference being that it attracts even lesser crowds, and hence feels even more remote. The best things to do here usually involve strolling along those tree-shaded roads and exploring historic markets such as Subhash Chowk and Gandhi Chowk. Don’t forget to miss out on the sunset views from the Mall Road while visiting Dalhousie. And if you must visit an attraction or two, try adding the Khajjiar Lake and Kalatop Khajjair Sanctuary into your itineraries.
Popularly called the Greece of India, Malana is perhaps one of the best destinations in Himachal Pradesh for those in search of digital detox holidays. Located close to the Kullu Valley, Malana is a spellbinding village that lets you disconnect from the rest of the world and spend a few days in a traditional village gawking at majestic mountain sceneries of the Chanderkhani Pass and exploring a rich indigenous culture. Those of you into cannabis and the like would be interested to know that Malana is also home to the world famous Malana Cream.
Considered to be one of the most beautiful lakes in India, Prashar Lake isn’t just about blue waters and alluring surroundings, it is equally about the fact that it is very difficult to imagine seeing so much natural beauty in a single spot. Magical meadows, snow-capped mountains, exotic aromas, pagoda-like temples, ancient hamlets and stunning adventures all find a place here, and if you’re dreaming of mixing some camping and adventure to your next nature expeditions, this is where you need to be.
Located at a height of 1927 meters, Kasauli, a place that has literally remained unchanged since the British left India, is another destination that is perfect for those who love to do nothing but enjoy spectacular views, watch shepherds guide their flocks through the green valleys and stay amid serene surroundings. Ambling along oak and chestnut lined roads and enjoying the peace and tranquility is perhaps the best way to relax and destress, and this is why Kasauli is slowly seeing a greater influx of tourists. Even adventure buffs have something to do in the form of hiking and trekking.
The unspoiled and completely fascinating natural beauty of Chamba is sure to attract the nature lover in you. Located at a height of 900 meters on the banks of River Ravi, Chamba is a beautiful town that is full of temples dating back to the 4th century, a bustling market and an unspoiled medieval charm. The best time to visit Chamba is during the Minjar Festival, a week-long extravaganza of folk dances, processions and music that lets you dive into the local culture and see ancient traditions.
If things like winter locales, picture-perfect natural beauty, remote locations, untouched cultures, exotic mountains and blankets of snow excite you, a trip to Himachal Pradesh is a must. Places like Shimla, Manali and Kullu are sure to feature in your itinerary, but Bookmundi also recommends you to give one of these off-the-beaten-path destinations a try. The once-in-a-lifetime experiences and mesmerizing scenes that each of these destinations has to offer is more than enough reason to spend an extra day or two in the state.