Area : 55,673 sq km
Population : 6 million
Capital : Shimla
Languages spoken : Hindi, English, Parhari (local dialect)
Best Time to visit : Mid-May to mid-October (trekking) Late December to March (winter sports)
The state of Himachal Pradesh came into existence with the partition of Punjab and Haryana in 1966. Himachal Pradesh is essentially a mountain state - it takes in the transition zone from the plains to the high Himalayas. Its' pleasant summers make it a popular holiday resort. The Kullu Valley, with the snow-capped Himalayas as a backdrop and the sparkling Beas River running through it, has a well-developed, tourist-oriented economy, and can be considered the backbone of the state. The bleak, high altitude regions of Lahaul, Spiti and Kinnaur bear a striking resemblance to Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. The predominant influence here is Tibetan Buddhism and there are some spectacular gompas (monasteries) here.
Himachal Pradesh is one of the loveliest states in India, with charming lakes, pretty flowers, ancient shrines and beautiful people. The state has five mighty snow-fed rivers flowing through it - the Chenab, Ravi, Beas, Sutlej and Yamuna. Climatically, the state has two regions - the south, which is as warm as the plains, and the north, where the summers are temperate.
The snowy peaks, rugged slopes and wide valleys of the state make it a delight for those seeking adventure.
Places to visit
The Raj still lingers in Shimla, the state capital and former summer capital during British rule. Set at an altitude of 2,130 metres, Shimla is, even today, one of India's most popular hill stations. Visit:
» The Mall
» The Ridge
» Scandal point
» Jakhoo hill
This mini hill station is 16 km from Shimla, at 2,622 metres. It's long been famous for its ski slopes, and panoramic views. Walk up to the Mahasu Peak through thick cedar woods, examine the little zoo, or drive on to Chail.
This sprawling hill station was founded by Lord Dalhousie as a sanatorium, and is named after him. It lies on the outer slopes of the Dhauladhar Range of the Himalayas, and is sprawled over five hills - Kathlog, Portreyn, Moti Tibba (formerly known as Tehra), Bakrota and Balun. It has some superb trekking routes. Dalhousie is an excellent place to shop for woollen shawls and Tibetan carpets. It is also the gateway to Chamba, the valley of milk, honey, springs and streams.
This little hill resort, temporary headquarters of the Dalai Lama, is built on a spur of the Dhauladhar range. Situated at a height of 1250 metres, it has dense pine and deodar forests, numerous streams, cool healthy air, and a spectacular backdrop. The charming church of St. John in the wilderness, the final resting place of Lord Elgin, a British Viceroy, is situated here, as are numerous ancient temples. Nearby is Mcleod Ganj, a bustling Tibetan settlement which is now a major centre of Tibetan culture. The waterfalls of Bhagsunath and Machhrial and Tatwani are nearby.
Located on the banks of the Beas river is one of the loveliest spots in the Himalayas, the Kulu Valley. Known as the "Valley of the Gods", Kulu is famous for its apple orchards, pine covered hills, lush meadows, wooden temples, folk music and dances. Located nearby are the Vaishno Devi temple and the Manikarna sulphur springs, famous for their curative powers. There are a number of places for hunting at Kulu.
Located at an altitude of 2050 metres, Manali, situated along the banks of the river Beas, is a popular honeymoon destination. Visit:
The 450 year old Dhoongri Temple dedicated to Goddess Hadimba
The Tibetan monasteries
Arjun Gufa, the cave where Arjuna, one of the Pandava brothers, is believed to have performed penance
The hot sulphur springs of Vashist
Solang valley, that has a glacier
The Rohtang Pass, which once served as a crucial trade route
The Beas Kund, source of the Beas river and a holy site for Hindus
Kangra is a little town located just 17 km away from Dharamshala, in one of the prettiest valleys of a state full of them. Once the capital of a powerful hill state, Kangra was known for its magnificent temples, but today, a fort and some temples are the only remnants of its glorious past.
This tiny hill station, situated at an altitude of 1,927 metres, is a quaint little town that seems to live in a time warp. The British developed Kasauli as a cantonment-sanatorium over 20 years after they had based themselves in Shimla. Its' colonial ambience is reinforced by cobbled paths, tiny shops, gabled houses and neat gardens. Kasauli is one of the quietest hill stations in India.
At the end of the Kullu Valley, 32 km from Manali is the famous Rohtang Pass (3978 metres above sea level), which offers some of the most spectacular views of the awesome Himalayas. For centuries, the Rohtang Pass has been the gateway for trading routes to Lahaul, Ladakh and Central Asia.
On the banks of the river Ravi lies the serene Chamba, once a princely state.
At the foothills of the Shivalik Ranges, in Himachal Pradesh, amidst a 20 acre-forest estate, is the quaint retreat of Nalagrah Palace. Once the capital of the kingdom of Hindur, Nalagrah is today a Welcome Heritage hotel that offers a royal holiday complete with grandeur, tranquility and modern facilities. Watch the dawn rise over the fort walls, take a nature walk, unwind with a Sansha Ayurvedic Massage or enjoy a picnic in the royal orchards. The Ramgarh fort nearby is worth a visit for its spectacular views of the Himalayas.
Tabo is located at a height of 3050 metres in the magnificently isolated Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh. Founded in 996 AD by the great scholar, Rinchen Zangpo, as an institution for advanced learning, Tabo celebrated its 1000th anniversary in 1996. Unlike most other monasteries in the Western Himalayas, Tabo stands on barren, flat ground and it built with mud brick. A small community of sixty monks resides here. The monastery has some rare tangkhas and clay statues of the Buddha painted in the Kashmiri style.
Narkanda, in Himachal, should be visited from December to March. What gives Narkanda its awe-inspiring view of the snowy peaks is the fact that it is located on the ridge of the last watershed before the Himalayan range. Narkanda, at 8,100 feet is 440 kms from Delhi and a two hour drive from Simla. The only peak available for skiing is Hattu Peak, which is 6-kms away from Narkanda.