|Currency||Indian rupee (INR)|
|Religion||Hinduism 98.14%, Other 1.97%|
|Electricity||230V/50Hz, Indian (Old British)/European plugs|
|Time Zone||UTC +5:30|
Himachal Pradesh is a northernmost state proper in north-western Republic of India, and offers much for those looking to experience the West Himalayas. While it does not claim the highest peaks in the range, there is plenty to do aside from mountaineering. Its name literally means "Abode of Snow". It border the Disputed territory of Indian-administered Kashmir to the north of it respectively.
There are twelve districts in Himachel Pradesh State:
- Shimla — the state capital and once the summer capital of the British Raj is a cool and charming Himalayan outpost. Major attractions include the Institute of Advanced Studies aka Vice Regal Lodge (the summer residence of the Viceroy during the Raj), along with numerous Raj-era buildings dotting the Heritage walk on The Ridge. It is the biggest city in Himachal Pradesh.
- Bir — a small town with a large Tibetan community and several Buddhist monasteries.
- Dalhousie — a sleepy little town which retains its Victorian charm.
- Dharamsala — the home of the Dalai Lama and India's largest Tibetan community, and a major Buddhisit center.Now the 2nd capital of H.P.
- Kullu — District HQ of Kullu district, a few km south of Manali. Manali is tehsil of Kullu district.
- Manali — a buzzing and popular hill station in Kullu District. A good base to acclimatise if heading further in Lahaul & Spiti or towards Leh. The last big town for preparing for any adventure in the higher mountains.
- Jogindernagar — popularly known as Electric City or The City of Powerhouses, the town has scenic hill resorts and tourist attractions nearby.
- Keylong — a small town and HQ of Lahul & Spiti district. It lies on the way from Manali to Leh. Last petrol pump (gas station) of Manali-Leh highway is here.
- Bilaspur — First city in Himachal Pradesh on the way to Manali. Main attraction is Govind Sagar Lake. It's hot in the summer and cold in winter.
- Sundernagar — first town of Mandi District on way to Manali. Main attraction is Sundernagar Lake.
- Mandi — District HQ of Mandi district. Major town. Main attraction is Revalsar Lake.
- Rewalsar (Tibetan: Tsopema) - a lake sacred to both Buddhists and Hindus
- Masroor Rock Cut Temples (Masrur Temples) - Sometimes in the 8th or 9th century - but most likely in the second half of the 8th century - one of the characteristic sandstone ridges in Kangri valley was reshaped in a miraculous way.
- Shrikhand- a pilgrimage place for Hindus.
Shimla, Kullu (for Manali) and Kangra or Pathankot (for Dharamsala) have small airports, with services largely limited to Delhi. Flights are frequently cancelled or delayed by adverse weather. In addition the airport in Pathankot (Punjab) can be a convenient connection for Dharamsala and Dalhousie. If you are on a tight budget you might want to skip this option as it is way more costly than other mode of transportation. Airfare on this route is one of the highest in world for a given unit distance. Airport in Shimla is at Jubbal Hatti which is around 40 km away from main Shimla City.
Given the difficult geographical position of State there is very little penetration of railway network. Little rail network available give access to peripheral districts and capital Shimla. Nevertheless it is an amazing experience going from Kalka to Shimla. Kalka-Shimla railway track is also UNESCO world heritage site. Few points in Himachal are easily accessible by train, but there are narrow-gauge railways from Pathankot (Punjab) to Kangra and Kalka (Haryana) to Shimla. This will take you through beautiful rural Himalayan regions. The ride beyond Kangra is amazing. You ride along the Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas via Palampur and Baijnath to Joginder Nagar. The region is criss crossed by rivers and streams.
Bus is the only practical means of getting to many points in Himachal. All cities of interest have direct services to Delhi. There are three different entry routes to Himachal if you are coming from Delhi.
- Delhi-Chandigarh-Shimla-Kaza route.
- Delhi-Chandigarh-Kangra-Dharamsala or Delhi-Chandigarh-Kangra-Chamba
all three routes are interconnected within Himachal. It is cheapest means to travel in and around Himachal. There are Volvo buses operated by Himachal State Transport Corporation on these routes.
You need inner line permit to visit some part of kinnaur and spiti district.
Travel by bus can be done throughout for very little (15 hour bus rides are rarely more than a few hundred rupees) on the public buses, and though uncomfortable, are a great way to meet people. Though be careful, as riding an Indian bus is already a hair-raising experience, and riding an Indian bus on steep mountain roads is even more intimidating!
Enfield motorcycles can be rented here for less than 5 dollars a day, with no verification of a motorcycle license. Note that the area may not be the best place to learn how to ride.
Dalhousie is a world-famous hill station, located in the western part of Himachal Pradesh. Dalhousie is basically built on five different hills called Balun, Tehra, Kathlog, Patreyn and Bakrota, and covers an area of 14 sq. Km. Dalhousie is named after one of the British Governor Generals, Lord Dalhousie. Dalhousie has many beautiful churches and charming colonial architecture.
Kullu Valley is very well known as Valley of Gods. It is situated on the Beas river bank in the lower reaches of Himalayas. Rudyard Kipling has written: "Surely the Gods live here; this is no place for men". Kullu is very well known for its ancient temples, festivals and apple orchards. This place is also famous for its handicraft work and woollen work of puhla, shawls, patoos, caps and namdas. The best time to visit Kullu is during Dusshera in the month of October.
Spiti Valley is also known as the Little Tibet due to its vegetation, terrain and climate which are similar to Tibet. Spiti also means Middle Country.
Lahul Valley is green compared to Spiti Valley. It is covered with snow for most of the year. Roads are closed from late October to early May. Its main attractions are Patten Valley and Sri Trilokinath Temple, as well as lots of monasteries.
Trekking opportunities are plenty in the state, here are a few:
- Baralacha-Chandratal Trek — starts from Manali, ends at Chandratal Lake ("Moon" Lake)
- Bhabha Pass Trek — known for lush green flower strewn meadows, picturesque and dense forests. he path for bhaba pass trek passes through a mixed forest of conifers as well as crop fields of Mastrang.
- Bir Bhangal Trek — Bir Bhangal Trek is only for the experienced trekkers who have the experience of solid hiking and camping. This is one of the challenging trekking trails which starts from the Kullu valley.
- Darcha Lamayuru Trek — this is one of the most popular trekking treks in the Himachal Pradesh, and one of the most traversing trek, passing through the Zanskar
- Darcha Padum Trek
- Deo Tibba Expedition
- Friendship Peak Expedition
- Hampta Pass
- Indrahar Pass
- Kunzum La to Chandrataal Hike This is one of the shorter hikes of around 8 km from Kunzum La till Chandrataal Lake. Terrain is not that difficult, but high altitude may pose some problem for people not used to it..
Trekking routes in Himachal
- Hamta Trek
- Malana History Trek
- Chander Trail in Kullu Valley
- Wild Trek in Kullu Valley
- Dharamsala Chhota Bhangal over sari Pass Kullu
- Morchella trek
- Manali Hamya Herbal Trek
- Kinner Kailash Parikrama
- Hamirpur Deotsidh Sri Naina Devi Trek
- Maidi to Nadaun
- Bharmaur Kugti Udaipur Manali trek
HP food is often very simple but nutritious, including daal, rice, roti, vegetables, paneer, curds and pickles in the Punjabi influenced Pahari regions. Further North, Tibetan influence is stronger and barley is the main staple grain. Some of the specialities of Himachal include Manee',Madira,Pateer, Chouck, Bhagjery and chutney of Til.
In the Tibetan influenced regions, "Chhang" (fermented rice wine) is common. Different regions have different cuisines and food processing techniques which are governed by factor like agro-climatic conditions, and socio-clutural ethos..
There are plenty of hotels and restaurants in and around District HQ as well as main tourist places. There are rest houses of HP PWD & Forest department at places where it is hard to find hotels.