There’s no doubt that I always want to rush to a colder destination, more so, during the hot summer months. I’m sure we all do! However, for me, it also brings back childhood memories of snuggling up to warm blankets, sipping hot cocoa, while letting snow-clad mountains putting me to sleep from across those frosty windows. Even as an adult, I’m constantly in search of places, enveloped in the magical beauty of snow. Each one of the snowy city I have been to, so far, has made me connect to “present,” and have released a sense of superlative calmness, I can’t quite explain. Snowflakes are the first sign that heaven has been designed by someone with a great sense of geometric aesthetics. Therefore, exploring colder countries has become a personal favourite these days, with India being no exception.
Himachal Pradesh, the Switzerland of India
25 years back, in 1993, I took my first trip to a Snowy destination, none other than the great Himachal Pradesh. My parents had planned a wonderful trip which covered everything from Kullu, Manali, Dalhousie, Mandi, Shimla, Renuka Ji, Manikaran, Dharamshala, to so much more. Years later, when we travelled to Switzerland, we found the snow to have revoked our incredible Himachal memories. Now my parents and I fondly refer to Himachal Pradesh, as the Switzerland of India. Although, in last few years, I have visited the state under a different light. From raging music festivals, biking to mountain peaks, indulging in fresh bakery items, to other endless activities, is what makes Himachal my annual holy expedition destination.
Whether you choose to dance with the timeless snowflakes or explore Himachal’s phenomenal scenic beauty, mountaintop villages, and Buddhist monasteries, you are guaranteed to be impressed by the state’s modest culture and people. Here’s a rundown of 10 best things to do in Himachal Pradesh, from what I have gathered in my last couple of visits.
10 best things to do in Himachal Pradesh
1. Stay in a wooden lodge, as Himachal Pradesh is flourishing with them. They are economical, warm, and aesthetically built which makes them a perfect Mountain retreat.
2. Indulge in the scrumptious Himachali food, which is best-served at either the roadside cafes, Dhabas, or city restaurants. What makes this food special, is not its spices, but, the generous dose of love which makes it finger licking delicious.
3. This Pahari region is highly famous for its handicrafts. The best mountain markets feature vibrant woollens, radium glow paintings, leather accessories, carpets, handcrafted woodwork, and Pashmina shawl, a speciality product of Himachal. Shop, shop, shop, till you drop!
4. Attend a local music festival and also, observe a Himachali wedding, if you get a chance. Weddings in Himachal Pradesh are a delight to watch as they exhibit state’s traditional dance forms and customs. I was lucky to on-look one such rare performance on one of my trips. Likewise, music gigs in this region are curated by the best of global artists.
5. Travel at the time of important festivals, such as Kullu Dussehra, Solan’s Shoolini Mela, Mandi’s Shivratri Fair, Holi Fair, Renuka fair, Rampur’s Lavi Trade Fair, or the Kinnaur Valley’s Fulaich. This time of the year, Himachalis dress up, in colourful costumes to celebrate the festivities together. No better way to get an up and close feeling of the authentic culture.
6. Himachal’s snow-fuelled rivers make the ideal spot to engage in immense River Rafting and Rowing opportunities. From Chamera Lake, Gobind Sagar, to Manali, the state is home to the best whitewater rafting sites in India.
7. To experience Europe in India, you have got to try the Himachali ‘Toy Train’ once-in-a-lifetime. Known as the “crown jewel,” of North India, this train has been making its way through the narrowest and steepest mountain trails, for over a century now. All that, while crossing 864 bridges, under 102 dark long tunnels across 20 stations at the speed of 22Kmph. Along the way, feel free to immerse yourself in the views of flourishing flora and fauna.
8. Heli-Skiing is an off-trail, snowboarding sport, accessed by a helicopter, due to its remote location. Certainly, not for the faint-hearted! In Himachal Pradesh, Hanuman Tibba is that perfect crazy cool gliding hotspot to try some Heli-Skiing adrenaline. For which, you are flown to Dhauladhar snow range in Manali, where you partake in Skiing over fine-powdered snow amid awe-inspiring views.
9. To complete your Himachal trip, you ought to visit at least one Buddhist Monastery or local temple in the region. I have visited almost all the Gurudwaras and Monasteries of Himachal, however, that was 25 years back. Hoping nothing much has changed around those tranquil shrines of meditation. The best Monasteries are in McLeod Ganj, which is also Dalai Lama’s home and office.
10. Himachal is home to 2 grand National parks namely, Pin Valley and Great Himalayan National park. Other than that, Renuka Ji, Kibber sanctuary, and Kugti wildlife are a few more offbeat parks to explore. Whichever city in Himachal, spot a national park on your route and explore it to discover unusual species of animals.
I would love to hear your favourite things to do in Himachal.