HIMACHAL PRADESH-AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE

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Himachal Pradesh is home to a few hill stations.Situated on the River Beas, Manali is a standout amongst the most went by hill stations in Himachal Pradesh. Shimla in Himachal Pradesh consists of old-world appeal and landmarks. Chamba and Dharamshala in the upper spans of the province of Himachal Pradesh are to a great degree prevalent with those looking for peace and calm. For adventure sweethearts, Himachal Pradesh offers incredible trekking and climbing trails in Khajjiar, Chail, and Kufri. Naldera in Himachal Pradesh has qualified to have one of the most elevated golf courses in the nation. One should holiday in Himachal Pradesh for a real memorable get-away.

For sheer geographical diversity, few places in the world are as richly endowed as Himachal Pradesh is.Low rolling hills, just a couple of hundred meters above sea level, climb on to touch the core of the Himalaya mountains. Here lie peaks that are several thousand meters high and never lose their Perennial snows. Then, past these forbidding heights, lie visually stunning cold deserts of the Trans Himalaya.

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Rivers in deep gorges and placid mountain lakes, thick forests, and acres of the screen. mountainsides draped with snow and green, Alpine pastures all form a part of this immense spectrum. This variety of nature also opens immense possibilities for a wide range of outdoor activities, sport, and adventure.

MANDI

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Situated on the banks of river Beas is the picturesque town of Mandi. A busy, bustling relic of the age-old bazaar town, Mandi is said to be built on the principles of Vastu Shastra, with the architecture of the town having been designed the harmonious living. Add to this the air of spirituality that pervades this ‘Kashi of Himachal’, the home of numerous temples and you have a pilgrim’s delight-for Mandi, despite the antiquity, caters to the 21st-century tourist with adequate amenities to make a visit comfortable.

KULLU

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What greater feeling of romance and awe can be at ‘Kulapita’-, the end of the habitable world’? This is Kullu, or Kulantpita as it was earlier called. Beyond it rise the forbidding heights of the Greater Himalayas, and by the banks of the River Beas lies the fabled ‘Silver Valley’, the core of an intricate web of innumerable valleys-each more beautiful than the other, with spectacular mountainscapes brilliantly clothed in sunshine or shrouded by mist. The Kullu region is brim-full of natural treasures rolling glens and mossy meadows, rushing streams and meandering brooks that provide tourists, trekkers, mountaineer, artists, and pilgrims  an escape from the heat and dust of the plains, Kullu also provides a delightful shopping experience and is famous for its exquisitely woven colourful handmade shawls and Kullu caps.

MANIKARAN

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About 45 kilometres from Kullu in the Parvati valley in Manikaran. It is believed that Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati were so enthralled by this mountain-locked area with its whispering forests that they spent as much as eleven hundred years here till Parvati lost her earring or Pharna mani.

The hot springs for which Manikaran is famous are said to be the product of the Shesh Nag’s hissing by which he restored Parvati’s lost jewels from the belly of the earth, creating the vents from which the hot, sulphurous springs, with their medicinal qualities, emanate. Today, Manikaran is revered by both Hindus and Sikhs. Amongst the noteworthy shrines here is the ancient Sri Ramchandra Temple, famous for the inscriptions on its walls, the Shiva Temple that titled during the earthquake of 1905 and the Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji Gurudwara. Which Guru NanakDev and his ‘Panch Piaries’ are said to have visited.

In addition, Manikaran provides the base for some challenging treks to the Pin-Parvati Pass which, at a height of 4806 meters connects the Sutlej and Spiti valleys, through Khirganga, Pulga, Barshani, and Mantalai. The spectacular view of the Harinder mountain and the Parvati river from Manikaran are enchanting experiences, while the enthusiastic angler can find a sport at Kasol, five kilometres from Manikaran.

MANALI

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Picture postcard perfect Manali, with its fertility valleys, imposing forests and fast following rivers set against the backdrop of high snow clad mountains provides everything that a holidaymaker desires. From temples of antiquity to picturesque sightseeing spots and adventures activities, Manali is a popular resort for all seasons and for all travellers. Although the town itself is quite small, it acts as a base camp for varied excursions in the vicinity and into the inner Himalayas. A visit to the Club House is a must when in the town. Run by Himachal Tourism, it offers various sports facilities like Table Tennis, Badminton, Tennis, Squash, Skating, and Boating and is popular with young people. It also has a bar and conference facility. Manali has a busy market where innumerable handicrafts, both local and from other states, are available with traditional woven shawls, Kullu caps, and slippers being the most popular buys.

Rohtang pass

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No visit to Manali can be considered complete without a trip to Rohtang La. This is situated at a height of 3970 meters, at a distance of 51 kilometres from Manali. Rohtang Pass offers a variety of winter sports skiing, sledging etc. Each year on 20th Bhado(September) the villagers from the Manali area walk up to the Dashir Lake situated near the Rohtang Pass for bathing and festivities set in nature’s wonderland.

DALHOUSIE

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Dalhousie is a hill station full of colonial charm that holds lingering echoes of the Raj. Spread out over five hills (Kathlog, Potreys, Tehra, Bakrota, and Balun) the town is named after the 19th-century British governor-general Lord Dalhousie. The town’s varying altitude shades it with a variety of vegetation that includes stately groves of pines, deodars, oaks and flowering rhododendrons. Rich in colonial architecture, the town preserves some beautiful churches.

Its marvellous forest trails overlook vistas of wooded hills, waterfalls, springs, and rivulets. Like a silver snake finding its way out of the mountains, the twists and turns of river Ravi are a treat to watch from many vantage points. There are also magnificent views of Chamba valley and the mighty Dhauladhar range with its awe-inspiring snow covered peaks filling an entire horizon.

A veneer of Tibetan culture has added a touch of the exotic to this serene resort and along roadsides are huge rocks carved in low relief, painted in the Tibetan style. By road Dalhousie is 555km from Delhi, 45km from Chamba and the closest railhead at Pathankot is 85km away.

CHAMBA

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Resplendent with historically and architecturally important buildings, Chamba town in its temples and palaces preserves much of its rich medieval past.

Perched on a plateau overhanging the river Ravi, the town is named after Champavati, a daughter of Raja Sahil Varma of the Bharmaur royal house who shifted his capital here in 920AD.

Isolated by high mountains in its beautiful valley, Chamba over the centuries was allowed to develop its own style of ‘Pahari’ art and architecture.

Much of this heritage has been preserved and Chamba, known for the splendour of its temples and handicrafts, is replete with artistic masterpieces.

Still intact a fine group of six ancient shikhara style stone temples ( dating back to 8th century) are dedicated to Lord Shiva, Vishnu, and other deities. Among them, the richly carved Lakshmi-Narayan temple is the oldest structure.

Other evidence of Chamba’s heritage can be seen in the famous collection of miniature paintings from the Kangra, Basholi and Chamba schools at the Bhuri Singh Museum, as well in the murals and other artifacts at the Rang Mahal Palace.

Chaugan, the grassy meadow at the heart of the town, is also the center of its cultural activities. In July/August, each year, the Minjar fair is held here. Valley Gods and Goddess in their majestic palanquins are brought down from the mountains to pay homage to Lord Raghuvira, the presiding deity of the valley. During the week-long harvest fair, the ground comes alive as villagers in colorful dresses celebrate with sport, song, dance, and music.

The Hari Rai temple near the Chaugan (dating back to the 11th century) known for the four armed bronze statue of Lord Vishnu (Chaturmurthi) is a masterpiece in metal craft. Overlooking the town a little distance away, the temple of goddess Chamunda Devi has some of the finest wood carvings that adorn its exterior and interiors.

BHARMAUR

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Bharmaur the main capital of the princely state of Chamba for over 400years. About 65kilometers from Chamba, this fascinating little town(2130m) surrounded by high ranges was then known as Bharmpur. Its ancient temples endow Bharmaur with an aura of a hallowed place. The abundant alpine pastures in the region are home to the nomadic Gaddi tribesmen. Life in Bharmaur centers around the Chaurasia-a temple square which owes its name to the 84 shrines built within its periphery. With varying architectural designs these temples were built between the seventh and tenth century. The towering shikara of Manimahesh temple dominates the square and a life-size bull idol of Nandi, in polished brass guards the entrance. The Lakshna Devi temple’s sanctum sanctorum houses’s the meter-high goddess idol cast in exquisite brass.

KINNAUR

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The administrative district of Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh lies north east of the state capital, Shimla. This is an area that has long been renowned for its natural beauty and a local legend maintains that Kinnaur with all its charms fell from the heavens as a gift from the gods.

The district is cris-crossed by several rivers and streams-the fast-flowing Satluj being the main one and the Spiti being the other. At a height of just 3000 meters, the Satluj enters India from Tibet near the village of Namgia and divides Kinnaur into roughly two equal parts. Kinnaur also has several beautiful side valleys like the Sangla and the Bhaba that rise along the banks of these courses of snowmelt and most of the popular destinations lie close to the valley floors.

Backed by snow-covered peaks whose height varies between 5,180 meters and 6,770 meters, here lie two the world’s great mountain ranges, the Zaskar and the Greater Himalaya. There are thick forests of Himalayan cedar, the quite legendary ‘deodar’ and these woods are liberally garnished with trees of spruce and the unusual birch, the ‘Bhojpatra’, whose peeling bark served as parchment for ancient Indian texts. Picture-perfect villages, orchards, and fields fill the valley floor.

Sangla Valley

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Of all the side valleys of the river Satluj, the Sangla valley is perhaps the most beautiful. It is certainly the most famous, (Older books and travelogues refer to this curving valley as the ‘Baspa valley’ after the river; more recent ones call it the Sangla valley after the main village). Unlike most other major streams of the area that flows north to south, the river Baspa rises in the mountains of adjoining Uttarakhand and flows north-west to meet the churning torrents of the river Satluj at Karcham.

The 95km long valley gets off to a fairly unimpressive start and it along this stretch that one sees the determination of the ‘chil’ pine that grows out of sheer rock faces and whose cones yield the tasty Kernel, the rare’dry fruit’ the neoza( or chilgoza). And after this corridor, like curtains tossed aside to reveal the setting of a grand stage, the valley bursts open at the Kupa. From this point on, every turn and every angle reveals a valley that is strikingly beautiful. As if to savor all this, the waters of the Baspa also slow down and the little river that moments ago had shown the visage of a savage mountain steam, now turns calm and welcoming.

RECKONG PEO

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Reckong Peo (2,290 meters), Kalpa (2960 meter)-From the Hindustan Tibet road, the turnoff for Reckong Peo is at Powari (1990 meter from sea level) and 7km at the end of a climbing side-road, this is the district headquarters of Kinnaur. It faces the majesty of Jorkanden (6473 meters) and the Kinner Kailash Mountain (6050 meters). The latter is regarded as one of the mythical homes of Lord Shiva and by its side is a seventy-nine-foot high rock formation that resembles a ‘Shivalinga’ that changes color as the day passes and is visible to the bare eye on a clear day. The ‘Parikrama’, circumbulation around the base of the mountain is a seven to eight-day trek. Also visible on the stretch is the peak of Raldang (5,499 meters).

KALPA

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Half an hour’s drive from Reckong Peo takes you to Kalpa which was once known as Chini. This still has a  traditional ambience and much of the old architecture. The Narayan-Nagini temple is an exemplary example of local craftsmanship. There are a couple of Buddhist monasteries at Kalpa-including the Hu-Bu-Lan-Kar gompa said to have been founded by Rinchensang-po.