Top 12 Destinations in Himachal Pradesh

Top 12 Destinations in Himachal Pradesh

By CarolUpdated Oct. 19, 2021

Located in the Himalayas, the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh is blessed with an abundance of ancient villages, breathtaking scenery, and world-class trekking trails. It’s the perfect place for vacationers and adventurers alike.

Two of the most famous destinations in Himachal Pradesh include Shimla and Manali. Shimla is the state’s capital and its largest city while Manali, on the other hand, is a picturesque hill station surrounded by lush green forests, flower-covered meadows, and flowing blue streams.

Highlights

  • Christ Church in Shimla is the second oldest church in North India.
  • The Solang Valley near Manali is popular for activities like paragliding, horse riding, and skiing.
  • The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala houses over 80,000 manuscripts and 600 Buddhist artifacts.
  • The Key Monastery is the largest in the Spiti Valley.
  • The Great Himalayan National Park in Kullu is one of the country’s seven UNESCO Natural World Heritage sites. 

1. Shimla

Recommended visiting time: 3 – 4 days

The state capital of Shimla is situated amidst rolling hills and mystical woods. Much of the city’s old-world charm has been preserved through its charming colonial buildings and churches.

The Ridge is one of Shimla’s biggest attractions. A large, open street in central Shimla, The Ridge is popular among both locals and travelers alike and is the city’s social hub featuring a wide range of cafes, bars, restaurants, and shops.

Speaking of popular attractions, Christ Church is by far Shimla’s most prominent landmark. Constructed in a neo-gothic style, North India’s second oldest church took 11 years to complete and features elaborate stained-glass windows and gorgeous brass plaques.

Perfect for: Families.

Insider tip: Vehicles are not allowed on The Ridge.

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2. Manali

Recommended visiting time: 2 – 3 days

One of the most popular hill stations in India, Manali is perched between the white slopes of the Pir Panjal and the Dhauladhar mountain ranges and offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding natural landscape.

Situated approximately 14 kilometers (9 miles) northwest of Manali, Solang Valley is a favorite destination for adventure travelers alike and offers several adrenaline-rushing activities including paragliding, horse riding, trekking, off-roading, and skiing.

No trip to Manali is complete without a visit to the Rohtang Pass. Located at an elevation of around 4,000 m (13,000 ft) and 51 kilometers (32 miles) from Manali, the Rohtang Pass never ceases to amaze visitors with its jaw-dropping scenery, ranging from snow-capped mountains and glaciers to sulfur hot springs and waterfalls.

Perfect for: Nature lovers.

Insider tip: Temperatures in the Rohtang Pass can drop to below freezing, so we’d recommend wearing thick layers and a windproof jacket.

3. Dharamshala

Recommended visiting time: 2 – 3 days

The city of Dharamshala is located in the Kangra district, roughly 18 kilometers (11 miles) from Kangra city. It’s separated into an upper and lower division, where the lower division makes up the town itself with the upper part, McLeod Ganj, serving as the residence of the 14th and current Dalai Lama.

Dharamshala’s Library of Tibetan Works and Archives is one of the most important Tibetan Buddhism institutes in the world and houses over 80,000 manuscripts and 600 Buddhist artifacts dating back as far as the 12th century. One of the library’s most notable artifacts is a  carved wooden mandala of Avalokiteshvara, one of the most revered Buddhist enlightened beings.

The St. John in the Wilderness Church was constructed in 1852 and is one of the oldest buildings in Dharamsala. Named after the dense deodar forests that surround it, the church was built in a neo-gothic style and features a unique dark brick structure as well as Belgian stained-glass windows.

Perfect for: Culture enthusiasts.

Insider tip: The best time to visit Dharamsala is between February and June when the weather is warm and the valley is in full bloom.

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4. Kasol

Recommended visiting time: 1 – 2 days

Kasol is a small village along the banks of the Parvati River and is one of the few places left in India untouched by urbanization and commercialization. Its natural scenic beauty makes it a paradise for trekkers, and backpackers.

For trekkers, visiting the Pin Parvati Pass is a must. One of the Himalaya’s most sought-after treks, the Pin Parvati Pass stretches for about 110 kilometers (68 miles) through snow-covered mountains and the Parvati River.

Just 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from Kasol, Manikaran is a famous pilgrimage destination for both Sikhs and Hindus and features several important temples and sulfur hot springs. The sulfur hot springs, in particular, are said to help treat certain skin diseases and are connected to several religious beliefs and rituals.

Perfect for: Nature lovers.

Insider tip: Visit during the off-season to avoid the crowds and snag the best deals.

5. Spiti Valley

Recommended visiting time: 3 – 4 days

The cold and remote Spiti Valley welcomes travelers with its long winding roads and tall mountains. Located high up in the Himalayans at 12,500 m (41,000 ft) above sea level, the area is home to several monasteries, treks, and wildlife and is frequented by both trekkers and Buddhist pilgrims alike.

Founded in the 11th century, the Key Monastery is the largest of its kind in Spiti and was constructed on top of a hill at an elevation of over 4,000 m (13,000 ft). Today, the monastery doubles as a training center for Lamas and Buddhist spiritual leaders and houses important ancient manuscripts and wind instruments.

Trekking enthusiasts will surely be interested in visiting the Chandra Taal Lake, which can be found high up in the Himalayas. Apart from its distinctive, crescent moon shape, a unique feature of the lake is its color-changing water, which changes from green to blue and orange to red as the day wears on.

Perfect for: Trekkers and lovers of the outdoors.

Insider tip: Be mindful of altitude sickness when visiting the Spiti Valley.

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6. Great Himalayan National Park

Recommended visiting time: 1 – 2 days

Surrounded by the Himalayan Mountains, the Great Himalayan National Park in India’s Kullu district is the country’s newest national park and one of its seven UNESCO Natural World Heritage sites.

The secluded park’s diverse ecosystem includes over 375 species of flora and fauna, including a variety of Oak, Rhododendron Scrub, and Deodar forests. It’s also home to more than 31 species of mammals like snow leopards, blue sheep, Himalayan ibexes, and 181 species of birds.

The park also offers several trekking trails with various difficulties and durations. Trekking takes place in the park’s four valleys, namely Tirthan, Jwar Nala, Parvati, and Sainj. Bear in mind that the treks are somewhat strenuous, so proper physical and mental preparation is highly recommended.

Aside from trekking, visitors can indulge in bird-watching, trout-fishing, and pheasant-watching and the ecozone offers activities like rock climbing, rafting, and abseiling.

Perfect for: Adventure enthusiasts.

Insider tip:  Entering the park requires a permit, which can be purchased at the head office in Shamshi or one of the range offices in Shairopa or Ropa.

7. Dalhousie

Recommended visiting time: 2 – 3 days

The small town of Dalhousie is found in a lesser-explored area of Himachal Pradesh. Less crowded than Shimla and Manali, Dalhousie boasts old-world charm and spectacular scenery.

The Satdhara Falls in Chamba valley is a great destination for those looking for a tranquil escape away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The water here is rich in mica, which is believed to have healing properties, and visitors to the area will be treated to amazing views of snow-covered mountains, green pine, and deodar trees.

Another great place to visit in Dalhousie is Dainkund Peak. More commonly known by its nickname “Singing Hill,” Dainkund Peak is the town’s highest point at an elevation of over 2,700 m (8,900 ft) and offers a calming place to feel the gentle breeze and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding valleys and mountains.

Perfect for: Peaceful getaways.

Insider tip: Wear warm clothing when traveling up to Dainkund Peak.

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8. Khajjiar

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

Situated not far from Dalhousie is the small town of Khajjiar. Often referred to as the “Switzerland of India,” the town is best known for its mesmerizing beauty — said to have inspired and influenced many great kingdoms of the past like the Rajputs and Mughals.

Khajjiar Lake is one of the most popular attractions in town and one of the area’s most popular pastimes is a simple stroll along the lake banks while admiring the blue sky’s reflection on its shimmering water.

After taking a walk around Khajjiar Lake, be sure to head over to the nearby Khajji Nag temple. This 12th -century Hindu temple is commonly known as the “Golden Devi Temple,” thanks to its exquisite golden dome, and is adorned with ornate wood carvings. 

Perfect for: Families.

Insider tip: Khajjaiar is best visited between August and October.

9. Kinnaur

Recommended visiting time: 1 – 2 days

Roughly 250 kilometers (155 miles) southeast of Shimla, the Kinnaur district is famous for its elegant and serene rocky mountain landscapes. Often referred to as “The Land of Gods,” Kinnaur is an important pilgrimage destination for both Hindus and Buddhists alike.

Reckong Peo is the headquarters of the Kinnaur district, a quaint little village surrounded by picture-perfect apple orchards and magnificent forests. One of the area’s main attractions is the Chandika Devi Temple, just 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) north of central Reckong Peo.

Sarahan is regarded as the "Gateway to Kinnaur" and is renowned for its terraced farms and slate-roofed houses. A significant attraction here is the Bhimakali Temple, one of 51 revered Shakti Peethas.

Perfect for: Culture and nature enthusiasts.

Insider tip: A trip to Kinnaur pairs perfectly with a visit to the Spiti Valley.

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10. Bir Billing

Recommended visiting time: 1 – 2 days

Bir and Billing are two of Himachal Pradesh’s most popular destinations and are widely regarded as some of the best places in the world for paragliding. Aside from this, the area is also ideal for trekking, ecotourism, and meditation. 

Most of the area’s paragliding starts in Billing, with the landing point being Bir. Because of this, the two towns are often collectively referred to as Bir Billing. Paragliding is a must here and newcomers to the sport can opt to glide in tandem with an experienced instructor.

When visiting Bir Billing, don’t forget to head over to Bir Road — a famous market packed with local shops and stalls selling traditional handicrafts. However, if you’re not one for shopping, consider a trip to one of the many tea plantations in the area, most of which can be toured if you’re interested in learning more about the tea manufacturing process.

Perfect for: Adventure lovers.

Insider tip: Visit Bir in the late afternoon to witness one of the most astounding sunsets in the world.

11. Kullu Valley

Recommended visiting time: 2 – 3 days

Kullu Valley is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts. Located between Manali and Larji, the valley is surrounded by thick green forests and sky-punching mountains.

Trekkers will want to head on over to Friendship Peak via an exciting trail that crosses through the Solang Valley up to the mountain’s summit at 5,389 m (17,400 ft). From here, you’ll be treated with uninterrupted 360-degree views of the enormous Pir Panjal Range.

Another great place to visit in Kullu Valley is the Bijli Mahadev Temple, whose main attraction is its Shiva Lingam, a representation of the Hindu deity Shiva. What makes this Lingam so special is the unusual fact that it gets struck by lightning every year, after which it’s painstakingly restored using cereal, flour, and butter.

Perfect for: Trekkers.

Insider tip: The Kullu Valley is best visited from March to June, just after winter and before the monsoon season.

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12. Kaza

Recommended visiting time: 2 – 3 days

Kaza is the largest town in the Spiti Valley and is situated on the left bank of the Spiti River.

Perched on top of a cliff, the Dhankar Monastery is Spiti’s oldest monastery. Here, visitors can admire the beautiful surroundings below, see the statue of Dhayan Buddha, and visit its museum containing Buddhist scriptures and murals.

Making your way over to Kaza from Kullu or Lahul Valley, you’ll most likely cross the Kunzum Pass, one of the highest roads in India. The pass lies at an elevation of over 4,500 m (14,800 ft) and offers clear views of the Bara-Shigri Glacier, the world’s second-longest glacier.

Perfect for: Nature lovers.

Insider tip: The Kunzum Pass is only open from June to September every year.

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