Hard to reach, harder to leave… in this travel info post India expert Harsh, from Tripzuki, takes a look at the Himalayan region of Himachal Pradesh with advice on when to visit and where to stay.
The light, the sun, filtered by clouds sliding over the looming mountains, is my simplest and most enduring memory of Himachal Pradesh.
Then there’s the food. From roadside dhabas serving up steaming hot tea and fresh parathas, to quaint B&Bs serving homecooked north Indian dishes (as authentic as it gets), to the fancy restaurants in Manali and their inauthentic but delicious four-cheese pizzas!
Add the mountains, the long scenic drives and the people – probably the friendliest in India – and you have an outstanding, magical destination, my favourite in the whole of India and one I have covered twice now for Tripzuki, unearthing gems like Sunnymead in lovely Shimla and 7 Pines in Kasauli.
Himachal is particularly popular with Indian tourists, wisely looking to escape the scorching Delhi summer. Europeans are also increasingly attracted to the area, arriving bewildered, tired and hungry but relishing this unique experience of the Himalaya region. There are no reliable flights here any more, and the drive from Delhi can take upwards of 6 hours; otherwise it’s hard to think of any conceivable reason not to visit!
When to visit Himachal Pradesh?
Check out Tripzuki’s pick of the best places to stay in Himachal Pradesh, Shimla and surrounds, and you’ll see that the hotels we feature are open all year round, and with good reason, this is a place that is beautiful no matter when you visit.
However, if there is a best time to visit Himachal, then for me it would be early (Indian) summer i.e. March or April, when the word ‘pleasant’ really is the right adjective and not a cliché. The downside being that in summer you will find the cities of Shimla, Manali, and even smaller towns like Kasauli and Chail, filled with tourists, both domestic and international.
In the colder months, November to February, the chill in the air can really take your breath away, and remember: the higher you go the colder it gets! This is the best time for snow-clad mountains, and warm drinks and conversation while the open fire roars.
There’s another season that is also worth a visit: the wetter period, from approximately June to September, is when tourism is subdued but nature, the forest in particular, thrives.
Different regions of Himachal Pradesh
I think one of the easiest ways to understand this region is to break it up into 4 distinct parts:
1) The lower regions – starting from the small town of Kasauli (not too far from Chandigarh and it’s airport, the main gateway to the region), all the way up to Shimla (the capital of Himachal Pradesh) and nearby Chail, famous for having the highest cricket pitch in the world, and on to Thanedhar with its spectacular views and many cherry and apple orchards.
2) The apple region – so-called because of the proliferation of apple orchards. Also known as the Kinnaur region and including the stunning Sangla valley and Chitkul glacier all the way to Kalpa.
3) The eastern region – this includes the spiritual city of Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj (the seat of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan government in exile), the very British hill station Dalhousie and the famous destination of Kullu-Manali.
4) Lahaul & Spiti – the northernmost part of Himachal Pradesh, bordering Jammu & Kashmir and, to the east, Tibet/China. This is the most untouched and inaccessible part of the region and, needless to say, it is in many ways the most beautiful. Think stark beauty, less greenery, massive mountains with imposing monasteries sitting on them; most people’s idea of what the Himalayas hold.
For more pics and info check out our pick of the best places to stay in Himachal Pradesh, Shimla and surrounds. And just drop us a line if you need any advice, we are always happy to help!