Himachal Pradesh Holiday Planning Guide
Home to the majestic western Himalayas, Himachal Pradesh ranks among the world's top mountaineering destinations. Tourism in Himachal Pradesh draws adventurers from far and wide to climb, raft, paraglide, hike, and ski their way across the picture-perfect river valleys and snow-covered mountain slopes. Those looking for something less strenuous can tour Himachal Pradesh's charming hill stations, where the holiday atmosphere lasts all year. To travel through this mountainous region the old-fashioned way, consider one of the state's narrow-gauge railways, which include the World Heritage-listed Kalka-Shimla train line.
Places to Visit in Himachal Pradesh
Destinations in Himachal PradeshDharamsala
: Home to a major monastery complex, shrines, and museums of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism, the city of Dharamsala is a place of yoga, meditation, and healing schools popular with pilgrims, backpackers, and yogis.Manali
: Surrounded by snowy peaks, Manali is popular with families, young couples, and outdoor thrill seekers on a Himachal Pradesh vacation--the resort town offers easy access to rugged landscapes ripe for trekking, biking, rafting, skiing, and canyoning. Kangra District
: This populous district is home to a monolithic, rock-cut temple complex in Indo-Aryan style, as well as the administrative capital of Dharamsala. Solan District
: Home to a selection of temples, an old brewery, and a horticulture and forestry university, this district also contains many vantage points that provide expansive views of the surrounding mountain ranges and hillsides. Shimla
: Panoramic Himalayan views surround the city that was once the summer capital of British India--its colonial-era architecture continues to appeal to visitors on a Himachal Pradesh holiday.
Popular Himachal Pradesh Tourist AttractionsHidimba Devi Temple
: A hidden sanctuary atop a jutting rock in the Himalayan foothills, this 16th-century temple was built for a goddess of the earth--visitors come to admire its wooden tower, sacred stone, and views of the surrounding cedar forest. Solang Valley
: A gateway for adventure sports throughout the year, this valley allows visitors to go skiing, "zorbing," paragliding above the picturesque scenery, horseback riding, or simply exploring the area on foot during their Himachal Pradesh holiday. The Mall
: Hunt for that perfect gift along this busy street dotted with local stores selling traditional clothing, jewelry, and souvenirs. Beas River
: Soak in scenic views of forests and mountain peaks as you whitewater raft along the rapids of this river, whose banks allow for picturesque hiking, walking, and picnicking. Kalka - Shimla Railway
: Enjoy splendid views of the distant Himalayas on a six-hour journey aboard a "toy train" on the UNESCO-protected Kalka-Shimla Railway, built over one hundred years ago and featuring a narrow 76 cm (2 ft 6 in) gauge. Bhagsu Waterfall
: Take a dip in the cooling waters at the bottom of this 9.1 m (30 ft) tall waterfall, frequented by visitors and locals alike--the nearby temples dedicated to Shiva provide yet another reason to add this Himachal Pradesh attraction to your itinerary. Jakhu Temple
: Known for its 33 m (108 ft) tall Hanuman idol, this temple is said to bring good fortune to visitors who brave the uphill trek to the refuge, located at an altitude of 2,455 m (8,000 ft). Viceregal Lodge
: Within the grounds of this Jacobethan-style building, you can view photos from the British rule in India, visit the staterooms, walk through the maintained gardens, or climb to the summit of Observatory Hill for expansive views of the surrounding region.Manikaran Gurudwara
: This religious site frequented by Hindus and Sikhs is home to hot springs, accessible for visitors to bathe in and, according to the locals, possessing curative powers.Rohtang Pass
: Explore the area surrounding this famous pass, found at an elevation of 3,978 m (13,050 ft), using a snow scooter, ski, or mountain bike, but beware of unpredictable snowstorms, blizzards, and other unfavorable weather events, as the area is known for claiming many lives.
Planning a Himachal Pradesh Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Himachal Pradesh with Kids
A Himachal Pradesh vacation with kids can be quite easy, as the region offers a vast natural landscape ripe for exploring, adventurous activities, and a chance to experience a distinctive local culture.
The city of Manali
provides a great place to visit with kids --this destination offers a blend of natural beauty, outdoor activities, and sacred temples that provide a glimpse into the local culture and religious heritage.Shimla
is another kid-friendly option--it's a great shopping destination and full of history.
Regardless of which city you visit within Himachal Pradesh, nearby you are likely to find lots of nature trails and family-friendly activities.
Things to Do in Himachal Pradesh with Kids
Whether your kids are into outdoor activities, history, animals, or nature, you'll find plenty of things to do with them on your family's Himachal Pradesh holiday.
If spending time in the city of Manali, take the family for a drive to Rohtang Pass
. The area is generally quite safe in good weather, and you can rent a snow scooter, skis, or mountain bike to explore the region surrounding the pass. Solang Valley
provides an idyllic place for paragliding. It's a great activity for the entire family--fun, exciting, and with the help of professional guides and instructors, safe.
Close to the city of Shimla you'll find Himalayan Nature Park
, a small sanctuary for a variety of animals, including brown bears and leopards.
The kids will also enjoy a ride on Kalka - Shimla Railway
, which offers magnificent views of the surrounding region.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Himachal Pradesh
Depending on the time of year and the age of your children, appropriate clothing should be packed, including windbreaker jackets.
Government-issued identification should always be carried by adults, as they will be required for check-in at most accommodations.
Contact your hotel in advance to request any additional amenities or services. Personal medication should always be carried for the entire family--that way you'll avoid having to deal with local pharmacies or doctors, in a language you may not be able to speak.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Himachal Pradesh
Cuisine of Himachal Pradesh
The region of Himachal Pradesh is known for its delicious cuisine, rich in aromas and flavors from the use of yoghurts, cardamom, and other spices and fresh ingredients. The local style of cooking is influenced by Punjabi and Tibetan gastronomies, so you'll find plenty to tantalize your taste buds during a food tour of Himachal Pradesh.
"Sidu" is a popular dish made with wheat and butter and generally reserved for special occasions. Similar to a pancake, "patande" is another local favorite. Non-vegetarians can indulge in "kullu" trout, grilled fish, and "anardana" (pomegranate) chicken. A popular vegetarian dish is "kaddu ka khatta," pumpkin prepared with a tangy gravy, dried mango powder, and other spices.
Other tasty treats include "dham" (prepared with red kidney beans, green lentils, and rice) and "chana madra" (made commonly with white chickpeas cooked in assorted spices, ginger, garlic, onions, and a gravy made of yoghurt and chickpea flour).
For dessert, try "mittha," a dish of sweetened rice, raisins, and dried fruit.
Shopping in Himachal Pradesh
You can have lots of fun shopping while on your Himachal Pradesh holiday, as the region is known for its rugs and carpets, wood carvings, and embroidered items like shawls, caps and "kurta," traditional Indian dresses--all make great gifts and souvenirs.
A visit to Shimla will be incomplete without some shopping at Lakkar Bazaar
, famous for its wood crafts made by the Sikh settlers who moved to the area almost a century ago.
You can also take a stroll down The Mall
, the heart of the city's shopping scene. While there, look for vibrant traditional clothing, jewelry, and inexpensive souvenirs at boutiques and department stores.
The city of Manali is home to Manu Market
, where visitors are able to shop for souvenirs as well as fresh produce, cheese, and more.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Himachal Pradesh
Interesting Facts About Himachal Pradesh
* Himachal Pradesh has 33 sanctuaries and 2 national parks
* Shimla is the only city in all of Asia to have a natural ice skating rink
* Himachal Pradesh holds the title of second least corrupt state in India
* The state is home to some of the oldest running schools, originally established during British rule
Holidays & Festivals in Himachal Pradesh
India is a country rich with culture and tradition, and with festivals and holidays occurring all year round, your Himachal Pradesh vacation is likely to fall during a festive period.
Across the state, each monastery, temple, church, and gurudwara is likely to host its own celebration full of parades, costumes, dances, and interesting rituals. These celebrations are long-held traditions and form an integral part of India's culture.
Bringing in the New Year, Halda Festival in Lahaul and Spiti District
is dedicated to the goddess of wealth, Shashikar Apa. It occurs in January and involves residents enjoying the feast through music and dance.
Himachal Winter Carnival in Manali
during early January remains a major celebration. During it, the region's ski slopes are inundated with adventure enthusiasts attending a skiing championship and participants rolling in for the beauty contests "Winter Queen" and "Mr. Manali." The main stretch of road in Manali transforms into a carnival site, with folk dances, music, food, and entertainment luring both locals and tourists.
During the third week of August, La Darch festival in Lahaul and Spiti District
and Lahaul and Spiti District strengthens the commercial and cultural bonds between India and Tibet, with traders and tourists gathering to witness folk song and dance performances and Buddhist sermons. Many commercial items are traded during this festival, including utensils, apparel, metalwork, crafts, grain, and more.
International Himalayan Festival held during the second week of December in Kangra District
celebrates the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Dalai Lama in 1985. The three-day event in McLeod Ganj
showcases the handicrafts and cuisines of the Himalayan region, helping to strengthen ties between Himachal Pradesh and Tibet.
Useful Himachal Pradesh Travel Tips
Climate of Himachal Pradesh
If you like trekking and other outdoor activities, plan your trip to Himachal Pradesh for May-June, or September-October--the period that falls outside the monsoon season.
Even during the monsoons (July-September), you can enjoy a holiday in Himachal Pradesh--provided you visit places like Lahaul and Spiti, which remain mostly dry.
Winter months (November-April) provide good weather for snow fans--some areas, like the passes to Lahaul and Spiti, may be blocked, rendering those areas inaccessible.
Transportation in Himachal Pradesh
Although the region is not highly developed, a trip to Himachal Pradesh can prove quite enjoyable with the use of the region's established transportation networks.
Trains are a common mode of transportation, with the Pathankot-Jogindernagar line as the longest railway in Himachal Pradesh. Railway also passes through Shimla, Una, and Solan. To reach Shimla, visitors have to the take the narrow gauge railway line from Kalka.
To move between cities and to other states, both public and private buses are available. Regular bus services link Shimla, Kullu, Manali, Chali, and Solan.
Taxi services are also quite popular for inter-city and intra-city travel.