Hard to reach, harder to leave is the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The predominantly mountainous region is blessed with blessed with unparalleled natural beauty and scenic vistas. The land of monks, monasteries, and mountains exhibits a melange of cultures. Agriculture, horticulture, hydropower, and being adorably gorgeous are the occupational pillars of the state. Almost 90% of the population stays in rural areas which are spread all over the state. Even the most remote locations have small human settlements. The people are friendly and hospitable. Extreme variation in elevation creates a varied climate across the region. Heavy rainfall, humid weather, colourful valleys, alpine desert, glaciers and snowfall, Himachal sees it all. The northern regions of the state are hotspots of biodiversity with most of it falling under the endangered category. Home to delicious orchards, meadows, pastures, and forests, Himachal is known as the fruit bowl of India.
Deep, plunging valleys, looming Himalayan mountains, thrilling road routes, magical rivers flowing through meadows, chirpy villages, and quiet Buddhist monasteries make Himachal Pradesh India’s heavenly abode that cannot be forgotten once experienced.
Huddle up at Chandigarh.
Ride to Shimla (4 hrs) – We start our day with the early birds and take a scenic ride to Shimla. Shimla is the town which popularised the concept of hill-stations in India. At an elevation of 6500 ft. Shimla is the capital of Himachal Pradesh. Shimla’s salubrious climate makes it an all year-round destination.
We explore Shimla – Tour of Indian Institute of Advanced Studies which was a presidential palace but the first president dedicated the palace to the advance studies in humanities.
We lunch on the delicacies of local eateries.
We visit the Annandale Military Museum which exhibits stories of struggles and conquests in face of surmounting odds.
In the evening we sip on some hot tea as we watch the sunset from Scandal Point.
Stay the night.
Drive from Shimla to Sangla (9 hrs) – Road Trip! We start our day early with an overland journey through valleys into the Himalayan mountains. It is a long but a scenic ride with stunning views of the natural splendors of the region.
Reaching the village, we relax and stretch our bodies with a hot cup tea. We engage with the ever friendly villagers.
Sangla-Rakcham trail through glaciers, streams, and forest meadows.
Stay at Sangla
Explore Sangla – Yay, we wake up at a leisurely hour. We explore the Bering Nag temple, which is an ominous temple dedicated to the mighty snake that sits coiled around Lord Shiva’s neck.
Then we visit the Tibetan Wood Carving Centre where the influence of the art and culture of Tibet is channeled using the medium of wooden carving.
Adventure activity – We put our meals to use by engaging in some Rock Climbing and Rappelling.
We play with the color of royalty, at Saffron farms – In India saffron is held in high esteem, its color is adopted on the nation’s flag. It is the color associated with courage and honour. Beside the color, Saffron is one of the richest and most expensive condiments on the planet.
Chitkul Excursion (1.5 hrs) – This morning we ride into a rugged expedition to a rain shadowed mountain pass. Hauntingly beautiful are the words used to describe the Chitkul – Charang pass. After the trek we return to Chitkul, the last inhabited village before Indo-Tibetan border. The remoteness of this village has kept its rustic charm unblemished. This picturesque and friendly village seems to be straight out of a storybook.
The potatoes from this region are world renowned, we’re going to help the villagers with some farming and learn what makes these potatoes famous.
We experience the local village life, clash a few cups with the village folks and enjoy the disconnect from the world.
Stay at Chitkul.
Tabo/Kaza – We start our day early with an 8 hour Overland journey through one of the most thrilling roads you can drive on. The northern regions of Himachal are home to one of the highest monasteries in the world. On our way to the land of solace, we pay our respects to the monk mummy preserved naturally with its skin and hair still unbroken.
Visi the Gompa in Tabo – Post lunch we learn what it is like to live in a Monastery, exchange some words on life with friendly monks of Tabo. We visit the meditating caves near the gompa where monks meditate during the winter.
We reach Kaza in the evening and relax for the night.
Post breakfast we visit the land watched by Buddha. Langza is a hamlet in the Spiti region. It is known for being an archeological site as it is home to aquatic fossils dating back 450 million year, from the time when India was a landmass submerged under the Tethys ocean. Langza along with its neighboring villages is also known for Snow Leopard Sightings. Researchers, photographers and wildlife enthusiasts camp in the mountains of Langza so they could glimpse the elusive Grey Ghost of Himalayas.
We drive to back Kaza to explore the Key monastery.
We take our beds on the roof and sleep under a ceiling full of stars and dive into dreams with the lullaby of the cosmos.
Drive to Manali ( 7 hrs) – Another road trip! (You may not sit in a car for months after returning from this trip.) This morning we undertake an overland journey along one of the most renowned routes, the Leh-Manali Highway which culminates in Manali.
We stop en route and offer a prayer with Mani stone carving at Losar placed as prayers for the dead.
We get up-close to the glacial rivers with an aquatic adventure of river rafting.
After a dip in adventure, we relax in our vehicle and continue to drive into a dusk adorned Manali.
We spend evening exploring the city lights of Manali.
Drive to Andreta (6 hrs)- Post breakfast we leave Manali. After having so many overland journeys, it’s time we take a stop to observe the aerial view of the landscape. We halt at Bir for a session of Paragliding.
After an appetising dose of adventure, we reach Andreta to see it colored in the late afternoon light.
In the evening we explore Andreta – Andreta is an artists’ colony and a whole new side to Himachal Pradesh. This village houses artists, actors, poets and sculptors. .
Stay the night at Andreta.
We learn to mould ourselves into various shapes and sizes with a pottery workshop.
Listen to the storytellers weave us a picture.
Learn to cook a local delicacy.
We relax and explore the artist within us.
We reunite with our friend – Early morning drive (10hr)! We bid adieu to Andreta and its lovely artists and head for Shimla.
We halt in between to explore the merchant’s town of Pragpur – The first village in India to be declared as a heritage village. Slate-roofed houses, mud-plastered walls, and winding cobbled lanes make this town rightful of its heritage tag. 19th century merchants influenced the creative wind of Pragpur and that’s why structures of varied styles are seen here.
After a relaxed morning spent prodding about Shimla, we leave for Chandigarh, where our trip concludes.
If you’d plot these places on the map, you’d see it form a circuit. There are several advantages to organise a trip as a circuit. It saves travel time, fuel, money, and energy; creates a streamlined flow of events; makes planning convenient and execution smooth.
In the above image you’d see the circuit covers the entire state of Himachal Pradesh expect a few well-known but touristy places like Kasol, Tosh, Dalhousie, Dharamshala; you always re-iterate the circuit to visit these places.
Doesn’t matter if you use this itinerary or some other, what matters is that you travel with an open mind and a responsible heart; that you seek experiences and withhold expectations; that you treat the place and its inhabitants (people, animals, plants, etc) with respect.
Please do not litter, do not buy plastic bottles, support local businesses, dispose of your garbage with the same gusto as you buy your pleasures, leave the places better than you find it. Convenience and comfort are enjoyable, but life is more about consideration and contribution.
Happy trippin’, Cheers!