INDIA  :   Getaways

The hill stations of Himachal Pradesh

Saturday , 27 February 2016

We take a look at some of most the well-known summer retreats, in the hilly state of Himachal Pradesh

Himachal Pradesh is full of conifer-clad snow-capped mountains, dotted with quaint hamlets reached through tortuous, craggy paths. This mountainous state is bathed in scenic beauty, and the valleys, hills and streams are a great sight to behold.

People here lead a tranquil life, tending to their crops or orchards and taking care of their animals. The serene surroundings draw all kinds of tourists – history buffs, adventurists, nature lovers, or those looking to get away from the chaos of urban life. Let’s explore three of the most popular hotspots of this hilly state – Shimla, Kullu and Manali.

Shimla

The erstwhile summer capital of India under British Raj, Shimla is a preferred holiday destination, set amidst picturesque settings. The colonial buildings that bear the imprints of a bygone era, include, but are not limited to, the Viceregal Lodge, Gorton Castle, Gaiety Theatre, the Combermere Bridge and the Railway Board Building.

Located at an altitude of 2,200 m above sea level, this beautiful hill station spans seven hills: Summer Hill; Observatory Hill, where the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies is located (housed in the Viceregal Lodge); Prospect Hill, where the Kamna Devi Temple is located; Inverarm; Mount Jakhu, which has a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman; Elysium Hill and Bantony.

Popular attractions include Christ Church and the Shimla State Museum, with its 9,000 exhibits. The Ridge is a popular hangout for travellers, with Lakkar Bazaar to the east and Scandal Point to the west. It offers panoramic views of the Greater Himalayas.

Getting there

Air: Jubberhatti is the nearest airport (26 km from Shimla).

Rail: The Kalka-Shimla Railway connects Shimla to other rail systems. Kalka is a town in Haryana.

Road: Shimla is well connected by road with Kalka, Chandigarh, Dehradun, Delhi, Amritsar, Jammu and other towns of Haryana and Punjab.

Best time to visit: April to September

 

Kullu

Kullu is located on the banks of Beas River at an altitude of 1,278 m above sea level, and is also known as – the Valley of the Gods. Nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, this little town attracts heavy tourist footfall, throughout the year.

The Bijli Mahadev Temple, located at an altitude of 2,450 m, is 14 km away from Kullu. It is also called, ‘The Temple of Lightning’. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and has mythological significance. Devotees gather here in large numbers during Mahashivaratri.

Bhrigu Lake, located at an altitude of 4,240 m, is said to be the place where Sage Bhrigu meditated. Religious context aside, it is an exhilarating experience to saviour the scenic beauty of the mountains, from here.

Nature lovers and adventurers can enjoy a trek to the Great Himalayan National Park that spans 750 sq km and is home to 180 species of birds and animals, including the rare snow leopard, musk deer, Himalayan tahr and Himalayan monal – the state bird.

The Raghunathji Temple, built in the 17th century, is dedicated to Lord Rama and is an example of rare architecture. Other attractions nearby are – the Nicholas Roerich Art Gallery in Naggar, the Tripurasundari Temple, the Gauri Shankar Temple and the Vasuki Nag Temple.

Manali

Located at an altitude of 2,050 m, Manali is named after Sage Manu. The Manu Temple here, is the only one dedicated to the sage in all of India and is a must visit for pilgrims.

The Hidimba Devi Temple, dedicated to Bhima’s wife (from the Mahabharata) is also a popular attraction. The pagoda-style structure was built in 1552, by Maharaja Bahadur Singh after the stone carving inside the temple sprung up, naturally. The air is pure here and the towering pine trees add to the beauty of the surroundings.

The Vashist Temple has exquisite carvings in wood and houses an idol of the sage. The healing hot springs nearby, are also named after him. There is yet another temple close by, which is dedicated to Lord Rama.

Other attractions in the vicinity include the Manali Wildlife Sanctuary, Rohtang Pass, Jogini Falls, Rahala Falls, Arjun Gufa, the Krishna Temple at Thava and the Tibetan monasteries.

Adventure lovers can also indulge in various activities such as angling, paragliding, skiing, camping, rafting, mountain biking, zorbing and trekking.

Getting there

Air: Bhuntar is the nearest airport (10 km from Kullu, 50km from Manali).

Rail: Ambala and Chandigarh (broad gauge) and Jogindernagar (narrow gauge).

Road: Kullu and Manali are well connected to Ambala, Chandigarh, Dehradun, Delhi and Shimla by road.

State’s other hill stations include: Chail, Dalhousie, Dharamshala  and Kasauli.

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