HIMACHAL PRADESH

In a land of pine and snow, follow the trail of the prayer flags. Tame the wild mountains, listen to the music of icy rivers, or indulge yourself in the summer retreats of kings.


Himachal Pradesh, in India's mountainous north, is a state noted for its breathtaking natural beauty. High mountains, glaciers, alpine meadows, lakes, valleys, hill- stations and the visually stunning deserts of the Trans- Himalaya, all beckon the traveler with a yen for adventure.


Shimla, the capital of Himachal, is the Queen of the Hills. British administrators, eager to escape the punishing heat of Indian summers built it as a summer capital. It is best approached on the Kalka- Shimla Railway, now over 100 years old.


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Himachal's Buddhist heritage is rich and ancient. The remote valley of Lahaul, Spiti and Kinnaur have strong Buddhist traditions, owing to their proximity to Tibet. In these districts, numerous splendid monasteries, built along bare mountainsides, blend with the rugged terrain.

But any tour of Himachal's Buddhist treasures must begin at Dharamsala. A hill- station established by the British in the mid- 19th century, it is to here that the 14th Dalai Lama fled from Tibet in 1959 after the Chinese occupation. Dharamsala is sometimes referred to as Little Tibet.

But Himachal's tryst with Buddhism goes back a long time. The Tabo Monastery in Spiti was built over 1000 years ago. Situated on the banks of the Spiti river the magnificent monastery is a stunning achievement of esoteric Buddhist art.

Himachal's Lahaul district is home to rocky massifs and hanging glaciers. Keylong is the district headquarters. Across the river from Keylong is the Drugpa Kardang Gompa the largest monastery in Lahaul.

Spiti is a rugged, cold desert region in the Trans- Himalaya. It was once part of a west Tibetan Kingdom, then came under the Ladakhis and finally fell to British India in the 19th century. Spiti has retained its Tibetan character and its many splendid monasteries stand testimony to this.

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Himachal offers adventure lovers every opportunity to indulge themselves. Options include trekking, mountaineering skiing and heli- skiing jeep safaris in high- altitude deserts, paragliding, as well as a slew of water sports (including whitewater rafting and angling)- you name it, Himachal has it.

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Himachal has a variety of terrain, offering easy one- day treks to Jaunts that last up to a week or more. In the lower reaches of Himachal, trails wind through cool forests of oak and pine. Above the tree line, treks lead to flower- strewn alpine meadows that defy description. The main trekking areas in Himachal are the Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal ranges.

Mountain ranges in Himachal vary from the gentle Shivalik to the Great Himalaya Range,where peaks rise to 6000 metres and more- providing challenging climbs. Often, in Himachal, several peaks are located close to each other, making it possible for mountaineers to scale them all in a single expedition.

Skiing and heli- skiing :- Come winter, and Himachal becomes the skiing destination of choice. Excellent ski slopes can be found at Narkanda, Kufri and at Solang Nala near Manali. Manali is noted for its exceptional powder snow.


Fair And Festivals :- Himachal Pradesh boasts a remarkable range of festivals. Losar, the Tibetan New Year, is celebrated throughout Himachal, but notably at monasteries in Lahaul, which witness spectacular performances. The Kangra Festival is a cultural showcase of the region. The annual Dusshera Festival at Kullu is dramatically colourful.


There is much else to see in Himachal- charming hill- stations like Dalhousie, temples of great antiquity and spectacular nature and wildlife. Nature lovers can head to the Pin Valley National Park in Spiti, home to ibex and the elusive snow leopard.

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