Situated in North India,
Himachal Pradesh (Abode of Snow) is surrounded by Jammu
& Kashmir on the north; Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh
to the south; Uttaranchal to the south east and the
Chinese territory of Tibet to the east. The state is
mostly covered by the low Shivalik hill range towards
the south and the dramatically high trans-Himalayan
ranges as you go north. Thus you can proceed from
hill-town Dharamsala in the south, at 1700m, to
Lahaul-and-Spiti, the northernmost district, at 6500m.
This geography and the resultant cool-to-snowy climate,
define Himachal's tourist attractions as well; in fact,
tourism and apple-growing run the economy of the state.
Sutlej, Beas, Ravi, and Parbati are the main rivers.
Given its mountainous nature, Himachal can best be understood in terms of its valleys. In the southern Kangra valley, Dharamsala and sister town McLeodganj are the focus of the Dalai Lama's Tibetan government-in-exile. In western Himachal lies Chamba Valley, with Dalhousie, a British-time hill station. Towards the east, all the way to Tibet lies the Kinnaur region, which was off limits for tourists till 1992 and contains villages and lifestyles that are still untouched by modernity. In the centre, the Kullu valley is famous for its apples, producing about 9000 truckloads of them every year. Here, Manali town is a good base for adventure sports such as paragliding, skiing, river rafting and trekking. December-March are good months for winter sports or to see the snow. The northernmost Lahaul-Spiti district is isolated, snow-bound terrain accessible only between July-October, with some well-preserved 1000-year old Buddhist monasteries and culture.
Himachal's capital Shimla, developed by the British in the mid-19th century as a hill station that helped them escape hot summers, is full of colonial architecture and churches. Shimla makes a good base for less-crowded hill destinations such as Chail, Kufri, Narkanda, or Kasauli, all located at comfortable altitudes of 2000-2750 metres.
In the days before independence, Shimla was the most important British hill station, and in the summer season became the summer capital. The British in 1819A.D first discovered Shimla, but it was not until 1822 A.D that the first permanent house was erected and not until many years later that Shimla became the summer capital. The name Shimla is derived from the Himalayan Goddess Shamla a synonym of Kali.
Dalhousie is named after the British Governor General of the 19th century Lord Dalhousie. The town's height varies between 1525m and 2378m and is surrounded by varied vegetation. Dalhousie has charming colonial architecture, including some beautiful churches. The spectacular snow-covered Dhauladhar Mountains are also visible from this enchanting town.
Chamba, the land of antiquity, art and scenic beauty, is a wonder in itself for every visitor. Situated at the height of 996 m. above sea level on the south bank of the Ravi River, the ancient Pahari capital was founded in 920 A.D. by Raja Sahil Verma, who named it after his favorite daughter Champavati.
Chamba valley is noted for the magnificence of it's scenery-touching the fringe of the Shivaliks and having three well-defined snowy ranges, the
Dauladhar, constituting the outer Himalayas, the Pir Panjal or the mid Himalayas, and the Zanskar range or the inner Himalayas.
Set against the backdrop of the dramatic Dhauladhar Mountains, Dharamshala is perched on the high slopes in upper reaches of Kangra Valley. It is charming town with elegant bungalows nestling in thick coniferous forests. Dharamshala is also the home of Dalai Lama, spiritual head of Buddhists. Little Lhasa is an enchanting world where spinning prayer wheels and fluttering prayer flags spread the message of peace and universal harmony.
Kullu was once known as Kulanthpitha, which means the end of the habitable world. Beyond rose the forbidding heights of the Greater Himalayas, and by the banks of the shining river Beas, lay the fabled 'Silver Valley'. The 'Silver Valley' has nature's treasures that lie carelessly scattered as flowers on the high meadows.
The Valley of Gods, as the Kullu Valley has come to be known, if perhaps the most delightful region in the Western Himalayas.
Situated on the banks of the river Beas, Kullu, the headquarters of the district, serves as a nerve centre of the valley and is the starting place for a number of treks.
Manali is the Northern end of the Kullu Valley and is the main resort in the area. It is beautifully situated and there are many pleasant walks around the town. Surrounded by towering peaks at arm length, Manaliâ€™s major asset is its proximity to the snowline, never more than few hours drive from the town nestling at comfortable 2050meters. It is the center of the flourishing orchard industry a popular honeymoon destination and trailhead for numerous treks.
Kinnaur, Spiti, Lahaul
Lahaul and Spiti are two remote Himalayan valleys of Himachal Pradesh lying on the Indo-Tibet border. Strange, exciting, primitive, these valleys are incomparable in mountain scape, in the rugged beauty of their rocky escapements and the splendor of their snow covered peaks.
Kinnaur is one of the most scenic but less known districts of Pradesh Located on the Indo-Tibetan border, it is surrounded by Tibet to the east, Garhwal Himalayas to the south, Spiti valley to the north and Kullu to the west. The Satluj River, which rises on the southern slopes of Kailash Parbat near Mansarovar in Tibet, flows through the Kinnaur valley.