Himachal Pradesh, known as dev bhumi or land of gods, beckons all — nature lovers, solitude seekers, adventure enthusiasts and the casual tourist. In this extensive guide, Minakshi Chaudhury uncovers — along with more frequented destinations — lesser known places, located in the lap of nature, among perennial rivers and streams, on hill tops and in deep green valleys. These unexplored regions seduce the traveller both with their natural beauty and the folk music and slow rhythmic dances they ore known for.
Lavishly illustrated, this book is invaluable for any lover of the hills, or of travel. It includes detail of location, travel, accommodation and highlights of each destination — for all manner of travellers additionally, it familiarises the reader with the geography, history and culture of the destinations.
Minakshi Chaudhry is a freelance writer and journalist, ho has developed a deep love and knowledge of her home state, Himachal. She has worked with the Indian Express and Outlook Traveller magazine, as well as penned various books on Himachal including Exploring Pangi Himalaya: A World Beyond Civilization and A Guide to Trekking in Himachal: 65 7ks and 100 Destinations.
Himachal Pradesh is bestowed with one of the most exotic landscapes in India and no amount of photographs, posters, films can prepare you for the real thing. Dotted with wildlife sanctuaries, lush green forests, meandering streams, white peaked mountains silhouetted against the azure blue sky and the changing panorama of nature as seasons switch. It is an idyllic getaway.
If Kotgarh is known for crunchy apples, Barot for delicious trout, Khajjiar for pristine glade, Sarahan for exquisite temple then Palmpur has cascading tea gardens, Bilaspur has water sports and ruined forts and Kullu & Manali offer exciting opportunities of adventure sports.
There are countless destinations located far from the madding crowd in the lap 0f nature. Places like Chitkul, Tabo, Darcha, Sural, Kedi, Salooni, Kalatop, Nohradhar, Rohru tucked far away but connected by road are dream destinations. Encircled by snow clad mountains the lesser known destinations are a medley of folk music, fairs, festivals and ancient rituals. Ruined forts and submerged temples of Bilaspur: popular religious shrines of Kangra, Hamirpur and Una; innumerable picnic spots of Shimla all beckon you. Above all sylvan landscape is ideal for meditation and yoga.
Offbeat can mean different things- new, strange, different, secluded, inaccessible. All the offbeat destinations covered in the b00k have something in common- they are scenic, serene and pollution free.
Many tend to hesitate or are reluctant to visit unknown getaways for a varied number of reasons. The predominant being, no one knows about it, no one has gone there. For some these destinations may be lonely or boring. But I must say-they are everything but not this. In a deeper sense they are packed with activities and companionship far richer than any other destinations.
You are accompanied by gently swaying trees, stars, wisps of clouds, rippling streams and the caressing wind. The atmosphere is charged with the presence of the chattering of the crickets, the twittering of birds and if lucky by the sight of Choral, musk deer or the colourful Monal.
So they are definitely offbeat in spirit. They are more of a spiritual holiday with yourself or one with nature. You may face some discomfort like an unpredictable rainfall; sudden landslide and consequent road blockade; not finding the chowkidar of the rest house; the one and the only shop in the village closed and no vegetables of your choice. (little hassles).
All these unknown and unexplored getaways nestled in the mountains, beside side brooks and gushing rivers amidst thick forests in grassy meadows dotted with multi hued flowers are all laid back destinations. For those in a hurry a one day stop is enough to rejuvenate while others can extend their stay to relax. Except for the village temples there may be nothing else to see but the quiet, leisurely walks; the scenic beauty; the mountain scape; the sunset and the sunrise are far better things to see and feel than the high rise buildings and multiplexes. For the adventurous most of the destinations have hiking, trekking, mountaineering, angling and water sport options in the wooded hills. The remoteness of these undiscovered spots is their treasure. These places can be shy and defensive but they are now for you to enjoy and inhale.
Writing this book was as interesting as going to all these places and recalling little little tit bits when I was in one or the other place in the last decade: the spinning prayer wheels and the fluttering prayer flags in little Lahasa, the never ending tea-gardens at Palampur, the sweet cup of tea at Multhan, the leopard at Dalhausie, the apple blossom at Kumarsain and the stat lit night at Triund, the carpet of wild flowers at Pangi, the ghoral at Badgram, listening songs on the radio at Kedi, the beautiful rest house at Shoja, the chokidar with a rifle at Chitkul .... memories flood as I pen these lines.
Of all the Himalayan states, Himachal Pradesh offers the greatest diversity of scene and variety of experience. Where else can you ride in a train so close to snow peaks (through the green Kangra Valley) and the very next day find yourself across the Himalayan range in the arid yet magnificent pink valley of Spiti?
In spite of the exacting challenges of such contrasting terrain, communications in Himachal are impressive. For anyone who wishes to grasp the wonder of the Himalaya in a short span, the motorable triangle that heads north-west out of Chandigarh, turns east at Gramphu (across the Rohtang jyot) and turns back south-west at Sumdu (following the Sutlej) will give an unforgettable introduction. Extraordinarily, this triangle can be done by bus — surely one of the most sensational (and least written about) bus routes in the world. Himachal’s physical beauties are innumerable and the adventurer has the added pleasure of discovering India’s most developed hill state that harnesses modern attitudes to preserve its rich and varied cultural heritage.
Minakshi Chaudhry’s Destination Himachal is a welcome introduction to the waiting array of sights, splendours and surprises of this forward looking state. On my motorbike I’ve been chased for miles by stout-hearted sheepdogs, had a leopard lope across the road in front of my silently cruising machine near Solan and heard a lion roaring at Renuka lake. On foot I have seen scintillating mauve rhododendron on Churdhar, marvelled at the jade green fall of the Rupin river amidst yellow and red terraces of buck wheat and Ramdana, and been rendered speechless by the sheer virtuosity of the wind-assisted pink rock sculpture of the upper Spiti valley. Culturally (at Naggar) I have been zapped by the powerful colours Roerich brings to his pastel landscapes of Lahaul, blessed by the associations with Guru Govind Singh that linger around the Paonta region and astonished at the Italianate planning of the former princely capital of Sirmur. To cross the snowbound Sach Pass in the company of villagers, including ladies glissading (in grass slippers!), is an unforgettable introduction to the dramatic Pangi valley. If you continue along the Chandrabhaga river to its twin sources, you find fabulous turquoise lakes poised near the crest of the Great Himalaya.
Minakshi Chaudhry has the energy and experience to display Himachal’s cornucopia of lesser known destinations and Destination Himachal excels with the colour and character that make this hill state so exciting to the visitor.
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