The Undiscovered Kangra

Kangra is a region of Himachl Pradesh, India that is over 3500 yrs old and dates back to the Vedic Times finding mention in the ‘Puranas’ and the Mahabharata. The district derives its name from Kangra town that was known as Nagarkot in ancient times.

Sheltered by the Dhauladhar range of the lower Himalayas, Kangra District is a green and luxuriant paradise for tourists with interesting trekking trails, nature parks, heritage buildings, adventure activities, angling and a pleasant climate. Crafts like the exquisitely designed shawls and miniature paintings of this region are well acclaimed.

 

Kangra

KANGRA Kangra is the former capital of the princely state of Kangra. This bustling pilgrim town has the famous Brajeshwari Devi Temple, one of the 51 Shakti Peeths. The over 1000 year old formidable Kangra Fort, Maharaja Sansar Chand Museum and the Masroor rock cut temples are other interesting places to experience.

Pong Dam

 

pongMaharana Pratap Sagar, also known as Pong Dam Reservoir or Pong Dam Lake was created in 1975 building the highest earthfill dam in India on the Beas River in the wetland zone of the Shivalik Hills in Kangra. Declared a bird sanctuary in 1983 and one of India’s 25 international Ramsar sites in 2002, the reservoir is additionally one of the leading fish habitats in the Himalayan states, and provides vital habitat to a host of mammals including leopards, sambar, wild pigs, barking deer and oriental small-clawed otters.

Dharamshala

DHARMSHALA Dharamsala is the headquarters of the Kangra district and a popular hill station lying on the spur of the Dhauladhar range about 17 Km north- east of Kangra town. This hill station is wooded with oak and conifer trees and snow capped mountains enfold three sides of the town while the valley stretches in front. The snowline is perhaps most easily accessible at Dharamsala than at any other hill resort . It is possible to make a day’s trek to snow-point after an early morning’s start. Upper Dharamsala area comprise of places with names which bear witness to its history like McLeod Ganj and Forsythe Ganj. Since 1960, when it became a temporary headquarter of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dharamsala has risen to international fame as “The Little Lhasa in India”, McLeodganj, is 9 Km from Lower Dharamsala. Other Interesting points include, Kangra art museum, St John Church, Kunal Pathri, Kotla Fort etc. Dharamshal is also home to the famous cricket stadium where IPL matches are held.

Palampur

palampur

Palampur, also known as the ‘Tea Capital of North India’, is a not so popular hill station. It is known to a few for its scenic beauty but also for the beautiful temples and buildings built in the Colonial period. The town has derived its name from the local word pulum, meaning lots of water. There are numerous streams flowing from the mountains to the plains from Palampur. Behind this town stands high ranges of Dhauladhar mountains, whose tops remain snow-covered for most part of the year. Here, a nature lover can enjoy a quiet stroll while feasting his eyes on the natural beauty and an outdoor lover with a taste for adventure can enjoy long hikes and treks.

Pragpur

pragpur Pragpur is a small village, about 50 km from Kangra. It has been enlisted as the World Heritage Village in India. The pristine beauty and glorious historical background makes it a wonderful destination that showcases the traditional values of the local folks.

Baijnath

baijnathIt is a small town 51 km from Kangra and 16 km from Palampur. Famous for the over 800 yr old Shiv Temple of the same name. The temple is a beautiful example of early medieval north Indian Temple architecture known as Nagara style.

Bir

BIR Bir is situated in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas in the Kangra District, just 30 Km from Palampur and is a noted centre for ecotourism, spiritual studies and meditation. The greater Bir area includes Billing, the Tibetan Colony in Chowgan, Ghornala, and Sherab Ling in Bhattu. It is home to a diverse community of over a thousand Indian villagers, a Tibetan refugee settlement, and a small but growing international population . Bir is so charming that one of the joys of getting around is doing so slowly, out in the open. The many villages and fields of greater Bir are interconnected by webs of walking trails. Do yourself a favor by getting out and walking as much as you can . Paragliding is one of it’s biggest draws for outdoor enthusiasts and thrill seekers. Bir is regarded by international paragliding groups as the second best site in the world for paragliding (after Lake Como in Italy).

To discover Kangra contact Road2Travel for any information. You might want an extended trip to Himachal including Shimla and Manali. A number of Budget and Deluxe hotels are available like Hotel Kalpna by R C Hospitality at Manali. Road2himachal our Himachal division would be eager to help you out.

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INDIA’S MOST LOVED HILL STATIONS, A MUST FOR YOUR 2015 BUCKETLIST

DARJEELING

darjeeling

 

 

Over a steep mountain ridge, surrounded by tea plantations and with a backdrop of white Himalayan peaks floating over distant clouds, the archetypal hill station of Darjeeling is rightly West Bengal’s premier attraction. The towering Khangchendzonga (8598m), colonial-era architecture, Buddhist monasteries and the snow leopards and red pandas at the nearby zoo, Tiger Hill, Batasia Loop and the War Memorial is what makes Darjeeling unique. A melting pot of Himalayan races from Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet and beautiful local handicrafts. This is the land of the flavoured Darjeeling tea revered by connoisseurs across the globe. This is the land of the world heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railway where the century old miniature steam engine still chugs uphill vying for space with the fast disappearing Land Rovers. It is certainly that Darjeeling in the post modern era comprises of six T’s -Tea, Teak, Tourism, Toy Train, Tiger Hill and Trekkers’ paradise.What should you bring home? Tea, tea, and more tea—and beautiful local handicrafts.

GULMARG

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Originally called ‘Gaurimarg’ by shepherds, Gulmarg was discovered in the 16th century by Sultan Yusuf Shah, who was inspired by the sight of its grassy slopes emblazoned with wild flowers. It was also a favourite resort of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Gulmarg’s legendary beauty, prime location and proximity to Srinagar naturally make it one of Asia’s premier hill stations. Gulmarg is also a world class ski resort and has the world’s highest gondola ski lift and not to overlook, the highest green golf course in the world. It’s not so much a town as a twisting 4km-long loop of road ringing the undulating ‘Meadow of Flowers’ for which it’s named. However, the main reason to come to Gulmarg for many is to venture up through the backing stands of mature pines towards the bald ridge of Mt Afarwat. This can be done on foot or with ponies but is easiest using the two-stage gondola cable car that whisks you to 3747m for outstanding clear-day views, reputedly encompassing Nanga Parbat (the world’s ninth-highest mountain across in Pakistan) Today, Gulmarg is not merely a mountain resort of exceptional beauty but also the country’s premier ski resort in winter when it is covered in snow and takes on the appearance of a picture postcard.

MUSSOORIE

mussoorie

 

Established in the Himalayan foothills by a British Army officer in 1820, the “Queen of the Hills” stands above the rest, with its deep woods, favorable climate and Doon Valley views. It is perfect for long hikes, you will find lanes lined with pine trees and trails that lead up to gushing waterfalls inside oak-scented woods. Its name is derived from the berry-covered Mansur shrub found in abundance around this trekker-friendly area. The ghosts of its colonial past linger on in the architecture of the churches, libraries, hotels and summer palaces. The Savoy is a historic luxury hotel said to be haunted by ghosts from the past. Agatha Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was inspired by a murder committed in the The Savoy. For stunning natural sights, head to Gun Hill or Childer’s Lodge, the two highest peaks, or the famous Kempty waterfall. Perched on a ridge 2km high. When the mist clears, views of the green Doon Valley and the distant white-capped Himalayan peaks are superb, and in the hot months the cooler temperatures and fresh mountain air make a welcome break from the plains below.

SHIMLA

shimla

 

 

The former summer capital of the British in India, and the present capital of Himachal Pradesh, Shimla has been blessed with all the natural bounties which one can think of. It has got a scenic location; it is surrounded by green hills with snow capped peaks. Bulging at its seams with unprecedented expansion, Shimla retains its colonial heritage, with grand old buildings, among them are the stately Viceregal Lodge, charming iron lamp posts and Anglo-Saxon names. The civic centre in Shimla is one of the only four heritage sites in India in the World Monument Fund endangered list. The Mall, packed with shops and eateries, is the centre of attraction of the town, and Scandal Point, associated with the former Maharaja of Patiala’s escapades, offers a view of distant snow clad peaks. Just a five hour drive from Delhi, Shimla is probably the most visited hill station in India

MANALI

manali

 

 

An array of chic restaurant openings has turned MANALI from a backpacker jaunt into a more savvy venue for modern travelers. No wonder the towering peaks and verdant terrain of Manali attracts adventure travellers, with skiing, hiking, mountaineering and river rafting the favored active pursuits. Come down from your endorphin high by breathing deeply at the four-story, wooden Hidimba Devi Temple, which sits in the middle of a nearby deciduous forest, or take a medicinal soak in the hot springs burbling from the ground a 30-minute walk from town. With super views of the Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal Ranges, and with mountain adventures beckoning from all directions, Manali is a year-round magnet for tourists. Backpackers come to hang out in the hippy villages around the main town; adventure tourists come for trekking, paragliding, rafting and skiing; and Indian honeymoon couples or families come for the cool mountain air and their first taste of snow on a day trip to Rohtang La. As the main jumping-off point for Ladakh, Spiti and Lahaul ,it makes sense to unwind here for a few days before continuing the long journey into the mountains.

UDHAGAMANDALAM

ooty

 

 

Popularly referred to as Ooty, this gem among southern hill resorts is covered in eucalyptus and pine trees and coffee and tea plantations. Located in the Western ghats at a height of 2240m, Udhagamandalam is the headquarters of the Nilgiris district . Nilgiri is India’s first biosphere. It has been declared as one of the 14 ‘hotspots’ of the world because of its unique bio-diversity. On a clear day, it’s possible to see as far as the Mysore plateau from Dodabetta Peak, the district’s most prominent viewpoint. The Stone House, a landmark 1822 bungalow, and St. Stephen’s Church are remnants of the area’s first British settlement. Also noteworthy: formal botanical gardens, a children’s mini-garden and a contemporary art collection. Ooty combines Indian bustle and Hindu temples with lovely parks and gardens and charming Raj-era bungalows, the latter providing its most memorable (and generally most expensive) places to stay. The town was established by the British in the early 19th century as the summer headquarters of the Madras government, and memorably nicknamed ‘Snooty Ooty’. Development ploughed in a few decades ago, but somehow old Ooty survives. You just have to walk a bit further out from the centre to find it. The journey up here on the celebrated miniature train is romantic and the scenery stunning. Even the road up from the plains is pretty impressive.

MUNNAR

munnar

 

 

Munnar is situated at the confluence of three mountain streams – Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala. 1,600 m above sea level, this hill station was once the summer resort of the erstwhile British Government in South India. Sprawling tea plantations, picture-book towns, winding lanes and holiday facilities make this a popular resort town. Munnar attract adventure travellers hungry for paragliding, treks to Anaimudi (highest peak in South India) and hikes originating at the confluence of the three mountain streams .Among the exotic flora found in the forests and grasslands here is the Neelakurinji. This flower which bathes the hills in blue once in every twelve years, will bloom next in 2018. The stone Christ Church, built by the British in 1910, is adorned with renowned works of stained glass, and Eravikulam National Park, about 10 miles away, is home to equally colourful wildlife, including the endangered Nilgiri Tahr (ibex), ruddy mongoose and 120 bird species. South India’s largest tea-growing region, the rolling hills around Munnar are carpeted in emerald-green tea plantations, contoured, clipped and sculpted like ornamental hedges. The low mountain scenery is magnificent – you’re often up above the clouds watching veils of mist clinging to the mountaintops.

NAINITAL

nainital

 

 

Crowded around a deep, green volcanic lake, Nainital is Kumaon’s largest town and favourite hill resort. It occupies a steep forested valley around the namesake lake Naini and was founded by homesick Brits reminded of the Cumbrian Lake District in Britain. Plenty of hotels are set in the forested hills around the lake, there’s a busy bazaar, and a spider’s web of walking tracks covers the forested hillsides to viewpoints overlooking the distant Himalayan peaks. For travellers, it’s an easy place to kick back and relax, eat well, go horse riding or paddling on the lake. According to mythology Naini Lake is one of the emerald eyes of Shiva’s wife. Nainital is a glittering jewel in the Himalyan necklace, blessed with scenic natural spledour and varied natural resources . Dotted with lakes , Nainital has earned the epithet of ‘ Lake District ‘ of India . Nainital is only 350km from Delhi by road and well connected to Train. Making it a popular weekend destination for people living in and around Delhi.

GANGTOK

gangtok

 

 

Wreathed in clouds, Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim is located on a ridge at a height of 5500 feet. With a spectacular view of the Khangchendzonga, the town provides the perfect base for travel through the state. Once an important transit point for traders traveling between Tibet and India, it is today a busy administrative and business centre and presents an interesting mix of cultures and communities. Irreverent, laid-back and happy-go-lucky Gangtok, is mostly a functional sprawl of urban concrete interspersed with patches of forestry. True to its name (meaning ‘hill top’), the city perches along a precipitous mountain ridge, descending down the hillside in steep tiers. It reflects a unique ambience which derives from its happy blend of tradition and modernity. Alongside the deeply felt presence of stupas and monasteries, Gangtok also bustles like any other thriving town. Some of the key places to visit include Rumtek Monastery, Do-Drul Chorten, Enchey Monastery, Tashi View Point and the Lal Bazaar. Apart from the few sights of religious importance and an inspiring view of Khangchendzonga soaring above the western horizon, there isn’t much to see in town. That said, travellers love its relaxed grain and often linger here for a few days, soaking up the local culture while arranging their travels (e.g treks and tours) around the state.

Reference: State tourism websites, tripadvisor, lonelyplanet

For your trip to any of the most loved hill stations contact Road2travel

Himalayan Adventures – Gliding through the skies in Bir-Billing

Bir-Billing, located in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, is an adventure destination for paragliding. Bir-Billing is roughly a 2-3 hours drive from Mcleodganj – another tourist destination also famous for housing the monastery where His Holiness, The Dalai Lama resides. Bir-Billing is a well known destination among paragliders the world over and it also hosts annual pre-World Cup paragliding events with support from the Himachal Tourism Development Corporation, Government of Himachal Pradesh.

The nearest station to Bir-Billing is Patahankot, a drive of around 4-4.5 hours. In case of a bus journey, the Volvo bus from Delhi to Baijnath is the most convenient. Baijnath is a 10 km drive from Bir which is the landing point for paragliding. Billing, located a further 13 kms above Bir is the take-off point for the same. Either ways, Bir-Billing is an overnight journey from Delhi and takes roughly 12 hours to reach.

On the way to from Baijnath by road, one would be greeted by the sight of many paragliders flying in the clear skies as you come close to Bir. It is a rare sight in India. In fact it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it is a lot easier to spot para-gliders floating through the skies in Bir-Billing than spotting birds.

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Upon reaching Bir, the sight of lush green tea estates on either side of the road will greet you. In the months of April – May, the weather is quite sunny and hot during daytime. The temperatures however go down after 4 in the evening and by night it becomes considerably cool and pleasant. It is better to spend the night in Billing than in Bir as Billing is at a height of 2400 metres above the sea level and enjoys a much cooler climate. Moreover, the aerial view that Billing offers of the entire landscape down below is a sight to behold. To watch the early morning sunrise in Billing is nothing short of a magical experience. Billing not only offers beautiful sights of lush green landscape, but also boasts of a splendid aerial view and is a beginning point into the forest which leads to Barabhangal village after a 5 days trek. There is no other approach road to this village, located in a remote region in Himachal Pradesh, except through the mountains.

There are two options of going to Billing from Bir – either by trekking through the hills/walking up the road or by car through the motorable road made for vehicles. Those who are keen on burning some calories can opt for either the trek through the hills (a steeper but shorter route) or use the motorable road for walking up (longer but less stressful and tiring). If you wish to enjoy the lovely sights on the way to Billing, it is advisable to opt for the trek/walk instead of the easier option of car.

Our joy knew no bounds when we saw the campsite which was our place to shack up for the night. A line of five colourful tents greeted us as soon as we reached our destination. The tents were pitched right under the clear skies and on the steep slopes which looked down upon the lush green mountains. Each tent can comfortably occupy two persons with their bags. If you wish to take a dump or pee, there is another tent created especially for that a few yards below the slope.

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If you are lucky, it might even rain and make the weather quite chilly. We did get lucky. We had come with our stock of booze for the night that actually helped keep us warm for the night. The same place which was hot in the afternoon had suddenly become very chilly at night due to the rainfall. It however was a night to remember for many reasons. It was after all a night out at a campsite in the Himalayas, lovely weather, and booze to keep us warm along with food cooked in a shack by the camp manager’s team. Most importantly it was a night spent under the open skies with thousands of stars shining brightly. It seemed like every star was trying to outshine the other stars. Thankfully, we were one of the few people present there in Billing that night to admire that beautiful sight where heavens seemed to be shining upon us. It seemed like the heavens had suddenly spread out its long black blanket with hundreds and thousands of stars stuck on it. Never before had I ever seen so many stars shine so brightly all at once in the skies. Thankfully, we had our share of booze to admire the lovely night. Thankfully, we were present on top of those hills to admire that beautiful sight.

The next day was the day of reckoning for us. As we got up in the morning, we were greeted by the sight of horses grazing around the hills. There is something really special about waking up in the middle of the mountains in the Himalayan range. The sight of this gigantic range which spans thousands of kilometres across multiple countries can make one feel insignificant and small. One look at these beautiful hills and snow covered mountains makes us realise that “our world” is just so small and there is so much more to explore.

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The weather on that morning was just perfect and we got ready for the ride with assistance from the organizers and our fellow pilots. Our introduction to the activity was quite simple. We walked up to the take-off point in Billing which was just 5 minutes from our campsite. The kits were already there and we were told that the instructions were very simple. The organisers told us, “You have to run as fast as you can and jump off the cliff. The faster your speed while running, the better your take off will be.” Very simple instructions indeed! Run down the cliff, jump off without a parachute and then hope that the glider opens up in time! That is certainly a perfect start to the day. But thankfully our fears were unfounded. Thankfully, gravity always does its bit and thanks to Newton’s laws of motion, the take-off was scary but safe. The entire thrill ride lasts for around 20-25 minutes with the pilot, who thankfully sits right behind you, controlling everything including the manoeuvring, speed and height. Our job is to sit there, scream and feel like a bird. At certain points we were flying high above the mountains from where I was gazing down on the planes below a few minutes back. The first 10minutes of the ride were quite scary as it took a while for the whole experience to sink in. The first 10 minutes of the ride were spent worrying about the consequences of an accident if anything went wrong. There was after all no chance of survival as we were flying way up in the sky without the comfort of a parachute. Thankfully, these fears were unfounded as the kits used for paragliding are tested and approved by competent authorities. The pilots too are skilled and well trained pilots who are equally concerned and cautious about safety.

The next 15 minutes were spent admiring the beauty of the landscape from a bird’s eye view. The whole experiences was simply mind numbing as we flew high over the mountain tops and tried spotting some of the prominent landmarks below. The goosebumps gave way to renewed excitement as we quikcly flew over the forests covering the mountains and the open plains right below these mountains. The landing spot for the activity too is a well maintained site. The landing can be a bit tricky if not done as per the instructions of the pilot. However if you pay heed to his advice a comfortable and smooth landing is easy to achieve. Our joy knew no bounds as we landed one at a time within a span of 10 minutes. We were literally jumping like mad-hatters and pounced on each other in a super-hyper and excited phase as we completed our rides. The entire experience was truly memorable and the flight towards the skies was surreal.

The Himalayas have always had a magical pull on me and this time it was no different. It was a new destination, a new adventure and a different experience altogether. Highly recommended for those who yearn for a high-flying experience.

courtsey : http://pranav84blog.wordpress.com/

for you bir billing experience contact Road2travel

LAKE PRASHER – MANDI

Surrounded amidst the towering Dhaladhar ranges of Kulu valley is a small blue watered lake called Prashar. The lake known to locals is a well kept secret in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh, about 3 hrs drive from Manali. Prashar Lake is about 100 km from Manali and 48 km from Mandi and is at a height of about 2700m from sea level. The last 20 km of the road to the Lake is very bad and dangerous and this is one of the reasons that most tourists who flock to Manali do not have a visit to this beautiful location in their itinerary. The other reason is the total apathy of the Himachal Tourism Department.

If you start the Journey from Mandi, the road takes you through Runjh, Katidhi village and then village Kamand. Kamand is very beautiful place along the bank of river Uhal. After Kamand you will reach Village Kataula, the largest village in this valley. After a few kilometers we follow the link road to Shagli village . Prashar lake is still 23 Km from this point and now the road conditions deteriorate. Last tea stop is village Baggi after that the drive becomes more difficult. The road runs along the lush green pine forest and despite the lousy road you feel good. From Baggi you will reach Prashar in 1.5 to 2 hrs.

From Manali it is a pleasant 55 km drive on NH 21 to Bajaura. The road runs alongside the beautiful river Beas and after bypassing Kullu town reaches Bhunter. About 3 km beyond Bhunter is the right turn from Bajaura on to the State Highway. After 26 kilometer drive on a small, lonely, beautiful road, you reach the ‘Y’ junction, where straight road continues for Mandi (25 km) and left road leads to Prashar Lake (23 km).

Once you reach Lake Prashar the heart stopping and bumpy road is forgotten, you feel like a winner and the panoramic view of the himalayas and the lake give you a heavenly feeling. It is here that the sage Prashar is said to have meditated.  On the lake’s edge is a three storied Pagoda-like temple dedicated to the sage. Capped with a roof of slate tiles, the temple has a wealth of wood carvings. An old temple, it is said to have been built by Raja Ban Sen of Mandi in the 14th century. An entire panorama of snowy mountain ranges is visible from this location. If some one want to stay here one can book the guest houses of HPPWD or HP Forest Dept.

The young and adventurous could also trek to Prashar Lake. The trek follows a beautiful trail that goes through a series of reserved forest cover, small rivulets and scenic pasture-lands. One can enjoy the local mountain village culture as the trail goes through the muddy tarred path of the local villages here. The trail is quiet enjoyable and gives a breathtaking 180 degree view of Dhauladhar, Pir Pinjal and Kinnaur mountain ranges. This makes for a perfect weekend trek with its proximity and good road connectivity with cities like Delhi, Chandigarh.

The temperature here range from -9 deg C to 23 degrees C and in winters there is heavy snowfall and the last few km of the road is closed. The best time to visit is April to July and Sept to Nov.

For your visit to Manali and Lake Parasher contact Road2Travel