This Himachal Pradesh Travel Guide is all you need to know top places to see in Himachal Pradesh, how to travel there, travel costs and more.
Himachal Pradesh is India’s most popular and easily accessible hill station. Here you will find beautiful people and some of the most beautiful Himalayan landscapes with snowy peaks and plunging river valleys. The ubiquitous apple orchards and cultivated terraces further add to the beauty.
From trekking to paragliding to road-trips on the world’s most treacherous roads – Himachal Pradesh is also known for adventure activities. It is also home to the Tibetan government in exile and the Buddhist leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Himachal Pradesh Travel Guide
Since I have quit my job and became a travel blogger, I have travelled Himachal Pradesh more than any other place in India. From north to south to east to west, I have seen pretty much all of it. It is moreover in Sethan in Himachal that I started my first hospitality business.
So yea, before we move ahead with our Himachal Pradesh travel guide and discuss some of the top places to see in Himachal Pradesh, I want to confess that I have a soft corner for his place in my heart. And speaking of some quick travel tips, here are some:
- Skip the popular, much-crowded towns like Shimla and Chail, and visit small villages. Smaller unknown towns like Cheog and Barog (both located close to Shimla) is where you will find the real Himachali experience.
- Most of the places in Himachal are camping friendly, and since local people throughout Himachal are friendly, they often allow tourists to camp anywhere. So, camp and save $$$.
- Phone network in many places may be a little weak, but Himachal still offers between connectivity than the neighbouring Himalayan states like Uttarakhand.
- The three major mobile networks: Airtel, BSNL and Jio.
- The best way to travel to Himachal is public transport. I The state Himachal Transport buses are just the best.
- It is one of the safest Indian places for Solo Female travellers.
Now, before I start with my top places to see in Himachal Pradesh, I want to share another resource from my blog where I have mentioned my personal favourite tourist places in Himachal Pradesh in more detail.
Some of the places are repeated in this Himachal Pradesh travel guide too but in brief.
Top Places To Visit In Himachal Pradesh
Most tourists flocking to Manali (despite craving for an offbeat place) have no idea about Hallan Valley’s existence. I ended up exploring Hallan Valley during a motorbike trip in Himachal some two years ago (in 2016) and since then I’ve been revisiting Hallan Valley at least a few times every year.
It is a place for slow travellers, for those who want to stay away from the tourist trail and experience a laid-back Himachali life. Visit Hallan to understand the Himachali culture from much closer, visit Hallan to befriend some locals.
Hallan Valley remains one of the all-time favourite offbeat Manali destinations for me, and hence, number one placement in my Himachal Pradesh travel guide.
As I mentioned above, it is Sethan where I started my first hospitality network: camping in Sethan. So yea, an obvious mention in this list of top places to see in Himachal Pradesh.
Unlike Manali, Sethan is a place for slow travellers. From Sethan, one can see the towering Dhauladhar ranges surrounding the village, and the river Beas flowing right next to it. If the idea of a vacation is all about relaxing, unwinding and revitalizing, then Sethan, in Himachal Pradesh, is the place to visit.
For me, Sethan remains my favorite destination for camping in Manali.
Since the inauguration of what happens to be the world’s longest highway tunnel, Atal Tunnel became one of the most popular highlights for tourists visiting Kullu-Manali. And when you visit the place yourself you understand why so.
The tunnel itself is an architectural marvel. Additionally, the idea of traversing from Pir Panjal range (as you enter the tunnel from the south Portal) to Dhauladhar Range (as you exit the tunnel in Lahaul Valley) is an experience in itself. It almost feels akin to taking a flight from one continent to another.
Read this Manali to Atal Tunnel blog for more on how to plan a trip to Atal Tunnel (also known as Rohtang Tunnel).
Tibetan Culture In Mcleod Ganj
Also known as the ‘Little Lhasa’, McLeodganj, Dharamshala is the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the site of Tibetan government in exile. Come here to stay under the blissful company of Buddhist monks and realise how Tibet is being rebuilt, in its true, more conscious form, outside the borders of Tibet.
There are also many trekking routes near Mcleod Ganj. This includes Kareri Lake, Naddi Dharamshala, BhagsuNag Waterfall, and of course, Triund. I’ve personally trekked to all of them, except for Kareri Lake and they’re all great treks.
Unfortunately, I have not written any blogs. Since Triund treks remain the most popular trek, I’ve pulled out this Triund Trek blog from the internet for your reference.
Also, see this blog on hostels in Dharamshala to find some of the best backpacker hostels there. You can also find many airbnbs and homestays in Dharamshala.
If you’re looking for some debaucherous night outs with the hippies of the West, head to Parvathi Valley.
Some of the most popular towns around this place, where you also get a hot spring to relax and bathe are Kasol, Manikaran and Malana (this is by far the most popular and beautiful, but this town doesn’t have a hot spring).
Parvathi Valley is one of the popular places with a mention in almost every Himachal Pradesh travel guide out there.
Located in Chamba district, Bharmour is a beautiful quaint village. It is majorly popular as a stopover for pilgrims visiting Manimahesh, but in my view, Bharmour has a lot more to offer. It has centuries-old temples, waterfalls, the emerald green Ravi River, beautiful landscapes and a lot more.
During my recent one-week trip across Chamba district (in November 2020) I happened to spend 3 nights in Bharmour and explored a bit of the town and a few other places nearby. If you ever visit Chamba or Dalhousie, I suggest a 1-2 day trip to Bharmour. Also visit the last village of Chamba called Kugti to experience life in the higher Himalayas and in a village where we still have no road connection and no phone connectivity.
Parashar is famous for a 13th-century pagoda-like temple, and a mystical floating island in the Parashar Lake. Both have many legends associated with them. Though Parashar Lake is getting crowded with Indian tourists in recent years, there are still many peaceful hideouts nearby where you can camp and enjoy the serenity of the place.
Chanshal Pass, Pabbar Valley
Chanshal Pass, in Pabbar Valley remains the highest point in Shimla district.
At 3,700m above the sea level, Chanshal Pass is just as high as Rohtang Pass (3,900m above sea level) and remains snow-covered most of the time of the year.
It is the gateway to Dodra Kwar, that takes you to Rupin Pass, before connecting the route to Sangla Valley (home to Chitkul if you’ve heard of it) and further to Spiti Valley.
Though there is nothing special about the place and you will find it like any other motorcycle pass in the Himalayas like Sach Pass or Rohtang Pass or someplace else, the fact that it is one of the least explored and a very offbeat destination that I have included it in my Himachal Pradesh travel guide.
Spread over a tiny land of 20 km, Sangla Valley is among the few smallest valleys in the Himalayas. But if you speak about its beauty, each sight is a magnificent sight to behold.
Snow clad mountains surround you and welcome you with a spectacular view of The Kinner Kailash, as you reach the last Indian town of Chitkul. A visit to Sangla Valley and Chitkul can never leave you disappointed. See these Chitkul Pictures to get an idea of the beauty I am talking about.
Trek to Triund Top
Triund of the popular treks in the state of Himachal Pradesh. With breathtaking views of the Kangra valley on one side and the snow-covered Dhauladhar ranges on the other, it is also quite picturesque. On the way, trekkers come across a number of cliffs ideal for Instagram perfect spots.
It is ideal for those who are seeking a hassle-free taste of trekking in the Himalayas and want to trek solo.
From McleodGunj, the top point is only about 11km but quite steep. The town of McLeodganj also provides for a great opportunity to experience the culture of Tibetan migrants in India.
Kheerganga Rainbow Gathering
Kheerganga is a 14km trek from the nearest town of Barshaini, in Parvati Valley. Every year, in the month of May (though dates may slightly differ) the place hosts a gathering of backpackers who visit Kheerganga from across the world. They camp, relax and bathe in natural hot-spring and enjoy the company of a few dozen travellers.
Remember to carry your own tent however because you won’t find any guesthouses around in Kheerganga.
Home to the world’s most treacherous roads, Spiti Valley is like a playground for riders and adventure junkies. Spiti Valley offers Moonland kind of landscapes, centuries-old Buddhist culture and some ancient monasteries dating back their existence to the 11th century. If you plan motorcycle trip to Spiti Valley, check my Spiti Valley itinerary. I did this route all by myself.
An alternative to Spiti Valley is Leh Ladakh in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir but it’s not that adventurous. Check my Manali to Leh blog if you want a Leh vs Spiti comparison.
Located in the valley of Lahaul and Spiti, Chandratal is, by far, my favourite camping spot in Himachal. You can drive all the way to Chandratal (or Chandra lake) though driving conditions are quite poor.
Other than the main highlighted lake of Chandratal, if you explore a little further you can find a cluster of big and small lakes surrounded by snow-capped mountains. You can even spot a snow-leopard or the much common brown bear here.
If you are doing Spiti valley motorcycle circuit, you can visit Chandratal on the way.
One of the most popular tourist spots in Chamba district, Khajjiar is often referred to as Mini Switzerland of India. The place needs no introduction.
Think of it as one big beautiful meadow surrounded by tall Deodar and Cedar trees. In the middle, a small stream-fed lake. Close to lake lies a 12th-century Khajji Nag Temple dedicated to a serpent god. It is worth visiting the temple and studying its beautiful architecture. The place initially got popular among local tourists wanting to visit the Khajji Nag temple, but soon picked up popularity nation-wide.
Within 30km radius from Khajjiar, we have Jot Pass, Kalatop and Dalhousie as other popular tourist places. Khajjiar is certainly one of the top places to visit in Himachal Pradesh.
Old Manali & Vashisth
Skip the town of New Manali and go straight to Old Manali or Vashisth, located about 2 km from the Manali main bus station – for a quieter, cheaper and better experience.
In Manali, you’ll find backpackers from across the world, chilling and relaxing, throughout the year. Read my Manali travel guide for more tips on what to see and do there. Other than being one of the famous places to see in Himachal Pradesh, Manali is also one of the crowdest, with more tourists visiting Manali than any other destination in the entire state.
Every weekend, thousands of tourists travel from Delhi to Manali, making it a little too crowded lately. So if you are doing a road trip and travelling from Delhi, the better option in Himachal would be a Delhi to Chitkul trip.
Also, see this blog on hostels in Manali to find some of the best backpacker hostels there. You can also find many airbnbs and homestays in Manali.
That was all in my list of top places to see in Himachal Pradesh.
The next topic in our Himachal Pradesh travel guide is the usual ‘what is the best time to travel to Himachal Pradesh’. So let’s discuss that, perhaps!
What Is The Best Time To Travel Himachal Pradesh
Other than for honeymoon couples, who mostly visit during snow time in winter, Himachal finds itself being swelled with the humans throughout the season. Where winter is for honeymooners, summer is for budget backpackers and trekkers.
For an average tourist, April to September mark the best time to travel Himachal Pradesh. It is only the monsoon (which starts sometime in the month of July and stays until August) that makes it a little challenging to visit Himachal.
What Is The Cost of Travelling In Himachal Pradesh
Food in Himachal is fairly cheap. And if you’re on a strict budget, just go to any seemingly looking budget hotel and ask for a ‘Thali’. This is standard Indian food which gives you unlimited rice, Chapattis, Dal and some kind of mix vegetable – all in a price of 90 Rupees (expect the usual +/- 10 Rupees depending upon the kind place you’re dining at).
Finding a dish in Himachal is easy. Alcohol is also widely available.
During the high season time which falls sometime between May and July (that marks for the best time to visit Himachal Pradesh) and during winters at the time of snowfall, the cost of even a very basic private room jumps to 700 Rupees, per day.
Other time of the year lets you can travel in Himachal Pradesh and find accommodation for as low as 250 Rupees per day, but they often come without wifi. You can find backpacker hostels in most of the top tourist places in Himachal Pradesh.
That’s all in this Himachal Pradesh travel guide. If you have anything to add in the tips, or in the top places to see in Himachal Pradesh list, please leave a comment below. Your suggestions can help someone plan their trip better!