Himachal Pradesh should be on the bucket list of every traveler. When it comes to exploring this ‘Abode of Snow’, many flock to the famous hotspots, like Kullu-Manali, Shimla, Dalhousie, McLeod Ganj and Dharamshala. But if you like to take the road less traveled, there are hidden gems tucked away in this northern Indian state that will enthrall you with their unblemished natural beauty, picturesque landscapes and serenity. Here’s a rundown of some of the best offbeat destinations to visit in Himachal.
Adventure, wildlife, nature, serenity and spectacular view of the Himalayas – what more do you need for a holiday? Encircled by lush deodar forests and the majestic Himalayas, Barot is situated on the banks of the Uhl River and offers plenty of outdoor activities, foremost of which is angling for trouts. Another popular activity is trekking through the scenic forest trails into the mountains, which are home to a variety of flowers and herbs that have healing properties, as well as enjoying the bird’s eye views. Across the Uhl River lies the Dev Pashakot Temple in which resides the local deity of rain. Also, visitors can spot a variety of Himalayan wildlife—including the Himalayan black bear, kasturi deer, ghoral, leopard, pheasants and more—at Nargu Wildlife Sanctuary.
Snow-laden mountains, lush green vegetation, mustard fields and apple orchards are the highlights of Chitkul, the last inhabited hamlet near the Indo-China border. The potatoes and peas grown here are some of the finest in the world—and expensive, too. In the temple resides the 500-year old deity of Chitkul, plus this village happens to be the final point of the popular Kinnaur Kailash Parikrama (the abode of Lord Shiva), so pilgrims stop at the temple and worship the goddess of Chitkul. The town experiences cold, harsh winters, so pack accordingly.
This tiny hamlet nestled in the Seraj Valley is unspoilt by commercialization. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful sight of snow-covered mountains or go for a walk to the Waterfall Point, just a kilometre from Shoja, and get drenched under sheets of cold water. Serolsar Lake is a must-visit spot that offers a mesmerizing sunset view; the walk there is equally scenic, traversing the Jalori Pass, which is covered in lush oak trees.
Between Chitkul and Sangla, at an altitude of 3048 meters, Rakchham is surrounded by lush forests and snow-capped mountains. There isn’t much to see in this tiny hamlet, but the peaceful setting and scenic beauty make it a perfect spot for those looking for a few days alone in nature. There are two temples dedicated to Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva. You can also spot plenty of mountain animals here, like the Himalayan black bear, musk deer, blue sheep, goral and brown trout.
Nestled in the Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh, Janjehli is an untouched gem that is blessed with a wealth of natural splendour and unblemished landscapes. It’s a haven for adventure enthusiasts and photographers. Camping, cycling, and long nature walks can be enjoyed here. And, with a trail that leads you up to 3300 meters, it is a great place for trekking.
Drive the scenic Jalori Pass and the Great Himalayan National Park to reach Jibhi, a small village in the Banjar Valley. Jibhi has a cluster of wooden houses with cantilevered verandas and intricate carvings. Surrounded by lush cedar and pine forests covering the mountain slopes, it serves as an ideal base for forest hiking. Fishing and bird-watching are other popular activities here. If you wish to explore the nearby areas, approximately 4 kilometers away lies a 40-meter high watchtower that is said to be more than 1500 years old, built in the Pahadi style of architecture that is found only in Himachal Pradesh. Near the tower lie the ruins of Chaini Fort and Shringa Rishi Temple, other sites that are worth visiting.
Also referred to as ‘the apple bowl’, Kalpa is home to many apple orchards and apples are the primary cash-crop of the village. In Kinnaur district, this tiny village is set amidst the snow-laden Kinnaur Kailash mountains and lush pine nut forests. There’s also plenty to see and do here. If you’re adventurous, you can trek to Kinnaur Kailash mountain, a sacred site dedicated to Lord Shiva. On top of the mountain is a 70 meter high Shiva Lingam. You can also trek to Chakka Peak, at an elevation of 4572 meters, for panoramic views. Architecture aficionados can visit the Narayan-Nagini Temple made in a Tibetan pagoda style, and history buffs can visit the Kamru and Sapni Forts or the Hu-Bu-Lan-Kar monastery, dating from 950-1055 AD. To experience authentic village life, visit Roghi village, approximately 6 kilometers from Kalpa, or nearby Kothi village, which is rich in art and architecture.
Situated in Kangra district, in the lap of the Dhauladhar Range, Pragpur is India’s first heritage valley. With old-world charm, cobblestone streets lined with slate-roof houses and villas, a rich history that dates back to the 16th century, immaculate beauty and spectacular architecture that is a blend of Portuguese, Rajput and British styles, this village is certainly worth visiting. The main attractions are the Lala Rerumal Haveli, built in 1931, that has a huge water reservoir, a Mughal Garden and period furnishings. Other must-visit spots include the two-storey Judge’s Court with colonial-era paintings and furnishings, Chaujjar mansion, the Sood clan courtyards, and ancient temples.
Narkanda is a scenic wonder set at 2708 meters in the Shivalik Ranges. In winter, the town turns into a ski resort. Other must-visit attractions here include Hatu Peak, Tannu Jubbar Lake, and apple orchards at Stokes Farms. With snow-clad mountains, abundant natural beauty and rugged landscapes, this place offers a peaceful holiday experience.
An offbeat gem, Gushaini strikes a perfect balance between serenity, adventure and nature. It offers everything from trekking trails to camping and fishing to diverse flora and fauna. It’s often referred to as Trout Country, due to the many trout in the Tirthan River. It’s also the gateway to the Great Himalayan National Park. For stay options, you can pitch a tent on the banks of the Tirthan Valley, sleep under the stars and wake up to the melodious sound of the gushing river. Plus, riverside homestay options are available.