A kingdom that has risen above disasters like the 2010 cloudburst and is still able to magnetise a plethora of tourists and travellers every month to it, even when the mercury dips below sub-zero levels. This former capital of the Himalayan Kingdom of Ladakh is chiefly dominated by the ruined Royal Palace of Leh and the eternally serene Pangong Tso, Tibetan for 'high grassland lake', which is spread for 134 km from India to China. If you're someone who loves travelling unconventionally and is interested in the lifestyle that thrives in this high altitude desert, you can stay with locals who have turned their homes into 'homestays' and are open to interacting with non-natives. For a more spiritual and mystical experience, one can also spend the night at monasteries such as Thiksey, Lamauru or the Hemis Monastery, where you will get a chance to interact with Lamas (Buddhist teachers) and learn all about their lives and what they preach. For more visual and audio insights and treats, one can attend the 6 day Ladakh festival, a multihued explosion of Ladakhi culture and tradition, celebrated annually in the month of September in Leh's villages. Leh can always keep you entertained, for instance, with trekking (frozen river trek to Chadar, Padam to Darcha trek), mountain biking, skiing, camel safari, paragliding and even having your car pulled uphill by the magnetic force at the Magnetic Hill. Foodies will get no better thrill than eating at the highest cafeteria in the world, Rinchen Cafeteria. Other popular cafes such as Gesmo, Nirvana Garden, Cafe Jeevan and Norlakh are a must to go to for their lip smacking Italian, Himalayan and local dishes.
The land from where once an ancient trade route to China would be embarked on, Manali is an abode for modern creativity now as much as it for withdrawal and adventure in the majestic mountains. From offering hostels, hotels, co-working spaces to the cave where once Arjun, the Pandava king had supposedly meditated (Arjun Gufa), Manali is no less than a global village. The mighty Himalayas have inspired many foreign settlements here, giving rise to popular European and Israeli cafes, restaurants and hostels, providing one a consortium of around the world cultures. This town is a true haven for adventure junkies who can indulge in river rafting, paragliding, camping, rock climbing, rappelling, zorbing at Solang Valley and Aleo. Manali has an array of breathtaking treks and sights for its nature lovers, for instance the Patalsu Peak, the Deo Tibba basecamp, Jogini Falls and the Rahala Falls. For all the solo riders out there, cruise your way through the snowy alley of Rohtang Pass while those who wish to travel back in time, can indulge in the exquisite display of culture and heritage at the Museum of Himachal Culture and Folk Art. Restaurants and cafes such as the Khyber Pass, Johnson's Cafe, La Plage, Drifters' Inn, The Hangout attract foodies for their culinary justice to everything from Thai to European cuisines and even some live music. If all this is too over the top for you, then reconnect with simplicity at Naggar Village, which is home to waterfalls, a beautiful castle, an art gallery and locals which have many stories to share and a cultural heritage to take pride in.
Scenic and serene, Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh is perhaps one of the most unexplored places in Himachal. Passing through serpentine roads, refreshing, lush greenery, the district is a delight to explore. Though travellers looking to enjoy a luxurious holiday may not have a great time here. Kalpa is the first village that greets you when you enter Kinnaur. Reckong Peo, Nako and Sangla Valley are some of the villages and valleys that make up Kinnaur district. A journey to Kinnaur is marked with adventure and also an unpredictability that comes from travelling so high up in the mountains. The people in all the villages are very warm and welcoming and are open to sharing their way of life with travellers. Do plan a long trip here, since Kinnaur district can easily take up to 2 weeks and it's best not to hurry your way through this spellbinding valley.
Located in Himachal Pradesh, what most people refer to as Dharamsala is actually Lower Dharamsala. This is where the bus drops you, and from here you can make your way to Mcleodganj, or Upper Dharamsala, which is also where the Dalai Lama lives. The two Dharamsalas have a strong Tibetan presence with monasteries, meditation centres and a big library of Tibetan history. This is owing to the Tibetan refugees who have made this place home after fleeing the oppression of China in their homeland. There is a lot to explore at these destinations, which are popular both with Indian and foreign tourists. For tourism in Dharamsala, there is the Norbulingka Institute, where you can see artisans making thangka paintings, embroidering and carving food. Further up in Mcleodganj, you can visit the Namgyal Monastery, say a prayer at the St John in the Wilderness, take a dip in the gushing Bhagsu Falls, trek up to Triund or just enjoy the surrounding pine forest from its many fabulous rooftop cafes and restaurants. Some resorts provide opportunities for paragliding, flying fox, rock climbing, zip lining, rappelling and even night camping. Treks through the magical hills and forests are always invaluable, the most cherished one being, the trek to the snowy peaks of Triund. Dharamshala's vast Tibetan population gives way to charming little kitchen cafes serving the most lip smacking Tibetan dishes, that too at very affordable prices (below Rs 500 for two). Dishes such as thenthuk, thukpa, chocolate and meat medallions are a huge hit with most travellers that have visited and sought refuge in this city's mystical spread. Close
This is as valley as well as a town in the Dustrict of Chamba. Situated on the banks of the Ravi River, Chamba is a beautiful place and a popular tourist destination of Himachal Pradesh. The town was founded in 920 AD by Raja Sahil Verma, after he moved his capital from Bharmour till here. The temple of the Chamba valley are also famous for theire beautiful wood carvings. The main influence is of Hindus here unlike most of the other hill valleys of Himachal. The Raghuvira Temple is the most famous temple here. The blooming flowers all around is a blissful sight. The Chowgan Field is the place for the traditional Minjal Festival of Chamba Region.
We reached Tangste late in the afternoon. Sammy was indeed their chief guest. They let her sniff around the house while we snacked on some sandwiches. She stayed back with them when Azal and I went to freshen up at the guesthouse. Later in the evening, an informal dinner was organized at their place to welcome us. We met other officers who were fighting the harshest of weather in that forlorn place. Yet they were all so jovial, cracking jokes and making merry in the company of fellow soldiers who had become more like family than co-workers. Conversations flowed as drinks and chicken kebabs did the rounds.