One of the most frequent questions I get asked by people planning a trip is to suggest a less crowded place; a lesser known offbeat destination where not many people go. Everyone knows places like Shimla and Manali and almost everyone has been there. Whether its peak summer or winter, these places get so crowded that going there don’t even feel like a vacation. There are several other known places as well where if you go, it just feels like you went from one city to another, not really to a hill station. If you too are tired of same over crowded places and would rather enjoy the peace and tranquility of a lesser visited place, then mentioned below is a list of Top 10 Offbeat Places in Himachal Pradesh that you can consider visiting.
Fact actually is that entire Himachal in itself is a tourist destination. There are some places that got famous as compared to others but if you want to go remote; or want to get away from civilization for a while then any village or human settlement will about do.
The list can really be endless and it all depends on how many days you have in hand and what your preference is. It will be nearly impossible to list all the places in one article because that will in the end just end in an endless crazy heavy page. To avoid that, I will break this in several different articles suggesting a few names on each page. This page is the first article in the series.
Places that I will include in these articles are mostly based on three factors. First and the most important is that these destinations do not see so much tourist footfall even during peak season. Second is that even though offbeat, there is road connectivity and reaching here is not troublesome at all. Third factor I have considered is that there is accommodation available here either in form of a hotel or guest house.
With the above being said, mentioned below are a few offbeat destinations in Himachal Pradesh that are definitely worth a visit.
Top 10 Offbeat Places in Himachal
The first time I was in Chitkul, what I had in front of me felt like a wallpaper coming to life. Ever seen a poster, picture or postcard of a place nestled up in the hills; with high peaks on three sides and a road leading from the fourth; a small river flowing down from one of the hills and sun rising up? If you want to see a live version of that picture than you must visit Chitkul. It has been my favorite hill station ever since I went there first and this is the reason I am putting it on top of the list. Very few people visit here and the ones that do, are mostly people attempting the Spiti Circuit.
For a brief overview, Chitkul is the last village on Indo-China border; though the road actually does not go all the way till the border. It ends about 90 kilometers before at Chitkul; after which the area is under control of ITBP. It lies on the banks of Baspa River and also is the last point in India that a person can visit without needing to obtain a permit. In order to get here, you will reach Shimla and continue towards Rampur from there. After Rampur, follow the road till Karchham. A small road bifurcates at Karchham towards Sangla valley which is the one you will take. Chitkul is about 30 odd kilometers from this point.
There is no major tourist attraction in Chitkul; except for the natural beauty of the place. Visit here for a couple of days and you will fall in love with it. The stammeringly scenic and virgin beauty of this tiny hamlet is like no other. In Winter the entire villages gets buried under deep snow and can even become inaccessible.
Narkanda is probably one of the easiest offbeat destinations in Himachal. It is merely about 62 kilometers from the busy town of Shimla. This distance can easily be covered in a couple of hours on a super smooth road however the town does not see so many tourists. It remains accessible throughout the year which makes it perfect for a winter trip as well. It is at a height of 8,100 feet, slightly higher than Shimla, and gives an amazing view of the snowy peaks all around.
The entire drive from Shimla to Narkanda is quite scenic and a couple of days of stay in the silence of the valley here is highly recommended. You can use this time to visit the Satluj river view point and the nearby Hatu Peak. During peak winter, Narkanda sees a lot of snow and turns in to a Skii resort. Even during this time however, the road remains open and you can reach here without any trouble at all.
What makes Sarahan worthy of a visit? There are several reasons actually. Apart from its apple orchards, small water streams, pine forests and scenic beauty; this small village has a bit of religious touch to it as well. The famous Bhimakali temple located here is considered to be one of Fifty One sacred Shaktipeethhs. There is also a bird sanctuary here which makes it a perfect destination for anyone with even slightest interest in wildlife, bird gazing or photography.
Sarahan is at a distance of 160 odd kilometers from Shimla. You will continue on the road towards Rampur via Narkanda; reach Jeori and take the 15 kilometers small uphill road to reach Sarahan.
If staying at a camp right next to a lake in the middle of nowhere is what you seek then there is no better place to head to other than Chandratal. This small lake lies in the lap of mighty peaks of Spiti Valley and is a sight to behold.
Often considered as a paradise for campers and trekkers, Chandratal is one of the most beautiful of all high altitudes lakes. It derives its name “Lake of the moon” from its crescent shape and remains opens for tourists for only about 4 months a year. The lake is considered holy and is also the origin point of Chandrabhaga river.
Also read: Best Camp Sites at Chandratal
You can approach from either Shimla or Manali. From Shimla, you will travel via Reckong Peo, Pooh, Nako Tabo and Kaza which will easily take about three days. The quickest way however is to go via Manali and the journey can easily be completed in 6-8 hours. From Manali, you will cross Rohtang Pass and take the bifurcation towards Batal from Gramphoo. After Batal, you will climb up Kunzum La and then take the 14 kilometers long narrow road just before reaching Kunzum top.
What makes a trip to Chandratal really worth it is a mix of all that you get. The scenic beauty of the place is out of the world and captivating; brightly lit skies at night filled with stars are a perfect opportunity for night time photography and star gazing; staying at a camp here is an experience one of its kind and the rough road from Manali to Chandratal will give you every bit of a taste of adventure.
Located about 100 kilometers from Shimla is the small village of Beral; a place where time literally stands still. A charming little village in the middle of tall pine forests and apple orchards where not much happens, and that is what makes this place worth a visit. A few days here will give you a true taste of tranquillity; take you away from the noisy city life in to the lap of mother nature. In order to get here, the quickest route is Kotkhai and Kharapatthar from Shimla. The only drawback however is that the road after Shimla and around Kharapatthar can be quite a nightmare for some.
Do you want to experience something different? Do you want to go to a place that is a bit strange in its own ways? Think no further and head to Malana. The small village is about 80 odd kilometers from Manali and can be reached in about 3 hours. There are numerous stories around this tiny hamlet; and people here are believed to be direct descendants of Alexander the Great. They claim to be the oldest standing democracies in the world; have their own lifestyle, social culture, own set of administrative laws and people here are very strict with following their customs. It is like an entirely different culture right in the heart of Himachal.
There are several things that this village has been known for and one of the most prominent ones is its Charas. They do not eat food cooked by a non-native, have strong faith in Lord Shiva and Jamlu Rishi. The sage is believed to have resided here and laid foundation of democracy.
Their strangest customer however is of resolving conflicts. If two natives do not see eye to eye on a matter, they will both bring a lamb of their own. The right foreleg of both their lambs would then be cut half inch deep; stuffed with poison and sewed back. The person whose lamb dies first loses the conflict and the judgement is passed in favor of the other. It is believed by the locals that this decision of whose lamb dies first is taken by their gods.
Gushaini is a small village located in Tirthan Valley. In order to get here, you can reach Mandi near Manali, head towards Aur from where Gushaini is about 30 odd kilometers. It is a perfect setting for nature lovers and ultimate destination if you are looking to spend some time in complete silence. About 10 kilometers from Gushaini is Great Himalayan National Park which is a world heritage site and a known location among trekkers, mountaineers and travel enthusiasts from across the globe. Tirthan river flows right next to the village and makes it a great place for camping as well. Due to high number of Trout fishes found in Tirthan River, Gushanini has also been nicknamed as Trout Country. If you want to spend some time fishing in the hills, Gushaini is the destination you should head towards
If you wouldn’t mind a bit of trekking, then Kheerganga can prove to be an amazing destination.It is near Kasol from where you will have to reach Barshaini, the closest village reachable by road. The 12 kilometer long trek starts from Barshaini, passes through deep enchanting forest and beautiful vistas. There are several waterfalls on the way of which the serpent shaped waterfall of Rudra Nag is quite eye-catching.
The trail ends at the hot springs of Kheer Ganga where you can camp for the night. The views from the top here are spell-bounding. A dip in the warm waters of Kheer Ganga is highly recommended.
Prashar Lake is another offbeat destination in Himachal which can also be considered for a quick getaway. Depending on the time of the year you are traveling, this can either be a complete journey by the road or can involve a little bit of trekking as well. The lake is located on a hill top, about 50 kilometers from Mandi. Not many people visit here and it offers solitude in abundance. The lake is open throughout the year (unless it snows quite heavy and the road gets closed temporarily) which makes it a great trek for winters as well.
Shoja, also called Sohja or Sojha, is a small village at the height of 8,500 feet and located about 5 kilometers from Jalori Pass. This tiny hamlet is one of the most beautiful places in all of Himachal and is a perfect place for some nature walks, short treks, camping and bird watching. The area around Shoja is an enchanting forest which is a part of Great Himalayan National Park. It offers an excellent view of the nearby peaks. You can also view and get some excellent captures of several beautiful birds Monal, White-throated tit, Indian blue robin, nutcracker, ultramarine flycatcher.
These are just 10 places that I have been to and would recommend to anyone. There is not much of tourist rush here making them perfect to spend some time and away from the crowd. I hope the information above was of help. If you have any questions; or would like to name another place; please feel free to ask or add in the comments section below; or at our Community forum; and I will be happy to answer.