“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Emerson
Whether it’s a laidback family vacation, a romantic getaway or simply an escape from your chaotic existence, Himachal Pradesh is a place that offers a world of possibilities for every traveller. Once you peel back the tourist-brochure veneer of this stunningly beautiful state, you’ll discover a treasure trove of under-explored hamlets nestled among the mountains robed in pristine alpine forests. No wonder the state is on so many travel bucket lists!
So if you are looking for picture-postcard houses, small winding streets, endless vistas of towering peaks, idyllic mountain meadows and cloudy days with a sprinkle of sunshine, head to these 14 offbeat getaways to discover Himachal’s soul. It may just be that unforgettable summer break you have been waiting for!
Located just a few kilometres away from the famed tea gardens of Himachal’s Kangra valley, Andretta is a peaceful village cum artists’ colony that lies nestled amidst the forested foothills of the Dhauladhar range. Established by Norah Richards (an Irish theatre artist and environmentalist) in the 1940s, Andretta is now home to an unique pottery centre run by the renowned potter Mansimran Singh.
Visualise a charming little hamlet amidst pine forests and apple orchards, a place where tranquillity reigns supreme. That is Beral for you. Just a four-hour drive from Shimla, Beral is known for the unique architecture of its traditional homes – the ground floor is reserved for domestic animals while the living room, bedrooms and kitchens are all on the upper floors!
A short drive from picturesque Jalori Pass and the Great Himalayan National Park, the village of Jibhi is enveloped by the lush pine and cedar forests of Banjar Valley. Other than birdwatching, fishing and hiking through the wilderness, make time to visit the sacred Serolsar lake, the mist-shrouded Raghupur Fort and the ancient 1,500-year-old watchtower at Chaini Fort.
The last inhabited village near the Indo-China border, Chitkul lies on the banks of Baspa river, deep within the Kinnaur valley. A place where you can literally feel the cold mountain breeze swirl around you, Chitkul is dotted with quaint wooden cottages with tinned roofs and ornately carved pagoda style temples. There is also a beautiful three-storied fort made from wood and stones. Interestingly, Chitkul is also famous for its potatoes that are considered among the best in the world!
For many travelers, Barot is the essence of Himachal Pradesh. Perched on the banks of the Uhl River, this serene little town lies in the lap of the majestic Dhauladhar range in Himachal’s Mandi district. Unmarked by any of the usual trappings of a tourist spot, Barot has a few rustic yet cosy homestays, small shops selling intricately woven shawls and a multitude of sun-kissed forest trails that take you towards peaks with panoramic views.
Known as the Fossil Village of Himachal’s Spiti Valley, Langza lies nestled in a bowl shaped area at the crossroads between Tibet and India. Other than having an abundance of prehistoric marine fossils, Langza is also home to a towering 1000-year-old Golden Buddha statue that can be seen from miles. A place where times seems to stand still, Langza’s snow sculpted landscape touches travellers and moves them in ways only nature can.
Gushaini sits picture-perfect in the magnificent Tirthan valley in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh. Famous for trout fishing, this little hamlet is surrounded by forests that have one of the highest wildlife diversities in Himachal Pradesh. It is also famous for a rustic riverside homestay (called Raju’s Guesthouse) that is a tourist attraction in itself and that can only be reached by crossing a gushing river on a metal basket hung on a one-inch thick wire pulley – a scary but incredibly fun ride!
Far away from the chaos of city life, Naggar is a simple mountain town that will surprise you at every turn. The heart of Naggar is a 15th century stone-and wood castle with stately verandahs, high ceilings and grand fireplace. Other than the Naggar Castle (currently a HPTDC heritage hotel), this village has two other claims to fame: it featured in the hit Bollywood movie Jab We Met and was the home of Russian Painter-Write and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Nicholas Roerich.
Located in Himachal’s Seraj Valley, Shoja is place that will have you swooning over its stunning views of snow-clad mountains playing peek-a-boo through a thick veil of fog. Other than connecting with nature and unwinding in solitude, the best thing to do at Shoja is to take an unhurried trek on a sun-dappled forest path to a hidden waterfall. Do remember that accommodation options are few and far between at Shoja, but then,that also adds to the charm of this under-explored place.
A tiny village of nomadic herdsmen, Rakcham lies sandwiched between Sangla and Chitkul. With barely any cell phone coverage, a few stone-and-wood homestays and an idyllic backdrop dominated by craggy peaks, verdant pine forests and the meandering Baspa river, this place is as offbeat as it gets. Interestingly, while constructing their houses, the residents of Rakcham use a local stone called Bhog Pathar that is believed to withstand lightning and earthquakes!
A small village just 12 km away from Manali in Himachal’s Kullu district, Hamta is place that has still retained its age-old way of life. Adventure junkies can go paragliding for a bird’s eye view of the tranquil Beas River, try their hand at rappelling or do the delightful trek to the Hamta Pass, the easternmost pass on the Pir Panjal range which divides the Kullu Valley from the Lahaul Valley.
If you are looking for a getaway where you can simply sit back and soak in the ethereal beauty of your surroundings, then Khajjiar is where you should be. A backdrop of verdant pine forests, sprawling meadows, quaint chalets and a tiny stream-fed lake right at the centre of the glade has rightly earned this hamlet the title of ‘Mini Switzerland of India’. One of the most romantic places in Himachal, Khajjiar also featured in the movie, The Blue Umbrella.
Located deep within the Trans-Himalayan region of Himachal Pradesh, Mane is the prettiest village in the Spiti Valley. Right from the simple wooden homes to the flower-sprinkled farms of potatoes and carrots, life in this quaint village reflects the soulful harmony of man and nature. For travellers, Mane’s peaceful atmosphere and strikingly scenic landscape is soothing to the eyes and inspiring to the soul.
Located in scenic Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh, Pragpur was the first village in India to be declared a heritage village. With its winding cobbled lanes, old-world vibe, fascinating history and truly unique architecture (that includes Kangra, Rajput, British, Portuguese and even Italian styles), this village offers what most destinations can only dream of promising — a return, if briefly, to the simple life of an erstwhile era.