‘Heaven is myth, but Himachal is real.’

Himachal Pradesh is the northernmost state proper in north-western Republic of India, and offers much for those looking to experience the West Himalayas. While it does not claim the highest peaks in the range, there is plenty to do aside from mountaineering. Its name literally means ‘Abode of Snow.’

The history of this mountainous state is complex and fragmented. It is known that a number of so-called Aryan groups filtered into the more productive valleys during the Vedic period and assimilated the pre-Aryan population. Later, successive Indian empires- such as the Mauryan, the Gupta, and the Mughal, all emerging in the Indo-Gangetic Plain – sought to exercise varying degrees of control over trade and pilgrimage routes into the area and between India and Tibet across the Himalayas. Around the time of Indian independence in 1947, there was a popular movement to end feudalism in the region, and the princely state of Suket virtually surrendered to peaceful demonstrators. Subsequently, Himachal Pradesh was constituted as a province in 1948.

Till the 19th century, tourism in Himachal Pradesh was restricted only to a limited movement of pilgrims to a few spiritual destinations around the hills. Only when the British established their chain of hill stations did tourism receive recognition in the state. Tourism activity received a shot in the arm when British declared Shimla ‘The Summer Capital of India’ in 1864 .

With spectacular snowy peaks and plunging river valleys, beautiful Himachal is India’s outdoor adventure playground. From trekking and climbing to rafting, paragliding and skiing, if it can be done in the mountains, it can be done here. A convoluted topography of interlocking mountain chains also makes Himachal a spectacular place simply to explore, by bus, car, motorbike, jeep or foot. Every pass crossing into a new valley brings you into a different world, with its own culture, deities and even language. Villages perched on staggering slopes enchant with fairy-tale architecture and their people’s easygoing warmth. Hill stations appeal with a holiday atmosphere and colonial echoes, while backpacker magnets lure with chilled-out vibes and mountain beauty. In the Dalai Lama’s home-away-from-home, McLeod Ganj, or in remote Lahaul and Spiti with their centuries-old Buddhist cultures, you might wonder whether you’ve inadvertently stumbled into Tibet.

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