When it comes to Himachal Pradesh, let’s just say that the state boasts of many hill-stations. While the most commercially developed of the lot date back to the era of the British Raj, recent times have seen several other towns and villages grow in prominence.
While all Himachal hill-stations are fabulous from a nature lover’s perspective, they aren’t all commercial juggernauts. As a result, there are places where you can stay, eat and roam around for dirt cheap prices, and there are places where you have to part with your money more often than you would like. So, which hill-station in Himachal Pradesh suits your budget?
Kasol, Parvati Valley
Kasol is a backpackers’ delight. Once upon a time, it was just another small village. But today, it is considered the gateway to the upper reaches of the Parvati Valley. Immensely popular with the hippie and backpacker crowd, modern Kasol has quite a few places that serve delicious food, lots of arts and crafts centres where you can buy all sorts of local handicrafts, and of course, abundant natural beauty to top it all off! In recent years, a large number of hotels have been established, and there are plenty of options for people who want to spend some time in the lap of the Himalayas without spending a fortune. Kasol is perfect for hikers, as there are a lot of interesting places to discover and explore nearby. Highlights include the temple town of Manikarn, the village of Chhalal, and the high-altitude village of Rashol, a three hour day-trek from Kasol.
Malana, Parvati Valley
Budget: Very cheap
Malana is an ancient village, and even a decade back, probably no one had heard of it. But the increasing popularity of Kasol and other crowded hill-stations led many to seek out the tranquil high-altitude village, which still maintains a unique culture and stays isolated from the ways of the rest of the world. Perhaps the biggest reason for the ever-increasing tourism in Malana is the local charas, which many believe is the best in the world. Malana Cream, the highest quality charas, has intrigued cannabis enthusiasts all over the world. Even though cannabis is still an illegal substance in India, the trade in Malana is flourishing, and its value keeps going up each year. Of course, Malana is much more than just marijuana. Its inhabitants claim that they descended from Alexander the Great’s troops, who decided to stay behind after Alexander marched forward to conquer the subcontinent.
Word of Caution: Malana operates on several rules, and breaking any of them usually results in hefty fines. It is advised to take a local guide along with you to avoid unnecessary fines.
Manali, Beas River Valley
Manali is rated as one of Himachal Pradesh’s top hill-stations today, and is a highlight of Shimla Manali tour packages. Manali attracts everyone; from the casual tourist to the hippie to the adventure sports enthusiast, everyone would find something of interest in and around Manali. What was once a quaint little Himalayan village has been transformed into a thriving hill-station. Still essentially a hub for backpackers, Manali is not very expensive. But of course, this depends on how you decide to spend your time. If you want to relax in and around the village and participate in too many activities, it would be a very cheap trip for you. But be prepared to spend a bit more if you plan to do some white-water rafting, paragliding, or travel to Spiti valley via the Rohtang Pass. Manali also acts as the base for treks to the high-altitude Hampta Pass, which is the fastest way of reaching the Lahaul & Spiti Valley from the Kullu Valley on foot.
Shimla is probably Himachal Pradesh’s most famous tourist destination, and quite rightly is the state capital as well. Back in the days of the British rule, Shimla served as India’s summer capital. Its cool weather was a welcome retreat from the harsh summer conditions of the plains. As the years passed, the British contributed immensely to the development of Shimla. Today, Shimla brims with commercial success. Add the Himalayan views and weather conditions, and you have the perfect holiday destination. There are plenty of attractions in Shimla, and most of them display some of the finest British architecture left behind in India. Christ Church, Rothney Castle and Viceregal Lodge are the few of the standout architectural landmarks in the city. The presence of excellent hotels and restaurants ensures that there’s a fair share of luxury on Shimla Manali tour packages. There are plenty of tourist attractions like Chail, Mashobra and Naldehra, which are situated quite close to the Himachal capital.
It doesn’t matter if you like to travel cheap or like to stay in the lap of luxury in your vacations, Himachal Pradesh suits travellers of all budgets just fine!