Bir billing is referred to as together but they are 2 different places, quite like Daman and Diu. Actually, these are 2 different valleys in the lap of the Dhauladhar mountains in Himachal. Their claim to fame is that the paragliding world cup was held here in 2015. Billing is the takeoff point and Bir is the landing site. But even if you’re not interested in paragliding, still there’s plenty to do here and it’s OK if you are not keen on doing anything good food, fantastic views and plenty of Instagram worthy pictures that’s Good Times for you Unlike other popular and over-crowded tourist destinations of Himachal. Bir billing mein still has that authentic Himachali charm Set amidst the fascinating Dhauladhars in the background, Bir still feels untouristy but is also not too remote or too far away from civilization.
On one side the landscape of Bir Billing features snow-clad peaks, lush forests and vast rice fields while the other side is dotted with soulful monasteries representing a perfect blend of Himachali and Tibetan culture And this melting pot of people, culture and nature make it an ideal combination of an offbeat getaway, that still has plenty to see and do.
There are 4 ways to go to Bir from Delhi
By Air – The closest airport is called Gaggal Airport which is near Dharamshala and is 70 Kms from Bir.
By Train – the nearest station is Pathankot or Chakki Bank which are 140 km from Bir.
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From here buses and taxis are available Talking about buses, there are 2 kinds of options – Himachal state tourism or private volvo buses, and they take around 11-12 hours
Fourth is roadtrip 500 km on Indian roads is a bit much but the roads are fine.
The real fun begins after Kangra
The 2 hours of the journey are via forests, tea gardens, valleys and Himalayan peaks. The air gets fresher, people are friendlier and there’s a smile permanently pasted on the face basically you get over the fatigue of the long journey. Most of the accommodations – hostels, guest houses or resorts
all are within 1 km radius of Bir main market aka Tibetan Colony. The people here refer to this place as Chaugan or Colony. Popular staying options are Zostel, Hosteller, Bunker, & Colonel’s resort.
In recent times Bir is increasingly becoming popular as a weekend destination, but I feel you can easily spend a week here and then only you start discovering the real Bir. Now almost everyone’s main agenda of going to Bir is to do paragaliding And remarkably, Bir is considered as the world’s second best site for paragliding after Lake Como in Italy.
And that’s because it offers the best flying conditions in Asia In full disclsoure, I am scared of heights. So much so that in Rishikesh, it takes half an hour to do a 40ft high cliff jump and I can’t even think of Bungee Jumping. But somehow I had made my mind for paragliding. Although I must admit that I did have second thoughts during the 30 mins ride from Bir to Billing for the take off. But once you are with the pilot you don’t even have time to think all you have to do is run and never stop And once you are in the air, it takes a couple of minutes in getting used to it. But then you realise what exactly is bird’s eye view all about. There’s one problem though. Now that i know what it feels like to fly. I can’t wait to go back and do it again. Bir is open for Paragliding throughout the year except during peak monsoons in July -Aug and when it snows in Billing I’ve heard the best months are April to June and September October. The entire experience costed 2500 rs which includes drop till the landing site, the jump and also a gopro video. And here’s a tip – its better if you do it in the evening just before the sunset.
Experiencing the sunset against the stunning backdrop of mountains and terraced fields and that too as you sail in the sky is indeed a magical experience Apart from Tandem Flying, you can also learn how to fly solo. Usually, the entire duration of the three levels of these courses is 3 to 4 weeks. After Paragliding the next thing that grabs limelight here is the Tibetan culture.
The Tibetan Colony was formed here in 1960, when Dalai Lama came to India One of the major highlights of my trip was to visit the colorful and serene monasteries. If you come here for morning or evening prayers, then be ready to be spellbound by the chants of the monks and get transported to a space full of positive energy. I don’t remember the exact count, but there are easily 5 to 6 monasteries in and around Bir So exploring 1 or 2, if not all, should be a part of your plan.
While most of them are walkable in and around the colony area, the largest one called Sherabling is situated around 5 kms away from the main town in the middle of a pine forest in a village named Bhattu The best way to go here is to take a mountain bike on rent Riding a bike in such a picturesque landscape is both challenging and rewarding Another popular destination often clubbed with Sherabling Monastery is the Dharmalaya Institute which focuses on sustainable living and
conducts several courses on organic farming and sustainable development. If you are an eco-tourism enthusiast like me, then you might wanna try volunteering here. For me meditation means a trail with breathtaking views and in Bir, you can find such trails in every direction and the best part is that most of them are still unnamed and not so popular Just check with your guesthouse and they’ll guide you to waterfalls, hot water springs, and river pools Or you can also go on short hikes in the middle of tea gardens in Chowgan or a small excursion to nearby hamlets But if you have a couple of days in your hands, then I’ll suggest Raj Gunda trek better known as the 360 degree trek. It starts from Billing and totally justifies its name with 360 degree panoramic views of the entire Rajgunda valley.
A few people also do it in a single day but I’ll suggest spending atleast one night at Rajgundha, because there so many lovely quaint villages on the way that you won’t be able to enjoy the route if you are in hurry. The trail passes through a scenic route covered with Rhododendron, Deodar and Oak trees and provides great views of views of Kangra valley on one side and Raj Gunda valley on the other Billing to Raj Gundha takes about 5-6 hours to reach.
So you can trek to the village, camp there for the night and return the next day. There are a couple of guesthouses or you can carry your tents, make sure to camp near a home or a guesthouse Another thing I’d suggest is to take a local with you and avoid touching any unknown plants here as it can pain or itch for a long time. Now after a tiring trek, if you are looking for a slow and a chilled out activity then hop on to the Kangra Valley Toy Train. Like Shimla Kalka heritage train this one is also a narrow gauge train that runs between Pathankot and Jogindernagar and covers the distance of 160 km in 10 hours So I won’t recommend it for the regular commute but experiencing it for a couple of hours is well worth it Like a short stretch between Ahju and Palampur can easily be done in 1.5 hours. It’s slow speed might make you sleepy but the views all along will keep you wide awake.
So for someone looking forward to enjoying a relaxed journey through the mountains, streams and epic countryside landscapes, Kangra Valley Toy Train is the best choice. People who know me very well know how much I love exploring and experimenting with new cuisines and cafes. And in the last few years, Bir has actually been able to cut out its reputation as a foodies haven. Not just Tibetan cusinine, you’ll also find Chinese, Ittalian, Lebanese, German and even south Indian.
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Now momos and thukpa are readily available everywhere but in Bir I discovered a new Tibetan street food called Laphing. Laphing is a spicy cold jelly noodle dish served dry or with soy sauce at a couple of local stalls in Tibetan colony. If you’re short on cash, need to grab a quick bite and absolutely love chilli this light and refreshing dish will be your saving grace. Our cafe hopping started from Silver Linings A lovely little mud construction with a beautiful farm around, Silver Lining cafe was started by the brother-sister duo Apoorv & Akanksha. They serve delectable cakes & mouth watering savory dishes but what stood out was their Mangoffee Pie. This was the summer variant of Banoffee Pier. Its perfect amount of sweet and oh so heavenly Right opposite Silver Linings is Avva’s Cafe. It was started by a south Indian uncle aunty, who had moved to Bir a few years ago, and and since aunty herself takes care of the kitchen, so no compromise on taste and quality rasam and chana as welcome drink, crispy fresh dosas, tasty sambar-rice topping it off with uncle’s entertaining stories and a beautiful setting of unending fields. Decide for yourself. Last cafe that I went to was Musafir Travelers cafe and only because it’s Lemon Mint Iced Tea is really popular Because of time limitations.
Bir is slowly becoming an escape for a lot of city bruised souls Some started hostels, some setup cafes and some started living life to the fullest, So from thrill-seekers, to spiritually inclined to just travelers like me looking to make and share new stories everyone here co-exists in a fine balance. So that’s Bir & Billing for you.
Be kind, Be thankful & Be happy