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Rural Himachal Pradesh

Rural tourism takes you out into a rural setting for experiencing the traditions and customs associated with a village and taking part in various events and activities that are alien to urban life.

Rural tourism pays emphasis on human connections and in this aspect differs from conventional tourism. Rural tourism is far removed from what urban tourism has to offer. You get to visit quiet and serene places that are far away from bustling crowds and infrastructure. The places in rural locations have maintained a natural setting. In rural areas events and activities depend on seasons; and tradition and culture continues to remain intact.

This tourism takes you straight into the heart of a village where time seems to hang and life has not lost its simplicity. The rural tourism extends into other kind of tourisms which seem to be an extension- agricultural, eco, adventure and nature tourisms.

Rural tourism in Himachal Pradesh

The tourism in Himachal Pradesh takes visitors deep into the villages which are sparsely populated and still unhampered by the maddening rush of tourists. One of the villages that has retained its aloofness and has earned its sobriquet of a ‘Heritage Village’ is Paragpur- Garli. Naggar and Rukhala are villages that are still waiting to be discovered. Tourists are most welcome to explore this beautiful state to experience some rural life in its natural setting and enjoy the salubrious weather. Besides getting a taste of the life in the hamlets, you can also learn more about the religion, traditions and culture of the locals.

Major Rural Destination

Naggar Tourism- Where even small is beautiful

Naggar has had the distinction of being the capital of the Kullu state for over 1400 years. This ancient village offers fabulous views of snow capped peaks, waterfalls, rustic mud roads while retaining its old fashioned charm. This erstwhile capital is at a height of 5,775 ft. It is famous for its umpteen apple and plum orchards. Naggar offers solitude and quiet to tourist who head for this place in throngs from March to October.

Naggar is pretty popular with tourists, well connected with the rest of the country and easily located on the map. The closest rail heads to reach Naggar are Pathankot and Chandigarh. You can also drive 24 kms further on from Manali to reach this place.

Naggar attractions

Naggar affords plenty of sightseeing to visitors. You can start with the Naggar Castle which gives you an idea of the royal way of life here. The place has now been converted into a heritage hotel. A curious story of intrigue attracts tourists to this interesting castle. An unhappy queen is supposed to have fallen to her death here; the story revolves around her ghost.

For the religious minded, a trip to the Jaganath Temple inside the precincts of the palace is a must. This old temple too has an interesting story attached to it.

Naggar displays an evidence of Russia and India ties. The Roerich museum houses the works of the famous Russian artist, Nikolai Roerich who had made Himachal his home. The museum is a must visit if you are an art buff- which is under the auspice of both countries.

Visitors wanting more of the rural scenery can go for a trek to a nearby village Nishala. It is a picturesque walk up a hill and leads you to an ancient temple. Fishing is another activity that you can indulge in at the river Tirthan in a valley called Sainj.

Naggar Castle- Turned into a Hotel

The Nagger castle has been taken under the auspice of Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation; converted into a hotel; and declared a heritage building.

Naggar, which houses the palace, was the capital of Kullu for 1450 years. Raja Sidhi Singh was the King who built this castle which is famous for its traditional architecture called Kathlooni. The grand building uses a combination of stones and wooden beams which lend to its architectural marvel.

A temple called ‘Jaggi Patt’ lies within the compound of the palace and is famous as being the judgement throne for the Gods. An art museum inside the palace is a major draw.

The building was handed over to the tourism department in 1978 to be converted into a hotel.

Temple attraction

The three temples of note are Jagtipath, Gauri Shankar and Tripura Sundari.

Villages of Paragpur and Garli- the First Heritage Village of India

Some kilometres west of Shimla, you will come across two villages- Paragpur and Garli. The road leading to these places in the Kangra valley is an adventure of its own, with its dips and turns. The two villages are 4 kms apart from each other. The village Paragpur has had the distinction of being labelled as a ‘Heritage Village’ by the authorities. You get a good feel of village life with mud houses with sloping roofs. Life goes on oblivious for the locals who carry on with their daily activities. Paragpur is one of its kinds and has made its presence felt in the tourist circuits.

You cannot miss the ‘Courtyard Heaven’, a huge residential building owned by Justice Jai Lal in 1918. The ground around is an amalgamation of orchards and gardens with interesting fruits and flowers.

The other village Garli lies on the banks of the river Beas is a destination if you want to spend a day out fishing.

These two villages lead to other villages in rural Himachal Pradesh. Just travelling around these parts takes you through several orchards and green endless meadows. From Chandigarh, Pargapur is a four hour drive away if you come through Ropar and Anandpur Sahib. You can also take an alternate route via Pathankot.

Fact: Paragpur has the distinction of being the earliest ‘Heritage Villages’ of this beautiful state.

The Heritage Route to the Heritage Village

Paragpur and Garli are about 77 kms away from the capital Shimla which is connected by air with the rest of the country. The nearest rail head is 60 kms away at a place called Una. The villages are well connected with the rest of the country through roadways.

Paragpur attraction

The Sir Jai Lal’s 300 year-old Judge’s Court

It is justified to call the Judge’s Court a heritage building as it gives a fair idea of life in the early twentieth century. This manor is found at the height of 2000 ft in the Kanga Valley in Paragpur.

It is said that the manor was built for Justice Sir Jai Lal by his father Bhandari Ram.

The country court has the following notable features:

  • An old picturesque cottage on the grounds was built some 300 years ago.
  • The manor was built in Indo European style famous at that time. It has an annex and orchards with trees like apples, plums, mangoes, lychee and some other interesting ones like camphor, clove and cardamom.
  • The huge manor has ten double bedrooms; out of which three are suites.
  • The plantation here consists of maize, wheat and oilseeds besides fruits. The crops are grown organically keeping the environment intact. Milk is produced from cattle that live in the grounds and water is supplied from a water fall nearby.
  • The produce that you can pick up here is all grown organically and is healthy to eat.

Rukhala- where the Apple Seeds Bloom:

Rukhala is another destination in Himachal Pradesh which will give you a taste of scenic beauty, traditional life and the warmth of the village folk. It is known for its gardens and endless apple orchards. This place forms a retreat for weary city dwellers looking for some peace and solitude. The villagers celebrate the onset of each season with special events and customs. The sight of trees laden with apples is a heart warming sight for visitors who turn up in December and January. The trees are simply drooping with the weight of the fruit onto the ground.

The local cuisine consists of the famous ‘Sidcoo’. This dish is essentially a wheat cake made up of lentils, spices and opium seeds. The accompanying fresh air and soothing scenery is enough to rejuvenate you.

The outdoor types can head for some fishing at the confluence of two rivers- Giri and Chaguanti. There is 1 km mountain trail for those who want to explore on foot. From Rukala, you can plan short day trips to neighbouring places of interest - Chambi Kuppar- 40 kms away, Kiari temple- 10 kms away and Deori temple 12 kms away.

Apple and Plum Orchards, Rukala

Rukala is famous for its apple and plum orchards. There are a number of famous apple varieties that come out of Rukala- Granny Smith, Royal and Golden. The apples have earned their fame due to their characteristic size, colour and flavour.

If you are wondering when to visit this place, you could time it for December and January when the apples are ready to be picked. Tourists can leisurely move through orchards and treat themselves to a local delicacy called ‘Sidcoo’.

Rural Suburbs of Himachal- On Every Nook and Corner of Himachal Pradesh

Apart from Naggar, Paragpur and Rukhala, there is a lot more that Himachal Pradesh offers. The state has plenty to offer in terms of rural experience which go beyond the famous names like Naggar and Rukala. You can come across a number of quaint villages, showcasing rural life, as you traverse through this enchanting state. Here, there is no hurry and time seems to stand still. You come away feeling warm with the hospitality bestowed on you by your hosts.

A tour through this state through plains and hills will bring forward the scenic beauty and the simplicity of life of its inhabitants. You have to be prepared to explore for treasures in this rustic tranquil state.

Don’t Miss: You can go angling for trout and ‘mahaseer’ in the rivers in Tirthan in Larji, Sanij valley and rivers Giri and Chaguanti.

Adventure Options: You can trek, fish or go for leisurely walks through quaint villages.

Must Enjoy: ‘Sidcoo’ is a local delicacy. It is a wheat cake made of lentils, opium seeds and spices.

Best Time to Visit

December January- when trees are laden with apples.

Tourist Spots in Rural Himachal- Lahaul and Spiti

Himachal Pradesh has earned its name as being one of the states enriched with natural untouched beauty. Besides towns, the state has hamlets which depict rural life.

Himachal Pradesh brings pictures to the mind- of snow capped peaks, green valleys, rivers with pure sparkling water flowing through.

The Magic of Lahaul and Spiti

Lahaul and Spiti are two hamlets which lie close to the Tibet border. The forests, snow peaks, glaciers and valleys of these places are a must visit for the tourist hungry for some good scenery. A visit to this place can give the urban dweller an idea of how their village counterparts live.

Lahaul and Spiti have a number of monasteries lining the mountains; a considerable population in these parts are Buddhists. Lahaul means ‘South Country’ as it lies south of Ladakh.

To the north of Lahaul, is the beautiful Kullu valley and the one of the highest passes in India- the Rothang Pass.

Lahual Valley

The route to the Lahaul is quiet and does not have bustling towns. Instead, the numerous villages in the area retain the peace and quiet. You can use a local bus or taxi to reach Lahaul from Manali or catch a flight to Kullu and then drive up to Manali. The journey from Manali takes six hours in case weather permits. There is another route to Lahaul through Shimla or Leh. The Rohtang Pass is shut from the months of November to mid-May; which will require you to keep that in mind while planning your trip to these parts.

Spiti Valley

Fossil lovers will love the Spiti Valley that is known as the ‘Fossil Park of the World’. This valley is at height of 13,500 and 14,000 feet above the sea level. It has plenty of marine fossils waiting to be discovered. You can enter this valley from Lahaul and Kaza. Unfortunately, this route goes past the Kunzam Pass which is shut for traffic from November to June.

You can also visit Spiti by driving down from Shimla to Kaza. The total distance from Shimla is 400 kms.

There is another route that you can try, which goes past Kinnuar. This route is accessible throughout the year.

Lahaul and Spiti have, thankfully, been saved from the onslaught of tourists and commercialization and still retain their natural beauty. You can view the glorious Himalayas in their natural splendour.

Inside Tip: if you are looking to get a flavour of rural life, you can try out the village tours in Himachal Pradesh.

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