Palampur, a town in Kangra Valley, is surrounded by tea-carpeted slopes. It enjoys a unique location as the valley here gives way to the gigantic Dhauladhar Mountains. Many areas of Palampur are dominated by the looming peaks of Dhauladhars. And for most of the year these peaks are capped by the snow. As Palampur is part of the Kangra Valley, the tea grown here is called ‘Kangra Tea’. The best thing about Palampur is that it can only appeal to the nature lovers and the experience seekers. Hence, the town has saved itself from the onslaught of mass tourism. Having said that, it is one of the finest travel destinations in Himachal Pradesh.
Attractions in Palampur
The snow-melt of the Dhauladhars is transformed into several streams, many of which gush through the Palampur Town. To have a tryst with one such stream, you can visit Neugal Khad. Here the stream, after having slipped from the mountains, widens in the valley. Standing here, you can also gaze at its source, the Dhauladhars. There is a cafe nearby called ‘Neugal Cafe’; it is run by the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Dept.
Palampur is in the middle of the tea-producing region of Kangra. Tea plantations were introduced here in the 19th century by Dr. Jameson, Superintendent of Botanical Gardens. Walking through these tea estates is an invigorating experience. Many estates also offer plantation stays to the travellers.
Palampur Co-operative Tea Factory
This is the famous factory of Palampur that sends out the packs of ‘Kangra Tea’. The leaves from all the surrounding estates are brought here for processing. They are sorted, humidified, withered, rolled, fermented and dried. You can request the office staff for a guided tour of the factory. They have a sales counter from where you can buy your pack of tea-leaves.
Church of St John in the Wilderness
There is a church with same name in the nearby town of Mcleodganj. As per a plaque in this church, the foundation of this building was laid by Thomas Douglas Forsyth, after whom Forsythganj (near Mcleodganj) is named . This white-washed structure was rebuilt in 1905 after the original building got damaged by the earthquake.
Bundla Mata Temple
If your stay in Palampur is longer, you shouldn’t miss out on grabbing some walking opportunities. One such is a walk to the Bundla Mata Temple. It is just about 2 km from Palampur Bazaar. During walk you will find yourself traversing through the tea gardens and village fields.
Tashi Dzong Monastery
The temple of this Tibetan monastery has beautiful murals. The monastery houses the Dzongsar Institute of Higher Learning.
Excursions from Palampur
Andretta, a small village, 13 km from Palampur, attracts art lovers. Here you can see the masterpieces created by Sardar Sobha Singh in an art gallery named after him. You can also visit the house of the Irish actress and social worker Norah Richards. The pottery society here offers lessons in pottery.
If you are a Buddhism enthusiast and you find Mcleodganj (Dharamshala) to be crowded, Bir is for you. This tiny town has more number of monasteries than guesthouses. If you come here, be prepared for an austere stay. There are no luxurious hotels in Bir; only guesthouses and a couple of retreats are available. The town is very peaceful and is surrounded by golden-hued paddy fields. Bir is better known amongst foreign nationals than Indians. (www.birhp.com)
A winding road from Bir goes to Billing; it is a short 20-25 min drive. Billing is one of the finest hang-gliding sites in India. Up there you also find Gaddis – the nomadic shepherds of the region – with their cattle. Billing offers superb views of the Dhauladhars and the Kangra Valley. Hang-gliders who take off from Billing land in the paddy fields of Bir.
Baijnath is popular for its temple of Lord Shiva. It is considered to be one of the twelve ‘Jyotirlingas’. The temple, made of stone, is surrounded by smaller shrines. The courtyard offers the glimpses of the majestic Dhauladhars. The temple was built in the beginning of the 13th-century and was renovated by Raja Sansar Chand – a Kangra King – in the 19th century.
Sherabling monastery is huge and impressive. It belongs to the Karma Kagyu Sect of Buddhism. You can take a detour either from Bir or from Baijnath to reach Sherabling.