An Affair To Remember With The Paragliding Capital of India: BIR
Bir, a surreal landscape set in the Kangra district of state Himachal Pradesh, is a small village and not much commercially exploited. The residents are mainly Tibetan refugees lodging in their beautiful and soulful monasteries.
When one of our readers comprehended that we’re from Himachal and are absolutely in love with the place, he suggested that we visit Bir. Upon his suggestion, we did a little research and found how amazing and offbeat the place is. Not only does the town beautifully glorifies what we call a dream-like-landscape, but there are a countless number of things that can be savored when in Bir.
Today in this post, we’re going to run upon 7 must things that you should do when you’re in Bir.
1) Give in to your adrenaline rush and take a paragliding tour of Bir
Set amidst scenic and serene settings of Kangra Valley, Bir is otherwise famous for its incredible setting for paragliding. Yes, you heard that right! People from every corner of the world come to this exquisite village to experience the taste of flying high over Bir’s beautiful landscapes. As a matter of fact, Bir has hosted the world paragliding championship for the year 2015 and keeps celebrating international paragliding tournaments periodically.
The launch pad (Billing) is approximately 18km from Bir village. One glides smooth from a height of 2400 meters and lands at Chowgan, the landing site in the Bir village. You can literally experience a bird’s eye view of this ethereal village and let us warn you, you will be nothing less than amazed by the spectacular beauty of Bir. While we were in the air, we couldn’t decide which way roll our eyes. Every sight we could behold was beyond our imagination. There were the majestic Dhauladhar ranges at the horizon and a few close-range villages visible from the sky. The aerial appearance of colors blending into each other was so appealing that we were awe-struck with our mouths wide open.
Travel Trip #1 There are ample choices of paragliding operators in the area and their rates depend on the duration of the ride.
Duration (in minutes) Rate (in rupees) GoPro (Rent)
25 2000 500
60 3000-4000 500
We suggest you opt for the 25-minutes ride, if you’re a first-timer, as the ride tends to get boring after a while. Also, do rent a GoPro, if you intend to keep your adventure ride a lifetime memory.
#2 Try to wear a long sleeved shirt as the glider’s straps may leave rough rashes in your arms.
2) Stay in Zostel
While we had ample choices of hotels at our disposal, we chose to stay in Zostel. Zostel is a newly introduced chain of backpacker’s hostel in India and is quirky in its own way. There are wacky wall arts on almost every wall with an eccentric lounge setting. Our check-in was easy made with no hassle at all. Zostel has a laidback ambiance to it that makes you set easy into the environment. You can interact with other travelers and make new friends. That’s the whole motto of Zostel. Travelers from all across the country come to Zostel, Bir.
After our paragliding tour, we chose to spend the evening in Zostel lounge. Met a few other travelers listened to their fascinating travel tales, went out for a light meal at the popular Garden Cafe and finally called it a day after another lazy late hour in the lounge area. That’s how Zostel works!
Travel Tip #1 Book your room well in advance as Zostel is usually the first choice for travelers.
#2 Interact with fellow travelers and hostel staff. It’s fascinating to hear travel stories from like-minded people.
3) Take a bicycle tour through the town
When we were up in the air, strolling as the wind would take us, all we could establish was “Is this place for real?!” The entire setting of Bir is exquisite. Everything from the buildings to the surreal monasteries, curvy roads to delicate greenish-yellow step farms are beyond belief. It would be a sin if you give bike ride a miss in such a surreal landscape. There are a number of bike rentals that offer bikes on hourly or day basis. Make sure to bargain right with them.
While you’re browsing the town on your little bike, enjoying the cool breeze and a magical sunset, take a ride towards Sansal Village and then take a turn to Deol Village for a magnificent village and farm views.
Travel tip #1 The bike rental shops are open only until an hour after the sunset. So be sure to return the bike before that.
#2 Avoid scooter or bike as the roads have a lot of turns.
#3 Try to rent your bike or bicycle from your hotel owner. He won’t charge you much and is almost always reliable.
4) Check out the ever-welcoming Tibetan monasteries of Bir
They are quiet, they are peaceful, they are beautifully erect. They are everything that a monastery should be, except for one thing; the monks dwelling in these monasteries are ever-welcoming. A small chunk of Tibetan community that inhabits these monasteries of Bir are one of the most jolly-natured monks you’ll ever come by. You can talk with them, learn with them, eat with them, even spend hours clicking photographs and while you day away. The monks barely deny access to anything in the monasteries.
Palpung Sherabling Monastery, or locally know as the Bhattu Monastery, is the biggest of the lot. Just 6kms from the landing site, you can get there on a bike or can take a stroll through the lush green farms. Talk to the locals on your way, that’s what we did. Dzongsar Shedra is another one of an incredibly spell bounding monastery that you must visit.
5) Trek your way through the landscapes of Bir
If you’re the kind who gets high on adventure and are looking for more in the paragliding paradise of India, you need to try out the two amazing treks we are about to tell you. The Tatta Pani Trek and the Hanuman Garh Trek are two major treks you can leverage after your paragliding affair with Bir. The treks are of a medium kind and take about 3-5 hours depending upon your speed. Tatta Pani is famous for its hot water spring and travelers often enjoy camping there at night. The trek itself might not appeal you much but trust us, the destination is worth all the effort.
The Hanuman Garh Trek, near Billing, should be the one to try if you’re in for the views and jagged terrains during your trek. The trek is a little rough but the jaw-dropping, swoon-inducer views of Dhauladhar ranges from above makes up for all the weariness. We suggest you camp there for the night and savor some alone time.
6) Have a friendly meal at the Garden Cafe
It’ll be a sin to leave Bir without visiting the Garden Cafe. Run by a really cool and chummy Tibetan couple, the Garden Cafe is a hub for the foodies, travelers with endless travel stories, a few groups of locals and foreigners singing in all merry, and a DOG! We went with two other travelers who we met in Zostel.(Yea, you make new friends there.)
7) Take a road trip to Palampur
Last year we raved so much about this gorgeous town, that it truly delighted us when we learned that Palampur is only an hour’s drive from Bir. The intoxicating evergreen tea estates touching the horizon far were enough to make us drive back to Palampur, not to forget the amazingly breathtaking views you witness on the drive. Oh, the mighty Dhauladhar range! As if witnessing the mystifying beauty of Bir from the sky and riding through its intoxicating landscapes weren’t enough to sway us.