The haven of paragliding: Bir, Himachal Pradesh

Himalayan Travels, Mandi

Bir is a small, famous town in the western part of Himachal Pradesh in northern India. It falls in the Baijnath region of Kangra district at an elevation of 1525 metres or 5003 feet above sea-level.

Most of the population earns their income via farming, tourism or tea estates. Hindi and Kangri are most spoken languages in the region. Most of the population follow Buddhism and have a number of big and small monasteries around the town.

The town is famous for its scenic beauty, tea estates and adventure activities. Paragliding is conducted in Bir mostly during the months of September and October when the winds are considered to be at their favourable best. Plenty of international flying competitions are held in Bir which gives the tourism of the region a major boost.

Bir also has a Tibetan refugee camp which houses a large number of Tibetan nationals. There are three main monasteries which are located within the radius of one km from each other. The monasteries here are believed to be a house of spirituality where young lamas are housed and trained in Buddhist teachings.

Very often if one is lucky enough, might witness the lamas dancing to their traditional music with long robes in the monastery complex. Each monastery also has a small handicraft store where one can shop for Buddhism related items.

Although tourism in Bir is picking up there is a lot more scope for improvement with respect to accommodation and food facilities in the town. During season which is from August to October, it is advisable to make prior bookings for accommodation.

One can find a number of small guest houses and independent bungalows converted into home stays where the owners rent out rooms on a daily basis. There are no luxury stays in Bir, although the budget accommodation options are quiet worth the cost.

There are a few small eateries around with nothing much to offer. There are about a couple of restaurants that might have a variety of options to suit the needs of different travellers. These restaurants are located just as one is about to enter Bir. Tea lovers can easily find the famous Kangra and Shimla tea in local shops.

Bir is well connected with state transport buses from Delhi and different places around Himachal. To reach Bir the best way is to reach Baijnath which is at a distance of about 15 km from Bir.

Baijnath houses the famous Baijnath temple which is visited by hundreds of travellers and locals every day. Local buses, private and sharing vehicles are easily available from around the temple area in Baijnath plying.

Bir is also well connected to Dharamshala (51 km) which is another famous Tibetan settlement and a tourist spot in Himachal. The narrow gauge trains that the Kangra valley is famous for runs across Bir. The nearest railway station is Ahju which is at a distance of 4.6 km.

There are no broad gauge railway stations around and the nearest station is at Pathankot which is approximately a 4 hr drive from the town. The nearest airport is also situated in Kangra in Gaggal which is around three hours from Bir.

It is best to commute on foot once at Bir where one can explore the entire region in a day or two. Once at Bir one can also visit the nearby places such as Baijnath, Dharamshala and Mcleodganj. The town is a perfect place to unwind with the quiet and mystical backdrop of the Himalayan Mountains and beautiful tea estates.

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