Himachal Pradesh is a land gifted with supreme natural beauty. Blessed with the finest varieties of landscapes, vivid topography and breathtaking scenic magnificence, tourism is the highest contributor to this state’s economy. From the highest passes and oldest Buddhist monasteries (of Lahaul and Spiti) to the best paragliding destination (of Bir-Billing), each part of Himachal has a particular tourist attraction attached to it. But if you truly want to tread off the beaten trail, then a visit to some of Himachal’s heritage sites would be the perfect vacation plan. The remarkable collection of heritage sites keeps the old world charm of this beautiful state alive. Much unexplored and thus pristine, these heritage are Himachal’s best kept secrets.
The Sleepy village of Naggar
The sleepy Naggar village, situated east of the Kullu Valley, was founded by Raja Vishudhpal and served as the capital of Kullu kingdom for many years. Post-independence, when motor-able roads connected this valley to rest of Himachal, Naggar for certain time saw a deluge of tourists. But, today Naggar sits in ambiguity guarding its rich heritage.
Main attractions at Naggar
Naggar Castle: An easy drive from Manali, the Naggar Castle is a heritage site dating back to the medieval times. Built as Raja Vishudhpal’s residence, the castle served as the residence for erstwhile Kullu Rajas, for over 1400 years. Made out of unique stones and wood, the castle offers magnificent views of the Beas River valley. This castle has now been converted into a Himachal Tourism hotel.
Nicholas Roerich Art Gallery: Nicholas Roerich, a Russian painter and explorer, visited the village in 20th century and chose to settle here. There is a splendid art gallery showcasing his greatest paintings. Most of Roerich’s paintings highlight the beauty of Kullu and its surroundings. Art gallery and adjoining museum are open on all days (except Mondays) between 10 AM to 5 PM.
Nearest railhead: Joginder Nagar (125 km away)
Witness of rise and fall of two realms at Chail
Chail, a small and secluded hill station about 44 km away from Shimla, is regarded as ‘Hiker’s Paradise’. Chail is known for its architectural beauty and dense forests. Trekkers can enjoy some lovely day hikes in this area.
Main attractions at Chail
Chail Palace: Spread over 75 acres, The Chail Palace was built by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala in 1891, after his entry was restricted in Shimla by Lord Kitchener of the British Empire. Now transformed into a luxury hotel, the palace has an elegant front lawn, while the interiors possess ornate furniture and immaculate furnishings. Beautiful cottages and log huts in the vicinity allow the visitors to live their moment of royalty.
World’s highest cricket and polo ground: Chail is home to world’s highest cricket field (situated at an altitude of 2, 250 m). Once owned by Maharaja of Patiala, the cricket ground is currently maintained by Chail Military School and is also used as a polo field during school vacations.
Nearest railhead: Simla (50 km away)
Home to India’s oldest ruling lineage – Pragpur
Characterized by cobbled streets, ornamental village tanks, mud plastered and slate roofed houses, the heritage village of Pragpur lies in the Kangra valley.
Main attractions at Pragpur
Witness Beauty: Decorated with many flower gardens and orchards, Pragpur is where one can simply take a stroll to soak in the charming heritage feel of the area.
Trek your way up: This village is also a trekking base for many renowned destinations including McLeodganj, Dharamshala, Palampur, Jwalaji and Kangra Valley.
The Judge´s Court: This is an Indo-European styled Country Manor. Constructed back in 1918, the Court is spread across 12-acres of mango, lychee and plum orchards, along with cardamom and clove trees decorating the campus. This heritage structure is one of India’s finest hotels and is divided into two parts – the new Country Manor and the Ancestral Cottage (which is over 300 years old).
Nearest railhead: Una (60 km away)
So, the next time you visit Himachal do plan a trip to these heritage sites?