The hidden town of Bir, in the verdant Kangra Valley, is more known today for
The hidden town of Bir, in the verdant Kangra Valley, is more known today forits tea gardens, Tibetan monasteries and hang-gliding than its place in the history of the ancient Bara-Banghal Kingdom. Bir was the southern outpost of the kingdom, that was centred between the Dhauladhar and the Pir Panjal ranges, and stretched from Bir in the southeast to Chamba in the west and Lahaul to the north.
Bir rises sharply from the road leading from Baijnath to a height of 5,003ft. Mid-way down the road, you’ll come to a crossing known as Chaugan. A turn to the left here will take you to the Tibetan settlement, beyond which is an open valley of paddy fields where hang-gliders land during flying months.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
A trekking route from Bir follows a steep incline, covering more than 4,000ft in just 7km, to reach Billing Village, high up in the Dhauladhars at 9,186ft. Hang-gliders take off from Billing’s grassy meadows to land at Bir. There is also a 14-km-long road that connects Bir with Billing that traverses through beautiful oak and pine forests, with thick rhododendron forests in the upper reaches. Billing’s meadows are the perfect place for a picnic.
Due to the sudden ascent, Billing affords an unmatched view of the east Kangra Valley. From its pastures, you could almost reach out and touch the snows on the Dhauladhars.
Palyul Cheokhorling Monastery
This monastery belongs to the Nyingma order, the oldest school of Tibetan Buddhism, set up by Padmasambhava originally in Samyeling in central Tibet. Its altar seats life-size statues of various teachers, including Padmasambhava.
Deer Park Institute
At this former Buddhist monastic institute, you can enroll in programmes on yoga, meditation, philosophy, art, Buddhism and more. If you’re visiting Bir for a short while, you could attend their meditation retreats or workshops.
You can visit the Tibetan Colony if you wish to buy some souvenirs for your friends back home. You can find everything from clothing, jewellery, cushions to stationary here. You can also visit the Bir Bazaar or Baijnath.
WHERE TO STAY AND EAT
Stay overnight at Bir Resort Hotel (Cell: 07832072422; Tariff: ₹800) or Colonel’s Resort (Cell: 09805534220; Tariff: ₹2,500–4,500) in Baijnath. Upper Bir has a few eateries worth visiting. Lhakpa Café is famous for its momos. Panditji serves great samosas and pakoras. In the Tibetan Colony, Green Guest House & Hygienic Restaurant serves a variety of Tibetan dishes.
In Billing, you can camp on the green carpet-like grass. There is no habitation at Billing, though tea shops and dhabas come up in summer.
When to go All year round. The weather is most pleasant in summer
HPTDC, Hotel Tea-Bud, Near Mission Compound, Palampur. Tel: 01894-231298, W hptdc.nic.in
STD code 01894
Air Nearest airport: Gaggal (73km/ 1hr). Taxi ₹1,500 for a drop to Bir
Rail Nearest railhead: Chakki Bank (138km/ 4hrs). Taxi costs ₹3,300
Road Follow NH20 to Palampur via Nagrota Bagwan Bus HPSRTC runs 4 Volvo bus services from Delhi’s ISBT Kashmere Gate to Dharamshala