WRITTEN BY Krishnaprasad | 12th March 2017
Now that you’ve decided to give the Bir-Billing Half Marathon a shot, what better way to round off your visit to the hills than to explore the area around the Bir valley. Long known as the paraglider’s paradise, the area has many lesser known thrills and experiences that are waiting to be discovered. Here, we give you a list of things that we hope you’ll enjoy doing while you’re pushing your marathon distances and times.
Float over the Bir valley in a tandem paragliding joyride
Known as the one of the world’s best paragliding destinations, Bir boasts of what’s known as a great set of conditions for flying. So much that the 2015 Paragliding World Cup was organised here.
One needs to experience a flight first hand to understand what brings hundreds of paragliders from across the world to Bir every year. Paragliding is essentially a non-mechanised method of flying that utilises prevailing wind conditions to get into the air, adjust altitude and direction and eventually land. The best way to get an introduction into this art of flight is to sign up for a tandem flight with any of the experienced tour operators in the area. Typically costing anywhere between Rs.2500 to Rs.4000 for a 30min flight from Billing to Bir, you get a great view of the Bir valley and the Dhauladhar range while in the air. And in case you really like it, you can enrol for a series of certified courses that will put you on track to your first solo flight.
Enjoy the thrills of mountain biking and trail running
Bir, the neighboring towns of Chaugan and Chauntra and the numerous adjoining villages are interconnected with a series of crisscrossing trails and pedestrian paths – creating fairy woodlands for as many adventures as you have time for.
Rent a mountain bike and blaze these trails for an adrenaline high, or take it easy with slow jogs, breathing in the fresh air of the pine forests and feeling the easy freedom of an explorer. And whenever you’re hungry, get on to the road-head and sample some of the multiple cuisines that roadside eateries and cafes serve through the day.
Get a dose of spirituality with a visit to the monasteries
The area around Bir is steeped in Buddhist culture, home to almost a dozen monasteries and large Tibetan settlements. The most famous monasteries in the region are Sherabling, located in the woods outside Bir, and Chokling, in the Tibetan settlement colony near the centre of town.
Whether you’re in the mood to admire the ornate architecture or to lose yourself in the meditative prayer chants, head to any of these Buddhist centres for your share of introspection and spiritual bliss.
Dharmalaya Institute for Compassionate Living
A couple of kilometres off the village of Gunehar (or 6km from the landing site) is a waterfall that you can visit to take a dip in the chilled water, or just to enjoy the walk or mountain bike ride through the jeep trail that takes you there.
If you’ve got a few extra days to explore the larger area around the valley, a few places we recommend are:
Tea Estates in Palampur
About 30 km from Bir (45 min to an hour by road) is the town of Palampur, around which are numerous tea estates basking in crisp sunshine against panoramic views of the Dhauladhar mountains. Take a walk through these vast plantations, visit some of the numerous cafes around, spend the night at any of the tastefully done estate homestays or watch tea leaves being processed at the Palampur Tea Co-operative located in town, you’ll never run out of things to do here.
Tatwani (Hot Springs)
For the adventurous among visitors, the hot sulphur springs located around 30km from Bir is a great 2-day trip. Once you do the initial 20km by road and jeep track (via the village of Deol), you walk (or trek) the rest of the distance on a wooded mountain trail to reach the open air sulphur springs. It might be easier to engage a local to show you the way if you aren’t sure of your navigational abilities. The water is quite hot, and it isn’t advisable to stay in for too long at a stretch. Camp near the springs overnight provided you’ve carried along enough provisions, or head back to Deol to spend the night at a hotel before you head back to Bir.
Shiva Temple, Baijnath
A stunning 13th century temple dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva, you can observe some medieval North Indian architectural styles used in this rock structure. Baijnath temple is very popular in the area, often attracting hundreds of local and outstation visitors every day. There are multiple legends associated with this temple, some of which you can learn from the many locals who’ll only be too eager to engage you.
About the Author : Krishnaprasad
KP manages the video content at The Hell Race