The fastest way to travel to Himachal Pradesh is by air. But it is also the costliest when compared to price per unit of distance covered. However, if you are short on time and wish to splurge, you can take a flight to Shimla or Kullu if you are heading to Manali, and Kangra or Pathankot if you are heading to Dharamsala. The flights are largely limited to Delhi, so you will need to first arrive at Delhi to explore more flight options.
The airport in Shimla, Jubbal Hatti, is around 40 km away from main Shimla City. You can get pre-paid taxis right outside the terminal. Go to the booking counter and state your destination to get a sense of the fare before you hop in. Travel only with registered taxis to avoid getting taken for a ride. The other two airports, Kullu-Manali Airport in Bhuntar and Dharamsala Airport (or Kangra Airport), are also well-connected to the city centre and you can get a cab without any hassle.
Do note that if you are traveling in winter, flights could be cancelled at the last minute due to harsh weather conditions.
A cheaper and more scenic alternative to taking a flight is to travel by road. Himachal has beautiful roads that are connected to major cities in India. There are 8 national highways and 19 state highways that offer superb connectivity to and within Himachal. When you are traveling by road, you can reach the most remote regions of the state.
You can drive to Himachal yourself or rent a cab from Delhi. There are several state-owned and private luxury bus operators which will drop you to most large cities here. If you are driving yourself, it is advisable to travel by day, as Himachal roads can prove challenging in some points even to the most experienced driver.
As with the flight, some roads can also be closed during the monsoon or winter die to landslides or excessive snowfall. Plan your vacation time keeping that in mind.
Himachal Pradesh has a difficult terrain and because of that the Indian Railway hasn’t made much progress there. There are, however, a few options for those looking to enjoy a unique experience.
A narrow-gauge track connects Pathankot (in Punjab) to Kangra, and Kalka (in Haryana) to Shimla. The train journey will take you through rural Himalayan ranges, giving you a first-hand glimpse into the hilly hinterlands of India. Untouched and pristine, this is a train ride worth taking. This journey will take you about eight hours.
Hop aboard the Kalka-Shimla Toy Train that is also a UNESCO world heritage site. This is a 60-mile journey that crosses 864 bridges, 102 tunnels, and 900 curves. You will stay glued to the window all through the journey, watching as massive mountains, verdant valleys, forests of oak and pine, and rippling meadows pass you by. The journey of six hours will feel like it ended too soon.
There are other trains on the Kalka-Shimla route as well, such as Shivalik Deluxe Express, Rail Motor Car, Shimla Express, Shimla Kalka Passenger and Himalayan Queen. Two special heritage carriages - Shivalik Queen Tourist Coach and Shivalik Palace Tourist Coach - are available between March and September. To manage high tourist volumes in the months from April to June, two special holiday trains run on this route.
Do book your tickets well in advance if you are traveling during the holiday season. You can do so online on the Indian Railway official website or at any Indian Railway booking counter.
Most visitors to Himachal Pradesh make a beeline for Shimla or Dharamsala, and why not; Shimla is a gorgeous city, though a bit crowded and urban, especially during holidays. And Dharamsala is a place of solitude and peace.
However, should you decide to head off the beaten path, there is a lot more that you can enjoy in Himachal. Have you considered destinations like Solan, Kandaghat, Tara Devi, Summer Hill or Dharampur, among several others?
If you are worried about stepping off the usual route, don’t worry. The state of Himachal has an excellent transportation network and you will be able to make your way to any corner that you desire.
Whether you’ve arrived by flight, road or train, you can take off on your onward journey with ease. There are pre-paid taxi counters where you can hire a cab to take you where you wish to go next, or head to the city centre.
There are numerous ways to travel within Himachal depending on your time and budget. There is, of course, local transport such as buses, auto rickshaws and shared taxis. Or if you prefer, you can hire a cab or a bike even. The well-laid road system makes it quite comfortable to travel within the state. Here are a few options that you can consider:
Renting a car
Being in control of your travel takes away half the hassle of the holiday. You can go where you want, when you want. If you haven’t driven down to Himachal but are traveling in a group or with family, you can consider renting a car on a daily basis or booking one for the complete duration of your holiday. Some rental agencies might not allow you to take the car beyond city limits. Don’t forget your license. While a travel agency might turn a blind eye towards the lack of one, the local cops will not. You might need to pay a hefty fine or bribe your way out the situation.
Local buses are a great way to see the Himachal that you might miss if you just zip through along the main highways. This is also a cost-effective way to travel if you on a tight budget. You can hop aboard a state-run inner-city bus that can take you to the remotest corners. Book tickets online or try your luck at the starting point. Since the buses are regular, you might not have to wait too long. Himachal Road Transport Corporation also offers buses for local sightseeing tours.
If you are feeling adventurous why not rent an Enfield motorcycle and roam around the state in complete abandon? Bikes can be rented for as low as Rs 350 (5 dollars) a day. Often you aren’t even required to possess a licence. Make sure you are an expert rider as Himachal should not be where you take your first bike lesson!
Is a trip to Himachal Pradesh in the making? Do go through our Himachal Pradesh Holiday Packages. We can take care of all your travel needs, including tickets, stay, visa and even forex, if you wish to.