Updated: Apr 7
Nestled amongst the aesthetic natural bounties, Bir is a small hamlet in Himachal Pradesh; situated at almost 1350 meters above sea level, amidst the serene landscapes, snow-capped hills, and artistic temples. Home to a Tibetan colony, this place holds a rich culture featuring the Deer Park Institute, a center for Indian tradition wisdom patronage by Dalai Lama, widening the horizons of your knowledge about traditions. But that's not what it is famous for, right? Yes, however beautiful and pristine Bir might be, but it's famous for something that attracts travelers and adventure lovers from across the world. Also known as the 'Paragliding Capital of India', Bir offers an excellent site for paragliding and is considered one of the top few best sites in the world. It continues to host periodic international competitions and events.
Let's see a few things that you can do while you are visiting Bir; starting with the most popular. Most of these might already be in your mind or your bucket list, but if they aren't, just add them.
Go for Paragliding
Also, the identity of Bir. Paragliding offers you a bird's experience of flying over the hills, meadows, and small villages while being accompanied by an experienced pilot. This allows you to experience the joy of paragliding without having to go through the super expensive and tough process of becoming a licensed paraglider pilot. For some, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, for some, it is just a fun activity, and for a few, it's a dream. Bir is the glider landing site, with most if not all the glider pilots landing at the large field at Bir Chougan area, at an altitude of approximately 1350 meters). The takeoff site is at Billing, situated at almost 2430 meters above sea level, and is 14-18 km away from Bir. The flight time is usually 15 min at a minimum and can extend depending upon your pilot's experience and the weather.
Most of the tourists choose between 15 - 30 min of flight time. However, hobbyist pilots with personal gliders may extend the flight time to around an hour or more. Excellently skilled pilots also go for cross-country(XC) flights all the way to Palampur (30 km away) or Dharamshala (67 km away).
Experience Peace at Bir Monastery
Bir's fame as a paragliding destination is for the adventurous. However, for the ones seeking peace, this place has something that I am sure you won't get any nearby; at least not as close as Bir. There are several monasteries in and around Bir that are just the perfect place if you are looking for some solitude. You can visit these monasteries and you'll find yourself in a place that radiates pure energy through the monks' daily ritual of simple living and chants. The overall atmosphere just feels, divine. Among the number of monasteries, Sherabling Monastery is highly suggested. Also, do check out Dzongsar Khyentse Monastery, Chokling Monastery, Palpung Monastery, and Drukpa Kagyu Monastery while visiting monasteries.
Take a Walk in The Forests Around Bir
Although Bir is almost a popular tourist place and is filled with all types of people, there is a place you can visit if you need to go closer to nature. In fact, that place is not 'IN' Bir, but 'All Around'. Yes, I am talking about the Pine forests and mountains that surround Bir and offer a perfect spot for nature hikes, mountain biking, or just a lazy stroll amongst the trees listening to the chirping of birds. If you are feeling slightly adventurous, you can hike to the Gunehar waterfall, or visit Bangoru waterfalls, a hidden gem, and the most recommended things to do in Bir. Also, you can scout around and I am sure you'll be able to find awesome places in the forests around Bir. Be careful though, they are jungles on mountains and if you are not aware of your surroundings and don't know what you are doing, you may injure yourself, if not be on the dinner menu for bears and leopards. Although not commonly sighted, you never know when one decides to say 'hi'. Before you venture out into the forest alone, know the tricks and rules of forest navigation OR take an experienced guide.
Explore Scenic Cafes
The Paragliding Capital of India is also known to have some scenic café to grab your book, connect, or simply chill in the beautiful countryside surrounded by mountains. Silver Linings is a great place to go if you want to see beautiful scenery, eat delicious food, and meet interesting people. Some other noteworthy cafes and restaurants in Bir are Garden Cafe, Musafir Cafe, June 16 Cafe, and Northern Cafe. A few of these are great for stargazing on a clear night, though you need to contact the Cafe prior and make necessary arrangements.
Explore Bir on a Bicycle
What can be a better way to explore a place than on a bicycle? Bir has a lot to offer, and you can rent a bicycle at the market for a pretty cheap rate and go to explore the surroundings. It'll be a lot of fun and you'll come across places that you'd want to just sit and watch. Why don't you try it yourself and thank me later?
Stay in Modern and Vibrant Hostels
This is highly suggested if you are a travel lover and want to experience something new. There are some cool hostels and homestays in and around Bir that provide just the thing you are looking for. First, unlike the commercial hotels, they understand the general traveler in you and have the ambiance as such. Moreover, you're guaranteed to be surrounded by like-minded travelers for the duration of your stay. You have a high chance of making new friends here who probably love to travel as much as you or more than you.
Some highly suggested hostels in Bir are goStops Bir, Moustache Bir, Zostel Bir 2.0, and a few more. Clicking this link will take you to the page where you'll find a list of the hostels in Bir and you can choose the one that suits you the best.
Go for Sunset Camping
Have you ever dreamt of watching the sunset from your tent and then watching the stars drift across the night sky? If yes, then the perfect place to tick that off the bucket list is in Bir. The location of this place is such that it offers some of the most beautiful sunsets. One of the simplest and nearest spots is the Paragliding landing site itself. Furthermore, Billing is ideal for overnight camping, bonfires, and panoramic views before returning to the Bir paragliding location. Isn’t that an incredible plan? I am sure it is.
Go on a Shopping Spree
For this point, don't leave your girlfriend/boyfriend's hand if you want to save money. There are double benefits to this. First, it looks cute, and more importantly, it saves money. The market at the Tibetan colony in Chaugan will seem like a quiet town at first, but in reality, it buzzes with individuals engaged in a variety of crafts inside the buildings. Take a stroll through the colony and look at the shops selling prayer flags, local souvenirs, amazingly beautiful woolen garments, jackets, and of course, the noodle factory – the most fascinating of all!
If you leave your partner, you may have a huge shopping bill coming your way. 😉
Experience Ice Trek
In the winters, starting from December to March, the temperatures in Bir drop to sub-zero and it starts to snow in the upper regions. Sometimes, the ground gets covered in 5-6 feet of snow, though not always. However, it opens up a unique opportunity for snow trekking. You can trek to the upper regions at Billing and surrounding villages. If you are looking for a bit of adventure and are well prepared, you may go camping in the snow. Alternatively, you can just go for a stroll in the snow-covered forests around Bir.
So, When is the Best time to visit Bir?
Bir can be visited throughout the year. But you need to plan your visit based on what activities you want to indulge in. During the summer months, the snow melts and the temperature becomes more comfortable. As the weather improves, the paragliding season begins and so does the arrival of visitors. So it'll be a tad bit crowded, but if your goal is paragliding, this is your time.
The weather is at its best from June to September. At this time, you can go shopping and visit some of the local landmarks here. Apart from that, you can go for a short trek or take a ride on the toy train, visit the waterfalls, or simply wander along the Bir River. If you are looking for fewer crowds, the best time to visit would be the pre-monsoon and the monsoon months, from March to June. Since, during the rainy season, most town activities shut down entirely in Himachal and you can be at your own peace. There will be far fewer crowds and you can have the place to yourself.
How do you reach Bir?
Bir is very easy to reach as it is connected by roads and to some extent, rails. If you are coming from Delhi, you can take an overnight Bus to reach Bir. Delhi is connected to anyplace in India and the world so reaching there won't be a problem.
If you prefer a rail journey, you need to reach Pathankot and from there you can take the toy train that takes you to Ahju. From there you can take a cab that will take you to Bir. This route is scenic, no doubt about that. However, as per my research, it is probably the slowest and most hectic way to reach Bir. Most of the trains from Delhi stop at Pathankot Cant. However, the toy train starts from Pathankot Junc. So you have to either reach Pathankot Jn. directly by train or take a cab from Pathankot cant. to Pathankot Jn. Also, there is a very limited number of trains from Pathankot towards Bir; 3 to be precise. However, 2 of them run between Pathankot and Baijnath Paprola (BJPL) which is more than 10 km from Bir and you have to take a cab. The other train runs between Pathankot Jn to Jogindernagar and you have to get down at Ahju (AHJU) which is around 5 km away from Bir and you have to take a cab to reach. Moreover, the trains are crowded and run painstakingly slow. So, take this option, if and only if you have a lot of time at your hand and just want to enjoy the passing scenery.
If you are arriving by flight, the nearest airport to Bir is Kangra Airport, which is 67.6 km. away. Other airports close to Bir are Chandigarh (290 km), Amritsar airport (260 km), and New Delhi (520 km). So the best option would be to reach Delhi and take an overnight bus to Bir.
So, are you planning a trip to Bir? Make sure that you are not just limiting your fun to the skies only and explore on the ground also.
Do let me know what you think of Bir and overall of this blog. I'd love to hear from you about your travel experiences. You can comment down below or contact me by email or on my social media handles.
If you need any help in planning your trip to Bir, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll be happy to help you. I have done extensive research on Bir for a failed trip of mine (failed due to friends hopping out of the plan at the last moment). My knowledge of Bir will surely come in handy for you.