Sitting outside a small local shop, sipping ginger lemon tea and soaking in the warm winter sun(which was a long lost sight in a rather gloomy Delhi) we witnessed the morning village life unfold before us. A group of monks donning the streets, children frolicking their way to school, elderly villagers coming together for their usual rendezvous and we just couldn’t wait to explore this beautiful quaint town.
Bir is a small village tucked in the Kangra Valley of Himachal and is widely known as Asia’s best paragliding site. We had been wanting to try out this adventure sport for quite some time, so when we decided to escape to Bir for the holidays, we were elated. Bir offers spectacular sunsets, alluring landscapes and has several Buddhist monasteries standing tall in vivid colours under the enormous blue sky painted with fluffy, white clouds.
Bir can actually be divided into two areas majorly – Bir Proper (also known as Upper Bir) and the Landing Site area (also known as Chogan) along with a couple of other surrounding villages like Bhattu, Keori, Sansal, and Gunehar. We spent most of our time in Chogan, particularly due to lack of knowledge and visited Proper Bir just a few hours before our departure (umm yeah, you could blame our lazy asses too). The first thing you see upon entering Main Bir is a junction where the market is situated with a cluster of small shops selling basic provisions and vegetables. There’s something peculiarly charming about small nestled in the hills, extravagant smiles that warm your heart and conversations that stay as stories with you forever.
How To Reach Bir
Reaching Bir is quite easy since it’s well connected by road. If you’re travelling from Delhi you can book an HRTC bus that will directly drop you in Upper Bir or Chogan. The journey takes 12 hours. You could also travel by train or take a flight but there is no direct connectivity to Bir. The nearest railway station is Pathankot which is 112 kms away from Bir and the nearest airport is the Kangra Airport which is 67 kms away from Bir.
Where To Stay in Bir
There are a lot of options in Bir right from camps to homestays to backpackers hostels. We stayed in Zostel’s new property known as Zostel Bir 2.0 and must admit that it’s quite fancy for a hostel. It’s located in Bir Khas and a quick 10 minutes walk uphill from Chogan's main market area will take you there. The rooms were pretty nice with chic interiors and we were sold out looking at the huge glass windows in our room that offered the most beautiful view of the mountains. Imagine lying in bed and watching the sky change colours right from sunrise to sunset and then stargazing all night long. Thinking of packing your bags? You can book your stay here: https://www.zostel.com/zostel/bir-2/
Things to do in Bir
While Bir is popularly known for its paragliding, there is so much more to do. You could explore the beautiful monasteries, chase stunning sunsets, go trekking to the many nomadic villages around Bir and when tired, enjoy a scrumptious meal at one of the many cafes there. Here’s how we spent our time there.
Bir is home to a few Buddhist monasteries that are adorned in vivid colours, prayer flags hanging all around and little monks playing so joyfully that you can not help but jump right in. As we entered these monasteries a sense of peace washes over you and we were left in awe. If you are looking for a peaceful escape from the hustle bustle of the adventure-seeking tourists head over to any of these monasteries and you’ll be surprised by the stark contrast you notice. The Chokling and Nyingyang Monastery is located in Chogan(near Tibetan Colony) and the Palpung Sherabling Monastery, which also happens to be the largest, is located around 6 kms from Chogan.
You knew this was coming! It’s one of the most surreal experiences you can ever have, trust us. The take-off site is located in Billing, while the landing happens at Bir. A short 45 minutes drive leads to Billing, which is 14 kilometers away from Bir. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you will feel the rush as you get closer to the place with every turn of the road. You can request the manager of your hotel to book the tandem paragliding (i.e. with a pilot) for you. The cost for paragliding is INR 2,000 for a 25-30 minute flight. The operator will pick you up from your hotel and drive you to the take-off site. Strict safety instructions are given before the flight and the pilot ensures his best to put you at ease. For an even better experience you could opt for a sunrise or sunset glide. So once you’re up above the world so high, soak in the views, admire the beauty, and take delight in the experience that’s going to stay with you forever.
Bir offers the most spectacular sunsets and if you know us we are suckers for days that end with beautiful sunsets. Our typical evening in Bir was spent searching for the best sunset spots and then sipping a steaming hot cup of chai and getting enchanted with the sky lighting up like a fireball on one day and cotton candy on the other. Like literally, no two sunsets are the same and you’ll be surprised everyday. Some of our most favourite sunset spots in Bir are: the landing site, road along the Nyingyang Monastery, New Musafir Cafe.
Another not so adventurous but extremely pleasant sport you could enjoy is mountain biking. There are various beautiful trails around that you can cover. In fact, we cycled our way to the Palpung Sherabling Monastery passing by picturesque forests and had a great time. While the ride downhill is the best feeling ever with the cool breeze brushing your face, the ride uphill will leave you in pain that you’ll feel for days unless of course you’re that fit. Usually the rentals are INR 500-600 for a bike for a full day but we got it for INR 400 (thanks to Nikhil’s bargaining skills).
There are a few treks around Bir that you can do and explore the surrounding area. One of the most popular treks is to the nomadic village of Rajgundha. Unfortunately we couldn’t do it this time because it was covered in snow and we just weren’t prepared for that. Usually, trekkers camp for a night there and head back to Bir the next morning. You can also head over to the Gunehar waterfall which is located in Gunehar village just 1.5 kms away from Bir. If you have more time in hand, you could also do another popular but rather longer trek to the Barot Valley which takes 4-5 days.
Best Cafes In Bir
There are many cafes in Bir that you can try. Check out our post on our favourite cafes here.
There’s actually a lot more to do in Bir. We didn’t have enough time in hand to cover it all which only means we shall be heading back there soon. :D
Checkout our vlog from this trip here.