Everything you need to know about planning a trip to including how to reach Bir Billing, best time to visit, things to see and do incl. Paragliding, Food, Accommodation etc.
Bir Billing: An Introduction:
Planning a trip to Bir Billing? This quaint little rural village in Himachal Pradesh is very popular for Para Gliding. Many claim that after Lake Como in Italy, Bir Billing is the place to go for Paragliding. In fact, one of the first things you see when nearing Bir is the sky dotted with paragliders.
Just to be clear, Bir is a village in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. Bir has build such a strong association with Paragliding that the name "Billing" (the location of the paragliding launch site) has built a strong association with it.
But Bir Billing is not just about Paragliding. There is quite a lot to do, and explore in Bir from Camping and Trekking to Mountain Biking. More on all that later.
Fun Fact: Bir is named after Birsen, an ancestor of the Sen dynasty
Bir Billing: Location
Bir is very close to Dharamshala (64 km, 2 hr), Manali (159 km, 5 hr), Kullu (118 km ,4 hr).
The nearest major town is Palampur (30 km, 1 hr)
The nearest railway station is Ahju (3 km). However, it is a narrow gauge station and connectivity is very limited.
The nearest broad gauge railway station is in Pathankot (143 km) which is very well connected to main centers in India.
That said, trains are not the best way to reach Bir.
The nearest Airports are Dharamshala (68 km, limited connectivity), Chandigarh (286 km), Delhi (535 km).
Most travelers reach Bir entirely by road.
There are direct buses to Bir from Delhi (514 km, Overnight Journey), and other popular locations such as Shimla, Manali, Kullu, and Dharamshala. Private cabs, and shared cabs are also available from these nearby popular tourist locations.
When to visit Bir
The above table shows the temperature and rainfall data for Bir. The highest temperatures are in May, June and July. The highest rainfall is in July, August, and September.
Please note that if you are planning for paragliding, it is not possible in the monsoon period (July-Sep)
Considering the temperatures and rainfall, the best time to visit is from October to April.
However, if you are not into paragliding, you may want to consider visiting towards the end of the monsoon season. Bir is lush green during this time, and that is a treat to the eyes.
Getting Around Bir
The term Bir can sometimes be ambiguous and confusing. This is because people refer to multiple villages around main Bir by the same name "Bir". Hence you may want to be very specific when you talk to Taxi Operators, Guides etc.
All these villages are pretty small and nearby. They are easily accessible by foot or bicycle.
Bicycles or Motorbikes (including scooters) are the cheapest and best ways to go around Bir. Just be sure to wear your helmet :)
You can also find taxis in Bir. It shouldn't you cost you much as Bir is a small place, and everything is nearby. Take taxis if you are travelling in groups.
The popular locations in Bir are:
Bir Proper or Upper Bir:
This is the main center of Bir where the original settlements were established. You will find the Bir Co-operative Tea Factory, and the Bir Bazaar here.
Chaugan or Colony:
Home to the Tibetan Colony, and the Paragliding landing site, this is the main commercial area of Bir. Most of the accommodations (including Zostel) is here.
You will also find quirky cafes here that are frequented by tourists and Tibetan refugees alike. The Deer Park Institute is also located here.
it is a small beautiful village situated on the banks of the Gunehar river. You can walk to the Gunehar river, and then take a hike to the waterfall up the hill.
Ghornala and Dhanaari:
These are 2 other villages that are located on the borders of the Bir forest. This is mostly a farming community.
Bhattu (Sherab Ling):
Another village. It is home to the Sherab Ling Monastery
Things to do in Bir
Paragliding is undoubtedly the most popular activity to do in Bir. The experience itself is exhilarating, and the view of the Bir village from the top is breathtaking.
As we mentioned, the paragliding launch site is located on Billing, a meadow that is located 14 km north of Bir.
Bookings for paragliding can be made from Bir itself. You won't have any difficulty finding the booking spots. Each paragliding session of about 15-20 minutes costs around Rs. 1,500 - 2000.
You also have a option of getting the whole trip video recorded using a go-pro at an additional charge (approx. Rs. 500)
In peak season, we recommend you make the booking in advance (online) to avoid the crowds.
Once you make the booking in Bir, the guide will take you to Billing in a Jeep. The paraglide will launch from Billing, and land in Chaugan village in Bir. The landing spot is close to all the main centers in Bir.
Professional photographers at the landing site will take pictures of you as you land. You can purchase these pictures if you wish. There is also an option for capturing the journey on video (at an additional cost).
If you'd like to get a feel of what Paragliding in Bir is like, check out the vlog below by Aarya Vohra
2) Mountain Biking
Biking in Bir is an experience in itself. While riding, you will come across temples, monasteries, and beautiful villages that will leave you awestruck.
You have 2 option when it comes to mountain biking in Bir.
a) Option 1: Hire a bike, and go around on your own:
This is a very cheap and convenient option. It is pretty cheap and there is a lot of flexibility. Just be sure to do some research on the routes to take.
Renting a hybrid mountain bike will cost around Rs. 150 per day.
b) Option 2: Sign up for a Biking tour/ program
There are biking groups in Bir that organize multi day biking tours in Bir and even billing. You could sign up for one of these. Check around the town for these.
3) Visit the Tibetan Colony
The Tibetal colony in Bir was established in the 1960s when the Dalai Lama and other Tibetans were exiled from Tibet. Subsequently a number of Tibetan monasteries came up representing the Nyingma, Kagyu, and Sakya branches of Buddhism.
Apart from a number of monasteries, the colony also has a Tibetan handicraft center, a Tibetan Children's Village school, a noodle manufacturing unit (fun), and many souvenir shops.
If you want to experience the rich culture and heritage of the Tibetan people in India, this is the place.
4) Visit the Monasteries
Image by tarungoel.in
Get spell bound by the chants of the monks and bask in the peace that it brings you. While there are quite a few monasteries, here are the ones we recommend you visit:
- Tsering Jon Monastery in Chaugan
- Palpung Monastery in Bhattu
- Dzongsar Khyentse Monastery in Chauntra
- Chokling Monastery in Chaugan
- Sherab Ling Monastery in Bhattu
5) Hike & Stroll around Bir
Here are some walks you may wanna try:
- Walk through Chaugan tea gardens: This one is light effort. Just take a leisurely stroll through the tea gardens of Chaugan.
- Walk from Chaugan to Gunehar. The scenery on the way is terrific. You can also visit the Gunehar river if you wish to take a dip.
- Visit Sherab Ling Monastery: Walk from Chaugan through the forest to Sherab Ling monastery in Upper Bhattu. Again the scenery on the way is breathtaking
- Hike to the Upper Bir River pools or the Gunehar River Pools: Both of these hikes are scenic and at the end of them you can take a dip in the river pools :)
These quaint little villages are really beautiful. Try to learn their way of life and pick up a few words in the Pahari language. If you are lucky, a villager may offer you a tour of their traditional home.
If you wish to learn about other unexplored dayhikes from Bir, check out this blog post by mysteriousbirbilling
Apart from these, there are also longer trek options near Bir that take more than a day to reach. You may have to contact a professional trek organizer to get these organized.
For eg you can try the Escape Trails Raj Gundha by Zostel, a 360-degree trek in the Thamas Valley. It is a 2 day Trek with overnight stay, and is touted as one of the best treks to do, This is a beginners trek and includes views of snow clad mountains.
6) Meditate at the Deep Park Institute
Contrary to what the name says, the institute has nothing to do with deer. The deer park is a "centre for the study of classical Indian wisdom traditions' established under the patronage of the Holi Dalai Lama.
The institute hosts many programs on Yoga, Meditation, Wellness etc year round.
7) Visit the Bir Tea Factory
The Bir Cooperative Tea factory is located in Upper Bir near the Bir Bazaar. You can take an educational tour of the factory and also shop for authentic tea here.
There are agencies that arrange for camping and even glamping in Bir. Check them out if camping is your thing.
You can even camp in Billing.
Where to stay in Bir Billing
Bir is not your typical commercial tourist location with swanky star hotels. Most of the accommodations here are Homestays run by locals. There are a few hotels and hostels too.
If you are looking to stay in a hostel, Zostel in Bir is a popular option. It is close to the central Chowgan area, like most hostels. Few other hostels too have recently opened in Bir.
Food in Bir Billing
Again, unlike popular tourist spots, food options in Bir is not plenty. But sure there are interesting options. You will mostly find good food at Cafes in the Chaugan area. And of course there is always the mountain favorite of Maggi and tea to fall back on.
Check this video by "Travel with JO" for Cafes and local delicacies in Bir Billing.
Money in Bir Billing
Please note that there aren't many ATMs in Bir. Hence it is advisable to carry sufficient cash while travelling to Bir. Cards and other electronic payments may not always be reliable as networks are often patchy.
That's about it. We hope we have everything you need to know about planning a trip to Bir. We have covered everything from How to reach Bir, Best time to visit, things to do and see, food, and accommodation.
If you have anymore queries, drop it in the comments below and we shall try our best to answer it.