Bordered by Tibet to the east, Jammu & Kashmir to the north and the state of Punjab to the west, this state is one of great topographic diversity, from vast bleak tracts of rust-coloured high altitude Trans-Himalayan desert to dense green deodar forests, apple & cherry orchards, cultivated terraces and everywhere you look, sublime snow capped mountains. The mystique of the mountains here is overpowering. The mighty peaks of the Dhaula Dhar, Pir Panjal and western Himalaya ranges rise above Himachal, providing a setting for a host of adventure activities from treks and rafting to skiing and Buddhist meditation. Tibetan Buddhist culture abounds in the ancient monasteries of Lahaul and Spiti and McLeod Ganj, home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile.
The drive along the eastern axis from the state capital, Shimla, on the Hindustan - Tibet Road through hill side covered with apple & cherry orchards, negotiating precipitous ledges, gushing streams, and hair-raising switchbacks, through the remote valleys of Kinnaur, Spiti & Lahaul to reach Manali, is one of Asia’s greatest road adventures. On the central axis lies Kulu district, it holds the hill station of Manali, though exceedingly popular it is a tad too commercialized now to be a multi-day destination for those seeking tranquility & peace, but it’s quite fine as an overnight destination en route to Leh or Spiti by road. Also, hidden, in the higher reaches of Kulu is the Seraj region, which is known for it’s incredibly densely forested mountain slopes. Sojha, where Banjara runs a retreat, is a small hamlet in this very region and is a great base to explore the Great HImalayan National Park and the pristine Tirthan Valley. On the western axis lie the Kangra and Chamba regions. These too offer quite a few Himalayan delights like the tea estate covered town of Palampur; the settlement of McLeodganj which apart from being a vibrant centre of Tibetan Buddhism, is also a starting point for some great treks & hikes into the Dhauladhar Ranges; and Dalhousie – a quaint hill town; it is also the perfect base to explore the exquisite glade of Khajjiar and the pristine Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary – a known haven for Himalayan Black Bear.
To catch a glimpse of Himachal culture & traditions at its resplendent best one should travel during the festival of Dussehra – sometime in the month of October - and catch the celebrations in Kullu. If travelling in early September you could see the harvest festival of Phulaich that is celebrated with great fervor in Sangla Valley, Kinnaur.