Bir Billing is a huge Tibetan community which is settled at the lower reaches of this valley, upper Bir village is inhabited by farmers who also run the business of paragliding. This makes Bir Billing home to some beautiful monasteries, meditation studies, and delicious Tibetan food.
The charming village of Bir in Kangra valley shot to fame in 2015 when Paragliding World Cup was organized here. It is the second best site in the world and foremost in Asia for paragliding.
Billing (alt-7800 ft.) is 14 kms away from Bir and is the take-off site for paragliders. A pristine, off-beaten and uncluttered trek, winding through Himalayan pine forests, connects Bir to Billing.
Getaways from Dharamshala – Bir Billing (65 km)
Next in my series of getaways from Dharamshala, in this article, I will share my experience at Bir Billing and why it is much more than just a paragliding destination. Other articles in this series:
Go there to experience the adventure of paragliding. If you aren’t the too-adventurous type, then enjoy the beautiful treks around, visit the serene monasteries, relish the Tibetan food or rent a mountain-bike to explore the virgin treks.
This place is best suited for paragliding because of its topography, climatic conditions and nature of wind here. The take-off and landing sites are at perfect altitudes, wind direction and speed ensures smooth sailing for longer durations as compared to other sites in India.
However, there are plenty of treks around to explore and Tibetan culture to experience.
What To Do in Bir Billing
The obvious and most exciting thing to do here is paragliding which is sure to be a memory of lifetime for you. Conducted by numerous operators, the activity is available as both solo ride and tandem ride (with a professional instructor).
First timers should opt for tandem ride in which one just enjoys the ride and the professional paraglider who flies along with the rider will do the job of take-off, landing and steering across the skies. Short duration courses in paragliding are also offered by many operators which enable you to ride solo. As this is a highly skilled adventure, one requires 10-15 days of training before flying solo safely.
Remember to eat light before the flight and carry a selfie stick if you would like to shoot yourself during the ride. Otherwise, opt for the Go Pro service provided by operators for around INR 500. Their photographers are also available at landing sites to click you while landing, this costs INR 200.
Duration of a gliding session can be between 20 to 60 mins and cost varies from INR 2000 to 6000, depending upon the length of flight and proximity to Dhauladhars. There are longer flights that take you closer to Dhauladhars, at a higher cost. However, flight costs are negotiable for most operators.
If you would like to explore more monasteries beyond the ones in Dharamshala then you would find them here.
Paplung Sherabling monastery is the biggest in this area and is set amidst pine forests at Bhattu village, 7 kms from Bir. Chokling monastery is another place to find serenity. This is also one of the most beautiful monasteries in Kangra.
Deer Park Institute, almost 4 kms away from Bir is a beautiful place to be, especially if you are interested in Indian philosophy, science and art. The institute aims to recreate the spirit of Nalanda, India’s ancient university and center of wisdom.
Bir is also famous for ecotourism and voluntourism. Dharamalaya Institute is one of the places that give you a chance to experience both. It offers classes (both short-term and long-term) in ecology, meditation, organic farming, green building and many other disciplines to promote sustainable and responsible tourism in the region.
Interesting Read: Complete Travel Guide for Dharamshala & McLeod Ganj
Treks or Hikes around Bir Billing
There are a few treks around Bir if you plan to extend your trip and explore the surrounding area.
Trek to the semi-nomadic villages of Raj Gundha and Kukkar Gundha is of longer duration and provides beautiful views of Kangra valley on one side and Raj Gundha valley on the other side. Billing to Raj-Gundha can be covered in 4-5 hours, you may end your journey here, camp at the village and come back or continue to Kukkar Gundha.
The trek is scenic and laced with Buransh (Rhododendron), Deodar and Oak trees which fall under the forest area of the Dhauladhar wildlife sanctuary.
Hanumangarh Trek takes you to the ancient pilgrimage site. Reaching Hanumangarh from Billing takes about 5-6 hrs. The trek is easy but long and may get tiring for beginners. Although it is worth the view of Dhauladhars that you get from vantage point of the trek.
Tatta Pani trek is a trek to a hot water spring, it is not the same as the one near Shimla. The trek can be completed in single day if you start early (2-3 hours uphill). However, it can get a little rough at the upper reaches. It is not a very scenic trek and the only solace here is the hot water spring to take a dip into.
This is another adventure sport you can enjoy at Bir Billing or Palampur. There are various beautiful trails around that let you pass picturesque forests, temples, monasteries, hills and villages.
In fact, you can even ride from Palampur to Bir. There are multiple tour facilitators for mountain biking, most of the paragliding operators provide mountain biking and trekking facilities too.
How To Reach Bir Billing
From Dharamshala, the most convenient way to reach Bir Billing is by taxi. A four seater cab will cost INR 1300 and will take a little over two hours to reach Bir.
If you are coming from Delhi, then Air, train and road routes are nearly same for Palampur and Bir-Billing.
The nearest airport, Gaggal, is approximately 2 hrs of drive away (65 kms) from Bir. You can make the onward journey either by bus or taxi. There are direct buses from Dharamshala to bir but take much longer to reach, as compared to taxi.
There are some connecting buses too, you can choose to take a bus from Dharamshala to either Palampur or Baijnath and then hop on to another bus from there to Bir.
Pathankot, the nearest train station from Bir is 144 kms or approximately 4 hrs of drive away. Rest of journey can be completed either by bus or taxi.
Or train lovers with extra amount of time at hand can enjoy the Kangra toy train from Pathankot to reach Bir. The Kangra valley narrow gauge train (also known as Pathankot – Jogindernagar toy train) stops at Ahju, which is 3 kms away from Bir. The toy train journey takes about 7 hrs.
Both private and state buses run from Majnu ka tila, the Tibetan establishment in Delhi to Tibetan Colony (lower Bir). The journey takes 12-14 hours depending on weather, traffic and road conditions and tickets cost anything between 900-1300.
Interesting Read: Monasteries In Dharamshala – A Complete Guide
Best Time to visit Bir Billing
For paragliding the best time to visit Bir is either March – June or October – November.
Otherwise, Bir billing stays pleasant throughout the year and all of its seasons can be enjoyed in their own beauty. Avoid monsoon (July-September), the Dharamshala belt receives heavy rainfall and paragliding is closed during this season.
If you would like to experience the surreal charm of gliding over the the snow covered mountains then visit the place in December – February.
Stay Options at Bir Billing
We didn’t stay over in Bir and made a day’s paragliding trip to Bir from Mcleodganj.
However, you will find everything from small hotels, backpacker hostels, homestays and camp sites to choose from. Big hotels and resorts are located a little away from the main village.
An HPTDC hotel, the Uhl (named after the Uhl river) is located nearly 15 kms away from Bir and is considered one of the ideal places to spend a night in the area. The property is spacious, offers decent meals and has old world outlook in furnishings like most HPTDC hotels.
A backpackers hostel, Zostel has a branch in Bir. It provides comfortable rooms, dorms and activities to both solo travellers and group travellers.
Interesting Read: Top 12 Must Visit Offbeat Places in Himachal
Bir-Billing has a lot more to explore than just paragliding. It has beautiful vistas and trails to explore. Tibetan institutes and monasteries to indulge in some spirituality. And lots of natural beauty around to soak in.
In my next article of the series, I will write about another getaway destination from Dharamshala – the charming Dalhousie.
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