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For sheer geographic diversity, few places in the world are as richly endowed as Himachal Pradesh. Rivers cutting through deep gorges, placid mountain lakes, thick forests, acres of scree, snow-capped mountains piercing the skyline, sheep scattered like cotton fluffs over alpine pastures; all excite the spirit for outdoor activities, sports and adventure. A stress buster or a challenging adventure, for the beginner or an expert, there is an activity, a sport, an adventure for one and all out there. All it demands is a reasonable level of fitness and a willing spirit.
Rushing downstream with the strong river flows, negotiating turbulent rapids, water droplets hitting you in the face; white water rafting is an adventure sport that gets up the adrenalin working thick and fast.
Guided rafting is conducted on river Sutlej at Tattapani near Shimla, at Pirdi on the Beas river near Kullu, on the Ravi river near Chamba, and for the expert on the more daring rapids of Chandra, Spiti rivers in Lahaul and Spiti district.
River Beas from Manali to Bhuntar, a stretch of 50 km with a number of rapids, is the most popular for recreational river rafting runs. Riding a raft over gentle, sometimes foaming waves, and dashing against rocks and boulders is a thrill to experience.
For safety reasons rapids of rivers in Himachal have been graded in accordance with international guidelines.
Still Water Sport
Backwaters of dams built have created many man made lakes on rivers flowing through the state. These waters have become a sporting arena for a variety of fun filled activities for the professional, and the amateur.
Damming of River Beas in 1975 created a huge lake, christened as Maharana Pratap Sagar (Pong Dam), in Kangra district. During heavy monsoon flows it expands to cover an area of over 24,529 hectares.
The Regional Water Sports Centre at Pong Dam, run under the aegis of Directorate of Mountaineering & Allied Sports, Manali, is equipped with modern facilities and equipment. Basic, intermediate and advanced courses are conducted in swimming, kayaking, canoeing, rowing, sailing and water skiing. Pong Dam centre also conducts training in water safety and rescue operations.
Water sport activities for tourists are also conducted in Gobind Sagar Lake at Bilaspur and in Chamera Lake near Dalhousie (Chamba). For the experienced campaigners, rowing and kayaking regattas are organized at Pong Dam lake and Gobind Sagar Lake.
Paragliding is perhaps the closest you can get to sailing the skies as a free bird, almost at will, dipping and wheeling high over the hills and valleys. The recreational activity is dangerous but if done under strict supervision, it’s thrilling and adventurous.
Paragliding can be done solo and tandem at Bir-Billing in Kangra district. It is counted amongst the best paragliding sites anywhere in the world and is frequently picked for hosting the World Cup and other international competitions in the sport.
The rising hills of Billing provide amazing thermals that with a gush of moderate winds make for a good take-off with the landing being at the terraced grounds of Bir. Other delightful sites for paragliding in Himachal include Bandla Dhar near Bilaspur and Solang valley near Manali.
In solo paragliding, trained pilots fly alone in a paraglider, whereas in tandem flights, a trained pilot tags an amateur guest along in his glider to have him experience the thrill of free flying. Tandem flights are what most enthusiasts love to indulge in.
Blessed with breathtaking panoramas that make up a romantic backdrop, Himachal Pradesh presents thrilling options for cycling. Gear yourself up for high adventure with an expedition on cycles, pedal your way past high passes or simply make a day-adventure in the scenic landscapes, literally the entire state is your playground if you have the zeal to pedal.
If the gentle routes of Kangra, Una, Hamirpur, and Bilaspur are child's play, stretch your mind, muscle and stamina to reach out to the Trans-Himalayan tracks in Lahaul–Spiti, and Kinnaur. Milder, but no less interesting, excursions can be done at any holiday destination including Shimla, Dharamshala, Manali, or the likes. A cycle tour can be coupled with camping and scheduled for several days over diverse terrains of the state.
Skiing, the thrill of racing down a slope with icy winds rushing at you is an adventure sport that one will return to winter after winter, asking for more. Himachal is one of the few places in the country where this exciting sport is played.
Himachal Tourism offers ski courses, instruction and has equipment on hire at Narkanda. In Manali, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports conducts professional and amateur skiing courses on the slopes of Solang Nala. Several private operators conduct recreational skiing for tourists. Kufri, near Shimla, is one of the oldest places in India where skiing is done. Rushing down the Mahasu Peak slopes with skis in Kufri is a tourist’s delight.
Himalayas, the highest mountains in the world, is the best theatre for ambitious adventure seekers. The thrill and excitement of trekking as an adventure sport is a lifelong crush. With there being hundreds of trails over low scrub land, through paddy fields and orchard country, ascending mountain paths, crossing over fast flowing streams, across deep woods, under oak, deodar or flowering rhododendron trees, to glacial lakes, mountain top pilgrimage walks and others, Himachal is a playground for trekkers. Safety being a paramount concern, when going out for a trekking holiday, there are specialised operators who conduct guided treks.
Camping is perhaps the best way to enjoy the wonders of nature and effortlessly partake of the warm hospitality of the inhabitants. Travellers can carry their own gear along or opt for any one of the several organized campsites pitched in various parts of the state. Other than the comfortable accommodation, facilities and services, most campsites offer catering, and a variety of activities such as hiking, fishing, nature tours and rafting.