The Art Lover’s Guide to Exploring Himachal Pradesh

Music and multiarts festivals, art galleries, pottery studios, quaint cafes & more

Leave behind the hum of air conditioners and the heat migraines. Trade the stifling city summers for the refreshing embrace of cool mountain breeze. May is the ideal month to explore Himachal Pradesh with its rich tradition of folk arts, crafts, dance and architecture. The sprawling hills are also home to some of the most diverse cultural festivals. Here, traditions come alive, with festivals like Shobla Bana. But that’s not all. Himachal embraces modernity too, hosting cultural extravaganzas like the Kasauli Rhythm & Blues Music Festival, Bir Music Festival, Gaia Festival and the Old School Festival. And if you are looking for the beating heart of Himachal’s cultural pulse, venture into the enchanting districts of Kangra and Kullu, where an array of delights awaits, from music concerts and art galleries to intriguing museums and live pottery studios.

What to Do

The Nicholas Roerich art gallery near Naggar in Manali, which once served as the residence of the Russian painter Nicholas Roerich, houses paintings of Kullu, Spiti and Lahaul made by the painter. Situated in a stunning landscape surrounded by snow-capped mountains, the gallery is the perfect destination for nature and art lovers alike. Founded by Rahul Bhushan, North offers local craft & natural building workshops, artist residencies and also doubles as a homestay.

Located in Dharamshala, Kangra, the Dharamkot Studio is a haven for creative practitioners interested in taking part in art retreats, workshops and courses in ceramic and pottery. And if you are looking for the oldest pottery studio in India, then head to Palampur in the Kangra district. At the Andretta Pottery Studio you can opt for 15 minute pottery lessons, enjoy a fully-guided tour or even take part in a residential course for three months.

A 21.7 km trail near Kullu, the Kullu-Peej trail is a moderately challenging route, which offers you the chance of engaging in birding, hiking and mountain biking through the rugged landscape. Some of the treks from Parvati Valley include treks to hidden villages like Tosh, Pulga, Chalal, Malana, Rasol village, Grahan and Kalga among many others. Most of these treks include picturesque views of the mountains, walks through forests, sights of fruit orchards and the rural everyday lives of mountain people, setting these trails apart from others. But if you are looking for a leaf to cuppa experience, head to the south of Lower Bir to the Chowgan tea gardens

Expert Recommendations by Bir Music Festival

Kahaani Ki Dukaan is a rural library and performance art space dedicated to encouraging fictional reads. It is also a dedicated space for nurturing theatre, storytelling, meals and creative workshops. Tucked away on a hillock near Bir, Gunehar waterfall can be reached through a short trek in the village. One can also enjoy jeep rides or ride mountain bikes through the trail amidst the Dhauladhar mountain ranges. Located at the lower mall road in Kasauli, the Sunset Point, also popularly known as Hawa Ghar, offers breathtaking views of the sunrise over the mountains and is a perfect spot for nature lovers and photographers. The trail from Kasauli to Sunset Point is also equally breathtaking.

Bir Music Festival. Photo: Hipostel

Expert Recommendations by Musicathon

Bir-Billing is the world’s second highest paragliding site. Fly through the sky and witness the most exhilarating bird’s eye view of the beautiful landscape that Bir offers. Tibetan culture is an integral part of Bir and hence there are more than a few monasteries in the vicinity. Spend time with monks, gorge on laphing or just sip some butter tea while reading a book. Recreating the spirit of Nalanda university of ancient days, the Deer Park Institute is a centre for the study of classical Indian wisdom traditions, such as Indian philosophy, arts and sciences. Besides hosting several programmes on meditation, philosophy, art, culture, yoga and much more, the institute offers several courses in the study of Indian philosophy. 

Where to Eat

Darjeeling Steamers in Manali is one of the best places to relish dishes like veg keema noodles and chicken wings. The Big Bear Farms in Raison, Himachal is a family-run business which grows, harvests and preserves fruits like strawberries, cherries, peaches, plums and apples, to lesser known varieties such as quince and nectarine. You can find some of the best jams and jellies at this home farm. Located amidst the snowy Dhauladhar mountain ranges, the Northern Cafe in Bir is the go-to eating spot for hundreds of tourists visiting Bir Billing. They serve a wide range of delectable food, including authentic Himachali cuisines, along with some good music to top it off. Located in Dharamshala, The Other Space is a small art gallery cafe with a co-working space. It serves nicely cooked sandwiches, ravioli, rolls and chocolate croissants, besides some really great cappuccino and good tea. 

Expert Recommendations by Musicathon 

For the best hot chocolate and iced tea, Gaurav Khushwaha, founder-organiser of Musicathon Festival in Bir, recommends Musafir cafe. If you are fond of bakery products, you must try some of the items at Silver Lining cafe. Get some delicious homemade food at Amma di Rasoi, south Indian food at Avva cafe, and top it off with the best sunset views at Charlie’s

Where to Shop

Yoshita Crafts Studio in Kangra is a social trust for rural empowerment in Himachal Pradesh, offering workshops on Kangra weaving, Kangra Pattu weaving and embroidery. You can also buy these traditional crafts from the studio. Kullvi Whims in Naggar is a social enterprise empowering traditional artisans by acknowledging and promoting their skills. You can find some of the best naturally-dyed handwoven textiles using indigenous Himalayan wool at this shop.

Run by three ceramic artists, Atelier lalmitti is a small clay studio at Andretta in the Kangra valley. Besides partaking in pottery workshops at the studio, you can also shop for some of the best handmade pottery inspired by the mountains at Lalmitti.  

Musicathon – Musical Festival in the Mountains. Photo: Musicathon

Know Where You Go

How to Get Around?

Our Top Picks for the Season

Kullu: If you want to visit different attractions in Kullu, you can opt for local buses operated by Himalayan Road Transport Corporation (HRTC). Alternatively, you can also hire taxis or even walk on foot through the stunning Kullu landscape, in order to travel locally. 

Bir: Our next recommended destination is Bir, where you can rent a scooter or a bike from Bir Camps or any other innumerable rental services available there. Even though taxis are also available, buses are few and far between in Bir.

Dharamshala: The recommended transport option for travelling in and around Dharamshala would be private taxis and auto-rickshaws. For a more economical option, you can also travel by bus, provided you are ready for some long waiting times.


The summer months, i.e. May and June are the ideal times to visit Himachal. Since the region experiences heavy showers and landslides during monsoon, it’s not the ideal time to visit between July to September. If you are tolerant of cold temperatures, winter is a great time to visit Himachal for purposes of travel, as well as visiting the Kasol Music Festival, the Dharamshala International Film Festival, the Himalayan Music Festival and many others.

For more articles on festivals in India, check out our Read section of this website.

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