The paragliding in the twin destinations of Bir and Billing is regarded as the best in the world (next only to the site at Lake Como, Italy). Glide on the famous ‘thermals’ around here and drink in the gorgeous viridian views of the Kangra and Chamba valleys, and the brooding majesty of the Dhauladhar range.
The beautiful village of Bir, known for its colony of Tibetan refugees, is encircled by tea terraces and some stunning scenery, with the snow-capped Dhauladhar peaks at its back – nature at her most attractive. The hamlet of Billing, and the adjoining villages and settlements, together form part of the Greater Bir area.
Here, one can fly for as long as 100km on a day of fine weather, but even on bad-weather days, 20-30km is doable. In ideal conditions, it’s possible to paraglide from Billing to Manali, or from Billing to Dharamsala (90km). There is an annual paragliding competition (Pre World Cup), run by the Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation (Himachal Pradesh), held every October.
Serene Bir also offers courses in meditation and “contemplative living”, making it a perfect retreat for those looking for a break from the city.
The village of Bir – or, more accurately, the hamlet of Chowgan, to the south of Lower Bir – is home to a community of Tibetan refugees, one of the first such settlements in India, founded in 1962 after the Chinese occupation of Tibet and subsequent flight of Tibetans into India (locally, the settlement is known as ‘Colony’). Bir has also been a magnet for outdoors enthusiasts, offering (besides paragliding) hang-gliding, trekking and camping activities.
Billing falls in Kangra Valley, in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. It is located to the north of Dharamsala, in the Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas. Bir, around 15km south of Billing, falls in the same district, nestled in the same sweep of mountains, but at a lower altitude.
The climate here is very similar to that of Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj: chilly winters – with nighttime temperatures occasionally falling below freezing – alternate with warm summers.
How to reach
From Delhi, there is a daily HRTC bus (A/C) to Bir, and two overnight buses to Baijnath (12-14hrs). From Baijnath to Bir, hop on to another bus or take a taxi (20-30mins).
By road, Billing is well connected to Manali, Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj. From Dharamsala, it is a journey of between two and three hours (4-5hrs in bus).
The nearest airport is at Gaggal, south of Dharamsala, while the nearest railhead is at Pathankot.
Bir is divided into Upper Bir, Bir Road and Chowgan. Taxis are available at the bus stand in Upper Bir, while buses run regularly on the north-south Bir Road, joining Upper Bir to the NH20 turn-off. But the best way to take in the lovely surrounds is on foot or by bike.