Spring has its treasures and for a land rich in flowering trees, it’s the time to savour the heavy aromatic air of blooming orchard laden landscapes across many valleys and hilly slopes of Himachal Pradesh. Spring that breaks out in lower valleys in February-March, slowly moves into higher altitudes with a great awakening in Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti and parts of Chamba taking place as late as June.
On higher hills of Shimla, Kullu, Mandi and the sheltered slopes of Kinnaur are extensive plantations of apple and cherries. Apple cultivation has made inroads into the high altitude cold desert valley of Spiti. Fruit maturing on the fields surrounding the over 1000 year old Tabo monastery in Spiti valley are some of the most delicious ones produced in Himachal Pradesh.
Like the famed Japanese Cherry Blossom season, a walk through a cherry orchard in Kotkhai, Kumarsain, Baghi or Kotgarh is a very blissful experience of which one can never have enough oft To facilitate a stay on orchards, several home stays are available. If driving through this countryside, hotels and rest houses are available at most business centred townships in the region. Those who have witnessed spring break out in these orchard laden valleys and mountain sides are so enchanted that many come back to partake in the riot of natures bounties again and again.
A number of residential buildings, restaurants, antique and curio shops, together with famous Tibetan institutions have lent importance to McLeod Ganj. The Budha temple is situated opposite to the present abode of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama and is worth a visit. The Tibetan Institute of performing Arts (Tipa) is 1K m. walk from McLeod Ganj and preserves a number of musical dance and theatrical traditions of Tibet. It holds an annual 10-day folk opera commencing on the second Saturday of April. There is also a Tibetan handicraft centre situated at McLeod Ganj and a Sunday market is organized at about 10 minutes walk from here.
This is a hill station lying on the spur of the Dhauladhar range about 17 Kms north- east of Kangra town. This hill station is wooded with oak and conifer trees and snow capped mountains enfold three sides of the town while the valley stretches in front. The snowline is perhaps more easily accessible at Dharamshala than at any other hill resort and it is possible to make a day's trek to a snow-point after an early morning's start. Dharamshala is also the headquarters of the Kangra district.
This is also the time when fishing and low altitude trekking raise their winter barriers, while the Spring Festival is celebrated in Kullu from April 28th to 30th. Visit Kullu from March to May for relaxation and visiting the places of sightseeing and enjoy short and long excursions as well as climbing and river rafting.
In tribal Spiti, Dechhang is celebrated at the height of winter, while the Lahaul area reserves it for early April.
In third week of March, the fascinating Nalwari fair is held at Bilaspur. Cattle are traded, there are wrestling bouts – aero and water sport shows are recent additions.
Held on the first Baisakh - the 13th April - Baisakhi is one of Himachal's very important festival. Rooted in the rural agrarian tradition, it bids final farewell to winter. At Tattapani near Shimla, at Rewalsar and Prashar lake near Mandi, people take purifying dips in water. Numerous village fairs complete with wrestling, dancing and archery are also held on this day.
In April, Rali with its clay models is marked in Kangra. Legend has it that the beautiful Rali was married against her wishes and on the way to her husband's home, she leapt into a stream. The husband jumped in after her and trying to save both, Pali's brother also dived into the fast flowing waters. All three died. Today, clay models are made in every house to mark that day, while unmarried girls pray for grooms of their choice and the newly-wedded ask for happiness and prosperity.