Bir & Billing: The Complete Experiential Travel Guide

A mountain town oozing with youth in its people, city-glimpses in its cafes, and a pleasant bliss in its landscapes, Bir is Himachal Pradesh’s impeccable gift to anyone who visits. With a population of a few thousand Indians and Tibetans, now being multiplied by add-ons of adventure enthusiasts and philosophy students, Bir has seen a distinctive explosion when it comes to people and communities that reside here. Known to be the best paragliding site in India, Bir Billing also offer a rich bucket of hiking trails, waterfalls, and camping spots. If you’re looking for an easy, 3-day escape, there are 7 to 8 monasteries here that take you by awe in all their reds and whites, and then there are all the debonair cafes which keep your tongues and hearts pleased.

As we come up with a second hostel in Bir, this is how you can make the most of Bir, the Zostel way!

Drone shot of Bir, Himachal Pradesh with Zostel Bir 2.0
The green and hilly landscape of Bir, with our hostel, Zostel Bir 2.0 in the center. Picture by Pulkit Kalra.

Bir Temperature & Best Time to Visit

Out of the 12 months, 7 are utterly pleasant and welcoming in Bir and Billing. The monsoon months between June and August come with a wild bloom of greenery, but paragliders have to rest these months out due to unpredictable weather conditions and heavy winds.

One of the best places to visit in Himachal Pradesh for a long weekend getaway, Bir has pleasant summers and a bit of snowfall in peak winters. If you ask us, the autumn months of September to November are the best months to visit Bir. Through the year, Bir temperature reaches a low and high of 33 and 7°C on an average, giving the day a perfect balance of warm and chilly.

How to Reach Bir

The most feasible way to reach Bir is to first make it to Delhi, or even Chandigarh. From both cities, Bir is a comfortable overnight bus journey away. Just a heads up, travelling to Bir via trains and air is humbly discouraged as it is an inconvenient way to reach there.

Delhi to Bir: A number overnight of buses (both local and government) operate from Delhi to Bir ranging from INR 1200 to 1500 depending upon the luxury and season of your commute. The two most commodious spots being Majnu ka Tila in North Delhi and the Kashmere Gate Bus Stand.

Chandigarh to Bir: Direct buses are available from Chandigarh ISBT to Bir. The journey is of 7 to 8 hours and costs around INR 1050.

Commuting in Bir

The easiest way to explore the tinsel town of Bir is by two-wheelers and bicycles. Our folks at Zostel Bir will readily help you for renting them, just say the word. Bicycles are available starting at INR 100/hour and a range of gearless to geared two-wheelers are at INR 1000-1400 per day. Taxis are also abundantly available and make for a feasible choice if you’re travelling in groups.

Paragliding in Bir

Indians are unanimous in saying that the mountain town of Bir offers the best paragliding experience in the country, and we totally agree. Bir Billing paragliding is a 15 to 25-minute affair, where the flight offers you a prolific bird-eye view of the pine forests, grasslands, and the rugged Himalayas of Himachal Pradesh.

Paragliding in Bir
The last lot of paragliders take flight at sunset in Bir Billing. Picture by Shriya Manaktala.

Paragliding in Bir costs approximately 1800 to 2400, depending upon the season and the company you’re going with. All you’ve gotta do is book a time slot, pay a minimum token amount and off you go on a thrilling drive to Billing, from where you glide down to Bir’s famous landing site. If you’re staying with us at Zostel Bir or Zostel Bir 2.0, you can get in touch with the reception to book your gliding experience in your preferred time slot.

PS. If you are a sucker for sunrises and sunsets, those are the best time for paragliding too, as this is one of the best places to visit in Himachal Pradesh for a golden sunset.

Places to Visit in Bir

Tsering Jong Monastery

The large campus of the monastery is embellished with gorgeous flower plants, bundles of lush trees, and utterly tranquil milieus. While I explored 4 other monasteries in Bir, Tsering Jong was my absolute favourite for how peaceful and refreshed it made me feel. While the prayer building lies hidden deep inside, the walk towards it takes you through a gorgeous scene of the sun shining bright on its pleasant pathways and tender green features. We made it here just an hour before sunset, and the views made it pretty clear that this is one of the best places to visit in Bir and highly underrate at that.

Tsering Jong monasteries of Bir Billing, places to visit in Himachal Pradesh
The Tsering Jong Monastery just before sunset. Bir Billing, Himachal. Picture by Pranavi Chhikniwala.

Nyingyang Monastery

We made it Nyingyang just before the last prayer of the day, and as we walked through the aisle to the idol, all the monks sprinkled rice across the floor at once. I was taken by a flutter of joy, as I had not anticipated such a warm welcome (although I do know it wasn't for me, alright). Only a 5-minute walk from Zostel Bir, this monastery is the most accessible. People have also come to enjoy momos around here, so you can ask any local nearby and they'll guide  you to the best stall. :)

Nyingyang Monastery, Bir Billing, Himachal Pradesh
The Nyingyang Monastery of Bir Billing, Himachal Pradesh. Picture by Pranavi Chhikniwala.

Sunset at the Landing Site

I would not be overstating it when I say that half the village of Bir meets at the landing site, for a simple ritual of watching the sun go down. The field that is the landing spot for paragliders is also Bir’s most loved sunset point, which makes it one of the tourist places in Himachal. This is also a good spot to gaze at stars in the middle of the night, ie, if you’re not scared of dogs on your way there!

Sunset in Bir Billing, Himachal Pradesh
Sunsets in Bir Billing are magical. And if you're not staying back at Zostel Bir 2.0 for a sunset like this one, you can head to the landing site for a good sunset. Picture from Zostel by Prateek Verma.

Chokling Monastery

I woke up at 6 in the morning and went out for a random walk, and ended up at this monastery which is less than 15 minutes on foot from Zostel Bir 2.0. While I was happy to be treated with a great sunrise view, I was all the more happier to meet two pet sheep here, along with the bunch of old Tibetan ladies who had come here for their morning worship.

Chokling Monastery of Bir Billing, best places to see in Himachal Pradesh
The Chokling Monastery of Bir Billing at sunrise. Picture by Pranavi Chhikniwala.

Bir Tibetan Colony

A lane which serves as the life of the town, the Bir Tibetan Colony bustles with shops selling momos and souvenirs, along with a hoard of monasteries and uptown cafes on the side. One of the best things to do in Bir is to take a walk through here, to understand the place, its people, and its culture.

Deer Park Institute

Attempting to preserve the spirit of Nalanda, one of India’s first structured university, the Deer Park Institute aims to teach and practice traditions of Buddhism, classical Indian philosophy, arts and sciences. Various meditation workshops, retreats, classical language courses, yoga and healing art, and so much more is offered to students who enrol from all around the world.

Conveniently standing opposite to Zostel Bir, the courses here are free of cost and are efficiently run through donations. Elongate your stay for a week or less to learn the classics of harmony and we promise you wouldn’t wanna go back :)

Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro Institute

A home for more than 600 Tibetan monks, the Institute gives a peek into their life. Spiritual and humanistic values of love, compassion and trust are taught through the various courses and workshops this college offers. Located just 5 km from Zostel Bir, you can head here to stroll through its green gardens and indulge in a conversation with the student monks, who view life very differently.

Tibetan Monks at the Dzongsar Khyentse College, Bir Billing, Himachal Pradesh
Tibetan Monks of Bir Billing, Himachal Pradesh at the Institute. Picture by Pratyush & Shridhar.

Sherabling Monastery

A perfect stir of modern and traditional, the huge campus of the Sherabling Monastery is spread over 30 acres of pine forests. Reminiscent of ancient Buddhist teachings, this monastery is a hub of ancient metalwork, wood carvings, sculptings, the very renowned Thangka art, and tailoring that are taught to more than 500 students. If you’re up for a long adventure, you can rent a bicycle and head for a half-day trip to the monastery, while covering the pottery village on the way from Zostel Bir.

Sherabling Monastery, Bir Billing, Himachal Pradesh
The Sherabling Monastery, a 20-min drive from Bir Billing, Himachal Pradesh. Picture by Aditya Kaushik.

Things to Do in Bir

Bir 360 trek

One of the best adventures Bir has in store for you, along with one of the best things to do in Himachal, is a beginners’ trek to the Rajgundha valley. It rewards you with scenic views of snow-clad mountains, with the Uhl river cutting through the valley. Starting from Bir and then further up to Billing and so on, this trek justifies its name with 360-degree panoramic views of the entire valley of Rajgundha. Going on a little fishing spree for trouts, exploring the quaint little Himachali villages, and paragliding your way down are some of the many features this 2-day excursion offers. You can check out the itinerary to this Zostel Escape here.

The hiking trail of Rajgundha Valley's Bir 360 degree trek
Hiking to Rajgundha, Bir 360-degree trek in Himachal Pradesh.

Hike to the Keori Village

The terraced fields opposite to the landing site go further up, and if you decide to follow them North, you will end up in the Keori Village. Naturally, this is as good a place as the landing site to watch the sun go down. This hike is nothing more than just a casual walk through lots of greens, and open for you to explore the trails however you like.

Hike to Gunehar River Pool

The pretty little village of Gunehar has hidden within itself a few spots for adventure-ridden beings. The stream of the Gunehar river that flows under an old bridge crosses through the traces of local village life—a sight that is pleasant to be a part of. It spreads to make pools at a couple of spots, along with a 100-ft waterfall. If you want to skip the hustle and spend your day in the waters, this is where you want to be.

Hike to the Hidden Waterfall

If you’re up for some adventure which requires you to climb big rocks that are immersed in water and hike through a maze-like trail with more dead-ends than ‘go ahead’s, this is the perfect hike for you. 

Folks at Zostel Bir plan this activity every week, where two experienced guides help you through the way for directions and crossing difficult stretches. And we vouch on the fact that the struggle is WORTH IT because if you make it through, a gushing waterfall awaits you in the final lap, which is apt for taking a bath and chilling in the waters. 

The trail is not really DIY, but if it intrigues you, you can enquire about the hike at the reception desk.

Hidden Waterfall in Bir Billing, Himachal Pradesh
The hidden waterfall in Bir Billing, Himachal Pradesh. Picture of her friend Vishv (hi!) by Pranavi Chhikniwala.

Camping in billing

Billing falls just a little North of Bir and can be reached by a 1-hr adventurous ride through rugged roads and forest of long pines. With equally beautiful sunrise and sunset views, Billing offers an even better mountainscape, which is more lush as compared to Bir. If you’d like to visit this place for more than just gliding down, you can consider pitching a tent up there for a night. You can follow this up by gliding down early in the morning the next day. 

If you go for this, it is advised that you reach Billing by at least 4 pm, so you have enough time to stroll around and check out food and camping options before it gets dark. Temperatures drop in Bir Billing with sundown, so carry enough clothing and cover too. It is also possible to hitchhike your way down, as Gypsys carrying paragliding equipment are always frequenting down empty.

Camping in Bir Billing, Himachal Pradesh
A windy evening at the paragliders' take-off site in Billing. Picture of Pranavi by her friend Vishv Doriwala.

Hang Gliding

A lesser-known sport in India, hang gliding involves taking a foot-launched solo flight, in an aluminium aircraft called a hang-glider. Yes, it is trickier than paragliding, which is why hang gliding is a sport in Bir only allowed to the professionals. Which is also why you don’t get to see it too often, but hey, it’s still a thing to observe if you come across it!

Best Places to Eat in Bir

A major part of your trip to Bir will be exploring the town’s food scene, as Bir is one of the best places to visit in Himachal for cafe hopping and hogging on good food on a holiday. The youth from various different megacities of India have come and made Bir their home, and a lot of them are running uber-chic cafes over here. These are some we liked the most.

Avva’s- The owners of this cafe, a lovely couple from Tamil Nadu have moved to the mountains permanently, to our delight! Aunty Avva makes the dishes on the menu herself, while uncle helps out in managing the counter and orders. It is easy to guess that they serve traditional South Indian, which can be relished with great views of the fields all around.

Avva's cafe in Bir Billing, places to eat in Himachal Pradesh
A plate of delicious dosa at Avva's with the view. Picture by Aditya Kaushik.

Musafir Cafe- One of the top-rated places to eat in Bir, the Musafir Cafe is known for its lip-smacking North Indian dishes. If you stop by for lunch or dinner, you’ll be glad to have one of their Indian curries with steaming hot butter rotis. You’ll be glad to meet Gaurav Kushwaha, the owner, who also organises Musicathon, Bir’s own flourishing biannual music fest.

Nyingma Kitchen- The town of monasteries and Tibetan culture obviously has to offer its cuisine too! Head to the Nyingma Kitchen for a traditional Tibetan meal of momos, thukpa, and shabaley, which are staple for a majority of the population of Bir Billing.

Northern Cafe- With splendid views of the mountains and secluded from the bustle of the Tibetan Colony, the Northern Cafe is your best bet for trying authentic Himachali food and enjoying the tranquil view for hours at a stretch.

June 16 Cafe- This is easily the most popular cafe in Bir if you want to binge on desserts and coffees. I tried the Creamy Mushroom Toast as well, which I have been recommending to travellers ever since.

Creamy Mushroom Toast, Cafe June 16, Bir Billing, Himachal Pradesh.
Creamy Mushroom Toast, Cafe June 16, Bir Billing, Himachal Pradesh. Picture by Pranavi.

Garden Cafe & Restaurant- Presenting you with a variety of dishes from salads to pizzas and a simple chai to pancakes, this place is the perfect garden restaurant for a dinner date.

Cloud Door & Glider's Pizzeria- Can’t really stay away from your favourite junk eats? Head here for the classic combo of pizza and a shake.

Silver Linings Cafe- Our favourite place for breakfast and pies, the Silver Linings Cafe in Bir is at walking distance from the paragliders’ landing site, and right opposite to Avva’s. Run by a bunch of young folks who left the city life behind, you’ll be hosted here by the fluffiest dog and a great spread of breakfast dishes.

Silver Linings Cafe in Bir Billing, things to do in Hmachal Pradesh
Aubergine sandwiches with Mangoffee pie at Silver Linings Cafe, Bir Billing, Himachal Pradesh. Picture by Pranavi.

Musicathon, Bir’s Own Music Fest

Music and mountains- this dynamic duo is the secret ingredient to a well-spent vacation. And luckily, Bir happens to host its own 3-day music festival twice a year. Organised by Musafir Cafe, Musicathon generously brings about a blend of different music genres together such as Indie, Classical, Sufi, Pop-rock and Folk. Other adventurous activities such as short treks and early morning yoga classes are also a part of the whole shebang!

Our hostels in Bir

Hosting travellers for more than 3 years, Zostel Bir is known more or less to be the pioneer of the backpacking culture in Bir. Only minutes of walking away from the popular cafes and the beautiful landing site, the hostel teems with an in-house cafe, a hang out shack, and a bustling common area. You can check it out here.

Monks pass by Zostel Bir, a backpacking hostel in Himachal Pradesh
The cafe of Zostel Bir.

We now also have another hostel here, Zostel Bir 2.0, which boasts of splendid views of sunrise and sunset, a bouldering wall, chic interiors, and all things lavish. All our dorms and rooms feature glass walls, helping us keep the place bright and blessed with a great mountainscape. With a leaf-shaped cafe, a tree deck, hammocks, and uber-cool hang out areas, this is as extravagant as it gets on a budget. Look at our hostel here!

The sunset view from a private room in Zostel Bir 2.0, backpacking hostel in Bir
The sunset view from Zostel Bir 2.0, a backpacking hostel in Himachal Pradesh. Picture by Pratyush & Shridhar.
Dorm room in Zostel Bir 2.0, backpacking hostel in Himachal Pradesh
The spacious, bright, and lavish dorm room of Zostel Bir 2.0. Picture by Pratyush & Shridhar.

Explore Himachal with Zostel

Lavishly decorated with lush green valleys guarded by mountains on all sides, the visual beauty of Himachal Pradesh needs no formal introduction. Be it a short weekend getaway or a prolonged holiday, Himachal’s enchanting rivers and tranquil monasteries welcome every traveller with open arms. Here’s a little guide to where to go and what to look forward to:

Dharamkot: A few kilometres up north of Dharamshala and even Mcleodganj, Dharamkot is a pretty little town in Kangra Valley that serves as the base for the popular treks of Triund, Bir 360°, and the Shepherd’s Trail. You can take a look at our hostel and the escapes we conduct around Dharamkot.

Dalhousie: Be it the splashing waterfalls, Kalatop Khajjiar Sanctuary or the offbeat hiking trails that lead you to some of the best places in Himachal, Dalhousie is a star up north in the Chamba Valley. Check out our wonderful hostel, Zostel Dalhousie here.

Manali: Other than the overall hippie vibe with scintillating views of the Himalayan foothills, the cherry blossoms in the month of March and early April at Zostel Manali are a sight to cherish. And needless to say, if you wish to behold the snowfall, there’s no better place.

Spiti Valley: Of cold deserts, pristine lakes and some of the world’s highest villages, no place in Himachal speaks of adventure and seclusion as Spiti Valley. And what better place to complete your circuit than staying at Asia’s highest backpacker hostel, Zostel Spiti. We’re also present in India’s last village on the Indo-Tibetan border with Zostel Chitkul, which will definitely add to your snow excursion up North.

In an attempt to make your stays more culturally authentic, we have more than 13 ZostelX Homes in very remote villages of Himachal. 4 of our homestays are less than 2 hours from Shimla (Kotgarh, Kotkhai, Theog and Cheog) and we have 2 in the crowned Spiti Valley (Tabo and Kibber) as well. Check out all our homestay destinations here.

About Zostel

We’re Asia’s largest chain of backpacking hostels, present in over 36 locations across India and Nepal. We’re basically here to help travellers like you explore the country without burning a hole in your pocket, for we believe in affordable accommodations and a rich travel experience. And hey, we’re not just about bunk beds! Best travel recommendations, everyday activities, gigs, workshops—we’re pretty social and we love it! And we’re quite sure you’ll love us too. Check us out here. 

P.S. if you’re looking for luxurious stays at offbeat locations, you should also check out our 13+ ZostelX homes.

Writer, Pranavi, Kanak Kundlani.