From Shimla the main road winds west and north to the riverside market town of Mandi, an important crossroads linking the Kullu Valley and the hills to the northwest. The rolling foothills on this side of the state are warmer and more accessible than Himachal’s eastern reaches, though less dramatic and considerably lower. The area sees little tourism outside Dharamsala, the British hill station turned Tibetan settlement, home to the Dalai Lama. Dharamsala is an excellent base for treks over the soaring Dhauladhar Range to the Chamba Valley, which harbours uniquely styled Hindu temples in Brahmour and Chamba. South of Chamba, the fading hill station of Dalhousie still has a certain ex-Raj charm, and is popular with Indian tourists who arrive in droves during the hot season.
While most visitors make the six-hour journey to Dharamsala in one go, those with more time can detour to sacred Rewalsar, just outside Mandi, or stop in the Kangra Valley to pick up the narrow-gauge train that trundles through patchwork fields and light forest to Kangra, just an hour away from Dharamsala and jumping off point for a couple of little-visited places of interest.