Bir Activities: What to Do in Bir

Learning | Meditation | Paragliding | SightseeingVolunteering | Walks & Treks


Special Events

See our Bir Events Calendar for listings of special events in the greater Bir area.

Learning

  • Deer Park Institute and Dharmalaya Institute both offer periodic classes, retreats, and seminars on a variety of topics including philosophy, meditation, health, ecology, and more. Accommodation is available at both centres (for programme participants only).
  • Dharmalaya Institute also offers hands-on service-learning programmes in earthen building, organic gardening, and other aspects of sustainable living.
  • Shunya Farm in Upper Bir occasionally offers permaculture workshops.

Meditation

  • Both Deer Park and Dharmalaya offer periodic meditation courses and retreats (see their respective websites for details and schedules).
  • Dharmalaya Institute sometimes hosts weekly group meditations (usually March-May and Oct-Dec) following the curriculum of Mingyur Rinpoche’s Tergar Meditation Community.
  • There is a Sikh centre for silent meditation retreats in Ghornala.

See our Meditation Courses & Retreats page for more information.

Paragliding

One of Bir’s biggest draws for outdoors enthusiasts and thrill seekers is paragliding. Bir is regarded by international paragliding groups as the second best site in the world for paragliding (after Lake Como in Italy).

The launch point is at approximately 2400 metres (7874 feet) in the meadow on the top of a ridge at Billing (14 km north of Bir), and the landing area is in the fields at the western edge of the Tibetan Colony in Chowgan.

See our Paragliding page for more information.

Sightseeing

  • Bir Tea Factory is a longstanding Bir cooperative, which offers tours for those interested in the process of tea production. It is situated just at the bottom (southern, downhill) end of the main Bir Bazaar (in the centre of Bir proper).
  • Chokling Monastery (a.k.a. Pema Ewam Chögar Gyurme Ling Monastery) is the seat of Neten Chokling Rinpoche, a prominent reincarnate lama in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and the director of the film Milarepa. The imposing stupa in front of the monastery and the grand statue of Padmasambhava in the main hall are the principal attractions for casual visitors. In addition to its ongoing programmes for its full-time monastic students, the monastery periodically hosts Buddhist ceremonies open to the public. There is a guest house and restaurant on the premises. It is located off of the southern side of Chowgan Road, west of the main strip of shops of the Tibetan Colony but just east of the road to Deer Park.
  • Palyul Chökhorling Monastery has an unusual and well-executed collection of white-on-black tantric murals in its main assembly hall. It is located on the north side of Chowgan Road, just east of the central intersection of the Tibetan Colony.
  • The various privately owned tea gardens of Chowgan are scenic spots for a leisurely stroll. (For other walks and treks, see below.)
  • Further afield in Baijnath, the 800-year-old Shiva temple is well worth a visit.

Volunteering

The Dharmalaya Institute offers volunteer and service-learning opportunities (by application only, minimum three-week commitment required). Activities include earthen building (traditional adobe and bamboo eco-construction), organic farming, tree planting, trail building, etc. See Dharmalaya’s volunteer page for details.

Volunteer opportunities are also sometimes available, to qualifying candidates, at Deer Park Institute and Shunya Farm. See their respective websites for details.

Walking: Day Hikes & Longer Treks in the Bir Area

  • Chowgan tea gardens: Take a leisurely stroll through the gently sloping tea gardens of Chowgan.
  • Chowgan-Gunehr walk: If you’re in Chowgan, there’s lovely village scenery on the walk heading northeast to Gunehr.
  • Upper Bir river walk: Follow the river upstream through the forest to the river pools and waterfalls above Upper Bir. Steeper than some of the other walks.
  • Sherab Ling: A delightful and mostly reasonably level walk though the forest from Chowgan or Lower Bir to Sherab Ling monastery in Upper Bhattu.
  • Longer treks: It is also possible to trek from Bir to a number of beautiful spots that take a day or more to reach: the hot springs in the next valley, north of Ghornala, as well as to Bara Bangaal, Manali, and even further into Zanskar and Ladakh. Ask around for tips (try a travel agent, your guest house, or a taxi driver).

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