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 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 also offers hands-on service-learning programmes in green building, organic gardening, and other aspects of sustainable living.
  • Shantideva Homeopathic Research Institute (SHRI) occasionally offers programmes in homeopathy and healthy living.

Meditation

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

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 for short- and long-term visitors. Activities include green building (traditional adobe and bamboo eco-construction), organic farming, tree planting, trail building, etc. The best times to volunteer are October-December and March-May, but work can be done year-round for those who don’t mind the cold of winter and the rain of the monsoon season. Tent accommodation on donation basis. See Dharmalaya’s volunteer page for details.

Volunteer opportunities are also sometimes available, to qualifying candidates, at Deer Park Institute and Shantideva Homeopathic Research Institute. 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-Ganed walk: If you’re in Chowgan, there’s lovely village scenery on the walk heading northeast to Ganed.
  • 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.
  • Dharmalaya: Walk either from Upper Bir (starting where the road crosses the river at the west end of the village) or from the paragliders’ landing field at the west end of Chowgan, and walk through the forest to the Dharmalaya Institute on Dhanaari Hill in Ghornala. (See map to get your bearings.) This is one of the steeper walks if you take the forest trails, but gentler if you follow the (mostly unpaved and lightly traveled) roads.
  • 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).