Woke up with a beautiful feeling this morning courtesy my dream about Himachal Pradesh! The chirping birds, pitter-patter of rain drops on tin roof, the insect calls from the dense forests and the warmth of the sun in the wee-hours! It was more like meditation, waking up to your soul. This transported me to the days of travel; with my favourite set of people: my family and friends! Without dwelling too much on my state of mind, I’m going to share some of the must visit places in Himachal Pradesh.
1. Kullu anvas or in words and the niSarahan
Believe it or not, the moment you reach this glade after a journey through a forest of cedar and oak, a 12 kilometer off-road trail branching off from Baghipul, you will be awestruck! Once you’re there, make sure you don’t forget to visit a temple on the meadow that is dedicated to Shringi, the deity worshipped by the locals. Many who travel to Kulu Sarahan tend to trek further as it is the base camp for treks to Bashleo Pass leading to Batahad and Gushaini in the vicinity of the Great Himalayan National Park, Khanag (below Jalori Pass) and Sri Khand Mahadev.
Where to stay: You can either stay at the HP PWD rest house or camp in the open. My personal favourite is camping out in the open!
This is where I fell in love, wrote a book, composed a song, baked a cake and made a lot of money. Chindi sure is a dream: lush green and quiet. The mornings here sing a prayer with the birds as chorus and the forests as audience. The afternoons are like memories you would put on a canvas or in words; the nights are calm as a child put to sleep.
88kms from Chail Chowk and 130kms from Shimla, Chindi and nearby places have a network of trails which are bound to leave you spellbound. Treks from nearby Bakrote (2kms) leads to Shikari Devi Temple and Janjehli. Karsog and Pangna close to Chindiare are an absolute delight.
Where to stay: The HP PWD rest house (if you book in advance) is outstanding for its location and old world charm and the Mamleshwar Hotel run by HPTDC is fantastic for its food. There are a few guest houses, but amongst them my pick is Gopal guest house.
#3 Gadah Gushaini
Gadhi Gushaini is 33 kms from Jibi in Seraj Valley and 35 kms from Aut. From there you can walk to Chach Galu and from there to Jalori Pass or Magru Gla near Jhanjhelo. Don’t forget that It takes more than just a road to reach Gadah Gushaini in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh. You walk through dense forests, vast meadows, gentle streams and a tough trek trail. But, before you reach Gadah Gushaini you’ll come across Bahu, which is another gem of the district.
Where to stay: Choose from a guest house or an HP PWD rest house.
Barot takes you to that ‘once upon a time’ era courtesy the river Uhl, The Nargu Wildlife Sanctuary and the gorgeous trails to hike or bike on! The road from Barot now goes up to Badagaon from where you can hike to Bara Bhangal (shepherds countryside or the Gaddi Land) and the Rajgundha pass leading to Billing and Bir (Paragliding country). The yesteryear charm lies in the trolley that functioned until some years ago ferrying passengers from Jogindernagar. As far as the river Uhl goes, not many know that during the time Britishers ruled India, the river Uhl was harnessed to generate hydel power.
Go there to write your own story and include Prashar Lake, Bir, Billing and Palampur in your plan too.
Where to stay: Stay in an over a century old HP PWD rest house or go for basic home stays and guest houses that are neat and clean.
Janjehli is like a heart-beat and reminds me of the song Time by Pink Floyd. The lyrics go thus: ‘Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day, you fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way’.
True that there is nothing to do in Janjehli for those to whom long walks in solitude, photography and cycling mean nothing because they’re too caught up in their ‘go, get it’ lifestyles! Probably this is one of the reasons why such spots still don’t see many tourists. However, for those who love being amidst the works of wonder of Mother Nature, Janjheli is an ultimate paradise.
Approached from Chail Chowk and Pandoh (both on the Manali Highway) Janjehli is 45 kms drive from either side. The road leads to Chattri, which will take you further to Takrasi and futhenrther to Khanag and Jalori pass. Numerous hikes embark from Janjehli the most prominent one being towards Shikari Devi, Gada Gushaini.
Where to stay: Accommodation options are few with the HP PWD rest house, a HPTDC trekkers hut and camping on your own.
There is only one, over a hundred year old, HP PWD rest house here for accommodation.
Daran is actually a pass perched at 2900mts, on the original (read old) Hindustan-Tibet road. The views are commanding and numerous trails and bridle paths are ideal for hiking. The locals visit the Saraikoti temple regularly. Daranghati is a declared sanctuary and boasts of numerous species of flora and fauna.
To reach Daran from Narkanda (65 kms from Shimla) take the road leading to Baghi and from Baghi it’s a ridge line drive through Khadrala, Sungri, Bahli, Taklech and finally a 29 kms uphill off-road to Daranghati. From Daran you can trek to Mashnu and Kinnu village and even Sarahan that is famois for its Bhimkali temple.
Where to stay: If you cannot find accommodation at the HP PWD rest house you must camp in the open!
#7 Khara Pathar
Bang in the middle of Himachal’s apple orchards, highlighted by a huge egg shaped rock (hence the name) lies the effervescent village of Khara Pathar. Barely 85 kms from Shimla the drive to Khara Pathar is beyond one’s imagination! The energy of the place is invigorating and inviting at the same time. It will motivate you to hike and the options are plentiful. For instance the hike to see the Giri river that has a legend associated to it. It is believed that a saint was carrying Ganga water in his karamandal and when he reached the place where Giri rises the Karamandal fell from his hand. At that very moment he exclaimed “Ganga Giri”, which ultimately led to the naming of the river! Other than this, you can hike to Kuppar peak which will reward you with an expansive panoramic view of the Garwahl Himalaya. Or you can go to Rohru and Hateshwari temple that are 33 and 29 kms from Khara respectively. You can also cycle your way to Reo Ghati that have trails going up to Narkanda, Baghi, Ratnari and Kalbog.
Go to Khara Pathar during winters, or the apple blossom season for some spell-binding views! Cycling lovers and off-road enthusiasts should head to Reo Ghati for their thrills further leading on to Narkanda, Baghi, Ratnari and Kalbog.
Where to stay: HPTDC rest house run Giri Ganga Hotel and a few guest houses.
#8 Bijli Mahadev
Bijli Mahadev is the jewel of the Kullu valley, surpassing Kasol anyday. It is temple is located on a huge meadow with unmatched views of the Himalaya that greet you upon arrival. You will secretly wish to stay there forever. The temple has an interesting legend behind it. It is believed that the tall staff attracts the divine blessings in the form of lightning. It is believed that the priest of the temple has to restore the Shiva linga placed inside the temple using butter and sattoo after every lightning as it shatters to pieces with flash of lightning. Be there for the light within yourself and see it lighting up.
If approached from Kullu, a 12 km road will lead to Chansari village from where you climb a few steps to reach this heavenly abode. You can also start your journey from Naggar. Must warn you that the road is dangerous with some extremely scary cliff views that are mostly loved by bikers!
Where to stay: Perched at 2480 mt the only option is to camp out in the open.
Until a few years ago there was no road to Chanshal or Larot and trekking was the only option. But, now there is a road that goes past the Chnashal Pass (at 4600 mts above sea level) that leads one to Dodra and Kwar, twin villages untouched by tourists. The grand vistas are breathtaking and the meadows and slopes of the Chanshal valley are great for skiing during winters. Trails lead up to Sangla valley and Netwar in the Jaunsar Bawa region of Uttarakhand.
I would recommend biking, though no matter how you reach, this would remain one of your wildest trips for times to come.
Where to stay: Camp out or opt for home stay!
10. Pulbahal || Monalag
These two villages are 70kms from Shimla and located under the shadow of the highest mountain peak – Churdhar – in the outer Himalaya or the Shivalik range. They come under district Chopal and are marked by apple orchards, mountain streams and lush green conifer forests.
Where to stay: The rest houses of HP PWD and forest departments are a hark back to the old days of the Dak Bungalows and the best bet for accommodation until unless you want to camp out in the open. Make it a base camp for your hike to Churdhar peak.
Hope you’ll visit one or all of these in the days to come! ‘Explore, experience and evolve’!
Written By: Dhananjay Ahluwalia