Anywhere but Manali

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Anywhere but Manali

Looking for some offbeat destinations in Himachal Pradesh? We have you covered

Anywhere but Manali

India has numerous unexplored places yet to be discovered by travel enthusiasts. Recently, social media broke into a meme-feast as tourists crowded Manali streets sans any Covid-appropriate behaviour. There was another undated video in which hundreds were seen having a gala time at Mussoorie’s Kempty Falls. Forget social distancing, scores of people were seen without masks, bathing together and taking selfies at the waterfall. The weekend rush of tourists to escape the summer heat led to long traffic snarls in all parts of Mussoorie.
 
The current heat wave and delayed monsoons have triggered the population to fly to higher altitude places like Manali, Shimla and Mussoorie. Bored of all these cliché hill stations? Want a little adventure in the serene? 

Himachal Pradesh, a land that gives warmth to mind and soul, is one of India’s much-admired and lauded tourist destinations. Nestled between North India’s snow-capped Himalayas, the state sees visitors from far and wide to spend a wonderful holiday, whose memories cling for a lifetime. 

The main attractions for visitors are the magnificent hills, pristine valleys, ancient monasteries, rich heritage, and gleaming lakes combined with a serene atmosphere. A trip to this beautiful state's tourist destinations will help satisfy the wanderlust of all forms of travellers. Himachal Pradesh has something for everyone -- from nature lovers to honeymoon seekers, adventure lovers, pilgrimages and history buffs. We have a list of some offbeat destinations in the state, curated specially for you: 

Barot Valley

Barot is an off-the-beaten-track destination that is yet to gain the limelight. It has terraced fields, thick cedar forests, is situated along the Uhl River, and is surrounded by the Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas. The valley has been rightfully crowned as a “trekker’s paradise”. 

Rough terrains with freshly dusted snow and prickly grass on either side dominate the valley. At an altitude of 6,000 feet above the sea level, this unpolished gem of Mandi district is famous for its Trout Fish Farm.

The place is not just for the wanderlust adventurist, but also the perfect spot for a family vacation. Surrounded by comfortable stay homes and camping sites, it is a picnic destination that should be on the list of anyone who plans to visit Himachal.

From the aroma of the freshly prepared mustard oil, the sound of the Uhl flowing in the valley, the touch of the exquisitely embroidered shawls, to the sight of the beautiful landscape, Barot Valley is a complete feast.

Things to do:
Walk around the Uhl River
Safari at Nargu Wildlife Sanctuary
Visit Chuhar Valley – The village is also a no-tobacco zone and smoking here is strictly prohibited. The air around here is at its purest composition.
A historical walk through the Shanan Hydel Project
Trout fishing at Barot farm
Trekking through the infamous snow-laden trails

How to reach: 
Barot is 476 km from Delhi and about 25 km from Ghatasani, a village situated on NH-20 (Pathankot-Manali). Nearest places to this are Mandi and Jogindernagar. Few buses operated by State Roadways and private operators run between Palampur, Mandi, Jogindernagar to Barot. The nearest railway station is Jogindernagar while Gaggal (Dharamshala) provides air connectivity.

Kalga, Pulga and Tulga

These are three different villages but are commonly referred to as a “trio”. These were once the names of three sisters who lived in this valley centuries ago. Kalga and Pulga villages are more tourist friendly than Tulga and both are full of cheap guesthouses. 

Pulga is lined with narrow stone lanes and wooden houses with a very primitive village feel. There are many options available in Pulga. Most stays are pocket-friendly and if you wish to stay for long periods of time you will find suitable options at decent prices. 

Kalga village is perched above the dam project with many guesthouses set in the midst of apple orchards. Tulga is hidden deep above from the trail and has only a few options to stay. All the three villages are close-by and can be accessed within 30 minutes of each other.

Barshaini (also Barsheni) is the last place as far as where the road goes in the Parvati Valley. It is only 14 km beyond Manikaran and the road is constantly kept company by the Parvati river. Barshaini is a small village but it has all basic facilities including a medical shop, some guesthouses and dhabas, a taxi stand and an alcohol shop. 

The trail to Kheerganga, Tosh and the trio of Kalga-Tulga-Pulga starts from Barshaini. The recent construction activity of a bridge and dam over Parvati river has marred the natural beauty of this village, but it still remains in the must-visit list.

The walking trail begins from Barshaini. It is a 30 minute walk to the villages of Kalga, Tulga and Pulga. The path diverges from the overbridge built over the Parvati river. The villages and their houses are visible amidst lush fields and trees. There are dramatic views of clouds over the valleys under the gaze of snowy peaks. 

Things to do:
Nature walk in the Fairy Forest
Waterfalls: The waterfall is on the way to the fairy forest  
Visit Apple farms

Trekking options: 

Kutla: Kutla is a high-altitude meadow surrounded by forests on all sides and offers views of the snow-covered ranges of the Parvati valley. Kutla is situated 3 kilometres from Tosh. It takes around an hour to reach Kutla from Tosh.

Kheerganga: Kheerganga trek is also accessible from Tosh. 

Buddhaban: It is a grassland situated one hour away from Kutla and is on the way to Animal Pass or Sara Umga la Trek. 

How to reach:
To visit these villages, you need to take a taxi or a bus from Kasol to Barsheni. These villages can be accessed from Barshaini and are on the right side of the Paravati river. Nearest to Barshaini are Pulga and Tulga. The road to Kalga from Barshaini is surrounded by alpine forests.

Rashol

Rashol is a small village in the Parvati valley. Don't miss this village if you are in Kasol. It is a 8-km trek to Rashol and may take approx. 5-6 hours, depending on your speed. There are multiple cafes where you can eat during your trek. There are numerous stay options as well. You can book one room for Rs 500 for two persons. 

Rashol can only be accessed by trekking from Kasol through the Chalal village. As you cross Chalal, you will see “Magic Rasol” written on the rocks with arrows that will guide you to the place. The trek is easy and takes around 3 hours and gets steeper towards the end. Enjoy the tranquillity.

How to reach:
Cross the bridge over the Parvati river from Kasol to reach Chalal. From there, a trail will lead you to Rashol.

Banjar or Tirthan Valley

Places in Tirthan Valley and Banjar can be accessed by taking an overnight bus to Manali which runs from Delhi every evening. You need to get down before the Aut tunnel, from where you can get a bus or a cab for Banjar.

Things to do:

Jibhi and Ghiyagi: Jibhi is nearly 2 hours journey from the Aut tunnel on the Delhi-Manali highway. It lies in Banjar Valley and is at a distance of about 8-10 km from Banjar.

Sainj and Neuli: The road to Sainj and Neuli bifurcates from Larji, just before Banjar. Larji Dam is close to Larji village and is the first place of note after the road diverges from Aut.

Raghupur Fort & Saryolsar Lake: Saryolsar (also Serolsar) is a prettily-located small lake, accessed by a 6-km trek through beautiful oak and cedar forests from Jalori Pass.

Sarchi Village & Lambri Top: Sarchi is a tiny village located high up (approx 2,200 metres) in the mountains and is a base camp for the climb to Lambri Top. A dirt road goes to the village of Sarchi, which is 19 km from Gushaini.

Chaini Kothi & Shringa Rishi Temple: The road goes around 4 km from Jibhi towards Banjar, then bifurcates to an uphill turn to Shringa Rishi Bagi temple. There are two routes from here to reach the temple. You can take the stairs through the forest as well. 

Gushaini: Gushaini is a small village in the Tirthan Valley. It is located on the banks of the pristine Tirthan River. The village has rustic wooden cottages that add to the scenic beauty. 

Batahad: Batahad is perched at approx. 2,200 m at the end of the highest motorable road in Tirthan Valley and is the last stop for the bus. It is only 8 km from Gushaini and is located by the Flachan stream.

Pekhri Village: This village lies at approx. 2,100 m in the eco-zone of the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) and is accessible via a dirt road from Gushaini.

Jalori Jot: Jalori Pass connects the inner and outer Seraj valleys. The Shimla-Kullu region is situated at 3,221 m. It offers breath-taking views of the Dhauladhar and Kinnaur range.

Sojha: Sojha is 7 km from Jibhi and is a beautiful hamlet located at an elevation of 2,600 m. The village is slightly below the main road. There are two general stores that double up as homestays.

How to reach:
On your way from Chandigarh to Manali, about 40 km from Mandi, instead  of entering the Aut tunnel, take a right turn and the place is just 45 mins ahead from there.

Chindi – Karsog Valley

Karsong is peppered with temples that all link their histories back to the Mahabharata. The valley’s beauty lies in its painting-like scenery which has not been disturbed by rampant tourism.

Here the village economy is still governed by the fertile farms of the valley and the rich fruit orchards. You can visit an idyllic village and go back to a time where the incessant buzzing of social media notifications and honking tourist buses didn’t exist!

Chindi is yet another offbeat place in Himachal Pradesh, offering an inspiring set of beauty, peace and calmness. The valley is covered with thick forestland with apple orchards. The empty winding roads, cool breeze and breath-taking views are sure to leave one in awe. There is not much to do or see in the valley if you have come looking for things that make a typical hill station. Come here in search of solitude, peace, and a slower pace of life.

Things to do:

Trekking and hiking: Karsog is a base camp for many treks including the treks to Shikari Devi, Kamru Naag, Mahu Naag, and Dhamoon Naag. Apart from these major treks, the hills are full of deodar and pine trees.

Temple hopping: Some of the popular temples in the region are Chandika Devi Temple, Mamleshwar Temple, Mahunag Temple, and Kamaksha Devi Temple.

Village walks: If you see the Karsog Valley's map, you will be able to spot several small hamlets as well as bigger villages like Karsog and Chindi. These villages are built in traditional Himachali style and have families that have been residing there for generations. You can strike up a conversation with the locals and just explore the lanes of the villages and the Karsog market.

Apple picking: Karsog Valley is famous for its fertile lands which grow a wide variety of crops including wheat and corn. But it's specialty is the apple orchards which fruit between June and July. It is the perfect season to visit with your family and indulge in some fun. Many farms offer apple-picking experiences.

How to reach: 
Karsog Valley is about 109 km from Shimla and you can take the SH13 from Shimla towards Mashobra and Naldehra. The village of Karsog is about 85 km away from Naldehra. Even getting around in Karsog is fairly easy. The Chindi Karsog Valley is well connected by the road that is well-maintained. There are local buses that run through the main town and villages; however, the best option is to travel in your private vehicle. If you have a shoe-string budget or are a solo traveler, you can choose to hitchhike as well.
 
Pabbar Valley

Photo Credit: Snigdha Banerjee

This is one of the beautiful valleys in Shimla. Its beauty is yet to be explored by nature lovers. Snow points like Kharapathar, Kufri and Fagu add more beauty to this route.There are many options to explore: treks (Chandernahan trek, Buran trek, Chanshal lake trek). One can also explore the beautiful Chanshal Ghati. 

Pabbar Valley is not as famous as some of the other valleys of Himachal Pradesh. However, there are some stunning views waiting to be explored in the Pabbar region. Very close to Shimla, Pabbar Valley is the hidden, untouched wonder of the hill state. Deodar & oak trees, apple orchards, and the Pabbar are the defining characteristics of this valley.

Things to do:

Visit the Pabbar River

Sightseeing in Pabbar Valley: The entire terrain of the valley covers gems such as Kufri, Fagu, Theog, Kotkhai, Khara Patthar, Jubbal, Hatkoti, Rohru, Chirgaon, Chanshal, Dodra Kwar, and Mahasu which are well-known for views, snow-clad mountain peaks, rich flora and fauna, temples with ancient sculptures, lakes, rivers, etc. An outing through the valley by the banks of River Pabbar must not be missed.

Fishing in the valley: Freshwater fish like Trout, Golden Mahseer, and Goonch are commonly found in the river, making it a hot-spot for fishing and angling. With panoramic views, fresh air, and the scenic ambiance, fishing is bound to become a memorable experience.

Trekking options:

Chandernahan Lake

The Chandernahan Lake is situated at an elevation of 4,000 meters and is covered by snow for almost 8 months in a year. This lake is considered to be holy by the locals. The lake itself is breath-taking, as are the sweeping views from here. The trek from Janglik Village, the last motorable spot on the trek, will take you through dense pine, oak, and Rhododendron forests.

Rohru to Buran Ghati Pass

This trail goes through the lush green meadows, serene lakes, dense oak & deodar forests. Climbing up with the local shepherds to an altitude of 4,578 meters to reach Buran Ghati Pass is a unique experience. A trek from Rohru to Buran Ghati Pass will have you pass through small villages, far-reaching meadows, forests, lakes, and snow-covered mountains. The Buran Ghati Pass is a common route for shepherds going to Kinnaur and offers mesmerising views of the valley below.

Kharapathar to Giri Ganga

Even though you can reach Giri Ganga via road, the best way to experience the region is while trekking! Marking up at 8 km, the trek is well marked with the route well-identified. The trek starts near the Himachal Tourism Hotel in Kharapathar and goes towards Rohru.

You know by now our penchant for discovering, exploring, and sharing with you the untouched portions of the Himalayas. And today, we do you well – getting to an unexplored, yet, easily reachable region of Pabbar. 

How to reach: 
The picturesque valley of Pabbar is well-connected to Shimla via road. One can choose their preferred mode of transport to reach Shimla (by air, rail, or road), but from Shimla, roads are the best way to reach the valley. Rohru, the town closest to the valley, is an expedient point to reach from Shimla (or any part of the state). The state transport buses (Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation buses) are easily available. A bus ride from Shimla to Rohru would cost a mere Rs 50/- one way.

Malana

Photo Credit: Snigdha Banerjee
Photo Credit: Snigdha Banerjee

This is a small village in Himachal's Kullu district. This place is well-known for its history. The locals are believed to be the direct descendants of Alexander, a king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon. This place has its own laws and practices which show a great influence of the Greek administrative system. 

Things to do:

Trek to Kheerganga
Visit Manikaran 
Visit Tosh 
Enjoy Israeli cuisine

How to reach:

Malana village is connected to Kullu by three mountain passes. It can be reached from the Parvati Valley as well. The easiest way to reach is from Jari by hiring a taxi since no public buses ply to the village, which is 23 km away.

Travel wherever, but don’t forget these Covid-19 safety norms:

Avoid travelling to crowded places
Maintain a distance of 6 feet (2 meters) between you and others as much as possible
Avoid contact with anyone who is sick
Limit contact with frequently touched surfaces such as handrails, elevator buttons and kiosks 
If you must touch these surfaces, use hand sanitizers or wash your hands afterward
Wear a face mask in indoor public spaces and outdoors where there is a high risk of Covid-19 transmission, such as at a crowded event or large gathering
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
Cover coughs and sneezes
Clean your hands often. It’s especially important after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub your hands together until they feel dry
Refrain from eating or drinking while onboard public transportation. That way you can keep your mask on the whole time
Travel only if you are vaccinated 

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Happy travelling!