I have had this ardent wish to witness snow in Himachal Pradesh since last year. The pandemic from last year did hit all of us bad. Last November, after I made a trip to North Bengal, I wanted to go up north somewhere in Himachal or beyond. I saw many travelers made their way either to enchanting Kashmir or Manali or even to Spiti to witness the first spell of snow. And so did I wish but couldn’t plan as such, because of my back-to-back cycling events.
In January of 2021, when I was in my best of mode (or rather beast mode) in terms of fitness, I met with an accident and ruptured my ligament once again, which called off all my riding and as well travel plans for some time.
The reason I am mentioning this story is because, that is how my Himachal Pradesh trip panned out after two months of almost being bedridden.
So this was the spring of 2021, March, and I could barely walk properly and was clearly prohibited to do any adventure or stressful activity for an indefinite time. My state of mind and motivation was at an all-time low to think or work creatively any further. And I was simply craving to head out somewhere, just to reboot. Although the period was such that the second wave was slowly picking up but still didn’t make its way towards my city.
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Onward Manali- Tourist pilgrimage in Himachal Pradesh
So, there was this one day, an old friend of mine (ok my bestie from school days) called me up and we were discussing our similar mental state and the need to head out. This was when we came up with the idea of going for a trip somewhere to meet each other after 7 years. Although neither of us wanted to visit each other’s city because of the corona pandemic. Somehow, we both wanted to visit Himachal Pradesh. I was a bit apprehensive initially, as I was not fully fit to travel that too in a mountainous place. But, nevertheless, the excitement to be able to meet her was far more than any other thought.
Hence, we decided to meet in Himachal Pradesh. Now the next step was to choose the places we wanted to visit. The choice was endless but the time I had was limited, along with my medical condition. After much permutation and combination, we decided to start from Manali and then go with the flow.
To start with, it was after a considerable gap I was traveling to Himachal Pradesh, so I got a reasonable amount of unsolicited advice on traveling to offbeat places like Chitkul, Sangla or maybe Grahan, Pulga side. Somehow, I wasn’t very keen on traveling a lot and also had this inexplicable wish to visit Manali after almost 25 years. Yes, you read it correctly, it had been that long since I had last visited Manali-Shimla’s side .
So, the vivid memories of Manali vibes, Rohtang Pass, Kullu or Kufri were endearing to me. And at the same time, I was equally excited to meet my dear friend and to be able to finally travel with her after 20 years of knowing each other. Considering we both love to travel so much, strangely enough, we did not travel together before this.
It felt too much of a task initially to plan the route’s journey, place of stay etc because I was clearly out of habit to go through this planning since the pandemic times. Also, with my impending knee injury, we both knew that I had a limitation to travel extensively on this trip. So keeping all this in consideration, we decided to go unplanned and start our journey from Delhi by bus to reach Manali.
Things I did in Manali – 2 days
So we landed in Delhi and took the overnight bus to Manali next day from Majnu ka Tila. I had to book a front seat for the extra leg space. At the crack of dawn the next day, the first sight of winding vistas of the Himalayan range brought back all those fond memories from my childhood years. We landed in Manali around half past noon and took a local taxi towards Old Manali to drop us at our hostel. We decided to check into this pretty-looking Orchard House in Old Manali as it had great reviews and a good location.
After the taxi dropped us in Old Manali, we had to carry our luggage (as I was carrying a strolley because of a knee issue) through a village in order to reach the hostel. There were a couple of other hostels nearby but this one looked pretty in terms of management, cleanliness, and good vibes. Factors that matter to me about choosing any such place are the owner and the management have to be friendly and efficient.
In the evening, I hiked up to Manu Temple which was just about a few meters from our hostel.
Walking through the old Manali alley in the evening did bring back all the fond memories from the past. Since it was the end of March, there were very few tourists around instead I met mostly travelers on a workcation, who had made Manali as their base to work and explore. The reason they choose Manali is because of good internet connectivity, accessibility to different off-beat places, cozy cafes, and most importantly good vibes. In fact, it felt a little odd at first to be the only old hags out there who had no work plans, and instead, all the others were actually busy working the whole day.
Next afternoon, we decided to go to a nearby village, Burwa to meet one friend of ours and come back post-lunch. Burwa happens to be a small village perched in upper Manali on the way to Sissu. But later did we find ourselves not only soaking in the magical vibes of this quaint village but conversations over the laid-back evening and groovy music did make us stay back here at this place.
Infact next day we decided to pack our bags and come to Burwa to stay at this place. Since we were totally unplanned about our travels, hence were pretty much flexible. So two days were just spent happily soaking in the vibes of residential Manali away from the commercialization.
Exploring Hallan (Quaint village in Himachal Pradesh)
Next day my friend who was staying in Halan Village near Naggar came to pick me up and we drove off to his place of stay. Halan is a small village near Naggar Town and takes around 1.5-2 hrs to reach from Manali. There is not much to be seen out there but one can just stay there for an offbeat experience by hiking/exploring / or just relaxing in the lap of mountains. I stayed there at a beautiful place called Possiville, for the next three days and spent my holi with a bunch of like-minded young travelers. Honestly, I was just so content to be present in those moments that I didn’t feel like venturing out much.
I think Halan Village is just perfect for slow travelers/writers / creative minds who prefer to slow down or take a break from the daily rush. In fact, I was in a way, glad that my Himachal trip was turning out to be more of meet and greet and not ticking out shit loads of places to be seen.
For the next two days, all I did was laze around, talk to different travelers at the homestay and run a few errands.
Naggar Castle is quite close to Halan Village, It is easily accessible by state buses, private cabs or even by hiking down there on foot.
It is a medieval-style castle built by Raja Sidh Singh of Kullu in around 1460 A.D, but later to preserve the architecture, it has been converted into a government-run Heritage hotel which is open for tourists.
Exploring Tirthan Valley
After Hallan, I had plans to explore Tirthan Valley as I had heard a lot about this place. Tirthan Valley is another hideaway place in the heart of the Kullu District. In fact, it is a cluster of many secret getaways which caters to all range of travelers from budget travelers to luxury travelers. I would say that Tirthan Valley offers all kinds of adventure activity opportunities right from fishing, trekking, hiking, bird watching or simply exploring waterfalls. It has plenty of camping options as well as a luxury retreat for a perfect rejuvenating holiday.
What I felt personally is that Tirthan Valley and its surrounding areas mostly cater to family or couple-oriented people who like their solitude in the lap of nature.
As with the name, river Tirthani remains the heart of the entire Tirthan Valley. There are plenty of waterfalls and trekking routes that can be explored by adventure seekers or nature lovers.
Jalori Pass is a popular destination one should visit while staying in Tirthan Valley. Also, there are famous lakes one can trek to such as Serolsar Lake and Prashar Lake. But due to my limitation, I promised to visit them next time.
Chaini Kothi remains to be another popular sightseeing place that is frequented by tourists while staying in Tirthan Valley. It is a 400-year-old fortress now turned the temple of local Goddess Jogini which is also said to be the tallest free-standing monument built in the Himalayan region in the 17th century. I had reserved 5 days for Tirthan Valley and decided to stay in two homestays. First was Brown Dipper Homestay which is right on the other side of Tirthan River and one has to take ropeway to cross the river in order to access homestay . The way to the homestay is through rocks and boulders across the other side. So, I decided to park myself here for two days.
Next and my last destination was to explore another homestay that was perched in the absolute wilderness of Flachen Valley. Flachen Valley is a little ahead of the main areas in Tirthan Valley and is less frequented by tourists. The homestay is located at quite a downhill walk through pebbles and boulders off Flachen side, and it has a river gushing by its side. The panoramic views of the forest covering the entire hilly terrain were an extraordinary combination. And this place is still miles away from the jolts of commercialization. The homestay has just two rooms in the entire cottage and is run by a sweet couple.
They fed us with delectable local Himachali food made out of sheer love and care. We also caught some fresh Tirthani Trout fish and experienced the joy of barbequing the same under the starry lit night skies.
For the last two days, I think it was my perfect unwinding moment in the lap of absolute serenity. The sound of chirping birds, river gushing was all too soothing for my restless mind.
With a heavy heart but a content mind, I bid the place goodbye after two days and made my onward journey back to Delhi.
So summing up my 10 days in Himachal Pradesh, here is how I had planned
- 2 Days in Manali town and surrounding
- 3 Days in Halan / Naggar Town
- 3 days in Tirthan Valley
- 2 days in Flachan Valley
Covid Norms in Himachal Pradesh
The period I went, Rt-PCR test was not asked on entering a state, however, as a precautionary measure, I got it done from Kolkata before leaving and also after returning. It is advisable to wear a mask at all times no matter what the situation is?
There are no quarantine rules whatsoever in Himachal Pradesh, but still, it is advisable to maintain covid protocols of social distancing at all times. For now, it is best to get yourself vaccinated and then to travel but then covid risk should always be taken into consideration as no place is safe.
My Two Cent on Himachal Pradesh
If you want to plan 10 days to 2 weeks trip in Himachal Pradesh, then one has to choose a route, where the travel is more or less within 4-5 hours each day or else traversing from east to west may let you waste the entire day and will be tiring.
I started from Manali and traveled mostly in Kullu District covering Tirthan Valley, Kullu and Naggar hence the travel wasn’t much. For traveling to Eastern Himachal Pradesh that is the Kinnaur district, travel will be extensive and of long duration. So, then one has to base it out from Shimla and upward. And for Western Himachal, Dharamshala could be the place to start the journey from.
Himachal Pradesh is well connected through road and Air. Some of the important airports to reach each base is as following
-Bhuntar Airport for Kullu Manali
-Gaggal Airport in Kangra for reaching Dharamshala (Mcleodganj)
– Jubbarhatti airport for reaching Shimla
However, All these airports have very few frequencies of flight so the nearest major airport is either Chandigarh or Delhi and then travel by road.
State buses and Himachal tourism buses are very comfortable and luxurious to travel long distances.
Himachal Pradesh is a fertile and agriculturally rich state, it produces several organic vegetables. So, each region has different cuisine and style. Himachali Kadi is something that was worth the mention. Also, I loved home-cooked lamb curry at one of the locals in Manali.
Another must-try food/snack is Sidu which is a bread stuffed with either mashed boiled green peas, roasted peanuts, walnuts, paneer (cottage cheese) and is usually paired with dal (lentils), ghee, and green chutney.
Apart from that, Tibetan food preparation is easily available all throughout Himachal Pradesh, especially on the tourist side.
Himachal Pradesh is mostly suitable all throughout the year so it depends on what one wishes to see. For the Apple/ plum season, Sept- Nov is a good season.
Of Course, when it’s snowing, in winter’s i.e Dec- march. It is wonderful to witness the fresh snow.
For trekking and flower season, one has to visit in April-July.
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Himachal Pradesh can never be covered in one go and multiple trips to each region can only let you explore this beautiful state fully. Hence, if you like to share with me any interesting stories or about any place that I should visit in Himachal Pradesh, do write to me in the comments section. As beautiful as the place is, the serenity all year round, makes Himachal Pradesh one of the most beautiful states in India.
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So well articulated and detailed. Thank you Vagabong for this insight into Himachal
A Trip to the Land of the Gods against All Odds. You made this trip against the backdrop of a cycling-related injury and when people were apprehensive about the effects of the Covid-19 second wave. A 10-day mountainous retreat to Himachal in March targeting different types of travellers to popular and offbeat places is what we all need to recharge ourselves with an extra dose of positivity. Well articulated with colourful memories, some of which have a place in history.
thank you so much.