Snow-covered peaks, quaint villages resting on slopes, forests and lakes – and no, it’s not Switzerland… but a trip to the spectacular landscape of the Himalayas will be one of the first picks for everyone that is travelling to India.
Our Journey to North India begins on a flight from Delhi to the Himalayas. It is an unforgettable (and a bit scary…) adventure that lasts an hour and a half. The plane lands safely along the narrow airstrip alongside the River (Beas) in (Bhuntar). Once you enter the Himalayan region, a stunningly beautiful landscape is revealed. Snow-capped peaks, villages, green lush terraces, and deep gushing rivers.
Location: Himachal Pradesh
Best time: mid-May – mid-October
Bhuntar is the main town of Parvati Valley. Parvati Valley is a beautiful green landscape with steep slopes and scattered villages. Farmers can grow anything here, despite the difficult conditions. This is one of the favorite areas for backpackers and there are lots of guest houses and restaurants that serve Italian, Chinese and Middle Eastern food. There is also a strong party and drug scene due to the famous cannabis plantations that are grown in the area.
Up the road along the river brings us to the village of Kasol. This is the center of the backpacker scene in the valley. There are many signs in Hebrew due to the large Israeli backpacker scene here. It’s not authentic, but there is good food, shops, internet places and other services for almost everything you need in North India. Just north of Kasol on a bumpy bus drive is Manikaran. It is one of the important religious centers for Sikhism and there is a big temple on the banks of the river and hot springs. This is an interesting little town and very easy to walk around and soak up the atmosphere and the steams coming from the natural hot springs. There are also options to sleep, eat and shop. The visit to Parvati cannot be complete without climbing to one of the remote villages of the valley, a matter of four to six hours walk. There you can get a sense of feeling the pace of life in these idyllic mountains. One of my favorite places is the tiny helmet of Kiriganga. It contains only a few very basic guesthouses, but the pick of the visit is to sit inside the hot spring while surrounded by beautiful green mountains.
After leaving the slopes of ‘the valley of the backpackers’ we enter the Kullu Valley. The area is more ‘upmarket’ and has good restaurants and luxurious hotels for those requiring a rest day. From here the main road crosses the Himalayas and you pass through villages and small colorful market towns. It is worth stopping to admire the hill people along the way and learn about their lifestyle and view the beautiful landscape of the Himalayas.
Kullu is famous for its industry of unique scarves made from angora wool or pashmina. Pashmina scarf is made from the hair of the big and fluffy shepherd mountain goat. If it is not a must, try to avoid buying products made from this wool and help to prevent the cruel hunting of the animal. The Kullu men wear unique traditional caps called topi, and the women, meanwhile, wear colorful headscarves and dress fastened with silver pins and chains.
Kullu is a great place to celebrate the Indian festivals of Holi and Dussehra. The main attraction of Kullu is held every year around October where a 7-day festival is celebrated. All the local deities from the villages of the Himalayas are carried by devotees from the all-around the trans-Himalayan region to Kullu town. It’s a great folk festival full of colors, food, and music.
Another great attraction just north of Kullu is rafting on the river. It depends on the season and the condition and the flow of the river. A Trip to Manali town in the top north end of the valley takes about an hour and a half, without unplanned stops (which is often). You can take a picturesque detour from the main road and up to the scenic route to the village of Naggar. There stands an ancient castle with beautiful scenery around it and views of the valley.
How to arrive there
By Road: the distance from Delhi via Mandi is 530km and from Shimla this is 240km. There are luxury comfortable buses to Kullu and Bhuntar.
By Air: The airport at Bhuntar is 10km from Kullu, where taxis and buses are available.
By Rail: The closest narrow gauge railhead is at Jogindernagar, 95km from Kullu.