Posts

Kullu Valley is one of India's best travel offers

Explore Kullu Valley- The Authentic Way (And Take a Small Literary Detour)!

Here’s an unfortunate fact for you During your next visit to India, Kullu Valley might be your greatest miss. You may head back home after passing through it without even knowing you’ve just missed the best traveling experience India can offer.

Now, there’re two reasons why you’re going to cross paths with Kullu Valley (if you’re planning a trip to India between April – October)

One being that Kullu is the main gateway to Ladakh and to Spiti Lahol.

The second is that you’ve been advised to stop by Manali, Kullu Valley’s No. 1 tourist attraction.

So, there’s that. Now please – do yourself this favor and give this amazing area the chance it deserves.

 Instead of starting off with the obvious ’10 top travel destination in Kullu Valley’, let’s kick it with a really fresh twist, like a really imaginative reference to a great piece of Russian literature!

Nicolai Gogol

Nicolai Gogol

Didn’t see that one coming, did you?  

Gogol’s Praise of the Mundane

In his masterpiece Dead Souls, the Great Russian novelist Nikolai V. Gogol  describes one of the most memorable moments ever written in modern literature, in our opinion at least.

It starts with the moment of a traveler’s homecoming after a long and tedious journey on the roads.

… At last espies a familiar roof and lights in the windows, and then he enters the familiar rooms, hears the joyous cries of the servants running out to meet him, the happy excitement of the children and his wife’s comforting, quiet speeches, interrupted by ardent embraces… and so on.

Home sweet home, huh?

But then Gogol takes a twist in the tale.

He starts by telling us how fortunate and great is the writer who can pass by all the mundane and trivial, all the raw and everyday-like, only to extract and depict

       “… The characters who manifest man’s lofty dignity, the writer who out of the maelstrom of images that spin past him every day has selected but a few rare exceptions… has never descended from his heights to his wretched and paltry fellowmen and, without even touching the ground, is completely absorbed in his remote and exalted images.

Here comes Gogol’s great moment of self-realization, of total exposure. The whole reason why we’re suddenly discussing Russian literature in a post about travels in India.

Check out the following:

… And different is the destiny of the writer who dares summon forth all that is constantly before our eyes, yet that which indifferent eyes do not see: all the terrible, shocking mire of trivia which enmesh our lives, the full depth of the cold, fragmented, humdrum characters… the writer who has dared with a bold stroke of his remorseless chisel to display them in full and vivid relief to the eyes of all men!

Wow, Gogol was not kidding around here…

What Gogol basically says here is – give mundane a chance. Just forget for a second about romantic images of great expectations, about a once in a lifetime experience, about escaping the everyday and other such promotional slogans. God is in the details. And so is India.

Connecting the dots already?

So let’s get back to it. India it is.

Soaking yourself in the mud of life is the only way to write, to live and (in our case) to… Travel.

The same way Gogol didn’t want to compromise on his literature, you shouldn’t compromise on the authenticity of your travelling either.

So let us just say that if Gogol had to plan a trip to Kullu Valley, he would have probably told you that it all boils down to one of these two options…

Which Option Do You Prefer?

1. Travel safely to the ‘Top 5 Highlights’ destinations. This way, you won’t miss on anything in the books or on what your travel agent has told you. All those places will be staged for you, wrapped up in a shiny cellophane paper and be handed over to you as a nice souvenir. Looking up towards the starts (touristy highlights) can be done from everywhere; it doesn’t matter where you are.

Or…

2. Play wild with your choices as a traveler and mingle with the mundane. Come down to Ground Level. Dig in and engage with locals, see how they live: in their houses, their fields, their schools, their shops and markets, their temples, their restaurants. Only this way you’ll realize the ‘little things’, the subtle things that make a place what it is. This and nothing but this can expose you to their story, even if it does turn out to be “an exalted image“.

So, which one is it?

Faces of Kullu Valley

Engage with the locals and not with ‘travel agents’…

For a Well Rewording ‘Ground Level Exploration’ In Kullu Valley, What You’ll Need Is a Good Base Camp

Digging in Kullu valley is an outstanding opportunity for you so observe a very special kind of belief system which includes shamanic rites, black magic traditions and all sorts of esoteric religious practices. Surprisingly, it has all been integrated with the orthodox Hindu religious practices.

The spectacular Kullu temple architecture as a backdrop for the religious scene makes the experience even more enticing.

You’ll get to see how people survive in the remotest regions on earth – farming their lands and managing to maintain a self-sustained economy under the roughest conditions you can possibly think of.

There are also the nomads (not ‘Nomads’ as in the titles for traveling websites or blogs) who roam the upper parts of the region and herding their cattle along the alpine meadows.

Nomads on the upper parts of Kullu valley

Nomads on the way to the Chandrkhani Pass

To get it all in full scale, you’ll have to spend some time in the valley and not only to cross path with it. We recommend a stay of at least 7 days to get a glimpse of what’s happening. But for that you’ll need a good base camp.

Now, sorry to let you down, but Manali just won’t do the work. It has completely lost the Kullu vibe.

You’ll need a place which right at the center of the valley; A place that managed to keep the special atmosphere of the valley yet can still provide solid tourist services.

Don’t worry, we’ve got something for you!

So stay tuned because we are about to tell you soon ( very soon ) where your Kullu experience must begin…

Over to You

Are you a Galaxy traveler who’s after the top destinations or you preferring Ground level explorations?

Pangaun Monastery Kullu

The Beauty Which Guidebooks Often Miss – Pangaun Monastery

Here’s a question for you:

If I would tell you about a place to visit which is not mentioned in the Lonely Planet or any other guide book, would you consider it not worthy?

I met a guy few days ago who answered YES.

This post is for those who would answer NO. 

It might be easy to say ‘no’ right now when you’re sitting in front of the computer but when you’re out there, on the road it’s getting tougher. 

Why? Because we all want to play it safe.

Your holiday clock is ticking and what has been verified by the major guidebooks is probably worthwhile visiting, while the rest is presumably a waste of time (that you don’t have).    

Apart from that, the guide books give you some sense of security. They all provide detailed information on where to sleep, what to eat and where, how to reach there, and how to go back. It is fundamental and reassuring.

But there’s a price for that.

It is the lack of being exposed the authentic layers each place you’ll be visiting. Whether you like it or not, travelling with highly authoritative guidebooks can get you to read them not as suggestions but as imperatives. And you are not alone here. Everybody’s travelling with guidebooks even if they have a local guide with them who knows the places much better than any book.

So here’s a suggestion which is not mentioned in the guidebooks. It has been left deep down under the radar of guide books and at the shadow of the major tourist attractions surrounding it. 

It is called Pangaun Monestary. It is a Buddhist Monastery (Gompa) in the Indian Himalayas in the state of Himachal Pradesh.

Inside the Pangaun Monastery

Oil lamps at the front hall inside the Pangaun monastery. Photo by Elad Greenberg

Here’s Why you should visit Pangaun Monastery

Pangaun monastery is one of the lesser-known Buddhist monasteries in the Indian Himalayas. Here you won’t find endless lines of tourists for the 6 a.m. Puja like at the Tikshey monastery in Ladakh. With no flashes from cameras and no TV teams from some geographical channel, the Pungau monastery is isolated in its peacefulness.

This monastery is probably one of the most awe-inspiring beauties I’ve seen. It hangs on a steep cliff above the Beas River between vast areas of apple orchards. Out at the monastery’s main courtyard, you’ll find spectacular views over the Beas River and Kullu Valley.

Add to this the kindness and the hospitality of the nuns and monks and you’ll get a must-see location, simply because it will warm your heart.

A Little Background About The Pangaun Gompa and the Nyingma sect

This peaceful Gompa (Monastery) belongs to the Nyingma sects; that is, one of the four main sects of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Nyingma school, is the oldest of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. It was founded in Tibet during 742-797 CE. The tantric masters Shantarakshita and Padmasambhava were the first to introduce Buddhism in Tibet.  According to Tibetan Buddhist mythology, that changed when Padmasambhava challenged the local gods of Tibet and converted them to Buddhism. The gods agreed to become dharmapalas (Dharma protectors). From then on, Buddhism has been the principal religion of the Tibetan people.

Padmasambhava is said to have had twenty-five disciples, and from them a vast and complex system of transmission lineages developed.

 

Splendid views from the Pangaun Monestary

Splendid views of Kullu valley

The Chinese invasion of Tibet and the 1959 uprising caused the heads of the major Nyingmapa lineages to leave Tibet. Monastic traditions re-established in India while Lama Thubten E-vam Dorjey Drag has been settled in Himachal Pradesh.

Until recent time the Nyingma was the only school of Tibetan Buddhism that never aspired to political power in Tibet. Although the Nyingma School never had a head, in exile a series of high lama have been appointed to the position for administration purposes.

The Alternative way of the Pangaun Gompa

Unlike most monasteries, with the Pangaun both nuns and monks study in the monastery. They all live in small units (condos) above and below the monastery, cooking their own food, and maintain separation between their duties to the community and their own personal lives, at least to some degree. The fact that the nuns and the monks are living outside of the monastery creates a special atmosphere reminiscent of a small Tibetan village.

Most of the Lamas originally belong to Kinnaur district, and they all need to pay tuition for studying in the Gompa. This is rather uncommon for Buddhist monasteries, which are mostly financially supported by donations.

The wheel of Dharama at the main terrace

The wheel of Dharama at the main terrace

 

The Gompa was founded at the mid 60th by the Guru Kinbo Tupden who had come to meditate at the caves above the nowadays Gompa. It didn’t take long for many followers to come close and settle down near their spiritual master.

The religiously tolerant attitude prevalent in Kullu valley was perfect for many Tibetan people to come over and make this place their home. Patlikhul the major town between Manali and Kullu was blasted with Tibetan people back then.

How to reach Pnagaun Monastery?

Either if you’re coming from Manali or from Naggar you first need to get to Patlikul. It is the nearest town to the Pangaun Monastery and located exactly in between Manali and Kullu.

From Patlikul’s bus stand you can grab a taxi for a 6 km drive. It should cost you around 200 Rupees. The taxi will drop you just above the monastery and from there you’ll have to walk in the small allies down to the entrance of the monastery.

 Don’t worry about the way back. You can send the taxi driver back you’ll be returning on a different way.

Much better way…

A Special Bonus For Those Who Will Be Visiting This Unique Gompa

Behind the Gompa there’s a small trail that will drop you off at the Manali- Kullu Road. It’s a carousal gate at the back of the main building. If you can’t find it just ask one of the Lamas they’ll show you the direction to this backdoor. The Lamas use it when they go to Patlikul, to bring food and other supplies to the monastery.

The 1.5 km fantastic trail is a real candy. It’s a nice and easy walk downhill passing through apple orchids. It’s the kind of walk that will make you feel like you’ve just been dropped into the story Alice in Wonderland.

Within 30 minutes you’ll hit the Manali – Kulu main road, from where you can grab any bus that passes through – they’re all go to Patlikul. The 10 minutes ride will cost you 5 Rupees.    

 Now over to you

Have you been ever visited a place which hasn’t been covered by guidebooks and asked yourself: how the hell did they all miss it?

The Jana waterfalls story

The Incredible Story of The Jana Waterfalls: From Zero to 150,000 Tourists Annually

If you’d ask me why I love travelling,I would say it’s because I am crazy about the stories. Travelling allows us to be exposed to stories all the time. Eventually, when we look back at the colorful mosaic of our journeys, the story is what holds all the pieces together.  It is the glue.

A story is a medium of communication and engagement with the local culture. It makes you listen. It reminds you that what you see are real people with real voices. In other words,they’re not just objects on the other side of our camera lens.

Sometimes it seems that recalling stories (or listening to them) is a little bit like browsing a huge photo album. You just scan them, page after page, mechanically.

But there’s the BANG factor…

There’s always an Image lying in the massive pile thatclicks those buttons and forces us to stop. It’s almost irresistible.It gets straight to the heart.

Hearing stories is just the same. Sometimes, very rarelythough, you get to hear a story thatclicks those buttons.

But that is exactly the kind of story I heard when I was at Jana waterfalls in the KuluValley in Himachal Pradesh.

So, here’s the story of a successful entrepreneurship in the dense forest of the Himalayas.

A Poor Himachali Farmer Who Had Cracked the System (Big Time)

When I first came to see what all the fuss about Jana waterfalls was about, I was awfully disappointed. I just couldn’t figure out why this place attracts so many people when there are much more impressive waterfalls in the Himalayas…

I was wandering around a few Dhabas (local restaurants) near the waterfall trying to understand, looking allover to find out what else was there. When I realized that there’s nothing more, I finally sat down to have a lunch in the Dhabaright next to the waterfall pool.

Man, the food was damn good!

That was a relief. I didn’t come all the way just for nothing.

I got a lead. The first piece of the incredible story of the Jana waterfall puzzle wasrevealed in my mouse.  It was a local festival made of forest herbs that had been picked up in the woods and put on my plate.

When I was having a chat a few days later with Mani Ram, the guy who owns the Dabha,I asked him how he was able to prompt this place to become such a successful tourist attraction.He mentioned the food tweak.

Other people mentioned Mani Ram’s persistence as the main reason for the success of the Jana waterfalls as a tourist attraction.

A start up in the dense forest of the Himalayas – The story of Jana waterfalls

A start up in the dense forest of the Himalayas – The story of Jana waterfalls

So here’s how a Himachali Farmer Succeeded Where the Sharpest Folks in the Industry Sometimes can’t…

Twelve years ago, Mani Ram was a farmer. Like many other Kullu farmers, he had a little apple orchard and small pasture fields for his cows.

But then he decided to change the course of his life.

He managed to pull off what the sharpest folks in the tourism industry are all craving to do, and that is to create a new tourist attraction. It took him 12 years to bring approximately 120,000 annually to Jana waterfalls. He anticipates that next year the number will rise to 150,000 tourists.

You can imagine that Mani Ram never graduated from Harvard Business School, he never worked a single day in a travel agency company to learn some tricks,and he had not even a single rupee in his pocket for an initial investment.

If he would have come to the bank to get a loan for opening a restaurant in a place where bears and leopards are the only potential customers, I assume that he would have been kicked out the door.

He didn’t even have the time to work full time on his ‘Jana waterfalls’ because he was so occupied in his daily war to survive. All the people in his village thought Mani Ram was crazy to pursue his vision.

What Was in Jana Waterfalls Before You Started the Whole Journey?

“Twelve years ago,Jana waterfalls was just a spot where local farmers from Jana (the nearby village) came with their herds to rest. It was all jungle.”

Jungle is a general term used all over India to describe uncultivated land. In this case, it’s a dense pine forest whichis very typical to the lower parts of the Himalayas.

“It was also a place for people to stop the on the old road from Naggar, the ancient capital of the Kullu district, to the famous Bijli Mahadev temple,” he continued.

Okay… how, then, does a farmer who is working so hard to make his living decide to open a ‘start-up’ in a place where there is simply nothing there?

“See,” he said “from time to time I used to see some foreign tourists trekking on this route going to visit Bijli Mahadev temple, which is 24 km away and above Kullu City. Although I wasn’t able to speak with them because I don’t speak English, it was obvious that some tourists do come here.”

“One day a group of five Western people had stopped by the waterfall pool. They had been trekking from Bijli Mahadev. We had a bit of a talk. Suddenly one of them told me: ‘You know, Mani Bhai( brother,) if there was a small Dhaba for the passers and goers it could have been real nice’.”

I didn’t take it seriously at the moment he mentioned it. The genius of his suggestion struck me later on.

It wasn’t an easy decision. We had absolutely no time to commit to such a project. You know, we were very poor. We were ‘Ketibadi’.

Ketibadi means literally “farmers” in Hindi. But it means much more. About 80 percent of the population resides in rural areas, and they rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods. Household food insecurity and poor nutrition are basic problems in these areas where about half of the children under five years of age are malnourished.

Most of the rural households have little or no access to primary health care, education, safe drinking water and sanitation.

“Working in the fields leaves you almost no room for new initiatives that are not directly concerned with survival,” he continued.

At the beginning, I opened just a small hut and my wife made food for those who came in. She’s a great cook!

The incredible food in Jana waterfalls

The magic of the Jana waterfalls. Absolutely delicious!

What did your friends in the village think about the fact you were opening a Dabha?

He smiled.”They thought I had gone crazy!”

“But I kind of connected the dots.”

The dots? I asked

“That my wife is a great cook; that there some people coming here and we can rest everyday in the same spot- near the Jana waterfalls – thus we can earn some extra rupees while we’re there.”

Were you thinking at that point in time that the Jana waterfalls would become such a big tourist attraction in Kullu?

“Absolutely NOT! We were focusing in one thing and one thing only- feeding the few who came with all the heart. Serving the best food we could. And still, this is what we do.”

The Power of Words-Tweak

“In the beginning, we were just serving the best food, which was natural for us since it was the only food knew how to make. It’s a traditional food, and most of its ingredients are being are grown here in this area. The herbs we’re using are being picked up from the woods above us.

But then we realized that what was obvious for us was an attraction for them. And it was all summed up in one phrase – Local food.

Once were aware of that, the number of visitors rose dramatically.

“Actually, as you have noticed, the waterfall is not the center of attention here. It is the local food that we make. But ‘Jana waterfalls’ is a far better title that will bring people to this place. Still, sitting and have lunch right next to the waterfall is great experience like it has been for many years, even before the locals had have come here.

Mani Ram may not have been to business school, but he sure can add the numbers and accurately analyze every single component in his business.

He knows exactly how many have visited the place each year. He knows the annual growth curve. He can tell you also how long they stay on average. And, he knows what should be done to get more tourists to come.

Jana waterfalls in Kullu valley

“It’s all about the road conditions,” he says. If the government would have invested money in the roads, then more private cars could have get here easily. Before the elections they keep on promising, but afterwards nothing really happened. It’s all up to us.”

Now in Jana waterfalls there are a few more Dhabas, some local fabric stalls, and taxi services to and from Jana from the nearby village of Naggar. There’s even rock-climbing attractions for those who what to challenge themselves. 

“The big change,” Mani Ram says, “had happened 4-5 years ago. The numbers jumped from 40,000 tourists a year to 100,000 the next year.

The word about our local food is widely spread now. People are integrating the Jana waterfalls to their vacation holidays in Kullu Valley and Manali way before they even come to the region.

And what is the secret for this success?

Whatever you do- do it with all your heart! (And of course, it’s important that God will help you a little bit…)

What about the future? Where do you see this place taking off to?

Here, he points his finger toward a beautiful meadow just next to the water stream.“I want to build a camping site for the trekkers. With a nice campfire in the center of it. What do you say, ha?!”he asked me.

Frankly, this guy knows ten times better than me what is the best thing to do. So the only possible answer I could have said was – “For sure!” It is looking amazing, though.

And do you know how many trekkers are coming here? That was a rhetorical question, because after 45 minutes of conversation with Mani Ram I had already figured out that there isn’t a single piece of data he doesn’t know about.

“1000 a year” he said. “But next year there’ll be more.”

So now you know the story of Jana waterfalls. You know that when you get there, you’ll get a super local Himachali dish made with love.

And you will also know that that there’s always a story out there!

Hadimba temple manali

Blood Offerings, The 2013 Version- Hadimba Temple Manali

For many of us India, presents overwhelmingly visual impressions. It is beautiful, colorful and sensuous; captivating, intriguing and puzzling.

My last visit to Hadimba temple in Manali had it all. I witnessed a unique Hindu ritual that has been under controversy even within Indian society for ages.

This rite is not exclusive to this region. You may see it throughout India, but it was the first time for me.

Read more

North India in June

Who else wants to get the most out of North India?

Here’s a short story:

A traveler walks in the great desert of the Sinai Peninsula. He’s almost spent. He doesn’t know where he is and where to go. Fortunately, he sees an old Bedouin standing under an Acacia tree.
Man, please tell me where I am and how far is to the nearest town!?” The traveler asks. Bedoin under a tree
“You should go there…” the Bedouin replays while pointing his finger towards the mountains.
“And how long it takes to get there?”
No reply for that question. The traveler asks again. All he gets in return is silence.
He’s exhausted. “Just tell me how long?” he screams at the Bedouin guy. But the Bedouin remains quiet as the desert itself.
Disappointed, feeling his fate is doomed the traveler starts walking and leaves.
“You are 3 hours away!!” He hears the Bedouin shouts.
“Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”
“I had to see your ‘mood’, your natural walking pace in order to tell you the right information…”
The Bedouin replied.
The main point here is that each of us has our own way of traveling and our desires and moods change while we’re on the road. That’s why in this post we go for three possible moods you may have while traveling in North India this June.
[list style=’arrow’]
[list_item]  Mood #1- Getting socialized – looking for company? List of places where you can get friends in less than 5 minutes

[/list_item]
[list_item] Mood #2- Stay away from the Mob – would you like to read a book without getting nagged

[/list_item]
[list_item]  Mood #3- getting cultural – want to find out about events and festivals in north India where you can engage with local culture?

[/list_item]
[/list]

(We are a bit more flexible than the Bedouin guy who didn’t wanted to say a thing until he could see the guy walking for real)
Let’s start

Want to get socialized? Mood #1

In this list you’ll find some of the most popular destinations in Northern India. Everybody who’s traveling in North India at this time of year will presumably be visiting at least one of them. Chances are that they’ll visit all. Here you can find all types of tourist: backpackers, volunteers, high budget or even local tourists; you name it. If you want to get social, these are perfect places to hang out.

1) Manali, Kullu Valley Himachal Pradesh. 

Old Manali

Old Manali

It’s 17 hrs by bus from Delhi. Or a 1 hour flight from Delhi to Bhuntar (A local airport in Kullu Valley) plus approximately 2.5 hrs from Bhuntar by car and you are in Manali. The peaceful mountain town has become a delta for all types of travelers and it can get quite packed on its peck season. Travelers use Manali as a base for round trips, like to Spiti valley and Ladakh. And Some simply chill out in the super tourist friendly town.

2) Parvati Valley , Kullu, Himachal Pradesh
15 hrs. by bus from Delhi, or a one hour flight to Bunthar airport and you’ll reach the entrance to Pravati valley. Parvati Valley is a well-established travel hangout. Several small towns along the valley have been transformed into hippie resorts. It is loaded with hip Israeli backspaces and is known as an ‘Israeli colony’. You’ll find cheap accommodations, international food and a nonstop reggae soundtrack, plus crowds of dreadlocked and taffeta-skirted travelers. The attractions of the valley are peaceful scenery, the hot springs at Manikaran and plentiful wild charas (marijuana), with all the risks that entails.

3) Dharamsala, Kangra Valley, Himachal Pradesh.

Dharmsala. Foreigners feel at home.

Dharmsala. Foreigners feel at home. Image by oded Keet

15 hrs. by road from Delhi will get you the nearest to his holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. For those of who do not know, it is the places where the central Tibetan administration is located. When we say Dhramsala we actually refer to three places:
• Macleod Ganj – A small town where the exiled Tibetan government is located.
• Bhagsu / Bhagsunath – A small village located 10 minutes walk from Macleod Ganj
• Dharamkot – another tiny village located 5 minutes walk from Macleod Ganj hosting the Sikhara Dhamma Vipassana meditation center.
Dharamsala, like Manali, is another of North India’s Mega Tourist destinations.
Dharamsala attracts loads of tourists from all over the world. The social scene is highly developed. Many tourists usually stay for longer periods to take some of the endless courses available. We’ll cover more in the Cultural mood section below. That’s why Dharamsala is a perfect place to hang out and socialize.

4) Leh, Ladakh

Leh, Ladakh

Leh, Ladakh

2 days from Manali by Bus (one of the most beautiful rides in the world). 1.5 hrs. flight from Delhi.
Way up north, surrounded by snowy peaks mountains, on the Tibetan plateau lays the famous capital of the kingdom of Ladakh. The city attracts travelers with a high sense of exploration. Trekkers, jeep safari groupies, expeditions groups, motor bikers, and cyclists are all coming to Leh this time of year and bring a lively vibe.

We’ll get back to Leh later when the mood of being cultural will fall upon you.
In the meanwhile, let’s give the loners some great places to hide.

Feeling like you want to be left alone?  Mood #2 

We selected some places where you will be able to read quietly on a guesthouse porch. You will be able to practice Yoga without being nagged from all around. Tranquility is sound and promised -You are saved from the mob!
Still, rest assured we didn’t let you get lost in hard core India. While choosing these places we kept a few important rules:
• They should be relatively close to the main travelers’ routes.
• They must be touristic friendly i.e. accommodations, food, internet
• You won’t be the only foreigner around

1) Kasar Devi, Unttarkahand – If it was good enough for Bob Dylan it’s good for you too.

5 hrs from Rishikesh to Almora and another 20 minutes with the local taxis and you’ll get to the peaceful village of Kasar Devi. It is the place whereSwami Vivekananda, one of India’s greatest modern philosophers used to meditate. The scenery from this tiny mountain village was inspirational for both him and Bob Dylan.
2) Jibhi, Banjar valley , Himachal Pradesh – Go now before it gets crowded

With a 5 hrs bus from Manali to Banjar town, and another local ride, you’ll get to Jibhi. It is a small pastoral village in Banjar valley. Endless hidden places within the gigantic Himalyan Oak forests around it make Jibhi a perfect place to stay close to both nature and yourself. Here is a great article for further details about Jibhi and banjar Valley.

3) Riwalsar Lake , Mandi area Himachal Pradesh – Om Mani Padme
Om Mandi is 10 hrs by bus from Delhi and 4 hrs from Shimla.

Riwalsar lake is a small Buddhist oriented village with a super easy-going vibe. With a lake in the center of the village and a complex of Gompas (Buddhist monasteries) around it, you will definitely find the place so relaxing that you might not even want to go back to the noisy traveler scene.
4) If you feel like moving Kinnaur –Spiti circuit can work great for you. 2 weeks within magnificent scenery starting from lush green mountains into the high altitude desert of Spiti. Kinnaur-Spiti circuit is a perfect round trip to hop on to from Manali if you feel you just had enough.
There are some great treks in the area. We have just launch a a full guide for one of the best treks in the region. Subscribe to our news letter and get it for free.

 

Feeling cultural? Mood 3# 

Here’s a review of some destinations in North India which are an integral part of Indian culture and religion(s). We assume that if you are in a mood of being cultural, you would like to know about events and festival that are going on this June.
Rishikesh and Haridwar, Uttarkhand  6 hrs by bus from Delhi.

People are bathing in the Ganges in Haridwar

Pilgrims are bathing in the holy Ganges River.

Rishikesh is a small town on the Ganges River bank. It is known as the world’s yoga capital. You can find Yoga courses and trainings from beginner to advanced levels in every corner of town. Rishikesh and haridwar are two of India’s most significant pilgrim destinations. It is the place where the Holi Ganges River hits the mighty Indo-Gangetic plains.
On Tuesday the 18th of June, there will be the Ganga Dussehara festival In Haridwar, a neighboring town. If you want your sins to wash away, you should plan to pay a visit to Haridwar. You’d better get ready with loads of space on your camera memory card.

Ladakh_june

 

Let’s go up to Ladakh now, and see what they can offer us in when we get into the culture section..

Here we are back to Leh and the surrounding area with two major festivals that you won’t want to miss.

  •  Hemmis Festival (18th- 19th June) A half hour drive from Leh is the famous Hemmis Buddhist Gompa ( Monastery). It is a two day festival which commemorates the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. There’s traditional music, colorful masked dances, and a fair full of striking handicrafts.
  •  The Sindhu Darshan festival ( 1st – 3rd June ). It is a 20 minute ride from Leh on the bank of the Indus River. This festival is a celebration of the River Sindhu or Indus. More than anything else, the Indus River represents the ancient Hindu civilization and gave India its name. The festival aims to project the Sindhu as a symbol of multi-dimensional cultural identity, communal harmony, and peaceful co-existence in India.
  • Beside the Festivals we’ve mentioned , discovering the beautiful Buddhist Gompas in Leh and around it sure will leave a magical impact on you :
  1. Check out the 6:00 a.m daily puja ( prayer) in Thiksey
  2. Treat yourself with a sunset climb up to Shanti Stupa (relics monument).
  3. Cross , Khardung La, the highest motor pass in the world to visit the impressive Diskit Gompa in the Nubra Valley.

In the Himachal area there is lot of cool stuff waiting for you….

In Manali: The Manali Summer Sundowners – Sounds United Project music festival features live concerts of blended genres and styles every Friday and Saturday throughout June.
• In Dharamsala: The Dharamsala Film Festival ( 11th -13th June)

Buddhist lama in Macloed Gang.

Buddhist lama in Macloed Gang.
Image Oded Keet

Beside the annual film festival there are loads of curses that you can do In Dharmasla. The most famous Vipassana course ( see the link above), but also Yoga, Tibetan Language Classes, 10 days Introduction to Buddhism/meditation, Reiki, Cooking classes and much more. Also there’s a lot of volunteering stuff that you can do. Two popular ones would be Lha Charitable and Mountain cleaners
In Shimla: The annual Music summer festival has been held since the 1960s. Food fairs and local handicrafts are on sale, too. The event will begin in June 1st until the 9th.

Feel free to leave a comment below!