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!
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.
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?
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.
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?