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Kullu valley India digging in

Opening Up the Secrets of Kullu Valley India

Here you are. You’ve just arrived at Kullu valley, India. You’re all geared up to explore the Valley.

You even decided that you want to do things differently  this time…

So, imagine yourself coming to the hotel desk and asking the receptionist for some interesting things you can do and see while you’re around.

Here’s what the guy at the desk (a receptionist, dressed up in a 3 piece suit with his name badge pinned to the lapel) would tell you: “We’ve got a special cultural program tonight at the pool for you. It includes folk dancing and local singing. Would you like me to reserve a table for you sir?”

But that’s not quite it, huh? You wanted to get a chance for something new.

Don’t worry, because here’s what you can do…

(Before reading on, we’ve got a piece of advice for you: there’s a lot of information here that can be really helpful if you’re planning a trip to Kullu Valley in India, so we recommend bookmarking this page)

Move On To Naggar To Get A Proper Base Camp To Your Kullu Valley Experiences

After a short journey to Naggar, which is approximately 20 Km either if you’re coming from Manali or Kullu (the Valley’s capital), you’ll reach Naggar. Now you’re right in the center of Kullu Valley.

It’s time to check into the hotel, freshen up, and ask the receptionist the exact same question.

Jokh Naggar

Here’s the ancient part of Naggar also known as the ‘Jokh’

Only this time, the story is slightly different.

Meet the Locals and Get Involved

Let’s have a short simulation just to illustrate the difference when you come down to the receptionist asking the same question.

“Well…” That’s how he’ll start.

“As you step out this door you’ll be right in the heart of things. If you head to Shiva temple you’ll see a sacred puja (prayer) held every evening. Tonight though, there’s a special puja and the entire village is attending.

 

Villigers attending to the Puja at Naggar

Public Puja ( Prayer) held at the Shiva temple in Naggar, Kullu Valley.

You can just join in. Sit down with the crowd and enjoy the food and music. The Pujari (A Hindu priest) will be chanting some Mantras and everybody (one by one) will come near the temple’s sanctum to get a Darshan from the deity.

Darshan”– what’s that?”

“It’s the sacred sight – the whole purpose of visiting the temple. It’s when you’re looking at the deity and he/she looks back at you. The sight is a special realm of connection between you and the God.

He goes on…

“Tomorrow there’s a party going on. One of the locals is celebrating his retirement and he’s throwing a big party at his house. You’re invited!”

“Who, me?” you’re surprised.  “I don’t even know him… “

“Everybody’s invited! And I don’t only mean people from Naggar, but also folks from all over the valley. There’ll be great local music performances on the balcony. I can’t think of a better opportunity for you to see the local Kullu dances.

“He’s so happy to retire, huh?” You may ask.

“After 30 years in the forest department, you would be too.” Our imaginary receptionist may answer.

“So will you come?”

Do I have a choice?

“Sure! You can go trekking!”

That’s the end of our short simulation.

Now you know you’ve reached the right place to discover the authentic Kullu valley. And Naggar will be your base camp.

So Are You Ready For Some Trekking Adventures?

Naggar is perfectly located for some ‘foot-work’ explorations.  Just put on your trekking boots, and you’re all set to meet face to face with the nomadic societies that live where the alpine parts of the Trans Himalayan ranges begin, herding their cattle in the lush green meadows.

Trekking in Kullu

Endless trekking opportunities to explore the remotest parts of the Kullu valley

Spending a night or two in their huts, looking at the stars, is an experience you’re going to keep for life – guaranteed!

For that kind of experience, this is the trek you should do:

The Chandrakhani trek:

The two day walk from Naggar to the quirky village of Malana (which is worldwide famous for its Ganja) is the most rewarding trek in the lower parts of the Himalayas. Spectacular views with moderate alpine experience combined with pine forest walking. As usual, what makes it brilliant is the fact that it’s all wrapped up with some great local folklore.

To absorb the vibe of the remotest villages in Kullu, here are some more trekking options for you:

Naggar to Sohil ( Via Halan ) :

An easy trek which will add more flavors to your entire Kullu experience. It’s a short forest walk that starts at Naggar and ends at Sohil. It will give you a good impression of the way people live in the lower parts of the Himalayas. You can make it in just one day; however, you should stay the night at Sohil and absorb the village atmosphere. There’re no hotels or guesthouses in Sohil, but you can ask us  to find you a place to stay at there.

Note: Same as the Chandrakhani Pass – you should not attempt this trek without someone who can show you the way.

If you’d like to hear the temple bells ringing and encounter dwelling Sadhus (Hindu monks) searching for the universal truth, then you’d better head on to the Bijli Mahadev temple.

Naggar to the Bijli Mahadev Temple

In order to get to the Bijli Mahadev temple, you can take a bus from Naggar- you’ll reach there within one and a half hour. The bus will drop you 3 Km below the temple, and from there you’ll have to walk up. But why not walk by foot on the old pilgrimage trail straight from Naggar, the ancient capital, to the most important Shiva shrine in the region? And while you’re at it, don’t forget to stop by at Jana waterfalls  for the most authentic and delicious local meal.

The Naggar – Bijli Mahadev trek is an easy two-day trek that takes you along the range that runs above the Beas River. The Bijli Mahadev temple is located exactly where this mountain range begins. This trek is not just about breathtaking views along the way and from the temple itself, but you’ll also get the whole nine yards of a Hindu Yatra (pilgrimage) experience.

We do recommend you break down the distance and spend the night at Mata kuchi forest rest house, which is halfway between Naggar and Bijli Mahadev.

Don’t even think of skipping lunch on the 1st day at Mani Ram’s Dhaba at the Jana waterfalls.

Here’s a more adventurous one…

Hamta pass Trek

The 4 day Hamta pass allures many trekkers because it crams in a perfect combination of open meadows, green pine forests, glacier valleys and spectacular views of the 6000 meters Deo Tiba peak and the 6200 meters Indrasan. Not as easy as the three treks mentioned above, but definitely worth doing! For further details, contact us.

While trekking in and around Naggar, discovering the remotest villages, you may stumble upon some of the Black Magic and shamanic rituals that have always been part of the valley’s religious life.

Encounters with the Mysterious Sides of Kullu

Click the play button to see what we mean.

The person with long hair is the ‘Gur’ – that’s the shaman, or oracle, and he’s getting into a Trance in order to speak with the local gods in the name of the villagers. These shots were captured by Prashant ( Who always knows to catch the moments) on his mobile phone camera.

 

Kullu Valley is known as ‘Dev Bhoomi’, the Land of Gods. Naggar has been its religious center as far back as remembered. As its center, Naggar calumniates most of the important religious activities happening in the valley.

If you stay in Naggar for some time, chances are you’ll stumble across not only the conservative aspects of Hinduism’s daily life practices, but also the phenomena of Shamanism which is abundant in the Kullu Valley.

Kullu Valley holds a long and ancient tradition of a ‘different reality’ religious system. Some of the unique sacred rituals, magic and alternative religious practices, traditional healing techniques and exorcisms practiced can be seen just about everywhere at any time.

To get the full scale, you can check out the beautiful Discovery channel documentary that aired a couple of months ago, called “The Shamans of the Himalayas”.

So, as you can see, there are loads of things to do and see in Naggar and other parts of Kullu valley. We recommend spending at least 7 days here at Naggar in order to have a meaningful traveling experience.

You’ve Got To See The Fantastic Temple Architecture  At Naggar

There are 369 temples in Kullu valley, but the temples in Naggar are considered to be amongst the most sacred. Apart from playing the role of Kullu’s political center, then and now, Naggar is also Kullu’s spiritual center. The temples here display various architectural styles, which are the most spectacular in the valley (though I’m probably biased).

We’ll only mention the most notable and impressive ones here, so you won’t get the “oh they all look the same to me” impression.

Tripasundri Temple

Along with the Hadimba temple at Dunghri , the wooden Tripusundri temple exhibits the finest Pagoda style temples of the western Himalayas. This three story temple is alternately arranged with layers of stone and wood. Locals say that this building technique makes it earthquake proof. Fortunately, we never saw that come to the test. Most of Naggar’s public religious rituals are held at the Tripura Sundri temple. The temple is located just below the Roerich Art Gallery road.

Tirupasundri temple at Naggar

The beautiful Tirupasundri temple at Naggar

Krishan Temple

Dedicated to Krishna, the temple is located up hill above town and offers spectacular views over the southern parts of the Kullu valley. This beautiful Shikhara (tower) temple is probably the only Krishna temple in Kullu Valley. Nobody can really tell when it was built; however, the locals link the temple to the great epic of the Mahabharata.

Now, grab yourself a kettle of chai at the village below and climb up to the temple before sunset.

Behind the temple, there’s a balcony where you can just chill while looking at the sunset over the Himalayan Mountains.

Gauri Shankar Temple

This Shikhara (tower) style temple is dedicated to Shiva, and dates to the 11th -12th century AD. It is considered the last monument of the ancient Pratihara Dynesty  which ruled the northern parts of India between the 6th-12th Centuries. The stone temple’s walls are decorated with dancers, birds and musicians. Images of the goddess Gauri and Shankar are enshrined in the temple’s sanctum.

So, get your camera ready and hit the evening Puja while you’re there.

Now let’s go on to some of the villages around Naggar.

“The True India Lies In Its Villages” (Mahatma Gandhi)

While discovering Kullu’s remote villages, this observation by Gandhi becomes very vivid.

Naggar is surrounded by endless valleys, all dotted with tiny villages. Visiting its remotest villages is the best way to absorb the special vibe of the valley, or in other words, to penetrate into its soul.

Jana Village

Less than an hour drive from Naggar lays the Jana waterfall . More than any other village in the region, Jana preserves the distinct characteristics of traditional Kullu. Yet, most people tend to skip it for some reason. Most visitors come to visit the waterfalls and turn around. Make sure you’re not one of them. Jana Village still holds the old fashion lifestyle; the typical Kullu house architecture, traditional farming methods, traditional clothing and above all – warm hospitality. You’ll probably get invited for a cup of Chai at somebody’s house. Don’t pass on it!

So hop on the bus which passes next to Sonam hotel every morning at 7:45 for a one hour ride.

Rumsu

If you’re in the time travel business, you should try to climb up to Rumsu Village which is located 3 km from Naggar on the Roerich Art Gallery road. The absolutely gorgeous wooden Hindu temple, situated in the village center, is the finest example of kullu’s temple architecture.

Sohil 

A 30 minute ride from Naggar on the local bus to Haripur. Add 25 more minutes by foot and you get to Sohil. This pastoral village is locked between two enormous mountain ranges that keep it isolated from the rest of the valley. It was isolated enough for a few hippie families that settled in it permanently 20 years ago. Strange blend, but as it’s often said, India has a wired capacity to populate all sorts of things…

Pangaun Village and the Pangaun Monastery

You may be surprised to know that you don’t have to go to all the way to Ladakhif you want to see Buddhist Lamas. There are some beautiful, lesser known, Buddhist monasteries in Kullu in which you won’t get blinded with camera flashes. The small Niyngma sect monastery  near the Pangaun Village is definitely a must see if you’re interested in Buddhism. Do not miss the fantastic walk in the apple orchards towards the sleepy village of Pangaun.

Here’s A Bonus Point For You: The Best Moms In India for Less Than $1

If we must admit it, Himalayan food won’t be the thing you’ll tell about to your friends back home. And that is an understatement. If you want great food, you’ll have to go down to south India 

But sometimes, there are surprises. Simple ones, nothing fancy, and they are usually discovered when you follow the tips of the locals. One of these surprises has been a small Dhaba situated just below the Tripura Sundri temple in Naggar.

It’s called Asha’s Momo Dabha. Most people in Kullu Valley will tell you that Asha makes “the best Momos in India and even better than in China”. She’s been running this small place for 15 years now and serving one dish only- guess what it is? Momos. It comes in 5 pieces plates with a chili sauce on the side.  Okay, let’s put it this way: it’s addictive!

Now Over To You

Have you been to Kullu valley? Are there more hidden gems that we should know about? Leave a comment and let us know.

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 Chandrakhani trek

Explore The Indian Himalayas With The Super Easy Chandrakhani Trek

One of Bart Simpson’s best rules is: “If it’s too hard doing it, it simply ain’t worth it

I’m a big Bart Simpson fan; therefore, I tend to carefully check what I should or shouldn’t do, based on this very specific guideline.

And when it comes to outdoors activities, such as trekking, I become much more strict about enforcing this rule.

Now, picture yourself standing atop a soaring Himalayan mountain. You are surrounded on all sides by monstrous mountain chains. From where you stand, massive white glaciers can be seen capping them. As your eyes sweep down the mountains, you’ll hit the imaginary line at 3000 meters. This is the beginning of the mountains’ ‘green dresses’. A mountain’s ‘green dress’ consists of the vast area of vegetation (pine, deodar, and chestnut ) that covers its lower parts. You’ll even notice that the dress is decorated with white strips all the way down to the foot. Those are waterfalls.

It’s breathtaking! Flawless.

Crossing the chandrakhani pass

Here’e where the Kullu Gods hang out

But hold on…

You may say now, I’m not a trekker, right? I’m not the kind of guy who’d spend a whole day in a trekking store, searching for the latest technology in tents. And you probably never regarded yourself as a tree hugger like many trekkers seem to.

I’ve got a surprise for you… me neither.

What I’m about to tell you here is about a trek which crams in the very best of the Himalayan trekking experience. And, it’s doable. So easy that you can do it just wearing your heels. (Almost! But sport shows will be just fine).

In the worst case, when back home, you can always brag about your Himalayan trekking adventure.

And, who knows, maybe it will be the beginning of a new love…

Anyways, it’s called the Chandrakhani trek.

About the Chandrakhani trek  

Basically, if I had to describe the Chandrakhani trek in one sentence, it would be this one: What goes up must come down.

Chandkhani campsite views

Outstanding views from the Chandrakhani campsite

That’s it.  As simple as that.

Like Sisyphus, who was compelled to roll an immense boulder…Up and down the hill. Unlike Sisyphus, you’ll only do that once (probably in your life) and you will have the privilege of treating yourself with a cold beer when you’re back in town.

The trek begins from the village of Naggar, located about 21 km from the town of Manali. The Chandrakhani Pass trek involves a circular route from Naggar to Chandrakhani Pass, and back to Naggar via Malana.

Reaching the Chandrakhani Pass, and standing above the clouds with a panoramic view is a divine experience.

Some people in the region interpret the name ‘Chandrakani’ as ‘Moon shaped’ while others say that it means ‘Moon Growth’.  But, let’s leave this philosophical debate for them, maybe when you reach the Chandrakhni pass you’ll be able to contribute your own viewpoint to the discussion.

Endless legends and stories abound about this trek. One of the most famous is that a long time ago Jalmu, the main deity of Malana was wondering up in the Chandrakhani pass holding a basket full of Gods. The basket was opened and a strong wind blew the gods out in the open. Since then, the Valley is known as the valley of Gods.

The Chandrakhani pass is also known as the assembly ground of all the Kullu gods. They sure knew how to pick a hell of a place for meet-ups. With spectacular views of the Deo Tibba peak Pir Panjal and Parbati mountain ranges, whatever they talk about is surely inspirational.

Altitude sickness isn’t a concern, as the highest point in the trek is 3,450, and you’ll be descending in the same day.

Okay, so let’s get into the details…

How to prepare for the Chandrakhani trek with less than 30 min

1)      Organize a guide from Naggar. Ask your hotel /guesthouse owner to arrange that for you. He’ll find someone in no time. Remember: A guide is someone who shows you the way, and nothing more.

2)      On the day you’re leaving, buy 2-3 sandwiches and some snacks from the bakery.  Because there aren’t any shops on the trail, you’ll need a lunch pack. Dinner you can order at the campsite on day 1 and in Malana/ Naggar on day 2.

3)      Packing list: 2 T-shirts, something warm to wear at night, long sleeve trousers, 2 pairs of socks, toothpaste and tooth brush, sunscreen, raincoat ( if you are trekking in July-Aug), money in a water proof bag.

That’s it; you’re good to go.

Day 1: Stairways to Heaven

On Day 1  ( Naggar to Chandrakhani 6-7 hrs. walking.) Sadly, there’re no good news for the beginning of the trek. Why? Because, from your very first step up to your campsite there’s massive legwork required. The trail starts on the road below Rumso village, which is 4 km from Naggar. You can go there by car. The stairway will lead you to Rumso. Have a cup of chai (tea), and a look around – especially at the old wooden temples. From Rumso, the trail takes off through a thick pine, deodar, and chestnut forest, going up for several hours.

The trail then breaks out to the alpine meadows at higher altitudes. It’s your first true reward for the effort you made: the view from these meadows of the Kullu valley, Manali, Pir Panjal, and Bara Bhangal ranges is spell-binding.

Walking along the trail now to the Chandrakhani base camp, where you’ll be sleeping in a shepherd’s hut, is a delight. The trail passes through some magnificent U-shaped valleys . It is so beautiful that it almost makes you not want to reach the nearby campsite.

nomads below the Chandrakhani Pass

Nomads near the Chandrkhani basecamp are trying to sell us chees and butter

What is a shepherd’s hut? It’s a small bricks hut. The floor is made of stiff mud, while the top of it is covered with mattresses. At the center there’s a Tandoor (an iron fireplace) to keep the place hot. It’s very basic, and super effective.

The shepherds are nomadic people moving with their herds (cows, buffalo, sheep ) to high areas in the summer, searching for lush meadows. When the season is changing, and the whole area turned to white, they move down to the lower parts of the valleys until the next summer.

It’s been a long day for you.  But here comes the good part…

Climbing for 6-7 hours is not easy. But now the fantastic views towards  to the north and the Chandrakhani Pass in the east is well-rewarding. You must have a cup of chai before ordering your dinner and sitting down on the hut’s ‘porch’; just relax and enjoy this special place a few hours before the sun will set. The guys will be starting up the Tandoor to warm up the hut.

Day 2: Crossing the spectacular pass of Chandrakhani and going down to Malana village

Day 2 Chandrakhani to Malana (6 hours):

No more climbs today! Some smug folks may tell you how much they prefer going uphill to downhill. I never bought it, and you shouldn’t either. Today is an easy day, because mostly you’ll be walking down hill after crossing the scenic Chandrakhani pass.

On the way down to Malana

On the way down to Malana

After having breakfast at the campsite, you’ll be taking off for a 1hour walk up to the Chandrakhani pass. You’ll pass through beautiful alpine meadows, abundant with medical flora. The Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh is a well known medicinal plants hot spot in the western Himalayas, while Chandrakhani is one of the richest with medicinal herbs in the entire valley.

Reaching the Chandrakhani pass, you’ll immediately understand why the local Gods have chosen this place as their favorite. Satisfaction guaranteed!

The Deo Tibba and the Pir Panjal peak are towering to the north, the Parvati valley laying peacefully below, and the immense Parvati range looms upwards.

Old Malana Villiage

Old Malana Villiage

After walking on the ridge between the huge boulders for less than hour, you’ll steeply descend to the unique, and secluded town of Malana. 2-3 hours from the pass, you’ll hit Malana. This is the end, my friend!

 

Make sure you’re wearing long trousers today because the path is covered with thick vegetation and loads of nettles

 

Now it’s time for getting back to Naggar; here’s what you should do:

1)   Go down from Malana to the main road on the other side of the river.  It’s approximately 2 km.

2)   Grab a taxi to Jeri. From Jeri’s bus stand you can catch either buses or taxis depending on your budget to Bunthar.

3)   From Bunthar (again depending on your budget) taxis and buses are available. If you’re not on a short leash, then hire a taxi straight to Naggar. If you are, then you’ll have to take a bus to Patlikul via Kullu. From Patlikul any rickshaw driver will be more than happy to have you on board for the 6 km ride, and drop you of at Naggar.

Now when you’re back to Naggar, sitting on the Ragini’s rooftop restaurant ( best one in town), finally having a beer, there’s nothing better than to sum up the entire Himalayan experience with the remarkable insight of Bart Simpson ( again ) :

Bart simpson

 

 

“I don’t know! I don’t know why I did it, I don’t know why I enjoyed it, and I don’t know why I’ll do it again”

 

 

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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.

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