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Kullu Valley

How to Explore the Valleys of North India

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.

The beautiful green hills of the Parvatii Valley

The beautiful green hills of the Parvati Valley

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

Altitude: 1220m

Best time: mid May – mid October

Parvati Valley

Bhuntar is the main town of Parvati Valley. Parvati Valley is a beautifully green landscape with steep slopes and scattered villages. Farmers can grow anything here, despite the difficult conditions. This is one of the favourite 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 drugs scene due to the famous cannabis plantations that are grown in the area.

Manikaran

The river running through Manikaran.

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 really 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 centres 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

Manikaran

The holy Sikh temple in Manikaran.

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 really get a sense of feeling the pace of life in these idyllic mountains. One of my  favourite places is the tiny helmet of Kiriganga. It’s contains only a few very basic guest houses, but the pick of the visit is to sit inside the hot spring while surrounded with beautiful green mountains.

 

Kullu Valley

best of India- Food in India

Best of India

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 colourful 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 festival

Playing music for the deities at the Kullu Valley festival

Kullu is famous for its industry of unique scarves made from angora wool or pashmina. Pashmina scarf are 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 colourful headscarves and dress fastened with silver pins and chains.

tents at the Kullu festival

Speaking with local Kullu residents at the festival inside one of their tents. Their local deity is celebrated at the festival

Kullu is a great place to celebrate the Indian festivals of Holi and Dussara. 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 with colours, 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.

 

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The Landscape of the Himalayas in India

Know the Landscape of the Himalayas like a Professional Trekker

Some geographical features to be familiar with in the landscape of the HimalayasIt is impossible to trek in the Indian Himalayas without fully understanding the landscape of the Himalayas. Why? Knowing the landscape allows you to have better orientation and deeper knowledge of the surroundings you are in nand this really does matter!

Is clearer understanding of the landscape of the Himalayas going to help you while you are trekking? Not sure, though you might impress your trekking friends by pointing out some amazing geographical features.

On a deeper level you may also recognize some of the philosophical insights the Buddha spoke of like every single thing is under constant change even what may look like the most static objects such as mountains and glaciers. Furthermore, the Buddha suggested that every single object is bound to in an interwoven relationship with the other. You’ll find he was right! Each landscape feature changes the other constantly. All of them are interconnected and none of them has ‘life’ or justification of its own.

So here is a quick overview of some of the geographical features which determine how the landscape of the Himalayas has been shaped and still is being shaped. We’ll make it as simple as possible…

Main Geo-Features in the Himalayan

Landscape of The Himalayas, Illustration

Landscape of the Himalayas by features: 

1)      Cirque

A cirque is a large area which looks like semi-circle. It is created where large amounts of ice accumulate for long periods of time. In the past, it was from this place which the glacier was created and began its’ descent downhill.  Usually there is more than one cirque on each of the Himalayan Mountains. Today, when very few glaciers remain the melting snow fills up this area and we can find some beautiful lakes which are called ‘Tarns’.

2)      Arête

Arête is a steep ‘wall’ created when two glaciers slip downhill from both sides of the mountain. It means that both sides of the ridge there is a cirque.  Arête, the wall, can be recognized by its steep edges which crawl uphill and downhill like a snake.

3)      Horn

The horn is the sharpest peak which is created by 2 (or more) glaciers that slip downhill from a few sides of the mountain. The horn is surrounded by a few cirques where the glaciers once were.

4)      Col

Col is the ridge, the lowest point along the arête.

5)      U shaped valley  ( Or simply ‘U-valley’)

U Valley is carved when the glacier starts to slip downhill. When the glacier melted we can see its impact on the landscape. A huge flat area resembling a plateau surrounded by the arête walls is the U valley. At the top of the U valley we will always find the semi-circle cirques.

6)      Hanging Valley

A hanging valley is carved by a small tributary glacier that joins with a valley carved out by a much larger glacier (or the main glacier). It is a shallow valley and carved by a small glacier and thus the elevation of this valley floor is ‘hanging’ high above the elevation of the valley floor carved out by the main glacier below. The floor of the hanging valley is relatively flat and thus the contour lines on the topographic map are more widely spaced than those contours representing the sides of the valley. The close spacing of the contour lines at the edge of the hanging valley indicates a steep drop-off, which is where the waterfall is located.

7)      Moraine

Moraine is any glacially formed accumulation of glacial debris it could be clay, silt, sand, gravel, cobbles, boulders or any other forms of soil and rock. This debris may have been plucked off a valley floor as a glacier advanced downhill during the years. Moraines may be composed of debris ranging in size from silt-sized glacial flour to large boulders.

There are few types of moraine let’s review two of them:

  • Lateral moraines which occur on the side of the valley and can even be between two glaciers.
  • Terminal moraines occur at the end of the valley.