The Himalayas are my home. Having travelled extensively across North Bengal and Sikkim over the last couple of years, this time we decided to explore the Himachal. Our tour plan Kolkata-Delhi-Manali-Naggar-Solang-Manali-Delhi-Kolkata.
The Rajdhani Express came to a halt at its scheduled time at the New Delhi station. It was mid of May and it was scorching hot. We boarded an auto to our hotel at Pahargunj -Hari Piorko. Located in a busy market place, the hotel is quite big and service is good.
The bus stop at Mandi is very near to the hotel. We boarded the HPTDC bus to Manali the same evening with our tired bodies.
We stopped at a tiny tea shop. It was dawn and the sun was yet to rise. I stood at the edge of the cliff watching River Beas gloriously making its way through the foothills of the Himalayas, lined by apple trees on one side and tiny little huts on the other. Standing the test of time stood the mighty Himalayas encircling the entire region. The beauty of the journey henceforth was ineffable.
In Manali we checked into Hotel Kunzam, located on the mall area. With everything under the sky available, the mall area of Manali is a perfect place for shopaholics. Apart of a wide variety of cuisine served at the food joints, the place also houses several bike rental agencies which let out bikes on hire to tourists for travelling around Himachal as well as to Ladakh. It was a pleasure strolling around such a lively place and ending our day with a hearty buffet dinner at our hotel.
Post breakfast we headed out for Naggar Castle. It is only about an hour’s drive from Manali. The Manali-Naggar highway is beautiful with quaint little hotels dotting the sides of the road.
We reached Naggar Castle before lunch. I was thrilled at the very thought of staying at this medieval age stone and wood edifice perched up on the Himalayas and overlooking the Beas River. Our room was on one side of the courtyard. One can spend hours sitting in the courtyard, watching the day turn into dark, and the lights on hills shine like pretty diamonds, while sipping on a warm cup of tea and reading book or perhaps listening to music.
Everything at this castle had a royal touch to it. The rooms are extremely well maintained, the food very tasty and above all, the people were extremely amiable. Naggar Castle is well known not only for its historic significance, but also for the famous Bollywood movies which were picturized here like Jab We Met, Shaurya, Bang Bang to name a few.
From Naggar, one can hire bike and go around places, do hiking and on the way visit the famous Roerich Art Gallery. We kept climbing uphill for over an hour only to find ourselves in the middle of an apple orchard. We sat there for a long time plucking and eating fresh apples and berries form the trees while soaking into the amazing view and the silence all around. Coming close to nature has become a luxury for city dwellers.
We were served the Himalayan Trout Fish for lunch that day. The trout fish reminded me of our trip to Zuluk in Old Silk Route, East Sikkim where we had climbed a hundred steps through snow to feed Mr. Gopal Pradhan’s trout fishes.
Having spent two days in Naggar, we set out for our next destination Solang Valley. The drive from Naggar to Solang takes around 3 hours. We reached Solang in the afternoon and checked in to Hotel Iceland. It was one of the best hotels I have stayed in till date. With the snow clad peaks of the Rohtang on one side and the gleeful Beas gushing its way through the valley on the other, the view from the room was no less than wallpaper.
Since, we were to leave for Manali the next day; we decided to take a tour of the adjacent valley which is also the main activity area. The valley is a 5 mins walk from the hotel and is dotted with food stalls. There is an array of activities one can avail on the valley like Paragliding, Cable Car, Horse Riding and Zorbing. We hopped on the Cable Car which took us to a higher peak. The place was a great time to spend at with some amazing view of the mountain tops. Photographers flocked us all around and we quite enjoyed posing for them.
Back to our hotel room we spent the evening sitting in the chairs of the balcony watching the sun set behind the snow clad mountains and listening to the gushing sounds of the Beas River.
We woke up early the next day and spent the morning sitting on the green meadows beside the Beas River. Our hearts craved to stay for some more time at this heavenly place. However, with heavy hearts we had to bid good bye to Solang and drive back to Manali once again.
But who can separate two lovers? We dumped our bags in the hotel room, locked it, hired a bike and set off again for Solang! Life is an adventure. It had rained heavily that afternoon and the skies were clear. The bullet roared its way through the mountain roads. The fresh breeze and the ethereal views made this ride one to remember all life.
The people at Iceland Resort were surprised to see us again and offered free coffee. Our trip ends here. We returned to Manali that day evening and packed bags to leave for Kolkata the next day.
Back home, I missed the mighty Himalayan ranges and the apple orchards. But the one thing I missed the most was the Beas River, which kept us company all through the trip and made this trip worth remembering.
Hope my log makes you go to Himachal again and again.