INTRODUCTION : Shoja is a beautiful village situated in the relatively lesser explored regions of Himachal Pradesh called the Seraj Valley/ Great Himalayan National Park. Its very green and the plus is that it is away from all the traffic that lines up the popular hill stations. Added attraction is that you can cover the places like Gushaini & Bathad on the Tirthan river in the same trip which are not very far but are very beautiful. Please read through the lines to get a better picture.
LOCATION/ HOW TO REACH : Shoja is located about 500 kms from Delhi. The place is on the periphery of the Great Himlayan National Park and is 5 kms from Jalori Pass which forms the boundary between Shimla Hills and Kullu Hills. There are two routes to reach Shoja – 1st is from Delhi – Chandigarh – Ropar – Bilaspur – Mandi – Aut – Banjar – Shoja.
The 2nd route which is shorter but is more prone to disturbances due to landslides etc. is from Delhi – Panchkula – Shimla – Narkanda – Saini – Ani – Jalori Pass – Shoja. I would recommend the 1st one as its more reliable and the roads till Aut are very good and after Aut, they are very beautiful. Frum Aut to Banjar is about 28 kms where you follow the energetic Tirthan river. From Banjar, the road towards left follows the Tirthan river and goes to Gushaini and Bathad whereas the right goes to Shoja. After Banjar, its an uphill drive among thick forest passing enroute through Jibhi village. However due to adverse weather conditions at this height, this road is not very well maintained. Another contributing factor was that we went in mid August – so roads were always wet. Total time taken is about 12-13 hours. From Aut it is about 2 hours and from Mandi is about 3 hours.
THINGS TO DO : The place is an idyllic retreat and is best to sit down and relax and watch the lush green forests. Other options are jungle walks, visit to the Jalori Pass from where you can take 2 walks – one to the Serolsar Lake is longer but less strenuous and the one to Raghupur Fort which though shorter is very difficult. There are picture book chai shops and a small temple at the Jalori Pass. Other better or rather must do option is to visit Gushaini village at the banks on the Tirthan river which is about 1 hour drive from Shoja. Its good to visit in June when the IRIS flowers are in full bloom and the whole valley turns blue. But still, the place is very forested, green and is soothing to the eye. Add the cold, crisp air at the elevation of about 2600 metres above sea level.
PLACES TO STAY : We stayed at the Banjara Retreat in Shoja. This place is much hyped by the Banjara people and we went expecting a lot but we were disappointed to be there due to the following reasons – 1) A house with steel roof has come up in front of the retreat which virtually destroys the splendid views in front of the resort. 2) The retreat is about 200 meter downhill walk from the road which is steep and is difficult to climb up esp. for elderly ppl. or for ppl with small kids. 3) There is no flat ground for kids to play and your life is constricted to a 6 ft wide alley/ balcony where you can sit/ dine/ play board games. 4) Its situated in the village only and hence does not offer proper seclusion for people who want complete peace in natural surroundings. However the quality of food and service was good.
The second option is the PWD rest house which has an excellent location and well maintained lawns. Only if it had some better facilities like good food and entertainment, it would have been one of the best places to stay.
BOTTOMLINE : The better option to visit this area would be to stay at Gushaini at Raju’s cottage or at the Himalayan Trout House – both at the bank of Tirthan river. One can plan a visit to this place for a day from there. However I must add one more point. On our return journey, we decided to bypass Mandi and go to Shimla via Karsog, Chindi, Naldehra route. I must say that this route through tribal Himachal is very, very beautiful. Especially the drive from Karsog to Chindi. Would definitely like to plan a trip there in the Karsog valley.
(Note – Would be adding some snaps shortly)