Why Sangla Valley Was My First Ever Trip to the Mountains – Gaurav Chaudhary
For the longest time, I was craving, I was longing, I was envious and I was curious. You know Instagram made me feel like I’m the only one who has not gone to the mountains. That’s not a cool feeling when you really want to but just for one reason or the other couldn’t Till it finally happened around a year or so ago. I could finally answer the call and head to the mountains of Himachal. So I booked my flights to Shimla because that’s the nearest airport even though it’s around 220 kms away. No complaints though, as the drive leading to Sangla was terrific beyond my imagination.
The roads were very narrow and had lots of twists and turns. Honestly it was a bit scary for me. But there was this sense of nervousness and thrill at the same time. It was really fun. Luckily I was accompanied by an old friend of mine who was not at all scared so he calmed me down.
The route we took was Shimla – Kufri – Matiana – Narkanda – Rampur – Sungra – Karcham – Sangla Valley
We started the journey early in the morning because Sangla Valley was around 7.5 to 8 hours away. Approximately 240 kilometres I guess. We didn’t want to be on the road when it gets dark so we booked our flights accordingly too. Along the way we came across some pretty mountain towns and villages. The roads were a mix of rough and smooth in different points.
I loved the part where we could see a river stream flowing. Then there were these arches which were like miniature mountain tunnels of sorts. We made a pit stop at Narkanda and enjoyed some really yummy cherries and apples. There are many cherry farms and apple orchards here. We didn’t have the time to properly check everything out but I’ll definitely visit this place in the future. We also had to cross a narrow metallic bridge on our route, which felt exciting. By 6 pm, we finally reached Hotel Batseri in Sangla Valley.
Man this hotel was even more beautiful than I had seen in pictures. Getting here was a bit of a challenge because of the rough roads and the location is also a bit isolated. There were some really pretty apple orchards also close to the hotel. Our room was really cozy and clean. Each window had a view of the mountains and the tall trees that surround the hotel. After freshening up a little, we went downstairs to have some nice warm tea and just soaked in the beautiful vibes of the place. Since it was our first day and we had a long drive, we wanted to just relax and laze out. Honestly, that was also the whole purpose of the trip. Just chill out.
The hotel staff arranged for a bonfire outside the hotel. There were many other travellers like us at the hotel who had come from different places. Most people seemed like they just wanted to enjoy the warmth of the bonfire to lay back and relax. It was no doubt a good first night. Very peaceful.
Next morning, a vehicle was arranged to take us to Kamru Fort. On the way I discovered the strong Tibetan heritage of Sangla valley as it’s so close to the Tibetan border. We had to climb a flight of stairs and walk up a slope from the entrance of the fort. But you get to see a lot of fantastic houses and structures made from stones. After some 25 minutes of walking, we finally reached the fort. We had to wear a traditional cap and a waist band they call gacchi before entering the huge wooden door.
The fort is like a tower and the views from here are mind blowing. We could see snow-capped mountains, greenery and traditional mountain houses everywhere. There were a few locals at the fort who were really friendly. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to enter the huge tower but apparently it has a lot of historical significance with many idols of kings, queens and deities inside. The place also had a tiny temple dedicated to Kamakshi Devi which was brought there from Guwahati.
It’s really hard to leave the fort because of how amazing the view is from the top. But we eventually did. Our next stop was a Government Trout Fish Farm. The route was very complicated and not at all vehicle friendly. We definitely wouldn’t have found this on our own. You have to walk through dense forest. We drove till a certain point and had crossed an old broken bridge to reach here. This became a mini trek of sorts but it’s a fun activity in itself. My friend had arranged for us to try fishing but not everyone can do it. He had help from a travel company who helped us get permits. It was very interesting to learn how trout farming is conducted and the many steps involved. This was one of the most unique experiences I’ve had. The farm is on the banks of the Baspa river so the location is also ideal to enjoy fishing.
After we left, we went to have lunch in a local joint our driver/guide took us to. We enjoyed some delicious Thukpa which was perfect for the cool weather and shared a plate of momos with my friend. The quantity was filling too. We then went back to our hotel and did what we do best. Laze out. I realized just how much I needed a break from my work. There weren’t as many people at the hotel because many had gone on treks. That’s something you can do but I personally needed the trip for a proper break. We didn’t do a lot on the trip and neither did we visit many places. We were literally walking around and chilling in different places. That’s all. After relaxing a bit at the hotel, we walked a bit and went to the stream of Baspa River. The water was really cold and the flow was fast too. We slowly managed to dip our feet into the stream and just relax to the sound of the gushing river. Our evening was the same as the previous one. Bonfire, hot beverages, some maggi and enjoying the silence.
Next morning we went to Chitkul Village. It wasn’t too far from Batseri either. Chitkul is supposed to be the last Indian village in that direction. The road leading to the village had gorgeous pink flowers and some white ones also along the way. There is an iconic dhaba here called Hindustan ka Aakhri Dhaba. The place is very famous and it would be a mistake to not check it out. We ordered simple Dal Makhni and the food was delicious. But more than anything, it’s the vibe of the place and the surroundings that make it such a fun experience. Chitkul village is set at 3450 meters of altitude and you can really feel that high here. The air was so fresh and there were beautiful meadows around the village where we went and just decided to lie down and look at the clear skies. You feel like you’re even closer to the snowy Himalayan mountains in the Tibetan side. We went down a narrow path to find the flowing Baspa river and made it our spot to chill yet again.
I don’t remember how time passed us by just doing nothing and admiring the beauty of the mountains in and around Sangla. We stuck to our traditions and went back to the hotel to enjoy the sunset and the rest of the evening. I’m so glad I made the trip happen. Even though I didn’t visit a lot of places like Kalpa and the Baspa Reservoir or go trekking, I had a great time. I just wanted to experience the beauty of mountains without exerting myself. Would definitely visit here again and encourage everyone to visit Sangla. Hotel Batseri was expensive and we paid around 8k individually. Next time I’ll look for a cheaper place. The hotel is actually good and I just wanted to know what it feels like to live in an expensive hotel. There are a lot of good camps around that are much cheaper. You can try those too. All in all, there’s actually a lot to do in Sangla Valley. But even if you’re a slow lazy traveller looking to chill, this charming mountain town is perfect for that.