A Detailed 7 Day Itinerary to Tawang [A Complete Guide]

Arunachal Pradesh is a place which had always enamored me, even though i had never set foot there before. I always pictured it like a mythical land, snow clad, and with monasteries hidden in the mists. Eventually I grew tired of hearing stories from the few who had ventured. Not that it was a secret, but as with all of northeast, it wasn’t well trodden. So last year, when most of the world was welcoming the New Year with a hangover, i decided to take the arduous road trip to Tawang, the land of the rising sun.

True to my numerous dreams, it did turn out to be the remote fairytale land that i had imagined. And gladly, i was the only one around to experience it.

Here is a comprehensive 7 day Itinerary that i followed for my Tawang Trip.

1. Day 1: Arrive in Guwahati

If you are traveling to this side of Northeast, chances are, you will land mostly in Guwahati. It is well connected to Tawang via roadways.

From the airport you should go to Paltan Bazaar, from where you can get shared cabs to Tawang. Remember that these cabs leave early morning, almost by 6.30. So ensure you book them the day before.

A shared cab is probably the cheapest way to get to Tawang. But if you have a group of 8-10 people, then you can opt for a private cab. Otherwise they can turn out to be pretty expensive.

But before you even start the journey to anywhere in Arunachal Pradesh, you need to get an inner line permit (ILP). You will get it at Arunachal Bhawan in Guwahati. You can refer to the website for the documents needed. It’s a hassle-free process for Indians.

Note: Ensure you don’t land in Guwahati on a day Arunachal Bhawan is closed. I did that and had to wait for an extra day to get the permit.

Where to stay: Hotel SJ International

2. Day 2: Guwahati to Bomdila

Doing 500 kms on the mountains in a single day is no easy task. So it’s better to break the journey to Tawang in 2 phases.

On the first day, the cab takes you half way to Bomdila. But even to reach half-way, you have to start pretty early in the morning. In fact throughout your Tawang trip, be prepared to sacrifice on sleep.

Arunachal Pradesh
On the way to Bomdila

The drive for the first part is pretty smooth, from the outskirts of Guwahati till you reach Tezpur. Once you cross Tezpur and start the ascent up the mountains, progress is slow and painful.

The terrain is rugged and your backside is going to get clobbered like anything. The views enroute are beautiful though.

The journey can take up to 10 hours. So you will reach Bomdila by around 4-5 in the evening, assuming you start at 6-6.30 in the morning.

Chillipam Monastery

Although most travelers look at Bomdila as a pit-stop, I would urge you to  stay for a day here. 20 kms away from Bomdila lies Chillipam monastery, a hidden jewel, which only the locals know of. It takes a good 2 hours to reach, but its worth every effort.

The Chillipam Gompa is as breathtaking as the views around it. There is a lawn leading into the monastery with pine trees on both sides.

Chillipam Monastery

A colourful prayer wheel adorns the entrance on one side while a golden coloured one with inscriptions lies on the other side. There is a certain grandeur about the whole monastery.

For one, it looks newly constructed. There is an artistic appeal to it. It has some exquisite Buddhist art work both on the outside as well as the inside. The chortens built next to the main monastery are splendid. There were stairways that allowed you to go to a higher platform.

View from Chillipam

The highlight though, are the views. The monastery is positioned in a place which offers a panoramic view of the valleys surrounding it. And once you go to the higher levels, the views get better. We could see Bomdila perched on the mountain opposite ours.

We went in the afternoon when the sun was in mood for some hide and seek. Greyish clouds flirted with the mountains nearby. It was a perfect natural setting. And views aside, it was a place that exuded a certain calm and luckily, we were the only one’s soaking in this experience.

Trust me after this experience, every other monastery that I saw later on this trip paled in comparison to Chillipam.

Where to stay: Lungta Residency

 3. Day 3: Bomdila To Tawang

Early morning, you will start the journey to Tawang. The journey is pretty uneventful till you start climbing Sela Pass.

Sela pass located at 4170 m (13700 feet) above sea level acts as the sentinel who guards the eastern Himalayan ranges. It connects Tawang to the rest of India.

Sela Pass
Ascending on Sela Pass

Being at such high altitudes, it is covered in snow for most part of the year. So pray that the weather gods are in your favor, for Sela Pass can sometimes be inaccessible when the roads get deluged in snow.

I went in winter and as we moved higher, it started getting misty and the visibility dropped to a few 100 feet. Patches of snow started appearing on the road. Icy winds blew outside and our fingers froze as we tried to take quick photographs. The change in weather was quite drastic.

A massive gate at the Sela top welcomes you into Tawang region. Nearby lies Sela Lake, also known as Paradise Lake for its ethereal beauty.

Sela Lake
Image Credits: https://www.instagram.com/sushobhanr/

From Sela Pass, Tawang is just 40 kms, which is another 2 hours’ drive. So you should reach Tawang by afternoon.

Note: If you take a shared cab, they will not stop at the lake. They tend to stop at least km ahead. So if you want to take photographs of the lake or walk around it, just check with the cab driver before, or else take a private cab.

Jaswant Garh Memorial

Having a private cab means you can visit the Jaswant Garh Memorial also the same day. It is one of the popular attractions in Tawang, and rightfully so.

It’s a memorial dedicated to Jaswant Singh Rawat, a rifleman who displayed extraordinary bravery while fighting the Chinese.

Where to stay in Tawang: Hotel Dekyi Pelbar

4. Day 4: Tawang Local Sightseeing

Today you can do sightseeing around Tawang. But before you start anything, arrange for permits for Bum La Pass and Sangetsar Lake, which you will be doing the next day.

Note: There are two permits needed for this region. One is the ILP (Inner Line Permit) to enter Tawang. The second one is the special permit to travel from Tawang to Sangetsar Lake and Bum La pass (The Indo – China border). But don’t worry, any travel operator in Tawang can get it done for you in a jiffy.

Places to see in Tawang

Tawang Monastery

Tawang Monastery

This is the second largest monastery in the world, if you need any convincing. Perched on the edge of a cliff, from afar, it looks beautiful. Though personally, I din’t find it that great, especially since I had seen Chillipam monastery earlier.

Tawang Memorial

It is a memorial constructed in honor of soldiers who gave up their lives in the Indo-China war. I got goose bumps, just reading their stories. It’s definitely worth a visit.

In the evening, they also have a light and sound show. I wouldn’t recommend it though. They could have done a much better job of telling the story.

Nuranang Falls

Jung Falls
Image Credits: https://www.instagram.com/sushobhanr/

Also known as Jung Falls, Nuranang is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Arunachal Pradesh. Surrounded by lush greenery, the sight of the powerful cascade of water tumbling down the cliffs is a breathtaking one.

If you are a nature lover, or not, you should add Nuranang falls to your bucket list.

Tawang Ropeway

Tawang has a cable car ride across the mountains. It wasn’t working when I went, but the views looked stunning.

There is also a statue of massive golden Buddha at the centre of the town.

5. Day 5: Trip to Bum La pass and Sangetsar Lake

If you ever think of taking this arduous road trip to Tawang, then it should be for the trip to Bum La Pass and Sangetsar Lake. Not that the journey to Tawang is not beautiful, but these two destinations are journey’s themselves.

Bum La Pass:

Bum La Pass is the Indo- China border, located at a staggering 15,000 feet. A remote army-post surrounded by snow-clad peaks, it seems like a world away from Tawang.  Although just 2-3 hours away, the landscape is starkly different, with green mountains and greyish clouds giving way to a land of snow.

Yes, everything from roads, to rocks to mountains are draped in snow. And on a clear day, fluffy clouds float above your heads.

From the border-zone at Bum La pass, with the help of binoculars, you can see the Chinese radar system. Near the border lies a rock symbolizing peace between India and China, and there is a point where you can actually stand on the Chinese end.

Sangetsar Lake:

Sangetsar Lake

In my years of traveling, I have seen my fair share of high altitude lakes, but none as unique as Sangetsar.

Wedged between two mountains, with pine trees half submerged in the water, it is just sublime. When I went, it was winter and the lake was completely frozen. You can imagine my delight when I set my eyes on this sheet of ice.

If you have acclimatized to the high altitude (12000 feet), take a walk around this lake. If not, then you can sit by the army owned tea-stall and gape in awe while munching on some steaming momos.

Note: The trip to both these places will take the entire day. So leave early in the morning, so that you can return by early evening.

6. Day 6: Tawang to Bomdila

The next day you again catch a shared cab from Tawang. On the way lies a picturesque town called Dirang. You can choose to break your trip here. Or else, you can continue all the way till Bomdila.

7. Day 7: Bomdila to Guwahati

From Bomdila, it’s again a drive back the same way to Guwahati.

Ensure that you don’t have a flight or train to catch the same day. Since you’re traveling in the mountains, it’s better to keep a buffer of at least a day.

Best time to visit Tawang:

Recommended: April – May and September – October

My personal recommendation: Dec – Jan (It will be cold, but trust me you will be the only traveler at this time of the year, and you will get amazing deals)

[The Complete List] The Ideal 7 Day Meghalaya Itinerary

As a nature lover and an avid hiker, Meghalaya has held my fascination since ages.  Last year me and my best friend decided to bring in the new year from this scenic wonderland.  I don’t think I have ever had a better start to a year than this.

From the unforgettable living root bridge trek to the sight of numerous thundering waterfalls plunging from the skies to sparkling green rivers, turquoise blue natural pools and green villages in the heart of nature, it is a visual epiphany all the way.

Living Root Bridge Trek
The Living Root Bridge Trail

Although i packed all of this in 4 days’ time, here is a 7 day ideal Meghalaya itinerary that I highly recommend.

1. Day 1 – Arrive in Guwahati and go to Cherrapunjee

If you are traveling to this side of Northeast, chances are, you will land up mostly in Guwahati. It is well connected to Meghalaya. From the airport you should go to Paltan Bazaar, from where you can get shared cabs to Cherrapunjee.

These shared cabs don’t directly run till Cherrapunjee. They take you to Shillong and from there, you can take another one to Cherrapunjee (Also known as Sohra)

The total journey including breaks might take around 4-5 hours. So ensure you reach early morning in Guwahati.

Where to stay: Coniferous Resort

2. Day 2 – Mawsmai cave, Seven Sister falls and Nohkalikai Falls

Mawsmai Cave

Meghalaya is known for its numerous cave systems and the most popular amongst them is the Mawsmai cave. It’s one of the smaller caves in Sohra, but quite good to get a feel of caving.

Mawsmai Cave

The cave is spacious at most parts with only a few narrow passages which require squeezing and ducking. You can spot stalagmites and stalactites of various shapes and sizes at every nook and corner. The limestone formations inside the cave glittered when we beamed our flash lights on them.

The entire trail in the cave is well-marked and well-lit from entry to exit. If you are a little adventurous, you can go off track, crawl through tiny passages and discover massive hidden caverns. I did that, only to reach a dead end.

Don’t worry; it’s hard to get lost in this cave. And surprisingly i did not spot even a single bat in the cave.

How to reach: It is around 6 kms from Cherrapunjee. Since you would be visiting a couple of spots today, it makes sense to hire a private cab for the day. Also the entry to the cave starts only at 9.00 a.m.

Seven Sister Falls/ Nohsngithiang Falls

If you are traveling to Meghalaya in the monsoon time, then this waterfall will have your jaws touching the ground in no time.

seven sister falls
Image Credit: https://www.instagram.com/sushobhanr/

A cascade of multiple streams plunging down 1000 foot cliffs, this waterfall epitomizes the beauty of Meghalaya during rains. A sea of clouds swirling over the lush green valley below just makes it picture perfect.

Nohkalikai falls

While most waterfalls in Meghalaya are at their prettiest in monsoons, Nohkalikai remains majestic even during the winter months.

At 1,115 feet, it is India’s highest plunge waterfall, dropping straight from the top of the plateau to the emerald green pool below. While we admired the grandeur of the falls from a view point, I later came to know that there are stairs you can take down the cliff to get even closer to the falls.

nohkalikai falls

In the non-monsoon season, it’s possible to even trek to the bottom of the falls and swim in the pool formed underneath the fall. If you intend to do this, it’s better to take a guide with you.

The fall got its name from a tragic legend about a woman named Ka Likai who jumped to her death from the cliff. It is said that she was fed remains of her own daughter by her husband. The guilt made her commit suicide by taking the plunge. Hence the name stuck as Nohkalikai or “the leap of Likai”.

How to reach: The view point for Nohkalikai falls is just a 20 minute drive from Cherrapunjee.

3. Day 3 – Living Root bridge Trek

Like I keep saying, if there is one experience that perfectly encapsulates the beauty of Meghalaya, it is the living root bridge trek.

You will see an art of nature found nowhere else in the world. And to an extent it is man-made. Living root bridges are formed when massive roots are guided by villagers over a span of 15 years to mingle with each other and form sturdy bridges strong enough to support people. Over time, they get stronger.

Living Root Bridge Trek
Double Decker Root Bridge – The only one of its kind in the world

They were actually built to help locals cross raging streams in the monsoon. Today, they have captured the travel world by storm.

The village of Nongriat has a double decker root bridge – one bridge stacked over another, a unique wonder found only in this village. There are single root bridges in other villages too.

The trek itself is so fascinating that you are left with a question. Which is better? The sight of the root bridge or the hike itself?

Living Root Bridge Trek

Walking through lush green forests, crossing wobbly bridges suspended over electric blue pools and swimming in the transparent waters of Rainbow falls is bound to drive your senses into a frenzy.

It’s that beautiful.

If you have a day more to spend, you can actually stay in Nongriat Village. There are two guesthouses where you can stay for as much as INR 300 per night.

Now, here is a disclaimer, the entire trek from the base village Tyrna to Nongriat takes around 5-6 hours and requires you to descend 2500- 3000 steps one way. The climb back up is certainly daunting, especially if you are not an active person. It is doable though. You just need to pace yourself well enough and start the trek early.

Living Root Bridge Trek

As the trek is long and tiring, it makes sense to carry some energy bars and 2-3 bottles of water with you. Of course, there are villages along the trek from where you can buy them.

How to reach: The base village Tyrna is a 30 minute drive from Cherrapunjee

4. Day 4 – Mawlynnong, Asia’s cleanest village

I had never heard of this village until I started researching about Meghalaya. Dubbed “Asia’s cleanest village” in 2003, Mawlynnong is like a breath of fresh air. Actually, most of Meghalaya is like that.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into this village were its tree houses. Made of bamboo, these charming houses rise over tree-tops to give you a sneak peek into neighbouring Bangladesh. It’s a great place to spend your evenings, gazing at the sunset while sipping a cup of coffee.

The Tree Houses

A walk around the village reveals why it’s so clean. There are bamboo made dustbins across the village. There are specific rules to be followed when it comes to dumping waste, and it’s posted on a board right at the centre of the village.

There are neat walk ways built throughout the village, along which lie traditional thatched huts. Most of these houses have small gardens with colorful flowers. Needless to say, it’s a paradise for nature lovers.

But scenic beauty aside, it is a place where peace and tranquility are always within touching distance.

How to reach: It is a 4 hour drive from Cherrapunjee along pretty winding cliff side roads.
Where to stay: Henry’s Guesthouse

Note:  Adventure freaks can try ziplining at Mawkdok Dympep Valley. It’s probably one of the best in India.

5. Day 5 – Umngot River in Dawki, Shnongpdeng and drive back to Shillong

Umngot River

Sometimes all it takes is an image to inspire you to travel. Ever since the unreal images of river Umngot took the internet world by storm, I’ve been swooning over its beauty.

The river flows through Dawki, a town on the Indo-Bangladesh border, which is a 2 hour drive from Mawlynnong.  Even the drive to Dawki through the forest is a visual feast.

Umngot River

True to its fame, the Umngot is as sublime as the pictures claim. But like any natural wonder, pictures or words will fail to do justice to it.

Although most people take a boat ride across the river to appreciate its beauty, I trekked along the river gorge and found a rock to sit on and admire its translucent waters. And when the sun shines over it, the river sparkles and you can see all the way to the bottom. Nature at its dazzling best!


Umngot River
Image Credit: https://www.instagram.com/sushobhanr/

There is a village near Dawki called Shnongpdeng where the river is clearer and prettier. Unfortunately, I missed it on my trip, but hopefully you won’t. But then like all places I have been to, I have a reason to go back, yet again.

From Dawki, you can hire a shared cab to Shillong. The drive would take around 3-4 hours.

6. Day 6 – Elephant Falls, Umiam Lake  and Laitlum Canyon in Shillong

Shillong, in comparison to the rest of the places on this list will seem a bit touristy.

Umiam Lake

One of the popular places is Umiam Lake, also called “Bara Pani” or Big Water. It’s a pretty lake wrapped around lush green hills. And there are these small islands which pop out in between, which make the lake even prettier. You can try boating and kayaking on the lake.

Elephant Falls

Falling in multiple cascades, Elephant falls got its name from an Elephant faced stone at the lower most layer. Although I must say, I could barely identify an elephant face in the rocks.

Elephant Falls

There are three different vantage points from where you can view each of the three layers. There are stairs built along the entire route.

How to reach: It’s a 30 minute ride from Shillong.

There are tonnes of other places you can visit like Wards Lake, Shillong Peak and the Don Bosco Museum. You can also shop at Police Bazaar.

If you have another day to spare, you can check out Laitlum Canyons, a little explored haunt with views of stunning gorges and mist covered valleys. I highly recommend it.

Where to stay in Shillong: Eee Cee Hotel

7. Day 7 – Shillong to Guwahati

Take a shared cab from Shillong and head to Paltan Bazaar Guwahati. The journey will take around 2-3 hours. From Paltan Bazaar you can head to the Airport.

Best time to visit Meghalaya

Although Meghalaya is prettiest during monsoons, when lashing rains lend it a resplendent green avatar, traveling could get hit due to heavy rains. So the best time to visit is ideally between October to April.

Complete Guide to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge Trek

If there is one experience that perfectly encapsulates the beauty of Meghalaya, it is the living root bridge trek. In this trek, you will not only come across the only  bridge of its kind in the world, but walking through evergreen jungles, crossing rickety bridges over the bluest natural pools you would have seen so far, makes the journey just as beautiful as the destination. Needless to say, if Meghalaya is on your mind, then this hike should definitely be on your bucket list.

The trek starts from Tyrna, a village in Cherrapunjee, often labeled as the “wettest place on earth”. Of course, now its neighbour Mawsynram, wears this crown.

How to reach Cherrapunjee
If you are traveling from Guwahati, take a shared cab to Shillong and from there another shared cab to Cherrapunjee. This is the cheapest way to get there. The total journey would take about 3-4 hours.

Note: If you are a little more adventurous, then you can take the route from Nohkalikai falls too, but if you are a first time trekker, or going with family, then I would recommend the route from Tyrna.

1. Trail from Tyrna

The trail from Tyrna is well-marked and you can do it on your own, although you will find a lot of guides at the village itself, who will take you for a nominal charge.

The trek initially starts with a steep descent along cemented steps, leading you deep into the forest below. You will cross quite a few traditional huts along the way. There are small shops where you can buy candy, mineral water, snacks and juices.

Since its a long trek, carry energy bars and lots of water.

Living Root Bridge Trek
Trail along the evergreen forest

You will continue along this route till you come across a Y-shaped fork, left of which leads to the double decker bridge (Jingkieng Nongriat) and the right one leads to the single decker bridge (Jingkieng Ri-Tymmen), the longest root-bridge in the world.

The trek on both sides involves either ascending or descending a series of steps along a straightforward and well-marked route. So you can choose to take any route first and then come back up the same path and visit the other bridge.

Note: From the Y-junction, the single decker root bridge takes only about 10 minutes. So it makes sense to go for the double decker one first, since it’s a longer route.

Living Root Bridge Trek

We took the left route first, continuing along the forest trail. As an avid trekker, I have done plenty of treks in the Sahyadri’s, but rarely have I seen a forest as green as this one. It is truly a treat for the senses.

Living Root Bridge Trek
The first Iron Bridge

After walking for a while, we came across the first of the iron bridges. Suspension bridges, which sway every time you walk on it. The irony is, there is an instruction on the board which says “Do not shake the bridge”. Well, despite my best efforts to adhere to that, it shook and swung as I walked over it.

A disclaimer here, if you are afraid of heights, then you will surely feel a knot in the pit of your stomach, but don’t worry, these bridges are quite sturdy. Just keep calm and walk slowly.

Since I went in winter, the river was dry. Otherwise these bridges have actually been built to help locals cross over raging rivers in the monsoon.

2. The Bluest natural pool I’ve ever seen

After crossing that bridge, another short walk takes you to the second bridge.  There were two of them in fact, the first one made of bamboo while the second one was longer and made of rusty iron cables and both had steel wires to hold onto for support.

This one swayed even more when i walked over it. But I must say, walking on this wobbly bridge, suspended 25-30 feet in the air was an experience in itself.

Living Root Bridge Trek
The bridge to Nongriat

On the other side of this primitive piece of engineering stood the village of Nongriat, home to the double decker bridge.

And just below this bridge lies one of the most beautiful natural pools you can lay your eyes on. It’s clean and transparent to an extent that we could see the pile of rocks at the bottom. It was hard to resist its alluring beauty and we scrambled down some rocks to take a dip in its icy cold waters.

Living Root Bridge Trek

3. The Village of Nongriat

Nongriat welcomes you with a little root bridge and from there you can see the majestic double decker root bridge. We walked up ahead to look at it from close quarters.

Living Root Bridge Trek
Can you resist a dip in this pool?

Descending up till this point can take around 2-3 hours, as you are going to be descending around 2500-3000 steps.

I was famished by the time I reached. Luckily there was a stall selling steaming hot maggi and tea.

We took a much needed break sitting on the rocks and just swooning over the picture perfect scenery around us.

The gentle stream underneath the bridge, which transforms into a monstrous rapid in monsoon, had little fishes swimming about. You can sit on the banks and get fish pedicure if you wish to.

4. How were the living root bridges formed?

Living root bridges are formed by roots of trees, which over a span of 15 years were guided by villagers to intertwine with each other and become strong enough to support people.  They are actually said to gain strength with time.

They were created by villagers to help cross torrential rivers during monsoon. In Nongriat, one fine monsoon, the water levels rose above the root bridge and that is why, another layer was added to create this unique wonder called the double decker root bridge.

Double Decker Living Root Bridge

Now that it has become popular among travelers, a third layer is set to be made. One fine day, we will get to see a triple decker root bridge.

I can only imagine the patience and perseverance needed to build something of this kind.

5. Rainbow Falls

If you have energy and time on your side, you should further hike up to Rainbow falls. An enchanting cascade of water that plunges into turquoise blue pools, it is nature at its dazzling best.

This trek takes around 1.5 – 2 hours from Nongriat, again over cemented paths and after crossing a few more iron bridges.

Note: If you want to trek further to Rainbow falls, you have to start the trek from Tyrna as early as 6-7 a.m. to make it back by sundown.

6. Where to stay in Nongriat

Nongriat is almost like a place straight from fairy tales. Despite being commercialized, there is no hint of it and its remoteness ensures that you are pretty much cut off from the world. It’s a good place to stay for a couple of nights and just listen to the sounds of nature.

Living Root Bridge Trek
The stream under the living root bridge

There are two guesthouses where you can stay. The rates start from INR 300 per bed. You can stay here and do the trek to Rainbow falls the next day. It’s a good way to break the exhausting trek.

7. Hike Back to the Y-Junction

The hike back up is the hardest, physically and mentally. It’s a long walk right from Nongriat/ Rainbow falls back to the Y junction. And you have to take the exact same route to reach the fork. There is nothing new to see, so the mind is a bit reluctant to push the body.

A short 10 minute walk from the fork will take you to the single decker root bridge. This is the longest root bridge and believed to be over 120 years old.

Living Root Bridge Trek

Another gentle stream runs underneath it. As somebody who loves scrambling over rocks, I was monkeying around the whole time.

We then took a short break lazing around the rocks and munching on some bars, before starting the uphill climb.

The last part, the ascend to Tyrna is devilish. It’s a steep hike over 700 odd steps. So if you are someone who has been living on a couch so far, you are going to have a hard time clearing this stretch.

While we were climbing, we saw a lot of people just sitting on the steps and taking a break. I even remember seeing an old lady. So yes, as hard it sounds, it’s doable. Do it at your own pace but.

8. Where to stay in Cherrapunjee

I stayed at this wonderful place called Coniferous Resort. Another popular resort is Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort.

No matter where you stay, you can hire a cab and reach Tyrna in no time.

9. Root Bridge in Mawlynnong

If after reading this, you feel, that you are not physically fit to do this trek, then there is an alternative.

Mawlynnong, considered one of the cleanest villages in Asia, is home to a living root bridge. To reach it, you can drive down to Riwai village, a few kms before Mawlynnong. It’s a short walk to the root bridge from there.

Zostel Manali – My home away from home in the mountains

Zostel Manali had been my home for most part of the Himachal trip that i did a few years back. I went to Manali to just chill, hike in the mountains and from there, head to Parvati and Tirthan valley. In a way, i looked at Manali as a pit stop. I booked Zostel Manali for 2 nights.

It was a fantastic property located in Old Manali overlooking the mountains. The days i was just relaxing in the hostel, i would sit in the lawn in the morning, basking under the sun and just watch the mountains. The roof top was even better, with a 360 degree view of the mountains. With my camera, i would zoom into those snow clad peaks.

Zostel Manali
My favorite pass time at Zostel Manali,zooming into those snow-clad peaks

I extended my stay by 2 days.

I was getting used to having my breakfast while listening wide eyed to fellow travelers as they narrated their incredible travel experiences. Every day i met someone new and more stories were exchanged.

The day i was leaving, there was a guy who had arrived by paragliding all the way from Bir Billing to Manali, a distance of 180 kms by road. This usually takes 7-8 hours by bus. He casually said it took him 2 hours as he soared at over 5000 feet for nearly 50 kms and landed in a valley nearby. We just stood staring at him incredulously.

I mean how often do you meet such amazing people?

While this was meant to be a solo trip, i hardly traveled alone. I made tonnes of friends and together we explored the mountains on bikes, trekked to remote villages, dined at riverside cafes, stood on the rooftop watching the stars, played games and had conversations on everything under the sun.

Most of the days, we would sit outside after dinner and talk despite the biting cold. It was hard to believe that people could bond so well, sometimes having met just a day earlier. When i was leaving for Parvati valley, Bharat, the manager at Zostel told me i would return in 3 days and i called him up exactly after 3 days and said i am coming back.

Zostel Manali
I used to sit here and just watch the mountains

I stayed for 3 more days in Zostel Manali. I had started to miss the warm, friendly and welcoming ambience of the place.

The second time I went, the experience was just as memorable. I wanted to celebrate my birthday in the mountains, and i couldn’t think of a better place than Zostel Manali.

I met tonnes of amazing people, a guy who had hiked 3000 kms, literally one end of New Zealand to the other. A 20 year old Canadian power-lifter who was traipsing around the world. A wedding photographer moonlighting as a traveler. I learnt a lot about the world i din’t know existed, just by listening to them talk.

Zostel Manali
The rooftop at Zostel Manali

On the day i was going to leave, we made a spontaneous plan to go rock climbing, after rounding up a bunch of people from different corners of the world. I went despite having a bus to catch the same afternoon.  More than the thrill of trying something adventurous, it was more about spending time with my new found friends.

Every time i have been to Zostel ( And i am sure this is true of most hostels around the world), i have met people who shared an incredible passion for travel and adventure. An openness to embrace anything the road threw at them. A mind receptive to alternative ways of living and radical points of view. And that is precisely why, i love the traveler fraternity.

And that is precisely the reason why i shall make it a point to travel solo, to meet more of them, to learn from them, and make memories with them.

Zostel Manali

If Zostel Manali is such a beautiful place to stay, the credit for that goes to Bharat Thakur, one of the coolest people around. He has this way of making you extend your stay by recommending one good ( read offbeat) place at a time.

Jokes apart, it’s his friendly nature and ability to personally connect with every traveler who steps into Zostel that makes it such a wonderful place. And last but not the least, how can i forget Frodo and Drogo, my cute furry friends who had this magical ability of appearing under the table from nowhere when food was being served.

As with most experiences that stay with you, it’s the human connections that you cherish the most. The camaraderie that we as a group of travelers shared at Zostel Manali is what made my stay so memorable. It was with a heavy heart that I bid adieu, but knowing very well that i would soon return to my retreat in the mountains.

P.S. This is not a sponsored post, just that i am way too biased about Zostel 😛

Kheerganga Trek – Of evergreen forests, gushing waterfalls and emerald waters

I first came to know about the Kheerganga trek from a fellow traveler, whom I met on a trip to Rishikesh. He said if you love nature and hiking, then this is a must do if you are around Kasol. In October 2016, I went for a backpacking trip around Himachal Pradesh. I made a couple of friends at Zostel Manali and together we went for the Kheerganga Trek.

To reach this bountiful expanse of green, you have to trek around 14 kms from Barshaini, a village near Kasol. You can reach Barshaini by bus or cab from Kasol. We took the cab as it was almost 11.00 am when we left the hostel. We were dropped right at the beginning of the trail.

Kheerganga Trek
View from the bridge at the start of the trail

Note: You can also trek from Barshaini village, but the walk is just on muddy roads. So if you are in a group, its best to take a cab till the starting point of the trail. And it’s best to start early so that you get to spend more time at Kheerganga.

Once you cross the bridge over the Parvati River at the start, there are two routes you can take.

Route 1: Take a left from the bridge and ask anyone the way to Kheerganga. This is supposed to be easiest route and the trail is also easy to follow. You don’t even need a guide. We took this route.

Route 2: Take a right and hike to Kalga village and from there you cut through the forest to reach the top. It’s possible that you might lose your way here, so its best avoided unless you have a guide with you.

Kheerganga Trek
Your constant companion on the trek

The trail starts with a gradual climb and leads to a narrow cliff side path with views of mountains on all sides. The slopes on the other side of the valley are dotted with trees bursting in their bright yellows and fiery reds.

The Parvati River remains your constant companion on one side and the roar of its tempestuous waters can be heard even while camping at the top. The massive rock faces that tower over the forest under a clear blue sky look straight out of a wallpaper.

There are a few small villages that keep cropping up along the way where you can stop for Maggi and tea. After a continuous walk for about 5 kms on gradual ascents and descents, we took a break at one such village. After gulping down a bottle of lemon water, we started off on the trail again.

Kheerganga Trek
Waterfalls galore on this route

The cliff side path ended at Rudranag waterfall, one of the many waterfalls we encountered on the trail. We stopped for rest just before the forest trail started.

Sitting on the edge of a gorge, we watched the emerald green waters of the river below. I have always believed that it’s important to find moment’s like these, where you just pause and absorb nature’s beauty.

Kheerganga Trek
You need to see this in person. Its just gorgeous!!

A bridge connects you to the forest trail from where the steep portion of the trek starts. This bridge is a point where the beauty of the trek reaches a crescendo.

There are gushing waterfalls over massive rocks, a green lagoon is formed underneath the bridge, the foaming river is swelled up the most and the forest with its myriad colors just leaves you spellbound. Neither could my camera capture the beauty of this place nor can my words do justice to it. It needs to be experienced.

Kheerganga Trek
The frothing waters of Parvati river

The forest trail takes around 2 hours. The trail from here is steep, but not as difficult as what most locals will tell you. Once this portion starts, it’s an uphill climb initially, but it quickly reduces to a trail of alternating mild ascents and descents.

We got a furry friend as a guide at a pit stop we took on the uphill section. Of course, there are no free lunches in this world. A packet of biscuits was offered as a token of appreciation.

The forested section gives you respite from the sun and the ambience is calm and peaceful with the rumbling noise of Parvati River blending in seamlessly with the tranquility of the place. There are massive trees bordering the trail and occasional waterfalls enroute, making it a visual feast.

Kheerganga Trek

Following the forest trail till the very top, we reached Kheerganga.  It took us a total of 4 and half hours, including breaks.

There was only one place on the forested section where there was a slight confusion about the route, and where we relied on the better judgment of our four legged friend. Otherwise the trail was fairly intuitive.

The first thing we did after reaching the top was rush to the natural hot water springs. Bathing in those warm waters just washed away the fatigue from the trek. And you could not have asked for a better location.

The spring faces the rocky mountains and as you get refreshed watching the last rays of the sun leave their surface, your heart just swells up in jubilation.

Kheerganga Trek

Where to stay: There are tents and basic wooden houses. They start from INR 200 per day. And yes, they don’t come with attached toilets.
Best time to visit: The best time to trek to Kheerganga is from March to October. In the peak of winters (December onwards) the trail may get blocked by snow and accommodation options won’t be available