Even though I have seen lots of snow in my treks, a hearty snowfall was yet to be checked in my checklist. So on hearing that it was going to snow in Himachal Pradesh on the weekend, I immediately booked a bus to Manali. I thank my stars that I landed in Naggar and stayed there for a few days. In those few days, I was convinced that Naggar is one of the best alternatives to Manali.
Here is my experience of those 3 days. You can skip the text and see the video at the end. The choice is yours :) .
It snowed so much that the Volvo bus driver denied going any further than Kullu (40 kms from Manali). These were still the crazy demonetisation days, so I could not afford the super-costly cabs. A local bus came as a ray of hope and I quickly grabbed a seat. But this bus ride didn't last long as there was a traffic jam due to the snow on the road. I crossed the jam on foot and then managed to get a lift in a jeep. Then it started to snow again and roads were full of snow. This jeep dropped me in Patlikuhal and Manali was still 15 kms from here. I gave up the idea of Manali and decided to stay here only. Running short on cash, I decided to share a room with two boys whom I had just met. We ate, talked, clicked and roamed around.
Next day my roommates left for Kullu, but I wanted to go to a peaceful place. I picked my bag and started walking on the road towards Naggar.
After few minutes, I saw an open white snowy field with a hut and a dog, and another dog and more dogs! <3 A perfect setup, which could take anyone's breath away.
So, I just sat and spent an hour there. But since "Mai rukna nai chahta" (Yeah! Just like Bunny of Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani), I got back on the road and got a cab to Naggar.
Naggar Castle and Roerich Memorial
On reaching Naggar, I saw a board which read "Naggar Castle 1 km". What ! A castle in the land of forts ?
I started walking on the road uphill towards the castle. After walking a bit I found out that the castle has been transformed into a hotel. Assuming that they wont let me in without a booking, I started walking further (don't you worry, I will come back). After walking for another 15-20 minutes, I reached the Roerich Memorial . I had no idea about this guy till now, but then I saw his paintings, his house, his car and his old pictures. Let me tell you that this guy was a big shot ! So much so that even used to come here to visit him.
Why Homestays Rock!
Now there were no staying options here, so I started going back towards the castle. Just before the castle I saw this homestay of an old couple - Mr and Mrs Kaistha. Super friendly people. They had a Tandoor (which is basically a fireplace enclosed inside a metal shell) to keep the room warm. I had lengthy conversations with them and all of us had some really yum himachali food in dinner.
Also, there was no electricity due to the snowfall and only the Naggar Castle had the generators. So I woke up the next day and ran straight towards the Castle to charge my camera and phone batteries. They did not ask whether I had a booking or not and I entered the cafeteria asking for a charging point. So while the batteries were getting their fuel, I roamed around in the Castle. It gives a royal feel and offers amazing views. So if budget is not a constraint, book a room here and enjoy the views from your balcony.
Sun was finally out after a few days and I spent the rest of the days lazing around in the sun. Then Mr. Kaistha dropped me to Kullu from where I boarded my bus to Delhi.
People often cite Gulaba as one of the alternatives to Manali, but it is just a village where the taxi walas will take you to see snow when Rohtang is closed.