Looking for an offbeat mountain holiday sometime soon? Sainj Valley promises to be a perfect fit. Here's a complete guide. By Karan Kaushik
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Four valleys constitute the Great Himalayan National Park: Sainj Valley, Tirthan Valley, Parvati Valley, and Jiwa Nala Valley. Owing to their high altitude, most parts of the Parvati and Jiwa Nala valleys are accessible to advanced trekkers and climbers only. On the other hand, Tirthan Valley has become widely popular. But Sainj Valley remains largely untouched. Away from the town of Sainj, at the foothills of the national park, there are many sites worth exploring: a mountain called Deohari, the Pundrik Rishi Lake, the twin towers of Raila, the rolling hills of Shangarh, and many waterfalls. Pack for a weekend's hike and venture into the heart of the national park.
Things to do in Sainj Valley
Shangchul Mahadev Temple
One of the most popular attractions in Sainj Valley, the Shangchul Mahadev Temple stands in the middle of a beautiful meadow. Notice the intricate wooden carvings here. The temple is known for giving shelter to eloped couples. Around the temple are other smaller shrines - all steeped in myth and legend.
Pundrik Rishi Lake
Pundrik Rishi Lake is not your quintessential mountain lake with shadows of snowy peaks adorning its shimmery waters. It's a dry lake covered with lush grass. Still, it makes for an amazing trek. You are required to pass through dense forests dotted with deodars, firs, rhododendrons, and spruces. You'll also cross River Sainj before making your way to the picturesque lake. At the lake, let the stunning views of the Raktisar glacier and Sainj Valley leave you smitten with their charm.
Most travellers visit Shanshar, 10-15 km from Neahi, for the age-old Manu Temple. The temple is dedicated to sage Manu, who wrote the Manusmriti, and is believed to be the originator of the human race. Located on the Jangla-Shanshar road, the temple will remind you of Manali's Hidimba Temple, thanks to its typical Himachali architecture. Do visit the nearby Ashapuri and Budha Narayan temples too.
Deori or Dehuri or Deohari is another important village in Sainj Valley. Located in the Banogi Gramp Panchayat, Deori is every bit quaint and restorative. Hike to the village from Pundrik Lake via lush apple orchards and narrow forested paths. The prime attraction in Deori is the Devi Temple. From here, you can hike further up to Manyashi village.
Jiwa Nala Trek
Get a permit from the Great Himalayan National Park office at Sainj Valley and embark on this lesser-known trek. Meander through dense forests, tranquil little lakes, and mountain passes like Kandi Galu and Phangchi Galu during this 9-day-long trek. The views are rewarding and make it worth the effort.
Where to stay
The Hosteller Shangarh will impress you with its valley-view dorms and great food. The chic hostel features a garden, private parking, and free WiFi. The rooms at the hostel are equipped with a private bathroom with a shower. They also offer à la carte breakfast. While the dorms here feature six rooms, there are deluxe double rooms too. From here, you can plan a trip to Kasol (29 km) and Tosh (30 km).
Zostel Shangarh offers ideal environs for artists, digital nomads, and creators. The hostel comes with several options. There are 4-bed female dorms, 4-bed mixed dorms, mud-walled deluxe rooms, mud-walled standard rooms, deluxe rooms, and standard rooms. They do not recommend families.
Best time to go
While Sainj Valley is blessed with a pleasant climate throughout the year, the months of January and February promise incredible views of snow-capped Himalayas. If you want to witness the valley in all its monsoon glory, visit between July and September.
How to reach
By Air: Bhuntar is the nearest airport, at 37 km. Shimla Airport is 200 km from Sainj. Taxis and buses are available for the valley.
By Rail: There are no direct trains for Sainj Valley. Joginder Nagar Railway Station is the nearest railhead. However, it's best to book a train to Chandigarh (233 km) and then hire a private or shared cab for Sainj Valley.
By Road: The best way to reach Sainj Valley is by bus. Take the bus from Delhi to Aut. From Aut, you can take shared taxis to Shangarh. It lies on the Delhi-Chandigarh-Mandi-Kullu-Manali route, making it easily accessible for all. This is the same route you need to take if you are travelling by your own vehicle.