State: Himachal Pradesh
When to go: March-June and September- November. The winter months are cold, making sleeping in tents nearly impossible
Wildlife/ Tourist Offices: Director, GHNP, Shamshi, Kullu. Tel: 01902-265320
Himalayan Ecotourism, Gushaini, Tehsil Banjar, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh
Permits: From Tirthan Wildlife Range Office at Sai Ropa (Cell: 09882607000), which is about 5 km from Gushaini, or from the Jiwa Nal Wildlife Range Office at Larji (Cell: 09816534991)
STD code: (Gushaini) 01903
Air: Nearest airport is Bhuntar (54 km/ 2 hrs).
Rail: Nearest railhead is Chandigarh (279 km/ 7 hrs).
Road: (from Delhi) Tirthan Valley is accessed by the Chandigarh-Manali NH21. Drive upto Chandigarh via Ambala. From there, follow NH21 to Aut via Mandi. From Aut, it’s a 35-km drive to Gushaini via Larji and Banjar.
This little hamlet, located in Seraj Valley, links the Shimla and Kullu districts. Shoja village is still off the beaten path for most, which probably explains it’s still undiscovered feel. With sloping mountains covered in verdure, conifers and deodars stretching for miles around, and an incredible view of the snow-covered peaks, this is a breathtaking spot.
The best months to go are April to June and September to October. It can be somewhat complicated to get here, unless you are driving yourself. For those headed here by bus, the ride from Delhi to Banjar is quite comfortable, but the way from Banjar to Shoja less so, as the road is riddled with stones and potholes.
The ordeal will be worth it, though. As soon as you reach, the charming and peaceful village and its pristine environs and Himalayan surrounds are likely to leave you speechless. Accommodation options are few and far between, but that also adds to the charm of the place, as it confirms Shoja as one of the few untouched spots in the well-visited state of Himachal.
Things to see and do
To be honest, there isn’t that much to do here, and Shoja’s proximity to Tirthan Valley means that if you are here for a long weekend, it is possible to head there. A sojourn to Shoja is more about rest and relaxation, with a few activities thrown in.
The area of Jalori Pass is, quite simply put, a natural paradise. The pass is at a height of 3,125 m, and is located five km away from Shoja. You can easily drive your car up to the stop point, and then start climbing the steep path, which will take you on a trek lasting around an hour and a half. On your way, you will cross a dense forest with a huge variety of flowers, herbs and medicinal plants. The view from the top is simply heavenly and well worth the trip. From there, you can get a spectacular panoramic view of the Himalayas, a top-of-the-world feeling. Take some food with you, as you will definitely end up staying a while.
The walk to this waterfall is a good outdoor option to get acclimatised on the day of your arrival. You can ask your hotel to direct you to the starting point. This fairly easy trekking path winds through a thickly forested, sun-dappled path to reach the point.
Trout Fishing in the Tirthan Valley
This activity can be done in Tirthan Valley, not far from Shoja. You can go on your own, but first timers may be better off with a guide who will arrange the required equipment and show you the best spots for trout fishing. This half-day trip is especially great for families and large groups. Ask your hotel to arrange permits well in advance of your trip.
Where to stay and eat
Shoja’s growing popularity means that there are now several basic, although comfortable, accommodation options available here. Highly recommended is Raja Guest House (Cell: 09418550549; Tariff: INR 600-1,000). There are six simple but well-maintained rooms. Note that the restaurant is outside the guesthouse. Also, as it is a remote place, inform them in advance so that they can prepare food. The Forest Rest House (DFO Banjar Tel: 01903-221226; Tariff: Rs 480; hpforest.nic.in) has a gorgeous location; the chowkidar prepares meals on request. Or try the PWD Rest House (Kullu Tel: 01902-222530; Tariff: INR 380).If all else fails, you can look for a homestay in the village or get permission to stay at the Youth Hostel (see yhaindia.org).