State: Himachal Pradesh
Location: The entry point to the Great Himalayan National Park, Tirthan Valley is located 50 km S of Kullu
Distance: 506 km N of Delhi
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
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)
Air: Nearest airport: Bhuntar (54 km/ 2 hrs).
Rail: Nearest railhead: Chandigarh (279 km/ 7 hrs).
Road: 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.
Tirthan Valley is easily one of the most breathtaking places in all of Himachal Pradesh. Surrounded by the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP), this beautiful untouched valley is located right next to the Tirthan river. Spring is easily the best time to go, with blooming flowers all around. For an escape from the city, but also an escape from the more-crowded Himachali getaways, it doesn’t get much better than Tirthan. You will hardly meet anyone during your two to three days here, not counting the charming, hospitable locals of course. People usually stay one night in the valley before going off on a trek in the GHNP, since Tirthan falls in the so-called buffer zone of the Park. But if you’ve only got one (preferably long) weekend, you can also do one-day treks or enjoy the many adventure activities.
The distance from Delhi is a bit more than 500 km, which makes it the perfect three-day getaway. It is also feasible within two days, but will inevitably be a bit tiring (something that can be salvaged by some of the stay options of course). You can go by car, by bus or even by air. By bus, it takes around 13 hours from Delhi, through Aut and Banjar, with Gushaini or Mungla as your final destination.
Things to see and do
The Great Himalayan National Park
A place for trekkers, hikers and nature lovers alike, the Great Himalayan National Park provides one of the finest trekking opportunities in the country. Note that it takes a minimum of two days’ trekking from Tirthan Valley to even enter the park; an overnight two-day trek is therefore the minimum. But for those craving more action, your stay can be extended up to seven days.
Excursions within the GHNP include the Rolla Trek (two days), Shilt Hut Trek (three-four days), Maranhi Trek (three-five days) and Raktisar Trek (five-seven days). Himalayan Ecotourism (himalayanecotourism.com) organises treks through the year. It is best to go with them, as tourists aren’t allowed to venture without professional guides.
One of the incredible things about the park is the fact that not a single person is said to reside within it; even the villagers who live at the border are not allowed inside, presumably to retain the delicate ecological conditions of the park. Only some trails have been carved out and maintained by park management. Rest assured, though, that even a planned itinerary for GHNP will guarantee beautiful vistas and excellent trekking terrains.
Note that permits are needed to enter the park. You need to carry your own tents, sleeping bags, stove and utensils. Guides and porters are essential. Biodiversity Tourism and Community Advancement, GHNP, Sai Ropa (Contact: Gopal Krishna, Cell: 09418282148, a local NGO, can arrange guides and equipment.
Tirthan Valley is also a great starting point for one-day treks in its verdant surrounds, through small, quaint villages and towards beautiful vistas.
The Dingcha and Tinder Hike starts from Gushaini, and goes up till the local village of Tinder. The trek to Dingcha is slightly steep and can take about two hours to complete. But it is worth it, as Dingcha offers a fantastic panoramic view of the Tirthan Valley. On the way back, you can cross the village of Ropa, and stop by for lunch in Tinder.
The Nohanda-West Hike, also called the Himalayan Villages Hike, starts from the village of Pekhari, and the trail goes through several other villages, including Lakcha and Nahin, with spectacular views of the GHNP.
The hike to the Park gate goes along the Tirthan River, crossing a few traditional villages and deep forests, and can last up to five hours, so it is best to head out early and plan out your breaks. At the park gate, there is a campsite where you can have lunch.
Serolsar Lake is feasible via Jalori Pass. Hence, for this one-day trek, you will first need to take a jeep to Jalori Pass, and then walk for two-three hours till you reach the mountain lake. Upon your arrival, the trip will seem immediately worth it when you gaze out at the crystal-clear waters. The sight is nothing short of heaven.
Tirthan Valley also offers plenty of activities for the adventure enthusiast, including rafting, rappelling, river crossing, rock climbing and even trout fishing. These activities are organised by the Himalayan Ecotourism association. Everything you need will be provided by the organizers, so all you need to bring is some courage.
Where to stay and eat
You can set up your tents at the camping sites close to the streams. Outside the GHNP are the Ropa Forest Complex with five rooms and Forest Rest Houses in Shangher and Shakti village, with two rooms each. Or stay at the Sai Ropa Forest Rest House (Tariff: INR 500-1,500; www.nivalink.com/hotel/sairopa). All these can be booked at the Park Office (Tel: 01902-265320).
For Sainj treks, there are PWD rest houses at Banjar and Larji. Or try the Sainj Forest Rest House (DFO Banjar Tel: 01903-221226; Tariff: INR 480) or Bandal Rest House (Tel: 01902-222486; Tariff: INR 480).
Mungla has two hotels: Trishla Homestay (Cell: 09418149155, 09459013720; Tariff: INR 1,000-2,000; www.trishlahomestay.com) and Guesthouse. These are both owned by the president of local village panchayat and he is a helpful host. If you go during the peak season (public holidays, May-June), it is better to book in advance.
Your other stay alternative is Raju’s Cottage (Cell: 09459227375, 09418149808; Tariff: INR 3,500), in Gushaini. It is more expensive than Trishla, but you won’t be disappointed. The room tariff is inclusive of all meals.
Diehard anglers may opt to stay at The Himalayan Trout House (Tel: 01903-225112, Cell: 09418128383; Tariff: INR 2,400-4,000; www.mountainhighs.com) at Nagini, which has eco-cabins and mud huts.