Global warming and climate change have ensured hotter summers year after year. Come April and we see people cursing their lives because of the unbearable heat. The popular hill stations of the Himalayas are ever crowded and make long term stays an unaffordable proposition.
This is also the age of the internet and working remotely is the new work from home. All you need is a stable internet connection and some cool fresh air to charge your batteries. In the Facebook and Google times, it doesn’t take much time for a place to become awash with tourists.
Here are 5 destinations in the Himalayas to spend the entire summer keeping in mind budget, connectivity and proximity to Delhi. (You might not even have heard of some!)
Lying just outside the boundaries of Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP), Jibhi is the essential homestay town in the lap of nature. At approximately 2000 metres the altitude is just perfect, for this sleepy hamlet is nestled at the bottom of a valley with a big stream flowing right through the middle. There are one or two basic dhabas on the road and clean homestays (some for as little as 200 Rupees). Long term stays can be worked out with reasonably good wi-fi internet. Some homestays also have a kitchen in the common area so that meals can be cooked.
Jibhi is hardly a 2 hour journey away from the Aut Tunnel on the Delhi – Manali Highway. There are lush green pine forests with a pristine waterfall in Jibhi. There are numerous short hikes close to Jibhi and surreal mountain views are only 10 kms away in Shoja. Day trips to pretty Sarolsar Lake and 360 degree views from Raghopur Fort are short hikes away from Jalori Pass. Doli Guest House in Jibhi is a long term favourite with travellers.
How to reach Jibhi : Delhi – Manali Volvo till Aut Tunnel, around 50 kms before Manali. Buses to Banjar & Jibhi run throughout the day, from Aut Tunnel, Jibhi is hardly two hours away by bus.
Jitaditya Narzary has published a beautiful pictorial account of Shoja.
The erstwhile cultural town of Almora has grown to become one of the biggest cities in Kumaon Uttarakhand. On the way to Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kasar Devi is a hippie paradise. It is a small village with rudimentary structures as homestays and some budget level accommodation in the form of hotels. There is a temple by the same name at Kasar Devi, which also gives the village its base.
Located high on a ridge at 2100m, Kasar is hardly 7 kms away from Almora and is a little world in itself. There is a small Buddhist community with some guesthouses and a brightly painted monastery too. Foreigners first came here many years ago and these days you can spot signboards in Hebrew. Staying here would entitle you to see the wind rustle through the pines, unforgettable Himalayan views and terrific sunsets. Arjun Guest House with basic rooms, wifi and solar powered water is a recommended option for long term breaks. (It can be as little as 4000 on a per month basis with gorgeous sunset views from the room itself.)
How to reach Kasar Devi : Delhi to Kathgodam by train and then shared taxi or local buses will take four hours to Almora. Regular shared taxis ply between Kasar Devi & Almora.
Read : Binsar Through my Eyes
Perched at a high of 2700m, India’s newest skiing favourite in the winters is proverbially ‘The gateway to Kinnaur and Spiti’. Narkanda is full of apple orchards, and some of India’s best quality cherries and plums also grow here. Lying 70 kms off Shimla on the NH-22 or what was the erstwhile Hindustan-Tibet road, Narkanda is a nature lover’s delight. Even while the country sizzles in the heat of May, chilly winds might blow on a cloudy day in Narkanda.
Among the chief options to stay are 2-3 costly retreats in Narkanda & lovely tents set up by the forest department. One basic hotel on the road has wifi and there is a dhaba nearby that makes delicious mushroom sandwiches. Hatu Peak, close to Narkanda has epic views of the mountains and an intricately carved wooden temple.
How to reach Narkanda : There are direct A C buses from Delhi to Narkanda.
Kumaon’s undiscovered paradise is a 10 km walk away from well known Mukteshwar. Sitla is a new favourite of fancy Delhi families who have brought 100 year old cottages, and what amazing pieces of architecture they are! Sitla lies in the famous fruit bowl part of Kumaon Uttarakhand and has many orchards laden with fruit in close vicinity. There is the affable Vikram Maira’s Sitla Estate to stay for luxury folk. For long term stays, a good deal may be worked out with the manager at Pathik Resort – which also has free wifi. (For as little as 6000 Rupees per month.)
Mornings in Sitla are legendary as the sun rises against the backdrop of a gaggle of faraway snowy peaks. It is a perfect place to stay for lovely walks to nearby villages and getting invites to local marriages and fruit picking at the orchards.
How to reach Sitla : Delhi to Kathgodam by train, then local buses take four hours to Sitla although the connectivity is irregular.
The paragliding capital of India, Bir-Billing is a name that has recently become heard. There are many homestays on the main road and some upmarket accommodation in the form of The Colonel’s Resort located along the periphery of the tea gardens in Bir. For people looking to spend considerable time staying in Bir and working, the Tibetan Colony or near the landing site at Chowgan might be the best idea in terms of wifi and cheap Tibetan run homestays.
Read : A Guide to Bir Billing
There are dizzying valley views from Billing, where the paragliders float into nothingness of the Kangra Valley. Long term deals for stays can be worked out with the owners of Garden Café & Chokling Guest House (Both have free wifi). Life and culture of the Tibetans can be seen from close as they walk around in this pretty hamlet to go to their three monasteries and huge prayer wheel.
How to reach Bir : HRTC Volvos run from Delhi to Baijnath. Bir is a thirty minute bus ride from Baijnath.
I have been to all the above places numerous times and have ended up staying for considerable periods to appreciate the beauty of these quaint hamlets.
Read : An expert guide to Shimla
Note : These are not typical tourist destinations and may be devoid of certain basic facilities. You will definitely enjoy long vacations at these places though.