The traditional backpacker way of life requires a curious mind, and an exceptional amount of willpower to conserve money, as much as possible. Of course, the ones with the deep pockets are entitled to their share of backpacking fun as well. But backpacking on a shoestring budget; that’s when the magic truly happens.
And what better way to experience the backpacker way of life than a Himachal tour package? The Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh has gained plenty of admiration from backpacking communities. Home to numerous villages and towns that still stay free from much commercial activity, it is the ideal hub for backpackers who want a grand time on a not-so-grand budget!
So, get your backpack on and head any, or preferably each and every one of these following places!
Kheerganga, Parvati Valley
Kheerganga, simply put, is an abode of the Gods. Accord to local legend, this meadow was home to Karthik, Lord Shiva’s son. It is said that he meditated here for over a thousand years, and once you trek your way up to the top, you’d probably feel like doing the same. Kheerganga’s highlight? The natural hot water springs, which are known to have numerous medicinal qualities. Situated at an altitude of 2,960 m., there is still no vehicular access to Kheerganga, and there has been no major commercial development. But still, it has some decent cafes and hotels to meet your food and lodging requirements. Thanks to a strong presence of foreigners in recent times, many of the cafes cater to their tastes as well. So you can safely expect some surprisingly well-made pizzas, pastas, and the like! However, food can be a bit expensive owing to the meadow’s remote location.
The stupendous views of the snow-capped peaks that surround the meadow, complimented by the lush greenery of fields and forests all around, truly make Kheerganga a prime backpackers’ destination on a Himachal tour package.
Best Time: March-November
Malana, Parvati Valley
The mystery village of Malana in the Parvati Valley has ignited the curiosity of many a mind across the globe. Its inhabitants claim that they are descendants of the blood-line of Alexander the Great, and their culture, language and practices, are unlike any other village in India. Locals do not allow themselves to be touched by visitors, and many of their properties are out of bounds too. There are warning sings everywhere; ‘touch here, and pay a certain amount of cash as fine!’ Many of the locals might seem a bit hostile to you as well. But you’d do well not to let these minor disturbances bother you. Beneath what might seem like a harsh exterior, lies the beauty of a village totally isolated. The towering Chandrakhani and Deotibba peaks look over the village, which is not low in terms of altitude itself. At 2,652 m., Malana has no direct car connectivity. You need to trek up to the village, similar to Kheerganga. There are two entry points however; one long and difficult, and the other much shorter. Take your pick as to how you want to do it; if you are a backpacker on a tight budget, make Malana a must for you!
Best Time: Throughout the year
Manali, Kullu Valley
If Kheerganga and Malana are isolated and remote, then Manali is the complete opposite. Manali stays extremely crowded throughout the year. There has been a massive surge in the number of cafes, hotels and restaurants in the town, but there’s nothing for you to fear backpacker! There are plenty of budget places for both food and stay. If you are a backpacker who likes to stay put in a particular place, then Manali would suit you nicely. The city is home to two iconic temples, a monastery, and an interesting museum that depicts life and culture of the region throughout the ages. Not far the town lies the Great Himalayan National park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, noted for its vast variety of both flora and fauna. The town has some excellent places to eat out as well; Dylan’s Toasted and Roasted, Johnson’s Café, and Lazy Dog Lounge being the most prominent examples. If you are a backpacker who likes to stay on the move, plan a day trip to the Rohtang La, a high altitude mountain pass that separates the Kullu Valley from the northernmost reaches of Himachal Pradesh.
Best Time: Throughout the year
Why stop at Rohtang La, when you can travel to the surreal Spiti Valley from Manali as well? If the Kullu Valley and Manali impressed you with its greenery, Spiti is likely to bowl you over with its barrenness. The entire Spiti Valley boasts of a landscape that can be best described as a mountain desert. Culturally too, Spiti is quite different from the Hindu-dominated Kullu Valley. With its roots firmly set in Buddhism, Spiti looks more Tibet than India. The valley, with the Spiti River gushing through it, looks straight out of a fantasy tale. Take a trip to the Ki and Tabo Monasteries, and let the Buddhist in you awaken. The Chandratal Lake too, makes for a magical destination in the Valley.
Best Time: Mid-June- Mid-October