Adventures of Barot: Top Hikes to do in Himachal’s Offbeat Town

The Barot Valley in Himachal Pradesh hides within itself some of the most offbeat and eccentric places. The trekkers’ paradise of Barot is as scenic as it is remote, which makes the village all the more special. With mesmerising landscapes and unique adventures, this valley, further North of Bir Billing, is enough to jiggle the wits of any traveller.

And to top it all, Zostel in Barot, our 8th hostel in Himachal Pradesh, is full of treks and hikes to satisfy the adventurer in you. Apart from paragliding in Bir and other things to do in Himachal Pradesh, the collection ranging from purely simple and breezy half-day hikes to kickass 5-day treks are some of the highlights to look forward to.

Before we get to the hikes, here’s some basic idea about the valley.

Weather in Barot Valley

Summers and monsoon (April-October) are the best seasons to visit the Barot Valley because of its pleasant weather. However, the start of winters (December-mid February) is advised to be avoided because of heavy snowfall and inaccessibility in the area.

A little cooler than Bir Billing weather, the average summer temperature here is usually 17℃ and in winters it goes down to 5℃. If you wish to witness snowfall, head here during the months of end February and March.

Clear skies and snow-covered mountains are a common site here.
The mountain sheep are your only companions here, other than the travellers of course. All picture credits to prtzy​

The Hikes of Barot Valley

A trip to Himachal is incomplete without exploring new offbeat places that it so abundantly houses. Here are 9 spectacular hikes and treks around Zostel Barot, which you can pick from based upon your mood, time, and convenience.

Village Tour

Less than 3 km from the hostel, the village of Rajgundha showcases the local mannerisms and culture of a small Himachali village. Try the traditional and simple food here, generously prepared by the locals in their little homes as you bond over stories. :)

To & fro distance from Zostel Barot- 3 km, time taken- 2 hrs.

Menthoo Lake

A thick forest of oaks and rhododendrons will open up to this hidden lake, set amidst green meadows spread across the mountain land. The easiest hike from the hostel, this lake is so offbeat that it isn’t there on the maps even!

To & fro distance from Zostel Barot- 6 km, total time taken- 4 hrs, trek difficulty- easy.

Menthoo Lake is a hidden offbeat location from Zostel Barot.
The way to Menthoo Lake looks like this.

Hanuman Garh

One of the most rewarding treks in terms of views, Hanuman Garh is moderate to difficult in scale. The closer you get to the top, the more steep the climb gets, as told by fellow travellers and hikers. But the scenic panoramic view of the Barot valley makes it worth the effort.

To & fro distance from Zostel Barot- 6 km, time taken- 6 hrs, trek difficulty- moderate to difficult.

Palachak

With the Uhl River flowing on both sides, Palachak is a green meadow-patch for a village right in the middle. Make the most of this easy trek by interacting with the shepherds who bring in their cattle to graze. You’ll also spend the night here, listening to the river flowing nearby the bonfire. Wake up fresh in the morning and head back to the hostel.

To & fro distance from Zostel Barot- 18 km, time taken- 6 hrs, trek difficulty- easy.

Palachak is one of the best places to visit in Himachal.
Green vistas cover the meadows amidst mountains- pretty much the picture Palachak paints for you.

Tatwani Hot Spring

This trek is what a usual day in the life of shepherds looks like. The beaten path is a habitual haunt for locals to graze their cattle, making for a great place for travellers to observe the traditional rural life. With a hot spring as a punctuation mark, the overall journey is a blessing as well. The degree of difficulty is easy to moderate with the right balance of thrill and excitement.

To & fro distance from Zostel Barot- 24 km, time taken- 1 day, trek difficulty- easy to moderate.

Glacial Riverside Camping

This little camping site is very close to the hostel and right up there experience-wise. The banks of the river Uhl are very satisfying and do not strain you because of its close vicinity. The gushing sound of the river as you sleep at night and the starlit sky are two of the many add-ons to this place.

To & fro distance from Zostel Barot- 3 km, time taken- 1 day, trek difficulty- easy.

Panhyartu

Taking you to the origin of the rivers that flow through the Barot Valley, this incredible trek has marvellous views in store. Panhyartu offers a moderate to difficult hiking experience, making it a good blend of adventure and fun. You are very likely to encounter snow even in the months of May and June here, which makes it all the more thrilling. The best time to go for this short trek is between the months of May and October. It is pretty convenient since this trek will take you through Palachak and Jhordi. You can also cover these two locations in one go. :)

To & fro distance from Zostel Barot- 40 km, time taken- 2N/3D, trek difficulty- moderate to difficult.

It's a cold desert up there.
The way from Palachak to Panhyartu looks something like this.

Thamsar Pass Basecamp

Thamsar is home to one of the highest passes in the Kangra Valley- the Thamsar Pass. Here, you get to camp out between snow-capped peaks with sprawling stretches of greenery all around. You will also visit tiny villages with a population of less than 20 people and stargaze through your tent. If you wish to experience offbeat places in their true element, Thamsar will give you that for sure.

The months of July-September are the best to visit.

To & fro distance from Zostel Barot- 60 km, time taken- 3N/4D, trek difficulty- difficult.

One of the most adventurous places to visit in Himachal.
Snow lovers' heaven-Thamsar Pass.

Bada Bhangal

A 10-day long excursion to India’s remotest village, Bada Bhangal (aka Bara Bhangal) is one of the many things in store for you at Zostel Barot. The only other place as remote and secluded as this is the Kala Pani Jail in the Andamans- so you have an idea about the uniqueness of this particular experience. A word of caution: this trek is for people who are hardcore trekkers and the difficulty level is max. You’ll start off from Bir and cover places such as Palachak, Bhed Pal, Thamsar and Bhangal Village. Considering the high altitude of the places, the best season to visit is July-September. Make sure to carry proper hiking gear as you are most likely to walk through a lot of snow and rain.

This trail will take you through- Menthoo, Palachak, Jhordi, Panhyartu, Thamsar, Marhu, UDG, Bada Bhangaal , Kali Handi and finally reaches Manali.

Time taken- 9N/10D, trek difficulty- moderate to difficult.

P.S. if you wish to return to Zostel Barot and not go all the way to Manali, the overall trek is reduced to 6N/7D.

The sky is closer than ever.
Stargaze through the night as you are greeted with such skies.

Other Things to do in Barot

Other than being a trekkers’ paradise, Barot is a hotspot for seclusiveness, peace, and quiet, away from the crowds of the usual tourist places. It is surrounded by small villages which are ideal for village walks and interacting with locals. You can also learn about the local culture and lifestyle simply by observing their daily activities closely.

Talking about Zostel Barot, there is plenty of space right outside of it for fun outdoor games or simply walking around. Board games in the common area are constant entertainment too. There is also a cool workspace right inside the hostel for digital nomads and artists to work and be productive.

About Zostel Barot

Stretching our hand far up to the remote areas of Himachal, we now have a hiking hostel in the Rajgundha village of Barot Valley. Car horns are replaced with cattle bells in the distance, smog is taken over by clear blue skies and mountains, and overpopulation is cured by villages with less than 20 people in them.

The hostel, with an idyllic vibe in the middle of vast wilderness, is the perfect place for peace and rejuvenation. The common rooms are designed to serve you with the best of views. Another differentiator here is the dedicated workplace up for the use of digital nomads. Small startups or a bunch of people can rent out the space and make Zostel Barot a temporary office supported with internet, of course!

As offbeat as it can get- Zostel Barot
Zostel Barot stands in the remote surroundings of the Rajgundha Valley.

Things to carry

Keeping in mind the remoteness of the valley and the treks, we’ve curated a little list of necessities to be carried by all travellers.

  1. Basic hiking gear (hiking stick, shoes, and other things depending upon which treks you wish to attempt).
  2. Refillable water bottles (to avoid single-use plastic).
  3. An all-weather jacket and fleeces (even in summers).
  4. Medication (since there are no pharmaceuticals in the area, we suggest you carry all major medicines).

As for the rest of it, little experiences like indoor and outdoor games, bonfires & reading a book, stargazing and taking strolls are always there to back you up. Check out our unique hiking hostel here.

How to reach Barot

If you’re coming by bus:

1. Take a bus to Mandi and get down at the stop named “The Himalayan Essence Café”.

2. Take a bus to Joginder Nagar (15 km from Bir, 37 km from Palampur, in between the two). From there, take a taxi to the The Himalayan Essence Café (5 km, INR 100-300).

Once you reach The Himalayan Essence Café:

Board a bus/taxi to Bara Garan. This is a journey of 2.5-3.5 hours covering 55 km.

3. Direct state buses also run between Mandi and Bara Garan.

From Bara Garan, cross the river Uhl by the footbridge. Note that from this point, vehicles are not allowed, and you’ll have to complete the rest of the journey on foot. It’s a 1.5-2-hour simple walk, with a 200m stretch of hiking up in between.

If you’re coming by cab/private car:

Take the route to Mandi and from there to Barot village & further on to Bara Garan.

Next, find the parking lot by the Uhl river and park your car/deboard there.

From there, it’s a 1.5-2-hour easy walk to Zostel Barot, with around 200m of a stretch which requires hiking up.

Important:

We provide pick-up and drop (charged extra) from The Himalayan Essence Café till the Uhl River. Please reach out to Zostel Barot in advance for the same.

Writer, Kanak Kundlani.


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