Discovering a hidden culture: My experience of Lahaul Valley, Himachal Pradesh

My first stint with Lahaul was back in 2019 before Atal tunnel brought Lahaul into the limelight when reaching Lahaul was no joke. So a 3-4 hour back aching Journey over mighty Rohtang La was the most convenient way to enter the Himalayan wonderland of Lahaul.

I still remember being gobsmacked by the incredible vistas, rich tribal culture and history of Lahaul. So much so that I promised myself that I would stay in the rustic villages and travel slowly across Lahaul to understand the tribal culture, history,

Cut to the summers of 2021, and I have now made 3 trips to Lahaul. Travelled slowly across different sub-valleys (Tinan, Ranglo, Ghar, Tod, Miyar ) of Lahaul. But one valley which had always eluded me was the Pattan valley or the Chandrabhaga valley. Except for Udaipur and Trilokinath, I had not visited any other place in Pattan valley.

This changed big-time in the summers of 2021 when I visited Zostel homes in Rashil. Thanks to the incredibly hospitable and humble hosts at Zostel homes, Rashil, I learned a lot about and experienced the beauty of Pattan valley in a true sense during my 11-day long stay.

So here is a detailed guide on the places to visit in and around Zostel homes Rashil, located in Pattan valley.

Where exactly is Pattan Valley

Pattan valley or Chandrabhaga valley or Manchad valley is a Sub-Valley in Lahaul valley, Udaipur Subdivision, Lahaul and Spiti District, Himachal Pradesh. It is one of the least explored valleys of Lahaul. Pattan valley starts from Tandi (Tangti), The confluence of Chandra and Bhaga and ends at Tindi.

Chandrabhaga River meanders across the valley with rustic villages perched on the right and left bank of Chandragbhaga surrounded by gargantuan mountains. Udaipur (Margul) is the main town of Pattan valley.

Despite the Atal tunnel making Lahaul accessible, most travellers do not venture beyond Sissu and those who do only visit Keylong and Jispa. But Zostel Homes, Rashil will surely change this and entice more travellers to experience the rustic beauty of Pattan valley and its rich culture.

How to Reach Pattan Valley and Zostel Home Rashil

Reaching Lahaul from Manali via Atal Tunnel and Solang Nullah is the most convenient and fastest way to reach Lahaul valley. So first, you need to get to Tandi bridge from Manali. This will take around 1.5 hours or so and then cross the Tandi bridge. After a couple of km of you crossing Tandi bridge on Leh-Manali highway, you’ll see a diversion going towards Udaipur. Take this diversion, and you would now be on Tandi-Udaipur-Kishtwar road.

On Tandi-Udaipur road after crossing Shansha Nullah you’ll see a diversion on the left side going towards Rashil, Rapay and Jobrang villages. Take that diversion You’ll see a motorable bridge over Changrabhaga which you need to cross and carry on the metalled road.

At one point, the straight road will go to Jobrang, and the metalled road will go to Rapay. So you need to take a left turn and continue on the metalled road to Rapay. At some point on the road to Rapay, you’ll see a dirt track leading to Rashil village, which you need to take, and you’ll reach the pretty Rashil village. Zostel Home Rashil is located right at the end of the village.

Zostel Home Rashil, a quaint homestay in Lahaul Valley, Himachal Pradesh

Learn more about Zostel Home Rashil and plan your escape here.

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Places to visit in Pattan and around Pattan valley

There is no dearth of beautiful and picturesque places to visit in Pattan valley. So here is a list of such incredibly scenic places in Pattan which are in the vicinity of Zostel homes, Rashil.

Udaipur

Udaipur or Margul is the main town of Pattan valley and also the second biggest town in Lahaul after keylong. Perched at a relatively low altitude of 2700 m as compared to the rest of the Lahaul valley, Margul is surrounded by ethereal pine forests and impeccable snow-capped high peaks.

There is nothing much to do around Udaipur, except it acts as a gateway to the incredibly remote Pangi in Chamba district and otherworldly Miyar valley (pronounced as Mayad) in Lahaul itself.

But if you are into beautiful wooden styled temples in Himachal with rich history, the Mrikula Devi (Markula Devi) Temple in Udaipur is a must visit. The temple is said to be made from single and showcases beautiful craftsmanship with it being built in the traditional Kath-Kuni style. The temple is said to be several centuries old.

Udaipur is around 110 kms from Manali and takes around 3-4 hours to reach from Manali via Atal tunnel.

Udaipur in Lahaul Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Yes this is the view you get from Udaipur Bus Stand ! Snowy Mountains and Dreamy Pines !

Trilokinath

Trilokinath, also called Phakpa by the Buddhists and Rebug as Pattani folks, is a sacred pilgrimage in Tunde village revered equally by both Hindus and Buddhists. Buddhists believe the statue in the temple to be Avalokiteshwar, while Hindus revere it as Trilokinath or Lord Shiva.

Apart from its religious significance, Trilokinath is extremely picturesque and is surrounded by dreamy pine forests and beautiful snow-capped peaks. So in my honest opinion even if you are not a religious person, this place is not supposed to be missed on your trip to Lahaul.

Trilokinath, Lahaul Valley Himachal Pradesh
Little villages of Pattan valley seen from the Holy Trilokinath temple at Tunde village.

Rashil

Rashil is a dreamy village located on the left bank of Chandrabhaga and will be your home during your stay in Zostel homes. Rashil is a typical Lahauli village with vast agricultural fields, modern-looking houses and High mountains all around.

The people of Rashil are extremely humble and toil hard in their fields for a good 6 months and indulge in festivities during the winter months. Life in Rashil is quite simple and slow but also harsh during winter months.

There is nothing touristy to do in this Lahauli locale. Instead Rashil is one of the best places to experience slow life in the Himalayan wonderland of Lahaul and learn about its history and rich tribal culture.

You can indulge in beautiful conversations with incredibly humble locals while sauntering across the village. Learn and practice several agricultural activities; experience the unique festivals Khogla (Halda), Khoos (Fagli) during the winters. Also, there is a pretty waterfall which you can hike to from Rashil.

Learn more about Zostel Home Rashil and plan your escape here.

Rashil is around 84 km from Manali and around 21 km from Tandi bridge.

Rashil village, Lahaul Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Beautiful waterfall above Rashil village is a must-visit
Rashil village, Lahaul Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Birds eye view of Rashil on the hike to the waterfall located above Rashil

Rapay

The village of Rapay, like Rashil is located on the left bank of Chandrabhaga. Rapay is just 1.5 km from Rashil and is quite beautiful, to be honest. Again like Rashil, Rapay is a typical rustic Pattani village where you can strike conversations with locals, learn and experience the Lahauli way of life and their incredible culture.

Apart from this, there is a small lake just 1 km above Rapay which is called Kubri (in local language means a pond or lake). You get to an incredible panoramic view of pretty villages like Jobrang, Phura, Rapring, etc with Chandrabhaga meandering across the valley from Kubri.

Also there is a small temple dedicated to Vasuki Nag Devta on the ridge located above Kubri from where you can spot the famous Kugti Jot. Rapay is around 85 km from Manali and 22 km from Tandi bridge. And is at a walkable distance from Rashil.

Rape village, Lahaul Village, Himachal Pradesh
Kubri which translates to Pond in local language above Rapay village on a kind of clear day after 4-5 days of overcast weather.

Jobrang

Jobrang is the main village of Jobrang Panchayat of which Rashil, Rapay are also a part. Again Jobrang is a typical village of Pattan valley where the primary source of livelihood for the locals is agriculture. The best thing to do in Jobrang is to take a stroll around the village, engage in conversations with the locals. Witness them working in their fields if you happen to visit during summers.

The main attraction in Jobrang is the unique Yor Festival which is a tribal festival celebrated with great zeal and fervour during the winters. Unfortunately before the tunnel opened up, chances of witnessing festivals like Yor were almost non-existent due to Lahaul being cut-off from the world for 6 months during winters.

But thanks to the Atal Tunnel, witnessing such incredible tribal festivals of Lahaul has become a reality. Also, if you happen to visit during August, There is an annual procession of Locals from Rashil, Rapay, Jobrang, which goes to Yobrang Gaar, a place dedicated to the local deity Khorudu Devta. But it can be only reached on foot and is a steep hike of around 7-8 km.

Rapay is around 85 km from Manali and 22 km from Tandi bridge. And is at a hikeable distance from Rapay and Rashil.

Jobrang village, Lahaul Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Vast Fields of Cauliflower in Jobrang village, A typical sight in rustic villages of Lahaul valley.

Rapring

Rapring is a little village on the right bank of Chandrabhaga and is one of my absolute thanks to the incredible landscapes you get to witness from this tiny little locale of Pattan valley. Rapring is a good vantage point to witness the triple villages of Rashil, Rashil, Jobrang on the left bank and other villages like Gohrma, Jahalma, Phuda etc. Like other villages of Pattan, Rapring is primarily an agricultural village. It is one of the perfect places to have a rustic Lahauli experience in Pattan valley.

To reach here Rapring, you need to take the link road going above from main Tandi - Udaipur road just a few km further beyond Jobrang Diversion, towards Jahalma. You can also reach Rapring by a 15-minute walk from the Jahalma bridge.

Rapring is around 84 km from Manali, 21 km from Tandi bridge and 9 km from Rashil.

Rapring Village, Lahaul Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Birds eye of Goharma on the left and Rapring village from on the right somewhere above Rapring village

Miyar Valley

Miyar valley is another beautiful sub-valley of Lahaul accessible from Pattan valley, which will truly blow your mind. The terrain and vistas of Miyar valley are unique. The initial part of the valley is all green with beautiful deodar forests, while the higher reaches of the valley resembles Zanskar and Ladakh-like landscapes

Except for trekking enthusiasts and mountaineering , Miyar valley used to be seldom frequented by travelers, especially domestic travelers. But a lot more people are now embarking on a trip to Miyar valley thanks to its extremely eccentric vistas, rustic villages, rich culture and off the beaten trekking trails.

The main attraction in Miyar valley are the vast alpine meadows of thanpattan perched at a staggering altitude of around 4000 m. To reach Thanpattan you need to hike for around 10-15 km from the last village of Khanjar in Miyar valley.

More adventurous and expert trekkers can go all the way to Padum in Zanskar from Khanjar in Miyar valley via mighty Kang La over the course of several days navigating extremely hostile terrains. This is strictly not to be attempted by absolute beginners.

For those not into trekking, you can stay at rustic homestays in pretty locales like Urgos, Shukto, Tingret, of Miyar valley to get a sneak peek into the Harsh lives of high altitude himalayan valleys. You can also make a day-trip from Zostel homes in Rashil if you start early in the morning.

To enter Miyar valley, you need to take a diversion from Udaipur going towards Khanjar. The last point in Miyar valley, Khanjar, is around 28 km from Udaipur, 138 km from Manali, and 62 km from Rashil.

Please note that except for intermittent BSNL connectivity, Miyar Valley has no network.

Miyar Valley, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh
Miyar Nalah flowly calmly near the pretty village of Urgos in Miyar valley

Nainghar

Nainghar is a pretty village of Pattan valley that few travellers visit, thanks to its remoteness. Nainghar also acts as a base village for the famous Neelkanth Mahadev trek, a high altitude lake situated at a distance of around 15 km one way from Nainghar. So even if you are not into trekking, you can easily make a day trip to Nainghar from Rashil. So if you really venture somewhere remote, then Nainghar is the perfect place to be at.

Nainghar is around 30 km from Rashil, 42 km from Tandi Bridge and 104 km from Manali. Please note that there is absolutely no mobile network in Nainghar not even BSNL.

Learn more about Zostel Home Rashil here.

Othang Gompa

Lahaul is home to several celestial monasteries or Gompa’s, but Pattan valley, not so much. Othang Gompa is the only prominent Gompa in Pattan valley. Even if you are not into monasteries, the incredible view of rustic villages of Pattan from the monastery.

While earlier there used to be a lot more Gompa’s located in the villages of Pattan valley, but unfortunately not enough local folks becoming Lama’s resulted in the decline of Gompa’s from the villages of Pattan

Othang Gompa has two complexes, one is an old building with old statues, and the other is a new building with modern-looking statues. Even the old building is not centuries old and is only a few hundred years old.

The new building has modern looking statues of Lord Buddha, Guru Riponche and Tara Devi as main statues along with several beautiful murals. The old building has main statues as Lama’s that I could not identify.

To reach Othang Gompa, you first need to get to Jahalma village and then take a link road a few km ahead of Jahalma going up towards Othang village. Othang Gompa is around 23 km from Rashil, 98 km from Manali and 36 km from Tandi bridge.

Othang Gompa, the biggest monastery of Lahaul Valley, Himachal Pradesh
The yellow color building that you see is Othang Gompa, the only prominent monastery in Pattan valley.

Lindur

Lindur is a small mysterious village of Pattan valley which cannot be spotted from villages of either right bank or left bank and is isolated. But the hosts at Zostel Home Rashil speak quite highly of its beauty which further made me interested in visiting this rustic village of Pattan.

Of course, I could not visit this village on my last trip, but I am eagerly looking forward to visiting Lindur next time around. Also, there is a small Gompa at Lindur. So if you have explored a bit of Pattan valley already, Lindur can certainly be a good option to tread on off the beaten path venture deep into Pattan valley.

Mailing Mahadev

Apart from Trilokinath, there exists an ancient Shiva temple in Pattan valley called Mailing Mahadev located in Mailing village. This temple is also said to be centuries old. So if you are a Shiva Devotee, visiting this ancient temple will be absolutely worth it. And even if you are not, the views from the temple I am sure will be just splendid.

To reach here, you need to take a link road going up from the main Tandi-Udapiur road. You’ll see a board indicating a diversion going towards the ancient Shiva temple in Mailing village just a few km before Kirting village.

Neelkanth Lake Trek

Neelkanth Lake is an ethereal high altitude lake dedicated to Lord Shiva perched at a dizzying altitude of m with Neelkanth Peak in the backdrop. While locals frequent the lake dedicated to Blue-throated lord every year, it is rarely visited by travelers and trekkers.

The trail to this lake is extremely scenic as you get to witness high peaks, glaciers, pristine rivulets up close. The trek is around 15 km long and Nainghar is the base village for this trek.

While the locals usually start very early and do it in just a single day, you can also camp overnight. Though this is not a very long trek, nonetheless can be challenging for those who are not used to high altitudes. So your fitness game needs to be up to the mark.

Unfortunately due to religious beliefs women are not allowed at the Neelkanth lake so do keep this in mind.

Kugti Jot Trek

Kugti Jot is a famous mountain pass perched at around 5000 m which Shepherds and pilgrims use to cross from Chamba to Lahaul or vice versa. Off late, it has gained immense popularity in the trekking community thanks to it being an incredible scenic trek and kind of off the beaten nature.

While climbing from Kugti village in Chamba district and descending to Rashil or Rapay village in Lahaul is the usual norm. But one can of course start from Rashil village and cross over to Kugti village in Chamba. Attempting Kugti Jot from Lahaul side is quite difficult and should be attempted only by folks who are well-versed with high-altitude trekking and have high fitness levels.

Folks at Zostel Homes Rashil are experts when it comes to trekking to high altitude passes and can help you arrange for guides and logistics if you have the experience and are willing to embark on this exhilarating crossover Gaddi trail.

To conclude, if you love the idea of experiencing the rustic life of Pattan valley in the purest form, then pack your bags and head straight to beautiful Zostel homes in Rashil. I am sure you’ll have one of the best experiences of your life just like I did.

About Swapnil Sanghavi

Swapnil is a digital nomad who has spent the better half of the last year exploring the remotest and smallest villages of Himachal Pradesh. A slow traveller highly fascinated with the culture and the lifestyle of the Himalayas, he looks for experiences beyond the usual. You can follow his journey and learn fascinating things about Himachal Pradesh in his blog, BackpackingNomad. In his quest for exploring the Pattan Valley of Lahaul, he stayed at Zostel Home Rashil for over 8 days. You can follow him on Instagram at @Swapnil_Sanghavi

Zostel Home Rashil, Lahaul Valley, Himachal Pradesh
All pictures in the blog are by the man himself! \z/

Writer, Swapnil Sanghavi.


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