A hidden holiday spot with very little information regarding it available online. These two bits of information was enough to get me hooked to the idea of traveling to this quick getaway Barot valley. Barely demarcated by signboards or milestones, it is an untouched valley that kept me enthralled from the beginning to the very end.
On reaching Barot Valley, it was easy to understand that it has been rightfully crowned as the “trekker’s paradise”. Rough terrains with freshly dusted snow and prickly grass on either side of it. At an altitude of 6000 feet above sea level, this unpolished gem of Mandi district is also a part of the Uhl river valley.
The valley was initially a unit of the Hydel Project, later on, was sprinkled with humble settlements and tiny shops. Sure to keep you coming back for more, the valley is known for its trekking, trout fishing, and camping.
The place is not just for the wanderlust adventurist, but also the perfect spot for a family vacation. Surrounded by comfortable stay homes and camping sites, the valley is the picnic destination that should be on the list of anyone who plans to visit Himachal.
From the aroma of the freshly prepared mustard oil, the sound of the Uhl flowing by the valley, the touch of the exquisitely embroidered shawls, to the sight of the beautiful landscape, Barot valley is a feast in all the senses.
How To Reach Barot Valley?
Like many stops at Himachal Pradesh, the valley is easily accessible from major cities such as Delhi and Chandigarh. Even though it is not a widely visited spot, there are all means of transport available to Barot.
For those who’d rather avoid the chaotic rush hours on road, there’s always the option of air travel. The Kullu airport at Bhuntar is at a distance of 100 km from the valley. Barely a 4-5 hour drive south to Barot. There are daily flights available from Delhi and Mumbai. Yet another option is the Gaggal airport near Dharamshala which is located around 110 km from the valley. Kullu is an easier route as there’s always guaranteed availability of taxis and public transport to Barot Valley from the airport.
At a distance of 36 km from the valley is the Jogindernagar railway station, which connects trains between several places such as Chandigarh, Palampur, Ghatasni, and so on. The railway station also connects to Pathankot through a narrow gauge rail network, and the Pathankot-Mandi road lies barely 96 km from Barot Valley.
Delhi to Barot Valley – 476 km
Chandigarh to Barot Valley – 241 km
Pathankot to Barot Valley – 182 km
From Delhi, there are two easy routes to the valley; one from Mandi and second from Jogindernagar. They cover almost the same amount of distance and time. The drive via Mandi is one of the most memorable ones and would sure make one hell of a road trip with your friends or family.
If you’re opting for public transport there’s always Himachal Road Transport Corporation buses at your disposal. Especially from the Jogindernagar railway station, there are buses very often, almost at an interval of every half hour. This is by the assumption that you’d be availing bus services from Delhi to Barot.
The travel duration would vary between 13-15 hours. Public transport in valleys has an eternal charm. I realize this again as the bus passes through the hairpin bends in the local routes, cornering through the vast alpine vegetation.
If you’re not a fan of the long hours of travel and switching between buses, you could always go for the option of private vehicles, and make occasional halts on the way.
What Is The Best Time To Visit?
The valley does not experience much harsh climatic conditions except during monsoons. Due to its high altitude, it receives heavy rainfall. This makes it unfavorable for activities such as trekking.
Apart from this one factor, the valley can be visited at any point in time. The average temperature ranges around 16° C, and the winters and summers provide the right amount of warmth and cold. The climatic conditions are ideal enough as most of the tourists visit for a brief period of 2-3 days.
Experience the valley
One thing that didn’t fail to go unnoticed in the valley was the prominent shades of pastels. The natural hues of the water, the forests, and the trails were all soothing to the eyes. This quaint little valley has so much to offer that goes beyond the words that I could put together.
1) Walk around the Uhl River
Originating from the Thandar glaciers, this is the only natural and purest source of water in the valley. Just looking at the Uhl flow effortlessly from the Dhauladhar ranges was therapeutic enough. The area is wrapped by emerald forest lines passing the barrage and reservoir.
This is one of the commonly visited spots around here and is one of the perfect camping spots. If you are trekking along with a pre-booked group, they’d ensure you’re provided with waterproof tents and sleeping bags. In case you’re traveling solo or would prefer a more personal space, you could carry your camping materials and pitch a tent on one of the camping sites. There are also options for homestays available around this region.
2) Safari at Nargu Wildlife Sanctuary
Walk to the outer side of the river to discover the rich and beautiful Nargu wildlife sanctuary. Forming a crescent-like boundary, the park has a wide range of residents from the exotic Himalayan monal to the mini version of antelopes called Ghorals. Established in 1962, the park carries the age-old charm of biodiversity parks.
The ideal period to visit the sanctuary is during the months of April-May and August-September. Climatic conditions are perfect and favorable to go around wildlife spotting. This also facilitates the trekking experience from the park. From a simple walk to the Barot village which is at close range to trails that lead up to Kullu, there’s every kind of path paved for beginners to experts.
3) Festivals in Chuhar Valley
If serenity was a place, it’d undoubtedly be Chuhar valley of Mandi. Lying around 35 km from Barot, the valley is home to famous spiritual spots such as the Jhatingri and Huang Narayan temple. Built-in the authentic Pahari architectural style, the temple is said to be one of the most important structures of worship around Mandi.
Legends have it that every five years the Nad (priests) of Huang Narayan’s court reincarnates with his power. The Mad community is among the highly respected and honored ones. The international festival of Mandi Shivratri commemorates here in this humble abode of Lord Shiva. Three deities are brought here to meet the great Lord Radha Madhav (King of Mandi).
While around the village, try being a part of the eventful festivities. The cultural practices here are beyond interesting and heartening and should be experienced at least once. Chauhar is also particularly known for its centuries-long beliefs and traditions. The localities wouldn’t cut wood from the forests for personal use unless they have permission from the God they believe in.
The village is also a no-tobacco zone and smoking here is strictly prohibited. The air around here is at its purest composition and it sure was a refreshing time around here for me.
4) A historical walk through Shanan Hydel Project
The seed that later on developed as the valley was this project. Right at the heart of the valley, you’d find the Shanan Hydel Project. Infamous for being the first-ever hydro project in Megawatt capacity in India, the place serves the purpose of being the edutainment spot in Barot.
Adjacent to the project set up is the Shanan powerhouse. This is among a couple of hydro-electric powerhouses in Himachal. Currently managed by the Punjab state, the power station’s lease is to be handed over to the Himachal Pradesh government in the year 2024.
I was particularly interested in visiting the station as it is an example of colonial architecture with the perfect blend of the Pahadi intricacies. It was also extremely interesting to observe and understand how the entire power system to the valley functioned like.
5) Trout Fishing at Barot farm
Fishing with the hook and the line can never go out of style. Be it for a beginner or an experienced angler, fishing is an activity that’d teach patience and would reward with an equally exciting catch.
Barely 15minute walk from the Uhl barrage is the Trout farm that was established in 1959. The crystal clear waters at the farm are perfect for getting the catch. Trout fishing is very common, and any localite here would be more than glad to accompany you around the farm and fishing area.
There are certain regulations regarding fishing in Barot. You’d have to take prior permission from the Trout farm office, and if it’d interest you, you could also take a look around the farm. Several trouts are bred in artificial ponds as well as the storage tanks. A special hatchery is kept for exhibition, to show the processes such as incubation. With a meager registration fee of Rs.100, there’s daily a noticeable amount of people flocking down to this farm.
6) Trekking through the infamous snow-laden trails
Bada Bhangal, Kullu Manali, Bir Billing, Kothi, the number of trekking trails that lead from Barot are just endless and mesmerizing. Like I had mentioned earlier, the air around Barot is just so unadulterated and pure that you’d never feel like switching back to the smoke clouded city life.
The deodars and pines creating an arch around you throughout your trek. The soothing silence that’s often interrupted by the crunch of leaves and the sounds of guessing waterfalls, the valley lives by a rhythm of its own.
Adding to this beautiful rhythm is the low pitched chatter and sing-songs of the tribal who return home from the mountains. I was lucky to have passed a couple of them, who stopped by and offered freshly picked fruits to keep us going for the rest of the journey.
I had chosen the trek to Kothi and you can have my word for it when I say that the trail was breathtaking. While trekking downhill I also had the chance to pass by the Dev Pashakot temple.
There are several campsites available right around the Uhl and the Barot market. Uhl would provide pin drop silence surroundings with a personal touch of nature. While around the market you’d have more of a hustling vibe and would be much more closer to civilization.
I’d highly recommend exploring the valley on foot instead of driving around. It’s so picture-perfect, that it felt unjust to have missed out even one spot here.
The mountains offer one of the best views, especially that of the Dhauladhar ranges covered by the misty clouds.