“As I stood by the mammoth being, pellets of water darted towards me like bullets. The freshness on my face and the positivity in my mind. I think I never felt more alive”
Tirthan is quiet peaceful valley nestled in the foothills of the Great Himalayan National Park, a 3200 acre abode to amazing floral and faunal diversity. The sparse population is the first thing to please you when you enter the region. The valley comprises of 3 villages, all with less than 10 homes, and located on the same side of a picturesque road, with the Tirthan river running its course on the other. Most people come from neighboring villages located at higher altitudes and operate home stays for travelers. The food is amazing here. Most home stays include all meals and most of the food is locally procured. The food exudes freshness quite clearly distinguishing itself from the city meals. To spend an early morning basking in infant sunshine while treating yourself to a vast variety of cereal, egg dishes, sumptuous ‘paranthas’ is heavenly bliss.
The Tirthan Valley is the starting point of all treks in the Great Himalayan National Park. The lower ranges of the trek are easy to cover and would require basic fitness levels. These days typically last for a couple of days with camping at ‘Rola’. From here, the ascent gets steeper and the temperatures start falling. For the truly adventurous, you can travel all the way to the highest point of the park, and descend to the opposite side. These treks typically take a minimum of 10 days and treat your eyes to some amazing fauna. GHNP is visited by ornithology research scholars across the globe. A large number of new species of birds have been discovered in the area, increasing its importance in the field. In fact, there is an entire area in the GHNP which is not accessible to all tourists because it is the home to a few endangered species. Visiting the area requires special permission from the Himachal Pradesh government and needs to be obtained well in advance.
Camping in Rola is an enriching experience. I particularly remember the comforting bonfire, the crackling noise of fire wood, the strong flow of the Tirthan (now moving with much greater ferocity), and the V shaped sky enclosing stars so dense, it was difficult to spot the Orion among them. It is one of the most powerful snapshots in my memory. As expected, the crowd is a mix of adventure seeking enthusiasts and bird lovers. Rola is a great place to share experiences with people coming back from the higher altitudes, people with amazing knowledge of ornithology and their expectations from the place, and local guides who add color with at times spooky tales of what they’ve seen in the region. Too bad I couldn’t trek the higher regions.
“The river spawns its arms as it hits the rocks. Following it upstream I come across a turn where the sun shines with all its glory. The pine trees on either side of the valley wake up to the warmth of the sun, and welcome us aboard”
The local population believes in the sanctity of the region. Every few years, they organize a local festival. Men from households in the entire region trek to the top of the national park to seek blessings from their ‘Devi’ and come back bearing items made pure by the blessings received. The entire region descends to the village organizing the festival. In fact, everyone in the valley knows each other, and it is normal culture to visit each people in different villages and actively participate in their lives.
The Tirthan river is famous for trouts. In fact, the valley has a huge fishery dedicated to the trout fish. It is most likely that your home stay owner will be accomplished at catching fishes through the hook and rod method and will take you along if you insist. Beware though, interesting as it may sound, trout fishing requires patience and a certain degree of skill and it may take you some time before catching hold of one.
The valley is famous for the growth of Rhododendron. Try the locally made Rhododendron wine. The flavor makes it an wonderful cocktail without the need for more ingredients. There’s also ‘Bunas’, syrup made by crushing Rhododendron flowers for the teetotalers . Besides, should you visit the valley in July-September, you are in for a treat. The valley has large expanse of apple orchards, and the season is the best time to fulfill childhood fantasies of Apple Picking.
The Tirthan valley is a wonderful quaint valley. Plan for a weekend trip and you are sure to overstay. Hope you have an amazing stay there!
Guide to planing a trip to Tirthan Valley
- Reaching Tirthan Valley
Public transport: Overnight Bus From Delhi to Bhuntar (12hrs). Get down at Aut and take a local bus to Banjar (1.5 hrs). Buses from Banjar regularly ply for the Tirthan Valley (30 Minutes)
Alternatively, you can take your car all the way to Tirthan. The roads are mostly well made but the curvature of the hills would require you to bring in some experience of driving in hills before
Lots of home stays along the road right opposite to where the bus drops you. I would recommend any of the following
Khem Bharti Homestay
Sachin Tirthan Homestay
Trishla River Resort
Please ask about trekking/fishing activities you might be interested in before deciding on your place to stay.
Most home stays will connect you to groups that organize trekking/fishing/cycling activities in the area. However, it is perfectly okay to laze around in the home stay, and take long walks along the valley. There is an amazing waterfall which requires some climbing, and there is always the river bank.
If you would like to know more about visiting the region or would like to connect, it would make my day!